Thursday, August 29, 2013

Solid Door + ugly cabinets = awesome sewing desk

I'm writing this post sitting at my new desk, in a clean office and LOVING it.

Less words, more photos:


The answer is this:


I love it! The colours are totally my style, it's recycled, organised, was pretty cheap to create and makes me feel less stressed about actually getting started on a craft project. No need to haul everything downstairs to the dining table and then have it laying around for ages if, er when, I don't clean it up on time and shove it in the corner when we need the table for dinner... I digress...

The before was bad. Since we bought the house in April and tried to unpack some of our boxes, the materials had just been lying on the floor. My husband's desk (you can see the white edge of it) is on the other side of the room (perfect width for two desks) and I wanted some proper space in this room too - might as well get the most out of one space. Randomly, the little white door on the little built in cupboard is not actually on the frame and that's finally been added to the project list for this house!

before shots...

I'll go into all the details further down, because I'd have loved to had some details but I saw something similar on the Houzz website - it was a random house in Europe with a double set of desks like this, but using butcher block counters as the top (um, hello, expensive!). But I'll just quickly explain what I put in the drawers, in case you care...

The plastic boxes came from my husband - he used to store model trains in them until he figured out a better system.

I just tonight sorted out my fabrics into colours - these are mostly the fill fabrics for quilts - and behind the containers are all the fabrics that are patterned and the basis for any design. They are aching to be used and I'm now itching to get sewing!

For now, all my threads and such are in the cupboard next to it. The other side drawers hold all the big pieces of material and all my specialised materials. The top drawer holds scrapbooking papers / stickers / etc also all organised. Ready for card-making, which seems to be what I use them for the most.  I made a little tag for the basket on top of the cupboard which says Mending and I've got two work pants in there - hopefully enough to kick me into gear to get them fixed after more than 6 months!

I already had the two bulletin boards from a yardsale and they were being well used as dust collectors laying on top of the fridge of all places. The buttons are in Australian instant coffee jars and I love them! Before we moved, I spent ages sorting them and putting them on ebay and they didn't sell and now I am so glad. They are my collection from over time but mostly come from my mother-in-law's collection that I inherited gladly. I love buttons!

So, if you care how I did it, read on! If not, thanks for reading thus far!

solid (fir apparently), found on kijiji
(Canadian version of craigslist)
for $20 
$5 each from Habitat for Humanity's Restore.
Love that place!
Make sure you choose two that are the same height -
they usually are but not always.
New handle for the one drawer - $5 Home Hardware

I used Rustoleum green paint to do the cabinets - can cost maybe $15, though I did prime them first, and I still have about 1/2 can left.  I primed even though it said I didn't need to, I did notice that where I didn't prime because I ran out, like on the drawers, the paint comes off easier, so I'm glad I did. I don't know what type of primer I used, it was a can of grey automotive primer spray, also cost $15. Toxic stuff. I just used a cheap brush to put the green paint on, so I didn't have to wash them and threw them out instead. There goes any environmental cred I had.

Once the primer had dried, I painted the cabinets. Since I had enough paint and since I wasn't sure if they would always be used this way, I painted all the sides, including the insides and the top and back, which you can't see right now. I wish I had painted the drawer insides either better or not at all (you can see it in one of the photos above).

I figured a shelf would come in handy, plus one of the drawers was a bit rusty on the inside, so I cut a piece to fit inside and it simply rests on the track for the drawers - nice and tight. I popped the wheels off with a bit of leverage with a screwdriver. I think longterm I'll get a real piece of wood, stain it the same colour and add a lip so you don't see into the bottom drawer, but for now this piece of laminate will do ($2 from the Restore). The box sitting on the shelf is a shoe box with some paper stuck to it and I used some transfer letters to spell "bits & pieces" - it currently holds some random scrabble letters left from another craft project, some cording, some interfacing, etc.

At the same time (this whole project was off and on over a month or so but I bought the items a while before...) I belt sanded the door. I debated stripping it but I didn't have any stripper left and was frankly sick of stripping after the bookshelf in my front room. I borrowed my dad's belt sander and it took longer than I thought, especially because it kept gumming up with the stain that was coming off, which I'd pick off. I probably also wasn't as done as I should've been and I think you can see that a bit in where the stain coloured slightly differently, but on the other hand it adds interest and I am really happy with the new, not so orangey, colour.

Where I took the handle off the door, my plan was to use that space to put cords through, which I've done. Had a bit of trouble doing that smoothly (leaning against a tree might not be the best workspace...) but am really happy with it now after spending more time on it in a slightly better location (on the ground behind the house, propped up on some boards!!) I really, really need a workspace!! (We have an old shed, that doesn't have power or lights and only two tiny windows. I did paint out there but not much else.


Then I had to contend with the hinge spaces on the front side of the desk - the hinges were inset so there was an ugly gap. So I used my table saw and cut about 1/2" off. Except that left a groove in the door (due to the way the door was built).  Hmmm, how could I fix that?!

I looked for various trims I could face the front with. I instead bought a roll of wood veneer "pine" cut a strip the right width and glued that (with some difficulty) to the door facing - remembering that the door handle goes near the wall, so the front facing is the whole width of the desk and what you see. It didn't stick perfectly (I don't have clamps) but did enough for me to stain and seal it and just tonight I added a few brad nails with my staple gun to keep it in place. No photos of any of those steps, but it is pretty straightforward.


Assembly - Easy!! Carry 3 pieces up the stairs, place the filing cabinets guestimate width apart and lay the table on the top. Move the cabinets until they are aligned on the edges and done!

Due to the weight of the door, I don't need to attach the cabinets to the door, this is not going anywhere. Bonus is that it will be easy to move if needed!

It is solid, slightly high but I'm tall and perfect for crafting (or typing blog posts tonight). So excited to get sewing in the next few evenings! 

Approximate Total cost = $50 (inc handle, paint. I had 1/2 cans of stain left and polyurethane from the bookshelf project)

Now all we need is a second office chair (current one is from Restore... see I told you I love that place!), so that we could both be in here at the same time if we want.

Editted - I've shared this post on a few different blog link parties, so if you are visiting from Not Just a Housewife or from Too Much Time on My Hands, welcome!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Front room is finished!

Our house has a little windowed enclosed front porch that is great when the weather is nice - you can see it is the whole width of the house right off the front door - this photo is from just after we bought the house (apparently I haven't taken many photos of my house since?!)

It is full of windows but unheated and so is very cold in winter - we'll be leaving the door between this room and the rest of the house closed all winter to prevent the cold from cooling down the whole house. The windows are two single panes, so that doesn't help, but right now, redoing windows in this room is probably the least of our worries!

Anyways, I'm finally ready to "reveal" it! (Basically means that I got around to finishing all the projects and taking some photos!)

It was already painted when we bought it by the previous owners (the owners before had it bright bright bright yellow, which is still evident in a few tiny places) and I quite like the colour scheme that it now is (even though normally I wouldn't be a fan of painted wood trim.

The blinds are all a really good quality thicker style white venetian blind, that we think are worth a bit of money, so happy to have had those included in the house.

In the last few months, all the pieces have come together.

We had the little table set from a friend of my parents - perfect for our family of three for breakfast or dinner on a summer day - much brighter than our regular dining room.

The striped chair in the corner was a $5 auction win a few weeks ago and is in almost perfect condition (price started at $20 and kept dropping and I put 1 bid in at $5 and no one bid against me!). Unfortunately, it looks more comfortable than it actually is and the material feels a bit plasticy, though if your feet are up, it's pretty decent. Heck it's $5 - if I only keep it for a month and sit in it each day, it's earned its keep!

The low green bench was another auction purchase for $2.50 at an auction just after we bought the house. I wrote about it how I changed the cover here which also has a better photo of it.

The wooden bookcase (photo further down) was bought for $5 at the Habitat for Humanity bookstore - see the "before" photo below - boy was it garish! I didn't want to repaint it, because it was really chipping off. So I had the (somewhat regrettable) bright idea to strip it - which ended up taking a very long time and made me go through 2 cans of stripper. I'm not over the moon with how it turned out but I definitely like it better than the original! I also have NO IDEA what was up with the cage-thing on top of the bookshelf. The only thing we could come up with is a stuffed animal holder? It is still sitting in the basement awaiting an idea for repurposing.
The only wall space holds a photo taken by a friend in Australia, that I matted in a recycled wood frame. You can also see the big window into the living room, which allows lots of light through.

I've now filled the bookshelf with random books, mostly larger coffee-table style books, and I'm happy with it.


I learned a lot from doing it - I learned that next time, when they suggest wood conditioner is important before staining, I'll believe them! (In the store, there was a piece of wood that showed with wood conditioner before staining and without - and parts of the bookshelf are exactly as the without sample).

I also learned that wood filler, even though it says "stainable" is not really stainable - it does not stain the same as the surrounding wood. The bookshelf had edging on the front lip of the shelf and I filled the little holes and now all of those patches are slightly lighter than the wood around. Likely would've been better off leaving them as tiny nail holes.

Overall though, I'm happy with the room! It looks a bit crowded (that striped chair is probably not the right thing for that corner) but it works for me for now. The gray colour is not something I would've chosen but I definitely like it despite that (and it is definitely "in" - I see it in all kinds of different design images) and same with the white trim.

I think the next big project (this was not really a big project, just a bunch of small ones) is a brand new bathroom in the basement - we've been hacking away at the plans/ideas/budget for this for a while now and I think we've come up with a pretty great plan. Executing it will be a different matter, but boy will we be excited to have a shower and a second toilet in this house!