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 . . .
2015-05-23 12.36.43
. . . 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:

2015-08-17 09.12.47

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?

2015-08-17 09.15.28

 

Main Floor Bathroom Remodel on a $5500 Budget: Planning Stage

The main floor bathroom in this little cottage was icky. Built in 1947, it was predictable that the room would be small. Sadly, the 1970s update just made it depressing. Sure, it was all neutrals, but they were pretty beat up from years of college age renters.

 

Main bathroom. Tiny, no window, fiber glass shower surround, laminate counter, stained everything.
Main bathroom. Tiny, no window, fiber glass shower surround, laminate counter, stained everything.

Here’s what harshed my mellow:

  • The whole thing was small, 7.5’x5.’ This is the kind of small that makes a person enraged when they hear about “small” 8×10′ bathrooms. I’m one of those people, people.
  • The finishes were grotty. Laminate and fiberglass, they were on the beat up, scratched side. Faucet was limey/rusting, sink had permanent stains.
  • The vanity was a problem. It jutted into the room, nailing my hip more than once. Dark and small, it added little storage but seemed to suck the life out of the room. The space was so tight, you couldn’t even put a TP holder in it, adjacent to the toilet. And it was LOW. Like back-breaking-think-I’ll-skip-washing-face-again low.
  • I was a little in mourning. My last house had a nice, old, deep tub, and I am a bath taker. This one had a shallow, tiny tub, the opposite of inviting on a cold winter night. Or anytime.
  • Lighting was grim. Ancient over-sink lighting and a fluorescent light integrated into the fan. No natural light because no window. Even though the bathroom backed onto an exterior wall. Just sad. And annoying.

Time to see what could be done right away:

A shower curtain was a given. The bathroom was so grotty that it just didn’t make sense to invest in a glass enclosure when it was so obvious that this would be the first major remodel. So I put in a curved double shower rod. Love those things! Extra elbow room in the small shower. An extra rack to hang stuff on.

Double shower rod
Double shower rod

I also added a railway rack over the tub for in room towel storage. This would put clean towels in reach within the bathroom. With the linen closet at the other end of the hall and the undersink storage just gross, this was a high priority.

Railway rack
Railway rack, cheapo version.

I kinda don’t get why more people don’t put these over tubs. The storage improvement is seriously great. It provides a prefect, tidy place to leave wet wash cloths or hang the occasional dripping garment. And, if you think it makes the bathroom look too closed in at say, a party, all ya gotta do put the towels back in the linen closet and the rack sort of disappears.

Next I swapped out the key-locking bathroom knob, anticipating the day a niece or nephew would accidentally lock themselves in the windowless room. This was my first little egg knob. Love it! A classic look but easier to use than a conventional round one. Prettier than the weird, crusted, keyed door knob.

A happy, child-safe little egg knob.
A happy, child-safe little egg knob.

Sadly, that was pretty much it. I tried, I really tried to make it work. Scrubbed till I bled. Tried to overcome that feeling of distaste that I felt every time I walked in the bathroom. Told myself that bathing under a too low shower head was OK. Pretended that a bath with only ten inches of water was still a great way to relax.

This thing needed an overhaul.

Of course, the big question was, what would that overhaul cost? I really had no idea and budget was an issue. So the first step was be to identify every single improvement I anticipated making, including finish choices. And then I would ask the contractor. And then we’d see. Maybe something could be done. Maybe nothing.

Here’s what we did on a total budget of around $5500, including the window. The contractor I used was The Pros of Idaho (theprosofidaho@msn.com), who were referred to me by my realtor. Everything they did came in on budget and on time. Everything they subbed out was to a licensed, bonded contractor. When I specified something a little weird, they asked me about it, helping me to correct course or working with my preferences. During the actual work phase, they were kind of obsessed with cleaning up EVERY DAY, which I thought was refreshingly funny. Or maybe just an illustration of how low your standards can go when you live with seven animals.

If you’d like to skip the planning details and see how it all turned out, bounce over here.

Look and feel. Given resources and the style, age, and neighborhood, I just didn’t think that finishes needed to be extreme to provide a great, functional, in-keeping-with-era bathroom. I prefer older style bathrooms, ones that look crisp, light and fresh. White porcelain, clean metals. That works for me. Wall paint is how I prefer to add and subtract bathroom color, keeping the permanent stuff as classic and simple as possible. My goal was to put in a bathroom that might have been original with just a few modern tweaks.

Function. With such a small space for the primary bathroom for the whole house, basic function, storage and navigability were top issues. Pretty was secondary, though of course on the wish list. Function choices are discussed in more detail below. Another function note: this is both the main bathroom for everyone AND the guest bathroom. So it was important to make organization/storage choices that would make the bathroom easy to use and virtually always guest ready.

New window: The room needed a window. Totally ridiculous to have a exterior wall adjacent room of any kind without a window. No wonder the bathroom seemed dank. To be fair, there was no mold. Yet really, it felt like mold was invited but too busy or repulsed to come to the party. Because of where the house is, this window had to be approved by the historical society so there was not much choice about how this window would look. We ended up with a narrow, high, bottom opening casement, which works great. Light comes in. No one can see in.

The Professionals of Idaho installed the window for a very fair price, and did the rest of the bathroom as well. The window was my single biggest splurge at $625. It now also lights the hall, worth every penny.

Tub or Shower? In a small bathroom, going only shower can make a lot of sense. But this was the primary bath in the house. The other, basement bath had a shower only and was even smaller than this room. I like a good soak, feels great. Kids, who visit often, need a tub. Resale value suggests at least one functioning bathtub in a house is a smart idea. Bath tub it was.  I picked the Kohler Archer 5ft. Soaking Tub for these reasons:

  • Depth of soak
  • Liked look
  • Would fit tiny space

 

Glass enclosure or shower curtain? Generally I prefer glass. However, it’s more costly and in that small space, a bit unwieldy. By this time, I had fallen in love with my curved shower curtain rod so it seemed wisest to just reuse it, only this time, mount it higher.

Toilet: Needed a new one, hopefully a lot prettier, with a higher seat and soft close.    This seemed like its lines would not fight with the tub: KOHLER Tresham Comfort Height 2-piece 1.28 GPF Elongated Toilet. Plus I loved the flip up handle and flat top.

 Sink: Originally I wanted this beauty from Foremost Series 1930, with a simple integrated backsplash.

But it was out of stock when I needed it so we went with this Kohler Archer number, to match the tub. I don’t love it as much as the 30s look but it does look great and clean.

A word about pedestal sinks. Some folks don’t get them, citing lost storage space. Here’s why they’re worth considering:

  • Clean, classic look
  • With wide rim, some functional surface space is available but not enough to invite clutter
  • Great in small footprint bathroom, where there’s not space to go big or a vanity would darken and shrink the space (and be hard to get into)
  • Helpful when maneuvering wheelchair & walker using guests
  • Often higher than a conventional vanity

Fixtures: For most of the bath and sink fixtures, we went with Moen Banbury. It had the right cottage look to it. In brushed nickel, water stains wouldn’t show much, which is a really big deal to me. For the main towel rack, I went double to maximize storage.

Railway rack: I upgraded my el cheapo interim rack with the Moorefield Beacon Hotel Style Rack in Brushed Nickel. Much sturdier, no water spots to show and super handy hooks. This baby was worth every penny.

Redi Niche: I got two of these Redi Niche Tile Ready inserts. They fit in between the studs and get tiled over to add extra storage. One is on the wall facing the door. The other under the railway rack. This gives me and guests plenty of storage room. These babies do come in other convenient sizes. I just liked the double shelf. For a change, I had one installed with the small shelf on top, the other as shown below.

Part of me wishes I’d gone for even more between the studs niches here just to max out storage options. In real life, the two niches are plenty for me.

Tile: I went classic with the tile. White subway for the tub enclosure and white hex for the floor. Baseboards out of white subway. Grey grout on the floor, light grout on the walls.

Medicine cabinet: There were so many straight lines already in the bathroom, I went with an oval to break things up. This beauty had the convenience of a mirror inside. And, in this small space, I love that it’s recessed.

 

Over toilet storage/glass shelves: I wanted to use glass shelves over the toilet. They could be used for display, add guest convenience, hold a lot of stuff when needed and disappear when not. I went with three of Delta’s Greenwich Glass Shelves in satin nickel. The look seemed like it would work OK with all the Moen Banbury fixtures AND I really wanted that spot-free satin nickel finish. The Banbury glass shelves were pretty but I disliked the mounting with it’s bump, which gave up too much shelf space. In a perfect world, I’d have shelves with a little rim around them because of my klutz issue. However, at the time of shopping, all I could find in that style were chrome, or shelves that were only 20.”

They might not be a perfect match, but I love these babies. They are serious work horses, able to hold up to 35lbs of stuff.

Main Supplies Storage: This required a lot of thought. The first thing I made my peace with was that without a vanity, cleaning supplies would need to live elsewhere. Then I found this great project article from the Family Handyman and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

Seriously, every time I see a small bathroom solutions article, I think someone else will have done this, it is so perfect. It’s not just that it allowed me to ditch the awkward, unopenable vanity; it gave me more and more functional storage!

At this point, my DIY skills were not equal to tearing out the wall and putting this in. I’m ok with a lot of imperfections in my projects but for a heavy use bathroom, I wanted it built right. I asked the guys at the Pros of Idaho if they could do it. Waited with dread to hear the pricing and it came in at . . . about $300. Deal! The vanity could go the way of the dodo bird and I’d still get some good storage.

Once all this was priced and planned, work began in earnest. Here are some work in progress shots. If you’d like to skip on to see how it all turned out, and how it’s holding up almost two years later, go here.

2013-07-01 13.44.01 2013-07-01 13.44.05 2013-07-01 21.16.13 2013-07-02 08.45.58

Up next: how it all turned out.

Have you done a bathroom remodel? Did you enjoy researching and choosing the fixtures? Supply challenges? Did you DIY or use a contractor? Regrets?

Main Floor Bathroom Remodel on a $5500 Budget: The Tour

Original main bathroom
Original main bathroom.
Natural light now washes the bathroom
Natural light now washes the bathroom.

The updated bath is a hard working space, more functional, and light, with touches of pretty.

And now, here’s the blow-by-blow on my choices and how they worked out.

Before we start, here’s a truth in advertising note: The bathroom got its routine weekly cleaning but it hasn’t been staged. I wanted to show how I actually live every day in this space. My 13 small bathroom storage solutions have really made it possible to keep this space tidy with almost zero effort. Sometimes I get more minimalist and stow the stuff out on the shelves but mostly not. In real life, it doesn’t feel cluttered when I’m in the space.

Paint: The colors I chose were Tahoe Snow and my standard “house white,” aka Country Cotton, both Kelly-Moore. Mostly I wanted the room to be fresh and light feeling. It’s a water room as well, so icy blue seemed like a perfect almost-neutral. Sometimes it’s dressed with pale blue and white towels. Sometimes I get all Scandinavian and use rich red towels.

I went with semi-gloss paint on the icy blue. I like the way it looks and contrasts with the shiny porcelain fixtures. That said, I can’t help feeling like a glossier paint would be more durable. Humph. In retrospect, if I had kids, the paint would need to be a durable high gloss. In reality, it’s holding up just fine.

Curtain rod & shower curtain: We raised the shower rod as high as possible and that meant needing an extra long shower curtain. I like a cotton external shower curtain and a vinyl or plastic liner. Well, like on that last part is too strong. I find the liner useful. Buying an extra long liner was pretty simple. They carry them at places like Home Depot but I got a discount version at Ross.

The shower curtain was a bigger problem. I wanted white, something classic looking and long enough to drape prettily on the outside of the tub. But, after investing in the big remodel, I just couldn’t stomach dropping $50+ on the extra long shower curtains I found. I didn’t really like any of them. I wanted something that would sort of disappear, unless you really looked at it. And then there should be a surprise.

A DIY shower curtain should not be a problem, right? If anything is easy to sew, a straight seam in some cotton should be it. Still,  I also was feeling too lazy to actually sew anything.

Domestic Imperfection’s round up of DIY shower curtains got me started. Measuring, I realized that the size of fabric I needed was basically a flat, full-sized sheet, which would eliminate the sewing requirement. Holes could easily be handled with a grommet kit. And I could make it my own by using fabric ink to stamp some sea monsters along the bottom. More details in this post.

I love my sea monster border.

I love my sea monster border.

 

Hopefully you can see here how high the shower rod is. For extra privacy, the curtain can be drawn but nothing actually overlooks the window so the shower curtain is always left open.
Hopefully you can see here how high the shower rod is. For extra privacy, the curtain can be drawn but nothing actually overlooks the window so the shower curtain is always left open.

New window:  The window was better than I hoped. Sure, it was a conventional, simple shape. Instantly it lit the whole room and cast light into the formerly dark hallway. Even at dusk, the need to turn on a hallway light is eliminated. And ventilation. Who hates that? Finally, it should be said that the window ledge is handy for storage as well. I don’t seem to need it in this space but the occasional guest appreciates it.

Even at dusk, there's no need to flip on a light now that there's a window.
Even at dusk, there’s no need to flip on a light now that there’s a window.
The hall also benefits from the new window's light.
The hall also benefits from the new window’s light.

Shower surround inserts: These really add a lot of easy-use storage space.

In one insert, there are body washes. In the other, big pump bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The smaller shelves are perfect for soap and razors.
In one insert, there are body washes. In the other, big pump bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The smaller shelves are perfect for soap and razors.

 

Here's a closeup of an insert.
Here’s a closeup of an insert.

Railway rack: When I have guests, I put towels on the railway rack for easy access. In everyday life, I don’t bother. But I do use the little hooks to dry wet wash cloths, and hand other miscellaneous stuff. So, so handy. And because it’s so high, it doesn’t cramp anyone’s style in the bathroom. See earlier pic.

Over-toilet storage:  I went with three of these glass shelves, which are rated to hold 35lbs each. I store my prettier, everyday use things here. It might look cleaner without the decor items, but I like seeing them. I try to keep a flower in my mom’s crystal bud vase. Even flower free, I love looking at it.

When overnight guests come, I store the stuff on the middle shelf in my cabinet to free up a little space. About 1/3 of the items on the shelf are purely decorative and can easily be put somewhere else if space is needed or I just want to de-clutter.
When overnight guests come, I store the stuff on the middle shelf in my cabinet to free up a shelf. About 1/3 of the items on the shelf are purely decorative and can easily be put somewhere else if space is needed or I just want to de-clutter.
The top of the toilet is used for clean wash cloths and a little air freshener. Yes, that's my mom's old silver plated bread basket. I use it more here.
The top of the toilet is used for clean wash cloths and a little air freshener. Yes, that’s my mom’s old silver-plated bread basket. I use it more here than at the dining table.

Utility items: Extra TP, waste basket, plunger, cleaning supplies and more . . . These items all need a place and a plan to keep a bathroom comfortable and functional. Much of it used to be stowed in the awful vanity, which put them in the right room though the vanity was still hard to excavate in the tiny space. Now they each have a specific solution.

  • Three extra toilet paper rolls live in a covered canister. The cats would prefer a more open container but I am ruthless. Go for one that can hold those extra fat rolls.
  • The trash can is small and has a step-open feature. Extra liners are kept inside the can. Here’s something I find ever-baffling: why doesn’t everyone use covered waste cans in a bathroom? Who wants to see that waste?
  • I splurged on a Simple Human magnetic sleeve plunger. This keeps it clean and away from touching anything else. It lives against the wall by the toilet. And actually, the new toilet is so great it’s never been used in the almost two years since the remodel.
  • The hair dryer lives on a hook under the sink. It’s easy to plug in, easy to stow.
  • Cleaning supplies live under another sink, in their own little tub. Once a week I have to walk fifteen extra steps to retrieve the cleaning box.
  • Wash cloths and extra towels each have a place to live. Wash cloths sit in a silver-plated bread basket on top of the toilet, handy to the sink. Extra towels are placed on the railway rack when company is in town and back in the linen closet when they’re not needed.
  • The railway rack does double duty for drying clothes inside in the winter.
  • Outside the door storage. I’ve often thought of putting a little table in the hall corner, outside the bathroom door. I haven’t yet, because the current storage options cover my needs.
Extra toilet paper canister, covered waste bin, tucked between sink and toilet.
Extra toilet paper canister, covered waste bin, tucked between sink and toilet.
Simple Human plunger, so far never used
Simple Human plunger, so far never used.
If the occasional nosy guest really wants to know where my hair dryer is, they have only to look under the sink
If the occasional nosy guest really wants to know where my hair dryer is, they have only to look under the sink. Enjoy!
It's a tiny space! Only include the stuff you touch everyday. Cleaning supplies can lurk somewhere else.
It’s a tiny space! Only include the stuff you touch everyday. Cleaning supplies can lurk somewhere else.

Medicine cabinet: This lovely piece is dedicated to holding tooth supplies. I like these stowed away from the rest of the germs circulating in any bathroom. In almost two years, we’ve never had an issue with the toothbrushes not drying out due to being in the cabinet. It’s also nice that the cabinet has mirrors outside and in. The one flaw is that the magnetic holder that’s supposed to help the cabinet stay closed has come unglued. Since it has no problem staying closed, I haven’t bothered to fix it.

Medicine cabinet over the sink. Sink rim is big enough to hold soap and lotion.
Medicine cabinet over the sink. Sink rim is big enough to hold soap and lotion.
Forgive the crazy lighting! I'll try again when it's daylight.
Forgive the crazy lighting! I’ll try again when it’s daylight.

Decor items: I think a little pretty in a small room somehow grounds it or makes me take it more seriously. And then I mess it up less. Above the towel rack, I put one of my favorite jellyfish illustrations. On another wall, I hung an antique silver mirror found at the Paris flea markets, a comb my grandmother wore, a favorite night light, and an evil eye amulet I brought home from Egypt. It makes me happy to see these things.

A favorite jellyfish over the double towel rack.
A favorite jellyfish over the double towel rack.
Antique hand mirror, hair comb and evil eye amulet brighten up the hand towel wall.
Treasures add interest to the little wall alongside the door.
Antique -- and tarnished -- silver mirror found at a Paris flea market. I still love it, S!
Antique — and tarnished — silver mirror found at a Paris flea market. I still love it, S!
Antique comb and an evil eye amulet I picked up in Egypt.
Antique comb and an evil eye amulet I picked up in Egypt.
Using my good things in the bathroom means I see them more. I love seeing my mom's crystal bud vase everyday.
Using my good things in the bathroom means I see them more. I love seeing my mom’s crystal bud vase everyday.

Lighting: This didn’t go the way I thought it would. Turns out, my ceiling is too low so, in order to have the medicine cabinet open property, the light fixture had to be flipped to point at the ceiling. It’s still plenty bright, if a little silly looking. Mostly it’s only turned on at night because there’s so much light coming in from the window.

Flipped over lights
Flipped over lights

Most wonderful cabinet in the world: Now for the cabinet that really makes this space work. As I mentioned, the recipe came from Family Handyman. For mine, there would only be room to put one cabinet in and not the double glass one Family Handyman shows. I wanted mine to have a door that closed but glass wouldn’t have that might-be-original-to-the-house look. Esvin from the Pros of Idaho (theprosofidaho@msn.com) made it work perfectly, even adding a little egg knob to match the door knob. This shallow cabinet is great because it allows you to see everything you need without rummaging about. Shelves are adjustable. It’s plenty big to store immediately needed supplies, including all that annoying pretty girl stuff. Extras live in a bin in the linen closet and are replenished as needed. I’m so enchanted by this guy two years later that even if I weren’t remodeling the tiniest bathroom in the world, I’d put one in.

Outside of the between-the-studs cabinet from Family Handyman plan.
Outside of the between-the-studs cabinet from Family Handyman plan.
Between studs cabinet inside. Note that the shelves are adjustable.
Between studs cabinet inside. Note that the shelves are adjustable.

And now a smug cabinet note: a month after the bathroom was finished, I was browsing a Restoration Hardware catalog. There I saw a between-the-studs long mirrored medicine cabinet! Same size as mine. Beautiful. And $900. Guess they’re reading Family Handyman too!

Tile: As you’ll have seen, white tile was the plan. Larger subway tiles were used in the shower and hex tiles on the floor. There’s no back splash because when I originally planned the bathroom, the pedestal sink had a built in back splash. And now I’m on the fence about whether to add one. What do you think?

Hex floor tiles with gray grout. Subway tile was used instead of baseboard.
Hex floor tiles with gray grout. Subway tile was used instead of baseboard.

Two regrets:

  • I wish it had been easy/feasible/affordable to add another outlet. The space is just so tiny that it didn’t seem workable. And the truth is, two outlets has always been just fine. It’s not like a bunch of people can stand around in the bathroom together. So this might be simple greed talking.
  • I dropped almost $100 on the special stopper/plug that goes with the Archer tub. It looked great but within a couple of months, I noticed that it just wasn’t stopping up the water. It was one of those twist down jobs that you can’t always be sure are working. Instead of getting a full tub of hot water, I got a slow-to-fill tub of lukewarm. Fiddling with it a few times got it working again, but inconsistently. Quite annoying, the opposite of how you want to feel at bath time. And not water wise! Eventually, I just unscrewed it. Now when I want to take a bath, I pull out the rubber stopper I picked up at the dollar store and it works perfectly.

And that’s about it! What do you think? Ideas for smarter choices? Would you add a back splash behind the sink? If so, made of what?

Thanks for taking the remodeled bathroom tour!

Be Careful What You Ask For

So easy to become obsessed whatever isn’t, instead of appreciating what is great about what is.

I’ve often wished for a more cuddly, affectionate dog. You know, the kind that doesn’t creep away from me. And that the cats would allow him to sleep next to them. Yup, another learning moment for me is coming up . . .

Cue an unexpected, extended lightning and thunder storm last night. It’s warm, so I’m blasting the AC and fans, trying to block the sound, even though there’s actual hail outside. Hail. In May. In T shirt weather.

Max terrified, making it impossible for me to sleep on my bed (he keeps trying to get under it, doesn’t want to get on it). Cats skeetering around, in either glee,  nervousness or random insanity. Hard to tell when you just want some sleep.

Not just hail. Fat hail.
Not just hail. Fat hail.

The only thing to do at this point is haul up, and move the bedding to the couch. This is the one time that M will allow himself to get on the couch (his natural good manners, nothing I’ve taught him). I hoist him up and lay down under the duvet, hiding from the fan air blast.

Instantly Max starts working his way up my side of the couch and ends up laying across me, giant head on my tummy. I can handle it, it’s only 90 lbs and a slightly awkward angle. He’s still panting away an hour later, looking around anxiously every time there’s a flash. I’m not really sure whether pinning me is his bossy way of keeping me safe or if it’s somehow comforting to him. I do know it’s my only hope of some sleep. Time ticks by and those heavy pants begin to quiet. I start to drift off.  Rrrrooop! There’s that soft feeling of cat on board. Pinned, I can’t do much. Five minutes later, Marmalade is laying in front of my face, eye-to-eye with Max, Gus is wedged between Max and the sofa back, on my arm. Jack is on my feet. So that’s another 45 lbs of pressure.

I felt a little like Maria von Trapp except no one was singing about favorite things. Or wearing curtains.

But I got what I wanted! Snuggly Max! Non-hostile cats! Yay me! Thanks storm! Although today might just be about appreciating my distant dog and stand-offish cats.

That dog was not smiling last night.
That dog was not smiling last night.

 

 

Interim Kitchen: New faucet!

My sister gave me a very generous Amazon card at the holiday. While a whole counter-sink upgrade was not in the cards, a new faucet for the Interim Kitchen might be doable with the great gift card (thanks W!).

This is the came-with-the house faucet and sprayer. I guess someone liked the challenge it provided in filling pots
This is the came-with-the house faucet and sprayer. I guess someone liked the challenge it provided in filling pots

The goals were:

  • Add height, so pots were easier to fill
  • Keep a separate sprayer. My last faucet had the integrated one and while it worked, I did not love it
  • Brushed nickle, to minimize on annoying water spots
  • Something that would look pretty and right under the original curlicue sofit over the sink. This place has a cottage look and it seems silly to fight it. Also, I love that the kitchen was built in a time when folks got excited about the new technology of elaborate machine wood cutouts
  • A place for an integrated foaming dish soap pump. This would free the counter from both dish and hand soap bottles. Clutter redux!

This little beauty on Amazon (Premier Sonoma Lead-Free Single-Handle Kitchen Faucet with Matching Side Spray, Brushed Nickle) got some good reviews and it seemed to meet all the other goals. Also it had a single on/off handle on the side. Perfect. It only required two holes, leaving one for my foaming soap dispenser. Price was about $144

Premier 120025LF Sonoma Lead-Free Single-Handle Kitchen Faucet with Matching Side Spray, Brushed Nickel (Amazon, $143.65)
Premier 120025LF Sonoma Lead-Free Single-Handle Kitchen Faucet with Matching Side Spray, Brushed Nickel (Amazon, $143.65)

This dispenser from Kitchen Classics got the best reviews on Amazon and I snagged it.

Built in FOAMING Soap Dispenser - #1 Selling Built In Foaming Soap Dispenser **SAVE MONEY** Top Quality 304 Stainless Steel (Satin) HUGE 17oz Bottle - Installs Quickly **Requires Properly Formulated Foaming Soap** We Also Sell Organic Foaming Soap

The look wasn’t perfect and curvy like the faucet but the one that matched better wasn’t a foaming dispenser. Since it was brushed nickle, hopefully it would just sort of disappear.

I strongly prefer foaming soap because I think I use less soap to get the job done, which is better for the environment and my wallet. Additionally, I wanted a dish soap that would also be good as a hand soap, removing two bottles (dish and hand) from my sink counter. Plus, foaming soap is more fun.

The soap I use is Simple Human Lemon Liquid Dish Soap. Mixed into a 1/3 soap, 2/3 water mixture and shaken (not stirred), it foams nicely and is not too drying on the hands. Also, one refill bag lasts me more than a year, which is cheaper than buying bottles of dish and hand soap.

Simplehuman lemon liquid dish soap refill pouch, 34 fl. oz

And here’s the end result.

Here's the curvy, pretty, pot friendly faucet. The sprayer is nice and heavy, on/off is simple, and my foaming soap dispenser disappears pretty well
Here’s the curvy, pretty, pot friendly faucet. The sprayer is nice and heavy, on/off is simple, and my foaming soap dispenser disappears pretty well

And there you have it! A tidier, prettier sink area for the Interim kitchen.

Opinions? What do you look for in a kitchen faucet?

Ginger Molasses Cookies adapted from Model Bakery Recipe

One of the things I do miss about California living is access to The Model Bakery in Napa and St. Helena. My sister gave me their new cookbook and some of my yearning was alleviated.

I love their Ginger Molasses cookie. It’s always great with tea on a cold day, morning coffee while camping, or just about anytime. It’s my favorite winter cookie. This dough freezes well so it’s easy to have some cookies ready to go anytime you get company.

This is how I adapted their wonderful Ginger Molasses Cookie recipe:

 Ingredients

  • 4 cups of pastry flour (cookbook uses regular flour)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1.5 cups (three sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 2 eggs, ideally at room temperature (so sitting out for 30-60 minutes)
  • 1 egg yolk, also ideally at room temperature (this is my addition, to make the cookies chewier in my almost high altitude)
  • 1 generous tsp of vanilla, good quality (yes, I always splash a little extra in)
  • 3/4-1 cup demerara or raw sugar (Model goes for a half cup so this is obviously to taste)

Cooking

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (355 F on my janky oven)
  2. Sift together flour, spices, salt and baking soda
  3.  Beat the sugars and butter together for about two minutes. Electric mixer or stand mixer both work great
  4. Beat in the molasses
  5. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time
  6. Beat in the vanilla
  7. Lower mixer speed and add the flour mixture, one third at a time
  8. Now it’s time to roll the cookies into balls for cooking. The dough might be a little too sticky to work with. If it is, refrigerate for a half hour
  9. Pour the demerara sugar into a small bowl
  10. Take a small cookie scoop or teaspoon and roll dough into ball. I use my smallest, one inch scoop. The cookbook calls for a much larger, 1/4 cup dough ball, making a nice bakery sized cookie
  11. Roll ball in sugar to coat (or dip one side in, if you prefer the cookbook way)
  12. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet
  13. Bake for 11-13 minutes depending on how crispy you want it
  14. Remove cookie sheet from oven and cool on sheet for five additional minutes
  15. While cookies are cooking/resting, make the rest of  your dough balls, rolling each one in sugar. I put these right into a freezer bag and freeze all the dough I don’t need to cook right away. The sugar coating keeps the balls from sticking too much together
  16. To cook frozen cookie dough balls, everything is the same: 350, 11 minutes, five minutes to finish cooking on the sheet
  17. These cookies will stay tasty for three-five days if stored in airtight container

Are you going to try this one? If so, please let me know your thoughts and tweaks. Thanks!

No Spend Spring

Circumstances dictate that this is a No Spend Spring for me.That means no cash outlay on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Dog food? Yes. Crystals to finish my chandelier project? On indefinite hold. And what I must buy, I must find less costly ways to purchase and use less of it (sorry Max, that goes for kibble too).

This No Spend living is often NOT FUN. It’s tedious to always be counting, counting. It’s not fun to juggle or re prioritize a grocery list which started out modest (no really, peanut butter is a thrifty choice. And yes, we’ll be freezing that leftover baguette). I know I’m blessed not to be desperate. My version of No Spend living is about figuring out how to cover the important stuff until cash gets better.

In my heart and in my head, I know that this time is really good for my intellect and my character. Already I can feel myself stretching to figure out how to do the things I want to do without spending money. For middle class folks, it becomes so easy to do the convenient thing, especially if it seems modestly priced. No Spend living has raised my awareness of the general American addiction to convenience — and how that siphons away precious resources that most of us will wish we had back one day. Because right now I do wish I had that $20 back I blew on a “good enough” outdoor cushion that I now loathe.

I think also, it’s so easy to forget how hard it is for so many when you live in that middle class bubble. Living No Spend means living a lot like the the poorer among us. Little driving, a lot of walking and biking. Everything takes more time. A wickedly self-indulgent meal out is at a crappy drive through. Coupons are interesting. Socializing is sharing a home cooked meal, taking a walk or game night. All this reminds me that for so many, this endless figuring is an enduring fact of life, not a (hopefully) temporary glitch. So I feel like this is making me more aware, slightly less insensitive to the struggles of others.

Another benefit of No Spend Spring is that projects, instead of getting started and stalling when something else takes precedence, are slowly getting completed, especially if the supplies were already on hand. Also, because of the No Spend thing, many of the projects don’t get done in that idealized way that was the original plan. Sometimes frustrating, it’s actually always quite an interesting challenge. My view of a dollar has changed. Because I’m serious about No Spend, I think on every dollar, apply the want/need test, and only rarely indulge in satisfying the want.

So this is me, trying to embrace this time and way of living, hoping to get some lasting lessons from it. And it’s me, experiencing a lot of smug moments, as I do accomplish goals without reaching for my wallet. Living No Spend does not mean living No Do. Projects are my therapy and joy right now. Speaking of which, here are some of this No Spend Spring’s Projects:

DIY Shoe Rack: I wanted those shoes organized and accessible. The budget for new wood wasn’t huge but it wasn’t in the plan either. No Spend Spring scored me some free garage sale lumber and reminded me to shop the rafters of my garage first.

Landing strip chair: In my shoes off home, seating at every outside door is a must. I was making do with an awkward chair (kept hitting my elbows) when I lucked into one from a downsizing friend. I had a dream of what to re-cover the seat with but that beautiful new fabric would cost $17 . . .

Rustic fence tip planter: This is the perfect project for leftover lumber of awkward sizes!

Salad bar!: Diane’s old bunk bed ladder is now my salad bar!

Correcting the basement stairwell walls: Did it wrong the first time. Thought I’d have to wait and redo it when new plywood was in the budget. Turned out there was a “vintage” piece lurking in the basement rafters.

Gallery wall: No spend doesn’t mean no decorate. It just means mining your existing supplies.

Closet refreshes: Entry way or bedroom, No Spend Spring is an ideal time to freshen a closet.

Coffee sack pillows: The sacks had been languishing in the garage. If I could just find the right cushion insert, they could be come pillows.

What about you? Do you go through No Spend waves or is it just me who hasn’t managed things ideally? What lessons have you taken away?

 

Thrifting Wish List

  • Black or dark grey garden hoses: I want them to disappear against the house but this house did come with a couple ugly bright green ones. Note: have tried spray painting one, we’ll see if it makes it through a whole season . . .
  • Barn door wheels, or barn door kit. Update: Found it!!!! $20 for two 1915 pulleys at an estate sale. Now it’s time to get that door hung: DIY Sliding Barn Door Hardware.

    $10 each! And I had to think twice about it!
    $10 each! And I had to think twice about it!
  • Folding luggage rack for guests: got cats, guest suitcases need to be off the ground. Amazon has one new for $20-$25. Update: Found it at the Youth Ranch thrift store for $4.
  • Gentleman’s Butler: I want a place to toss my clothes that I’ll probably wear again tomorrow. Don’t want it in the closet with the truly clean clothes. For now, maybe forever I’ll use the rickety but pretty chair Grandpa built. Love the valet idea but the chair is probably more functional. Will use that until . . .
  • Outdoor rocker: want, not a need, already have seating, this is to charm up the yard
  • Better lighting for guest room.  Currently a builder grade nipple light, which makes the ceiling look lower. Found at the ReStore for $10! Vintage chandelier

    $10!!!
    $10!!!
  •  Frames for jewelry organizers, no glass, wood. Got em! Prices ranged from $0.50-$5.
  • Pretty $5 wall mirrors, not cookie cutter. Three down! Still worth looking for
  • Fabulous planters, other outdoor
  • Tomato cage, obelisk, something to give that pesky seventh tomat some structure
  • Vintage light for foyer. Gotta be right priced. Found it! $10
  • Free dirt for the raised bed boxes I made from D&D’s gifted redwood
  • Crystals, real ones, to make a chandelier
  • Seriously great paper cutter
  • Excellent condition carpet shampooer
  • Super cheap but great old kitchen cabinets to expand workspace in garage workshop
  • Shop vac that actually works (mine is cursed)
  • Bike rack for garage, am sick of hoisting onto those huge hooks
  • Plants for landscaping, if free and pretty. Got some! Day lilies! Always want more.
  • Pavers to make a better front door path, grey, cottagy
  • Gas fireplace (stand-alone) for basement
  • New stove, gas or induction top. No falling off handle.
  • New fridge, bottom freezer. With all shelves and bins.
  • Trunk for base of bed in basement bedroom.
  • Lumber, cedar, redwood, handy size pine
  • American flag, if pretty. Found a lovely one at an estate sale for fifty cents!

    Only fifty cents at a garage sale. No icky poly, wonderful fabric.
    Only fifty cents at a garage sale. No icky poly, wonderful fabric.

 

Hello World!

Flying under the radar just now . . . this is an draft version of my blog. It’s public so I can get some feedback from advisors and friends on the architecture and content but it’s not ready for prime time. If you want to jump in and share your opinion, please do! In advance, thanks for your understanding.

—————

Welcome to my nesting blog. Here’s how I’m making a home in this new-to-me little egg house at the foothills of the Rockies. Here’s how I’m trying to figure out the next chapters a life that has not quite gone according to plan. I hope you’ll join me on the ride.

More about me: tight budget vs lofty ambitions. Some days I meet the challenge, others feel like epic fails. I believe that living in a beautiful, happy space extends to your whole world. That world includes a home shared a bunch of creatures, who often pose a design challenge. It also includes fabulous family and friends.

This life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Each day is a challenge to regain my stride. Gone are my executive days of hiring a professional for every job or just buying what I think I need whenever I want it. These are the days of figuring it out for myself, coming up with alternatives, and sometimes just making do with less. Good for my character, hard on my ego! Yet as they say, the only thing you can do is start from here. Let’s make it fun.