our wee home

musings by michelle

A kid-proof alternative to a coffee table

Pinterest has really changed my life, our house, and my husband’s list of projects. ūüėČ Really, though, it’s been a great source of new ideas for our home, and often, with detailed instructions on how to carry them out. People out there have some really great ideas, and it’s fun to be able to find and tap into them so easily!

So, here’s the latest. I had seen this pin, showing a shelf behind a couch. ¬†I actually liked this idea for our basement “rec” room, but when I showed it to Matt, he wanted to do it in our living room. ¬†And I quickly agreed — though we have side tables on each end of our couch, if you sit in the middle, there is nowhere to put your drink. ¬†We don’t have a coffee table, we have a storage ottoman, and it’s precarious to put a glass on it.

Since we have an 18-month-old running around, we have constantly had to keep an eye on the TV remote and our beverages, so this would be perfect for keeping those things just a little more out of the way (though she CAN climb up on the couch).

So far, our intention is to keep this space purely functional, and not put any decorative items on it. Since we already have an adjacent wall full of floating shelves, I really don’t want to clutter up more space with things. This new shelf is actually pretty invisible unless we put something on it.

Here’s the (very easy!) breakdown: We bought a length of wood, cut it to the length of our couch, sanded it, stained it, put a couple coats of polyurethane on it, and hung it on the wall with four “L” brackets. Though we probably won’t use it to hold a lot of weight, we did screw all the “L” brackets into studs…. so if some kiddo tries to sit on it someday, hopefully it’ll stay put. We already had the sand paper, stain, and poly; so our only cost for this project was the wood ($18) and the brackets ($11).

Hi, our names are Michelle and Matt, and we have a floating shelf problem.




September 5, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Home Improvements, On the cheap | , , | 3 Comments

It’s the little things

We are excited that we have gotten a lot of the bigger house projects out of the way, so that we can start doing some of the smaller things that can make our lives easier. Today it was $16 ($20 with a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond) that finally got our shoes out of a jumbled mess on our closet floor!

I even reused the box it came in to cut out supports for my tall boots. ūüôā


August 30, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Home Improvements, Just Life | | Leave a comment

Reclaimed wood wall art panels

Here’s my latest Pinterest-inspired project!


Matt had torn down (and then rebuilt) an old fence in our backyard and so we had a bunch of pickets I could use for this project.  I had seen this pin on Pinterest, and thought it could be something that I could DIY.  I wanted something fairly large to hang on some empty walls in our basement rec room, so I thought this would be worth a shot, and enlarged some photos from our honeymoon. It turned out to be a pretty easy project, and I did all three for less than $30 since I already had a lot of the materials on hand.  Not bad, considering the original pin links to a similar item being sold for $110 each!

The pickets had already been cut to a similar length, thanks to our fence improvement project, so all I had to do was lay them out to form a square and them drill a couple pieces on the back to hold them all together. I varied the cut sides (some are at the top, and others at the bottom.



I screwed them together from the back, so you don’t see them from the front.¬†They are around 30″ square.

Then I added hanging hardware on the back, as well as some adhesive cork (it’s drawer liner) to the bottom corners to save the wall from getting scratched and to provide a bit of grip to keep them steady and even once hung. You could easily use other types of picture/frame stabilizers- I was just using what I had around.




It was Matt’s idea to use upholstery tacks to hold the pictures in place – this way the art can be easily changed out.

I also put some poster board behind these photos to make them pop a bit more.

Here’s a budget breakdown of this project:
Wood – luckily free, we had it around
Screws – we already had these
Hanging hardware – $2
Cork for stabilizing – already had this, too
Poster board – $14! (Note to self, don’t send hubby to the craft store on an errand. He’s not a bargain hunter like me.)
Upholstery tacks – $2
Photo enlargements – $3 each at CostCo = $9
TOTAL: $27

I love the look of the weathered wood. ¬†I’m a bit surprised by this, because I typically like really modern-style home furnishings… so this look is something I haven’t done before. ¬†The art really fills up this wall, and I love that we can swap out the photos in the future, if we want. ¬†What do you think?



August 26, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Green living, Home Improvements, On the cheap | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

More floating shelves!

I think we are a bit obsessed with floating shelves. ¬†We used them a lot in our previous (teeny) home for obvious reasons (space, or lack thereof!)… but now we just really love them. ¬†I think we have them installed in every room of the main floor of our house.

I had been wanting to build this magnificent and modern/industrial shelving unit for our living room to put our TV on. ¬†I was inspired by this. ¬†I had priced it all out, drawn sketches, taken measurements, etc. ¬†But the $350-ish price tag for materials and the amount of work it was going to take to assemble it… well, life seemed to get in the way of that actually happening. ¬†So I found new inspiration that seemed a lot easier and cheaper – this pin on Pinterest.

So three $20 shelves from IKEA and less than an hour of labor transformed our living room and now we have this:


It saved us from having to buy an expensive TV wall mount, and it provides much-needed shelf space for some decorative items and plants. ¬†And my husband did such an amazing job hiding all the cords, don’t you think? ¬†He found these gems¬†(in white) at the hardware store, it allowed us to hide most of the cords for the TV, XBox, and stereo. ¬†They just drop through behind the drywall. ¬†That middle basket on the floor is actually hiding all the cords, outlet, and a subwoofer.

Even though there will always be a small part of me lusting after pipe shelving, we should have done this ages ago!

August 20, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Home Improvements, On the cheap | , , , , | 6 Comments

Curb appeal, stage 2

Stage 2 will likely be the last stage for curb appeal in 2013. ¬†With baby #2 arriving sometime this summer, our attention and money will be going elsewhere for a while. ¬†But there were a few things that I just couldn’t live with any longer… so without further ado:


The old storm door was NOT our style, and it kept breaking. ¬†While we originally wanted to replace it with a new one, we finally realized that we really didn’t think we would use a storm door (even a new one). ¬†At our old house, the storm door came in handy for two reasons: (1) the retractable screen was great for airflow, and (2) it provided a spot for the Luci (the pooch) to look out the front of the house. ¬†But this house has a nice big front window that already does both of those things. ¬†So once we decided we didn’t need to wait to save up for a new screen door, we could just paint the front door and get rid of the old storm door. ¬†It took one day.

I followed the tips shared on Young House Love for painting a front door, though we’re not really sure that the deglosser really did anything. ¬†We used Behr Marquee exterior paint in “Deep Blue Sea.” ¬†It was one of those colors that gives you a panic attack when you’re staring at it from a foot away while you’re painting it on. ¬†But once we stepped back, we love it.

We also finally got some flowers planted in the planters up front. ¬†Two of the three plants in each planter are actually perennials, so we’ll transplant them to the yard at the end of the season.

But I think my favorite part of this “stage” was updating the house number plaque!


Now that dated light fixture is screaming to be replaced, too…. but that’ll have to wait until we find something new that we love.

Isn’t that a cute little mandarin tree by the front door? ¬†Matt got it for me for Valentine’s Day this year.

Most of the updates to the house were simply paint: black paint on the shutters and mailbox, blue paint on the door, and touching up the white trim around the door with paint and caulk. ¬†It was free to remove the old storm door (we put it on the curb and it was picked up within 10 minutes by a passerby — we didn’t even have to post it on craigslist!). ¬†The house numbers were $25 at Home Depot, and we made the plaque with some wood that we had (and left-over paint from the shutters).

Ah, this was one of those instant-gratification house projects that gives serious satisfaction. ¬†We think these little changes made a dramatic change to the personality of the house, and it’s definitely more “us.”

May 29, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Home Improvements, On the cheap, The Outdoors | Leave a comment

Is it spring yet?!

The trees are starting to bud, and we’re supposed to get snow tomorrow. ¬†Yep, it’s definitely spring in Denver!

With our basement out of commission (due to the flood, and lack of progress while we wait on insurance checks to be endorsed by our mortgage company…), our new (bigger) house is starting to feel small. ¬†I think Matt and I always start hating our house this time of year, because we’re itching to GET OUTSIDE!

So I’ve started daydreaming and planning for some outdoor improvements on our house. ¬†Our first project will be rototilling and putting down grass seed in the backyard. ¬†The backyard is currently a big patch of dirt. ¬†Now that Norah is so close to walking, I desperately want a backyard that she can safely play in. ¬†But our curb appeal right now is horrendous. ¬†We won’t have a lot of funds to work with for a while, so I’m dreaming up cheap improvements for the front yard. ¬†Here’s a photo of the house from before we bought it last fall. ¬†Since then we have replaced the garage door, and obviously the for-sale sign is no longer in the front yard. ¬†=)

Exterior, August 2012

Here’s my to-do list for this year:

  • Either remove or paint the shutters. ¬†Matt wants to remove them, but I’m a bit leery because they are not only screwed into the brick, there is also some adhesive or glue behind them that does not look like it would be easy to remove from the brick. ¬†I figure we can paint them now, and if we figure out how to remove them later, we can do that.
  • Remove the decrepit (and ugly) storm door. ¬†Eventually we want to get a replacement (same as I put on the last house), but not sure we want to spend those 300+ beans this summer.
  • Paint the front door. ¬†I’m a little hesitant here, because it’s a beautiful wood door… but still.
  • Plant flowers (water-wise perennials), add mulch & rock to the area between the driveway and the entry sidewalk. ¬†We already planted a bunch of bulbs there last fall (hopefully they survived our dry winter!).
  • Remove the two shrubs by the front steps. ¬†I have two wooden half-barrels that I plan to put there and plant flowers in.
  • Get a new mailbox.
  • Get new, modern, house numbers.
  • Update or replace the outdoor light fixture. ¬†We’ll probably want to save up for something we really like, so I may just update the existing one with some brushed nickel spray paint.
  • Over-seed the lawn with grass seed, just to make it healthier and thicker.

Here’s my feeble attempt at a sketch using google docs to give a vague idea of what I’m envisioning:

Copy of house

Curb Appeal update?

What do you think?  Do-able?  Any suggestions or ideas?

March 22, 2013 Posted by | DIY, Green living, Home Improvements, On the cheap, The Outdoors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grout, grout, let it all out

I don’t know why that Tears for Fears song came to my head… =)

In our wee bathroom, we have wee white tiles on the floor. With supposedly white grout. After I first bought this house, I remember trying to clean the grout with straight bleach and a number of cleaners. All I got was a fumey bathroom. After brainstorming a bit, I decided to try to use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.


That worked better than any of the cleaners I bought. It’s been almost five years since then, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t scrubbed the grout since then. So I looked on the web for a green way to clean grout, and low and behold, my baking soda and peroxide was what everyone recommended!

I started by spraying hydrogen peroxide on the floor (I just happened to have a spray top that was the same size as the bottle), and then sprinkling baking soda on top (I found the idea of re-using a parmesan cheese container for baking soda on pinterest).¬†I ended up spraying more peroxide on top of that and letting it sit for a few minutes. The result was a paste.¬†20120516-164452.jpgThen I scrubbed with a grout brush, which I frequently dipped into more peroxide. Last time I had used a stiff-bristle brush that was about the size of my hand, but it made a huge mess — spraying my cleaner all over the place… so I got a grout brush thinking that it would contain the mess. I was wrong. It just made the process more tedious and it still made a mess. But, my grout is looking a lot better! ¬†Now I’m wincing while I share with you how dirty my grout really was. ¬†Ewwww!


If you want to try this technique on your tile grout, just be forewarned that the clean-up is messy. If you use a stiff brush to clean the grout, the paste will spray and will fly up and stick to the walls, bathtub, toilet, etc. So you have to wipe down the walls a bit, and then wipe up the floor. I suppose if you had time to completely let it dry, it might be pretty easy to just sweep or vacuum up before you wipe it down. ¬†I’ve also heard that you can incorporate either lemon juice or vinegar into cleaning grout. ¬†Does anyone have experience doing that?

Now, I wonder if there are any natural ways to seal the grout to keep it looking clean…?

May 16, 2012 Posted by | DIY, Green living, Home Improvements | , , , | 2 Comments

Dresser dress-up

Probably the easiest way to “live green” is to re-use things you already own for other purposes. ¬†Matt and I have tried to do that from time to time — for example, we re-used the folding side table leaves from a small bistro table to make floating shelves. ¬†Just a quick sanding, staining, and using some floating shelf brackets from Home Depot later, here’s a before and after:


But since we live in such a small home (733 square feet), our ability to hold on to things (“just in case”) is limited. ¬†So we often have to craigslist items that we no longer use. ¬†However, craigslist has also been great for finding used pieces to renovate. ¬†When we started to put together our nursery, we decided to get a dresser to use for both storage and a changing table. ¬†After stalking craigslist for a solid-wood piece for a while, we found one with a good amount of character for $40. ¬†We hoped to stain it, but upon closer inspection, we realized we had purchased a dresser (well, a buffet, really) that was solid wood with a wood veneer. ¬†Booo! ¬†(Note to Self: always do the close inspection BEFORE buying!) ¬†So instead of staining, we decided to paint. ¬†I had found some fun dressers on Pinterest that had different colored drawers, so that’s what we went with. ¬†So here’s the before and after on the dresser:

My apologies for crappy photos. ¬†I promise I’ll get better.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | DIY, Green living, Home Improvements | , , , | Leave a comment