All posts in DIY

fix it february: cabinets + closets

The latest installment of Fix-It February: tackling cabinets and closets.

This is less of a how-to post and more intended to inspire you to get out that screwdriver and fix your own crooked doors and loose wall hooks. Maybe even climb on a ladder in your closet and install some battery-powered LED lights so that you can get dressed in the dark of winter? Because that was a pretty fun project.

Cabinets: I have the kind of kitchen cabinet hinges that snap apart (with a bang) when the screws get loose. They’re easy to fix, and I took a few extra minutes this time to go around the kitchen and tighten all the screws so there are fewer loud, scary noises in the future.

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I also deputized some drywall expansion screws (Twist-N-Lock) to fix this curtain hook that was falling out of the wall. Don’t know why it took me two years to think of that solution, but it definitely did the trick. These hooks hold back the curtain doors of my master bedroom closet…

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…which was also the site of some new LED lights. Eventually I’d like to have the closet wired for real lights, but these help well enough for now. If you can drill pilot holes and fill battery packs, you too can add remote-control-powered lights to your closet! I got this set on sale at my local ACE Hardware for just $15.

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All together with some projects not worth photographing, I fixed or installed 8 things around the house in about two hours. Much speedier than I planned, leaving plenty of time to enjoy season 2 of House of Cards 😉

fix it february: boots and baubles

Week two of “Fix It February” is all about accessories. Saving boots from the trash bin and necklaces from the scrap heap!

Project #1: boot heel healing

This is one of my favorite pairs of boots, but the black color on the plastic heel had worn down from driving. I’ve tried shoe polish and heel stains before, but nothing stuck to the plastic. So this time I tried black electrical tape. *Hopefully* it sticks this time!

Total time: 15 minutes

1. Clean and dry plastic surface.
2. Cut strips of black electrical tape and place vertically on heel, starting from the center and working your way outwards.
3. Trim extra tape with an X-acto knife

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Project #2: fixing some favorite accessories

Each of these pieces needed just a few minutes of attention, but I had been letting them gather dust instead.

Before: broken chain on a vintage purse, broken chain link necklace, and earrings with a missing crystal piece

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After: 

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How to fix crystal earrings: Gorilla Glue. Nothing works better. Just remember that it expands a bit when it dries, so you can’t use too much in small spaces.

How to fix gold link chains: needle-nose pliers and a patient hand. For each of these chains, I used the pliers to first open a chain link at the break site, and then to re-attache it to its neighbors. The round-nosed pliers can be slippery on metal, so you might find ridged pliers easier to use.

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Total time: 10 minutes

 

a treat for you from ALT!

Surprise! I’m in Salt Lake City this week at Altitude Summit. Having a grand time {of course} and loving hanging out with some of the fabulous women I’ve only ever met online.

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There’s no shortage of beautiful crafts + photo opps here. I’ll share more when I get back, but in the meanwhile … a little quiz + giveaway for ya! If you can guess what room of the little farmhouse *this* little project is headed for, I’ll have a treat for you from #altsummit. You leave comments –> I pick one via random.org on Sunday 1/26/14 –> someone has a happy day {could be you!}

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xoxo!

landscaping maps

Hand-drawn maps. Boom.

Hat tip to my cousin Tamara who helped me ID a few of these. When I moved into the house, the previous owners had left me a labeled map of most of the plants in the backyard … but not the side or the front. So it’s been a long overdue (and time-intensive) project for me to track down and map out everything in the yard. Check! Off the list.

Legend:

  • A – Arborvitae
  • AL – Alyssum
  • As – Astilbe – Vision in White
  • B – Beets
  • BE – Black-Eyed Susans
  • BG – Begonia
  • BH – Bleeding Heart
  • BL – Basil
  • Br – Broccoli
  • BS – Brussels Sprouts
  • BSA – Black Scallop Ajuga
  • BT – Baby Tut Grass
  • BW – Bridalwreath (officially: Vanhoutte Spirea)
  • C – Clematis
  • CB – Coral Bells (Berry Smoothie)
  • CBLM – Coral Bells – Lime Marmalade
  • CDP – Columbine – Dark Purple
  • Cl – Cilantro
  • Cm – Columbine – mixed (seeds)
  • CO – Coleus
  • CR – Croton (pot)
  • CS – Cushion Spurge (technically, it’s a kind of grass! who knew!)
  • CT – Candytuft (seeds)
  • CTL – Catalpa Tree
  • D – Dianthus (seeds)
  • DA – Daffodils
  • DF – Diamond Frost
  • DL – Day Lily
  • DR – Dracaena Spike
  • FCA – Flowering Crabapple
  • H – Hosta
  • Hy – Hydrangea Tree
  • HyB – Hydrangea Bush
  • I – Iris
  • K – Kale
  • L – Lilac Tree
  • La – Lavender
  • LAN – Lantana
  • LC – Lemon Cucumber
  • LM – Ladies Mantle
  • Lp – Lupine (seeds)
  • LV – Lemon Verbena
  • M – Maple
  • MG – Marigolds
  • MGC – Marigold – African Crackerjack
  • MGS – Marigold – Snowdrift (seeds)
  • ML – Mixed Lettuces
  • MT – Mint
  • Mu – Mums (Chrysanthemums)
  • N – Nasturtium
  • O – Oregano
  • P – Polygonatum
  • PP – Peppers
  • Py – Peony
  • R – Raspberry
  • RC – Red Comb Celosia
  • Ry – Rosemary
  • S – Sedum
  • SA – Sage
  • SC – Swiss Chard
  • SD – Shasta Daisy (seeds)
  • SM – Snow on the Mountain (Aegopodum)
  • SPV – Sweet Potato Vine – Marguerite
  • ST – Silver Dust
  • SVB – Salvia – Victoria Blue
  • SVP – Salvia – Vista Purple
  • T – Tomatoes
  • Th – Thyme
  • Tp – Tulips
  • Y – Yarrow

miracle mineral oil

I’m a die-hard fixer of things I love … boots get re-heeled, shoes get re-soled, scuffed leather gets moisturized and polished. It’s no different with the architectural pieces of my house that can’t be so easily replaced as a pair of heels.

Take my kitchen cabinets. Custom-built mission-style wood that almost seems to glow from within (thank you, previous owners). And I love them to pieces.


Except for the worn and torn edges near the sink and stove. Most of the staining is from water (near the sink) and dry air (from the oven, and the house in general). Not the most inspiring thing to look at every time I’m at the sink:

But a few minutes with a soft cloth and a bottle of mineral oil, and everything looks as good as new.

I discovered mineral oil a few years ago when I was given a beautiful handmade wooden cutting board as a gift. Someone told me the best way to minimize the appearance of knife cuts on the board would be to treat it with mineral oil (available at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or your hardware store). It’s food-safe and not only works like magic on minor scuffs and scratches but also restores the wood to its original color (without messing up the stain, if there is one).

So if you have a wooden cabinet, desk, chair or cutting board that could use some TLC, there you have it. My secret revealed.

xoxo, LG

lady, get on that!

I have a bee in my bonnet. And this is a good thing.

There are a handful of projects that I’ve been meaning to tackle since before I even moved furniture into the house.

Like…

finishing the edges and trim in the kitchen…

touching up paint mistakes in the basement…

and turning the garage into a truly usable space.

It’s time for me to get on those projects, my friends — plus a few others. I can’t tell you why (yet! maybe ever.) but there’s a reason and it’s a good one. And even if “it” never comes to pass, it is providing me exactly the motivation I need to finish some long-standing items on the to-do list.

Will you help? Encourage me with your comments, texts, phone calls and stories of your own DIY mis-adventures!

*Project name lifted directly from John and Sherry over at YHL

light change for loose change

Just a quickie post here … I did this a few weeks ago, and every time I come home I’m reminded how much easier it makes my life. No more fumbling for keys in the dark (especially now that the days are getting shorter). No more agonizing about whether or not to leave the porch light on.

Because now I have a motion-sensitive light by my front door — no rewiring required!

We found this at the hardware store for about $10 (pocket change compared to most of my other hardware store trips). It goes between the light socket and the lightbulb, and any time someone enters the front porch or opens the front door, it turns on. It goes off in about two minutes. Perfect!

The downside is that I can’t use the covering that was previously on the light:

I’m still on the lookout for a replacement, but in this case, I happily traded function over form and haven’t had any regrets.

first-world lighting woes

I’m not exaggerating when I say that half the light bulbs in my house have decided to go out at once. It’s comical, really. One (of two) in the bathroom, two of four in the basement, two of two in the upstairs hallway … getting around at night before I was able to replace the bulbs was interesting, to say the least.
But not nearly as interesting as my encounter with the upstairs hall light fixture.
To set the scene: I know next to nothing about light fixtures. Paint? Sure. Gutters? I’m learning. Furnaces and water heaters and fuse boxes? Fixable.
But light fixtures scare the hell out of me. I don’t understand them. I’ve never really had to deal with them. And fixing them requires ladders and turning off circuits and buying the right bulbs and all sorts of other stressful things.
So last Saturday morning, motivated by a coupon to a nearby hardware store and tired of almost falling down the stairs in the dark, I tackled the light fixture at the top of the stairs. It isn’t a fancy light fixture. Just a shade attached to a fixture that comes straight out of the ceiling.
How does it stay up there? Not by screws, no. Heaven forbid.
Magic, my friends. Or at least, that’s what it seemed like when I reached up to twist off the shade and instead the entire fixture came down from the ceiling into my less-than-receptive hands.
Again, how does it stay up there? The hardware inside wasn’t giving any clues. In fact, there was insulation everywhere (and I know enough about that stuff to know I wanted to be nowhere near it with bare hands on a hot day.)
Did I mention I’m up on a step stool, alone, holding a light fixture above my head?
So I did what any rational person would do. I let go. And then I grabbed my camera.
The electrical wires weren’t going to hold it up for long, I knew. But I had to risk it – I had no other choice. The dang thing was still dangling from the ceiling when I got back from the hardware store, where I’d cajoled two different guys into explaining how light fixtures attach to the ceiling. (They even opened up the box of a similar fixture to show me the hardware and instruction manual, the dears.)
But the magic piece they said I should look for? Definitely not there. Not even close to existing. All I saw was a whole lot of nothing.

Boo. I still had a heavy light fixture hanging from not-very-strong electrical wires, and I knew that if it dropped, I’d not only have a lot of glass to sweep up but a substantial electrician’s bill to get a new fixture put in its place. Ugh.
Then, cousin Maria swooped in to save the day. She helped me unscrew the heavy part of the fixture, the glass shade — the part I’d been trying to get off in the first place. What was left (some metal, insulation, aluminum foil and light bulbs) wasn’t heavy at all, so we felt much better about leaving it dangling from the wires for a while. (In fact, we were so convinced it would be fine, we ran off to Lake Calhoun to bask in the sun. I got sunburned. Probably karma.)

On our way home, we stopped by her house to see the progress she and John are making on the upstairs (they bought a fixer-upper about 14 blocks south of me just a few months before I bought this place). And because John is a wunderkind when it comes to DIY house stuff, he had all sorts of ideas for how I might be able to get the light fixture back into its rightful place.

In case anyone else out there encounters this and doesn’t know what to do, here’s the secret: Underneath all the insulation (which John says is superfluous and really only useful for cutting down on heat loss through the electrical box), there were two keyhole-shaped cutouts that were supposed to catch the screws coming out of the ceiling and hook (hard to explain but common enough that maybe you know what I’m talking about?)
When I’d started screwing off the shade, I’d accidentally rotated the entire fixture just enough to dislodge these screws from their place in the keyholes, thereby removing it from the ceiling. I never would have seen the holes without taking the insulation out (and I probably wouldn’t have done that without the approval of someone like John who actually knows what they’re doing ). So, that went in the trash:

Gross, huh?

And with a few careful twists, the light fixture was back on the ceiling! Like magic, I’m telling you.


Now my problem is not liking the way the new bulbs change the shade of paint in the hallway (the yellow looks more yellow-green than mustard yellow like it did before). But at least it’s not dangling precariously from the ceiling. And if it ever does again, I’ll know what to do. And I managed to fix it without a shade or lightbulb crashing down on my head. So all that is good, right?
Right.
Like I said, first-world problems.
xoxo

frames frames frames

Way back in July, I spray-painted some thrift store frames white. This weekend, I finally filled them with photos and hung them in the stairwell! I started with nine, but I plan to build the arrangement up the wall over time.

trick or tip: hanging photos

Because it’s hard to hang picture frames well without help….

Because I hate that all of my picture frames are sitting in piles, unhung….

Because I finally got fed up and started looking for solutions….

You get to learn my new favorite trick.

Step 1: Use painting tape to measure the distance between the hanging wire and the top of the photo frame.


Step 2: Determine wall location and make a small mark on the wall at the center of the top edge of the frame.


Step 3: Place the strip of tape on the wall, just below the mark for the frame’s top edge, then insert nail at bottom edge of tape.


Step 4: Remove tape and, voila!


This trick works particularly well with frames that have hanging wires that sit at different levels (like the IKEA frames that you assemble yourself). It would also work well for mirrors and sconces that require multiple holes at precise measurements.

Have your own no-fail trick for hanging things? Share it in the comments!

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