July 3, 2015

Adding Character to Our Foyer

After finishing the master bedroom, I told Alex that I wasn't planning any more large projects for a while. I think that lasted about a week or two before I started the planning process for our foyer. 

When we first walked into this home, I was so sad because the view from the front door was directly into the kitchen. A wide hallway that ended with a kitchen. Not even in different room!  Just one long room. Very strange. So I knew that I wanted to separate these spaces at some point. This was the view from the front door.

This is our before picture. Later in the post, you can see the after from the same spot.

The first step in this process was building a wall between the front door and the kitchen. My parents came for the weekend and helped us build it, including hanging an extra original door we had laying around. 

Then the project was sidelined, while I worked on other rooms. Once I came back to the project a month ago, I knew I wanted to imitate this wall in the rest of the foyer. I loved the richness of the wood, trims, and beadboard. My plan included matching the original baseboards and door casings as close as I could without needing to pay for custom mouldings, adding beadboard wainscoting, and building a storage area for coats, shoes, hats, etc. 

After a few trips to the store, we had most of the supplies needed. I should remember to take a photo of our den during each of these projects as it gets filled with random boards, paint, hardware, and more. I had planned on using plywood beadboard, but once I saw it in store, I decided to splurge on the real stuff. It just looks a lot better and I thought it would probably take stain better too. I started to install all of the beadboard planks above the existing baseboards.

I was able to find casings and mouldings that nearly matched our original. You'd be hard pressed to notice that they are different. Here is our front door, my inspiration for the whole project.

Next up was the storage area. I knew this would be a major undertaking, especially with my limited woodworking skills. I built it in place since it needed to fit exactly to the 52 3/4 inches space I had. I measured many times and had most of the wood cut at Home Depot. Everything was perfect, except two boards were cut 1 inch incorrectly. Annoying, but nothing we couldn't deal with at home once we noticed it. My plan included allowing the baseboards to continue, then having storage for shoes so they don't need to sit out all the time. On top of that would be a bench for storage or sitting while putting shoes on with beadboard behind and storage hooks for coats. We have lots of hats in our home, which are always getting crushed, so I measured the space needed for cubbies to fit them. And on top of everything will be more storage. Eventually I'll probably install some doors and more shelving, but that can be another project.

Once all of the pieces were installed, mostly using liquid nails since I didn't want too many nails to be seen, I was able to start staining. We found a gel stain that matched our original stain perfectly. Gel stain is my new favorite product. I didn't have to worry about it dripping everywhere and I could get a dark stain with only two coats of the product. After allowing a week for the stain to dry, I started on the layers of poly. I tried wipe on poly for the first time, which also worked fantastically for this project. Didn't drip everywhere and for a large project, I didn't have to worry about brush marks everywhere. 

The last step in this big project was to repaint the walls and ceiling. We had changed out the lighting fixture when we built the wall, so the ceiling needed patching and repainting. The whole first floor was a gray blue when we moved in, so we have been slowly repainting everything into warm colors. I wanted the look of a warm and welcoming foyer, and I wanted to match the style of our Victorian/Edwardian building. I wasn't about to attempt wallpaper. I didn't feel like dealing with putting it up or taking it down when I tire of it in 10 years. I bought a stencil on Amazon, and painted the walls in a semi-gloss gold, then painted a deep red eggshell paint with the stencil. 

We added in our large mirror (which my parents found for $5), installed our vintage looking hooks (also found on Amazon), swapped out the door handle for a glass one, and put down our entrance rug. Eventually I'll buy a floor rug for the room, but I haven't found anything that is worth it yet. We will also put down a more permanent protective layer in the shoe cubbies, but for now it's just fabric.

Here is the after shot from the same angle as the before earlier in the post.

When we first walked into this home, we saw the bland, white, dated kitchen from the front door. Now you see a beautiful, stained wood foyer with a giant built in storage area!

June 27, 2015

Adding Board and Batten to the Master Bedroom

It's been a while since I had a chance to update on my new home projects. In November, we bought our first home in Chicago. It is a gorgeous duplex (which in Chicago means it is two floors, but everywhere else in the country it means there are only two units. We're in Chicago, so we'll use that definition.) that was built in the early 1900s. It amazing original details, including wood floors and stained woodwork. 

The condo was last updated around 15 years ago, but the updates did not hold true to the old details of the building. I have been working to correct this.

My first major project was the master bedroom. It is a sizeable room with absolutely no character at all. While the rest of the home has beautiful woodwork, this room didn't have any casings or even real baseboards. My plan was to add board and batten two-thirds of the way up the wall and paint the top. 

The first step was to remove the old faux baseboards, which was a pain. They weren't installed correctly so it took a lot of ripping to get them out. Luckily I was planning on covering up those sections of the wall, so there wasn't too much patching. Next, I prepped and painted the walls white. 

Once everything was painted, I started on the board and casing install. I used furring strips to save on costs, but I still needed a lot of them. I don't have a nail gun, so I mostly used liquid nails (which is my best friend) and an occasional nail when the wall or the board wasn't completely flat. We don't own a power saw, so everything was done with our hand miter saw. It was taxing, but it does make everything feel even more impressive when you look at all of the wood that you cut yourself! Then I caulked all of the edges so there were no gaps. There were a lot of gaps to hide... 

A layer of primer and two coats of paint later on the boards, and the room was nearly complete. I choose a deep blue on the top of the boards to bring some color into the room. I've rented long enough, and don't want any more all white rooms. We also installed a new ceiling light, light switch, curtains, hung the TV on the wall, and moved a "built-in" from the first floor into the master.

After about two months of working on weekends and the occasional weeknight when I was home early enough, the room is complete. A big project, but the room no longer feels like a basement. Now it feels like a luxurious master bedroom. 

If you'd like to see some of the other DIY projects from this room, check out the dressernightstandsheadboard, and comforter on my blog.

June 25, 2015

New Armchair! Tales in Reupholstery.

I took my first stab at learning to reupholster a few months ago. I found this armchair on Craigslist for $20, but it was in need of new fabric. It was covered in cat hair and the left arm was completely shredded through to the wood by that cat, but the bones were good and the cushions solid.

I found a beautiful white and yellow fabric that I am hoping will hide all of my dog's hair (which shows up on everything under the sun).  It took about two evenings to rip all of the fabric off and another day to sew all of the new cushions.

I am planning on sewing a new back cushion at some point, but I keep putting that project off for no reason at all. And it looks like someone really approves of the new chair!

April 2, 2014

Dresser Update

You've seen my hand-me-down dresser on the blog before.  I painted it a few years ago so I could have a full matching set of bedroom furniture.  Well now that I have replaced most of the old set, the only piece that doesn't match is the dresser.  The piece is great, it just doesn't match.  So I went about stripping it.  I didn't think that I'd be able to do it while living in an apartment.  Sanding it with a power sander is out of the question.  It just kicks up too much sawdust and it gets all over everything.  In addition to inhaling all that stuff.  Next option is stripping it with a chemical stripper.  Also out of the question because of the enclosed space and dog, or so I thought.  I found a product while looking around online called Citristrip.  It promises to strip off layers of paint without the bad smell, the toxic fumes, etc.  I went to Home Depot and picked up a bottle of it, a pail, and a plastic scraper.  I already had drop cloths and sponges to use. 

The product is really easy to use.  You just wipe a thick coat on and leave it.  As you can see from the photos, the product bubbles as it removes your layers of paint.  My dresser had a few layers of polyurethane, paint, and then the original covering on it (I'm not sure what it was).

The package says to leave it on for 20 minutes to 24 hours.  I covered my piece and by the time I was finished covering, the first area I worked on was ready to be stripped.  I didn't have to use any force, just push the product off the surface. 

There was still a bit of reside left from the original finish that didn't come off, so I put another layer on those spots.  

This second layer got most of the rest off.  I'll sand the little bits that are left and it will be ready for my new stain!  

I can't believe how easy this product was.  And completely safe to use in an apartment, around pets, and it doesn't hurt you if you get it on your skin!  

March 30, 2014

DIY: Sewing a Swimsuit

I am a crazy person.  I thought sewing a swim suit would be a good idea since I cannot find suits that fit by body.  I am a "well-endowed" person so I need a piece that fully covers and supports.  So no triangle tops or regular halter ones.  I had one from Victoria's Secret a few years ago that had the support, but it was about an inch too short to fully cover what needs to be covered.  

I found a pattern online at Burda, and it was also the first Burda pattern I've ever bought.  It's this bustier top, Burda #127.  I designed the bottom, using another swim suit as a pattern. 

Sewing something that has to fit perfectly to your body is not an easy task.  I bought swimsuit jersey fabric and lining, and used an old bra for support.  You can buy the underwire and support pieces online, but it is a lot cheaper to just use an old one.  I cut out my pieces, sewed them all together, then ran into a problem where the lining kept rolling to the outside and I couldn't get the lining to stay on the inside.  I finally was able to figure out that since the lining had more stretch than the outside, it was pulling.  So I recut it to be a bit smaller, and that fixed the problem completely. 


I'm not one hundred percent happy with the suit, but it fits better than anything I've had before.  I even had enough extra fabric to make two bottoms, a regular one and a high waisted one.   

If I could do it again, I'd size up the pattern even more than I did so it would cover more.  I'd also like to figure out how to make the straps stronger.

This picture is from last summer... don't worry, I'm not swimming in March.

March 27, 2014

Rustic Curtains

These curtains are probably be biggest splurge in designing our bedroom.  I saw them and immediately knew that they would be perfect and my husband would love them (he usually doesn't care about any of my crazy decorating ideas).  And I was able to add another rustic element to the room.

I folded the fabric down the middle and cut a straight line.  Hemmed the sides and bottom, and sewed a casing in the top to slide the curtain rod through.  I know the rules say that you should buy twice the length of your window in fabric, but I couldn't spend that much on new curtains.  So these curtains lay flat when they are closed, but no one is looking at them at night.  

March 24, 2014

DIY Avengers Masks

I love when I get strange sewing requests from people.  Usually the requests I get are pretty normal, like will you fix a seam for me.  Not this time though!  I got a request through work to make a set of Avengers masks for a skit to perform in front of children. 

I had to find a way to make the masks recognizable while not completely covering the actors' faces.  I ended up using pieces of craft felt in different colors and different layers for effect.  It was all hand sewn, though it probably could have been sewn on a machine.  I was doing it at work, so I didn't have access to one. 

I also made a Captain America shield (it was for a synagogue, hence the different star in the middle), and a helmet out of cardstock for Thor. 

With a few other costume pieces, the skit went off smashingly.  Yes... I went there... Smash.