Category Archives: DIY

A Change of Plans for the Bathroom Project

In the immortal words of Joan Crawford (as portrayed by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest): This ain’t my first time at the (DIY) rodeo. And as such I’m quite accustomed to getting halfway through a project and starting to have some serious doubts about how it’s going to turn out. Usually I shrug off the doubts, forge ahead and by the time I’m nearing the project’s finish line I can see that it’s going to come together after all. As I was painting the bathroom vanity last weekend I had one of those doubtful moments. Only this time it’s stopping me in my tracks and urging me to change directions.

After painting the trim and patching and painting the walls, my plan had been to make over the vanity and call it a day. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the time and expense of replacing the vanity because that would also mean replacing the flooring and trying to match and replace the baseboard trim. So I won’t get the bathroom that I want, I said to myself, but I will get a bathroom that’s presentable.

Well, fuck that. By the time I had painted the vanity and was stepping back to survey how the project was coming together I decided that this is no time to settle. I want new flooring and I want a new vanity and, dammit, I’m going to get them! Sure, it means that I’ll have to have the plumber come to the house and remove the toilet that he just installed over the summer. And, yeah, it’s going to be a real hassle to try to match the baseboard that’s missing where the current vanity sits. But won’t it be worth it!

And so we’re back to square one with the bathroom. I’m finalizing my designs this week and hope to start the new project next weekend. In the meantime I’ll be watching hundreds of YouTube videos about installing ceramic tile. Here’s to getting what we want in life!

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

In taking a year to rehab the kitchen in fits and starts I ended up experimenting with my approach to painting the cabinets. By the time I got to the second half of the job, I had perfected my method. And now that we’ve lived with the painted cabinets for a few months, I’m proud to say that my method worked! The painted cabinets are holding up nicely and are easy to clean. In other words, my trial and error is your guide to doing it right the first time.

When I first started the project, I used my Craftsman Nextec tool to sand the doors and drawer fronts before applying primer and paint. That was a messy and time consuming job that I thought was necessary to get good paint coverage. I soon realized I was making more work for myself than was necessary. So without further adieu, here’s the method for painting the cabinets that I finally landed on.

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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.

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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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.