Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Within arm's reach

Maybe if your arms were 4 feet long the towel would be within arm's reach. Probably you'll have to step out of the tub and drip a few drops of water on the floor before getting to this towel rack, but it is as close as I could get.

This is my new reclaimed wood towel rack in the basement bathroom. It is made from the same wood as the reclaimed wood vanity. The more I work with reclaimed wood, the more I love it. It's just so easy -- maybe because its flaws don't need to be covered? Maybe because it takes so much less time than working with new wood. The non-existent finishing step saves me hours. Instant gratification, I guess.

Affixing a standard towel rack to the wall would have been the faster way to go for this, but I wanted something a little more unique. This piece took me about two hours to throw together, including time spent wondering what to do after I ran out of the wood I needed to frame the piece. I was planning to do a deeper shelf on top, but when I ran out of the narrower wood that frames the bottom, I had to re-think it. Because with reclaimed wood, you obviously have to work with what you've got. Now that it is done and hanging, I'm happy I left off the deep shelf. I think it would have become a hazard for people getting up from the toilet. Smacking your head on a too-big shelf as you try to get off the toilet is never a fun thing. So I guess it all worked out.

I love the texture of the wood contrasted against the bling of the chrome hooks. Mmmmmm.

Psst...the rest of the basement is finished now! See it here

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Almost-Finished Built-Ins

It really bugs me when projects in my house are "almost finished." And these built-ins have been "almost finished" since the end of July. Then I was torn away from them by multiple other projects. And the reality is that I may not be able to get back to them until January. They still need a few various pieces of trim, some sanding, some filling, and a few coats of paint in a few spots.

But ohmygosh, I love them. The base cabinets came from the ReStore. The one on the left cost a dollar. It was in bad shape. The middle one and the one on the right cost $20 each. They were in good shape and are solid oak. The one on the left camouflages one of those weird bump-outs in a wall that is so typical of basements. The bump-out is for the drain pipe from our kitchen sink and dishwasher above that corner of the basement. In order to make the built-ins flush all across the front, I bumped out the middle and the right ones to match the depth of the one on the left and I built the shelves above at different depths to accommodate the bump out, too.

Sounds confusing, I know. It was confusing. It took a lot of staring and tilting my head and scratching notes on paper and deep thought to figure it out. To add to the confusion, the wall that the cabinets are on curves outward as it goes up toward the ceiling, so the wall had to be furred out to get the cabinets to sit right. I'm going to be totally honest here, it was HARD. But the result is (or will be) exactly what I was hoping for. A little reading nook (with puck lights installed in the shelf above, thank you Scott!) and built-in cabinets to house sheets and towels. The cabinet on the right even has three electrical outlets and pull-out shelves to give guests a place to store and charge their computers, e-readers, phones, etc.

Yeah, I know. So stinking awesome.

I'll post more photos when the unit is totally done. So, maybe sometime in 2018.

Psst...they're finally finished, and it's only 2012! Check out the whole basement here

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Reclaimed Wood Vanity

This might be my FAVORITE piece of furniture in our whole house. And that's saying a lot, because when you build your own furniture, you love every piece. Every piece bears the memories of your stage in life when you made it, your clothes carry the color of the finish, and your hands remember each imperfection in the wood. But this one is special. This is the new vanity in our new bathroom, but it comes from old wood and its granite top looks old and weathered.

Remember the basement closet doors? The ones built out of wood from a neighbor's fence and made to look like barn doors? Well, this vanity came from the same fence. I used Ana White's Farmhouse Vanity plans as a guide and then added sides and doors to hide our ugly pipes. Unfortunately, because of where our new basement bathroom is situated, the drain pipe had to go into the floor (instead of the wall) and had to include a plumbing vent in them since there was no vent nearby to tie into. So, the pipes are ugly and despite my requests to the plumber, shiny chrome pipes were not possible in this application.

Scott finished out the bottom of the vanity for me using weathered cedar that we ripped into 1x2s years ago and used in our garden to trellis snap peas. We've since found another spot to grow snap peas and this wood has been lying behind the hot tub for years. It's so fun to see it put to good use.

The sink atop the vanity came from the Habitat ReStore and was a crazy bargain at just $15. It is meant to be a pedestal sink, but I wanted to use it like a vessel sink despite the fact that the bottom isn't perfectly flat. It might not be a great application in a bathroom with kids or a bathroom that gets a lot of use because it isn't sealed against the counter top, but for a low-use guest bathroom, I don't envision that being a problem. The faucet was a bargain from Overstock. It is super heavy and really high quality and I think its shiny bling-factor contrasts nicely against the rustic wood vanity.

I am absolutely in love with this weathered piece of granite. At $300, it is by far the most expensive component of the basement. It was my biggest splurge and it was totally worth it. The granite is called Antique Brown and the finish is "leathered" (as opposed to polished or honed). After I bought it, I tried to find something similar online but didn't find anything like it. This piece was a remnant at Planet Granite, a local granite shop. Because of the shape of the sink, the granite had to be cut into a C-shape and reinforced with rebar. I asked another granite shop if they could do it and the owner told me, "It would be impossible. The granite would never be strong enough." Well, apparently it is worth it to ask, ask, and ask again. I was extremely pleased with Planet Granite's work and their willingness to do something out of the ordinary. They also worked hard not to ruin the square piece from inside the sink cutout so that I could use it later. I'm looking forward to using it as the top of an end table!

I still need to add some vinegar-steel wool solution to the freshly cut ends of the cedar boards in order to weather them, but other than that this piece is finished and I couldn't be happier with it. It is a hefty, solid piece that looks old and shows years of weathering. I adore its rustic contrast against the white and shiny chrome elements in the bathroom. This vanity is why I love to do things myself. I couldn't explain this vision to anyone and expect them to build what I saw in my mind. And can you imagine the reaction I would get if I asked a contractor to build me something like that? I don't need anyone else telling me I'm crazy. I might be, but look what it got me! A vanity that I adore.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The workspaces formerly known as closets

After building two new closets in the basement during the basement wasted-space-to-guest-suite renovation, I was able to repurpose our two upstairs closets into workspaces.

Even as a kid I was aware that in order to be crafty, one has to have a crafty place to work. I remember my mom getting frustrated with having to use the dining room table as her sewing space, and I feel the same way. Except we don't even have a dining room table. We have one place to eat in our house and when I use it to sew, that one table ends up drowning in fabric, thread, a cutting mat and my sewing machine, not to mention the tripping hazard created by my electrical cord stretching out across the kitchen. And when the kids would work on a crafty project like painting or embellishing headbands or wrapping presents, their projects would engulf the dining room table.

But no longer.

Enter my inspiration photos. Or Pinsperation photos. Once I completed the new closets in the basement, I went looking for inspiration for a craft closet and a sewing closet. It appears that I am quite blessed to have not one, but two closets available for craftiness, since most of my inspiration photos combined crafting and sewing into one space. Here are some of the spaces that inspired me.




I pinned many, many inspiration photos before I went after my closets and then last week, this Pinterest Challenge came up. While I'd already done the work, the real challenge was in finally photographing and posting about the spaces. They don't feel totally finished to me, and maybe they never will but it's about time I post them! So, thanks to Katie, Ana, Erin, and Sherry for the challenge!

Here is what I came up with for my craft closet. It's a bit over eight feet long with probably six feet of work space in a room we now call "The Slash Room." No, not Slash as in Guns n Roses. Slash as in "office slash exercise slash craft slash Angry Birds" room. The craft part is for the girls and me. The rest is all for Scott. All I bought to make this happen was one $40 sheet of formaldehyde-free plywood and some dowels. Everything else I had on hand.

I managed to combine wrapping, painting, play-doh/clay, card-making, mat-cutting, and anything involving sequins, glitter, and buttons into one closet. I'm still toying with the idea of adding a breadboard-style extension to the front, which is why I didn't add a 1x2 or 1x3 face frame to beef it up. It would be nice to give the workspace some extra depth, but that is another project for another day.

The closet is painted with leftover Sherwin-Williams floor paint from the basement in Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage. All of the wood is finished in General Finishes water-based (and no odor) Espresso covered in two coats of glossy Polycrylic. Next time I'm at Ikea I'll pick up a few counter-height stools for us to sit on while we craft, although the lack of seating hasn't deterred Brynn. She was in there working before the Polycrylic even cured, leaving an indelible memory of her handwriting on the table. I suppose I could sand it out and recoat it if I really cared, but I'm thinking of it as the first of many projects that will leave permanent reminders on that shiny work surface. I'm okay with it, really. It just took a while (and a few grumblings of of "THIS is why we can't have ANYTHING NICE") for me to get over it.

Oh, and by the way, props to Scott for adding two new electrical outlets to the craft space for us. Gotta be able to plug in the hot glue gun, right? My husband is a fantastic electrician and I am SO thankful for that.

Okay, now onto the sewing space. One component that all of my inspiration photos were lacking was a sunken space for the sewing machine. I have a hard time sewing straight if my fabric has to go up and over the base of the machine, so I knew that above all else, I must figure out a way to make the sewing surface of my machine flush with the table. Here is what I came up with:

For this space, I had to purchase two pine 1x3's and one 1x6 which I ripped to be exactly 1x4 on my our table saw. I used the same floor paint on the walls in this closet and the same General Finishes stain on the work surface. The work surface is built out of old shelves from this closet. I joined them using my Kreg Jig to create a deeper work space (they were only 16 inches deep and I needed about 28 inches), sanded them, stained them, and gave them two coats of dark brown Briwax. I love the sheen that Briwax gives and I especially love the instant gratification of applying wax, buffing it, and the wood being essentially ready to use.

The cabinet above the workspace is from our old kitchen and has now been installed in at least four different places in our house. The oil-based painted finish I put on it six years ago is, by the way, holding up unbelievably well.

The stool is an original piece by yours truly. The legs came off of an old, junky, beat-up vanity that a friend and I found on someone's trash pile during a walk one day. The legs were the only solid part of the piece so I removed them and trashed the rest. For this application, I attached them to an old shelf from this closet that I'd cut to size, trimmed it out using some scrap 1x2, and painted the whole thing. For the seat, I upholstered a second piece of old shelf from this closet and dropped it in place. Couldn't have been simpler, really. And it was free. Scraps, found items, leftover foam from a friend, leftover batting, and leftover fabric. I love leftovers.

And here is the piece de resistance, the sunken sewing machine. This took some figuring out, but eventually I used my our jigsaw to cut a hole in the shape of my machine and the quilting table that goes with it. I'm not a pro with the jigsaw -- I normally leave the jigging to Scott -- but when the man's at work a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. And with enough sandpaper, it all came out okay. Then I ripped some more of that old shelf wood on my our table saw to make two strips exactly three inches wide which was exactly the height of the surface of my sewing machine. I attached them to the bottom of the work surface using lots of glue and my Kreg Jig. For the final piece of the puzzle, I cut another piece of old shelving to fit under the sewing machine, screwed it onto my three inch spacers and then held my breath as I dropped the machine in.

Miraculously, it fit.

You can see in the background one project I'm working on right now. I'm putting together a bunch of rice-based microwaveable heat packs to sell at a craft fair this weekend, along with some doll furniture if I can get my rear end back out in the garage long enough to put those pieces together.

I have to say, sewing at this new table is such a pleasure. Once again, Scott came through with a new outlet (there was already one near the floor, but I needed another accessible above my new work surface. I can sit at my machine and watch TV on Hulu or, my current obsession, the Edible Education 101 lectures at UC Berkeley, without killing the battery on my laptop. My machine is actually more stable now that it is sunken into the table and it is quieter and definitely easier to work with. Let's just hope this machine never dies, right?

These projects are so ridiculous on one hand -- I mean, TWO crafty spaces? Seriously. But on the other hand, they solve so many problems for me, make me more likely to craft and to support the girls in their craftiness, and for a total cost of under $100 it would have been silly not to make these spaces workable.

Psst...I eventually made a thread board for the sewing closet, to keep my spools of thread organized. See it here