A Little Upgrade: Easy DIY Valance

Last year I bought those super cheap ($5) plastic blinds at the home store. I was planning to turn them into roman shades for one of the front rooms. My goal was adding a privacy option for that window when needed. Since that need was not very often, budget for doing this was super slender. Mostly, those windows remain uncovered. Their glazing allows privacy during the day and that room just doesn’t get a lot of night use.

Yet once the shades were up, I really liked the way they worked to promote privacy yet still allow light in. Roman shades would completely block the light out. In an already dark room, that wasn’t going to work.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!
Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it’s so dark but this is the room with the lights on! And flash.

If the blinds were to stay, a valance was needed. Because of the low ceilings in this house, I wanted something that wouldn’t add much weight or darkness, something that would disappear yet, when you actually noticed it, would look clean and a little luxurious.

When I got the blinds last year I also scored some nice upholstery fabric for $3 a yard from the Home Fabrics moving sale. The lightest part of the weave matches the “Wyndham Cream” of the walls. Originally meant for the roman shades, this would do nicely for the valance.

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DIY Network had a good article on building a cornice and the unfussy directions seemed right for this project. Plus I seemed to have much of what I’d need on hand. My major variations from their plan were that I used 1×8″ wood instead of 1×6″ and that I didn’t bother with batting or adhesive spray. Overall, a really good, helpful article with great pictures. I did wish they’d put in instructions for folding the fabric around the frame. Yet that said, my advice for doing the same is pretty much “try a bunch of stuff and do whatever works!”

The end result was a simple, clean valance. Unfussy and successful in hiding the cheapo blinds at rest. It adds just the right touch of luxury and simplifies the look of the windows.

The project is pretty easy, taking about a half day. For me, figuring out how to attractively fold the fabric was harder than making the box. And I did screw it up, though not enough to completely redo it.

Here’s the project:

  1. Gather supplies. In my case:
    • 4″ L brackets (ideally in packet with screws, usually about $4 for a packet of four if you’re buying new)
    • 2 1×8″ pine boards, 8′ long, usually about $6.50 a piece if buying new or $2 at the local ReSale store. These can be other types of boards, as long as they are straight so be sure to raid your existing lumber pile first. The boards are getting covered up so condition doesn’t matter too much. For the length of my window, I needed two eight footers but a smaller window would need less.
    • Wood screws, (1.5″ for mounting the brackets to studs, 1/2″ for screwing brackets to top of valance, and 1″ for joining the wood pieces. I used both traditional screws and Kreg pocket jig ones. Because I love them.)
    • Wood glue
    • Staples
    • Fabric, several feet longer than length of valance. Mine cost about $9 because I went for a whole three yards even though eight feet would have been enough.
    • Scotchguard or waterproof spray (optional)
    • Batting and spray adhesive, if you want it padded, which I didn’t (optional)
    • Equipment I used:
      • Circular saw
      • Measuring tape
      • Measuring square
      • Pencil
      • Stapler
      • Scissors
      • Drill and drill bits
      • Screwdriver and bits
      • Level
  2. Mount two L brackets on the studs by the window using wood screws. Choose location by width of wood and what you want hidden. I wanted the front panel to cover the blinds when up, yet not block any light. The blinds were outside mounted so valance needed to extend beyond the blinds. Check to make sure your brackets are level.

    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8" or 6" facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8″ or 6″ facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
  3. Next find two 6″ or 8″ wide boards in the lumber pile or at the store. Purchased new, these are about $6.50 each. They do need to be straight, free of any major bowing but they can be otherwise ugly, since they’ll be covered. They don’t actually have to be the same width, as long as you’re getting the effect you want on the front panel of the valance. So if I didn’t need the valance to protrude so far, I could have gotten away with a narrower top board (6″).
  4. Measure window and cut boards 4″ wider than window frame. Mine measured 73″ so I cut the boards 4″ bigger, at 77″.
  5. Drill pocket holes in the facing board to mount it onto the top of the box.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.

    This is what the screw holes look like once you've drilled them.
    This is what the screw holes look like once you’ve drilled them.
  6. Spread glue on board.

    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
  7. Screw top and front boards together.2016-02-14 14.15.29
  8. Cut valance side pieces from leftover scrap of 8″ (or 6″) wood.  Measure just big enough to close the valance box. This piece will be flush to the wall.
    Here I'm measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It's better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.
    Here I’m measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It’s better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.

    When isn't cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
    When isn’t cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
  9. Drill pocket holes to screw side pieces to top and front of valance.

    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
  10. Glue and screw again.
  11. Check it all to make sure it’s square.
  12. Allow wood glue in valance to dry fully. For me, this didn’t mean waiting a full 24 hours for the glue to set the way the bottle says. This valance isn’t going to be moved or bear weight once it’s mounted so basically, you just need the glue to be dry so it doesn’t mess up your fabric wherever it might have seeped out.
  13. Now attach fabric to the valance with your staple gun. Keep in mind all of the points below BEFORE you start stapling:
    • Before you fix fabric in place, test it out and make sure that all the visible bits look the way you want. This takes experimenting based on your frame, fabric and the look you’re going for. I folded my wide (54″) upholstery fabric over lengthwise for a tiny bit of softness. If you’re using batting to pad the valance, you want to test your folds over that the padded valance.

      Here's me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
      Here’s me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
    • Pull fabric taut on all visible arts. If you have to compromise, make sure the most visible parts are the most taut.
    • If folds will be visible, make them on the sides, avoid the front, which should be smooth.
    • Here is where you could also add padding (from batting) and use adhesive spray instead of — or in addition to — staples. I didn’t do either, just doubled my fabric over and stapled it. The DIY Network tutorial shows this process.
    • Plan that fabric will cover the inside of the valance box as well as the outside. The goal is to have it look finished if you actually happen to look up inside the valance, though most of the time, no one in the world will do this (and also, if you’re mounting drapes under the valance, it will be hard to see).
    • Once you’re sure all the outside bits are well covered and the inside looks okay, carefully cut away extra fabric inside the folds to reduce the bulk.
    • Staples should be all on the inside of the valance frame, where they will not be seen. I was A BIT CASUAL about my stapling, forgetting that you’d be able to see inside the valance at close inspection. So I ended up with a few visible staples.

      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I've decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I’ve decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
  14. Optional: spray fabric with Scotchguard or waterproofing spray.  I did two coats, just to make dusting / cleaning the valance easier.  I figure the coating will make it more difficult for dust and dander to embed themselves. If you’re not sure how your fabric will react to waterproofing, always test it first.
  15. Place the valance on top of the L brackets and center. Next, secure it by screwing the 1/2″ screws into the holes on top of the L bracket.
  16. Take a picture of your valance and send it to me.
    Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
    Here’s the valance mounted. Again, sorry it’s so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.

    Another dark shot - sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds.
    Another dark shot – sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds. And that you can’t really see the inside staples unless you’re one of those people looking for problems. (If that’s you, my house won’t disappoint!)

So that’s it. It’s not the most exciting fabric covered valance I’ve seen but it does just what I hoped. Now the window looks finished and intentional without pointlessly clamoring to be the center of attention. Because obviously, the giant squid has that locked down.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!

Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
Again, here’s the before and after . . . just a subtle bit of luxe.

Have you made a valance from scratch? Would you do it again?

 

Blue? Green? Something Else?

So the slate blue chalk paint on the dining chairs just wasn’t working.  First I thought it was the brown fabric on the seats that wasn’t right. It was pretty but somehow, the beauty you could see when you really looked at it wasn’t coming out. And the slate blue in the design wasn’t coming out despite the chairs being that same blue. Humph.

Here's the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
Here’s the slate blue version of the chairs. Hoped it would bring out the blue embroidery but . . .
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. . . only the cat liked it.

 

Next step: I hacked up a favorite sarong and slapped that over it the brown. I love this sarong, so much that I almost made it into an ottoman cover. (Impractical, too much pet hair against the black. Somehow the Mints aren’t drawn to the dining chairs.)2015-05-23 13.00.16

It looked better – and I do love blue and black together – yet still not great. Time to try painting the chairs over.

Happily, Internet wisdom is if you waxed your chalk paint, you can repaint if the wax fully cured. Roughly, that means if the wax has been there three months, it’s no big deal. I sanded lightly anyway before starting.

The new fabric has a streak of . . . midnight? blue running through it so, hoping to bring that out and make the chairs fun, I took a strip of fabric to the paint store and got a sample to match. And this is the result:

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In some lights, it looks great and fun. In others, maybe a little too quirky. Also, I’m not sure anything will bring out that blue in the fabric. Is this too bright?

Shooting for more contrast, I decided to open up the paint options to green. Maybe it’s time to let go of my dream of blue chairs. So I mixed up some chalk paint with some leftover martini olive. The fabric does have several shades of green so even though it’s not an exact match . . .2015-08-17 09.14.36

Now I’m torn. This could go a couple ways.

1) All green. There’s something really nice about the all green. And the thing about having the chairs the same color is that there’s a serenity to the dining room that I want. The goal is to have a sort of pretty quiet little surprise in the dining area, a little fun. But I don’t want them to demand attention.

2) All blue. I’m leaning away from this one. Somehow it’s just not working, even though I was so careful about the match. Am I wrong? Is it me? Or does this blue demand too much attention?

3) Four colors? I could do the dark pink and a deeper green, black or white on the other two chairs so nothing is too matchy. But then, when I ruin the fabric as I — or the Mints — inevitably will, it will be hard to find a replacement that works with all four colors. Also, there’s the demand attention issue.

4) Two and two? Three and one? The question then is, are the blue and green to jarring against each other? Again with the demanding of attention?

What do you think? Now that I’m happy with the fabric, where should I go with the color issue?

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Look Out For Loons! Router-free Thrifty Frame!

At a yard sale recently I picked up this vintage plastic sign. A fan of yellow and red together, I thought it could brighten my basement study. Plus remind me and the Mints to look out for loons.

Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.
Plastic yard sale sign, salvaged from a program in Maine sometime in the past.

Ana White has a post called “Build a Barnwood Frame – $1 and 10 Minutes” that had caught my eye.  I was excited about it because while I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a frame, I don’t have a router, which every other frame plan seems to call for. Though I was pretty sure it would cost me more than a buck and ten minutes, it seemed perfect for this. As usual, the plans were helpful and easy though it took me more than 10 minutes. For details, be sure to check  the Ana White website.

I’d already splashed out a $1.50 for the picture, so I was happy to find scrap 1×2 pieces in the lumber pile that would work for this. No pieces were long enough to frame the whole picture so I’d need to trim it to keep it cheap. I also already had leftover paint, nails and staples.

Once I figured out how much lumber I had — and how big the frame could be, it was time to start doing the miter cuts. I’m prone to errors so that meant measure thrice and do the big pieces first. The biggest pieces will be the outer frame so account for that in cutting.

Next I laid out the pieces against the picture to make sure they’d fit.

After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
After I cut each piece, I laid it on top of the picture, pre-trimming, to make sure it would work.
OK! Four sides done.

Next it was time to whip out that brad nailer and wood glue. Once the corners were clampled together, it was time to pop in the brads. Either my skills are getting better or I was lucky because this time, I only had to extract a couple of misfired nails!Clamping

Wood filler was next, to smooth out all those awkward gaps. My frame was going to be painted so I felt free to enthusiastically ladle it on.

Wood filler making the gaps disappear.
Wood filler making the gaps disappear!

Once it was dry, I sanded it well so it would be smooth for painting. It’s important to do this step now because once it’s joined to the outer frame, it’s hard to get to the very edges.

Now it was time to build the outer frame. This baby lines up perpendicular to the inner frame so it was a similar process, with the wood flipped onto its sides instead of laying it flat. Again, the Ana White plans have the details on getting it done.

Next it was time to build the outer frame.
Next it was time to build the outer frame.

Before cutting, it’s important to measure a couple of times and size it against the inner frame as you go. The two frames fitted together will look like the pic below. Remember that the outer frame is going to be about 1.5″ bigger than the inside frame.

Inner frame fit into the outer one.
Inner frame fit into the outer one.

When you join them, the inner frame needs to be a little inset — perhaps a fourth or half inch — so there’s a little lip. You don’t want it set too far in — for example, flush to the back — because you need room to mount the picture inside. Remember, there’s no router in this project so the outside/inside frame approach is how you get the inset you’d normally create with a router.

Note: my project didn’t call for glass inside the frame but you could use this approach to do it.

Attached framesOnce they’re joined, there’s more wood filler and sanding in your future. Because it was getting painted, I was an enthusiastic user of my random orbital sander.

Here's what it looks like pre-paint.
Here’s what it looks like pre-paint.
And now with paint.
And now with paint.

Gotta love paint. Keeps the rustic look and hides all the ugly. Once painted, I sprayed the frame with some Varathane. It wouldn’t change the rustic look too much and would make it a lot easier to dust . . .

Attach picture to frame.
Attach picture to frame.

I taped the top of the picture in and then just stapled it to the inner frame. I put dishcloth covered blocks under the inner frame before stapling — didn’t want the pressure of the staple gun to dislodge the inner frame (the dishcloths were for padding so it wouldn’t mark the painted frame).

Once that looked good, I FINALLY cut the bottom of the plastic picture off and stapled that in too.

Done!
Done! And if you look closely at the bottom right, you can see one of my misfire gouges. Good thing we’re calling this look “rustic.”

And now here it is in situ.

In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.
In situ. And an important warning when you come down the stairs. You never know where loons will lurk.

Plastic yard sale loon sign, salvaged from somewhere in Maine.

What about you? Have you tried making a frame before? Successes? Failures? Other ideas or plans for a router-free frame? Next I’m going to try this one with a fabric picture . . .

$10 Lighting Scores

I’ve decided to make this a Thing, a Thrifting Thing. So this will be an ongoing post.

Background: I’m determined to replace the builder grade nipple lights that the rehabbers stuck into this 1947 cottage. I love getting a good deal, appreciate a little sparkle, and think great lighting is necessary. Can the cottage be brightened and lightened with seriously cheap thrifted lights?

Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home
Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home

I hope so. Now the hunt is on to do exactly that. $10 for light fixtures seems like a good, reach number. Not easy, but with luck and persistence, doable.

Two main challenges:

  • Slim wallet
  • Flush mount is just about all that works. This Minnipin house has low (about 7.5′) ceilings. Anything that goes up can’t be too big.

Score one: pretty guest bedroom crystal chandelier, $10, ReStore

$10!!!
$10!!!
ReStore Chandelier installed
ReStore Chandelier installed. Lit, it shoots daggers of light all over the small room.
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at nightl
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at night.

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Score two: Vintage welcoming pineapple-look light for front entryway, $10, plant and moving sale. Just short enough for the door to clear it. Just.

Here's the moving sale light!
Here’s the moving sale light!
All lit up! Bright and swirly.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.

Score three: Outdoor wrought-iron chandelier, $10, garage sale. $2 for hanging links. So this one went over budget if you count the chain needed to hang it from the branch. While I don’t use candles on it to light the table too often (it gets dark late here), I love the sense of presence it gives the dining area. Also, it sort of bounces with the branch in a high wind. In everyday life, now I get to see my beloved little quartz eggs whenever I go outside.

Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual use, I leave quartz eggs in the spot for the candles. Because it looks funny to me.
Wrought iron outdoor chandelier. When not in actual lit candle use, I leave quartz eggs in the spots where the candles go. For no good reason.
Even without candles lit, I like the presence the chandelier gives the table.
Even without candles lit, I think the chandelier adds to a feeling of an outdoor room.

Stay tuned for more thrifty lighting finds . . .

 

Fabric Wallpaper on Basement Storage Unit

This is a segment in my series on my basement upgrade.

I wanted the behind-the-books part of my DIY storage unit to pop and be pretty. Wallpaper seemed like too much work and commitment so I poked around online for fabric-as-wallpaper articles. These three great articles took the mystery out of the project:

Armed with my $5 per yard red and white fabric from Home Fabrics (discount upholstry & drapery fabric) store, liquid starch and a paint roller, I got started.

Now, my technique wasn’t the best practices described in these articles. Here’s what I did:

  • Painted the wall in liquid starch with a little roller.
  • Placed the fabric on the wall (didn’t put starch on the back of it. Too unweildly, too much cat hair to fight).
  • Put a few staples in the top to be extra sure it would stay in place. (The staples aren’t generally required and wouldn’t normally be pretty. I felt okay about adding them because I knew they’d be covered by the shelving.)
  • Rolled over the fabric with starch to seal it to the wall.
  • Waited for it all to dry and then tested it to see if would really peel off THAT EASILY. And . . . it did! And pasted back down just as easily with the application of a little more liquid starch.

It all worked just fine and went super fast (like maybe 10 minutes). And here’s how it looked:

Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase.

 

Have you used fabric for wallpaper? Love or hate it?

Bounce over to these links for more on:

Nearly Worthless Planter

Once I mostly painted the Minnipin House, I turned my attention to other outdoor aesthetics. There’s no one who’d call my front yard a showpiece but I’m trying to improve things incrementally.

First up was the undistinguished front stoop. It looked better than it did pre-paint but needed a little gravitas. Or drama. Or something. So I poked about and stumbled on Ana White’s Frame & Panel Planter Plan.  That inspired me build a tall, painted planter for the stoop. Topped with an old topiary frame, I’d say it generally worked out OK, though I’m still waiting on my vine hydranga to blossom.

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
Here’s the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter

Still the stoop looked . . . incomplete. Because of mailbox placement, I didn’t want to try to match the existing planter exactly in terms of height, but it needed something. And I did have a second swirly trellis that I wanted to do something with, but I just wasn’t sure what. Deep in No Spend Spring, this project seemed to be on endless hold.

Sorting wood in the garage the other day, I made a pile of leftover outdoor wood, mostly bits of fir and cedar and some mystery stuff that had clearly lived outside for a time. As part of No Spend Spring, I’d already used some old fence tips to make a rustic succulent planter but until I started really looking at the pile, had assumed I didn’t really have enough to do a larger, more distinguished looking planter that would sort of match the one already in place on the front stoop.

Also, I was guilty of doing that silly thing where you assume you need to use all the same kinds of materials to make something great. I didn’t have enough fir for a whole big planter. Or enough cedar. Or enough mystery outside wood. Or any 1x3s. But combining the scraps? Making it smaller? And painting my standard accent black it so the differences in wood would be invisible? Possible!

Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.
Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.

So that was my first near-miss opportunity. Time to eyeball it, measuring again and again.

I looked back onto the Ana White plans to refresh the project in my mind. I’d try to make this one look like a shorter version of my original. I scanned the recipe and got to work.

Because I wasn’t using the plan’s exact measurements, I decided to cut all the big pieces first and just make sure I had enough scraps as I went along. There would be just enough leftover cedar and fir pieces if I went for a 15″ height. 15″ would give me enough of a rise for sweet potato vine to tumble prettily over the stoop. I could stick something in the middle to go up and climb over my second swirly trellis. I also decided vary from the plan by using only salvaged 1x2s, and not any 1x3s, which I didn’t have anyway.

Here’s how all that cutting played out.

Side panels of fir and cedar.

Side panels of fir and cedar. Rails of 1x2s salvaged from another disaster project.

Panels with frame pieces
Panels with frame pieces
Things to watch out for: salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws
Things to watch out for in salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws

Next I used the trusty pocket hole jig to make the frames. So proud of myself! I actually remembered to  make sure the crappy, damaged parts of the wood faced inside the planter, where they’d never be seen. And I remembered that two panels needed to be 1.5″ wider than the other two.

Pocket holing the frame pieces
Pocket holing the frame pieces
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.

Now it was time to nail the cedar fence planks to the frames . . . and I discovered I’d cut them too short. Like seriously too short. Impossibly too short. Hard to salvage too short. Why didn’t I read the plan more carefully? Too damned short. Argh!

No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.
No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.

At this point I was seriously tempted to just go buy a few more cedar fence planks. They’re pretty cheap when you’re only buying 2-3; my cost would be $5-$7.50. But that would be the opposite of the spirit of the project and a direct violation of my No Spend Spring commitment and all the things I’ve been learning. If nothing else, I know myself well enough to know that every time I looked at that planter, it would bug.

Humph.

The frames could be cut down. I could turn them into a 12″ frame instead of the 15″ I was going for. That would change the look not for the better. And, for once I’d let my frames set up properly so the glue and screws were just about perfect. Busting them apart to whop 2-3″ from the frames would be tedious, would damage the wood even more. And I just didn’t want to.

This is the point in time where it’s a really good idea to take a long, tall drink of water and do something else for a time. Deep breaths. Just because my easy project didn’t turn out easy . . . well, it could be abandoned. No one but me would know. Or I could blow the budget. Or I could figure something else out.

The issue was mounting the fence planks when they were too short to stick onto the frame. And coming up with something that wouldn’t shorten the frame.

Hmm. The stubby cedar & fir planks did have middles! A bar across the middle of the frame could solve that. And I did have enough leftover 1×2″ to make four little bars. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t going to exactly match the look of the bigger planter but painted black, it wouldn’t be jarring. I can live without matchy matchy as long as I can get some harmony going.

Here's a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here’s a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here's the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side.
Here’s the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side. Mind those gaps! If you look closely, you can see that my panels don’t go all the way up the frames.

The end result was a little wobbly. You can see some air at the top, where the planks aren’t big enough. I decided that should work okay because I’d be lining the planter with black landscape fabric so the gaps would hopefully sort of disappear. And the weight of the dirt would stabilize the wobble a bit. This planter wasn’t going to move around basically ever, so this precarious plan might not be so ridiculous.

 

Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality.
Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality. This pic also shows the slats inserted into the planter to save dirt.

Though 15″ tall, I wanted a shallower planter because I’m pretty parsimonious about dirt. I really am. If I have extra good quality dirt, I want it to go into raised bed vegetables or as many containers as possible. So I used some scrap 2x2s to create a ridge and nail in some slats, making the planting depth about 8 inches.

I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.
I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.

Now it was time to add the top ridge, which would help the cosmetics quite a bit. Unfortunately, I’d used up so much of my scrap 1×2, there would not be enough to do the whole rim. Time to patch the little left over gap.

Here's the patched top edge.
Here’s the patched top edge.

This is what I ended up with. Made from salvaged wood, it was — and still is — riddled with holes from extracted screws and brads. This is the point where you’re supposed to whip out the hole filler and get to work.

Here's the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from
Here’s the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from assembly and past lives. Ready for paint!

Only I couldn’t. Because I’m out of that stuff and we’re in No Spend Spring. So I got to work with my left over black SharkSkin Deck and Siding Stain, hoping for the best. While that stuff doesn’t totally fill in gouges in a beat up deck, it does have a smoothing over effect.

And this is the result.

 

Here's the finished salvaged planter. That's sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here’s the finished salvaged planter. That’s sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here's a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I'm hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it's  pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.
Here’s a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I’m hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it’s pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.

 

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
A look back at the before.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.

 

And here's the stoop with the flag flying.
And here’s the stoop with the flag flying. We’re ready for 4th of July now!

So, I am pleased to have moved these outdoor wood scraps into being something useful, that gives the front stoop a little more balance. And I think that the middle bar I had to use essentially disappears painted black.

I still have dreams of a bigger front stoop, the kind you can put a rocker on. And railings. And a lot of other things. But this is it for now.

What do you think? What would you have done differently (besides measure twice)? Is the stoop now too matchy matchy? Should I paint the concrete dark gray (that’s what the concrete base of the house is painted.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another $10 Vintage Light!

Refreshing my entry way made me aware of how much I disliked the light in the little alcove. It wasn’t awful, just . . . not right. This house, with its pretty cove ceilings was crying out for something a little more special, a little more welcoming than the renter’s special jar light that functioned there. That said, in this Minnipin house (low ceilings), possibilities were limited.

Garage sailing really can pay off, if you keep your standards high and your wallet closed until something special comes along.

Hunting for cheap vegetables, I swung by a moving and plant sale one Saturday morning. Got to talking to the lovely gardener who was packing up and moving out of state to be closer to her daughter. June blooming organic strawberry plants, six for $5 seemed like a great deal. And of course, while I was there anyway, casting an eye over a little table covered with trinkets was just automatic.

I almost missed it! But there it was. A welcoming looking little pineapple shaped light with little crystals at the frond tips. Small enough to fit with the low ceilings of this Minnipin house, it looked like it could be original to this 1947 house.

Here's the moving sale light!
Here’s the moving sale light!

And here it now is in my little entry alcove. I love the swirly light it casts in this little space.

Pineapple light says "welcome!"
Pineapple light says “welcome!” Sorry it’s such a grainy shot. Kind of hard to get in this small space.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.

 

DIY Extra Long Shower Curtain – Stamped Sea Monster!

When I remodeled my tiny main bathroom, I raised the shower rod, as high as possible. Two reasons: that’s nicer for tall people and I think it makes the space look more spacious. That meant that the existing outer cotton shower curtain looked stupid. It barely skimmed the top of the tub.

Time to go long. My options were:

  1. Ignore it and try not to let it bug me
  2. Add an extension to the existing curtain
  3. Buy a new, extra long shower curtain
  4. Make one

Options 1-2 just weren’t going to work. The bathroom was hardworking enough. It deserved a little pretty, not a makeshift or almost good look. Also, I was feeling lazy seamstress-wise.

Option 3 was a no go because when it comes to things like shower curtains, I can be seriously cheap. And if I am going to spend money, I want exactly what I want. Shopping about for extra long shower curtains gave me some serious sticker shock. Also, I didn’t really like anything I found. Spending money on ick, well, that would be icky.

Option 4 took a bit of thinking. I really was NOT IN THE MOOD to sew anything.

Still, I had to size the project. Shower curtains typically measure 72×72″ (sometimes 74″). I wanted something that was roughly 72×82.” Wide fabric comes in at about 54″ pre-shrinkage, so just not wide enough without a seam. With seams and hems, I’d need six yards of something. At $3-$5 per yard for cottons that I didn’t loathe, the shower curtain was costing $18-$30 to start.

I thought about a tablecloth, repurposed. Poking about, pretty vintage ones were pricey. New cheap ones were too poly for me. And still pricey.

Then it hit me. A full size flat sheet might do the trick. At 81×96,” it would certainly be wide enough. So the center seam issue would be solved pretty easily.  That said, it would still be slightly large. Folding, I thought, would solve the issue.  The sheet could be folded at the top to offer whatever length was necessary. Width wise, I could either space out the typical 12 grommet holes wider than normal, or I could fold again at one end. So, folding a double size flat sheet it would be. Since I had none, I hit Target because they offer 300 thread count cotton sheets at $11.99. I went for white but there were other pretty colors.

Next came the grommets. Now, the biggest problem with doing grommets is once you start, you don’t want to stop. Self discipline is called for. And offering to make grommety things to everyone you know. For this project, I went for big grommets because I like that look and it would fit my fat shower rod hooks. Joanne was my source. Using coupons, one grommet kit and one set of additional grommets cost me about $10 (the kit comes with about eight, and a typical shower curtain needs 12 grommets. For my folding strategy, I needed 13.). Note: Joanne Fabric’s site doesn’t show all the grommets they offer online. Cool tip: Grommets in the sewing section are slightly cheaper than the ones in the drapery section.

Here’s the blow-by-blow on getting it done.

Budget: Less than $25 for the basics, if you get your grommets with coupons and buy an inexpensive sheet. If you don’t have stamps and ink on hand already, that will be an additional cost.

  1. Gather what you need:
    • Full length sheet
    • Grommet kit and enough grommets for your shower rod hooks (usually 12 for the hooks but you will need a 13th as well). Choose grommets that offer a fat enough hole for your hooks
    • Hammer and solid surface for pounding (concrete steps are ideal)
    • Stamps and fabric ink pads for stamping your curtain
    • Iron, for assisting with the top fold and setting the stamps
    • Pencil
  2. Launder: washing and drying the sheet is necessary. It will shrink a little and you’ll want to wash it every month anyway. If it’s super wrinkly and you’re going to stamp, you’ll want to get the wrinkles out. This was not necessary with my Target sheet. Plus I like the slightly wrinkly look of cotton.
  3. Fold: The top of the sheet with the fat white hem became the bottom of the curtain. This means the top of the curtain would be the bottom of the sheet. Fold the bottom of the sheet over so that the total folded length will be length you want. Iron the fold.
  4. Space & mark: Using your old shower curtain or liner, space out the the grommet holes and mark them with a pencil. Make an x, don’t make a heavy mark or then you have to get rid of it later. Add a 13th grommet hole at the end of the shower curtain.
  5. Pound your first hole. Pound one grommet hole through the top folded section (so you’re going through two pieces of fabric). Do the side that will be seen the least, just in case you get the spacing wrong. The grommet kit will show you had to do this and there are a ton of examples online. It’s so easy and fun!
  6. Test: Hang up the sheet to check that the length is right. Really, do this. It can go wrong.
  7. Finish pounding: Once you have the right, pound the rest of your holes. Make sure you’re consistent. You want the grommets on each side to look like they match.
  8. Hang your curtain. Fold that leftover end over so you have two grommets hanging on the 12th hook.
  9. Contemplate the design you want to stamp.
  10. Be arty: Take the curtain down and stamp it. I wanted something simple and subtle so I made a border of sea monsters at the bottom in a sea blue. The always wonderful LuLu improved this by stamping bubbles randomly over the rest of it in two other blues. Also, she did some stamping at the top to disguise my bad pencil marks that wouldn’t wash out. It’s perfect for me, both fresh and subtle. Glancing at it, you basically see a white cotton shower curtain. Up close, you get fun surprises.
  11. Cure & set: Let it cure for 24 hours and then iron it. This sets the fabric ink so it won’t run when you wash it again. Hang it back up. You’re done!

 

At casual glance, it looks like a simple white shower curtain
At casual glance, it looks like a simple white shower curtain
Up close, you see bubbes
Up close, you see bubbles

 

 

And sea monsters!
And sea monsters!

 

 

 

North End Largesse

New to Boise, I picked this neighborhood because of park proximity, walkability, and the charm of older homes. Though pricey compared to other neighborhoods in Boise, these amenities outweighed any fantasies I had about a home with a master suite, gourmet kitchen, or swimming pool.

What I didn’t know then was how generous a neighborhood it would be. I was prepared for California-transplant hate (which I didn’t get, ever), but not the active welcome and practical help.

Today I am grateful for the gift of plants from my kindly North End neighbors. Thanks to them, seven tomato plants are now in the raised bed, ready to go to town in the coming heat. And the bald patch in the front yard is now planted with day lilies that one neighbor thinned from her bed. I’m so excited to have plants in a spot I thought would be bare all summer due to No Spend Spring!

Wheelbarrow full of lillies, free!
Wheelbarrow full of lilies, free!

The Mints are as grateful as psychopaths ever are, as well. Another neighbor lost her cat and showed up on my stoop with a bin full of dry cat food.

I don’t remember this happening in my old neighborhood, even though I lived there more than a decade, and had lovely, friendly neighbors. When neighbors dropped by, or hailed you outside, it could be to chat, comment on one’s landscape, complain about something, or demand support for some issue. Not to just give.

North Enders seem to be heavy NextDoor users, and they use it well. Sure, there are a fair number of lectures, issue related, and for sale posts. Yet there seem to be even more about found pets, creatures who need homes, and useful free things (lumber! plants!). Now and then there are calls for help, refreshingly creative ones. At the holiday one neighbor asked for help for some homeless friends, struggling to get into housing with a disabled child. Her plea wasn’t focused on cash but on the short term assist that was needed. This meant specific items to help this family with practical needs and a holiday celebration. OK, not rocket science but my California-jaded self is just so used to pleas only for cash.

I posted once, trying to find a home for a puppy a friend was fostering. This was met with practical offers for help for the little guy. Sure, there were a few unhelpful lectures as well, but scanning — and ignoring — those were a small price to pay to help the puppy. That puppy quickly found a home.

It’s not just online. I notice it out dog walking as well. There’s a genuine interest in my beast, the occasional invite to sit down by a front yard fire, collegial alerts about foxes in the area (the Mints seem impervious), and the like. Sometimes free stuff is just left out for the taking. Or the lost posted on telephone poles (and found again). The North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) is active too, and volunteers kindly deliver a quarterly newspaper.

I’m not sure what inspires all this kindliness. Is it a Boise thing? Is it smallish city  living? Not sure. Just lucky.

 

 

 

Natural Curiosities Gallery Wall / Ernst Haeckel

At the holiday my dear Diane gave me Natural Curiosities, a 12 poster 2015 calendar of prints by Ernst Haeckel. She knows I love those Victorian era biological illustrations. They’re so passionate and meticulous at the same time. This set was particularly nice, published on card stock by the Library of Congress. Beautiful jellyfish, octopi and more.

 

My intentions started out with self discipline. I would patiently wait each month for the new illustration. At the end of this year, I’d do something beautiful with the illustrations. Didn’t make it. These babies were just too tempting and I was feeling project twitch mightily. I told myself it made sense to do something with them now, to avoid them getting dinged, as things always seem to, by the Mints. Respect, Diane. That’s what I was feeling for you!

From last year’s holiday project of jewelry organizers, I had a bunch of picture frame backs. Varying sizes. Perfect!

For my gallery wall, I had six matching ones so I positioned six of the prints on each backer board. A box knife made a nice clean cut against the backer board. Next it was simply a matter of spray adhesive and I had wall art ready to go.

I was able to keep the titles of these six favorites, discarding the calendar part. That was ideal because the Latin / German titles are almost as interesting as the prints. My guest room gallery wall:

Guest room gallery wall with Ernst Haeckel prints, lit by crazy thrift crystal chandelier.
Guest room gallery wall with Ernst Haeckel prints, lit by crazy thrift crystal chandelier.

Another reason I love this wall is I stenciled it, Country Cotton white over the a creamy / tan color from some found-in-the-basement paint (No Spend Spring hard at work). It’s a imprecise stencil over fairly rough walls. I wanted a subtle, pretty look.

Now I love it even more. There’s something so delicious about the delicacy of the Haeckel prints against the traditional damask shape from the stencil. Maybe it’s that thing about the echoing of nature in all art shapes.

Close up of wall stencil juxtaposed against Haeckel prints.
Close up of wall stencil juxtaposed against Haeckel prints.

I also mounted the rest of the prints on smaller backer boards. These are strewn  about the house more informally, kind of a nice little surprise around every corner. I can’t stop looking at them. So glad I get to enjoy them far beyond a simple month’s display!

What do you think? Have you turned a calendar into more permanent art? Success or failure?