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!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vacation part 1

The first part of my travels was a week in upstate New York with Sam and some of his family. Just thought I'd share a few photos, since I'm sure you're in blog withdrawal :)

Our plane from Boston to Saranac Lake. It seated 10 people, including the pilot. I knew things were going to get terrifying when they not only weighed our luggage but also asked our body weight, then loaded us into specific seats based on our size. Apparently small people sit in the back.

The guy in the white shirt diagonal from Sam is the pilot. The guy sitting in the "co-pilot seat" is just another passenger. 

A view of Boston from the air. Our "cruising altitude" was 8,000 feet (commercial jets typically fly at 30,000 - 35,000 feet). I found that taking pictures, coupled with a hefty dose of anxiety meds, helped keep me calm.

Our home sweet home. We bought the sign for Sam's mom as a Mother's Day present -- Janderruth is the name I coined for the Johnson-Anderson-Ruth clan back when Sam and I first started dating.

Here are some of the things we occupied our time with:

Shooting cans on the roof of the boat house with a BB gun

Enjoying the magical lakefront view

Reading and critical thinking

Relocating the boat dock to a more usable location

Eating at an amazingly retro local diner, and consuming more creemees (that's soft serve ice cream, for you non-Vermonters) than any one person should eat in a week-long period. I snapped some photos for inspiration in my kitchen decorating efforts. Also, there seem to be creemee stands everywhere, I'm so jealous and don't understand the lack of soft serve (frozen yogurt does NOT count) in Massachusetts.

(This sign does not lie)

Digging out the septic tank when we discovered that it was completely full, and then crowding around to watch it get pumped out. Sam and his brother are heroes for their digging efforts.

But of course all that pales in comparison to what I did on August 1st

Yep, it was a pretty eventful trip! I'm feeling incredibly excited, blessed, grateful, and pretty much every other positive emotion you can think of. Now I'm off to Alaska for a week with one of my best friends, while my fiance (!!!!!) heads back to Boston. I can't wait to see what the 49th state has in store!