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.

 

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

Reclaimed wood wall art panels

Here’s my latest Pinterest-inspired project!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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

Curb appeal, stage 1

Since we moved into our house in September, I’ve been aching to give some love to the front of our house and the front yard. ¬†It looks dated, unloved, and so PLAIN. ¬†There are so many things to do, it’s hard to figure out where to start. ¬†Here’s my very long to-do list (mentioned before) to help with our curb appeal:

  • Paint the shutters.
  • Plant some xeric perennials in the area between the driveway and sidewalk.
  • Remove the yucky bushes by the front door and put in some planters.
  • Create a mulched or rock area up against the house (on the right) with some shrubs, ornamental grasses, and other flowering plants.
  • Replace all the cement (driveway and entry steps).
  • Paint the front door, and get new hardware (lever instead of knob).
  • Replace the storm door with an all-glass version.
  • Get a new mailbox, house numbers, and porch light.

So this weekend, we managed to tackle a couple of those things (before & after):

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I learned that I’m not very good a guestimating how much materials we’ll need for projects. ¬†I guessed we’d need 10 bags of mulch; we needed 16. ¬†I guessed we’d need 3 cans of black spray paint for the shutters; we needed 6. ¬†I had originally gotten regular paint for the shutters, but it took me all of 10 seconds to realize that painting them with a brush was going to take hours and end up with a dripping, goopy mess. ¬†Spray paint was definitely the way to go — the paint went on smoothly and quickly! ¬†It took 4 light coats for good coverage and they only took a few minutes to dry between coats; I could easily paint all 6 and then start again at the beginning. ¬†I did get spray-paint-can-trigger-finger, though. ¬†Beware.

Now it is just screaming, “I NEED SOME COLOR!!!” ¬†We planted around 100 bulbs in the mulched area last fall, and a few are started to peek out — can’t wait to see more of them! ¬†My hope is that some greening trees, some flowers (both in the flower bed & the barrel planters), and a brightly-colored front door will help. ¬†That’ll be stage 2…

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Home Improvements, On the cheap, The Outdoors | , , , | 1 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

Update on cloth diapering

We’ve been using cloth diapers on Norah since she was just a couple months old. ¬†She’s now nearly 13 months old, and I thought I’d share an update on how things are going and what we think of the whole thing. ¬†My first post on cloth diapers gives info on our stash, if you’re interested.

Overall we’ve been really pleased with cloth diapers, but¬†It took us a while to figure out our washing routine — if you look up advice on washing cloth diapers, you can get lost in the interwebs for a few years, I think! ¬†What ended up being the magic bullet for us was bleach. ¬†As much as I wanted to “stay natural” and use green cleaners, using bleach once in a while definitely solved all of our problems (ammonia build-up and some staining, mostly).

I do use disposables when we’re out and about, running errands, etc. ¬†Or when we haven’t kept up on laundry and we run out. ¬†I’d say we’ve had fewer blowouts with cloth diapers, but more soak-throughs (although we should probably be putting an extra insert in now that she’s older).

I’m so glad that our diaper stash will serve us all the way through toddlerhood until she’s potty trained – we have saved so much money this way!

March 6, 2013 Posted by | On the cheap, Parenting | , , , , | Leave a comment

Staging a home to sell {for FREE}

I preface this post by saying I’m no expert on staging, but after doing some “research” on the internet ¬†(and, let’s be honest, watching way too many DIY/staging shows on HGTV and TLC)¬†on the subject, here is what I could muster for getting our home ready to be on the market. ¬†Without further ado, here’s my list of (FREE) things to get your home ready to sell:

DE-CLUTTER. ¬†You want to show off your house, and not all of your junk that is taking up space in your house. ¬†The more you can clear out of the way and allow your house (meaning floors, walls, etc.) to show off, the better. ¬†Get your hands on some boxes and stash away your extraneous “stuff.”

  • Remove as many personal items as possible. ¬†This means all photos of yourself, friends and family; clear off all the magnets and other junk that’s stuck on the front of the fridge; put away your hairdryer and other toiletries in the bathroom, etc.
  • Pare down your decorative items. ¬†Put one or two somewhat generic decorative items on each shelf (put everything else away or in storage).
  • Clear off surfaces. ¬†This means putting nearly everything away that normally sits on your kitchen and/or bathroom counter. ¬†Take everything off your dining room buffet, except for perhaps one or two pretty items. ¬†You want someone to walk in and say, “Wow, look at all the countertop space!”
  • Roll up your rugs. ¬†You want to show off those hardwood floors or tiles or new carpet.
  • If you have a room that has a lot of furniture in it, consider putting some of the unnecessary furniture in storage. ¬†A room that is crammed full of too much furniture can make the room seem smaller.

CLEAN. ¬†It’s simple enough: no one likes a messy or dirty home. ¬†Putting your house on the market is a great reason to do a deep clean of every single nook and cranny that you’ve been meaning to get to. ¬†If you hate to clean, hire someone to do the job for you (and just add it to your “moving costs”). ¬†This can be the most time-consuming thing if you’re living in the house you’re trying to sell. ¬†Getting it “show-ready” every morning before you leave for work is exhausting, but worth it. ¬†After the deep clean, do the following things frequently:

  • Tidy. ¬†Simply putting everything away removes distractions from your potential buyers.
  • Organize. ¬†If you’re up for it, organize your closets & pantry, because potential buyers will peek in there.
  • Wipe down surfaces. ¬†Just be sure you do a quick wipe or dusting each day. ¬†I also try to do a quick swiffer on the floors (mostly in the bathroom because I seem to shed so much hair when I use my blowdryer every morning!).
  • Cover dirty or personal/embarrassing things. ¬†I usually throw a towel on the top of our laundry basket so potential buyers don’t have to look at our dirty underwear. ¬†I also try to empty our trash cans.

A fresh coat of paint can makes things seem really fresh and clean!  Touch up any scuffed or damaged walls with some spackle and/or paint, if necessary.    If you opt to re-paint a room, pick a neutral color.

MAKE IT COMFORTABLE and SHOW OFF.

  • We normally wouldn’t set our evaporative cooler to be running while we’re not home, but keeping our house cool while it’s over 100 degrees outside makes it more appealing to potential buyers. ¬†We want them to walk in and be surprised/relieved by how cool and comfortable it is!
  • Don’t go overboard on using strong scents in your house. ¬†It just makes people think you’re trying to hide some other (unpleasant) scent.
  • Put small signs around your house that tell potential buyers about aspects of the home that you can’t see: ¬†“New 95% efficient furnace installed in 2009.” ¬†“Xeric (water-saving) grass in the yard requires 25% less water.” ¬†Etc.
  • Make your house as light and bright as possible. ¬†Again, we would normally close all the shades when it’s so hot outside, but we’ve been leaving them open to let in as much light as possible. ¬†For an open house, you probably want to turn all your lights on. ¬†We viewed a potential house last week that had all of its window shades closed, and the whole house felt like a tiny dungeon.
  • If you’re having an open house, you can also put out a bucket of iced bottles of water and snacks. ¬†I also like to cut some fresh flowers or greenery from the yard and pop them in a vase or two.
If you have a yard (or even a patio), you may want to DECLUTTER, TIDY/CLEAN, and SHOW OFF out there, too!  So put a few of your garden gnomes in storage, wipe down your dirty patio furniture, and plant some fresh flowers.

After all this effort, you may like your house so much more that you won’t want to move anymore! ¬†=)

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Home Improvements, On the cheap | , , , , , | Leave a comment