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.

2016-02-14 19.24.26

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?

 

Egg Knobs

The Minnipin house had been a rental before it went up for sale. Only two probably-original door knobs were still here. One, a pretty glass one-way knob on the linen closet, the other a character-filled iron looking affair on the old, original door to the basement storage room. What was here was a range of brass, bronze and silver doorknobs, all keyed, probably for renter security.

The door knobs needed replacing, if not for aesthetics, for safety. Keys to all these doors hadn’t come with the house. I dreaded the moment I’d lock myself out of a room, or when a young child might lock itself in. I needed privacy knobs, but keyless ones.

Pretty glass knobs with privacy features were out of budget. Poking around for something actually appealing, I stumbled across egg shaped knobs on several home store sites. The more I read about them, the cooler they seemed. Turns out that egg shape is easier to turn than the standard round knob. I liked their old European vibe and the look. Egg it was going to be.

I settled on Schlage’s Siena Privacy Knobs in satin nickle (no fingerprints).

Install was easy, even for a first time door knob installer like me. The hardest part was working around all the dings and previous installs this almost 70 year-old house had endured. The second hardest part was patience. At around $24, I couldn’t do all the doors at once. So the upgrade was a one-a-month sort of thing. Both Amazon and Lowes were my sources, depending on prices at the time I bought each one.

Two years later, I’m loving these knobs. The inevitable lock out has happened a couple of times, easily solved with the pin release that comes with the set. They’re easy to use and keep clean. Part of me still wishes I had those pretty glass knobs from the fantasy upgrade. The eggs so clearly aren’t original to the house. But they work. They feel clean. They add a little pleasant interest.

Also, they made it easy to decide on little egg knobs for the kitchen cabinets. These cabinets might be original to the house. They seem like they were made in a time when people got excited about machine finishes and what a router and a jigsaw could do. Solid, if not super space efficient, they’re still going strong. Hole free, it was obvious that the cabinets had never had knobs or pulls.

For the kitchen, I settled on York Satin Nickel Cabinet Knobs. This was also part of my Interim Kitchen project. I wasn’t sure they were strictly necessary — the Minnipin house had been without all these years. Why now?

Hmm. Well, the first reason was function, ease of door opening. And a second was just that twitch to do something to make these cabinets a little fresher, since replacement wasn’t an option.

So, so glad I did the project! The nickel adds a little gleam to the kitchen overall, somehow making it look more ordered. Those slow moving drawers are much easier to handle now. Cleaning is simpler too, partly because the cabinet edges stay cleaner and the knobs are freshened with a quick swipe.

These pulls have been great. So great I used the extras from the kitchen project to replace a couple folding closet door pulls, and even for the basement storage unit.

Yay! Overstock was my source for the pulls, which are sold in handy packs of 25. Average cost is $2.50 per.

No one has paid me to say any of this. I’m just loving my crazy little egg knobs.

 

 

 

 

 

$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.

2015-06-05 22.11.00

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 . . .

 

The Interim Kitchen Overview

Like many, I’ve got a kitchen I didn’t love when I got this house. But a major, beautiful overhaul to turn it into the kitchen of my dreams is just not in the cards anytime soon. Despondent (okay, not really), I decided to write up the kitchen of my dreams and then see what I could do to get closer to it incrementally. This section journals those adventures.

What’s an ideal kitchen for the little egg house:

  • Plenty of natural light
  • Generally light and bright, with pretty, inspiring lighting
  • Storage
  • Easy access to everything
  • Well functioning, attractive appliances
  • Easy access to laundry
  • Pretty, solid surface counters & attractive backsplash
  • Eat in/hang out spot
  • Mud room style entry
  • Great lighting
  • Wood or tile floors that flow nicely with wood floors
  • Classic look and feel, suitable for a small 1947 cottage

Okay, so my list looks a lot like everyone else’s. There are some limitations natural to a 1947 cottage. For example, it’s always going to be a laundry closet and not a laundry room, unless I want to banish laundry and myself to the basement.

What I started with:

  • One window, one dark kitchen door, one dark basement doors
  • Mismatched pantry doors
  • Horrible overhead tube lighting but a light over the sink and stove
  • Low ceiling
  • Pointless sofits, highlighting the already too low ceiling
  • Old cabinets, not space optimizers, but sturdy enough
  • Laundry closet that doesn’t quite close
  • Stackable washer and dryer from old house
  • Pantry cabinet with odd door
  • Hideousness of lineoluem highlighted by adjacency to nice wood floors
  • Unfunctional faucet over stainless sink
  • Older, white appliances with issues
  • Peninsula with room for a little seating
  • Generally spacious room size
  • Laminate counters with unmatching backsplash

So, not all bad, even some good bones to work with. I budgeted out the dream kitchen and it’s really not in the cards. So here, I’m showcasing the work I’m doing to make this space become a happy-to-be-in room.

Please stay tuned for project-by-project posts on the Interim Kitchen.

Painted Linoleum Floor

Pot Filler Faucet

Egg Knobs

Slide Out Drawers for Cabinets

Organization Finds

Appliance Haven