Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I just realized...

I just realized that I'm basically trying to overhaul every space in my apartment for a grand total of under $850. Not including a sofa. Which actually might not be so bad, since my crappy sofa does remind me not to spend my life sitting on it. In fact, I may have only started doing this project BECAUSE my sofa is uncomfortable after aobut 90 minutes. So thanks, uncomfortable sofa. Anyway.

The breakdown:

Paint: $209
I need 6 gallons and 1 quart of paint to do the 3 rooms I'm going to do. The kitchen has been abandoned for the foreseeable future as just thinking aobut the amount of sanding required to make that mess look good brings me to tears.

Furniture: $312
This involves a DIY headboard project, reupholserting and refinishing the dining room chairs, getting a new occaisional table for the bedroom, and a new lamp and chair for the livingroom. It does not address the sorry state of our poor sofa.

Decor: $301
Included in this rather long list are a filng cabinet revamp (done!), refinishing some wall cubes(done), upgrading the knobs on the kitchen cabinets(done), framing several pictures, creating a kitchen mat, and adding a few small accent pieces.

Total: $822
Give or take a few dollars for crafty thriftiness... given my income after taxes, I'll have to work 69 hours to finance this total project. Which actually isn't too bad. I'm keeping track of the expenses as I go along, both the savings and the, um, non-scheduled purchases.

There’s A War On in This Kitchen

So, I have a vision for my kitchen.
And it involves submarines, propaganda, and war.

World War II, to be exact. As a graphic designer, sometimes, I get attached to funny things. Like propaganda posters. WWII had some of the greatest propaganda posters of all time. And I would like 2 of them in my dining room. I got the idea watching the credits to Captain America.
Because I do stay and watch the credits of every movie I go to- they’re cool, I sort of want that job. In that I’d love that job if it weren’t absolutely certainly in either L.A. or New York. Because I hate L.A. (It’s ok to visit, but living there? No.) and I don’t do snow. I just don’t. I can take high heat with aplomb, but cold hurts my ears.
Anyway, there was this cool credit screen with planes on a yellow sky. Unfortunately, it was riffed from a poster involving a rather sinister-looking Hitler caricature (as if there were any other kind) so I can’t really have that one. (I can’t take things staring at me from the walls.)

Instead, I found 2 posters I do like, that have no one at all staring from them, and plan on putting them on either side of the rather magnificent wall cubes that I refinished.

Inside the wall cubes, incidentally, are also WWII-themed things. I love vintage soda bottles, so there some of my burgeoning collection up there, and my husband wants to put together a WWII model airplane (he’s into models, I’m into this idea- magic).

The chairs and dining table were cast-offs from a family friend, as were the rather-awful chair covers. They didn’t even like the chair covers. The only beings who like the chair covers are my cats, who will be very sad to see them go.

We would have just taken off the chair covers, but the chairs, well…

So, time for another DIY project! I found the "perfect" fabric to go on the chair seats. Just the right mix of Americana (the colors) and not (everything else about it). The chairs themselves are going to be sanded and stained with the same stuff used on the wall cubes and the microwave hutch. It’s gonna be sweet.

The kitchen, which I was pondering painting (and am not gonna just now, as it’s a HUGE project of sanding, masking and painting), is getting a little pick-me-up with new, red cabinet and drawer knobs. Got ‘em at ACE for 1.50 or so per pair and a can of Rust-o-leum in fabulous shiny red for $3 and so for $23, my kitchen gets a perk.

I also saw this great rug version of the now-ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster at Anthropologie.

But it is EXPANSIVE(I want a kitchen mat, not an area rug) and EXPENSIVE ($498.00- are you serious?). Plus, when reviewed, apparently it falls apart.

CostPlus World Market has this one for $30….
But I kind of hate that it’s sideways. So… I think I’m going to make one. I’ve made the stencil in illustrator, now I just need to print it out using my Silohuette and paint the $3 rug I got at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart may be destroying the economy, but they’re just so… irresistible.

Then I just have to decide whether or not the utensil-holder gets repainted candy-apple-red as well.

It does look nice its as-bought, black-bronze state, but it doesn’t really GO with the theme of the kitchen. Which is shiny red. And other stuff. It’s like a theme, only looser and less directed. (Kind of like me…)

Anyway, that’s the plan for waging a war in my kitchen.

Stay tuned…

Sunday, August 28, 2011

File Under “D” for “Done”

I Did-It-Myself! The filing cabinet is finally done! It took me 4 hours and 4 cans of spray paint, plus gold leafing, but it looks great! And is functional! So… how did my filing cabinet go from this….

I did some shit, that's how. Read on if you wish me to elaborate...
  1. I bought and transported the filing cabinet home from a Thrift Shop (best $15 I’ve spent in a while).
  2. I ignored it for a few weeks. (You can skip this step, but it’s pretty much central to my process).
  3. I got out my DIY dream team (they don’t pay me to advertise for them, but maybe they should). Simple Green gets permanent marker off metal (but not plastic..) which is great because the combination for the safe was written on the door. (A terrible security feature, but useful since it was traveling the thrift circuit). Goo Gone (which is pretty much just orange oil) gets the stickers off. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers didn’t really come into play here, but I love them anyway. And a box cutter – honestly, the most useful, dangerous tool in my arsenal.
  4. While I do like the Chargers (go bolts!) I do not "really, really, REALLY love golf", so the stickers were liars and had to go. Neither really fit into my design scheme, anyway. This is where the Goo Gone and box cutter come into play.
  5. Ok, so, after I upgraded security by removing the combination to the safe and got the stickers off, I pulled out the drawers, shelves, and doors (except for the safe door which, sensibly, cannot be removed). Now when I say “I” removed these things, in this particular case I mean the hubs removed them as he shook his head at my protests that they “weren’t made to come out”. Then I (really me, this time) sanded the whole thing. Mostly to get the rust off, but there was a lot of paint happening too.

    Also, after disassembling, we found this nifty little thing stuffed in the back. No idea what it is, but I like it. 
  6. I washed it with dish soap (I used Palmolive, but I’m pretty sure any kind will work) and water and dried it off with paper towels.
  7. Then, I put down my canvas drop-cloth, because spray paint is messy, people.
  8. Next, I masked over all the bits I didn’t want to spray paint. Specifically, the combination lock and the key hole, because that would cause some problems, but also the card holders on the front that really WEREN’T made to come out (sometimes I know these things).
  9. At this point, I got my graffiti on. Or more, my careful application of spray paint. Black for the body, metallic for the drawers and door. I used Rust-o-leum because it’s basically the only spray paint I trust. You can use any kind you want, but when painting metal things, I just feel better when “rust” is in the name (as in won’t rust, rather than containing rust). Anyway, I used Pro-Enamel in Glossy Black and Hammered Metal Finish in Copper.

    Here’s a note, I bought a lightish-metal-color texture paint for the drawers/doors that looked ok, but I wasn’t sure about, since it was called Oatmeal and in my experience, oatmeal is not actually a metal. If you have this sort of feeling when buying something, listen to it. Because textured shiny beige is not pretty. And I had to go buy some copper. So if you feel that something seems kind of nonsensical—it probably is. That’s the take-home message here. Also, that oatmeal is non-metallic, and makes great cookies, but bad paint.
  10. What was I doing? Oh yeah, so, I waited 15 minutes in between sides to paint the gloss black so I could turn the thing, but let it dry on the one unpainted side (the bottom) and at no point did a painted side get set on the drop cloth because it almost certainly would have f**ked that shit up.
  11. Then, I waited overnight for it to dry. I’m pretty good at waiting (see my waiting room).
  12. I waited another day to do this next step, because that's my thing, but you could do this on the same day if you're impatient(efficient/busy) like that. The handles on this thing were FIL-THY. Gross. So I grabbed the Simple Green and cleaned them.
  13. Once they were clean and dry, I took my Krylon Gilding Pen and a dry small, stiff paint brush and painted and dry-brushed them gold (the dry brushing removes a lot of the paint and gives them a brushed nickel look- what I initially wanted for the doors, but c'est la vie). Anyway, give 'em a few minutes to dry and then put those bad boys back where they belong! (On the cabinet...)
  14. And now…. Ta-Da!!!!!

And there you go!

Friday, August 26, 2011

All the little things...

Just a tiny post today.
We needed a place to put the mail, as creditors and bill collectors keep calling and asking, amazedly as we immediately pay the bill "Why did you wait so long?" and the answer always being.. "Well, we, um, sorta forgot.... to open the bill"
So I went to my mecca, Target, and bought a mail basket.

But of course I can't leave well enough alone and had to line it with this awesome red wrapping paper.

"Why isn't this a DIY post?" you ask, crestfallen.
"Because this was a fiasco." I answer testily.
"But they're all fiascos." you point out.
"Yeah, but I took this one personally. Go play in traffic." (This is why I do not yet have children).

So, here's my pointers for if you DO want to do this yourself.
  1. Don't use cheap (Target) wrapping paper. It's thin, tears and bubbles easily, and makes you swear a lot.
  2. Don't use regular glue straight from the bottle. Water it down and paint it on with a paint brush.
That's pretty much it. But now I have a place to find the mail so that we can be responsible adults! (maybe) And it's pretty. Yay!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“Number 8? The Do-er will see you now.”

I know I haven’t been posting much, but I have been DOING! Yay doing (boo, not posting). I tackled the awesome wooden squares that I decided should be wall cubes that I found in the dumpster and have been “decorating” my porch.

See? Anyway, I felt that if I just gave them a little love, they’d love me back.

“What kind of love?,” you ask? “This isn’t going somewhere disturbing, is it?" Ye of little faith. 

I’ll show you, in this TOTALLY safe-for-work (unless they don’t like you not working, in which case you should probably come back later), completely G-rated (well, ish, no promises on not swearing), step-by-step tutorial on restoring unfinished, unloved wood. In this case, in the form of future decorative shelving.

Disclaimer: Do not use this tutorial to restore heirloom furniture or anything you’re REALLY attached to. I’m Google-ing this shit and making stuff up as I go along just like everyone else. I share so you can see what worked, but no guarantees, ok? Talk to a professional before putting nail polish remover on your grandmother’s credenza.

Ok? Ok. Onward.
  1. Cover yo’ face, fool! You’re gonna sand, and sanding creates dust, and dust is not good for
    a. Your lungs
    b. Your eyes
  2. Assemble your team. In this case, it was a paint-scraper (there was gum AND paint on these bad boys), a cheap synthetic paint brush, fine-grit sand-paper (I used 220, but you really don’t HAVE to go quite that fine), some wood-conditioning stain from IKEA, MinWax Tung Oil for varnish and moisturizing nail polish remover (not pictured).
  3. Remove extraneous crap from wood. This involved scraping off the gum (gross) and using nail polish remover to get rid of the random red paint on these things. I didn’t really expect it to work, but it did, fairly well, so that was cool. I did need to sand some of the paint off, tho, it was stuck on there pretty good, and there was a lot of it.
    No, it's not a DIY episode of Dexter.
  5. Moving on, sand the whole mess. All the sides, the corners, the crevasses: get to know your wood. Also always sand with the grain. If you know what this means, please tell me. I sanded the way that the wood lines go, except where it was too hard to do that, then I threw caution to the wind and sanded however the hell I could sand. You do your thing, I’ll do mine, but remember, this isn’t heirloom-wood restoration. Talk to a pro about that.
  6. Follow the directions on your wood stain. Mostly it’s paint, let dry, and rub with clean, dry cloth. But if yours is different, go with what it says.
  7. Finish with your Tung Oil. Follow the directions, but basically it’s paint, let dry for 15 minutes, then polish with a clean, dry cloth that you’re willing to throw out afterwards. That shit does not come out of fabric. (I sort of forgot that I was taking pictures at this point. Tung Oil Finish is STICKY).
  8. Repeat the Tung Oil step if it’s not shiny enough. I went with 2 coats, but you have to let it dry overnight between coats, so that’s only for people who are very good at waiting, like myself.

Now I’ve just got to hang these bad boys on the wall! (The hubs keeps the drill at work because he’s an engineer, so I have to wait for him to bring it home. “He” may be getting a new, at-home drill for his birthday. Is that really selfish? I might be a bad wife.) They’re going to go with my WW-II inspired kitchen/dining room (more on that later)!

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Windows and Discovering That You Don’t Hate Your Apartment

On my (extensive) DIY-To-Do list has been to cover one set of our windows with fabric. The window in question looks out onto the neighbor’s porch which is
  1. weird for us
  2. weird for them
  3. just generally weird.

BUT being me and with life and work and love getting in the way, I haven’t gotten around to it. (Or a “round toit”, sold here).

I got the inspiration for this project from the rather marvelous Daniel at You should look at his blog. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. But don’t leave me for him, just because he loves Eames more than I do.

Aaaaanyway, haven’t done it yet. Haven’t found the fabric, haven’t found the time, yadda, yadda, yadda. BUT it turns out that this is GOOD news because (sound the trumpets) we’re getting new windows! That’s right, our landlord decided to put money INTO the apartment and give us new windows.

I suspect that they will be new, energy-efficient windows so they can get the tax credit currently offered for installing them. I have to say though, sometimes (a lot of times) it’s kind of nice having a big, professional company manage your apartment complex. I mean, sure, they don’t care about you, and unless you’re there forever, you can forget about seeing your deposit back, and the rent is more ridiculous BUT… but but but—they do get stuff done sometimes. They have money, they see the big picture, and they make good when you first threaten to sue over something so you don’t have to go through the motions of ACTUALLY doing it. Because, really, who has the time?

We were thinking about jumping ship because of the electrical violations… but you know what? We can deal.

We went to look at another apartment that was SLIGHTLY bigger and a townhouse to boot, but the SLIGHTLY bigger was entirely taken up by staircase, the half bath and the full bath added together weren’t the size of our current (admittedly amazing) bathroom, and the place just seemed smaller.

On top of that, there was no dedicated parking, which is RETARDED in southern California. Retarded, I tell you. I mean, my current dedicated parking place is in an alley which I walk past a couple of dumpsters and a gate that the entire apartment complex is in a war with (I’ll tell you about it sometime). BUT when I get home, I know where my car is going to go. When I get up, I know where I put the car. That’s huge.

Another aspect that was originally a pro that quickly degraded to a con was the “painted accent walls”. You don’t pick the color, they’ve just randomly painted two walls accent colors for you. The one in the living room was ok, it’s a non-obtrusive brownish color that would neither go with nor clash with much of anything. But in the bedroom the accent wall was SCARLET. Bright-red-freaking-wall in the BEDROOM, people. Who can sleep with that? And when I asked if we could paint over it, the lady said “Sure, as long as you paint it back red before you leave”. This is NOT the same as requesting you paint shit back to white when you leave. This is a brand-specific color that we’d have to find. No. No, I tell you. I will not!

Also, the neighborhood was pretty much on par with ours. So instead of “movin’ on up” we’d be, as the hubs said “moving a step over”.

Anyway, new windows! And, I’m going to paint our fabulous bathroom. AND I’ve finished TWO of the projects in the DIY waiting room. Yay!

Have a lovely day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm still here

I really haven't forgotten about you! It's been such a busy week. I've been going to the gym EVERY night. I'm proud of myself, but it does leave precious little time to write. But. BUT. I am going to post on my fabulous new wall cubes tomorrow (they just need ONE more layer of tongue oil to make me a very happy camper).

ALSO, as I have a nicely empty Saturday, I am going to do the filing cabinet! (Yay!) I'm fairly certain I'm going with the black-bronze combination as it will fit with more rooms in the future (and go VERY nicely in the rooms of the present).

My very sexy husband put in a very sexy dimmer switch in our bedroom, so we no longer have to worry about our 60's-style-scarf-on-a lamp solution setting the apartment on fire. Unfortunately, he also found that the wiring in our unit is shockingly (dangerously?) sub-par, so we may die in a fire anyway. Or get electrocuted in the bathroom as it doesn't have an in-wall breaker.

My mother is now on a mission to find us an apartment with non-lethal wiring, but we shall see. I just finished the mural, damnit!

Also, happy Friday!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The D.I.Y. Waiting Room

Not-so-surprising factoid of the day about yours truly: I love DIY projects. At least, I think I do. So far, I've completed the mural and stained and assembled an Ikea hutch (I'm counting it because of the "staining" step.) But here's the thing: I'm kind of lazy. Well-intentioned, but lazy. This is why my apartment is STILL renter's "what-are-you-hiding-under-that-semi-gloss" off-white. So... for all my anxiously awaited "projects".... I have a waiting room. Sometimes we call it a porch.

Below, for your viewing pleasure, I've captured our waiting room in all of it's leaf-strewn glory. (I didn't sweep for you because I didn't have advance notice that you were stopping by. That's how it works at casa de Weber).

Project #10 in the waiting room: the filing cabinet.
(Yes I'm starting with #10. Don't judge me.)

Here's kind of an inspiration board on what I'd like to do to said cabinet. I was going for a black-and-red lacquer look, but I'm kind of loving the bronze on the top right. What do you think?

Next up is a cluster of projects waiting patiently (does that make them "patients"?).

Project #1: Flower box planter? It was going to be a shelf, but I got over the idea before it went very far at all. At the moment it has been deputized as chief dirt receptacle. But down below I've posted what it might look like in a future space. If I ever stop being the Charles Manson of the plant world.

Project #2: Refinish table and paint seats of chairs turquoise. Or different colors. I need to make a decision before acting on this one. ADD is no joke, kids. Oh, look a butterfly!

Wait, what were we doing? Oh yeah!

Project #3-ish: is not really my project, but my landlord swears we're getting new windows soon, so yay!

Project #1 future:

But wait, there's more!

Project #6: This is a two-parter. The frame in the front needs to be turned into one of those cool chicken-wire-bulletin-board-thingies (That's the technical term). The frame behind it needs to be gotten rid of. I might take it to the thrift store tomorrow. I got it next to our dumpster, but quickly found I had no real use for it. The only problem is, my neighbor saw that I had it and said "I put that on the side because I KNEW somebody would love that picture." Frankly, the picture was never going to become part of the decor. Ever. But I'm too nice to put it back out by the trash now.

Project #7: I have no idea where to store this shit. It's a folding chair, a styrofoam headstone and a large plastic cauldron. It does not fit in any of my interior storage areas. It used to go in the outdoor storage we had in Northern California.... and now it's on the porch.

Project #6 future:

Hold on, we're not done, there's still more. (Why, yes, it is getting crowded in the waiting room. Thank you for noticing. Please take a number and we will get to you shortly).

Project #8: This is cool. These are going to be wall cubes. I'm going to stain them to match the aforementioned Ikea hutch and rub them down with mineral oil and hang them in the dining room. I'm very happy about this. I may even do it tomorrow.

Project #9: Does anyone know of any plants that need next to no sunlight? I wonder if orchids would thrive here... we have jasmine in the pots and it's slowly dying, despite the constant supply of miracle-gro that is sprinkled on them with water. (Though, to be fair, it isn't called miracle-don't-die). I've tried so hard with these guys. I planted them in wormy soil that I was told they would like. I punched holes in the bottom of their planters so they could drain. I even bought them little jungle-gyms to play on (or, you know, trellises to grow on. Whatever). We water them regularly with miracle-gro. Still, they insist on dying. Actually, I feel like I'm less of the Manson of plants and more like the Kevorkian of the flora kingdom.

Wow, that's a downer. You know what this post needs? A picture of my cat.

I swear he's a cat and not the emperor from Star Wars. (Just don't tell him that).

And there you go!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shit I Don't Get - Dead Decor

This is the first of what I believe will be a recurring series (as opposed to a one-time-series?) There's a lot of decorating shit I don't get. The list is constantly growing. But today, I'm perplexed by dead things as decor. My mom told me not to touch dead things on the side of the road, and I heeded her. But I am apparently behind the decorating times.

According to several respected sources dead shit on the side of the road isn't roadkill, it's a "find". People I know and respect aesthetically have dead shit decorating their houses. I sort of understand the mounted big game heads, but that's about where I get off the bus.

For example, this piece of brilliance was accompanied by the following post. I cannot improve on this: "Just got this one back from my taxidermist. My son found the owl on the highway and had the forsight to pick it up. Then a week later he found the Partridge on the road".

I don't even know where to begin. I mean, he has a PERSONAL taxidermist. And as a future parent (someday), I really don't think I'd call my kid picking up dead birds off the side of the road "forsight". Partially because I can spell foresight, but mostly because I'd be busy being completely grossed out.

This (admittedly kind of neat) thing was actually photographed by the New York Times. Seriously. This is 11 dead things under a bell jar. Sylvia Plath would love it. I feel like they're going to haunt me by attacking me with their tiny sharp beaks and claws.

Aaaand in case it wasn't enough to decorate your home with dead shit- here's some portable dead shit you can wear on your head. Pigeon wing headband! For only about $900. A bargain at twice the price! Seriously, this item is so full of WTF, I can barely contain myself.

Ok, I'm grossed out. Or maybe inspired. I'll let you know what happens next time I see a dead squirrel on the side of the road. Usually, I just cheer. (I hate squirrels).

And there you go. Have a lovely day!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Paint a Mural on It, Yo.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I am not a photographer. I never took classes and my camera is just ok. I appreciate a great shot, but feel no burning desire to recreate the magic in that arena. So, my photos are not what you might call spectacular. As I don't even use hipstamatic, they're not even what you'd call cool. But they get the job done.

So... we live in a 2 bedroom apartment, and chose the smaller of the 2 rooms as our bedroom. As all it's for is sleeping and keeping clothes in, it made sense to have the other room be the office. But painting such a small room was a conundrum, and living in a solid cream box was getting to me (see earlier posts for more accurate color descriptions). Painting an accent wall in a 10x10 room was kind of a non-starter. Plus, despite what you might have been led to believe, I don't love bucket-and-roller painting.

As such, I decided to paint a 5'x5' mural of a green-striped lotus (see: imaginary shit I make up) on the wall with the most blank space. This is a step-by step of that process. It took me 7 months, but if you don't just stare at it for weeks in between layers, I imagine you could get this done in a weekend. Maybe 3 days. But I'm not knocking the sit-and-stare-at-it process. Works just fine for me.

Step 1: Sketch it out on paper, yo. I did mine in Sharpie.

Step 2: Trace it out on your wall in pencil. (On semigloss paint you didn't have a prayer of seeing this in a photo, so just imagine it for a moment.)

Step 3: Paint the whole damn thing white. Then edge it in green. (Or whatever colors blow your skirt up, it's your wall).

Note: I upped the contrast so you could see what was happening here.

Step 4: Paint some stripes in your first shade (of green for me).

Step 5: Much like step 4, paint some stripes in your second shade.

Step 6: Similar to steps 4 and 5, paint some stripes in your third shade. You might be done with stripes at this point. If you are, bear with me. If not, you are of my tribe.

Step 7: See steps 4-6, fourth shade.

Step 8: No more stripes! Give the flower some depth. I used a watered-down pink blush to make it look alive. Then I watered down some gray to make it a bit more realistic. Shade in the shady bits, perk up the central bits.

Step 9: Give it some reproductive junk. Stamen time. Make a thinned-out pool of brownish-yellow at the middle bottom of the stamen area before you start so that it looks deeper. (I kind of forgot and had to do it after the fact.)

Step 10: Admire your work! Or, you know, obsess over it for a few months and randomly add/subtract bits. Whatever your process is.

See? And that only took 7 months! (Ok, I have MUCH higher hopes for you). And there you go!

Have a lovely day.