Monday, November 28, 2011

In which I make a really simple table

Ages and ages ago, back when we were still apartment dwellers without any tools or space, I saw this DIY reclaimed wood bench online and fell in love. It had to be mine someday. Not this one specifically, but an awesome reclaimed wood bench with industrial-style metal legs. 

Fast forward a few years, and we were in need of a sofa table. Due to our somewhat awkward living room setup, there's not really room for a coffee table. My DIY side tables work pretty well, but I've wanted a sofa table behind the back of our sofa to get some good use out of that area.  We had our old coffee table chillin' behind the couch until we sold it on craigslist, but it looked terrible and was totally the wrong size.

Awkward, right?

So, what better solution than to DIY a sofa table version of my beloved reclaimed wood bench? 

This table was freakishly easy. Ok, maybe not entirely, but the concept at least. 

First, I sent Sean to buy a huge stab of re-claimed pine at E&K Vintage Wood, here in LA.  And I can't say it was cheap.  I nearly had a heart attack when Sean told me the price, but he assured me it was a beautiful piece of wood (that's what she said).  It's got lots of really quaint imperfections, that scream "I was expensive and not purchased at Home Depot."

The damage was $17/foot for a slab of 2x10x13 Oak, but they only sell in the sizes they have in stock, so we bought 13 linear feet.  So we paid $221 for a piece of old wood.  I know, I know, we're stupid yuppies, but what are we going to do, we live in LA and we can't exactly drive on down to grandpappy's old barn to grab some beautiful reclaimed wood.  They cut it for us into 3 pieces - 1 5-foot or so piece for the console table, and 2 other pieces to sit in the garage until we figure out a use for them.

Then, it was as simple as ordering 4 legs online at to complete the materials phase. 

The hardest part of this really simple project was sanding down the wood. It was in pretty rough shape, so it took an hour or two with varying grits of sandpaper to get a nice, smooth finish.  During which time I'm sure my neighbors cursed me for using my small but incredibly noisy hand sander outside on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon.  Take that, tuba player in the apartment complex next door.  Anyway, I haven't yet put any finish on the wood itself, which I should probably do at some point.  I'm just not sure what. 

Back to the table building tutorial.  Um, then I screwed the legs in.  It was really that simple. 

Here's a picture: 

...but if you need step-by-step instructions for probably shouldn't be operating power tools. 

So, now we have a table.

The total cost was $100-somethingish if you only count 1/3 of the wood cost, so it definitely could have been cheaper.  But still a decent price compared to some fancy store bought industrial-type consoles I was looking at (see here and here).

Oh, the cool box?  I'm glad you asked.

I bought it at the same time I bought my bar cart at Magnolia and Willow.  They had a bunch of these cool old tool boxes that I promptly fell in love with and bought several of.  I think this one was $15, or something.  It was kind of grungy, and I'm sure some old gruff mechanic was rolling in his grave as I cleaned out his oil-stained tool box with eco-friendly citrus cleaner so I could use it as a decorative accent.  Whatever, dude, I like it.  I kind of like having it on display, and I use it to store dog toys and other random junk I want to hide from company.

That's it for the latest living room update.  I'm digging it.  I was worried the decor was becoming a little too modern with my Crate and Barrel media stand and the new West Elm chairs, so I'm trying to bring it back old school with some more vintage-y type things.  

Kitchen Update: Part III

Ok, it's the moment you've all been waiting for! Yep, all 3 of you.

At long last, our mini kitchen re-do came to a close. Putting the cabinets back up and installing the hardware was almost as horrible as taking them down. In all honestly, I am very impatient and often have poor attention to detail when it comes to home projects, and so the detail work on these cabinets was not fun. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to screw the self-closing hinges into the wall correctly. And a few of the handles are unquestionably crooked. And some of the doors don't line up so they don't close properly.

But, it's done! Horray! I told myself that I may fix some of the above problems sometime in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.

And so, the after photos. I'm sticking them side by side with the before photos from (sort of) similar angles so you can really be amazed by my handiwork.  I'm actually not pleased with how these "after" photos turned out, the lighting was funny and such, but I really don't feel like re-taking them.  Sorry guys.

I reallllly like how the wall paint turned out.  It's the darkest I've ever painted a room, but I think it works with the white cabinets and stainless steel.

Notice the lack of gross grease stain on the ceiling?  Hours of scrubbing.  Not even exaggerating. 

The off-white microwave looks pretty bad next to the shiny white cabinets.  We're casually looking at a  new stainless steel one, but it seems a little extravagant since the white one works just fine.  

Ok so that bottom cabinet is a little crooked and I didn't close it all the way.  Oops.

I have since hung curtains.  I should probably update more so my posts aren't immediately outdated.

Our Miele dishwasher has a removable cover thing that we could replace for a stainless steel one, but I think it looks fine just painted white. 

Gross story - we thought the glass on this light was off-white.  Nope.  It's white.  It was just horribly dirty.  Also don't love this light fixture, but it's fine for now.

Close up of the paint and tile matching.  I like it.

So, that's it for the mini kitchen update.  It's still not perfect, but the total cost was only about $150 for cabinet hardware and paint (and a good chunk of my sanity).  The result is SO MUCH better than the kitchen we moved in to, and so if we don't get around to a full kitchen reno soon (or ever), I think we're both OK with that.

In the meantime, I've slowly been accessorizing and trying not to go too crazy with turquoise theme - you can see some of my wish list at

That's all for tonight - I hope you like the (sort of) new kitchen as much as we do!

Kitchen Update: Part II

Last I left you, I shared some scary "before" photos of our kitchen.

As I said, a dream motivated me to get going on the updates.  And I guess Sean didn't have a similar dream, because he wasn't completely behind me on this one.  He thought that we should just live with the new kitchen until we save up for a full renovation.  So, I was mostly on my own for this project.  Which was fine.  Except for the parts that I cried.  But other than that, totally fine. 

I won't go into the cabinet handle and hinge selection process, because it was an amazingly long and hideously boring process.  The executive summary is that we paid about $64 for all the handles at Kitchen Cabinet Hardware, and about $53 for the hinges at Home Depot.  Just know that there was a near mental breakdown on my part involving driving around LA looking for the right hinges, only to end up using the ones we bought at Home Depot to begin with.

Anyway, after we picked out all the hardware, I got to the fun part - cabinet dis-assembly:

That's a lie.  It was fun for about a minute, after which it started hardcore sucking for the entire weekend.

Step one was to remove all the cabinet doors, and take off the old, rusted hinges.  This went kind of terribly, because a bunch of the screws holding in the hinges were so old that they just snapped off half way or totally stripped.  So I ended up having to drill out the centers of a bunch of screws just to pry the hinges off.  So.  Much.  Fun.

 Bag o' hinges

Pile o' doors

At least it was a nice weekend, so I did as much of the work as I could outdoors.

I also removed all the old handles and saved them in a zip lock bag...I'm not sure why.  I have no idea where that bag is now.

Then came the sanding.  This was almost definitely the worst part.  First I had to fill in all the old cabinet holes with wood filler (since we were putting on a whole new type of handle, the old holes wouldn't line up) and wait for that to dry.  That part wasn't too bad I guess.

The bad part was sanding the surfaces smooth.  Since the horrible yellowy brown paint of death had a texture to it, I wanted to sand it as smooth as possible before adding my white paint.  This took absolutely forever and was horribly messy and loud and everything else bad.  

I used a combo of my Black & Decker sander and a hand sander, and it was really atrocious.  We have 8 tall cabinet doors, 10 short cabinet doors, 8 wide drawers, and 2 small drawers.  That's 28 surfaces that needed to be sanded.  By yours truly.  This took a good chunk of a day, and it was pretty miserable.  By the end I was super achey and sore from hunching over cabinet surfaces sanding for hours on end.  There's not really many pictures of this step because I tend not to take pictures when I'm miserable.  I was honestly ready to give up the project at this point, if not for the fact that our entire kitchen was dis-assembled.

Cabinet doors, waiting to be sanded.

Then it was on to priming.  I bought a gallon of Kilz primer for about $19.  I can't remember if it was oil based or water based.  All I remember is that I accidentally bought the opposite of what I was supposed to.  So, if it was supposed to be oil based, I bought the water based.  Or vice versa.

I covered all the outdoor furniture with plastic drop cloth and started priming the surfaces outside.  It wasn't until I started painting that I realized for the first time how many leaves randomly rain down from the sky in our back yard.  Crazy leaf action.  I soon realized that unless I wanted some kind of leaf-effect cabinets, I should move the operation indoors.  Boo.

As you can hopefully see, it was pretty exciting how much better the cabinets looked after just a coat of primer.  I think this was probably the only thing that kept me going.

Since the leaf conspiracy thwarted my plans for outdoor painting, I covered the floor of the guest house (which was luckily unoccupied) with a plastic drop cloth and moved the whole operation indoors.  The cabinet doors and drawers really covered almost every inch of the guest house floor, so I left myself aisles and just scooted around on my butt from door to door painting.

As far as painting technique, I played around a bit to see what would get me the smoothest finish.  I ended up using a paintbrush first to tackle the corners and molding, then used a small foam roller for the flat surfaces, and to smooth out any brush marks I could.  I used this technique for all my layers and it came out well, if I say so myself.

Our paint search led me all the way to our garage, where we have a stockpile of Fresh Aire paint in off-the-shelf white that we bought on clearance for $5 at Home Depot.  I'm positive this was not the best brand of paint to use and I probably could have researched something better.  But it was $5.  And we have a ton of it.  So on went 2 coats of Fresh Aire in semi-gloss over the top of the primer.

Then we just waited for the paint to dry.  Super exciting.  I think we waited about a full week.  A few days probably would have been fine, but I think I needed a week off from painting for my sanity.

In the meantime, Sean decided he wanted to help, so I asked him nicely to sand and paint the cabinet boxes for me, because I really didn't want to use the sander again for a good long while.

I'm sharing these photos because it cracks me up how Sean taped up the dropcloth to block dust from coming out of the kitchen.  Really?  I feel like a few long pieces of tape would work better than 40 short ones, but hey, that's just me.

I should probably mention that smart people probably would have tested their ancient kitchen cabinets for lead paint BEFORE sanding them down.  Somehow this thought didn't occur to me, and I only started panicking about possible lead poisoning after I'd spent a good part of the weekend inhaling paint dust.  So, I ordered a fancy lead paint test kit on Amazon, which I think arrived after the kitchen was almost done, and we discovered that the paint does not contain lead.  At least according to the $10 kit I bought.  Yay!

This is what our kitchen looked like post-cabinet box painting/pre-kitchen wall painting/pre-cabinet rehanging.

I have a really random assortment of photos from the kitchen update.  Here's some paint swatches!  I decided to go crazy with the kitchen since the cabinets are so white, and paint the walls a color that wasn't beige.  Ooooh!

I wanted a paint color that would tie in with the stripe of teal on the wall that I absolutely hate, so it would look like we actually planned everything...instead of the reality that we're too cheap to tear out all the tile so we're just working around it.

Stay tuned for some damn sexy kitchen pictures, coming sort of soonish or whenever this case I'm working on decides to stop destroying my life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kitchen Update: Part I

It's no secret that one of my least favorite parts of this house was is the kitchen.  It wasn't horrible (especially considering some of the kitchens we saw about weird smells), but the paint job was just atrocious and it had obviously not seen a lot of love with the previous owners.  It's actually a decent size, but the layout is awkward and I don't like how it opens right through to the laundry room.

We've been going back and forth with what to do with the kitchen.  Down the road, we'd love to do a total kitchen renovation - new cabinets, counter tops, blow out some walls and close off others - the works.  However, given that this kind of reno is way outside our scope of expertise, it's not going to come cheap.  We've very conscious of the volatile housing market (we bought our house for $245,000 LESS than it sold for at the beginning of 2007), and we're almost certain this is not our "forever" home, so we're constantly weighing how much money we want to put into particular projects. 

We realize it's important to love the house we're living in, but it's also important for us to not spend all of our money on renovations that may amount to a sunken cost.  Given that the kitchen is functional as-is, we have to really make sure we're going to get at least a partial return our investment before we blow a few months salary on a full kitchen renovation.

That said, in the first 6 months or so we lived here, we've been toying with the idea of doing a kitchen face lift - new cabinet hardware, a coat of paint, and some easy fixes.  We already got a shiny new faucet when the old one crapped out on me during some late night painting during our first few weeks of home-ownership, so that was already $450 down the drain in spiffing up the kitchen - although I must admit, the new faucet looks MUCH better.

I sound like a crazy person, but one night in July I had a dream that we re-finished the kitchen cabinets, and it convinced me to move forward.  Somehow a dream was all I needed to kick my butt into gear and get moving. 

I'm going to be blogging about the kitchen facelift among a few posts since there's a lot of pictures, so I thought I'd start with the obvious - before pictures:

I'm not sure if these cabinets are original to the house, but they're pretty old.  And, the previous owners decided to paint them with a horrifyingly ugly paint treatment.  Thanks guys.  I tell people this and they never believe me from the pictures - but the paint was BAD.  It made me never want to go in the kitchen - I seriously didn't cook a meal in this kitchen for the first few months we lived here.  Oops.


The glass knobs were also just really not my style.  Plus they were super dingy.  Yuck.

We bought the fridge, which we love, at a great discount before we moved in, but it looks just a little out of place in the otherwise icky kitchen.  

The tile floors actually seem pretty new, so I don't even want to imagine what the floor looked like before that.  The tiles aren't totally my style, but they've decent.  Oh, and if you want to be really grossed out, shortly after this photo was taken I realized the floor grout isn't actually black, it's light brown.  It was that dirty.

The old hinges were just BAD.  Super rusty and half of them were bent so the cabinets didn't close properly.

Can you sense the hideousness of the paint??  Can you??

See the new faucet?  Fancy pants.  Also, you can totally tell that we put NO effort into this kitchen.  Thus the mismatched plant pots and crap all over the counters.


The over the range microwave doesn't vent properly, so you can sort of see the giant grease stain on the ceiling.  Seriously so gross.  The old owners I guess liked to cook with lots and lots of oil, and there were greasy drips all over the cabinets that took several hours of scrubbing by yours truly.  And see that bottom right cabinet?  The hinge was f-ed so it just refused to close.  Great for my OCD.

That's it for the "before" photos.  I'll be back soon with the progress and stunningly beautiful and life changing (this may be an exaggeration) after photos.