Friday, September 20, 2013

The Upside to Economic Downtimes

Last night my family spent an hour wandering around a thrift store.  Yep, a thrift store.  My boys called it "The Treasure Store" because I told them they would have to hunt to find a treasure (something cool and useful) while in the store. I know many people shop at thrift stores, but it wasn't something I did growing up.  While my parents are by no means rich, we always bought things new.  We always ate name brand food. We always had fairly new cars. On the weekends we went out to eat and went to movies. That's just how life was for me.  And for the first four years of my marriage, that is how my husband and I lived too. We just weren't "thrift store people".

My favorite piece of repurposed furniture. Actually, my favorite piece of furniture.
Then in 2008 when the economy went south, so did our budget.  We moved twice within the next year: once to a different state and the other time into our newly built house. We had a baby in 2008 and another in 2009, so needless to say, by the end of 2009, our savings was drained.  We suddenly had three kids under four to take care of and two of them were in diapers...and our income had only increased marginally. It was the first time in my life that I realized the store brand of food tastes (in most, not all cases) like the name brand and it is usually quite a bit cheaper. Even though I have a degree in Family and Consumer Science, it was the first time where I went to the grocery store and had to add up everything I put into my cart to make sure I didn't go over budget...because there was no leeway in our budget. I remember feeling completely run into the ground and perhaps a bit angry that this had happened to my husband and I when we had both worked so hard to get our Bachelor's Degrees. 

In talking to several friends and neighbors, I've realized I am not alone in this trial.  These economic times have made a lot of us reevaluate our perspective on life. As the years have gone on, I have realized that there are so many lessons to be learned by going through economic downtimes.  First off, I began to really budget. I thought we'd been living off a budget before, but we hadn't. I learned that you really have to count where every dollar goes, not write down some ball park figure you hope to spend in each category.

One has only to look on Pinterest, to see that many of us have reevaluated the usefulness of older items.  There is so much repurposing and refinishing going on! I believe it is happening because thousands of people just like me are realizing that you don't always have to buy new.  We are realizing that with a little hard work, we can have what we want for a fraction of the price.  I truly think this repurposing movement is amazing! People are learning the value of being thrifty...isn't this recycling at it's finest?

Six years ago my husband and I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a large office desk.  Really, it was ridiculous...ridiculous to the tune of about $1500. (To be fair he was making good money and we didn't have many expenses). 

Our old computer desk was on its last leg, and since we were close to graduating from college and would soon be looking into buying a home, we felt that we needed a nice piece of furniture.  It never once crossed my mind to go look at a thrift store, and if by chance I would have gone to a thrift store, all I would have seen was junk.  It wasn't even on my radar to think to repurpose an old desk. That monstrous desk eventually became an eyesore to me and all I wanted was something simple and sweet. I had my husband move it to the basement and for awhile it just sat.  About six months ago, we repurposed a desk and the price difference between the big desk and the refinished one was about $1450.  I'm sure you can guess which desk I like better.

Another upside to down economic times has been learning to sell items I don't need or want.  I grew up always taking our unwanted items to donate to thrift stores. While this is a fabulous way to rid yourself of clutter, I never once thought that I could actually sell some of my more useful items.  A lot of our home improvement projects have been funded by me selling off things.  I like that it gets the clutter out of my house, and it is money that isn't part of my budget so I can use it at my discretion. I know I'm not the only one that has realized this as I am always hearing about awesome things people have found at garage sales or bought offline from someone.  

Even though the past few years have been trying at times, I'm thankful that I've learned to be thrifty.  I'm thankful that in all of this there is an upside. I'm happy to see that so many people are realizing the same things as me.  There really is something satisfying about using your talents and time to make something at a fraction of the price.  Its wonderful to see so many people being so creative with things that would have been discarded in years past. My hope is that my generation can pass on the value of thrift to our children, so they can avoid a lot of the wastefulness that comes when the economy is good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY Board and Batten

This past year our dining room has undergone a big transformation.  From the new hutch, to the new decor, to the freshly painted table its been a year of updating our (just turned) four year old house. We recently finished adding some board and batten to two walls in this room and it has really made the room come together.  I am continually amazed at what a difference a little wood trim and some paint can do. This is what the room looked like a year ago (excuse the dark phone photo and the dirty carpet).

To start off, we decided on a height we wanted for our board and batten.  Normal wainscoting is usually 1/3 the height of the wall. Adhering to this rule posed a problem for us as we have vaulted ceilings. We also wanted our wainscoting to be functional so we made it the height of our chairs.  We'd had problems with our kids banging the chairs into the wall and it had left marks all over (I was getting sick of repainting the area). Our board and batten turned out to be 42 inches tall.

We marked off the height with a chalk line and then my husband figured out the math to evenly space our battens and have them not cover outlets. Our battens are 3 inches wide and we spaced them 18 1/2   inches apart. The bottom base board measured 6 inches tall and the top board measured 5 inches tall.  The husband used pencil to sketch the battens and top board on the wall just to make sure it all fit.

 Next we used a cat's paw and hammer to take off the old baseboard.

Hubby did not want to paint the wall in between the battens, but wanted to have it all smooth, so we opted to apply paintable masonite to our walls. After removing the old baseboard, we brought the masonite into the house and measured to cut holes for outlets.  Then we covered the back in liquid nails and applied it to the wall.  After this we used our finish nailer to nail it to the wall to make sure it was held on tightly.  The purpose of the liquid nails was to make sure the masonite didn't bubble out in any areas and was held tightly to the wall.

After the masonite was secured to the wall, it was time to add the baseboard.  After the new baseboard was added, the battens were nailed on where we had previously laid them out.  Then the top board was added and a 1 1/2 small rail to finish it off. Next it was on to the time consuming part: puttying the nail  holes and sanding. Instead of using standard wood putty, my husband wanted to use Bondo to get a super smooth look.  I'll warn you,  you will need to ventilate A LOT if you use Bondo. Then you putty and sand and putty and sand and putty and sand. 

We painted the board and batten with Glidden White on White in semi-gloss.  I really wanted to hire out the painting so it could be sprayed, but our budget was already maxed out so we chose to use a high quality angled paint brush and a foam roller...with LOTS of Floetrol dumped into the paint. 

Somewhere in the middle of our project I decided that our old air intake vent just wasn't going to work with the new board and batten.  I'd pinned some custom air intakes on Pinterest and knew that's what I wanted to do.  We headed to Lowe's to find the punched sheet metal (a head's up, Home Depot does not carry this).  We sprayed it with the same paint we used on our table (Rustoleum High Performance Enamel in white) and then my husband built a frame to go around it. It is such a great addition to the board and batten and I can't wait to replace the rest of our air intakes with more of these.

 We also added the board and batten to the back wall of our dining room and cased out the back door. I love it.  As you can tell, our board and batten doesn't line up with our counter.  This was intentional.  We are planning on taking out our builder grade formica and replacing it with a solid surface counter top.  We will also be adding a tile backsplash, so eventually it won't matter that the board and batten is higher than the current counter top. (Also, these cupboards will eventually be a bright and cheery white...someday...)

The board and batten definitely makes the room feel complete.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I've Got Stripes

Have you ever heard that old Johnny Cash song, "I've Got Stripes"? It's been playing through my head all weekend as we worked on our latest project.

Two years ago I tackled my older boys' room. I wish I had a before picture to show you the plain white walls, mismatching beds, and shabby old dresser. My boys' room is small and I went with very minimalistic look. I wanted to keep it simple so the room felt bigger. The problem is I left out two very important elements of design: pattern and texture. I loved the room's simplicity, but it definitely felt like it was lacking something. I finally decided that it was time to add some pattern to the room.  I'd pinned quite a few pictures of stripes and thought that they would work well as an accent wall. 

Knowing that hubby and I were going to be stuck at home for the holiday weekend, I went to Home Depot last Thursday and stocked up on some supplies for a long weekend of DIYing. I'm sure my husband was just thrilled at the idea of spending his Labor Day weekend doing projects instead of boating and camping like we had planned.

 After much internal debate about what color to do the stripe, I decided on white (I used White on White by Glidden). 

First off we measured our wall and it was 96 inches tall.  I decided that I wanted to do 10 inch stripes and add a new 6 inch baseboard. 

Starting from the ceiling, we marked off every 10 inches with a pencil on both sides of the wall.

Then we used a chalk line to make our line across the wall. I held the end of the chalk line on one side of the wall, and hubby held it to the other side and then he snapped it. If you are unsure of what a chalk line is, it is a little box full of chalk that holds a string that rolls out much like a tape measure.  The string is covered in chalk and when you pull it back and snap it, it leaves a straight line.

(Oh, and sorry for this crummy picture.  The lighting in this room is awful.)

Then you tape.  And tape.  And tape.  Here is where the what NOT to do part comes in. First, do NOT use cheap tape. I highly recommend Frog Tape.  I've painted a lot in the past few years and it has by far  been the best tape to use.  Even though I knew I loved Frog tape, I grabbed a roll of blue tape when I was at Home Depot and I paid dearly for it when the paint leaked through and I had to re-tape everything and do it again. And now, an important step that I forgot.  After you tape, paint the tape down with the color of the wall.  For instance, my wall was already gray (Smooth Stone by Glidden) so I would have painted the tape with gray.  This seals the tape down so you don't get leaks.  Knowing this would have saved me a lot of time in touch up.

After you've taped, its pretty self explanatory, you paint!  And hopefully, on your first try, your stripes will look like this.   I'm so glad to finally have some pattern in the room.  And I'm also thankful for new, taller baseboard.  We've been slowly replacing all of our 3-inch builder grade baseboard and it adds such a nice touch.

Now, its on to finding something that is boyish and has texture...any thoughts?