Ahoy, me mateys – Part 2

Slowly but surely, I’ve been working on our lovely pirate chest.  You remember it, don’t you?

….I said slowly but surely….and boy, do I mean slow!!  It’s literally the slowest project we’ve tackled to date (the bathroom is kind of getting most of our attention these days).  A few weekends back (when Dr. J’s dad was in town) I had some free time (between beer runs and cleaning binges) to tackle little pieces of it.  Here’s what I’ve tackle so far (over the past six weeks or so):

  • Removed all of the wallpaper from the inside of the trunk…

  • Realized the wallpaper hid some pretty significant holes in the canvas so removed all of the inside canvas as well.  It was mildewy anyway and kind of ugly, so I figured a clean slate was where it was at.  The best part of the removal??  When I pulled up the canvas, I smelled the wonderful deliciousness that is Cedar….oh, yes,  this trunk is 100% cedar!!!  Hallelujia!  They don’t make ’em like the used to…

  • Spent the better part of an afternoon sanding down the old glue, cleaning it, sanding it, and trying to give myself as much of a clean slate as possible.
  • Fixed some of the old hinges that weren’t much use to anyone anymore – they used nails to hold’er in place whereas nowadays they’d use screws, so that’s what we did.  We also epoxied the old nails on the inside, hammered them back in, and epoxied the tops so those buggers aren’t going anywhere…
  • Then it was onto sealing those big gaps between cedar planks.  I used good ol’ fashioned wood filler and let it dry and cure overnight.

  • On the outside, I took Mod Podge (which is essentially a REALLY strong version of Elmer’s glue) and glued down the holes in the exterior canvas and and other “tears” that I thought might be a problem later on.  Fortunately it dries clear, so it’s perfect for this type of application…

Hole in exterior canvas before

After the Mod Podge was applied and before it dried...

  • Then I took a spray polyurethane and completely sealed the outside after the Mod Podge was dry so everything will be nice and “frozen” in the tattered state it’s in.  At least….that’s the theory anyway.

As of today, we’ve moved it inside for the very first time and are using it as a much-needed coffee table in our Room of Requirement.

So that’s been six weeks of work.  Really, if I’d had a full weekend to tackle it, I probably could’ve gotten the whole thing done lickety split.  I still have the interior to finish up, which involves more Mod Podge and installing some child safety hinges and then it should be all ready for us to use for blanket storage and gaming paraphernalia.  Likey??  So far so good!!  Oh, and because everybody loves before and afters, take a look at this:

Trunk Before

Trunk after - looks a little shinier, eh?

Not bad for a forty dollar investment!


Ahoy, me mateys!

Disclaimer:  Bad Pirate puns, jokes and pirate-ese ahead.  Consider yourself warned!

Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud – we found ourselves a treasure chest!

Now here’s the question of the ages – what do you suppose is inside it???  *creaky noises*, lid opens….

*Gasp*!!!!!  It’s empty!  *Even bigger gasp* – it’s filled with wallpaper!!!!!!  AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  Run away!  Run away!!!!!!

Wallpaper!!! AHHHHH!!!

Seriously, lovelies….we were on the hunt for a coffee table for our soon-to-be-finished Room of Requirement and after looking on Craigslist and realizing that old Steamer trunks are in grand supply in the Portland area, we decided to give this forty dollar (yes, FORTY DOLLARS!!) beauty a shot o’ rum (I’m reaching on the pirate references here – just go with it)!  Especially since most of the old trunks we found on Craigslist were well over $100 and of the “Camelback” variety – i.e., curved on top and not flat, so not exactly a good contender for a coffee table.  They’re all the rage nowadays like this beauty from Pottery Barn which is a cool $1300 – yowzers!  RUN AWAY, JACK SPARROW, RUN AWAY!!!!

So…..forty dabloons, eh?  Needs a little spit polish?  Hell, for forty bucks I could give it a whole treasure chest of spit polish!  Arrrr!  Spit polish…do they sell spit polish?  Blank stare………..What the hell am I doing with this old trunk?  I’ve never restored anything in me life!!  I mean, I’ve painted wood pieces and given new life to old pieces of furniture, but this is an antique!!  Ummm…..ahoy, me mateys!  Care to lend a hook to a fellow mariner in distress??

I’m posting a plea for any and all advice and ideas.  First off, I want to mention that I do not plan to restore this trunk.  I want to maintain the aged character of this piece while also “freezing” it in limbo if that makes any sense so that it will be useful to us.  In other words, I don’t want it to get more tattered, old and beat up, and I don’t want it to look any prettier than it already is.  I want it to stay in its current beat up fashion on the outside.  This piece is, after all, for a man cave.  It needs to be beat up so that it can have “dude cred”.  Like street cred only dude-li-er.  So far, here is what I can tell you:

  • This is an old trunk (probably over a hundred years according to the guy we purchased it from and even if it’s not – it was only $40!).  The whole structure is framed in wood which appears to be in relatively good shape.

  • The exterior is wrapped in canvas and then was painted (probably originally a black color that has faded to give it that “Ahoy” type of look that we are absolutely loving!).  Then there are metal “straps” to kind of hold the whole thing together which are rusted and look so cool and very Captain Jack Sparrow-y-just-dug-it-out-of-the-sand.  There are some holes in the canvas and rust, but overall we love the look and character of that aspect to it and don’t plan to change that up too much.
  • The interior of the trunk is *also* canvas (with that classic wallpaper on top).  I started by removing the wallpaper and “bleaching” out the canvas to get rid of mildewy smells and spots, but after careful consideration (since the hubs and I are definitely more confident/comfortable with carpentry than with seamstress-er-y), we are considering removing *all* of the canvas fabric on the inside and I’m wondering if this is a wise idea.  We plan to sand down the wood frame (remove any errant glue, staples, etc), fill it with wood filler, sand again and then Mod-Podge the inside to a newer-ish finish, hopefully with some fun decorative scrapbook paper or wrapping paper or whatever.  We plan to use this trunk for blanket/linen storage in our yet-to-be-finished Room of Requirement.  I think that the Mod Podge would likely “seal in” any grossness of the wood, though I feel much better about wood on my blankets than 100 year old canvas.  Agreed?  Do they make wrapping paper/scrapbook paper in these sizes or should I layer on several kinds of paper?
  • The exterior is a little beat up but *looks* amazing!  I don’t want the trunk to get any worse for the wear, but I want to, again, seal in any grossness so that it won’t shed any more of the canvas and/or rust up our carpet in any way.  I was thinking about possibly taking some clear lacquer and/or polyurethane to “seal in” any errant canvas shavings, etc, etc.  The hubby is not so fond of this idea and I can understand why.  It might give the chest a “shiny” appearance and/or a chance to “flake off” so I’m open to suggestions on how to preserve the old look without ruining it in the process.  Any thoughts/ideas/suggestions???  Mod Podge again?

So there you have it.  A project is in store!  I am open to any and all suggestions and looking forward to any feedback anybody can give me!  Please comment below so I can reference this later.  I can’t wait to get this project started and roll it into our completed room just as soon as we can!!  ANY AND ALL SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!!!!

EXTRA CREDIT:  What is your favorite pirate joke??  Here’s mine:

A pirate walks into a bar with a giant ship’s wheel stuck to his belt.  He walks up to the bartender and asks for a good spot of rum.  The bartender gives him his drink and asks, “Hey, what’s with that giant ship’s wheel stuck to your belt?”  The pirate answers, “Arrr….it’s drivin’ me nuts!”  (Much better when read aloud and in a pirate voice)

Eat your heart out, Pottery Barn!

Do you remember that episode of Friends where Rachel falls in love with an Apothecary Coffee Table from Pottery Barn and hesitates telling Phoebe that it’s from there because she hates mass produced items?

I’m not sure which is more hilarious – the fact that I saw this for the first time 6 months ago (ok, I was totally lame in college and didn’t watch it in its first run!) or the fact that I had to laugh my @$$ off because I actually….own….that….apothecary table.  And the end tables too, but who’s counting?

Note to self....update family room photos....

But this isn’t a story about Phoebe or Rachel or even the tables themselves.  This is *actually* a story about the piece of furniture that we built to “match” those tables.  Yes!  BUILT!  With our own hands!  With no plans and just an idea in our heads.  And if I’m not mistaken, I believe this was before our air compressor days so….like…wow!  And we built it because we had the world’s ugliest TV stand….which I apparently can’t find a picture of, but trust me.  It was God-awful!  It looked like a Tetris piece and was that pretty typical 90’s assemble-yourself veneer ugly and it just didn’t go with the new tables!  We considered buying the TV stand that went with our set but it was too much money and it was too damn small for all of our “paraphenalia”.  Video games and a serious movie addiction = too much junk in da trunk!  So way back before we even started der blog-in-stein (we’re talking before we even got married or even thought about buying a house!), Dr. J and I decided to get crafty and *design* (from scratch!) a TV stand that would not only look better than what we had, but house a serious amount of junk!

We have a plan.....we can rebuild him...

Purty, huh?  And PURTY ambitious, especially at the time!!  The “hutch” part is for a later date – possibly documented on this blog someday!  Knowing me, this design was probably designed on the back of a cocktail napkin.  That would be my Cosmopolitan verging on Maker’s Mark Manhattan Days.  These days I find myself in Mojito mode and slowly transitioning over to Dirty Gin Martinis (So sorry, but is that too much information?).

And at this point I just need to brag because while I was mostly responsible for the design, my hubs, Dr. J, *built*a*piece*of*furniture*with*his*own*two*hands**!!!!!!!!!!! And, admittedly, we kind of look back on this project and guffaw because it was before I cared about getting my hands dirty, before we had serious power tools (i.e. an air compressor), and the whole thing took Dr. J almost a year to complete!  We were planning a wedding and so that basically was our life at that point…

But here was take one of building the above (you can see we were obsessed with documenting our DIY processes even before we had a blog!):

We took a really long hard look at one of the tabletops to a similar piece while we were in Pottery Barn one day (we registered there for our wedding, so we were in there quite a bit) just to see how they clapped the thing together.  We had this bird-brained idea that we could actually create almost a “picnic table”, sand it down, and then stain it to create the same sort of look.  I honestly don’t know what we were thinking since we didn’t have the right tools.  Nowadays, after a short stint actually *working* for Pottery Barn and an even shorter stint examining a damaged piece at a Pottery Barn Outlet, we’ve pretty much figured out that most of their table tops are a high-quality veneer over a hard-wood base (or so they say….).  The above contraption?  FIREWOOD!


You can tell the above photos are old – check out the old school GameCube and XBox!

Then Dr. J figured out that he could just build it by creating the frame (sort of a lattice work), finding a nice piece of table top wood (found at Lowe’s, of course), and then putting it all together….by….hand!  As in, no compressors were used in the construction of this piece just a good ol’ hammer and nail.  Structurally, this piece was incredibly simple.  We didn’t have any carvings and/or complicated curves, etc.  The whole thing was very Shaker in design, so very square and simple (hence the lattice structure).  We didn’t have to miter any edges and everything was put together with “butt joints” (although it’s escaping me right now as to whether we did the biscuit or the screw method).

A few months after the above photos were taken Dr. J finished off the drawers and we had this:

….and nowadays we have this….

….wait a minute…how did a TV stand go from media haven to media workhorse?!?  Let me explain……takes too long….let me sum up….it’s just where it fit, baby.  But not for long…..in fact, we have a new home for this puppy, which will be revealed next week.  And can I just say…it makes *so* much more sense!  Stay tuned!  Happy Friday!  And Pottery Barn – EAT YER HEART OUT!

PS  Stay tuned early next week!  We’re actually doing a free GIVEAWAY!!!  Spread the word!!!

Reflections of the Bath…

So if you’ve been following lately, you know that we’ve really been trying to improve our Guest Bathroom and take it from something very builder’s blah…

…to something a little more polished and “complete”.  We have already tackled painting the room as well as some uber-easy and cheap free art, but that wasn’t all that was up our sleeves for this standard builder’s grade bath.  It’s kind of the elephant in *any* new construction home – those ugly builder’s grade vanity mirrors!  C’mon, we all have them and, admit it, none of them look good!  So why not remove it and exchange it for smaller framed mirrors to give it a more designer high-end look?  It’s all the rage nowadays and it’s certainly something Dr. J and I wanted to tackle in our house.  However, if removing your mirror just isn’t in the cards, you can also buy framing kits that go over top of your existing mirror.  Hey, even Martha Stewart has some tips on how to tackle that project.  However, at nearly 7 feet long and a full 3 feet tall, our monstrosity of a mirror truly overwhelms the space, so we felt that emphasizing its large size by framing it out just simply wasn’t going to make it look any better!  So we were off to a fun start when the mirror started to look like this before we painted…

It may be hard to see, but we actually taped the mirror so that when we went to remove the mirror it wouldn’t shatter all over us and leave shards everywhere.  Yup, that grody builder’s-grade mirror is gone-skie!  We lucked out, though because the mirror was super easy to remove, but I’ve heard horror stories online that removing one of these behemoths resulted in mirror shards everywhere and/or so much glue being utilized that the back of the wall required patching, new drywall, etc, etc.  Here are a few tips if you are going to remove a huge mirror like this and how we got ours down:

  • Tape the mirror – this is just a precaution in case it does break so that all of the pieces will stay relatively “together”.
  • Wear long sleeves, shoes, glasses, gloves, etc – Fortunately, we didn’t end up needing these, but you might not be so lucky with yours!
  • Remove the screws from the top – Ideally, your mirror should have a couple of “Screw clips”at the top that need to be removed before attempting anything.  Then the mirror will either have a metal channel at the bottom that it just sits in that you can just lift it up and out of or if you are a little more unlucky, then it will be completely held up with glue, caulking, or some other adhesive agent, in which case, you may need to get out some crowbars and/or hammers (this is where the glasses, gloves, long sleeves, etc. comes in handy!).  Fortunately, ours only had three dollops of glue (thanks for the extra safety, stupid homebuilders – did I mention they have gone out of business?), so we had just a small bit of “prying” and then we tipped it towards us and then up out of the little stand and out of the bathroom.

  • Be prepared for damage….or not – Again, we got *really* lucky in the sense that there were only three little dollops of glue and they hardly ripped off any of the drywall.  The mirror was mostly supported by a small metal channel on top of the backsplash, which we had to remove and then patch as well.  After that, we patched the glue holes and then painted right over it!

…but ya do have to admit that not having a mirror in a bathroom is a little depressing, so we needed to replace the large mirror with two smaller ones but we didn’t want to spend a ton of money on it!  So we went to our favorite mirror shopping haunts (Target, HomeGoods, BB&B, etc) and settled on two damaged mirrors from Target at $39.99 apiece!  They were originally a silvery color and had damaged edges and deep scratches on the frames, so painting was definitely in the plans.  We decided to go for white because it’s crisp, clean, and since we already had several white items in the room (the counters as well as a few accessories), we decided to just keep that whole theme going for a soothing spa-like feel.  Any other color would have felt a wee bit out of place.

One little tip I’ve picked up, though is that if you have mitered edges to a frame and you want to paint it, then you don’t want to ignore those edges because then it’ll just look like a frame that you painted!  So when you do go to paint, you should tape off the edges like this:

So that when you paint and remove the tape, it will look intentional as though it is a wooden mirror that’s been painted prior to construction as opposed to a metal mirror that needed repairing.

This process does take a little bit more time (because you have to tape, paint, let dry, remove tape, tape other side, paint, let dry, remove tape…).  But the completed product looks much nicer in the end!

So that’s the tale of how we removed our mirror and gave the room a little bit more life!  Stay tuned tomorrow when we give the “big reveal” on our mini bathroom makeover as well as our overall budget breakdown.  It’s a lot cheaper than you might think!

If you want to see a little bit more info on why we’ve decided to makeover this room, then take a look at our first post here and if you’d like to see the awesome paint job we did and how we picked out the colors, there’s a sneak peak over here as well! And if you’re a cheap-o-zoid like me and want to make cheap art for a bathroom, then take a look over at this link here!

Prison Cell Turned Guest Suite!

One of the items on our “Quest” was to finally put together a Guest Suite where people could actually feel welcomed and not “imprisoned”.  While none of our inmates guests have ever told us they have felt behind bars when staying at our house, I feel bad that the last few times my Mom has come to visit, she has had to resort to using her suitcase as a nightstand, we didn’t have any window dressings on the windows, and our walls were as bare as a baby’s behind!  Talk about uninspiring!

Our Guest Room a few months ago...

So we had a few odds and ends that needed to be put into this room to just get it “functional”.  The painting and other details are going to have to wait until 2010, unfortunately, otherwise I would call this post a “Before & After Bliss”.  It’s still not blissful, but this is a good start!

The first step was to find a nightstand that loosely matched this piece:

This is a dresser that J found at a garage sale before heading off to college and I remember it was white, chipped, and definitely worse for the wear when we were both in school together.  Then in graduate school he sanded off (by hand – this was before he fell in love with power tools) the crusty white paint, painted it black, changed the hardware, and inspired me to do the same with several other pieces that we owned (namely an old knotty pine bookcase and a knotty pine hutch).  So it’s obviously a piece that is pretty personal to J and after his incredible handiwork it’s really pretty, too, so we definitely wanted to work with it as opposed to buying new.  At first, I thought that this piece from Pottery Barn was in our futures, but the $199 price tag certainly wasn’t what the doctor ordered:

So, it was back to the drawing board to try to figure out what we were going to do.  We knew we wanted something small scale with two tiers, classic lines, and it made no difference if it was white, brown, or chartreuse – we could paint it and bring it back to glam!  Unfortunately, the pickin’s were pretty slim on Craigslist and we weren’t about to shell out close to $200 for an item that was going to reside behind a closed door most of the time, so Ikea came to the rescue once again!  This time with their Hemnes nightsand in black!

It’s almost a total knockoff of the Pottery Barn version (albeit square) and at $59.99, it was well worth taking the extra time to assemble it on our own!  My mom won’t have to put her alarm clock on her suitcase anymore either since we had an extra alarm clock sitting around that we have set up for our guests as well.  I’m actually sort of jealous – it’s one of those “Sunrise” alarm clocks – the numbers are too small for me to read at night, so we decided to treat our guests to a little bit of luxury.  Le sigh…

Since we were at the great Swedish escape, we went ahead and purchased a small table lamp that at $19.99 was a total steal so we don’t feel the least bit guilty about adding a little bit of ambiance for our guests.  So the whole nightstand corner looks a little something like this:

After that, we finally hung some wall decor, like this lovely DIY artwork of our home states, appropriately hung in the room where people are often coming in from out of state:

And since we can’t talk about a Guest Suite without a little bit of “privacy”, we finally shelled out some clams for these lovely Bamboo Blinds from Bed, Bath, & Beyond so that the empty house next door doesn’t feel quite so “imposing”:

And since people coming in from out of town are often looking for things to do, we were sure to include some reading material of some of our favorite places and things just in case they get bored.  After we unpacked all of our books a few weeks back, it was nice to spread some of those books throughout the house:

So there ya have it!  Our Guest Suite is finally starting to feel like a home for somebody – just in time for Christmas!  All we need now are a few towels, some chocolates, and a few willing guests.  Checking in?

PS  This room still needs to be painted and “glammed” up – stay tuned for another 2010 project!


An Impossible Mission? Part 3 (The Gripping Conclusion)

Our fearless heroes/bloggers have returned!  This time with the exciting conclusion to the Mission Classified as Impossible.  As you may recall, we had a Spare Bedroom that really wasn’t being utilized to the best of its ability.  Truth be told, we had no idea how the room was being utilized, so we simply called it “The Room of Requirement” from the Harry Potter novels.  It was precisely what we needed it to be when we needed it to be that….so it essentially became a drop zone for all things (books, Aero-Beds, luggage, unused artwork, etc.).  In fact, it had devolved into something that looked a little bit like this:

Personal Nightmare Side A

Personal Nightmare Side B

So obviously something needed to be done!  So we went to Ikea and picked up the Billy Bookcase and assembled it frantically last Saturday.  Actually it took about an hour and a half or so, but it made for a great result!  Then we began unpacking all of our books for the first time in two years on some of them!  What a relief!  Then the organizational storm began!!

And, again, unleashing these books was like a walk back in time for both J & I.  It was awesome looking through all the old volumes we had and we were able to clear out quite a few things we didn’t need as well.  J was able to clear out some outdated textbooks, though not quite all of them.  Darnit!  I hate it when people actually *use* their textbooks in their career!  Makes me jealous!  I really don’t have much use for a Spanish Phonetics Textbook, but the last time I tried to get rid of a textbook via fire, it was neither as dramatic nor as successful as I would’ve liked for it to be, so I have retired my matches for awhile (and if anybody has pictures from that event, I would love to have copies!).

So after another full day of unloading books, organizing, cleaning and even hanging blinds (!!!), the final result is revealed below:

Our Nightmare dream-i-fied

Is it scary that I think that organization is super sexy?

Isn’t it amazing?!  We have many more plans for this space, including painting the room and the shelves eventually, crown molding on the bookcases, trim, etc.  But that’s not all!  The plan is for this room to become an overall Media Lovin’ Space-o-rama!  We’re going to put a TV in here, all of our Video Game consoles, some Day Beds, etc etc.  It’s going to be awesome and it will keep us uber-busy through 2010 and beyond!

To be continued in 2010…

Meet my nemesis, Sir Isaac Newton…

He and I aren’t the best of friends lately.  We’ve been feuding over gravitational pull and house projects.  He is *always* getting in the way.  Our latest decor dilemma left me with some evidence that I would sooner put back where it came from if I could….but let’s make this about Home Stuff and not turn me into an 80 year old Grandma who can only talk about her maladies in a “woe-is-me” fashion.  Though you know this post will end with some sort of lesson learned…

  • Mission:  Inject interest into a boring and looooooong wall (17′ to be precise)
  • Challenge:  Do it on a budget and try to use as many items lying around the house as possible
  • Prediction:  Setbacks will abound – they always do – so deal with them on the fly 😉

The wall in question is in our Family Room opposite the sliding glass doors (17 feet long!!!):


We really didn’t want to have to spend a lot of money to put something on the walls, and since we have no overhead lighting in this room, we thought a good idea would be to bring in a mirror collage to really reflect some of the light back and forth and make the room appear larger.  It’s also *waaaay* more updated than say a floor to ceiling mirror a la our old Condo, which just makes the space look like it’s Marty McFly’n it back to 1985.  Framed mirrors, frameless mirrors, big mirrors, small mirrors, etc.  Put them all together on a wall – instant glam.

But we only had one mirror….d’oh!  So off to Home Goods we went to find more mirrors!  Less than $50 later and we had not one mirror, but three!!!  Honestly, though, one of the mirrors was absolutely hideous, but at $19.99 it was a price we couldn’t pass up:


I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again – Spray Paint is your best friend!!  Since we already had one black framed mirror, we figured we could just spray paint the ugliest of the uglies from Home Goods and get all of our mirrors to match.  Naturally, the round mirror was the only one that didn’t come out of its frame – oh, bother!  So while it took us a long time to tape, it was definitely worth it!


We then sanded the mirror down really quickly to remove the glossy finish and then wiped off the excess before we got our paint on.  And I should mention here for posterity that the next time I do lots of Spray Painting I’m really going to wear a mask because I find myself blowing my nose the next morning and wondering how *that* got up my nose…blech!


The trick to spray painting is to use long quick strokes and constantly keep your hand moving.  Otherwise you will get globby globbersons, which might be good for chocolate sauce, but not for paint.

So after we finished spray painting our mirrors, we waited a day before cleaning them up and hanging.  This, of course, is where Sir Isaac Newton and I differ.  I wanted them up and he wanted them down.  I was hanging a large framed mirror (probably 30 pounds worth) and then it dropped and landed square on my thigh and gave me a little bit of this:


…and then 24 hours later it blossomed into this exciting number…


You shoulda seen the *other* guy.  Ain’t she a beaut?!  But even though Newton left me with a doozie, I prevailed in the end!!!  Setbacks are only temporary, as is pain.  And this is how the story ends:



Conclusion?  Newton was WRONG!  Secondary conclusion?  We need more mirrors….hmmm…Tertiary conclusion?  My leg still hurts…