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?

 

In Favor of Gentle Goodbyes

OK, before you start reading: Max is not dead. Onward.

Today I am grateful for a service called Gentle Goodbyes. Their website says “when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet, it should be gentle, surrounded by family and in your own home.”

Um, YES. About time. And for the record, I am still completely traumatized from the last time I had to end the life of a beloved dog. My primary memory of her last moments were of her struggling, unhappy and scared, carrying her into the vet (and I still believe that she was scared most of being left there again, hooked up to an IV and miserable in a cage). And before that, a judgey vet who kept telling me we could prolong her life if I would just commit to her being on an IV and in a crate for much of every day.

My largest beast (Maxim) has been on the downward slide for three years. The move to Boise has revived him somewhat but he continues to age, growing increasingly more arthritic with delicate internal systems. He’s not young, somewhere around thirteen or fourteen, and he came from the pound with some signs of . . . not precisely a rough life, but one without much in the way of preventative care.

I’ve made the decision that when he goes into massive shut down mode again, we’re not going to reengage in the weeks on an IV, thousands of dollars worth of inconclusive tests and drug experiments. It’s partly because I know I don’t want that for myself, and that he hated it last time, and yes, that the resources just aren’t there these days. Also, what resources we have need to go to keeping the rest of the animals fed and housed.  There will be a point, not to far off, when it will be time to let him go.

But ah, the total dread of dealing with the vet. It’s not just the backbreaking effort of hauling an 90lb dog in and out of the car to a place he REALLY does not want to go. Or the MASSIVE guilt of refusing to do just one more test or regime. Or the expense of it all. Well, it’s all of those things. But it’s also the horror of putting him through all that misery.

So, it might sound dark but I was so happy to find an ad for a vet service that will come to your home, administer the kill shot and help you deal with the body in whatever way you wish. IMHO, it’s the kind thing to do for Max.

In Boise, it’s called Gentle Goodbyes. They employ a group of vets who will come to your home within 48 hours of being called. When I spoke with them to get the details, they were kind and patient. Pricing, while perhaps a little higher than a vet visit (about $220 for the visit/shot, additional costs for body removal and cremation depending on your choices), was not high and seemed reasonable to me.

In practical terms, it was also a relief to know they had a service to cope with the body, something I really didn’t think I could do on my own. And I appreciated knowing it in advance what it would cost versus having to write a check at the vet office while sobbing brokenheartedly (yes, that happened. More than once.).

I was headed out on a long-planned trip and worried that Max would start failing while I was gone. On the phone, Gentle Goodbyes worked with me to authorize the decision to euthanize and emailed me a healthcare directive form for use by the vet and my dog sitter. They understood that my priority was minimizing Max’s distress, not making him hang on in misery until I could get back to the U.S. and watch him die.

We both got lucky and there was no need to call for their services while I was gone. Still, knowing I had a good plan that would minimize Max’s distress relieved so much anxiety for me. So thank you to the vets and staff at Gentle Goodbyes. I’m not looking forward to my next call to you but I am really, really grateful that you are there.

And so here’s a question for every other location in the U.S.: what’s the deal? Why isn’t this an available option everywhere? And why don’t more vet offices offer a home visit for this service?

OK, those are sort of rhetorical questions. I actually have a pretty good idea of the answers. What I’m saying is, I hope we can find more ways to offer compassionate care for our animals everywhere.

Totally off topic: this monkey is in rehab in Costa Rica. He need socialization and to form bonds to a new family group. Go Costa Rica. And boo to idiots who think they can have baby monkeys as pets and then dump them in the forest when they get older and aggressive.  Don't do that.
Totally off topic: this guy is in rehab in Costa Rica. He needs care and socialization to form bonds to a new family group. Go Proyecto Asis near La Fortuna for working to make that happen! And boo to idiots who think they can have sweet baby monkeys as pets and then dump them in the forest when they get older and aggressive. Don’t do that.

And now back to Max and the rest of the Mints. None of whom have recently died.

 

 

 

 

Following the Heart of Dharma

This post is a small contemplation about gratitude and the paths that lead us to wonderful places.

I was lucky enough to stumble on the Heart of Dharma sangha through Meetup when I moved to Boise. I’m not much of a joiner generally but this meetup seemed undemanding and familiar, raised as I was in a non-monotheistic household.

And let’s face it: there’s no denying I need need all the meditation practice I can get. Not to mention practice in compassion. And letting things go.

You know what's cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.
You know what’s cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.

First meeting was great. Guided meditation followed by an illuminating talk. A teacher (Dana Marsh) who spoke with compassion, kindness, intelligence and humor. Kindly people who smiled a lot. Even being thanked for sharing my practice with the group; the loveliness and wisdom in that every practice gesture still strikes me with awe.

As with all great starts, I imagined myself attending the guided meditations at every opportunity, learning amazing things and attaining some of the wisdom my treasured sister Erica makes seem so effortless. The schedule was easy too: an evening meditation on Tuesdays and one on Sunday mornings. One hour, in and out, and even a bikeable distance!

Now, a few years in, I find my attendance is more inconsistent than I’d like or would be helpful to me. Yet, every time I go, I come away uplifted, optimistic and peaceful. And I feel so fortunate that the sangha exists, so accessible and so near to me. As my sister has pointed out, this wasn’t available to me where I lived in California and the nearness of a wonderful teacher . . . it’s a priceless gift.

This year I’m feeling especially lucky because in an unusual fit of resolve, I decided to attend the Eight Week Spiritual Jump Start, Sunday mornings at 9:30. In theory, it sounded like a good thing but in practice, I wasn’t too excited about it. I don’t like making commitments. Classes or anything that I feel I should do makes me want to flee. I’m the guy that, the minute I say I’ll do something marginally social, I want to do the opposite.

Classes started and I’m pleased to say, I haven’t skipped one yet. (This is slightly miraculous.) Still, last week was a bit pressured and over-scheduled. As I was contemplating another over-scheduled week ahead, I decided to reduce the pressure. No Sunday morning alarms. No rushing to get the beast to and away from the dog park in order to trundle into class on time. No inhalation of breakfast and coffee. I was not going to feel bad about missing class today. And, if we all slept in and I still wanted to do something for my battered, dark soul, I’d hit the 11 o’clock guided meditation session and call it good.

You get where this is going. With no pressure or expectation, I woke early, naturally, in time to catch a beautiful sunrise. Had quiet coffee and a clementine by the fire (I do love clementine season!). Made myself a mint tea to go. Actually showered and put on clean clothes. Max and I ambled off to the dog park where he staggered about leisurely and managed to secure the attentions of kindly dog hosts like Star. When it was time to go, no civil disobedience. We actually made it to class a few minutes early.

And of course, it was again wonderful. Today’s class helped me get some perspective on some issues, renewed my respect for my teacher, reminded me how much the person or creature sitting next to me has to teach me, and generally gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace.  Also, I laughed out loud a few times. (Yeah, I know, that paragraph was all about me. In fairness, I’ve never claimed to be an evolved Buddhist.)

Anyway, before this day gets into busy and doing mode — or not busy and lollygagging mode, not sure which — I’m taking these few minutes to make a note of gratitude to the sangha for existing, to Dana Marsh for teaching, to all the volunteers and supporters of Heart of Dharma that make it so accessible. Thank you.

Note: If you’re not a Boise local but would like to benefit from this teacher (Dana Marsh), her book, Extraordinary Freedom, is available on the Heart of Dharma website and online. I found it accessible, engaging and helpful.

Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.
Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.

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 . . .

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Rockwell’s Great Customer Service for Versacut

Wonderful friends gave me the Rockwell Versacut in the year end holiday season (thanks MACks!).  The weather here was too cold to play with it in the garage right away but it promised great things. This little circular saw could be operated with one hand, cut to different depths, and handle wood, aluminum and tile. I was so excited! It even had a laser guide and was packaged nicely with a handy carry bag.

Rockwell RK3440K VersaCut Circular Saw

 

Winter turned into Spring and with it, my desire to really test out my new saw. It worked great, just as specified. Unfortunately, it also got so hot it scorched the pine I was cutting and sparks were flying out of the unit. Pretty sure that’s not supposed to happen.

Bummed! I didn’t feel safe using it but returning it probably wasn’t an option as it had been on my shelf for so long already. Still, I girded up and phoned Rockwell customer support just to find out if there was anything they would suggest I do to make it work better. I dreaded that call: long holds,  getting switched around, being made to feel foolish or like an idiot for not instantly registering the product or testing the tool when it was still covered under returns, or for not having a gift receipt.

And I got the opposite! A quick, under ten minute call with a pleasant operator, and they offered to replace it. I had to pay for shipping the new unit ($19.99) and that was it. No one forced me to package up the old one and send it back as well. As promised, the new unit arrived promptly and works great. No sparks, no burns. Thanks Rockwell!

Note: no one paid me to state this opinion or tell this story

Deck Life Extension: SharkSkin!

When I moved in, the deck on the little egg house was already rickety. Boise is a four season climate and though it’s pretty dry here in the high desert, it can be tough on a deck.

I’d thought I’d quickly replace the deck but things didn’t roll out exactly as planned. This year, I noticed the deck was giving both a barefoot me and the dog splinters. I still didn’t want to replace it. Time to ponder alternatives for extending its life.

Initially I was fine with the grayed out look of the deck. It looked like really old wood, much like my teak & eucalyptus furniture left to gray naturally. Plus I’ve painted the house exterior in shades of gray and the fence is similarly weathered. So at first I thought about just finding some kind of sealant. But I kind of wanted more of a hard coating that would smooth out the rough wood. And I wanted it easy.

Here's the original deck, nicely greyed wood but not specially pretty
Here’s the original deck, nicely greyed wood but not specially pretty

That got me thinking about a painted look. Since stains and sealing requires refreshing every couple of years, it didn’t seem more convenient than painting. Also, I love the look of painted wood floors.

First I stumbled onto Rustoleum’s Restore Deck Coating and got kind of excited. It seemed like just the thing. However consultation with the home store’s staff informed me that you did need the special roller painting kit to apply it, which would be awkward with the deck rail’s many tricky angles. They suggested painting the deck floor and staining and sealing the rails, but I didn’t want to mess with two-three different products. And, if I was going to do this, it meant going to an actual color and there was nothing perfect for my place in the color deck (though there were many, many choices). Finally, user reviews were pretty mixed.

49504 - 1 Gallon

Next I found SharkSkin Deck and Siding Stain by Cloverdale at my nearby Rodda (Kelly-Moore store). The more I looked at it, the more SharkSkin really did seem perfect! Tintable to any color, it was designed just for my situation: a good, durable coating for a beat-up old deck. No need to seal over the paint job, just plan to do two coats. Designed specifically for Pacific Northwest conditions, it could handle Boise’s four season climate if it could handle weather in the Sawtooths. Also, it could be used for siding so if I had leftovers, I could use them on my never-quite-finished exterior paint job project. Prep (scrubbing and bleach), seemed doable. Price was good, about $28 a gallon, making this a $60 project.

UltimateII_Can

Once I decided on SharkSkin, I decided to go a little crazy on color. This might not be a forever deck so why not paint it blue, like the accent color in my exterior? This particular deck is an extension of the dining room /kitchen space. I like an indoors that flows to an outdoor room.

So blue it was. Only, it wasn’t.  It was just . . . so much blue.

Max, not convinced the blue deck is worth shifting about for
Max, not convinced the blue deck is worth shifting about for

Time to ponder a little more. I’ve always liked black. I’d avoided black because I thought it would show dust on this project and be to hot. But what about black and and the light grey that is the main color of the house? This could give the deck a sort of fun holiday look without being too wild or too hot. And I wouldn’t be wasting stain since I needed to do two+ coats anyway: blue was just the first coat.

Black and grey stripes, a little more interesting
Black and grey stripes, a little more interesting

The black and grey didn’t work for me either. With the blue gone, the deck seemed to have no relationship to the garage. I liked the black rails but the grey just wasn’t gelling. It looked like it wanted to be white but still wouldn’t tie to the garage. Soooo . . . back to blue. With two dark colors, the deck might be hot but probably, by the time summer was upon us, not too bad since the tree that shades the deck was leafing in.

This is what we ended up with:

Blue (Home Depot Restless Sea) and black (Rodda/Kelly-Moore Cobalt)
Blue (Home Depot Restless Sea) and black (Rodda/Kelly-Moore Cobalt)
Staging the deck with Adirondacks
Staging the deck with Adirondacks
And here's the deck view from the back door. Perfect place for a little morning coffee or meditation
And here’s the deck view from the back door. Perfect place for a little morning coffee or meditation
Here's the deck from ground level, looking at the back door. Restless Sea changes with the light making it . . . restless! Love it!
Here’s the deck from ground level, looking at the back door. Restless Sea changes with the light making it . . . restless! Love it!

So, that’s my sealed / color stained in deck.  A month or two in, the SharkSkin is holding up fine. Furniture dragged around doesn’t seem to scratch it. It hoses down OK when the deck gets dusty with spring debris. The black does show dust but not in a way that bugs be too much. I’ve done a few touch ups but these are mostly due to someone’s sloppy paint technique than a problem with the SharkSkin. The blue and the black do feel pretty warm on the feet when the sun is directly overhead but so far it’s not bothering me or the Mints or keeping us off the deck. (Despite my rants on comfort as a priority, I guess I’m willing to sacrifice a little comfort/function for the right look!) On the cost front, this ended up a $90 project because of the gray. But that’s OK because I plan to use it on the siding (I needed a little extra of that to finish the main house anyway).

What do you think? Too much or too little colorwise? Am I the only one a little charmed by the stripey deck?

Thanks for reading and sharing!

 

 

I’m a Folex lover

We all know that cleaning your house is the fastest, cheapest way to make it look fresh and enticing.

I admit, I often feel overwhelmed. There are seven animals here and none of them is interested in helping me clean. Sometimes there are just dark spots and dirt I don’t get to in time. Folex carpet spot remover has extended the life of my carpets. I whip out Folex every week or so to freshen the look of my various area rugs and it works. Spritz a couple of times, work it in if necessary, and the dark spot is gone. Thanks Folex!

Folex is available online at Amazon and at various home centers. As with many liquid products, it seems to be cheaper at the home stores.

Folex doesn’t replace carpet deep cleaning but it can help you go longer between cleanings and still have fresh looking area rugs.

No one is paying me to say this.

Folex Co. FSR32 Folex Instant Carpet Stain Remover - 32 Fl 0z.

It’s Not Stealing

Home improvement, decorative and DIY writers everywhere, can we please stop sticking the word “steal” into article titles? As in “5 ideas to steal.”

First, it’s not stealing. Here’s a conventional definition of steal from Google:

“take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.”

Ideas are not property. Implementation is, sure. The US Patent Office has a lot to say about that, copyright, and fair use. And any of Rich Stim’s Nolo intellectual property books can point you in the right direction in plain English. But ideas and inspiration are not property, and so cannot be stolen.

Second, it’s tedious to have every single tip article shout “XXX DIY ideas to steal.” Seriously, it’s been done. Maybe it was a juicy way to get some attention for awhile but now?

Third, it doesn’t get my attention because I do not self-identify as a thief. In fact, I avoid thieves and their activities. There’s really nothing hip about this “clever” twist on a generally pejorative word.

Is this just me? Does it bug anyone else? Please feel free to steal this complaint and reuse it.