September 14th, 2013
Being in (very) temporary housing with almost everything we own in storage it’s kind of hard to get the motivation to create projects and decorate for holidays. However, I just can’t stand the thought of not decorating at all for Halloween, Fall & Christmas. And I definitely want to do some fun (and easy) bloggy projects for my readers as well. I’ve mentioned my crafty landlady Katie who previously created a father’s day silhouette project for me. She has been so kind as to help me create projects and she’s back again with an awesome Halloween DIY project. She made this amazingly cute spooky Tea Towel which I am considering just keeping because it’s pretty sweet. Here are the few quick steps:
All you need is a Tea Towel – this one is from IKEA (awesome), a tree branch stencil (Hobby Lobby), black fabric paint and paint brushes.
Using washi tape (or any removable tape) to position the stamp just right, I carefully painted in the stencil using a small detail brush.
Once the stencil dried I peeled it off, and extended some of the beaches so they didn’t look like the stopped so suddenly.
I just eye balled the trunk, and wanted more branches off to the side so i made sure the stencil was dry and placed it over my tree so i could make some more beaches coming off the trunk.
Once it was all done I wondered about putting a saying on it like, Happy Haunting or spooky, but I loved how simple it was so i just added a small stamp from MME that said Happy Halloween!
Such a cute way to bring halloween decor into your kitchen or table.
Or you could do this to a table runner, placemat, table cloth etc.
Well I hope you enjoyed Katie’s project. She also created an adorable pumpkin, and I’ll feature that in a few days.
Here’s my last year’s Halloween Apothecary Mantel and my Decopage Pumpkins DIY if you’re looking for more Halloween inspiration.
July 17th, 2013
We’ve had quite a few requests for our tips and tricks on keeping costs down while renovating our Project House on a shoe-string budget. I compiled a basic list of things we did to keep our costs under control both in our project house and in other renovation projects in the past.
1. Mis-tinted paint
When I moved into my second home I had very little money to spend on paint, but I wanted to paint every room a different color. So I went to every local paint store and started collecting mis-tints in similar colors to what I was looking for. For smaller rooms 1 gallon would do the trick. For larger rooms, I found several mis-tints of similar color and actually put them in a 5-gallon bucket and mixed the paint really well. It would never be able to be matched again, but I made sure to mix enough to have a quart+ left over for touch-ups in the future. For the whole house I spent less than $30 on paint. This is also a great tip for small furniture painting projects. I found that a quart or gallon of mis-tinted paint run $1-$5 and sometimes they even have free ones as well.
I’m a huge clearance shopper. Every time I go into any sort of home improvement store, lighting store and even Target, I go straight to the clearance areas. There’s nothing like that little red sticker to make me excited for house projects. I found the glass mosaic tile that I used in my guest bath marked down 60% to 3.98/sq ft in my local Lowes.Much like mis-tints you should get enough of whatever clearance item you are buying to repair/replace areas if you are buying something like flooring or tile.
3. Floor Models & Discontinued Items
We recently found out that once a year a local premium appliance dealer – Mountain Land Design - has a Floor Model & Discontinued Model sale. We were able to go in preparation for our new home and pick up some amazing appliances for 30-70% off of the regular price. Now we ask everywhere we go when/if they replace floor models with the new year’s designs and if they have any corresponding sales. This is a great tactic for appliances, vanities, lighting, plumbing fixtures etc. Some stores like Sears & RC Willey also have outlet stores that carry this type of merchandise year round.
4. Scratch & Dent
I’m always amazed by the things you can find in the Scratch & Dent section and the killer deal you can get them for. Our fridge was marked down from $2200 to $1300 because it had two small scratches on the side of the freezer part. Not really noticeable, and easily touched-up with a little dab of appliance or automotive paint. I’ve found faucets in great condition, a black composite sink with a banged up edge – mind you this was an under-mount sink so the edges would never be seen. Toilets and tile with an irregular (but barely noticeable) finish in one spot. Mr. Project went out and bought a “cheap” steel exterior door for our old shed for $115 at Home Depot. The next day he went back to get some other supplies and found the same style door in the scratch/dent section for $35. It had one small black scuff on the front. I wouldn’t have put it on my house without repainting the whole thing, but it was totally fine for a shed! And doors tend to get scuffed anyway so for $80 savings, it was well worth it to have it pre-scuffed.
*Brand new appliances should still be under manufacturers warranty even if they have scratches/dents. Verify this if you’re buying a floor model or scratch & dent model just to make sure you are covered against any mechanical defects.
5. Shop Classifieds
Because Mr. Project likes to build stuff with wood, he is constantly scanning KSL & Craigslist to find wood and tools. He got his new table saw for a fraction of the price brand new. We find lumber all the time for 50-75% off the price of the local lumber yard. You can also find light fixtures, tile, flooring, cabinets, and other home renovation materials that people have left over from their projects, or they have removed from their home and are re-selling.
6. Home Improvement stores
I love shopping at Lowes & Home Depot. They do really have some amazing prices because they can buy such mass quantities. Lowes especially has increased their lighting department to include a lot more designer-style lighting, and both have pretty good basic tile departments. Where we were in California there was a store called HD Supply. It is owned by Home Depot, but it is more of a contractor supply store. They had great prices on doors, windows, basic cabinets, and all sorts of builder-grade type standard items. We bought all of our baseboard, trim, and casings there for a fraction of the price of anywhere else. I wouldn’t buy everything at large home improvement stores, but they are a good resource for discount goods and construction supplies.
7. Discount websites
My very favorite discount website right now is Joss & Main. They frequently sell designer lighting for unbelievable prices. They also have great home decor items, mirrors, and furniture. I’m not even just saying that because I am an affiliate, I seriously click through all their emails every single day because every day I find something I want at a price that works with my budget. Overstock is a great resource for sinks, plumbing fixtures, tile and lighting fixtures, BuildDirect (one of my Project House sponsors) is my go-to place for great deals on floor tile, subway tile, and wood flooring. Also not just saying that because they are a sponsor – they really do have great prices and high quality products. Lamps Plus Open Box & 55 Downing Street are also great sources for discounted lighting and accessories. If you can’t tell, I’m obsessed with lighting. I am constantly on the lookout for a deal and so I watch like a hawk any site I can get good prices.
9. Pre-finished Engineered Wood Flooring
In our Project House we went to Simple Floors to look at flooring and fell in love with their selection and pricing. We were on a tight budget – we couldn’t afford solid wood, and we didn’t like the feel and sound of laminate. They had something that we hadn’t really seen or considered – pre-finished engineered wood floors (and for a fraction of the price of solid wood). We got our Rococo Oak floors for $2.75/sq ft and installed them ourselves. Engineered floors are basically a ply wood (which is great for humid climates and concrete subfloors) made of different layers of wood. The top 1/8th- 1/4th inch being the Oak (in this case). According to our sales rep at Simple Floors, the oak on our floors was thick enough for one refinishing. Our carpet ended up costing more than our wood floors!
10. Carpet Remnants
Speaking of carpet… we only had to carpet 3 rooms in our house, and so we looked at remnants that would be able to do that. Sometimes remnants are surprisingly large. We were able to carpet all 3 rooms and under the stairs with one remnant AND we still had a huge piece left over for a bound rug. So don’t rule this option out if you need several rooms done.
Mr. Project is quite the talented handy man and carpenter – he built all our kitchen cabinets in our first home, and is currently working on building them for our new home. We saved a considerable amount of money with him doing the majority of the work on the house. There are lots of classes at local home improvement stores, and Mr. Project highly recommends how-to books and YouTube in learning a new skill.
12. Repurposing & Remixing
We needed a quick and cheap vanity for our Project House, but I wanted it to look anything but quick and cheap. I found a white console table on craigslist, had Mr. Project tear off the top and replace it with a wood one, and install a sink and faucet. The total cost was around $25o and he had it done in one afternoon. Bathroom vanity furniture re-mix
13. Go directly to builder suppliers and sub contractors
These are the stairs the house came with:
But we wanted stairs that looked like this:
Mr. Project didn’t feel comfortable doing the stair carpentry himself. We considered calling a general contractor, but didn’t want to pay the up-charge for him to sub it out. So we looked online and found a local stair parts supplier and just decided to go into their offices and get some advice. They were surprised to see homeowners because they normally just deal with builders and contractors. But they were happy to serve us and before we knew it, we were picking out all the design elements and negotiating the contract which included labor from their very seasoned and professional carpenter. I estimate that we saved 30%-50% over working with a contractor who would have just done exactly what they did – show us a catalog and then send over the stair supplier’s carpenter.
14. Get at least 3 quotes & ask for cash discount
If you are working directly with subcontractors and suppliers, make sure to negotiate rates. We tried to get referrals to all of our subcontractors so that we knew we were working with reputable people. In general we tried to get 3 quotes from 3 separate sub contractors, and then we negotiated as we felt necessary and also asked for an additional 10% off for paying cash upon completion.
If you are buying a large quantity of goods such as windows, doors, hardware, trim, casings, etc from one supplier, call and ask if they have “unit pricing” “volume discounts” “price breaks” or if they set up “accounts” for bulk buyers. Also find out if any retailers have special group discounts – student, teacher, senior, military are a few that you may qualify for.
16. Shop Sale Cycles
This seems like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to wait for items to go on sale. We needed 13 doors for our renovation, and we kept going into the door department at Home Depot and asking them what their upcoming sale would be and when it would start. Then we waited for what we thought was the best deal and bought the doors then. You can score good sales if you’re willing to do your homework – possibly footwork – and be patient. Generally product categories go on sale in cycles. Talk to sales associates, watch flyers, and keep your eye on prices to see when the best time to buy certain items is. Big sales weekends such as labor day, and memorial day are great days to get appliances and other big-ticket items.
Those are 16 ways we saved money during our Project House Renovation. You can also see our before pictures and after house tour if you want to see how it all started and turned out. And be sure to watch our progress as we work on our new Project House – Canyon View House.
July 10th, 2013
I am obsessed with black doors right now. All white interiors with black doors. I firmly believe in the design concept of contrast. Contrast makes rooms look bigger, and defines spaces. Contrast gives your eyes a place to land and gives your brain a que to pay attention. Here is some great inspiration that I’ve collected – so you can visualize the idea:
I have 3 sets of “mini” french doors (like the ones below) slated for the house – One from master into master bedroom. One from kitchen into pantry, and one from the hall into the reading nook. I’m pretty sure all of these are going to be black. Though I might consider painting a brighter “fun” color for the pantry doors. Like a turquoise.
I also have 2 sets of black french doors planned for the family room (going out to the back deck). In essence something like this:
So what do you think about black doors? yea. ney? Or “Love it, just not in my house?”
June 26th, 2013
We’re getting so close… to starting. We just got word today that the engineering is done. We should go to permitting by the end of the week! Here’s the final technical drawing:
Building a house really seems like a classic case of “hurry up and wait.” We finally got the design settled on, and then it had to go through engineering. During this process, we’ve been busy trying to finalize the design details in the house as evidenced by my last few design posts -
Urban Kids Bathroom Style Guide
Mudroom, Laundry, and “Moms Office” Style Guide
The Project House Reading Nook Style Guide
Project House Powder Room Inspiration & Style Guide
Project House Kitchen Inspiration & Style Guide
The process of deciding on finishes, materials, and fixtures is pretty tedious. Especially when you’re doing it on a budget. I’ve been looking at light fixtures online every evening for the past 4 months. I still find new fixtures, and great deals. I really believe the more you search, the more you’ll find. When designing your own home, you need to put just as much work into it as a professional designer. A big chunk of that time is just educating yourself to what is available. My favorite sites to shop for budget light fixtures are:
Lamp’s Plus Open Box
Joss & Main
I usually get my hardware from Restoration Hardware, but their selection is minimal and I was looking for something unique . I found some awesome antiqued recessed pulls from VanDykes.com. I ordered all of them for my kitchen – hoping that they would be what I anticipated. They came in the mail today and I LOVE them! Here’s a quick snapshot of what they look like:
These will go on the black cabinets in the kitchen, and I think they are going to look stunning. The whole look will be completely different from my last kitchen and the whole white kitchen trend.
I also ordered samples of all the flooring/tile materials that I’ve been eyeing. The budget from my builder was under 3$/sq ft for my field tile areas, and it’s hard to find something in that price range that LOOKS expensive and is exactly what I want. I searched around the internet for quality tile that was up to my design standards, but at builder grade prices and found BuildDirect. One thing I really appreciated was that they give you 5 free samples – no shipping, no credit card required. This is an awesome perk if you’re trying to decipher what the little picture on the internet would look like in your home – you know – before you buy 500 square feet of it. Here are all my samples lined up:
For most of the floor tile in the house, I wanted a 12×24 blackish ceramic tile. BuildDirect had tons that fit the bill AND were in my budget to boot.
For your reference if you’re looking for something similar, here’s a closer shot of all my black tile samples:
1. Datile Yacht Club – Bridge Deck – 6″x24″
2. Salerno Porcelain Tile – Hampton Wood Series Walnut – 6″x24″
3.Takla – Manhattan Series -Film Noir – 12″x24″
4. Takla – Manhattan Series – Costa Chic – 12″x24″
5.Kaska – Rimini Series – Silk Black – 12″x24″
6.Takla – Exclusive Collection – Shady – 12″x24″ + 6″x24″
7.Kaska – Rimini Series – Silk Marrone – 12″x24″
I’ve decided to go with #3, but I just noticed that #2 is on clearance, so I might do the mud room and possibly the pantry to save on some $$. One thing I like about #2 & #3 is that the tile is full-body tile. So basically it’s a solid tile. You can cut and leave cuts exposed instead of having to have a trim tile. I don’t think this will make a difference to me unless we decide to use a tile like this for a shower surround etc.
Okay, one other decision I’m trying to make right now. Front doors! We are slated for a 60″ opening. Right now the plan is a single door with two side lights. But I’ve been digging the look of double doors (2 – 30″ doors). In true farmhouse style, I prefer the 3/4 light doors like this (Thermatru doors):
They would look awesome in a funky color, but I’m too chicken and would probably go a dark wood stain, or a black. Mr. Project loves the look but isn’t convinced of the practicality – particularly when it comes to privacy. But they are just so beautiful… I don’t know if I can resist.
Here are some of these doors in the wild.
A double set with no dividers:
A good way to get the sidelights to not look like your average sidelight:
This is about right:
Gorgeous with all the white planking:
So what do you think about the 3/4 light doors? Not enough privacy for a front door? Would you use obscured glass, or put some sort of drape? Or just go for it?
June 22nd, 2013
Hi! Mr Project here with a few tidbits from our kitchen cabinet build experience. When the Project Girl and I set out to redo our house in California, I really had no idea what I was doing. Jen had the vision for what this house would be, and I promised to execute. I knew how to use a few tools by then – circular saw, drill, router, hammer to name a few – but I really felt out of my depth. In fact, the first hole we put into a wall the night we signed for the house was as much an adrenaline rush as I had ever felt. Remember when your mom would tell you not to write on the walls, and when you did, you felt SO naughty? Yeah, that was me, but this time with a hammer. It felt surreal.
Here is the kitchen during the first part of demo:
Check out the before pictures of the project house here, and the after pics here in the Project Girl’s project house reveal!
We had quite the task ahead . . . to say the least . . . Definitely look at those before pictures if you haven’t yet. Every surface of the house needed to be re-done.
Soon, I got into the swing of things (pun intended) and the intimidation and anxiety left with each swing of the hammer and each hole I made.
Fast forward to one of the big, no, BIG parts of the renovation: THE KITCHEN. I hadn’t ever built a kitchen cabinet, but I figured that this wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery. I’d built somewhat complex and challenging pieces of furniture in the past, but still, the thought of building a kitchen cabinet was really daunting and stressful. In retrospect, this was probably due to the fact that I really had no idea HOW they were made or pieced together. I was crippled by fear of not knowing how, and somehow made them out to be this really big deal in my mind.
So, I did what any man that is lost, or looking for directions would NEVER do – I tried to find an instruction manual. Turns out that there are some really great books available for purchase that pretty much teach you everything you need to know about building kitchen cabinets, including how to find the right materials, basic construction and makeup, finishing, install, and even building countertops. These are the books I used to learn pretty much everything I know:
“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” ,“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” , “Building Kitchen Cabinets”
Not only was I able to find out how to make them, but how to make them amazing. Just by reading these books. I did have to expand my tools a bit, but the investment was well worth it and from that effort, we were able to build and create an awesome custom kitchen.
Jen, of course, did the kitchen design, and I just made, installed, and finished the cabinets.
So here are seven things I learned during the process of renovation and building our kitchen -
1. Ask questions -
Not only are there usually great people around who are willing to help, but with the internet, you can pretty much find an answer to any question you have. Power tools aren’t that scary if you just read or watch how to use them, or have a friend show you the basics. It’s all about knowing. Ana White, for example, has some really great tips on getting started with building small wood projects.
2. Get the right tools -
Having the right tools for the job is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Think of all the money you could save by doing your own cabinetry! Most of the cost in pricing out custom cabinetry comes from the labor costs associated with the job. I decided to put the money I would save into purchasing the right tools. You can do a lot with a circular saw, cordless drill, and a router, but having a table saw, for example, will save you SO much time. We built our kitchen cabinets for less than 2500 bucks. Killer deal if you ask me!
Here’s a pic of my garage “shop”.
3. Work Smart -
Cabinetry is pretty standard. Look for patterns as you work and cut your pieces in lots. Cabinets are a lot like puzzles. There are standard pieces and sizes that come together to make the full box.
4. Have a plan -
The Project Girl out together all our kitchen design drawings before I got to work. This was so helpful! We measured everything and planned out where and how we wanted things to be. That way, we could minimize surprises along the way. Part of the biggest challenge in making something is not having a plan on how to execute.
You can check out more plans from The Project Girl here.
5. Be ready to change that plan
… And be ready to change that plan too. As we were installing cabinets in our new kitchen, we realized that the floor in our kitchen wasn’t very level. We had to change a few things in our plan to make it work, but it worked out nicely.
Sometimes, plans change. You can’t see it too well here but there’s definitely a slight shift in level of the floor from one side to the other. We made it work!
6. Patience is everything -
Finishing/Painting is my least favorite part of the process. It sucks. But if you’re patient, have some good tunes, and a good attitude, it’s really not THAT bad. Patience is one of your greatest tools in your arsenal. If you’re patient and let things flow, everything can and will come together. At least, that’s how it was for me.
7. There’s always a fix -
Last, but not least, this is my new motto – “THERE’S ALWAYS A FIX”. One of the great things about this whole process is really, there isn’t THAT much that you can screw up, and if you do, it’s really easy to fix, with some time and effort. Knowing that there always is a fix helps me relax and take things on with a good and positive outlook.
So those are some of the things I learned along the way. There’s much more, of course, and if you’re feeling up for the challenge, here are a few of my favorite books that helped me along the way as I was learning how to build cabinets.
“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” - Solid guide, but not my favorite, though useful.
“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” - Good for knowing about how to integrate cabinetry into your home and finish things off.
“Building Kitchen Cabinets” - My personal favorite.