Category Archives: decorating

The Easy $13 DIY Laundry Shelf

Easy $13 DIY Shelf from This American House

Following up on the upcycled vintage hooks, I wrapped up another easy DIY project that had been sitting on the back burner for a number of months. We needed a simple shelf to hold laundry supplies at the city apartment and having worked with plumbing pipes and cheap wood once before, I knew it would be an effective solution for this problem spot too. And that’s how I created the $13 DIY shelf.

As you can see in the image above, this shelf came together with just a few supplies. Here’s what I used:

1 piece of wood, stained – I found a two by four in our garage and cut it down to size before staining it.
2 – 1/2″ plumbing pipes – I used 6″ long pipes
2 – 1/2″ pipe flanges
2 – 1/2″ pipe end caps
8 black screws

First, I cut the piece of wood down to size. The wall where I wanted to install the shelf is 24″ wide so I cut the wood down to 18″ in length. Once it was cut, I used the same wood stain that I had used on the backing for the vintage hooks.

(Sidebar: Can I tell you how excited I am that I’m starting to collect things like spare pieces of wood? All our years as city dwellers have meant that we haven’t had any sort of storage where it would make sense to hang on to things like pieces of wood. Now, with a big old house, basement, garage AND carriage house, I find myself collecting every little piece of wood and loose screw I come across. It’s a slippery slope from here to being a full on hoarder.)

DIY Pipe and Wood Shelf on This American House

With the wood cut and stained, it was simply a matter of hanging the shelf. First, I assembled the end cap, pipe and flange. Then, I measured and marked where I wanted to place the shelf. Next, I measured and marked where the flanges would need to be placed on the wall. Since this is a chalkboard wall, I was able to mark the wall with a piece of chalk and then use a ruler and a level to make sure my placement was straight.

Once the flanges had been secured to the wall, I basically had shelf brackets! The final step was to place the piece of wood on top of the pipe. Well, actually, the final step was to place laundry supplies in big jars and then draw all over the wall. But the final step in creating the shelving was placing the wood on top of the pipes.

Preserving Packaging: How I Made These Vintage Hooks Functional While Restoring Their Charm

Vintage Hook DIY Project from This American House

From the moment I saw these vintage utility hooks – with their kitschy packaging still intact! – I knew that I would have to somehow upcycle the whole thing. I mean, you can’t find something that’s over 50 years old and still includes the packaging and not try to save it, right?

I don’t know when this “Hold All” All Purpose Utility Hanger was made. Judging by the drawings on the packaging, I’m assuming the early 1960’s. And I don’t know why the price is marked as $69. Surely this little metal track with sliding hooks didn’t cost $69 back in the ’60s! I only paid a couple bucks for it, an amount that I can’t imagine is much more than its value when it was new.

At any rate, I love that kitschy packaging. “Teach Junior how to hang things in place,” it says next to a drawing of a boy lining up his rather dapper wardrobe on the back of a door. “Use it throughout your home and garage,” it suggests alongside images of kitchen utensils and bathroom items. And don’t even get me started on the color palette. Brown and yellow – oh yes!

After sitting on the workshop table for months, I finally concocted a way to use the hooks and the packaging while still keeping the hooks’ functionality.

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Before & After: A Mini Makeover for the Kitchen

Kitchen upgrade at the Delbert Meier House

While most people spend the week before Thanksgiving finalizing menus and trying to think of conversation starters for certain relatives with opposing political views, we spent last week overhauling half of our kitchen. Oh, we still found the time to roast a bird and whip up a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, but we prepared our feast in a kitchen that was getting a mini-makeover.

After: Refreshed Kitchen at This American House

It’s fitting that we should finally tackle the kitchen mini-renovation the week before Thanksgiving. It was during the same week in 2013 that we became the owners of the house and stood in the kitchen making our plans. As I looked around at the thirtysomething-year-old dark cabinets and the countertops that the previous owners had painted silver (and quite sloppily, I might add) I declared that the kitchen would need a slight facelift. We’ll just paint the cabinets, I said, and switch out the countertops.

So why did it take us three years to finally follow through? Well along the way we’ve vacillated between moving forward with the mini reno and committing to a full rehab. I’ve always wanted to design to my own kitchen and we had plans to reclaim some of the kitchen’s vintage elements. So we stalled on the kitchen decision while we dreamed of all the things we could do.

And then the refrigerator started leaking. Then the oven died. We couldn’t keep holding out on buying new appliances but we’re still not ready to completely renovate. A facelift it is!

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I basically stuck with the vision that had come to me during that first weekend of ownership back in 2013 – white cabinets with a butcher block countertop. I knew that I wanted to replace the existing black appliances with new white ones so that helped confirm the design choices for the kitchen. So, here’s how we did it.

First, we removed all the doors and drawers from the cabinets. I then lightly sanded the cabinet frames. Honestly, I probably could have sanded the frames a little better. But good God the dust! In my kitchen! A light sanding was all I could muster. Since I was able to take the doors and drawers to the garage, I did sand them more meticulously.

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After the cabinets were lightly sanded and then washed, I applied a coat of fast drying primer using a small foam roller and small paintbrush. I let the primer dry for a few hours and then applied the first coat of white satin finish paint.

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Again, I used a roller as much as as I could on the frames, supplementing with a brush when I couldn’t get the roller into tighter spaces. After two coats of paint and allowing plenty of drying time, I applied a top coat of polyurethane (also in a satin finish). This poly will help protect the paint, make it easier to clean (this is a kitchen after all) and help prevent chips.

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You’ll note that I left the old countertop in place while I painted the frames, doors and drawers. It’s a small kitchen and I needed that countertop as a work surface. Also, I wanted to get the new fridge in place before I made the final cut on the new countertop.

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Removing the old countertop was easy. Since we’re replacing the old formica with a butcher block top that doesn’t have a backsplash, we did have to do a bit of patching to the wall, which we were planning on painting anyway.

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The old formica extended about two inches beyond the cabinetry, creating a space between the fridge and the cabinets. I was hoping to achieve a tighter look (and prevent repeating the little dust tunnel that drives me crazy). So once the new fridge was in place (ain’t it a beaut?!) I made the final measurements and cut the butcher block to size.

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Once the countertop was in and the doors and drawers were re-installed, the only thing left was the hardware. I actually ended up finding new drawer pulls that mimic the design of the fridge handles on Amazon. I also picked up some coordinating satin nickel knobs and hinges.

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The painted cabinets and white refrigerator definitely brighten up the kitchen. And I’m so happy to be rid of that painted countertop.

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While we’d still like to completely renovate the kitchen, this mini makeover makes it a more livable space. And I’m definitely in love with the new refrigerator! So clean and new and stylish!

So now that we have this half of the kitchen finished, we’ll have to tackle the rest of the room. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take us three years to get to that, too.

American Standard “Clean” Toilet: The Throne to Own

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You know you’ve reached middle age when you get excited about a toilet. Although, really, can you name another fixture in your home that you have such an intimate relationship with?

In the past six months we’ve purchased two toilets: one for the bathroom in the city apartment and one for the bathroom here at the house. The toilet for the city apartment was a total duress purchase. The toilet that had been installed during the building’s gut rehab in 2006 had been causing trouble for a few years. We really shouldn’t have been surprised when we learned that the cause of a leak into our downstairs neighbor’s bathroom was coming from the toilet. And I guess we weren’t really surprised … but we weren’t really prepared to buy a new toilet either.

I wasn’t completely uneducated about toilets, mind you. Over the years I’ve written about toilets here and there. In doing research for those posts I identified three things that I wanted in our new toilet: concealed trap way, easy flushing and comfort height.

The thing about a duress purchase is that you have to make your purchase quickly, which means you’re at the mercy of what’s in stock at hardware stores. That basically eliminated the toilets on my Which Throne Will We Own  list. But then in a moment of porcelain serendipity, Lowe’s came through with a toilet that fits all of my criteria – and also happened to be under $300.

American Standard Clean Toilet at Lowes

The American Standard “Clean” High Efficiency Elongated Toilet has styling that rivals the more expensive Toto toilets but at a fraction of the cost. As you can see in the photo above that I sent to The Mister when I bought the toilet, the Clean toilet came in well under $300. The concealed trapway and small tank look great in our small apartment bathroom. But perhaps even more importantly, this high efficiency toilet (1.28 gpf) packs a powerful flush! My experience with other high efficiency toilets has been that they require multiple flushes – thereby negating any water savings. The American Standard Clean toilet has a strong flushing system that rarely requires a second flush.New American Standard Clean Toilet

In fact, we’re so pleased with the toilet that we purchased for the apartment under duress that we bought the same toilet for the house.

DISCLOSURE: This is an honest review of our experience with the American Standard Clean Toilet. This American House was not compensation for this post. We may receive ad revenue from embedded Amazon clicks. 


Use Everything: DIY Dried Vine Wreath

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This house has awakened in me a desire to live more simply and responsibly. I’ve developed a bit of a use everything mentality. It’s partly because, unlike our life in the city, I have extra space here at the house that allows me to hang on to things until I can make use of them. We can barely fit our clothes into the closets in the apartment. I’m certainly not going to waste precious space on old plastic containers and other odds and ends. So whereas back in the city I’d throw a plastic container that once contained feta into the recycling bin, I’m much more likely to hang on to it here at the house. (And, by the way, those feta containers have proven to be very effective vessels for paint and stripper!)

Our first fall here at the house I trimmed some of the vines off the carriage house. I didn’t know what I’d do with those vines but it seemed a shame to throw them on the fire pit. Instead, I placed the vines on a hook in the garage and let them dry. Later that winter I made a small wreath by weaving the dried vines together. That wreath now hangs on the front door of our apartment in the city. Just a little piece of the house that welcomes us back to our city home.

Every time I’ve cut back the vines since then, I’ve saved the pieces on a hook in the garage. I’ve amassed quite a stack of vines at this point. And so on the night before my birthday I sat outside and weaved together a large wreath. I found a metal form from a Christmas wreath that we bought from a roadside stand a few years ago (Look at that – recycling again!) to use a base and then wrapped, wrapped, wrapped until I had a big, ol’ wreath.

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It’s silly, I know. I mean, like the world really needs another wreath, right? I really could have just thrown those old vines on the fire pit and no one would have cared. Except for the joy that I felt in the hour or two that I spent making that wreath! It was literally joy, folks. Joie de vivre! As I sat outside on a starry moonlit night and wrapped those vines around in a circle, I had a giant smile on my face. (OK, maybe the drinks that were sloshing around in me didn’t hurt.) There I was: working with my hands, turning trash into treasure and satisfying my eternal desire to make things prettier. Nothing could me happier!

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I was originally making the wreath to hang on the fence at Christmastime. But we’ve recently had the fence repainted (more on that later!) so the vine wreath would get totally lost. Now I’m thinking the wreath will hang on the fireplace when it’s finally finished. The vines look great against the gray bricks.