Bookcase how-to

Yesterday I showed off my first Ikea hack and today I'm providing some more detail on how I went from this:

To this:

The first, obvious step was to buy and assemble three Billy bookcases from Ikea (the website says they're $49, but we picked them up at the Massachusetts Ikea for $39.99 each). I'd been envisioning white shelves against a black background for awhile and armed with some pinspiration, I decided to go for it.

I taped off the inside edges of each bookcase and grabbed a can of black paint I already had on hand (Sico's furniture paint in Grand Piano). But as soon as I put brush to bookshelf, I regretted it.

Sorry for the crappy photo, but the plastic-y backing basically sucked up the paint and there was zero adhesion (as in, the paint wiped right off with a dry cloth). Oops.

I immediately checked out this very helpful laminate painting tutorial from Natty by Design and went out to get some Zinsser primer. An extremely helpful salesperson at Home Hardware (I need to shop there more) recommended Zinsser's oil-based, odorless primer and after a good sanding with some 80-grit sandpaper, it worked like a charm. Once the primer was dry (another bonus - it dried in less than an hour), I went over it lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and followed that with two thin coats of my black paint (I used a foam brush for the edges and a small foam roller for the rest).

So much better than the plain white, right? And it doesn't hurt that it helps disguise our necessary-but-ugly DVD player.

Our house is a little older, so the floors definitely aren't level. Once I had the shelves where I wanted them, I had to play around with some shims until the bookcases were level and flush with the wall (this created a 1/4 - 1/2" gap between the bottom of the bookcase and the floor, which is luckily hidden by the trim). I used clamps to hold the edges of the bookcases together while I attached them permanently with several screws. I just screwed into the exisiting holes for the adjustable shelves, which worked well, just make sure your screws aren't long enough to poke through the other side (in the picture above, you can kind of see the screws in the holes directly below the shelf).

Then it was time to attach the trim. I used chair rail along the top and baseboard along the bottom. The width is entirely up to you, but I knew my baseboard needed to be at least 4 1/4" because of the gap between the bottom of the bookcase and the floor. Adam used a chop saw to cut the trim to size for me and I attached it using 1 1/4" finishing nails, making sure to pre-drill my holes first (it's helpful if you have a second pair of hands for this part, although I did it by myself). With the trim on, I filled my nail holes with wood putty and caulked all of the seams (this step hides a multitude of sins, including less-than-perfect corners).

I also caulked the seams where the edges of the bookcases met (alternatively, you could cover this part with a flat piece of trim). Once the caulk dried, I painted this part along with the trim (I had to prime the edges where the bookcases met, but my trim came pre-primed). I used a sample container of Behr's interior paint in a flat finish (apparently the sample sizes only come in flat), colour matched to Martha Stewart's Talc. I don't think it's an exact match, but as you can see in the pictures below, it's very, very close.

And that's it. The whole project cost around $175, which is significantly less than what we sold our old entertainment stand for. It could of course cost more or less, depending on which materials you already have on hand and the trim you choose (the store we bought it from only sold 8' and 16' lengths, but some places sell it by the foot).

Since these pictures were taken I've been playing around with the styling - the fun part - so expect to see some updates along the way.

Oh, and see that chair in the left-hand corner? It's my next project - stay tuned!


Billy bookcase hack

As part of our plans to re-arrange our living room, we sold our beloved entertainment stand and decided to put the money towards a new shelving/entertainment unit. Check out my first Ikea hack!

I'm pretty thrilled with how it turned out, especially because this is what I started with:

Three basic Billy bookcases from Ikea. I'll be back tomorrow with lots of how-to details and some more pretty after shots!


Painted storage boxes

We've all got things in our homes that we once loved but aren't so sweet on anymore, right? Like these storage boxes. Nothing wrong with them, I was just tired of the colour and wanted something different. I thought about replacing them, until my cheapy side chimed in: why not paint them?

So I broke out my Zinsser odorless oil-based primer and got to work:

Michaels had several colours of Martha Stewart's multi-surface craft paint on clearance, so I snapped them up. You don't actually have to use primer with these paints, but I had the primer on hand and didn't want to waste time applying coat after coat of craft paint just to cover the stripes. I chose Sea Lavender from my new colour stash - a really pretty pale blue - and three thin coats later, I had a brand new set of boxes:

I allowed the boxes to dry overnight so I could stack them without worrying about messing up my paint job. I love how they turned out and I especially love that it only cost me $1.49!

Linked up with Thrifty Decor Chick's Spring Paint Party


Guest Posting at First Time Fancy

I'm over at First Time Fancy today sharing an affordable DIY art idea. Make sure you stop by to check it out!


Turning curtains into doors or Things I bought at Ikea: Part 2

I spent most of the weekend working on a project that I can't wait to share with you - just as soon as I finish it. In the meantime, here's a much smaller project I checked off my list.

Much like our interior doors upstairs, the door to our basement storage room was a mess, so we chucked it. But as you can see in the photo below, we needed something to obscure the view.

Um, try to ignore the ugly stucco on the walls. It actually only covers a small area (thank goodness), so we're going to cover it up with pegboard to create a stylish storage area (why is it that simple projects get put off the longest?).

Anyway, on our trip to Boston I picked up a couple of inexpensive curtain panels at Ikea. Last week I bought a $6 tension rod and over the weekend I turned one of the curtain panels into a door.

TBC, as in, to be covered
I washed the panels first to allow for shrinkage, then measured the door opening and hemmed one panel using the iron-on hemming strip that came in the package. So easy. Unfortunately it probably means that we'll continue to put off organizing the storage room (out of sight = out of mind), but on the plus side, I can't wait to cover up that stucco.


19 Weeks

This is a just because post. Just because I realize I haven't shared a picture of my growing belly yet. And just because I have a really sweet husband story to tell (sometimes it's the little things that remind me how incredibly lucky I am).

Adam occassionally works at a home for adults with intellectual disabilities and sometimes he works overnight. Last night was one of those nights, and because my BB - which doubles as my alarm clock - was nearly dead and my charger was at work, I asked Adam to give me a 6:30am wake-up call. He didn't need to be awake at 6:30am, but he called me anyway.

Me: "Can you call me back in 15 minutes?"
Adam: "Like a snooze button?"
Me: "Yes."
Adam: "OK."

It's just one of the countless, slightly obnoxious things that I ask him to do for me on a regular basis, which he does, without complaint. He is awesome. I am lucky. That is all.


Paper terrariums

When Nicole shared this gorgeous terrarium postcard set from Quill and Fox, I immediately envisioned the cute prints in frames, hanging in our bathroom. I picked up four VIRSERUM frames at Ikea last week and last night I got to hanging.

A pretty simple project - in anyone else's house - but the area above our toilet (where I hung the prints) was filled with hard-to-remove plastic wall anchors (there must have been a cabinet hanging there at some point), so I had some patching and painting to do first.

I've yet to come across an easy way to remove plastic wall anchors, so I just hammer them into the wall and patch the dent. I'm sure it's not at all what you're supposed to do, but it's easy and it works for me.

Since the mats that came with the frames were too large for the postcards, I just flipped the ad page in the frame and mounted the postcard on that. I like how the grey tint compliments the wall colour. Oh, and I lightly traced the inside edge of each mat with a black coloured pencil, just because I thought it looked better than the white on white on white.

I still need to add a few things to the tank lid to fill up the empty wall space - maybe some magazine storage? A pretty vase filled with blooms?

Here's another view - snapped while standing in front of the vanity mirror. At first I was tempted to add two more frames and call it a day, but from this view I think that would be overload (the frames are actually larger in real life if that makes sense). A few well-chosen objects would add interest (and maybe some colour) and help fill out the space. What do you think?


Back from Boston

Adam and I escaped to Boston for a few days and arrived home late last night (we drove, so luckily we didn't have to deal with any of the airport chaos). While I get back into the swing of things, here are some highlights from our trip (clockwise from the top):

Hitting the road with Tim Horton's in hand
The goods from my first-ever Ikea experience 
View of the city skyline from our hotel room
Our super yummy breakfast spot
Dinner with friends at The Paramount in Beacon Hill
Getting silly with one of my littlest cousins

We had an awesome time visiting friends and family and - as always - can't wait to go back. Oh, and I found a few new things at Ikea, so check back soon to see what I've got planned for them!


30 Before Thirty

I've seen these lists on a few of my favourite blogs and with my thirtieth birthday a little less than a year away, I thought I'd join the party. I've been working on my list for a little while, but I knew I had to post it here so you guys can hold me accountable :)

P.S. Adam and I snuck away to Boston for a few days. We're making our first-ever Ikea visit today - wish us luck!


New floors!

No, this isn't a recipe for chocolate cupcakes (although they do look delicious). Adam and I bought hardwood flooring for the bedrooms this weekend! We went with solid ash hardwood in a chocolate tone (really, a medium brown colour). Although we haven't decided if we're going to install it ourselves or have someone else do it for us (please weigh in with your thoughts), the price of the flooring was too good to pass up. Ash is a good choice for us because it's a very hard hardwood with a pronounced grain pattern, which - according to what I've read - means dents and scratches will show less. And the chocolate colour was exactly what we've been looking for.

Have you tackled nail down hardwood installation before? Any tips? Or is hiring a professional worth every penny? Please share!


My Aya Kitchens and Baths Dream Kitchen

When I heard about the AyA "Blogpodium Bound" Contest, I couldn't wait to start working on my dream kitchen design! The timing couldn't be better - we recently started planning and saving for a major kitchen reno. So, here's what I'm dreaming about while I save my pennies:

My dream kitchen is one part modern, one part classic. I’ve chosen modern elements like Aya's Manhattan Urban Moda painted cabinets and their brushed nickel handles, along with classics like white subway tile and a gorgeous farmhouse faucet. The blue-grey wall colour compliments the nickel hardware and stainless steel appliances, while walnut butcherblock countertops (yum!) and dark wood floors add some warmth. The handkerchief-style curtain keeps things casual and lets in plenty of light. Oh, and a few touches of green are a must. I’m not going to lie, I’d jump into this picture in a heartbeat.


DIY magazine storage

While we plan for some bigger changes - new flooring upstairs and some living room tweaks downstairs - I've had some time to focus on getting organized. While I won't torture you with a post about cleaning out the garage (you're welcome), I thought I'd share a little project I completed over the weekend. Hopefully I'm not the only one holding onto a stack of magazines (or three). To help contain the mess, I picked up a few inexpensive magazine holders at Staples and fancied them up with a little wrapping paper and washi tape.

The wrapping paper had a grid pattern on the inside, which made it easy to measure and cut to size. I attached it to the magazine holder using double-sided tape and then trimmed the edges with some leftover washi tape from our wedding. It was surprisingly easy - and cheap - and it looks so much better than having magazines stashed all over the house!


Tagged: A post where I tell you more than you probably want to know about me

I hope everyone had a great weekend! I got started on the Great De-Clutter of 2012 - one of three major home goals I set for myself this year. I've still got A LOT of work to do, but getting started has totally motivated me to keep going (as does daydreaming about what my life will be like once my home is orderly and organized). It feels good.

In the spirit of finally getting around to things, two lovely ladies - Tanya from Dans le Townhouse and
Meg from Nutmeg & Company - tagged me in a fun little bloggy game that's going around. My apologies for the long post, but hopefully you enjoy reading my answers to their awesome questions (I've combined a few to keep it as short as possible)!

1. How much time do you devote to blogging each day? What is the best thing about blogging?

I probably spend an hour or two on each post I write and I try to write three posts a week. Since blogging is a hobby and not a career for me (as in, I have a totally unrelated 40+ hours-a-week day job), I try not to put too much pressure on myself to spend a certain amount of time blogging. Of course I can almost always find the time to read and comment on other blogs - that's the really fun part!

To me, the best thing about blogging has been discovering a whole community of people who are similarly obsessed with home decor, renos and DIY projects. My husband sometimes complains that I always have home improvement projects on the brain, so I can't imagine what I'd be like without you guys to share my obsession with!

2. What do you think is the best room in your house/home/apartment/lean-to? Which room in your house reflects your style the most?

These are tough questions! Even though I recently moved everything around and it's completely unfinished (picture tape on the floor to mark the site of a future rug, a half-dismantled gallery wall, and pieces of furniture waiting to be moved into and out of the room), the living room/dining room is definitely my favourite place to be. I don't have any pictures of what the room looks like now (well, you wouldn't want to see it now - give me a couple of weeks!), but I am so excited about this space's future. You'll have to stay tuned to see what I'm talking about!

3. What project are you working on in your home right now?

Do I have to pick just one?

4. What makes your house a home?

I think we're still in the process of turning our house into a home - it's really what this blog is all about - but to me, a home tells you something about the people who live there and a house is just a building.

5. What is your favorite colour? favourite season? favourite fabric? favourite band/musician?
Blue. Fall. Is there such thing as wrinkle-proof linen? Obviously my favourite band is my husband's - Glory Glory! I also love TV On The Radio and I've been known to blast a Rihanna tune or two in my car.

6. What is the best thing you cook?

My husband is really the cook in our family, but I make a pretty mean sweet potato ravioli.

7. Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla, provided I can add a mix-in of my choosing.

8. What skill would you love to learn?
I don't know if this really counts as a skill, but I have always wanted to speak French fluently. I'm an intermediate speaker, but I need to get my butt in gear and start taking classes again. I definitely plan to enroll my future child in a French immersion program, so that's some more motivation for me!

9. Are you sentimental about stuff, or can you de-clutter with ease?
I think I can de-clutter with too much ease! My husband will keep anything as long as it still works (and he has a pretty loose definition of "works"), so I like to think that we balance each other out. He stops me from tossing stuff we still need and I keep him from appearing on an episode of Hoarders (OK, he's not that bad).

10. What was your childhood nickname?

Growing up, everyone called me Amy. This was largely due to the popularity of the Amelia Bedelia books. They say everyone loves Amelia Bedelia. I disagree.

11. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A professional traveller? One of my favourite pasttimes was looking up places I wanted to visit in our set of encyclopedias (this was before Google people) and copying down key points like population, national bird and/or flower, and major exports. I also used to make my mom (a teacher) grade these 'reports'. I was obviously a pretty cool kid.

12. How do you organize your books? By colour? By theme?  Some personalized system?
I organize books by author, but I choose books by topic (e.g. I feel like reading a book about China, the Civil War, etc.). It seem like most people I ask choose books by author, so I'm wondering if anyone else out there is like me.

13. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Growing up, my mom always stressed the importance of being able to stand on your own two feet, especially as a woman. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and I can't imagine my life without him, but I'm proud of the work I've put into my education and career. My independence is my most-cherised accomplishment.

14. Do you buy yourself fresh-cut flowers?

I used to and I firmly believe they're worth every penny. Last year I was able to cut them from our garden, which was awesome, and I'd love to get back into the habit of having fresh flowers around the house.

15. Do you screen your phone calls?

Does not answering your phone, no matter who calls, count as screening? It drives my family crazy.

I'm not going to pass this one on, since I think a lot of bloggers have already participated. If you have, leave me a comment with a link to your answers - I'd love to check them out! And a huge thanks to Tanya and Meg for tagging me!


Re-arranging the living room

It's no secret that I haven't been entirely satisfied with the layout of our living room. The open layout of our main floor - which I love and plan to open up even more when we reno our kitchen - is a bit of a design challenge, especially with two focal points (tv and fireplace). I initially confined the "living room" to the area around the fireplace, creating a dead space behind the couch that I started to turn into a work area.

The Before:

Drawn using floorplanner.com. Keep in mind that it's not to scale and our furniture doesn't really look like this. 
Even though I thought I was maximizing our space, I was really just making the room feel smaller (oops). From day one I had been picturing this space as two distinct "areas" instead of one big room.

The Soon-to-be After:

Again, not to scale, not our furniture.
It's amazing how much larger the entire main floor feels this way (yes, I already started moving things around - I even used painter's tape to map out an area for our future rug). It means I'm losing my little work area, but we're gaining seating, storage and a much improved traffic flow. This picture gives you a better idea of what we're planning in terms of layout (we're planning to keep our shelving open, so ignore the doors).

Image via bhg.com
Now to sell and/or relocate some furniture and buy and/or build some new pieces.

Looking for some furniture arrangement ideas? Check out this slideshow from BHG.
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