(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gettin' Horizontal......with Mirrors

Ohhh my......

This is not that kind of post.

It's this kind of post:



Mirrors. Hung horizontally. Yeah?
Ohhh yeeeeeaaah.

I'd seen those pins a while ago, and had squirreled them away to a board of 'nice to have' things, but didn't think I'd get around to it anytime soon.
I thought that the nook on my porch which houses the porch couch would do very well with horizontal mirrors to open up the recessed-ness of that corner.

Enter Public Surplus with 4 hot pink long mirrors.

$1 and they were mine! Oh Public Surplus, how I love you; let me count the ways.....

They had no hanging hardware so I added a sawtooth hanger to each. I drilled itty bitty holes in preparation for the itty bitty nails.

The nails were so itty bitty I could not hammer them in without hitting and smooshing the sawtooth bracket. A spare flathead bit helped me isolate the force of each hit to the just nail head.

perma-schmutz'd hands

On the back of one of the mirrors, I worked out the measurements for where to put screws into the wall.

Anything worth doing is worth over-engineering

It took a bit of muscle and a few choice words to accomplish the drilling and screw sinking in my concrete block walls. But insta-reward when the mirrors went up:

spot the creepy item


Goes well with the new art piece on the wall. As a girlfriend said recently when she walked onto the porch 'this is what Anthro is trying to do'. Bestill my beating heart......she sure knows how to flatter a girl.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Art School Leftovers

Leftovers are awesome. Be it food, paint, fabric, rescued animals, money (ha!), or art.
I have a lot of 'leftover' art, which I absolutely treasure.

Being in the art department in college gave me the opportunity to interact with all sorts of creative and crazy talented people who had exceedingly high standards of themselves, and excelled in various fields. The painters would churn out pieces they found mediocre, but I would pee my pants if I could create, and was therefore more than happy to take off their hands. 
I had similarly high expectations for my sculpture and ceramics: it was good, but I wanted it to be great. My castoff's were still high quality, and quickly grabbed by friends who could paint the aforementioned masterpieces, but created 3-d pieces that could be described as 'paperweights' for grandma. 
For the record: I am pretty limited in my artistic talents. My painting skills do not extend past painting a wall. With the exception of pastels done one specific way, any 2-d artwork of mine is grandma territory. Unless I can make it with my hands: best of luck telling if that piece hanging on the wall depicts a landscape or a vegetable (an no, it's not like it's even abstract).

Most of this leftover art has been sitting in my parents basement, or loaned out to friends and family for the better part of 10 years. I'd recently been thinking about some handmade ceramic tiles a professor who heavily impacted/inspired me in college had given me, but I did't see anywhere when moving. Soon afterwards, I discovered them at a friend's house lining her garden. She was graciously happy to let me have them back, so I quickly snatched them up before she changed her mind. (thanks Trish!)

These tiles were made from terracotta clay in a custom built tile mold. This particular professor had gone out of her way by letting me pester her into showing how she both built tile molds, and created the tiles. It wasn't part of any normal class curriculum, just an aside one evening when we were both in the studio. She was producing a huge number of tiles for some project I can't pretend to remember. Some didn't meet her standards and she allowed me to have them. 
A hallmark of her work, to me, is the incredible texture she is able to achieve.

ceramic nerd ho

I love the piece's roughness due to it's material composition and handling, and the surface finish from the glaze and kiln effects.

I'd never done anything of substance with these tiles, but have always wanted to display them. There are no attachment points on the back of the tiles, so I decided to mount them on a board, with mortar, just like any other tile.
They are heavy, and will be hung outside, so I needed a sturdy and weather resistant board on which to mount them. 
I laid them out in the pattern I wanted and figured I could piece together a backing from some of the scrap wood piling up on my deck.

Wrong answer.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time sizing, cutting, bracketing, yadda yadda yadda, and came out with an inadequate, wonky backing. 

those aint good apples

Off to Home Depot and $6.50 later, had all the wood I needed.

2x4 strand plywood

I laid the tiles out again and traced around the edge. I lopped off the big pieces with my circular saw, and dremeled off the rest. All the cuts were straight, so this was nice n easy.

fear not, the pallet table was safe

To seal the wood, I painted the whole thing with grey primer.

project helped immensely by a delicious shandy

I then slopped on a layer of leftover mortar and laid down the tiles. I slowed my roll and let the mortar cure for 72 hours before grouting. I made sure to cover the edges of the board with the grout as well so it would not have a weird grey edge.
The thing is indeed HEAVY and required heavy duty hanging hardware on the back.

thats a good looking back side

It is now living proudly on my porch, lookin fine in the summertime.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fan 'o' Recycling

My balcony is a great place to be, but when its a little too warm and I want to use it anyway: it gets stuffy because there's not a lot of air circulation, due to it being within the footprint of the building, rather than cantilevered out.
I took a gander at Home Goods to see if they had any clearance fans that could help a sister out; but they did not. Seems small, attractive fans are in high demand due to the season and therefore not likely to be on clearance: my bad.
In my parent's garage I re-found (as I'd used this thing many times) an old office fan that worked well, but looked quire unappealing.

Reliving the 80's through beige and tan.

As I do love free things, I went about making it work for me.

I took the thing apart and cleaned 20 years of dust and schmutz from the surfaces and motor. All the plastic surfaces were super smooth, so I gave them all a light sanding with a sanding block. I taped all the pieces off so the lines would be crisp and paint wouldn't get all over the blade cover. Any paint on the grating would be a pain in the @$$ to scrape off.

I primed the whole thing to further ensure that the new paint would stick to the plastic surfaces. Using some black and minty green spray paint I already had, I gave each piece several light coats. The mint colored paint did not provide great coverage, so it those pieces got about a million coats.

Because I'm in a condo, don't have a private yard, and I mainly do these projects in the evening after dark; I execute the spray painting of small objects a little oddly. With outstretched arms; I lean out over the balcony railing and work in short bursts. I wear a latex glove on the hand grasping the object so that I wont walk into work the next day sporting the overspray as a crappy hand accessory.

picture this holding fan parts

With some trial and error; I reassembled the pieces.
Blow me over: that's one good lookin fan.

A retro-redo for $0.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Kitty Loo

I'd posted before about my grand plans for getting the litter box out of the house. Turned out, the execution of these plans was much simpler than I'd anticipated. Score!

I started by priming and painting the toy chest with some leftover paint.

Action shot! First one I think. 

I then read the directions for the cat door at least three times. They didn't make much sense to me, but I decided to jump in and blindly follow along. First up drilling some holes:

Measure, mark, drill, take picture.

Then, using a jig saw to cut from hole to hole.

I love me a jig. Dance or power tool.

Attached the door, plopped down a plastic container that fit (I stole it from the pantry and now have one shelf in UTTER DISARRAY. Or not.), and put in a mat to catch errant litter.

Directions worked! Behold the Kitty Loo

I ordered a patio pet door, which took two weeks to arrive and came broken in a million pieces, thanks to the huge footprint on the box about 2 inches under the 'Fragile' warning.....smooth move UPS.
Luckily I had enough random stuff on hand to macgyver a pass through for the cats which doesn't let too much air in or out. I am SUPER glad that it's held up for a couple weeks, as the temps have been hovering around 100, and the second door doesn't get here for a few more days. If it arrives broken again, the macgyver door will have to last even longer. And UPS will be getting a good amount of in-person flack. I aint afraid of no ghost brown shorts.

Packing blocks + Gorilla tape + plastic bag = cat door play toy

"Imma stick my paw through here and see what happens...
Attack!! Ah! I did NOT see that coming!
Oh wait. Yes I did....
let's do it agaaaain"

In the winter, I will make some sort of a connecting tunnel between the box and the door opening. To ensure there's no smell or errant litter in the house, I'd really like to avoid putting the box right up against the door opening. We shall see.
I thought I'd have to do a similar tunnel year round because of one cat's allergies, but he seems totally fine with the setup thus far, and probably just didn't do well to whatever pollin was floating around before.

Moral of the story: you cannot smell the litter box inside at all anymore, whether it be a new 'present' or the scent of the litter. Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster


Monday, July 22, 2013

It's My Cat in a Box

Mr.Beans loves him a good cardboard box. He's a cat. That's what they do.


His favorite spot to sit is at the junction of the entryway, kitchen, living room, and dining room. From that vantage he can see everyone and everything going on. When I put a cardboard box there, he's in heaven.


Because of the location's high visibility, leaving an old shoebox there is unattractive from every room in the living space. I had thought of building him something, but Public Surplus did me one better and presented a hilarious alternative. He jumped in that thing no more than 3 seconds after I put it on the floor, and looked very pleased with his new wheels.

This is what a happy Beans looks like.
He's stoic and whatnot.

My 4 year old brain took over at that point and I proceeded to push him around the living room hollering 'wheeeeee!!' Animal abuse says you, but he was actually really enjoying it! He first bent down and looked out the front 'window' of the bus, and then lost his $#!t attacking the moving wheels.
To Mr.Beans' credit: he puts up with my overly affectionate and ridiculous behavior towards him very well. Exhibit A:

There was a viable, medically necessary reason for him to wear that tuxedo.
I swear.
(this time)

So I've gotten rid of the perma-cardboard box that used to live at his command post and replaced it with the bus. He'll still get the occasional box to play in, but the bus is a big visual improvement for the space. And it continues to be a source of entertainment for guests. Or just me on a Tuesday night.

$1 well spent!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Clean Slate Floor

Those who knows me well know that I unequivocally, absolutely, with few to no exceptions; hate hearts.
Not the ones that pump our blood, I'm quite fond of those. 
The heart shape as an image. Yuck. Not a fan. There was even a christmas gift incident where a matching set of swarovski heart shaped jewelry had to be exchanged. Probably was a bit bratty of me, but the bf could tell upon my unwrapping of them that I was never, never, never going to open that box again. Like, ever.
Moral of the story: me no likey the hearts.
Enter this floor:

oh yeah, there was some wall reconstruction involved too

I did not notice the hearts on the master bathroom floor due to a big fluffy white rug that was down during it's showing, inspection, and final walkthrough. I knew it was pink n white n ugly, but untill daily use: the hearts eluded me. Note to self for future home purchases: look at the freekin bathrooms in tremendous detail and take pictures!

Large scale slate had caught my eye as a replacement possibility. 

In particular, I liked the use of light grout with a herringbone pattern.


Real slate was out of the picture due to price and the fact that large tiles are difficult to lay on an uneven floor like mine. I was not going to rip up all the existing tiles and go down to the concrete subfloor, as I did not want to move the toilet or vanity. I also knew water could permeate through cracks and slab joints in the concrete, and the floor seemed to be watertight as it was. Thus, I figured best to leave it alone and tile overtop. Further down, I'll go over how I prepared the existing floor for the new tile.
But I digress. My main goals with a new floor were: I wanted to keep the materials cost as low as possible, for the installation to be easy enough to do myself, for the result be durable, and of course attractive.
I started seeing information on groutable vinyl based tiles which were thicker and more durable than normal peel-n-stick vinyl.   
They looked fantastic and came in a slate version from Home Depot.

The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and the 'success' pictures looked great

You go Kotzwoods.

I thought I could do the job with one $50 box, but ordered two to make sure I had enough.
The existing floor needed to be flat and smooth. It had both grout lines, tiles with raised heart designs (barf), and ramped up edges where the floor met the wall due to curling laminate beneath the tile. 

I am an artiste.

I started by tackling the ramped up edges with a chisel and a mallet.  Removing the outer row of tiles and the laminate beneath exposed a little of the concrete subfloor, created a trench all the way around the room, but otherwise made the remaining surface flat(er). 
I applied premixed leveling concrete compound with a float to smooth the textured surface. I really wanted everything to stick and make the floor last, so I'd sanded and primed the tiles before the leveling compound went on.

$9 for 1Qt. Not nearly enough. Even for a small space, get the big bucket.

This stuff was great! The first coat filled in the trench and most of the grout lines. A second coat finished off the top of the grout lines and skimmed over the raised texture on the tiles. I scraped and sanded any ridges off the surface and swept, vacuumed, and wiped all dust off the surface in preparation for laying the tile.  

But how should I lay the tile? I knew I liked herringbone, but wanted to test out my options before committing. I tried subway (both long and short ways), and standard grid pattern, but still loved the herringbone. 

you can see the skimmed floors with a filled in trench by the wall
Doing that pattern on a diagonal with the big 12x24 tiles totally overwhelmed the small space. I decided to rotate the pattern 45 degrees and go in right angles to the walls.

comme ca.
or in german: folgenderma├čen.
oh you germans.

The tiles are peel and stick, but you can also use mortar to make them bomb proof. Because my subfloor was slightly wavy, I was going to lay these down on top of existing tile, and moisture would be involved; I picked up some pre-mixed mortar to stick those suckers down. 

$22 and way more than I needed.
I put the tiles down in standard tile laying fashion with a trowel, applying mortar, and pressing the tile down onto the mortar. I used spacers to keep everything even. For cutting the tile, I used a utility knife and a dremel. The utility knife probably would have sufficed, but who am I to stand in the way of a power tool's destiny.
I put in all straight-cut pieces first then went back to tackle curved cuts for around the toilet and door jam.

When I proudly sent my mom the above picture with the toilet, she said "congratulations, you are truly a homeowner if a picture of the base of your toilet makes you giddy". She was right, it was terribly exciting.

floor down, waiting for grout
I let the mortar dry for 72 or so hours and proceeded to grout. The grout that was recommended for the vinyl tile is a flexible pre-mix, again from simpleset. I went with the off white 'Alabaster' variety.

$11 at Home Depot. Good amount for the job.

There is a difference in how you put grout on vinyl tiles and regular tiles. For vinyl, keep it as much to only the grout line as possible. I used a float, but if I did it again, would have used an icing bag and a spatula. It was a royal pain to scrub it off the tiles, and I'm sure a good bit of residue did not come completely off by the time I gave up. I'm telling myself lies and saying it looks more 'stone like' this way.

Voila! Beautiful floor and another huge improvement for the room! With a 30 year guarantee to boot.

cost breakdown:

tile (ended up needing only one box) $50
mortar $22
grout $11
leveling compound ~$30
    float $3   

Boom. One of the best bang-for-the-buck projects I've done here.
Everyone who sees them thinks they are real tiles. I however, cant keep my mouth shut and enjoy telling everyone the gloriousness of their vinyl-osity. An agent girlfriend came over and thought it instantly upped the value of the place, and said she would be recommending it to all her clients that needed low-investment floor fixes to get their places sold.

I'm a veritable vinyl flooring PSA.