Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sad sag

In addition to our new living room sofa from IKEA, we have another sofa that my stepdad, Fred, generously gave us when we moved into our first apartment. It was originally his grandparents', and it's held up extremely well over the years all things considered. I love the lines of this dainty sofa:

Unfortunately, the bottom had begun to collapse, such that you could feel the sag when you sat down and also see the bottom basically scraping the floor below. Sadly I don't have any great before pictures because I always tried to avoid having the issue be visible in any apartment pictures I took, and this was an unanticipated DIY without much advance planning. Fred and my mom were visiting for breakfast the day after we hosted our families for Thanksgiving, and noticed the sag in the sofa as they were sitting on it. Fred, always eager to fix a problem at hand, asked if he could flip the sofa to examine the situation. This is the sad state of affairs we discovered:

The strapping that holds up the couch springs had come undone. We can all make some jokes about how the sofa survived for decades and then suddenly collapsed when it came to live with us and I lounged around on it basically every day, but honestly I'm surprised that the tacks that were holding the straps on stayed secured as long as they did. Fred offered to help me fix it before hitting the road, and I accepted -- "figure out what's wrong with the couch" has been on my to-do list for awhile now, but I was not at all confident in figuring it out myself and I pounced on the opportunity for his expert advice.

We picked up some screws and washers at the hardware store, and then got to work reattaching the straps to the frame of the sofa. We used two screws and washers per strap, and needed to fix all the straps along the back edge of the sofa as well as along both sides (ie both the vertical and the horizontal straps had come loose and/or sagged in a number of places). It took us about 20 minutes to get all the screws in.

Since we were replacing all the loose tacks with screws, we ended up with a collection of leftover tacks that we then used to reattach the large piece of fabric that covered the entire bottom of the couch. This fabric is just to conceal the straps and doesn't hold much of the pressure on the springs (since if the straps are tight enough, they'll do that), so the tacks should be plenty strong enough to hold it in place. Here it is as I nailed the fabric back over the strapping:

And here's the bottom of the finished sofa, nice and flat the way it's meant to be!

The sofa noticeably firmer now, and it looks so much better not sagging in the middle.

I wish I had more before photos to show how awful it was, but I'm so pleased with the finished result. Fred was a great teacher, explaining to me why we'd want to pick certain kinds of washers and screws, and showing me how to get the strapping as tight and strong as possible, all while making sure I was getting to try the techniques myself. I have to say, my curiosity in the art of upholstery is now piqued!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

So grown up.

In our Central Square apartment, we had a whole room dedicated to our dining table. A "dining room," if you will.

 (Let's ignore the fact that the fridge didn't fit in the kitchen, so it was in the corner of this room.)

We rarely used it, preferring to eat in the living room like the slovenly young adults we were. So when we moved into Beacon Street Manor, we went a different direction with our "extra room" and set up desks and bookshelves in it instead.

But it turns out that while Sam uses his desk all the time, I don't except to sew from time to time. Mostly it's a place to store my office supplies, printer, and lots of paperwork and other stuff.

I've delayed doing away with it because I thought I might start using it when I went back to school. But it turns out I just do my homework on the couch. In a small apartment, every square foot is precious and a corner devoted to piling junk is not an acceptable use of space. So for awhile now, I've been thinking about what else we might do with that corner.

At the same time, I've been mulling the idea of how to create a space for dining when we have company. Maybe being engaged and being in business school is making me feel like an adult all of a sudden, but I feel like it's nice to have a table to eat at when we have people over for dinner. It's not worth dedicating a whole room to it like in our old place, but a corner with a table could also double as a space for me to sew, do paperwork, etc the rest of the time. Kind of like a desk, but more multi-purpose and hopefully less cluttered. So, I decided to make us a dining nook!

I found a round pedestal table from Target that I thought would look good and fit well in the space. I disassembled  my desk, found places to relocate all the books and office supplies, and set up the table in the corner. Tada, piece of cake!

Never content to keep things easy, I decided that some new curtains on a long rod across both windows would tie things together more, and found a set of sheets on Etsy to turn into curtain panels. Here it is finished!

(Note the flowers that my thoughtful fiance brought home for me yesterday. My list of things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving just keeps getting longer.)

No we can dine in style. And while hemming the curtains, I determined that the new setup works very well for my occasional sewing needs. Victory!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coffee table at last!

As promised, I spent some significant time this weekend working on a long-awaited project: our coffee table. I've been on the hunt for a new table for awhile now -- the one we have (which I got off of craigslist about 2 years ago) is a very modern style from IKEA, and it just doesn't go with what I'm developing in the rest of the apartment. Last year I added some bird decals to it in a walnut wood-grain contact paper (details here), which definitely improved things for the time being.

But it's kind of hard to make something look anything other than modern when it's white and chrome.

It really started to bother me, especially as the room evolved with the new TV stand and our new couch. As I pondered what might look best in our space, I found myself gravitating toward a style I'll call "industrial rustic":`
(By West Elm -- and only $750!)

(Ballard Designs -- this one just a reasonable $379)

Obviously none of these were in our price range, and as much as I hate the the style of our current table, we love its size and dimensions -- a second shelf lets us keep clutter off the top (let's face it, reducing clutter overall is not a viable option), and the height of the shelf is perfect to fit our two wicker baskets underneath for additional storage (which is essential in apartment living). I decided that trying to work with the bones of the existing coffee table might make most sense.

So here's the plan I concocted: I thought that spray painting the frame oil-rubbed bronze would make it look more like iron (oil-rubbed bronze is basically black, but with a bit of a sheen at different angles). For the top and shelf, I decided to scrap the existing material and instead get some plywood cut to size and then stain it a rich brown color.

I tackled the frame first, dettaching the existing top and shelf by unscrewing a lot of screws (I was confident about being able to dissemble it relatively easily since it's IKEA). Then I brought the frame to the backyard for a coat of primer and then several thin and even coats of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint:

For the wood, I chose Minwax dark walnut. First I sanded the surfaces and edges, and then I applied a first coat to each surface using a paint brush.

Here's what the plywood looked like before (pretty standard plywood...):

And here's after the first coat of stain:

I allowed it to dry overnight, and then applied a second coat -- with just one coat, the contrast of the grain was a little too much (ie it was a looking a little too stripey). Once the second coat was dry, I applied a coat of Minwax clear gloss water-based poly, again using a brush. I let that to dry overnight, and then applied a second and third coat (with two hours drying time between each). The idea is to seal the wood as much as possible, since we use the coffee table pretty rigorously. All that dry time required so much patience....

Once everything was dry, I mounted the shelf and top on the frame, and drilled screws in to hold everything down.

And voila, our "new" coffee table!

And a reminder of the "before"

Some more afters (sorry for the bad lighting, I got impatient and took these at night):

I think it looks a lot better in the space, and I love the look of the wood grain. I do wish I'd been able to get something a little thicker than plywood, but there wasn't anything thicker that had the dimensions I needed to fit the frame. It's not a "forever" piece of furniture for us, but its definitely a step in the right direction for now!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

To tide you over...

A new project post should be coming soon, and no one is more excited than I am. At last, some time for apartment TLC! You might think I should be studying for my midterms, but I say that a little time for some DIY fun will help me when it comes time to focus for exams. I might be deluding myself, but it's a wonderful delusion....

In the meantime, you might be wondering why my Columbus Day weekend wasn't jam-packed with apartment projects. Well, here's why:

Yep, my second half marathon! Not sure what happened, but apparently distance running has me hooked. And how lucky am I that my fiance and my dad are in on it! I'm so proud of my dad for completing his first half marathon, and I'm pleased to report that I beat my goal time of 2 hours (as did Sam). What a perfect way to spend a beautiful October morning. (Note that we're still standing, unlike some of the people behind us...but I don't blame them, 13.1 miles will take it out of you!)

With that goal accomplished, I now turn my attention to the DIY to-do list. Tomorrow involves a long-awaited trip to Home Depot and this weekend I hope to complete a project that I've been dreaming of for awhile. Hopefully I'll be updating you soon!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Some home things. And also I'm still alive don't worry.

I was thinking of starting with a big mea culpa for the long gap in posting (I know you feel the loss keenly...), but the honest truth is that this is likely to be the norm for awhile so it's no use pretending otherwise. These days I'm fully occupied being a student, without much time for DIY unfortunately. BUT, I knew this was likely to happen, which is why I tried to do so much over the summer.

I have found time for a few small and random things that I thought I'd share lest you go into complete blog withdrawal. First, I found an old fashioned straw dispenser at Goodwill, which now resides in the kitchen. I love that it ties to the retro kitchen theme I've been attempting to cultivate, and also that it gives me a handy place to store my straws (for some reason I love drinking my beverages with a straw -- wasteful, I know).

Another new item in our kitchen -- though it really has nothing to do with DIY or decor -- is our snazzy new espresso machine. I got it for Sam as an engagement present, since he got my such a nice piece of jewelry and all :) Sam has wanted one of these for awhile now, but we kept restraining ourselves for budget reasons. Of course, I agonized over which one to get, since I wanted one that will hold up just like our relationship (though I hope we outlast it...but I didn't want something that was going to break before we even get married). Behold, the KMix Espresso maker by DeLonghi:

Mmm, isn't s/he pretty?

I've also made a few additions to the bedroom gallery wall, as is my wont. First, there's the drawing I purchased for Sam from the website I Want to Draw a Cat for You. We first learned of this "cat drawing service" on one of our favorite TV shows, Shark Tank. Basically wantrepreneurs (a term I love for people who want to be entrepreneurs -- I think someone I know made this up at some point?) pitch business ideas to a panel of business tycoons to get them to invest. This was by far the weirdest one we've ever seen, where this guy's business was essentially that he draws pictures of cats for people based on their description of said cats. But Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) actually invested. And since Sam does love his cat, I decided to buy a drawing as a surprise present. Here's what the cat drawer -- aka Steve -- drew for us:

Bet you can guess some of the key adjectives I used to describe Owen....

Anyway, I framed it and added it to the gallery. I also framed some pages from a calendar I made Sam a few years back, which consisted of a rectangular piece of parchment paper for each month with a different inside joke of ours printed on every page. They don't really make sense to anyone but the two of us, but here's a picture of one anyway:
That's right, a helicopter.

It was nice to do something with a few of them, since we stopped displaying the actual calendar once the year in question (I think 2010?) passed.

Here's the full gallery wall with the updates:

So those are a few goings-on around the home! I hope I'll find time for some more projects this fall, and will definitely keep y'all posted!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Check out those legs

Okay okay, I know it's been awhile since I last posted and even longer since I posted about something design-related. After getting back from Alaska, I had about five days and then I started school on Sunday afternoon. To say that there was no time for DIY this past week is an understatement -- there also seemed to be no time for sleeping, running, or seeing my dashing fiance. But it was an awesome first week, and I'm so excited for the semester ahead! Last week was just a special finance/accounting program for some of us folks from non-traditional (ie not consulting or banking) backgrounds. So this coming week is our first week of real classes with the whole student body on campus.

In the meantime, though, I've taken advantage of some weekend time to work on a small project so that I can finally post about our new couch! Since I moved to Boston, we've had a much-loved sofabed that I inherited from my grandmother. There are photos of me on it as a small child at my grandma's lakehouse. We were sad to say goodbye, but it had reached the end of its life after a multi-decade run.

After searching for some affordable yet attractive options, we settled on the Karlstad in sivik gray from IKEA. I hate the idea of having a totally generic IKEA home, but the price just couldn't be beat and I really liked the style more than many things I was finding for more than three times the price. So after some debate on the showroom floor about what color slipcover to get, we took this baby home:
Obviously this photo was not taken in our living room. I decided to make some adjustments to make it a little more personal, and I forgot to take a before picture.

Primarily, I wanted to replace the legs on the sofa, which to me just scream "IKEA." I felt like just switching out the legs could make it look so much more upscale and custom. I was actually able to find some tapered legs at my local hardware store that I liked:

I stained them using Minwax English Chestnut, and then applied a coat of Minwax wipe-on poly.

After they dried, I was ready to attach them to the couch! The hanger bolt on the new legs (the screw that sticks out the end) turned out to be the same size as the ones on the original IKEA legs, so I was able to just screw them into the existing holes. This was was relief since otherwise I would have needed to use hardware like a t-plate or t-nuts for this (not to be confused with t-accounts -- that's a little accounting joke for you, har har) to mount the new legs. I did pry off the plastic in each corner around the holes, since the bolts coming out of the new legs were relatively short and I wanted to be sure they screwed in as far as possible into the frame. I also lengthened the bolts just a little by using pliers to twist them a bit further out of the leg (the bolt drilled into the leg a ways, with the end sticking out -- so I was just decreasing the amount of it buried in the leg and increasing the amount sticking out).

Anyway, here's a shot of the plastic in the corner:
I just used a flathead screwdriver and hammered the end of it like a chisel to pry off the plastic. There are two holes since the IKEA legs used one for the bolt and one for a dowel for extra steadiness -- I didn't need this since my new legs were much narrower.

New leg mounted:

With Sam's help, I flipped the couch back upright, and that was it. Here's a close up on the old legs and the new legs:

And here's the new, slightly modified couch in all its glory:

I'm quite pleased! I do think it changes the look for the better both for the standalone couch, and for tying it into the rest of the apartment which has a more mid-century modern vibe going on (as opposed to just modern, which is what IKEA -- and those original legs -- tends to be). Right now we have a super modern coffee table that is driving me crazy with how much it clashes with the rest of the apartment, but I have a great update in mind that I think will completely transform it and allow it to tie in much better. It might be awhile before I find the time to go to Home Depot to get the plywood I need, but I -- and you all -- will just have to be patient!

One other thing I wanted to do for the couch was a throw blanket, to help keep it protected from Owen as much as possible. Throw blankets are ridiculously expensive, but I managed to find a Mexican blanket on Amazon that I liked for a very reasonable $15. The only catch was that it comes in a variety of colors, and I didn't get to specify which one I'd get -- so I had to take my chances. When it first arrived I wasn't sure if I was sold because it had a lot of pink in it, but I realized that it had dark tones that tied nicely to the couch.

Before just throwing it on there, I decided to add a little extra protection against any possible cat accidents, spills, etc. by sewing a shower curtain liner to the underside of the blanket. No liquids can penetrate through the blanket on the couch now, but it's still completely comfortable and doesn't feel like you're sitting on plastic or anything (the blanket is nice and thick).

I do like the couch better without the throw, but at least I have peace of mind that the couch will be better protected against wear and tear, and we can always take it off when we have company.

So that's the couch project! It felt good to tackle something in our apartment after so many weeks off, and I hope I'll find time to fit in occasional projects as school picks up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The journey north

I've been back from my Alaska adventure for about 48 hours now, and thought I'd post some pictures! Keep in mind that these were taken with my iPhone camera, which doesn't nearly do justice to this rugged, sensational, incredible landscape. Katie took some pictures on a much nicer camera, but since she's still gallivanting around AK and I'm too impatient, I'm posting what I've got!

I took this from the plane, as we flew from Seattle to Anchorage:

Here's our small plane from Anchorage to Kenai, where Katie has spent the summer working in the Public Defenders' office. Nothing compared to the tiny plane from Boston to Saranac Lake, but take note: I snapped this photo at 10pm, 30 minutes before the sun even set. The sky stayed light until 11pm or so.

Katie's room in Kenai (not furnished or decorated by her). The moose was encroaching on my space, and needed to be relocated.

Katie at the beach in Kenai

One of the several volcanoes visible from the beach. Again, my camera doesn't do it justice, but the vista was breathtaking -- long ranges of volcanoes and snowy peaks on the horizon in every direction.

We hiked a trail a little north of Kenai, which the trailhead marker accurately described as "very strenuous." Just 1.5 miles each way, but the 1800 feet of elevation gain had us huffing and puffing even though we both do distance running. It's been awhile since my legs were so sore for days afterward! But totally worth it for the amazing view.

Self-portraits on the iPhone are always so flattering... :)

After a few days in Kenai while Katie wrapped up her summer internship, we headed south to Homer. Katie promised amazing views and fantastic food.

Amazing views indeed -- this is the vista as you drive out onto the Homer Spit, a small strip of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay. This is the view across the bay to the southeast, and at the same time the mountains and volcanoes on the Alaskan mainland are visible if you look northwest (not visible in this photo, though -- what I wouldn't give for a panoramic shot).

Aforementioned volcanoes and mountains to the northwest. They're about 80-90 miles away. Mt. Redoubt is still active, and last erupted in 2009.

Couldn't help snapping this photo for my fiance and some of my future in-laws.

 The view from where we camped on the beach in Homer. At 10:30pm. Still light.

Katie was correct, there is some amazing food in Homer. These are scallop-stuffed shrimp at Cafe Cups, where unfortunately we were only able to get appetizers because the kitchen shut down unexpectedly with a propane leak. They were incredible.

At the Mermaid Cafe, I had local Ling Cod with mushroom butter on Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. Omigosh.

Katie had bibimbap with lots of local seafood.

We did all sorts of other things in Homer, like sea kayaking. Katie snapped some photos of me in the back of the kayak, one of which I've snagged from her off of facebook. We saw sea otters (including a nursery where mothers gathered with babies), some seals, bald eagles, and a host of other birds.

After a few days in Homer, we headed north in Katie's trusty truck Techie to Anchorage

While in Anchorage, we stayed in a hotel/hostel facility where we had private rooms but a shared bathroom. It And a really entertaining motto.

Just a taste of the experience. This was displayed proudly next to the reception desk.

While wandering around downtown Anchorage, we came across an army folk band playing on the green. There we spied some adorable dogs and listened to a Mumford and Sons cover.

On Sunday night, I flew out of Anchorage, while Katie and her boyfriend Ben (who flew from New York to join us for the Anchorage part of our trip) headed north to Denali to continue the adventure. Here's a final look at the mountains:

It was a fantastic trip, and I can't thank Katie enough for being such a terrific host. I hope I'll get a chance to return someday and see more of the state, which is almost the size of Texas, California, and Montana combined, with a population just a bit larger than Vermont. This map is pretty striking:

Until then, adventures right here in Boston await me, including starting school on Sunday and beginning to plan a wedding!