Monthly Archives: February 2012

Check the Label


With a new pantry (check that out here if you haven’t seen it yet), comes the chance to do one of my favorite tasks.  Let’s say it together: re-org-a-nize.  Ah, the thought brings joy to my heart.

Have I mentioned that I L-O-V-E Pinterest?  Hm, thought so.  Well, I picked up this great storage idea from The Painted Hive which not only looked great but it was relatively inexpensive to replicate.

I followed her advice and picked up a few SLOM jars from IKEA: one 17 oz, two 34 oz, two 61 oz, and one bottle with stopper for a grand total of $24 pre-tax.  Not too shabby.



The Painted Hive’s guide involves using magic decal coating paper which she sources from an Australian company and it was a little pricey (try $14.90 for three sheets)… yikes!  It sounds like a great material but we weren’t ready to invest in the jars for that much just yet.  We decided to use regular clear sticker paper instead and just kept in mind that we wouldn’t be able to run the jars through the dishwasher as the ink would probably come off.  I’m pretty much a hand washing pro though, so I wasn’t too phased.

We found Avery clear, decal paper for $13.60.  For 10 number of sheets, the price wasn’t too bad and now I have a supply of sticker paper on-hand for the next random project that arises (with Pinterest, I’m sure it won’t be too long).

What I liked best about The Painted Hive’s tutorial was the label design she created.  I wanted to create a few additional food item labels and use a slightly different font (more of a typewriter look), so I decided to create my own labels.

Based on food we store, I decided to recreate The Painted Hive’s brown sugar and flour labels, create slightly altered powdered sugar and granulated sugar labels, and then created new labels for oatmeal and olive oil.  Feel free to download the PDF of the labels below for your own food storage jars!  Download here.

And guess who I suckered in to applying the stickers?  🙂


Alright, I don’t know what it is about women, but they’re obsessed with storage. I don’t just mean a place to store things, but I mean how everything has to be cute and stylish in some way. It’s not enough to put something in a box or on a shelf behind a door; no, everything has to have some clever storage solution, and quite honestly it drives me nuts.

So I catch Julie fawning over something on Pinterest and foolishly asked, “What’s that?” I hardly blinked before Julie threw my keys at me and shouted that we were going to IKEA. Um, OK, but she refused to tell me what for (which is a sure sign that it’s something that will require a lot of work… on my part). We finally get about halfway through the “Help Yourself” section (or whatever it’s called) when Julie points off in the distance and yells, “JARS!” At this point, I was a bit confused, as I had jars at home. No, apparently these were special jars. They had a few different kinds which were all either $4 or $6. Initially, Julie picked out all $6 jars, but I convinced her to pick a few of the $4 variety, including a bottle I promised would hold olive oil (an idea that made her eyes light up almost as brightly as the day I proposed).

We then scurried off to Office Depot in search of a transparent adhesive paper to make the labels, but all we could find was translucent, which gave the labels a “frosted” look which was decent, but not quite what we were looking for (which I like to think is an antique chemistry lab look, but is probably not the case).


As I applied the labels, I noticed that the moisture from my skin made the “frosting” rub off the paper… which gave me an idea. I grabbed a clean sheet and a damp paper towel, and buffed away like I was giving suede shoes a mirror finish. After about 20 minutes of carefully wiping the “frosting” off, I had what looked like a sheet of packing tape.

The bottom sugar label is the frosted look and the top sugar label is after my buffing work.

And here’s a shot to show the frosted paper versus unfrosted after applied on the jars.

Julie printed and cut another set of labels, and we finally achieved the look we were going for. I was paranoid about the ink rubbing off such a high-sheen surface, so I only handled the labels by the very outer edges, and we used Q-tips to push the air bubbles out.

I just never realized how much sugar we have in this house.


Here’s the final line-up.

And a close up of our beautiful new food storage solution.

And here they are in our stunning new pantry.

I think I may have a new label fetish.  Hmm… need to find more things to make Chris label stat.



Filed under Easy DIY Projects, Kitchen

Extended Shelf Life


So, if you follow me on Pinterest (for those missing out, find me here), you saw me obliterate the site with pantry picture after pantry picture.  Our pantry needed a serious storage overhaul.  Yes, cue the “first world problem” joke now.

Here’s what we were working with.

Not too bad so far, but let’s open the door.


Yikes, look at all those groceries.  Hmm how to reach them?  Easy solution- just wheel the thing out as it was intended.

Hm, no dice.  Still stuck in the same spot.  Ugh.  The pantry solution they built didn’t live up to its intended purposes, unfortunately.  The weight of all the groceries made the whole thing ineffective.  The thing was supposed to pull out much like the below picture.

There was just too much weight for the tiny wheels to do their job.  We were running into two main problems:

1) We weren’t making effective use of all the space.  Look at all that potential storage!

2) Groceries were getting lost in the back which is the reason we found a box of crackers that expired a year before we eventually found them.  Mm, tasty.

So, the dreaming began.  I found these magnificent pantry solutions on Pinterest.


Ah, yes, the solution would be individual pull-out shelves.  It was perfect!  That way we wouldn’t need to worry about pulling the whole pantry out thus running into the same weight problems.

I had visions of Container Store-level storage solutions dancing in my head.

I found these bamboo pull-out drawer options at Container Store but the maximum width was 20″ and we needed something 22″ wide.  And they were $69 each, meaning for five shelves we were looking at $345.  Not an ideal price for something that we’d have to figure out how to fit anyways.

We found another solution at Lowe’s in which we could order shelves that fit to our exact specifications through a vendor called Slide-A-Shelf.


We were getting closer to a solution but the price was still a little disheartening.  We were now looking at $425.  As Chris added this up in his head, I could tell he was convincing himself that he could replicate this for MUCH less expensive.

And we were off!  New pantry here we come!

The one thing I didn’t consider was the fact that we’d be living out of storage bins for meals.

Scrounging around plastic bins to find sugar, Paprika, and mac and cheese wasn’t exactly a thrill ride for someone OCD about organization.  Needless to say, the pressure was on to wrap this one up quickly.  Well, quickly turned out to be closer to four weeks rather than Chris’ original projection of it being just a “weekend project.”  My daily chants of “are we done yet, are we done yet?” probably didn’t help too much either.  Thank God one of us has patience (hint- it’s not me).


There were a few items we found in this house that had us scratching our heads- the gun rack/mini bar combo, the wood paneling, the freaky faucet in the guest bathroom- and the pantry was no exception, albeit a little more subtly. It was on wheels and presumably built with the intention that the entire contraption would roll out, but anything more than a bag of chips would weigh it down too much to roll… so getting to the pasta was a bit like spelunking. It was fairly well-made and was easy to hide (they had the decency to include a built in door… how thoughtful) so it took a back seat to a lot of other projects. Watching Julie struggle to reach the Pop-Tarts, though, I knew a solution would have to be found eventually.

Enter Pinterest, the bane of my existence.

Apparently while I sleep at night, Julie scours that stupid website for inspiration on ways to keep us busy on weekends. She stumbled upon pull-out pantry shelves, and it was all downhill from there. She went from dropping hints to flat-out pestering me to “fix” the pantry, and even put it on her Christmas list (seriously). I knew that I wasn’t going to get away with keeping the old pantry around much longer.

As with all of our projects, we looked into professional solutions first (just because I can do these things doesn’t mean I want to do these things). Conservatively, we were looking at approximately $400 for a standard solution that we would have to modify to fit, or over $500 for a custom fit solution… I’d rather keep tunneling to the basil. We then went to the store in search of a way to do this ourselves, and found some drawer slides in the home storage aisle that would bring the total closer to $200 (or $33 each), which was a bit easier to swallow, but still not tasty enough for our budget… no, we needed eBay- $48 shipped. 10-12 business days later and we were on our way to a new pantry (we purchase the 6 drawer slides for $5.99 each here).

First things first- out with the old. Once we took all the food out (the dining room table was now our makeshift pantry), it actually rolled. Sort of.


I wheeled it out the back door and stored in on the patio for a week. Fortunately bulk trash day was just around the corner, so I hacked it up with a sawzall and left it in a pile by the curb, never to be seen again.

Next, we decided to paint the walls inside the pantry. It had never been painted, and parts of it had never even been finished, and were still bare drywall. We decided to paint it the same color as the kitchen cabinets, but quite frankly you can’t even tell. Whatever.

Now the fun part- build five pull-out shelves. The means five shelves, mounting boards for five shelves, brackets for five shelves, fitting five shelves, sanding five shelves, painting five shelves… you get the idea. This was probably the most tedious project I’ve done in a long time.

I began by building the mounts for the brackets. These are critical in terms of support, but it’s not essential that they be pretty, or even exact, for that matter, so I cut 20 pieces of wood (10 2x3s and 10 1x2s). I used 2x3s because I had some left over from another project, and 1x2s because they’re not much bigger then the slides. Anyway, I mounted the 2x3s to the wall and wasn’t sure whether or not I anchored them to the beam, so I ran screws diagonally into the door frame to ensure they were mounted securely. The 2x3s didn’t add enough width in order to accommodate a shelf narrow enough to fit through the doorway when pulled out, so I had to mount 1x2s onto the 2x3s.


The most difficult part of this process (apart from the tediousness) was making sure everything was level. In order for the shelves to slide out properly, everything has to be even and level, not only in reference to itself but also in reference to its opposing piece. Doing it right for all five shelves was at least an entire day’s work!

Once the mounts were up, I could install the sliders- sort of. I actually had to pull the sliders apart and mount one half to the brackets, the other half to the shelves. This was probably the most frustrating part of the entire project. I realized early on that the pantry itself was not square and in fact narrowed as you went toward the back wall. Fortunately the slides had mounting tabs that allowed for gradual adjustments, so I was able to shim them out until both side were equidistant across the entire depth of the pantry.


If you’re still with me after the last two paragraphs, you’ve made your high school geometry teacher proud.


If you’re not with him, don’t sweat it.  I was lost on day one.


Anyway, we were finally getting to the meat and potatoes of the project- the shelves. Shelves are generally pretty straightforward, but this was a unique situation in that every shelf had it’s own unique width, and it had to be exact. When drawers are built for furniture, cabinets, etc., they’re built in a factory which ensures computer-aided precision measurements every time… I just had a tape measure. I measured the distance between the slides but had to subtract the width of the 1x4s I was using for the sides, and that was the width of the base. I had to make five unique measurements and precision cuts for the shelf bases, and once I had those pieces I had to make four sides for each one. I used 1x4s for the sides and back and 1x2s for the front so that the contents of each shelf would be easier to see, and to act as a handle. Finally, I nailed the inner slide piece to each side of the shelf. After almost going deaf from driving 125 nails into these things, I had some functional shelves.

Safety first!


The last order of business was to sand and paint everything.  I used high-quality wood which has pretty sharp edges, so we rounded them off and painted everything with an oil-based enamel so that it wouldn’t rub off from all the abuse they will undoubtedly suffer through.


I got the shelves installed but wasn’t satisfied with the amount of effort they needed to be pulled in and out. I insisted on ball-bearing sliders, but we definitely ended up with a lower end product. I doused the bearings and slider contact points with white lithium grease, and the difference was night and day (just don’t tell Julie I used automotive-grade lubricants in her kitchen)!

After getting everything installed I noticed what was possibly the greatest oversight in the history of the house: there was several feet of space above the shelves that had never been utilized properly, so I quickly cut two permanent shelves out of scrap wood to allow for storage of some of the items we don’t use very often. I mounted up the door I cut to size, mounted a spice rack to the door, and we were finally able to get our non-perishables out of plastic boxes.

If you think this post was long, well… so was the project. Believe it or not, this took longer than both our bathrooms combined. With more than a week’s worth of cumulative work days, this was perhaps the most labor-intensive project to date. As tedious as it was at times, it was definitely worth it. It required plenty of problem solving, precision, and craftsmanship to be something I’m truly proud of. Best of all, though, is that Julie is absolutely ecstatic and loves the new pantry, which made it all worth it… because that’s one less thing she can bug me about now.


There’s just something about a new door that makes me so happy.

Look at all those crisp, white shelves just waiting to be stuffed with groceries!

Chris’ brilliant upper, fixed shelves for storing non-everyday items, aka Julie needs a stool to reach.

You know we had to do a staggered shot to show up those catalog, inspiration photos.  Oh la la.

And here are the shelves at their max length.  Look at all that storage!

It didn’t take us long to cram the shelves full again.

Everything is so easy to reach now.  It’s been a HUGE difference in grocery grabbing morale around here.

And here’s a full shot (although it doesn’t even show the upper, fixed cabinet).  Man, we crammed a lot of shelves in there.

Ah, there are those upper shelves.  Guess we won’t be needing you anytime soon, mister red solo cup.

And now for that spice rack.  Did this fool you into thinking I’m an expert chef?  (Pst, I’m the furthest thing from that.  Chris pretty much does all the cooking).

Did you notice those oh-so-cute labeled glass jars peeking out in some of the pictures?  We’ll be posting about those soon so stay tuned!


Filed under Kitchen

Chair-ishing This One


If you caught our post on my trip to Round Top, then you may remember this guy.

I picked the chair up for $25 and Chris promptly teased me for investing $25 in what essentially belonged in a dumpster, but I saw the hidden potential and was determined.

The first thing that needed our attention was the intricate back detail.  The wood was cracked apart in several places.  I put on my doctor cap, filled in the gaps with wood glue, and placed a clamp to hold the two pieces together.

After a little mending, I began sanding down every inch of the chair.  The chair had originally been covered in a dark stain and varnish.  Much of it had peeled away and I used a sanding block to get rid of the rest, or at least sand it down to be an even surface.

It was finally time to paint!  I decided to go with a cream color and ended up using a can and a half of Rust-oleum’s Satin Heirloom White spray paint found at Home Depot (this sucker took a lot of paint!).

A few spray paint tips (80% of these are coming from Chris):

  • Shake can well and often
  • Hold the can approximately 4-6″ from surface
  • Spray in short strokes
  • Start and end off target area
  • Spray in short bursts
  • Don’t do heavy coats, do many light coats
  • Hand off to Chris to do whenever possible

Unfortunately, he’s been catching on to that last tip lately and made me take care of turning the chair from trash to treasure myself.  I found the above tips really came in handy though and am proud to say they are now 100% Julie tested.

First coat.

Second Coat

Third Coat (finally done!!)

The next step was finding a fabric for the cushion.  I wanted something in a neutral color so we could move the chair around throughout the house without recovering it.  On a venture to Joann’s, I found the cursive fabric below called Pen Pal Parchment by Waverly.  Perfect!

As I argued with Chris in the aisle that it didn’t matter that I had no idea what the French words meant, he pointed out that what appeared as the word “savage” was written across the center of the design.  Ugh, see what I live with??

The fabric was normally priced at $26.99 a yard but all Waverly fabrics were 50% off, plus I had 20% off coupon.  For the 1/2 yard I needed, it was a grand total of $5.40.  Cha-ching.

Now all I needed to do was to convince Chris to take time away from our pantry project to figure out how the heck to assemble a seat cushion from scratch.  Easy enough.


Let’s get a few things straight. First of all, Julie told me the chair cost $10, not $25. Second, the C-clamp and wood glue was actually my idea- Julie handed me a very dilapidated chair and simply said “fix it”. Third, I did at least half of the painting, and 100% of the labor involving the plywood, cushion, and covering were done by yours truly. So give credit where credit is due, Julie.

Anyway, refinishing the chair itself was the easy part. The hard part was making the cushion. For the dining room, we simply put new fabric over old fabric on existing cushions- no sweat. This time, though, I had to make a base, a cushion, and cover the cushion without any lumps.

I started by tracing out the shape of the chair one on side of a 1/4″ thick piece of plywood:

I then used a handsaw (I had another project drying in the garage, so I didn’t want sawdust flying everywhere) to cut out the overall shape.

From there, I was able to make more marks for finer cuts, before sanding the edges of the final product.

After cutting the foam cushion to size, I used hot glue to adhere it to the plywood.

It’s best to use a heavy object to ensure proper adhesion. Like your butt.

Next, I fitted the fabric over the cushion and had Julie position it to her liking.

I pulled the front edge of the fabric over and stapled it to the underside of the plywood. I then pulled the back edge over, ensure a tight and uniform look between the two sides.

After that, I stapled the sides over and carefully crafted the corners to appease Julie.

About an hour later, I was finally done. I carefully set the cushion atop the chair and got underneath to determine the best way to fasten it to the frame and… CRACK! I shot out from under the chair for fear I might get shards of plywood in my eyes. I looked up just in time to catch Julie sitting on the chair with a surprised and guilty look on her face, and I immediately knew what happened- Julie had decided to sit in the unfinished chair with the force of a bullet and had cracked the plywood base. Ugh, see what I live with??

I guess I have a new project now.

After (sort-of).


Filed under Before & After

Take a Seat


Dear friends,

I’d like to introduce you to the epitome of ugly, hotel curtain fabric.

CAUTION: this image is not for the weak of heart.

I think it’s ferns… on a base of some coral chevron pattern… but let’s just call it hideous.

So, I paid $20 for that.  WAIT, I’m not crazy.  Let’s pan out.

I paid $20 for THAT.  Yup, another CraigsList find.  From the most unsuspecting seller too.  We drove up to the place and found a 20-something single guy living in a new, downtown district, sky-high-price-per-square-foot townhome.  I was kind of curious how he came to own this chair… but, at the same time, assume I wouldn’t want the chair if I knew the whole story.

I made Chris make the obligatory test sit.

The picture is actually in our garage some time later but you get the idea.  The chair held sturdy so a $20 bill later and we were the proud owners of the fern beast.  Still not sure how I convince Chris to go along with all these crazy schemes.  You see, I had grand plans for a sitting area in our bedroom.  I was coveting a beige linen wingback chair from Pottery Barn.

Oh, hello cute chair!  Oh, hello exorbitant price tag.  Seriously?  $899 for this sucker?  Not in this life time.  I was determined to replicate this, complete with my own nailhead detail.

I found a great fabric with the linen look AND got it 20% off because I hit up a semi-annual sale.  At $70 for 7 yards, it was a done deal.  I called up our amazing upholsterer and he whipped it out in a week, complete with nailhead trim!  I keep waiting for the frequent upholsterer discount as this was the third chair I’ve brought to him… guess I need a few more before that happens (probably won’t be a problem considering my chair addiction).

Before it was upholstered, I had to fix up the legs.  I decided the cure would be a fresh coat of paint over the cheap-looking wood.  I painted it black for now but will probably go back and paint white over it then distress it.  Eventually.


Ah, much better.

I found a great numbered pillow to complete the look.  A score at Stein Mart for $19.99.  Not too shabby!

I also need to spend some time explaining the “sitting area” to Chris.  He doesn’t understand why I never sit there yet insist on calling it the “sitting area.”  Ugh, boys.


It takes a lot to surprise me, even from Julie. So when she suggested we drive 20 miles to go look at a $40 chair, I didn’t think much of it. We have two compact sedans, so I knew I’d need to source a larger vehicle if we wanted to actually bring it home. I asked my boss if I could borrow an SUV from work and he agreed, but was curious as to why. I told him Julie’s grand plan and he replied, “wait… are you even old enough for a wingback chair?”

Anyway, we went downtown and looked at the chair and decided it had potential- after all, it held me up without anything breaking, which is more than can be said for the chair I had in my college apartment. I chatted the guy up about his car and motorcycle and talked him down to $20. I tossed it in the back of the car and away we went, trying to figure out exactly what the smell was.

The first order of business was to paint the legs, mostly to hide all the nicks and bite marks (I’m serious). Next, we called the upholsterer, who is a little bit crazy but also does excellent work. We got the chair back in about a week and as soon as I texted Julie that it had arrived, she called me in a frenzy wanting the know if they installed “the buttons.” I confirmed that there were indeed nickel buttons. I’m not really sure what all she said next, but I do remember hearing the phrase “AAAAHHHH I LOVE BUTTONS!!”

This chair has now been placed in a “sitting area” in our bedroom, but no one ever really sits there (except the laundry).


For more information on those fabulous chevron curtains you see behind the chair, check out our no-sew curtain tutorial here.


Filed under Before & After, Master Bedroom