Thursday, January 31, 2019

Rustic X Coffee Table (Take 2)

Almost 6 years ago, I built Ana White's Rustic X Coffee Table for a client.  It was a great plan, and I think it's a very attractive piece (here's my first version).  So when my son-in-law indicated a desire to "help me build something" when he and my daughter were home for Christmas, that's the project that came to mind.

I had quite a pile of good, useable "leftovers" from the vanity project, so my goal was to ONLY use what I had on hand...

what do you think??

 I had to rip some 2x6's to make 2x2's, but the top was made strictly out of the cut-offs from the vanity.

Even the lower shelf was made from recycled wood (maybe I can call it "reclaimed lumber"??).  Years ago I built I buffet to the wrong dimensions, so I had to start that project over. So I had boards just waiting for me, with pocket holes already drilled in!

 The project wasn't without it's mis-steps, but those just make for learning experiences, right??  for this plan, you cut four legs and four support pieces.  When we were assembling the carcass, I mixed them up.  So the first time we stood the table frame upright, I realized it was too narrow and too tall!

 How embarrassing, in front of my son-in-law! 

He was a darn good sport, though, even posing for a "beauty shot" when we finally got it put together the right way.
We weren't able to do the staining and top-coating work before my kids had to go home, so that was left to me to finish.  It wasn't nearly as fun without a buddy to work with!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Playing with the Pantry

I have such good intentions of posting more regularly--but apparently it's going to take a while to develop the habit!

This next project is one that was in the works for a verrrrry long time.  In our house, we have a "butler's pantry"...that is, a walk-through hall from the kitchen to the dining room.  One one side, there is a short row of cupboards, and on the other side, there is a regular pantry closet.

Years ago, I put up shelves above the cupboards and filled them with these glass jars from World Market (I was patient and got them for less than $10/each, with coupons).  I *love* how they look!  I also made the "Groceries and Crockery" sign above the jars from a piece of reclaimed wood.

I do a lot of baking!  It's one of my favorite things to do.  So the butler's pantry is my unofficial "baking center," since that's where I keep the mixer and my staples like flour, sugar, and chocolate chips!  But when I say I do a LOT of baking, I'm not kidding...when all my kids are home, I make about 6 loaves of bread a week--that's at least 12 cups of flour, and my pretty glass canister only holds about that much.

To save emptying and refilling my glass jars quite so often, I would generally just bring in one of these beasties from the garage.  They hold 25 lbs of flour (or sugar, or whatever), and the wide opening was convenient to use.  But they're not that pretty to look at.  And in all honesty--often they just tended to live in the pantry for days on end, rather that moving in and out and in and out over and over again.

So you can imagine that when I came across this style of bin, I was intrigued.   Marketed for pet food, I could find no reason it wouldn't work just as well for food staples.  They are food-grade and have a sealing lid to keep out bugs.  I thought how convenient it would be to just store these IN the pantry, and I could roll them out whenever I needed a lot of flour or sugar. 

There was just one problem:  They didn't fit in my pantry.

So this is the "before" of my pantry.  It had four 22" deep Rubbermaid shelves.  The bottom shelf, unfortunately, was not tall enough to put the wheeled container under, or the orange-lidded bins I had been using.  But since I wasn't crazy about the Rubbermaid shelves anyway, I figured it was high time for a pantry makeover!

I was inspired by the pantry re-design of Lucy Designs.   She ditched her wire shelving and built wrap-around shelving instead.  I only had just over 7" of room on each side wall, but I carefully calculated out areas, and I determined that five narrower, wrap-around shelves would actually give me more surface area than my five deep Rubbermaid shelves, with the added bonus of being able to use the floor space the way I wanted to.

All that took me MONTHS to get started.  I ordered three of the pet-food bins in January 2018.  I finally re-did my pantry the week before Thanksgiving 2018.  So for 11 months, the bins sat stacked in a corner of my dining room!

First step was obviously to clear everything out.  Taking out the Rubbermaid shelves is reasonably easy (usually).  You can see how they are specially designed clips all along the back edge.  A flat-head screwdriver helps to open those up, and then the shelf pretty much lifts free.  All of those clips are attached with drywall anchors, though, so a combination of a screwdriver and a pair of pliers are often needed to get those out.

Next I put up rails for my five shelves.  I marked all the studs and screwed them in where studs were.  I started on the left and worked counterclockwise around the closet.

For the rails I bought pre-primed 1x2 MDF boards.  For the shelves I bought a single sheet of 3/4" thick MDF and cut it down to the sizes I needed.

I don't have pictures of the next phase, but it involved a lot of cutting and fiddling and adjusting!  The shelves along the back wall were cut the full width of the closet.  This way they were supported on three sides, which makes sense since they will be the ones supporting the most weight.  In my closet, the bottom two shelves are 16" deep and the top three are 12" deep.

The side shelves are 7 " deep.  They are supported on their back sides (the sides of the closet) and one end with rails, and then I used a mending brace to attach them to the wide back shelves.

Those narrow side shelves also had to be notched out to fit around the door molding on the inside of the closet.  If I hadn't done that, they would have had to have been even narrower than 7", I wasn't willing to do that.

After that it was caulk...and caulk...and more caulk!  Then paint...and paint...and more paint!  I had primed my shelving boards before installing them, but in some ways it was just easier to finish up once they were installed.  I ran out of space to dry boards in my garage, and it was cold enough that they didn't dry very fast anyway!

I was thrilled with how it looked, and sent pictures to all my relatives ;-)  I let everything dry for about 48 hours before moving all my dry goods into their newly improved home...


I put just as much stuff on my narrower shelves, but it's SO much easier to see and find things!  I love love love that.

I did purchase about three new glass jars to hold my collection of chocolate chips...milk, mini semisweet, bittersweet, white chocolate, and peanut butter!  Mmmmm.....

And my favorite part...bins of flour, sugar, and rice slide neatly under the bottom shelf!


 With holiday baking, I probably went through 75-100 lbs of flour...but with only a few trips to the garage, and my baking area stayed neat!

And my best guess is that the pantry makeover came in right around $100, and that's including the few new containers I bought.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Back to Building! Vanity project

It has been a long, long time since I built anything other than shelves...and although there were a few hiccups along the way, it felt GOOD!

Here is my latest project:

And please excuse the cell-phone photos--it's all I got before it went to it's new home! 

You may be wondering why this is titled as a "vanity."  Well, that's what this piece will be when it finally grows up all the way!  But it's not for MY home, so the final drilling and installing hasn't happened  yet.

FIVE years ago...I can't believe it's been that long...I built the Grand Truss table and benches for a client, followed by the Grand Rustic-X buffet.  This spring she contacted me to ask if I was still building, and if so...would I be interested in building a vanity for her??

This is the inspiration photo she sent me.  Isn't it gorgeous?? I love the top-mount sink and that gorgeous tile wall!  And barn doors---oh, how I've wanted to do something with a barn door! 

I warned her up front that I had NOT built anything with barn door before, but I was willing to try if she was willing to take a risk on me!

Thankfully she was also very flexible on timing.  My spring/summer/early fall were all crazy!  So this project got delayed until the second half of October, and I spent two weeks living in the garage until it was done.

The barn door hardware is the SmartStandard barn door hardware kit from Amazon.  Yes, there are lots of DIY hardware tutorials out there...but this kit matched the look of the inspiration piece SO well.  The only issue was that it was made for 60" and the client wanted the vanity to be 50" it did require some hardware surgery.

Did you catch the fact that I only had a PICTURE to go off of to build this piece??   A picture, a length, and a depth.  That was the sum total of my instructions. 

I sketched out the barest details (thank goodness it was a simple design), plugged in some measurements and constructed a basic cut list.  Ordered the hardware and away I went!

The frame was a simple box, mainly made out of stock 2x4s.  Based on the inspiration photo, the shelves sit on top of the horizontal supports between the legs (see right), but I trimmed them with 2x2s.  You can see how they sit above the level of the shelf supports.

It gives the impression that the shelves are notched out to fit around the legs, but they are really separate pieces.  I cut down 2x6 lumber to make the shelves--both to get rid of the rounded edges and get the width that I needed.  I did the same thing to make the countertop, and the boards are all held together with pocket holes.

Pictures are a little few and far between.  October days in a garage in the Pacific Northwest are not the best photo-ops.  I worked on applying the finish, and had to sand down the whole top and start again with stain about twice.  Despite applying pre-stain conditioner, the stain didn't want to "take" evenly.

I was pretty nervous about putting the barn door hardware all together.  It's VERY bulky, and I was worried about it clearing the countertop just right (it did), but when I hung the doors--I encountered another problem.

When I hung the doors AT THE MEASUREMENTS SPECIFIED in the instructions...There was about an inch gap between the frame and the doors.  It bugged me.  A lot!!  I ended up putting a second trim piece behind the doors to hide the gap.  In the end--it will probably be for the best, as it will help hide pipes under the sink.

You can see they look much better (no gap!) on the finished product.

I had to play a little bit with staging, since I don't have a sink to put on top of it....

And I apologize again for bad pictures and bad lighting (not that I could do much about that one).

I'm anxious for my client to finish her bathroom so I can see what it will look like in her space!  Although I do think it also makes a nice console...entertainment center...buffet...whatever!

But I think it turned out pretty close to the inspiration photo, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

First Impression: Real Estate Photography

It's no secret that in the age of websites and apps and YouTube videos, potential buyers will be previewing homes on the Internet before they ever set foot in a home.   Their First Impression is going to be shaped by the photographs...and so hiring a talented, professional real estate photographer can make all the difference in your bottom line: the money in your pocket and time on your side.

Pineview Lodge, photograph by Kirk Bergman Photography
Last month my extended family gathered for a reunion in beautiful Hamilton, Montana.  This is where I grew up, and I think it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth!  Some of us gathered at Pineview Lodge for the second time, and we also spilled over into some of our families' local homes.
Pineview Lodge, photograph by Kirk Bergman Photography

My nephew, who IS a talented, professional real estate photographer (Kirk Bergman Photography, based out of Utah) took the marketing photos for Pineview Lodge (above) a couple of years ago.  This year he had a commission to photograph another vacation rental property not too far away.  He invited me to come along to see what goes in to capturing the beauty and emotion of a home that makes a potential buyer want that one over all others.   

This property is Preacher's Cabin in Florence, Montana.
Preacher's Cabin, photograph by Kirk Bergman Photography

Screened porch.  My photo!
It's interesting to see the difference between a photo shot on my iPhone 6s compared to one professionally staged, composed, and edited to show off the best features of a home!

Which room would you rather take your hot chocolate to in the morning?
Screened porch.  Photo by Kirk Bergman Photography

 Getting ready to take the shot.  I must say the finished photo looks much more cozy and inviting.
Bedroom.  Photo by Kirk Bergman Photography.

 It was fun to see how Kirk tried different angles and checked lighting.  But mostly I appreciated how he looked for distracting elements and had me, his temporary go-fer, move things out of sight.  He didn't ignore crooked drapes, remote controls, too many tchotchkes, or dim spaces, but made changes that enhanced the feel of the room. 

 What a beautiful space!  Can't you imagine yourself enjoying the view, or relaxing by the fire on a chilly evening?
Preacher's Cabin, photograph by Kirk Bergman Photography

The outdoor sitting area, photographed at eye level rather than from a downward-looking angle, captures the peaceful feeling of the outdoor space. 

Preacher's Cabin, photo by Kirk Bergman Photography

If you look inside that red circle very closely, you might be able to see the drone in the sky.  Another feature of professional photographers is that they have the fun tools needed to get the great shots!  Kirk brought his drone to capture some outstanding aerials that gave an idea of the grand scenery that is there to enjoy.

Preacher's Cabin, photo by Kirk Bergman Photography

Preacher's Cabin, photo by Kirk Bergman Photography

It really does look like the perfect spot to enjoy a Montana cabin vacation!


I really do have a strong belief in the value of good real estate photography.  Back in 2012, our family lived in Utah.  I was running a side business of refurbishing furniture, and our two-car garage wasn't handling the extra demands very well!  We put our house on the market and looked for something a little bigger.  We hired an agent to market our home, and he sent over a photographer.  I remember looking at the published photos and being horrified....the photographer had taken a picture of the bathroom with an open toilet seat!  That was the worst of the photography faux pas, but the rest of the photographs were pretty uninspiring as well.  I was disappointed in the photographer and our agent.  Is it any wonder that after two months and one low-ball offer, we decided to take our house off the market??

Fast forward about eight husband accepted a new job in Seattle, and this time we had to sell our house.  We hired a different real estate agent, and this time the photographer did an outstanding job of capturing the colors and emotion of our pretty house!  It sold after six days on the market.

So...I'm a believer!

When selling the most expensive thing you own (your home!), your goal is to make sure everyone who sees it knows just how special it is!  A good agent...and a good photographer...are key to making that goal a reality.


My thanks to Kirk Bergman Photography for allowing me to tag along on this photo shoot.