Jan 282014

For Christmas this year our big present to  Jules was her very own play kitchen! A couple of weeks ago I gave a sneak peek on instagram.

DIY play kitchens made from up-cycled nightstands and media centers have become very popular in the past few years, so there is a lot of great inspiration out there!

DIY Play Kitchen title (NaptimeDIY.com)

In November I started to keep my eyes open on Craigslist and local thrift shops for a set of decent nightstands I could turn into a play kitchen. I knew if I didn’t find anything in time I could build one from scratch, but I liked the idea of the added character an old nightstand could give the play kitchen. For our space I wanted two separate pieces, an oven and a sink/food storage area, because I plan to keep it in the dining room most of the time. We spend much of our time there so I knew Jules would get the most use out of it if it were out in the open. However, when we have people over and pull the dining table away from the wall, we’d need to move the play kitchen. I figured having them separate and petite would make it easier. Before too long I found this solid (so I thought) wood side table at Goodwill for $20. The width was right, but it was way too deep. I made sure the back looked good and solid too (instead of having a flimsy piece of wood stapled to it) and decided I’d cut it in half. The drawer side would become the sink unit and the back side would become the oven unit.

DIY Play Kitchen 1 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Cutting it in half was really easy. I used a combination of our circular saw and jig saw (for right by the edges where the circular saw wouldn’t reach).

DIY Play Kitchen 3 (NaptimeDIY.com)

One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that when I cut it in half, I would need some new feet for the back of each unit (the former middle of the side table).

DIY Play Kitchen 4 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Easy fix, though. For the new feet I found some 1×3 scraps, traced part of the curvy leg pattern on it, then cut it out with a jigsaw.

DIY Play Kitchen 5 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I attached the pieces with some pocket-hole screws and the play kitchen had back feet. I also added a piece of 1×2 perpendicular to the 1×3 to give it extra support. Kids can be hard on furniture and I didn’t want it falling apart.

DIY Play Kitchen 6 (NaptimeDIY.com)

This is pretty much where I stopped taking progress pictures, but I have lots of close-ups of the finished product that will help if you’re making your own play kitchen. From here I had to

  • shorten two of the drawers (since they were only going half of the original distance)
  • cut holes for the “sink” and faucet
  • add a shelf and hinge the top drawer front to act as a door (with the sink going into the top drawer space, a drawer would catch on the sink, so with a shelf much of that space is still useable)
  • cut a oven door opening
  • make an oven door (I cut a groove in some 1x2s, glued and nailed them together, and glued/caulked plexiglass in place
  • add backs to each unit
  • make stove burners

When I had the play kitchen put together I primed then painted the body of each unit with a soft blue-mint color (Tranquility by Valspar) I had a test pot of from when Valspar was giving away free samples last year. I chose to paint the oven door and the sink unit drawer fronts white. I thought the two-tone look would be nice plus I wasn’t sure how far the 8 ounces of the colored paint would go.

DIY Play Kitchen 9 (NaptimeDIY.com)

First up, let’s look at the oven.

DIY Play Kitchen 10 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I made Jules two “gas stove burners” out of craft wood from Hobby Lobby. I bought a two-pack of 4.5″x4.5″ wood for the base, a four-pack of 1/16th inch balsa wood that I cut into circles, and a piece of 1/4″ square dowel.

DIY Play Kitchen 7 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I carefully cut notches into the dowel so it would rest over the lip of the larger circle. Before assembling and gluing the pieces together I painted the base part silver and the square dowel pieces black.

DIY Play Kitchen 8 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Looking back I should have glued everything together before painting because the pieces would have stayed adhered better. I’ve had to re-attach a few already.

DIY Play Kitchen 11 (NaptimeDIY.com)

When I cut out the space for the oven door I discovered that what I thought was solid wood was actually a veneer, meaning the screws for hinges didn’t have much to grab on to. To help with this problem I cut some spare lattice pieces to frame out the opening. This helped make the exposed edges look nicer and gave the hinges some substance to hold on to.

DIY Play Kitchen 21 (NaptimeDIY.com)

To make the oven door I made a basic frame out of 1×2 lumber. I used my circular saw to cut a groove into one side and assembled the frame with glue and my brad nailer. I cut a piece of acrylic to fit. I put a bead of caulk around the opening, pressed the acrylic in place, and smoothed another bead of caulk over the top. After letting it dry, the acrylic isn’t going anywhere. Multiple kids have stepped on the center of the open oven door and nothing has happened yet.

DIY Play Kitchen 20 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I also added to the oven some magnetic closures for the oven door and a large curved stainless pull (clearance purchase from awhile back) across the front of the door.

DIY Play Kitchen 18 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Next I had to find some wire racks to serve as oven racks. The inside width of the play oven is 15.5 inches and every cookie cooling rack I could find was 16 inches or more. The only smaller one I found was a two-pack at the Dollar Tree. Unfortunately, it was only a foot wide, so it was too small. To fix this, I pulled out my stained glass materials and soldered two of the small cookie trays together so that they made the proper width. If you don’t have soldering material on hand, I think even wrapping duct tape around some of the wire parts would keep them together well.

DIY Play Kitchen 15 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Another thing I added to the play oven to help make it more “functional” was a $1 LED puck light from the Dollar Tree. I hot glued it to the top of the oven (the adhesive it came with wasn’t strong enough to keep it from falling off). I can still take the light off to replace the battery while the base of the light stays glued in place. It’s hard to tell there’s much light in this picture, but it’s easy to tell in real life.

DIY Play Kitchen 19 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Okay, next up is the sink/storage unit. This piece has a bit of sentimentality to it. The faucet (no longer functional) was in my in-laws house when they first built it, the stainless bowl my parents have had for as long as I can remember, and the satin nickel cup pulls are left over from when Dylan and I fixed up the kitchen in our first house. Something from each family!

DIY Play Kitchen 12 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I got the “towel bar” from Lowes…it’s really just a stainless pull from the hardware section.

DIY Play Kitchen 13 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I used spade bits to cut holes for the faucet and a jig saw to cut the sink hole. I just flipped the bowl upside down, traced around it, and cut about 1/8-1/4″ inside the line to make sure the lip of the bowl would rest on the cut out.

DIY Play Kitchen 14 (NaptimeDIY.com)

The top “drawer” is really just a shelf now. With the sink bowl keeping the drawer from being functional I decided to ditch the drawer and add a shelf inside instead.

DIY Play Kitchen 16 (NaptimeDIY.com)

The other two drawers are functional, though, and store lots of play food Jules was given for Christmas from Grandma and Great-Grandma!

DIY Play Kitchen 17 (NaptimeDIY.com)

There she is, our newest piece of furniture! I look forward to seeing Jules enjoy this kitchen, as well as future kids and grandkids! I hope it holds up over time!

DIY Play Kitchen title (NaptimeDIY.com)


Linking up to The Blissful Bee, The Happy Housie, A Place of My Taste, The Turquoise Home, Vintage Revivals, and Thrifty Decor Chick.

Jan 272014

You know how easy it is to fall into a rut? Just keep on doing mediocre things? It’s hard to break the pattern when you’re planted firmly in your comfort zone. A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Carrie of Lovely Etc., thanks to the power of the internets. Her goal for this year is to learn to fail. Of course, failing isn’t the ultimate goal…that’d be a hard year to get through! But rather her goal is to take a risk instead of fearing failure. If I could be ultra nerdy and quote Emerson for a second, “fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Taking risks and daring to dream is important. With this in mind, she dreamed up the “Be Bold” challenge to help us all take a risk!

be bold challenge with border.

Carrie has rounded up a great group of bloggers to join her in hosting this challenge. I’m so excited to be a part of this group! Take a minute and check our their blogs!

52 Mantels
DesignerTrapped in a Lawyer’s Body
House by Hoff
Just a Girl and Her Blog
Lovely Etc.
May Richer Fuller Be
Naptime DIY
Primitive and Proper
The Blissful Bee
The Happy Housie
The Wood Grain Cottage

Along with Carrie and these other great bloggers, I want to invite YOU to try something new in the next few weeks. This challenge is to do a DIY project that is a bit of a risk for you. Maybe it’s using a new power tool, trying a color you usually avoid, doing something you’ve never seen anyone else do, or just trying something you’re not entirely sure will work. We’ll all come together on Monday, February 24th to celebrate both our successes AND our failures with one giant link party (projects linked up will show up on all eleven blogs)!

Even if you don’t have a blog, please join us! Just link up in the comments with a link to your pictures on a photo-sharing site.

Now I just have to figure out what I’ll try in the next few weeks! I have a couple of ideas floating around, so we’ll see how it goes. The one I’m leaning toward goes in the “not sure it’ll work” category. Pretty much, there’s a good chance I’ll be reporting in with a project fail. But it’s worth the risk! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Put on your thinking caps, get your DIY on, and meet back here in 28 days for a party!

Jan 162014

As I mentioned last week when I shared the current pictures of the front of our house, I’m going to go through our house, one room each week, sharing the progress we’ve made over the past year. We’ve done so much that I haven’t shown. Most spaces aren’t “done” but are still pretty different from when we bought the place. Plus this is giving me some much-needed motivation to get done with some of those projects that just stick around. You know, the ones you really don’t want to do? They don’t even usually take very long, but I just put them off.

This week I’m sharing the current state of the living room. Since I just finished the built-ins and remodeled mantel, we’ve seen a good bit of the living room lately.

Living Room Before and After

But I conveniently left things out, like the fact that even though my mom and sister helped me paint the walls gray before we moved in, we only did one coat. I told myself I’d get to that second coat soon, but now it had been over a year and there were still orange bits peeking through the gray. Thanks to my self-imposed deadline, I actually finished that second coat this week! And you know, it really didn’t take very long, but Dylan even noticed the difference when he got home that day.

So here it is, our “in progress” living room.

Living Room Tour (NaptimeDIY.com)

A couple of weeks ago Dylan removed the rest of the carpet (except the stairs, which we’ll take off eventually…with Jules up and down them it gives her some padding should she fall). We were hoping the hardwood would be in good condition. Unfortunately there are some really badly stained areas, most likely due to the previous owners’ pets. Pretty much the main walking area from the front door back the hallway, but there are other random spots with staining. We had to deal with stained hardwood in our first house, so at least we know what to do to try and salvage it. Until it’s nice enough outside to have windows open we’ll put off refinishing the floors.

Living Room Tour 2 (NaptimeDIY.com)

The teal blanket on the back of the couch is actually a baby afghan I crocheted for Jules before she was born, but the color looks so great out here it’s been in the living room for a while. I reupholstered the ottoman last fall and added tufting…I’ll get more into that in a future post.

Living Room Tour 3 (NaptimeDIY.com)

If only Jules’ toys were always put away so neatly!

Living Room Tour 4 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I’ve been in the mood to do artsy things lately (I’m no artist, so it’s been interesting). More to come on these attempts soon.

Living Room Tour 5 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Living Room Tour 16 (NaptimeDIY.com)
Living Room Tour 11 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I’ve finished the right-side built-in. It’s only 18 inches wide (as opposed to the 34 inches on the left side) because we have eventual plans to take down the load-bearing living room/kitchen wall, so there will be a supportive post right next to the built-in.

Living Room Tour 1 (NaptimeDIY.com)

These shelves aren’t as wide as the left side so I only put in three shelves and gave them each more vertical room to breath so it wouldn’t feel cramped. Honestly, I love building stuff, but styling is NOT my forte, so this was the best I could do. Maybe I should bribe a talented friend to come over to help (Amy, I’m looking at you!).

Living Room Tour 8 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Since I only have one door needing hardware at this point (maybe down the line I’ll make two to cover the toy area, but right now I just think they’d get too much abuse) I dug into my clearance stash and came up with this acrylic/oil-rubbed-bronze beauty.

Living Room Tour 10 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I put some removable shelves in to help keep things more organized in the electronics portion of the built-ins. Yes, that is a VCR. You’d have to pry my old VHS tapes out of my fingers. Not giving them up. The VHS tapes are currently in the herringbone storage box and most of our DVDs are kept in our faux-book storage box, but in the basket on the bottom are my workout DVDs, Dylan’s video games, and DVDs we’ve borrowed that we need to return to their owner.

Living Room Tour 9 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Turning around, you see the wall that has an expiration date (though unknown at this time). We think opening up the kitchen to the living room will help keep things open and bright around here. A couple of months ago I got tired of staring at a blank wall, though, and put up a gallery wall for the time being.

Living Room Tour 12 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Last week I finally ordered some new prints, since many of the frames were oriented differently than last time I used them, so the pictures were sideways. I love this cell-phone picture of Jules being a Nashville diva. She isn’t often dressed so cutely (my bad) and the lighting was great.

Living Room Tour 13 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Living Room Tour 14 (NaptimeDIY.com)

I still need to figure out what to do with the blank canvas, but until inspiration strikes it remains bare. When I was feeling artsy last week I sketched a silhouette of an elephant and pulled out our watercolors. I didn’t have real watercolor paper so I just used a piece of white foam core. Good enough for me.

Living Room Tour 15 (NaptimeDIY.com)

Living Room Tour 17 (NaptimeDIY.com)

My to do list for this room is pretty short, but here it is:

  • add coatrack (built, read about it here)
  • update wingback (check it out here)
  • build shoe dresser (done, read about it here)
  • refinish hardwood flooring
  • install shoe molding
  • paint front door (definitely inside, maybe outside as well)
  • lighting (either three can lights over the couch or a sconce on each side of the bay window nook)
  • build doors for base of left built-in

Linking up to Remodelaholic and East Coast Creative.

Jan 082014

I’ve been looking back through pictures on my computer and, boy, I’m so behind on updating the blog with changes around these parts! I’m not great on sharing an update when there are still lots of things to finish in the space, but really that just means I don’t give any updates. Our house tour is sadly out of date (meaning it is really just the “before” pictures!).

So what I’ll be doing is posting once a week sharing a space in our house I haven’t posted about yet, regardless of how finished it is (or isn’t). This way I can finally get the house tour page up to date and start posting more regularly in the process.

First up, I painted the bay window! We have been planning on painting it black for a long time. We even bought the paint in the late spring during a Sherwin Williams sale but I didn’t want to paint in 90-100 degree weather. Thankfully I squeezed it in just before the weather got too cold in November.

The Grove Exterior

The outside of our house has come a long way…last year we started by removing the huge honeysuckle and Japanese maple  that blocked the bay window and planted grass instead.

This year I completely rebuilt the retaining wall on the right side of the house. I removed tons of weeds, rebuilt the wall in a shape more pleasing to the eye and complimentary to the house, and filled it up with plants from Lowes’ end-of-season sale.

The Grove Exterior 6

removed all of the faded shutters to paint them black, then attacked the front porch area. I removed the old large shutter that held house numbers and a dingy light fixture in place of our new house number sign and ORB-painted light fixture. A newly painted mailbox finished off the upgrade for this year.

Front Porch Progress (via naptimediy.com)

Hopefully next year I’ll get around to actually planting something in the large black planter.

The Grove Exterior 5

I also painted the screen door and both upstairs windows black, but if I ran outside to take a picture now all you would see is white. We have a foot of snow on the ground and the snow gathered on the sills partially blocks the windows. I’ll take a picture when it gets a bit nicer outside.

The Grove Exterior 4

So yeah, just imagine that the windows and screen door are a nice matching black.

The Grove Exterior 3

I’m so glad we painted the windows, especially the bay window. When we first bought the house it was the only white window (we removed the black storm windows when Dylan replaced the upstairs windows) and it stood out like a sore thumb. It was badly stained and the spots wouldn’t come off with any kind of cleaner. The black windows make the house look so much nicer and fancier than before!

The Grove Exterior 2

Dec 242013

I didn’t stop working after finishing the tile. I mean, I stopped working on the fireplace because I had a craft fair coming up. But after poor weather led to the cancellation of that fair, I picked right back up where I left off. Here’s where it led me…

Fireplace Before and Progress (via NaptimeDIY.com)

So pretty, right? And I’m really not just begging for compliments. I just am so happy with how things went here! Especially because I had a major case of regret for most of this project.

Before I dive into some small details on this project, I want to give a disclaimer that everything I share is based on our specific fireplace. So I won’t go into specifics on measurements because everything was custom made for our space. It’s definitely a hack-job, but saying “custom made” sounds better, right?

When I removed the mantel I was left with just some bricks. There were 2x4s built in to the brick so there would be something to attach the mantel to. I used some scrap wood to build out the brick so everything would be flush.

Fireplace Mantel Build 1 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

I originally thought I’d rebuild the mantel from scratch. I wanted to make the new mantel a bit wider and shorter than the old one. I realized that the old mantel would be fine as far as the width went, since it was only two inches smaller than I wanted and I could cut down the top. I removed all of the nails and used a belt sander to remove all of the residue and glue from the old trim.

I used 2 1/2″ screws to attach the mantel base to the 2x4s built in to the brick and attached 1x2s for trim to begin the shaker style finish.

Fireplace Mantel Build 2 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

The gap between the horizontal 1x2s was where I knew I’d use another trim. I found this trim from our scrap pile and I believe it was from the scraps left in the basement when we moved in. I haven’t seen it used anywhere else in this house, but it matches other trim used in style, though not size.

Fireplace Mantel Build 3 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

From here on out you’ll see why I was so uncertain throughout the process…it looks pretty rough, right?

The hardest part with all of this was my goal to make all of the electronic cords hidden. Because there is a brick chimney behind the wall-mounted TV I couldn’t go behind the wall. I decided to build the wall out.

I started by making the “pillar” boxes (with small cut outs at the bottom for TV cords), then used scrap 2x2s and 2x4s (cut in half, just because I was using what I had and didn’t have enough otherwise) to build up the sides before I covered them with 1/2″ plywood. You can see that the cords will snake down, behind the pillar, down the sides and come out at the height of the electrical outlet, where I’ll put another built-in shelf for the surge protector and other electronics.

Fireplace Mantel Build 4 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

No more progress pics because I was just keeping on keeping on and feeling like things were never going to go right. Finally the end was in sight! It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the upper side and top pillars are built out a few inches from the sides and the part behind the TV. That weird cut-out on the bottom left is where cords enter the back of our TV so I wanted to leave plenty of room.

Fireplace Mantel Build 5 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

And now that magical moment when we can just fast forward to see the finished product!

Fireplace Mantel Build 6 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

We’re still decided what to do with the bricks so I left them unpainted for now. I think we’re leaning toward painting them a dark gray, but white and black were both on the table at one point. I also have high heat paint for painting the inside of the firebox black.

Fireplace Mantel Build 7 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

I did reuse the old mantel top, but sandwiched it between a new piece of trim on the bottom and a 1×10 on top.

Fireplace Mantel Build 8 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Here’s a sneak peak of the hidden cord system. I had to tilt the TV up to get this shot, so normally–even if you’re looking back there–you can’t see anything.

Fireplace Mantel Build 9 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Hard to believe it’s the same living room! I just gaze on it anytime I’m in the room. It really brightens things up, which is good since we don’t have tons of light in that room.

Now just a quick reminder of the very beginning, from before we moved in…

living room 2


…to after I built the first bookshelf…

fireplace before

…to the current look!

Fireplace Mantel Build 6 (via NaptimeDIY.com)


Now I’m just itching to build the built-in shelf on the right so I can clear out some of the stuff on the other bookshelf and make everything look pretty!

Dec 172013

It’s done! It’s actually been done for weeks. But now I’m sharing it!

With a weird 2 inch drop between the hardwood flooring and where our fireplace tile used to be, I was highly motivated to install new tile. You know, because my beautiful toddler is fascinated with all things she shouldn’t be messing with. So as a reminder, when I demoed the tile I was left with this.

fireplace demo 7

When I demoed the tile there was a 2-inch thick layer of concrete that came out with the tile, meaning before I could lay hardi-backer (or backer board) I needed to put in some extra underlayment so the new tile would be flush with the hardwood.

I had one additional headache to fix first, though, which was the extremely un-level concrete base. This Old House has a great internet tutorial I read up on before beginning this project (this only my third tile job, so I’m far from an expert…see my other tile jobs here and here). In this article it was said that you can use some thinset to level your base.

Fireplace Tile 1 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

It’s hard to tell from these pictures, but the left side of the floor close to the fireplace was a lot lower than the rest so the layer of thinset there is much thicker than on the right, though still thin enough that it dried out by that evening.

You can also see in these first two pictures that the hardwood picture frame border of the to-be-tiled area were in bad shape. Bad enough that two of them are sitting in the firebox because they were split in half! I found some scrap pieces from when we installed hardwood in our rooms upstairs, used the belt sander to remove the finish, and installed them with our 16-gauge nail gun.

Fireplace Tile 2 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

When it had dried I put down some 3/4″ thick underlayment OSB, securing it with Liquid Nails and a few concrete screws. After that I spread a thin layer of thinset, which helps act as a glue for the backerboard (which I had already cut and dry fit). You don’t have to use backerboard for a small backsplash, but it is key to a good floor tile job because it keeps the tile from shifting, which causes the grout to crack.

Fireplace Tile 3 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

I attached the backerboard with screws made for this purpose and used mesh tape and more thinset for the one seam I had (seen below on the right). Now it’s time to dry fit my tile! After all of this prep, the good part has begun!

To make sure things were centered I drew a line down the middle of the backerboard.

Fireplace Tile 4 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

The space I’m tiling here is 24″ deep by  71″ wide, which is perfect for my 6″ deep by 24″ wide tiles (we used these same tiles in our upstairs bathroom, so we know we like them). I had to trim about an inch off each side to get a perfect fit with my 1/8″ spacing. I also had to cut the pieces that sit right next to the fireplace. When I had all of my pieces cut I dry fit them one more time and it was almost perfect (I did have to cut a bit more off the pieces by the fireplace later with the wet saw, but fortunately I didn’t waste a piece by cutting anything smaller than I needed).

Fireplace Tile 5 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

Finally I busted out the thinset again and affixed these bad boys. The floor was still slightly sloped, which meant I both put thinset on the floor and back-buttered the tiles on the left so everything would be nice and flush and level when it was all said and done.

Fireplace Tile 6 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

Before going to bed I made sure to clean out the spacing lines of thinset so grouting would nice and easy. I also wiped down the top of the tiles so clean up would be easier than if the thinset dried. The next morning I woke up to a nicely tiled fireplace area!

I do wish I would have taped off the unfinished hardwood around the edge because some thinset fell on them and now I have to sand them down before I can stain them.

Fireplace Tile 8 {via NaptimeDIY.com}

But it’s finished! I forgot to take post-grouting pictures, but we are completely floored (cue groaning everywhere) with the results!

It’s very important to note that grout should only be used between pieces of tile. Between the tile and hardwood you can either use a caulk color-matched to your grout or do what I plan to try, simply because they’re materials I have on hand: use clear silicone caulk and sprinkle dry grout over it so it has the appearance of grout.

Dec 132013

Sorry for my silence the past few weeks…I have been preparing to participate in my first craft fair, but it’s been canceled two weekends in a row. Major bummer. So in the midst of this, here’s what I’ve been up to.

For some reason the week before Thanksgiving I decided it was a good time to demo the fireplace area. I have several projects I’ve been hankering to do for months, but put on hold until it was cold out. While it was warm I knew I needed to work on exterior projects (like the chicken coop and retaining wall), but now that it’s cold I can do projects inside the house.

First on the list? Our fireplace mantel. From the moment we first walked into this house I invisioned a built-up white mantel flanked by two tall white built-in bookshelves. Because of the configuration of our living room, mounting our TV over the fireplace was pretty much the only option, so redoing this area would give me a way to hide cords for our electronics.

living room 2

Last winter I put in some built-in bookshelves on the left side because we were in desperate need of storage. Our first house had so many built-in storage areas and shelves that we don’t have any freestanding bookshelves. As Jules became mobile, I had to get our electronics off the floor.

living room builtins 16

While that built-in helped immensely, I still had some work to do to reach my goal. Here is my inspiration from Tiek Built Homes.

After a day of demo, here’s my progress….

fireplace before and after demo

I distracted Jules with PBS kids for a bit, which allowed me to demo the mantel area. First I pulled off the actual mantel.

fireplace demo 1

Behind which I found a little postcard. I had kind of been hoping I’d find a little souvenir from the days of yore.

fireplace demo 2

And I did! This postcard from the mid-fifties cracked me up.

Hidden Postcard from the 50s

Our fireplace had this weird metal wood holder thing that I wanted to list for free on Craigslist. Thankfully Dylan researched it and learned that these are quite costly. The idea is that the hot air created by the fire enters the tubes at the bottom, then rises, shooting out of the top of the tubes into the room. Hopefully someone can use this, because we posted it on Craigslist. We have no plans to use this fireplace for a wood-burning fire, because we’d have to have a new flue liner installed. We’re toying with the idea of getting a ventless gas insert for this space. But with a toddler and a new high-efficiency gas furnace, we don’t have much use or need for a fire in our living room.

fireplace before 2

I liked the idea of reusing the basic wood frame of the mantel, but it was in rough shape. I tried removing the trim from the front, but it had been glued and nailed in place, so it didn’t come off well.

fireplace before details

The tile wasn’t in great shape either. I’ve seen worse, for sure, but the color and style (so many grout lines next to a fireplace!) weren’t working for me, and several pieces were broken. I sent Dylan and Jules to a friend’s house one night so I could remove it. An hour with the hammer drill and the tile and concrete below were gone.

fireplace demo 3

Along the front edge the subfloor was rotting, so I used the circular saw set to the proper depth to cut the rotten part out.

fireplace demo 5

It didn’t take much for it to be removed. It just flaked apart.

fireplace demo 6

With the mantel and tile gone, the demo is finished and I can begin to make it beautiful!

fireplace demo 7

Before I began demoing the mantel, Dylan spent an hour helping me move the antenna upstairs. He made a great $6 HD antenna, getting us all of the major broadcast stations (no cable TV for us, we’re cheap!). Right above our TV is an attic crawl space, so we drilled through the ceiling so we could feed the antenna cable up through the hole to the hidden antenna. We still get our stations without the visual distraction of the antenna. The cord will be hidden when I’m finished with my plans for the new mantel.

Nov 202013

It’s done!

Retaining Wall Rebuild 10 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Last time you saw the retaining wall it was about halfway done. Sure it had used up most of the blocks, but since the hardest part is leveling the bottom row, I’m sticking with halfway. By the light of day, I was loving how polished it looked compared to where it started.

Retaining Wall Rebuild 7 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

P.S.– This DIY wasn’t entirely done during naptime…thankfully I have a baby who loves playing in the dirt. 

Retaining Wall Rebuild 8 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

I’m so glad she loves being outside because it gave me a chance to finish up my wall!

Retaining Wall Rebuild 10 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Ain’t she a beaut? I was short about 25 blocks, but lucky for me they were on clearance at Walmart. I grabbed Jules, bought 25 blocks, loaded them in the car (by myself), unloaded them into my front yard only to discover that they’re different in depth by one very noticeable inch, loaded them back into the car, returned them to Walmart, then moped about all of that unnecessary moving of blocks.

Thankfully our local landscaping materials provider had the same size as my blocks. Having help loading the car was nice!

I found all of the plants (except for the existing crepe myrtle) on clearance at Lowes since it was the end of fall. I planted two slow-growing evergreen bushes that will eventually balance out the crepe myrtle, plus flowering perennials in the front of the space. Waiting for plants to grow is definitely the hardest part of landscaping!

Because I changed the shape of the wall and removed all of the weedy ground cover I planted grass in the rest of the yard. It came up nicely and is so green in the picture below.


Retaining Wall Rebuild 11 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Remember what it looked like before?

Retaining Wall Removal 5

If you missed it, you can read about how the retaining wall deconstruction here and the start of the rebuilding process here.

Linking up to The Happy Housie and Remodelaholic.

Nov 182013

It’s no secret that I’ve been intent on improving our curb appeal. I mean, when we bought this house, you could barely even see the front door! As far as land-scaping is concerned, last year we removed the honeysuckle and Japanese maple blocking the bay window, ripped up the ground-cover and planted grass. This year I knew I had to tackle the weedy area to the right of the front porch. I began by removing the buckled and overgrown retaining wall. Now I just had to rebuild it in a way more awesome way!

I spent a good deal of time looking up the right way to build a retaining wall. It varies based on the type of retaining wall you’re building, the height, its purpose, etc. I wanted to reuse the interlocking blocks I already had, which meant I needed a 5-6 inch gravel base, plus a gravel back fill for drainage.

Let me tell you, the bottom row took SO much longer than any other part of the wall. I promise, though, it’s worth it to do it right. Make sure each and every block is level, both left to right and front to back. Not only that, but make sure every block is level to the blocks next to it. It’s annoyingly tedious but worth it to be really precise in this step. The rest of your retaining wall depends on it!

Retaining Wall Rebuild (via NaptimeDIY.com)

I wasn’t a fan of the way the old retaining wall was shaped. It flared away from the house by the sidewalk and porch area, connecting to the sidewalk at a random place. To help me decide on the exact shape of my new wall, I pulled over the garden hose and played around until the shape looked right to me.

Before I got very far into laying out the blocks we took care of some water issues. First we diverted the gutter on the corner of the house into a pipe that fed into the storm drain. We also used some corrugated black pipe to lead the water from the gutter by the porch into the same storm drain. It looks like a mess here, but it will all be covered and hidden when the wall is finished.

Retaining Wall Rebuild 2 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Once I got many of the bottom layer blocks leveled and in place the second and third rows went very quickly!

Retaining Wall Rebuild 3 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

Quick tip: don’t get too excited and stack blocks up too high before you start to add your drainage gravel backfill. It gets much harder to shovel gravel over the wall the higher it gets!

At this point I put the camera down and kept trucking. Diverting the water, deciding on a shape for the wall, and the time-consuming leveling took up more time than I thought they would so I wanted to get as much wall built with the rest of the daylight. By the days end I was happy with my progress.

Retaining Wall Rebuild 4 (via NaptimeDIY.com)


It was back-breaking work, but so worth it for much better our house is looking! You can see below how there is a thick layer of gravel backfill behind the wall. You do this all of the way up the wall except for at the very top where you put soil for looks. This helps with drainage and will help keep your wall from buckling.

Retaining Wall Rebuild 6 (via NaptimeDIY.com)

I’ll be back Wednesday with the home stretch of the retaining wall and some pictures of how it’s looking now!

Nov 152013

As you saw in when I showed you our front porch, we had some weeds that were just asking to be pulled. The space directly in front of our house was in need of some love. I’m sure there were nice plants in there at one time (at least I still have that beautiful Crepe Myrtle!) but they’d been left to their own devices for years and it was showing!

Here’s a reminder picture from right after I painted the shutters and before I updated the light fixture and house numbers. See those wild plants to the right of the front door?

Retaining Wall Removal before

We live on a corner and every passerby had to look at these awful weeks overtaking our yard.

Retaining Wall Removal 2

What I thought were bushes turned out to be vines that had grown so large on this poor little retaining wall they caused it to buckle.

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Well, that can’t be blamed entirely on the vines, since I don’t think the retaining wall was built properly in the first place. I knew I’d have to deal with that space at some point this year, so when a little trimming-the-weeds-that-are-taking-over-the-front-porch turned into full scale plant removal and wall deconstruction, I wasn’t that surprised with myself. I was, however, surprised I chose the end of July for this task.

Retaining Wall Removal 4

Once I began uprooting weeds I realized that my crepe myrtle was being overtaken by vines. Half of what I thought was the plant was really an intruder (look back at the second picture to see how “full” it was before removing the vines).

Retaining Wall Removal 5

Fortunately I got all plants removed (by the root) and every retaining wall block stacked against the house in only a few hours.

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It was already looking better, but I knew it was only the beginning of my work! I’d never built a retaining wall, so that was a bit intimidating for me. Nothing an hour with google to research can’t fix, though!

Retaining Wall Removal 7

More to come…stay tuned!