Thursday, October 20, 2016

Plumbing and camping.

So let me take you back to August, I have just flown in and was faced with a house that still needed huge amounts of work and was in part a construction zone.  However we had to be able to live there (at least for the month that I was in town!)  So on my first afternoon home alone (the babe was at work) I tackled the sink problem.  
This was my first ever plumbing adventure, coming hot on the heels of my father attempting to plumb, and requiring six stitches in his right hand.
Sorry about the photos... my camera seems to have had an identity crisis...with a smoke machine?
After much cursing, cutting, twisting, and luck I was able to McGyver a connection for the little sink, using the random pipe fittings that for some reason were already scattered about in buckets and on shelves.  Originally it was not plumbed in so we couldn't use it for fear of filling the cabinet below with water! 
Honestly plumbing is gross, the pipes were mucky and slimy and had a.... smell, but the supreme sense of satisfaction I felt when it finally worked!  Like a high with no negative effects and a long lasting shine.  When we gut the kitchen I want a new, deep, single bowl sink. Matt wants a Belfast sink, it meets the requirements, so I'm good with that. 
Disclaimer: This sink (and kitchen) have since been gutted!
During the second week of August we escaped to the south for some much needed camping and sunshine in Cornwall.

Pictured: Him (he who hates to be photographed...) and Me (she who loves to be photographed, with the obvious basic disclaimer that I get to see and delete as desired.)  

Cornwall was seriously beautiful, full of hidden coves and beaches, with spectacular views around every it weird to think about retirement already?  I mean I literally just this week started my first proper, adult, full-time, job.
Yes. I'm dropping that in here like its no-big-deal, but its a huge deal, and a big relief to be honest.  So bear with me as I play catch up with my project posts because I'm finally working full time, still teaching two courses at the local community college, and of course attempting to coordinate renovation efforts from across the pond.   
I mean you didn't really expect me to slow down and enjoy the moment did you?  Nope. I need to be making messes and terrorizing nice English tradesmen with midnight e-mails about washing machine specs, apparently its how I relax.

- Nicole

Monday, October 3, 2016

DIY Padded Headboard. -Very simple!

I know I haven't posted in a while, life has been very busy with job changes and traveling, so here is a short one to get back in the groove.  
A room decor project, for the beach condo, completed this summer with some help from my sister, who I might add has been even more busy than I, starting her Ph.d program.  I'd always wanted to try diy padded headboards and used the mismatched existing headboards as an excuse.  The goal was to update them and make them match along with the other decor. 
Finished product first! Bananas for scale!
These are the headboards I started with.
I attacked this project just like I was recovering a set of chairs, using some egg-crate mattress pads and left over fabric from the sofa makeover.
We measured and cut the materials to size then stapled on.  This is where my sister Cat was a huge help, taking turns to hold the layers of padding or fabric in place and stapling (and taking photos!). We wanted a smooth front so all the material was cut large enough to reach around to the back of the headboards and was secured there out of sight.  To secure the fabric and padding we used a staple gun (pictured) and a hammer to drive them in properly.

The corners were the only tricky part, but we tried a few folding combos until we achieved a neat look.  
A few hours, and a pizza, later we were finished!
Thats it, now the headboards match and are very comfy to sit up and read against. Next time I would try tufting them by pre-drilling holes in the headboards to string covered buttons to for a more upscale look. 
- Nikki

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sofa rehab - DIY

My parent's beach condo came with a plethora of white wicker furniture and pastel floral cushions.  We are in the process of redecorating, in a neutral modern theme, so mom gave me the go ahead to try and tone down the sofa.  I couldn't make things much worse and I know they plan to replace the old couches eventually so I channeled our gray theme and experimented a bit.
I decided I would dye the cushions, since the covers are removable, and cover the rest of the fabric with something neutral from the fabric store. The first step was to remove all the cushion covers and put them through a hot wash.
I then used a handy tip from Threads Magazine ID fabrics with a burn test for determining the type of material, since the tags were long gone, I pulled some loose threads from an inside seam and held them to a lit match.  Using the handy chart which describes how different materials will react to the flame I was able to determine that the fabric was most likely cotton, rather than a synthetic.  This is important because the dye bath requires differing additives depending on the fabric type to help the dye set, in this case, salt. 
I've dyed clothing before so I felt pretty comfortable choosing black dye with the aim of reaching a dark gray.  I had over 16 lbs of fabric to dye in a stock pot on the stove (I didn't want to risk ruining the washing machine) so it took all afternoon.  
After soaking in the dye bath the covers got another wash to remove any traces of loose dye, don't want that rubbing off when we nap on it, and then I spent about an hour repairing some split seams and little holes.  They actually weren't in bad shape for their age, and we suspect they are from the 80's when the condo was built. 
The dye worked out as a dark gray, mottled over the pattern, so the pastels were toned down a bit and I'm trying to spin it as a positive... the pattern showing through means any stains will be easily disguised. 
For the parts of the sofa I couldn't remove and dye I decided to recover them, I headed to Jo-Ann fabrics with a few of the dyed covers to find a simple fabric to match.  I ended up buying 15 yards of a very plain neutral gray cotton, it was on sale too!  I rounded up on all my measurements and purchased a bit extra too, figuring that what I didn't use would go to other projects around the condo, working towards some continuity in the space.  
The back, sides, and footer portions of the sofa all had that same tropical pastel fabric which had been stapled on, I decided to run with that and just stapled my gray fabric over the original.  The large backrest section was simple, just cutting to size, pulling strait and staple to the frame underneath and out of sight.  for the sides and footer there was a bit more finagling because the fabric was originally attached before the sofas were assembled and I wasn't able to take them a part in this case.  In order to get a clean look I used a flat Spackle edge tool to wedge the edge of the fabric in to the gap very tight, and stapled where I could, I wanted to avoid visible staples as much as possible, to mimic a professional look. 
The fabric seems to be wedged tightly enough that it will stay in place, but if it does come loose I'll just wedge it back in and secure it with a line of glue.  
This project was bigger than I had expected it to be, but the result is an improvement in my opinion, not great... but better and I learned some lessons.  In the future If I am thinking about reupholstering something I'll see if the arms are removable or something, that would have gone a ways towards speeding up this project, rather than trying to slide and thread pieces of fabric through the wicker.
Against the new light gray walls I think this is a definite improvement over the pastels.  The whole project cost about $70, including all the dye and fabric and took about 10 hours (and I have lots of extra cloth!)  I would definitely attempt this sort of thing again.  Depending on the piece I'd be willing to shell out for a higher quality fabric as well, proper upholstery, something more durable and dynamic.  
Plus I got a free trip to the beach out of it!
- Nikki

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Building a Terrarium - DIY

I love plants, I think every room can be improved by some living color, but I killed the first few plants I ever had.  Basically I over-loved them with too much water, bad planting, and not looking into the basic requirements for their survival.   
One of my worst plant murders was the planting of succulents in a "cutesy" terrarium, this is a popular look right now, but it goes against the natural environment these plants thrive in.  Succulents and cacti prefer low-humidity, more arid conditions, to be deeply watered in the growing season, but left alone when dormant, the opposite of a terrarium.
So after finding a large glass jar with cork lid I started looking for moisture loving, medium light plants.
I used white stones on the bottom and then a clean dust sheet to keep the soil from falling through.

I added a layer of perlite, and a little soil, then pulled out all the tiny plants I'd picked out.  This is the moment I realized that the mini orchid was still way to big, I returned it.  I added soil and figured out the plant arrangement. 
Once the plants are arranged give it a good watering, this will also help clean the dirt from the sides and leaves.  I let mine sit for a day then popped the cork in.  Ideally these plants will thrive and the only time I'll need to open the jar would be to prune if things get too big.
I love terrariums for the rare occasions when I can cheat and open the lid,  the smell inside takes me strait to a lush rain-forest.  Since this was a thrifted jar and tiny plants the whole project cost less than $15.
- Nicole

Monday, April 11, 2016

Roof Adventures and Lime Plastering.

The cottage recently had some roof work done, thanks to Matt and family.  A process of laying lead in the valley of the roof peaks, so that water can't get into the attic and house.
Fancy roof!

The lime plastering has begun in the front bedroom, meaning we are starting to have walls again.  After re-pointing the loose brick and wetting the wall thoroughly, Matt applied the first layer of plaster.  
Lime putty!
Mix lime putty and sand to make plaster.
The plaster goes on about 10mm thick and Matt was careful to keep misting the plaster so that it doesn't dry to quickly.  If the plaster drys out too fast it could crumble and fall away from the wall.  After a day Matt scored the first coat, giving the second layer something to key into.
Right there between the corner and window! New plaster! Woohoo!
The second layer is also about 10mm thick, but meant to be very flat.  This layer is scored in a swirly pattern in preparation for the final coat.  
The third layer is a very thin skim coat, made with a finer grain of sand and a higher ratio of lime putty to sand, to give a smooth appearance, as opposed to the coarser bottom layers with sharp sand and hair.  
The plaster is left to slowly dry and eventually we will paint it with a special, breathable paint, like lime-wash or clay paints.  So that the plaster can continue to work, by letting moisture escape the house.

I also have an update on the hidden fireplace from the back bedroom, there was literally a skeleton in the wall.  Matt has removed the extra bricks and cleared out a space.

- Nicole

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Findings - Fun Stuff!

I picked up this weeks Friday Finds at two local thrift stores and I'm struggling to decide which is my favorite.  There is a little copper tray (with copper-craft guild seal: a mid-century find to add to my collection), a little plant pot, and a very large glass jar.  All for less than $12, and yes I have big plans for that jar, terrarium post coming soon!
- Nicole

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dresser Makeover - Experimenting with bleach.

Remember this little chest of drawers from the Friday findings?  Well, it got a make over, the goal was to update the look for a fresh clean natural finish.  Read on to find out how!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday Findings - Picture Frames and Vintage Art

I am always on alert for frugal framing options, and this week I came across 3 very large wooden picture frames.  Framing can be very expensive and I tend to need a lot for wall art as I like to both create and collect.  So spotting frames at garage sales (this huge frame for only $2!) or at the thrift stores is a great game for me. 
The best is when a frame comes with a white mat already!
These came out of the condo.
About two years ago I created my first gallery wall in Matt's old flat, using mostly second hand frames and original artwork.  
Looking at that gallery wall I see some things that worked and some that didn't, now I can't wait to do the next one.
I like to mix in photos (Matt has a great eye for photography) and some 3D art for texture, like this small bird embroidery I found on one of our day trips.
How cute is this?  Found in a charity shop in York.
I like buying vintage artwork when visiting new places, rather than the typical tourist chachkis.  Using those pieces to decorate results in something personal and unique to us; every piece tells a story, and acts as a one of a kind souvenir. 
From our day in Kutna Hora last fall.
Vintage book prints and a water color we found in an out of the way antique books store in the Czech Republic, all for less then $10.  Check out the whale print, all the names are in Czech! 
Another vintage book plate, Matt found this one in an antique book shop in Sheffield.
I've always been quick to fill my living spaces with art, so to me blank walls represent opportunity.
How did your favorite piece of wall decor come into your life?  What is it?


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beach Condo!

My parents recently bought a condo on the eastern shore, seemingly a time capsule to the 1980's, so mom and I went down this week to begin cleaning it out and redecorating. 
We focused on updating the living/dining area, from dated beach chic to a sleek modern look and mostly on making it look and feel more clean. 
Before pictures!
 Check out the wall to wall mirror, fake trees, and huge conch shell lamps...