An Unexpected Bathroom Update

When doing a large renovation, such as our basement, there is often extra “add-on” work. Usually something fun like redoing some flooring or something functional like adding air conditioning. It’s the classic “Well while we have the walls open…”

We had planned things out pretty intensely and were not expecting any add-on work. But when it came time to move the plumbing drains for the upstairs bathroom we discovered the old lead drain for the sink was draining into the toilet drain arm. The drain to the sink would need to be redone to meet modern code and it could not be fully accessed from the basement below. Our options were to cut a hole in our upstairs bedroom wall to access the drain from behind, or cut into the tiled wall in the upstairs bathroom and access it from the front. I chose the later because I have always wanted to put a true vanity in the bathroom instead of the over sized pedestal sink. I figured the vanity would cover the smallish hole the plumber needed to drop the old pipe down and pass a new PVC pipe up.

So I bought my 23 5/8″ wide Lillangen vanity from Ikea put ‘er together and was well on my way to floating vanity bliss. When it came time to do the plumbing, my contractor grabbed his grinder to grind out the hole. Again I’m thinking a smallish hole. He asks the size of my new vanity I say 24″. And what did he do, he went and cut a 24″ wide, 30″ tall hole in my wall.

upstairs bath

Lots of holes in the walls and the old pedestal sink

Now that there was no wall to use some toggle bolts to secure my floating vanity I decided she needed some legs. Not being a fan of the metal base Ikea sells I decided to make my own. So I grabbed the necessary tools: Miter saw, Kreg Jig, semi-willing husband, and got to work. I designed up a simple base and we got to work.

In the end we used a single select pine 2x2x8, some scrap 2×4’s, and lots of screws. Final cost being around $15. After we assembled it, I sanded it, primed it, and painted it with some BM Advance paint in Super white I had left over from the kitchen cabinets.

custom lillangen base

Then we did some major MacGyver-ing with 2×4’s, 1×4’s and shims to have a couple attachment points for the vanity to the single wall stud.

Ikea lillangen sink

The Ikea plumbing actually worked out beautifully. The faucet connections were the same as our previous Kohler faucet. And the Ikea drain system (the topic of many online horror stories) actually went together really easily with a 1 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ reducer from Ace Hardware.

Ikea lillangen sink and dalskar faucet

The cabinet and sink are only 16″ deep which makes the bathroom feel much bigger. I really love the trough sink and single handle faucet. I think the base actually makes the modern vanity blend in with the rest of the house better than having the cabinet float 5″ off the floor. Sometimes everything just works out.

Ikea lillangen

I’m hoping to add some pretty chrome pulls or knobs to the cabinet doors, but in the mean time I couldn’t be happier with our unexpected update.


Cabinet: Ikea Lillangen 2 door cabinet

Sink: Ikea Lillangen

Faucet: Ikea Dalskar


Club Chair Reupholstery

Last year I picked up a set of club chairs for $40. They were in nice shape (and comfortable!) but I didn’t love the navy, orange and gold fabric. I figured they would be a great introduction to furniture reupholstery. After sitting around the house for a year and a half, I finally got around to reupholstering one of the chairs. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 18 months to finish the second.

chair before and after

The refinishing and reupholstery process was really straightforward. I first removed the cushions from the wooden frame. They were attached by screws at the bottom. I then removed the cording that was stapled to the frame. The wooden frame was a little scuffed up so I gave it a good scrub with murphy’s oil soap. Followed by a light sanding with fine sand paper. I removed the sanding dust with a microfiber cloth and then used Restore-a-Finish in Walnut over the entire frame. Finishing it all up with my favorite product: Howard Feed-n-Wax.

Once the frame was done I tackled the cushions. Un-upholstering was the worst part of the process. Staples haunted my dreams for a couple nights. I removed the cording first, and then the fabric, finally pulling out any remaining staples with a flathead screwdriver and needle nose pliers.

The original foam was in amazing shape so I did not replace it. The upholstery job was really simple. Basically pulling the fabric tight and stapling. And my fabric choice…canvas drop cloth! What else would I use? I love the texture and color of drop cloth and the fact that it is durable and cheap is just the icing on the cake.

Once the cushions were upholstered I screwed them back into the frame. I chose not to finish the chair with cording yet. I don’t mind the way it looks without it, but adding cording will make it look perfectly finished. The cushions are really easy to remove so I can always add the cording at a later time – when I get the courage to sew it.

reupholstered club chair

reupholstered club chair

reupholstered club chair

The new fabric makes the chairs light and fresh. Now I have to decide if I want to keep them in the office or place them in the living room as pictured above. Decisions, decisions…

Built-in Refrigerator

Finishing the nook has started me on a kitchen finishing rampage. All the little details that have haunted me for the past two years are getting crossed off the list.

This past weekends victim…the “built-in” refrigerator. In our wonky house the fridge is actually inside a small space that is inset in the wall (basically a closet). This was not some clever space saving design decision. It’s just the way it was when we bought the house, and with no other space in the tiny kitchen for a fridge, it remained there.

We think the space originally might have been a pantry and at some point the doorway was sloppily widened to house a refrigerator. The floor of the space is the same tongue and groove hardwood as the rest of the house, but it is 4″ higher that the rest of the floors. And it gets even wonkier…It is also the only access to our attic. Gotta love old houses.

When we designed the new kitchen, I wanted the fridge to have a purposely built-in look. As opposed to the “cut a big hole in the wall” look. But something got lost in translation between the carpenter who installed our kitchen and my built-in fridge dreams. The rough cut hole was still there, the bottom of the cabinet left exposed, and the “baseboard” hanging off by a single sad nail. It actually looked a bit worse. He thought it looked great, and being that he had screwed up a bunch of other stuff in the kitchen we decided we would fix it ourselves… and two years later we did it.

*A little side note on the mechanics of this cabinet: The space that houses the fridge is 40″ deep. Which is deeper than a standard base cabinet. The carpenter cut the back of the cabinet box off, so there is a 4″ frame of cabinet box that attaches to the walls. He then took a piece of light oak melamine and cut it to the depth and width of the space. The melamine sits on cleats that you see in the photo above. Being that this space is also our attic access, a normal 24″ deep cabinet would not have allowed us to get up into the attic. This was very smart of the carpenter (I will give him that and that alone).

Now back to making things pretty… The first thing we did was unscrew the cabinet frame and slide it back so the doors would be flush with the vertical trim, giving the cabinet an inset look. We then detached the top trim piece cut it down and reattached it flush with the rest of the trim. We then cut back the cleats that held the melamine bottom. This was to enable us to attach a small piece of molding on the bottom to hide the shelf and be flush with the doors. At the very top, we attached cove crown molding to match the original cabinets on the opposite wall.

Built-in refrigerator cabinet

With the cabinet done we focused on cleaning up the fridge opening. We fixed the corner cut in the upper right corner, allowing us to finish the rough edge (to the right of the fridge) by adding a piece of corner molding. Finally, we added a 5.5″ baseboard at the bottom (remember the space the fridge is in is 4″ higher than the surrounding floor).

We then caulked all the little gaps and nail holes, and finished everything off with 2 coats of paint.

Built-in refrigerator

Built-in refrigerator

Built-in refrigerator

It took an entire day to finish and was so worth it. These little details make all the difference between the kitchen looking like a crappy DIY job and a well-designed, custom kitchen.

We Made a Headboard

For those of you waiting for a thrilling sequel to We Made a Bed…here it is.

DIY upholstered headboard

We made a headboard!

My goal for the bed was this beauty from Restoration Hardware. I like the simple lines and linen fabric. It just looks so relaxing and comfortable. The price tag is anything but comfortable. So I decided I could make something similar with the help of my partner in DIY insanity, also known as my husband.

I looked at a lot of upholstered headboard tutorials online (people love making upholstered headboards), and used some of those tips. Most people make the headboard out of a sheet of 1/2″ plywood cut to size, then some 1″ foam, batting, and finally fabric. I went about things a little differently.

First, we built a frame out of 2×4 lumber. The two vertical posts are 56″, and the three horizontal rails are 54″. This makes a 56″ tall and 61″ wide frame (which works for our homemade queen size bed). I wanted the headboard to have some depth to it that wasn’t just foam. That is why I decided to make a 2×4 frame. You get the 1.5″ depth of the 2×4 plus a little extra from your upholstery.

headboard frame

Next, we attached a piece of 1/4″ plywood underlayment to the frame with brads. (We had Home Depot cut the underlayment to 41.5″ tall by 61″ wide).

headboard frame

And now for the upholstery part…I wrapped the base frame with 2 layers of batting. I did this gently as batting tears very easily. The batting (and all other layers) is secured on the back of the frame with staples. I then wrapped the headboard with a cheap sheet. Wrapping the batting in thin fabric before the final fabric gives a much smoother and nicer look, in my opinion.

To finish it off, I wrapped the headboard in my favorite fabric of all time…canvas painter’s drop cloth. It is thick, soft (after washing and drying), and gives a nubby linen look. I did all my upholstering with the headboard standing up so I could smooth the fabric as I went.

headboard alone

The corners are the most difficult part and my method was basically like a hospital corner when making a bed. I cut away some fabric and then just played with the fabric until I got a smooth and sharp corner.headboard corner

The back isn’t pretty but it doesn’t show. I included a picture to help anyone understand the upholstery job.

headboard back

Once the upholstering was done, we attached our new headboard to the bed using two  3″ wood screws through the leg of the headboard and into the leg of the bed frame.

DIY upholstered headboard

DIY upholstered headboard

It turned out really nice. It is not super cushy but it is soft and feels just fine to rest your head on while reading.

As for cost:

  • 2×4 lumber:  $13.41
  • 1/4″ underlayment:  $13.95
  • Batting:  $6
  • Sheet:  $4
  • Drop cloth:  $11.88

An upholstered headboard for around $50. I’ll take it!

Office Update: Gallery Wall and end of the January Cure

My goal was to finish the office during the month of January, as I participated in the January Cure. It is now mid-February and I am calling the office done…for now.

The reason the office did not get finished by February 1 is not me (I am perfect), it was the polar vortex. Besides causing major havoc and misery all over the United States, the freezing temps also delayed my spray painting, which delayed finishing the office. Again, this had nothing to do with me starting 100 projects at once and watching too much tv.

As I mentioned in this post, one of my goals for the finished office was to add a bulletin board. I found this bulletin board at Target for $10. The faux wood finish was gorgeous but I wanted a different look. I painted the frame with Rustoleum Metallics gold spray paint. Eventhough I sanded to frame to rough it up, the spray paint pooled in some spots and didn’t want to stick. After it dried, I used some antique gold rub ‘n buff to cover any wood that was peeking through where the spray paint did not stick. I then painted the cork with a sample pot of paint, Mariner by Martha Stewart. I like the navy and gold combo, and if I tire of it I can always paint it a new color or use some fabric to cover it.

navy and gold bulletin board

The other frames are Ikea Nyttja frames. I used the same spray paint, rub ‘n buff method with them. Again, I had issues with the spray paint adhering. Not sure if it was user error (likely), or if I need a primer over these plastic surfaces.

I made a calendar with one of the large nyttja frames. On the back of the plexi glass I drew a calendar grid with navy sharpie. I then attached a piece of scrap white fabric. I put the frame back together and added the month and day numbers with the same sharpie. When I need to change the month a little rubbing alcohol takes the sharpie off of the plexi glass. (You could also use a dry erase marker and skip the rubbing alcohol step). Immediately after I finished this grand feat of engineering I noticed I do not have enough spaces in the grid for a month with more than 28 days. Looks like I have some fixing to do, or I can just forget the last few days of the month exist.


I used white fabric scraps to back all the frames. The thin fabric worked really well in the smaller frame, but tends to pull oddly in the larger frames. I will probably try a thicker fabric in them. I added a black and white picture to the smaller nyttja frame and I’m still thinking about what pictures to add to the other large frame. The small square brown frame is from Target long ago and houses a watercolor painting of mine.

gallery wall

As for the rest of the office…things are looking good.

Office full

The rug is from Target and used to be in the bedroom. The desk chair is also from Target. It’s from their Room Essentials line and I haven’t seen it listed online. The desk was a thrift store find.

The aqua cart is the raskog cart from Ikea. I had absolutely no use for it, but bought it anyway. That is how it came to live in the office. The jury is still out if it actually works in here, but functionally it is great. It holds all the internet stuff in the bottom, and stationary in the other shelves.

On the other side of the room I made a seating area. I bought these chairs at a thrift store last year with plans to reupholster them…that didn’t happen. I hope to reupholster them this summer, but in the meantime they make a nice place to sit in the office.


The large shelving unit behind the chairs is West Elm from a while ago. I actually found mine on Craigslist about 2 years ago.

That’s the new and improved office. Did the cure work? I think so, being that the ultimate goal was a cleaner more organized space. The office started as a big disorganized closet and now we actually enjoy the space. It not only looks better; it is 100x more functional and has become a room we actually use.

Well done January Cure. See you in 2015.