This post has been a long time coming…over a year, in fact. But honestly, I’m not sure I could have written about it sooner, as it took an emotional (and financial) toll that was really tough to swallow. When we bought our little shanty, it needed a new topper, as our insurance company said they would not cover our existing roof. Hello peeling shingles…and gutter…and paint…cough…yeah, we’re working on the exterior of the house, just in case you had doubts.
We could tell that some previous water damage had already occurred in the back bedroom, so we made plans to re-roof within six months. In July of 2010, we snagged a week that promised good weather, called up a host of friends and family, and piled on the roof to pull off the myriad of shingles that were rotting away.
To our dismay, there were not just two—but three—layers of shingles smothering our home, with the bottom layer being cedar shakes. This was unfortunate for several reasons: 1. Cedar shakes must be removed one by one, which is quite time consuming. 2. No plywood sheeting existed under the shakes—only slats of wood. Again, time consuming, considering we had to make an impromptu run to Lowe’s, shell out additional dough, strap huge sheets of plywood to the top of Matt’s Xterra, and haul it up to the roof. Hence, the title of this post…
*Tidbit: While Matt was flying home with the plywood strapped to the top of his vehicle, it came untied in the middle of a major intersection! Yes, the hubs (plus several kind bystanders) halted traffic and scrambled to gather the scattered pieces of wood. Thankfully, no one was hurt, no cars were damaged, and no wood was splintered. Maybe a guardian angel was also standing by? And I wasn’t there to freak out about it, which is also a blessing.*
Anyway, we were able to nail most of the sheeting down, but to make a long story short, the roof was not fully waterproofed before a massive storm rolled in—an unpredicted storm, at that. We were eating a quick dinner when I heard the sounds of rain pattering. Before I could tell myself that it would likely pass over quickly, I saw water streaming down our walls—rivers of water that began pooling on our newly refinished wood floors. Within seconds, the bowl-shaped light fixture in our hallway spilled over with water. It didn’t take long to realize that every crook and cranny of our house was going to be soaked. Yes, my friends, the rain came down and the floods came up. Colorado Springs experienced possibly the most torrential downpour—from 7 pm until midnight—I’ve seen since moving here over five years ago. And not only that, but it continued to rain on and off for several days—even in the mornings, which is completely abnormal. We live in the desert, people! Needless to say, it was a living nightmare.
You may be wondering what my reaction was during this crisis. Perhaps I was simply in denial about the fact that six months of insanely hard DIY work was literally going down the drain, because I buried myself in a juicy book and then announced that I was going to bed (don’t judge—we had already used every towel and bucket/bowl in the house to catch rainwater—what was there left to do?).
*Tidbit: It was at about this time that I called my boss at the golf course and informed him that I would not be coming in tomorrow because, and I quote, “I’ll be picking up the pieces of my life…[sob/hiccup].” I heard about that one—usually with a mixture of laughter and sympathy—for the rest of the year. Apparently some people thought I was being dramatic…which is, uh, probably true.*
I fell asleep within moments and didn’t wake up until the next morning (somehow the front of our house didn’t get wet—so our bedroom was thankfully a safe zone—other than my closet, which was drenched). Crazy, right? I’ve often wondered if I”m narcoleptic. While I snoozed, my mother-in-law and her husband brought fans over to help dry out the attic, while Matt stayed up until 2 a.m. doing who knows what. Alright, alright—clearly I don’t win Wife of the Year points for hiding out during our crisis.
Fast forward to a few days later. We finally finished our roof (a local doctor, who is the uncle of one of our friends, actually came over to help us finish, and we had never even met him!) and were waiting to see if the fans in the attic would dry things out. Errr!! That’s a negative. We finally ended up calling our insurance company and somehow they agreed to cover the damages, which is completely nuts, because they would not even cover the original roof. We were totally honest about what happened, but chose not to question their merciful act and instead praised the Lord that we were not going to have to redo all our our previous work, like putting up new sheetrock, blowing in new insulation, re-mudding ceilings, etc. The damages actually came out to over $20,000. Unbelievable. Because our kitchen cabinets were removed to repair the kitchen ceiling/walls, we actually got new cabinets and countertops—with self-closing drawers, I might add! If there’s anything good that came from the water damage, that’s at the top of my list.
Before any work could be done though, they had to dry out our house. For two weeks they ran huge dryers in our house to ensure that no mold would grow (by the way, none did—whew!). Check out the effects…
It was like walking into a haunted house. A living nightmare.
Thankfully, some good friends let us crash with them for six weeks while all of the damage was repaired. Now that’s friendship. We received a great deal of encouragement from our friends and family during this tumultuous time in our life, and we truly do not know how we would have survived it without them. While we still put in quite a few hours (and some of our own money) repairing damage, we know that it would have been unbearable if the insurance company had not come through in the clutch. (If you’re wondering, we have Allstate insurance.)
Home improvement projects run the gamut of being a joy and a total pain. Looking back, it’s easy to say that we should have just hired a roofing company, but no one can predict these things. In many ways, I appreciate our house more now, and although it took me several months not to check every room when it rained, I feel like our house may be even better now than it was before (ahem…this provided me the opportunity to repaint without guilt!). After experiencing the horror of not having a functional roof, we sponsored a roof for a family in Africa around Christmas. It was one of the most meaningful gifts we’ve ever given, as now we understand that having a roof over our heads—something most of us take for granted—is a blessing that can not be underestimated.
What about you guys? Have any of your DIY projects turned into catastrophes? Feel free to leave a comment with the details. Think of it as writing therapy!
Ever since moving in to the Chic Shanty—although I’ll be the first to admit that it’s definitely more shanty than chic in some areas, especially the exterior—I’ve battled with our plaster walls. Most of the time I end up backed into a corner, waving my white flag in surrender. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again that plaster walls—while a sign of good craftsmanship—are a pain in the you-know-what when it comes to hanging art. Because they’re made like cement, hanging even a light, simple piece of artwork requires a special set of tools and a plastic casing which surrounds the screw going into the wall. Gone are my days of lackadaisically banging a nail here or a nail there just to play with the placement of a frame. Plaster = permanence. Unless, of course, you like chunks taken out of your walls. All that said, it’s taken me some time to decide what I want hanging around our house.
As you can see, the wall above the loveseat needed some, um, love.
So, after hemming and hawing for literally a year or more, I decided on placemats—the obvious choice for a high-traffic, first-thing-you-see-upon-opening-the-front-door.
If you’re doubtful, let me say that I actually didn’t go out looking for placemats to fancy up our walls. Rather, as I was meandering around Target, I stumbled across these funky vinyl mats.
What drew me to them?
1. Their green hue ties in well with the pineapples flanking our fireplace, plus they add a touch of color to our neutral walls. Now I’m not promising to keep the color forever. A very rebellious part of me screams, “I love layers of neutrals!” So who knows? Maybe someday I’ll ditch the orange and green accents in favor of layers of creamy beige. I know some of you are dying right now…you color lovers.
2. Because they’re vinyl, they have a killer texture. I adore layers of texture.
3. They’re double-sided, so I got to play around with which design I liked best.
4. They cost $3.99 each, for a total of $12. That’s not a bad price for art that covers a large area, and it means that when I get the itch to replace them (which is nearly inevitable), I won’t feel guilty about it!
5. They fit into the clean white frames that we already owned with only some slight trimming around the edges.
6. They were unique enough that I had the urge to display them—just not on our table.
I totally understand that adorning walls with placemats—especially vinyl—is not for everyone. But if you’re interested, here’s the breakdown of how I did it.
1. Cut the placemats to fit into your frames.
2. Hot glue the outer edges of the placemat to the back of the frame, which is usually a piece of cardboard or compressed wood. I added a dab of glue to the middle of the placemats so they wouldn’t bulge out when hanging. Since my mats are vinyl and hot glue peels off easily, I don’t think removing them from the back of the frames will be difficult should I ever wish to change out the art.
3. Remove the glass from the frame and simply insert the back of the frame with the glued-on placemat. Secure and then hang.
Simple, right? I love finding ordinary things and acquiring new uses for them. I also love doing projects on the cheap and creating a unique—some might say quirky—look. I haven’t decided if I’m going to tell anyone that they’re placemats…so shhhh! It’s a secret for now.
You may recall these lovely legs…
Well, I finally got around to clothing them in some fresh paint and starchy linens! Because I’m not an expert in upholstery (that’s the understatement of the year…), and since Little Green Notebook recently posted a fantastic DIY upholstery series on her blog, I decided to simply give you a rundown of the whole process in photos with just a few comments, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by explaining all the steps I went through. But, since I’ve decided that I need to be completely (sometimes painfully) honest about our DIY projects, I will be sure to drop a few tidbits that I learned along the way.
First, I snapped a bunch of “before” pictures—mainly so I would have a reference point in case I forgot something important in the middle of everything. Believe me—once you are in the throes of it all, you might feel slightly disoriented.
Then, I stripped her down to the bare bones. If you have never done this with a piece of furniture, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s amazing how often we sit on furniture but have no idea what lurks beneath the surface! Trust me—it will make for an interesting afternoon!
To keep things running smoothly, I labeled each piece of old upholstery with a sticky note reminding me which piece was for the back, front, etc.
After freshening her up with several coats of paint and some poly (for a good protective measure), I came to the point of no return—cutting the fabric. Eek! Basically, I just traced the outline of the old upholstery and used that as my guide. And this is where I made my first big mistake… I thought since I was using a linen fabric with no obvious pattern that I didn’t need to think about the direction of the fabric. Wrong! All fabrics have a pattern—or at least a texture—so be sure you don’t let your brain wander during this phase! Thankfully, I had enough fabric left to cut another piece. Whew! It was nip and tuck, but in the end I averted disaster by the skin of my teeth (pardon the gross expression). Disaster being that my fabric on the seat of the chair would have been horizontal, while the back of the chair would have been vertical. I know—a harrowing afternoon at the Braham house.
Once my fabric was cut, I kind of stared at the chair not knowing how to proceed. I went back and read through the tutorial again, but I still felt a sort of paralysis. That’s when I started having that odd back and forth conversation in my head about putting on my big girl panties and such… Can you relate? So I pulled out the stapler and just started in. After my first few staples were in place, the project took on a life of its own and I just followed suit. I’ve done enough projects by now to know that I’m never going to be 100% comfortable trying my hand at something new; usually I have to just begin and everything falls into place after that.
Once I stapled all of the fabric in place, I hot-glued trim around the unfinished edges for a clean look. Originally I wanted to use nail head trim, but it was pretty expensive, and I actually like the soft finish of the trim I ended up with.
Now for the confessions… I had read in a tutorial that it’s possible to “damage the integrity of the wood” when stapling. Sadly, this happened to me while stapling to the back of the chair. There was a tiny lip that I was stapling into, and some of the wood splintered. Thankfully, it didn’t compromise the stability of the chair, and since it’s on the back it’s not noticeable. But still. It was unfortunate. I’m not exactly sure how to avoid this, but I imagine a nicer stapler and a tad more care might have helped.
Can you see it along the right edge?
While we’re on the topic of stapling, I must admit that I used the wrong size staple at first. I thought maybe the wood was just really hard wood…until my husband gently informed me that my staple size was too big–hence the reason they weren’t fully penetrating the wood. It’s never just one trip to the hardware store, is it?
The second (or is this really the third?) confession is that I bought fabric and didn’t like it, so I ended up purchasing different fabric. Because I always try to do projects on the cheap, I was a little frustrated, but I decided to make pillows out of the original fabric (which will be another “first” for me)—and since the second fabric was on clearance, it wasn’t a huge deal.
After moving her into the kitchen, I realized that the ugly black fabric on her underside could be seen from certain angles. I ended up covering the bottom with extra fabric simply by tacking it around the edges.
A last look…
Overall, it was a good experience! You’ll definitely want to go into it with a large dose of common sense sprinkled with bits of humor and some courage, but this is a project that anyone can tackle. I mean, people, the internet has all the answers! Just kidding—kinda.
What about you guys? Have you upholstered anything? Did you freeze when you came to the point of no return? Do you know of any amazing tutorials floating around in cyberspace?
One of our summer goals was to paint the stucco exterior of our house and possibly redo the exterior window trim in the process. And yes, we do realize that summer is dwindling down to the nubbins… It really is unbelievable how time seems to slip away, isn’t it? The good news is that we’ve been able to spend quality time with friends and family, so even though the ole’ to do list isn’t exactly shrinking, we know our priorities are in order. Unfortunately, that also means our neighbors are probably ready to strangle us…
Several weeks ago, we decided to remove the old wood shutters with plans to clean and paint them. To our surprise, the underlying stucco was pink!
Our best guess is that when the house was last painted, they got lazy and just painted around the shutters. Tsk tsk. We weren’t too worried about it, because we thought we would be painting later that week and covering those crazy colors up. But as you know, house projects never seem to go quite as planned. The good news is that we’re hoping to get our house restuccoed, rather than just repainted. More on that later. We’re also hoping to thicken the trim without actually removing it, which requires a bit of finagling and some outside help. Again, more on that later.
For now, enjoy the view that our neighbors have been seeing for awhile now…
Most ghetto house on the street? Check.
Hi friends! Sorry for the long blogging pause. We took a road trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons (which were absolutely stunning), and along the way…we lost our camera. Yup. It’s a trip of all mental snapshots for us. If you’re interested in the whole story, see my “P.S.” at the bottom of this post. Needless to say, it’s difficult to blog without a camera, and while I probably could have dug up some old photos, I decided that since I’m on summer vaca it couldn’t hurt to take some additional time off.
Now that I’m done rummaging up excuses for my absence, I have some exciting news to share! Remember the desk I scored at the ARC (which is a killer thrift store in the Springs, similar to Goodwill, but better)?
Well, I finally posted it on Craigslist and it sold today! I literally waved goodbye to it not ten minutes ago.
As it turns out, the desk was pretty popular. I had lots of people emailing and asking if it was still available. Unfortunately, as many of you know, Craigslisters tend to be a bit wishy washy. One minute they’re “very interested” in your stuff, the next they’re not even returning your emails. I suppose you could say I have a love/hate relationship with good ole’ Craigster. In the end though, it was worth it to be patient. Julia, a beautiful, sweet college gal had apparently been hankering for a desk of this type for months, and she was smitten by this one. She said it’s going to be the “apartment desk,” which I’m guessing means it’ll be used communally by all her roommates—love that idea. She kept running her hands over it and saying how perfect it was. Yay, right?! When she and her mom drove off after picking up the desk, I could still hear her squealing with delight over her find. Honestly, I think she was the perfect person to buy it. Julia, if you’re out there, it was so fun to meet you! Wishing you the best as you enter college!
We didn’t make out too badly in the end either. I bought the desk for $15, purchased paint supplies (which I’m not counting, since I have tons of product leftover and will definitely use those supplies for a plethora of projects in the future), and sold it for $75. Not too shabby!
Really, I’m thrilled with the way this experiment went. A few things I learned along the way:
1.) Painting/updating furniture is fun for me, so it didn’t feel like work—that’s a plus when you consider that time is money.
2.) I learned new painting techniques (see this post for more details); even though it’s going to be a continual learning process, I had to start somewhere.
3.) Having a decent storage space is essential. Fortunately, we have a detached garage and a basement, so the project didn’t encroach on our personal space. Still, I realized that I probably should sell the desk before buying too many other potential projects…
4.) There are loads of people who liked the style of the desk—let’s call it slightly distressed shabby chic. You might even say it has a cottage feel.
5.) Being patient and waiting for the right person to come along on Craigslist is a must!
6.) It was worth taking the risk. Now I have the courage to try again!
Some of you may be wondering what I plan to do with the $75. My plan is to give 10% of what I earn via refinishing furniture to a home related cause or charity. There are a lot of ways this could go. I’ve considered Habitat for Humanity, The Alma Project, Casa Vida y Esperanza in Magdalena, Mexico, and Gateway Woods. I’m leaning towards Gateway Woods, which provides a home for “lost and wounded children.” My family has been strongly involved in Gateway Woods for many years, and I truly believe in the work they’re doing. The rest of it will go back into our home, which supports my DIY hobby, helps complete our home, and provides a bit of blog fodder. One of the reasons I wanted to sell something on Craigslist in the first place is due to the fact that we have a limited budget, and I have to be creative in finding the $$ to splurge on my wish list. While that can be challenging and sometimes frustrating, I think it gives me a greater appreciation for what I earn. You know—like when you had to save your pennies as a kid.
About an hour before Julia came to claim her “new” desk, I decided that it would be fun to snap a few photos of the desk, so I ran around our house grabbing random items, which I then arranged on the desk in an attempt to make it a functional, yet cozy and personalized, workspace.
The first arrangement has a clean, breezy feel. (Pardon the washed out look against the wall…twas a bummer I didn’t have a colorful flower handy to pop in the white bottle.)
The second one is a bit more rustic and warm.
Hmmm…I’m feeling inspired to tackle the desk in our guest bedroom. (Sorry, but I don’t have a good shot of the inside.)
We don’t currently use this desk much, but in the fall I start a new teaching job where I will teach a few days in the regular classroom and the rest online. It’s completely new for me—so exciting and so scary—but I can’t wait to try on more flexible hours. All that to say, I think having a comfortable and inviting workspace is really important, so I’ve been brainstorming ways to make that a reality in my own work-from-home-space. More on that later…
P.S. So here’s the missing camera scoop… Our third year anniversary fell over our trip to Yellowstone, so Matt sweetly planned a surprise overnight stay at the Lake Hotel, complete with a romantic dinner and dressy clothes to boot. (We were camping, so a shower sounded like bliss!) Since we were traveling with another couple and their 14 month old daughter, they were going to drop us off at the hotel and pick us up the next morning—such great friends! We had spent the entire day taking in the geysers and mineral basins, and we were running a tad late for our dinner reservation. As we careened down a curvy road trying to make up for lost time, our friend’s poor daughter threw up her entire day’s worth of food…all over everything. Needless to say, we pulled over and it was all hands on deck as we cleaned everything up. After fifteen minutes we were back on the road, and about two miles later we spotted our first grizzly bear! I was freaking out, because I wanted so badly to see a bear on our trip. Of course, I’m screaming, “Get out the camera, get out the camera!” *Crickets.* No. camera. to. be. found. Long story short, we went back to look for the camera multiple times on the side of the road. Nothing. We even filled out a lost and found report, but so far we haven’t heard anything. Our final conclusion is that during the crazy puke pullover, we probably placed the camera on top of the vehicle and drove off with an unsecured camera. So sad. The good news is that we still had a great anniversary, and now our friend is lending us a camera that her brother won. But that’s actually another story for another day…
Our backyard is blooming! Actually, it’s been blooming for awhile now, but the irises are at their peak.
These lovely ladies just arrived, and their fragrance is a delight to the senses. If you were to take a guess, what do you think they smell like?
As it turns out, they smell just like a bunch of grapes! It tickles me
purple pink that they’re the same color and scent as grapes…
If you haven’t taken the time to smell the roses yet, be sure to lean in and enjoy God’s creation this summer.
Our kitchen has an odd corner that used to baffle me. It’s not very large, and it’s near a window, which limits the kind of furniture that might fit there. But one evening when I was making dinner, the proverbial light bulb clicked on. A chair. A cute little chair for the odd corner of our kitchen. A place for friends to sit and chat. A surface for bags laden with groceries. A dash of texture (and–gasp–possibly even some color) for our kitchen. A chair!
Of course, I wasn’t about to spend lots of money on an expensive chair, so I turned to a girl’s best friend–Craigslist. Within a few days I spotted this beauty for a mere $25.
According to the seller, this chair once graced the halls of The Broadmoor, which is an absolutely fabulous (and outrageously expensive) resort in Colorado Springs. If you live in the area, The Broadmoor makes for a great date with your special someone. You can go high class and enjoy their delectable Sunday brunch, or you can meander around the lake and play a game by the fire in one of their lounges. If you’re lucky, there might be free entertainment in the black box theater. And don’t miss out on the ice sculptures and gingerbread village around Christmas! Don’t even get me started on the a.mazing decor… Okay, I digress. I’m starting to sound like a travel agent…
Aside from the fact that this chair is solidly built and boasts a smidgen of detail that I love…
it also has the perfect seat and back for reupholstering, which is something I’ve been dying to try ever since I fell head over heels for staple guns while covering our DIY headboard.
I plan to strip the peacock blue velvet from the chair and recover the base with upholstery from The Mill Fabric Outlet, which is my favorite fabric store in town. I’ll definitely repaint the wood as well, although I’m not sure if I’ll stick with a distressed white (similar to my desk makeover) or a color of some sort. Although I’m a teensy bit nervous to get down to the bones of this chair, I feel pretty confident that it can be done, as there are a ton of reupholstering tutorials online. It’s also comforting to know that I only spent $25, so it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t turn out quite as I’m envisioning. You know I’ll keep you posted on the details–the good, the bad, and the ugly!
Have you guys found any great furniture deals lately? It’s addicting, isn’t it? I’d love to hear about them if you have a minute to leave me a comment or link to a photo. Cheers!
Remember this bad boy?
After a few coats of paint, a bit of distress on the edges, and some poly, an adorable desk emerged!
Talk about a face lift!
Please pardon the drop cloth and garage mess. I don’t have a great place to stage photos, and since I’m going to attempt to sell this desk at our yard sale tomorrow, I didn’t want to make a big fuss over it. Here are a few more angles for ya…
Some of you know that I work at a local golf course over my summers. And when I say “local,” I mean literally one block behind our house! Anyway, I have to get there by 5 am, which means I’m usually pretty tuckered out when I get home at 1:30 pm. But I found that by painting this desk in stages, I was able to paint a layer each day after work which made the project more enjoyable since I wasn’t forcing it all to happen in one day. It also allowed each coat to dry thoroughly, which eliminated stickiness.
Before painting, I primed the desk using Zinsser’s oil-based primer, which is supposed to be the best (at least according to blog authorities Centsational Girl and Young House Love–and the friendly sales associates at Home Depot). The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s White Dove in an eggshell finish. I topped it with a coat of polyurethane in satin (which is the same finish as eggshell). Then I spray painted the hardware using Krylon’s Celery, which adds a cheery touch of color to the neutral base. I’ve never painted furniture using so many layers, so I was a tad skeptical about whether or not each step was truly necessary. Happily, the desk turned out great. It will definitely hold up to some serious use without scratching thanks to the adhesive primer and the protective topcoat (I cannot say the same for our dressers that I painted this winter…although I love they way they turned out, they were a get-it-done paint job with little thought regarding longevity or paint adhesion).
I would love for this desk to end up in the room of a young girl or even the entryway of a home. I’m crossing my fingers that it will catch someone’s eye at our yard sale tomorrow! As a back up, I’m also posting it on Craigslist. I’ll let you know what happens.