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DIY, Our House

DIY Fireplace Mantel

April 7, 2017

When we moved into our house, the fireplace was ugly–dingy brick, black grout and a terrible insert.

It didn’t take long before we removed the insert, but it sat with the ugly brick for several months before I finally painted it white with a black high-heat paint for the inside. And that’s how the fireplace has looked for the last few years. Not terrible, but there’s one thing that I had always wanted to add–a wood mantel. Well, this winter my wish finally came true.

Tim picked up some oak boards from Menards to build a box that would slide over the existing brick. I wanted something with clean lines–no distressing or crazy knots. There was some discussion about a couple different ways to build the mantel and decided to build the three outside boards and the end caps. You can only really see the end caps if you’re standing on the side purposely looking at them. The wall the fireplace is on is not completely flat, so that posed another challenge. (Yay old houses) We had to sand down the top piece of wood to fit up against the wall as snug as possible. The original “mantel” also didn’t hang over the brick evenly on both sides, so when fitting the new one there were extra measurements. Before the stain was applied, a couple of the edges were sanded and curved so there were no sharp corners.

The color of the mantel was a bit of a discussion. Do we match our natural oak floors? Maybe just paint it white? Go dark? It was ultimately decided to go for a darker color, so we selected an espresso stain and put two coats of it on before the poly. I’m so happy with the color and how the grain shows through!

When it came time to attaching the mantel to the fireplace, we used wood glue to adhere it to the brick and clamps to keep it from shifting while the glue settled and dried.

It’s amazing what a couple small changes can do to a space. I love it and feel like this is how the fireplace should have always looked. It even called for a new mirror.

I love the way the new mirror looks, but am now lost as to how to decorate the mantel. Leave it simple? Add some height on either side of the mirror? There are a few other updates that I’ve done to our living room (couch, rug, art), which I plan on sharing soon!


DIY, Our House

DIY Tree Stump Table

April 10, 2016

I’ve always loved the look and the idea of having a tree stump as a side table. It’s such a fun way to bring a natural element in to your home’s decor. Luckily for me, we had to have a couple problematic trees cut down last year.


We kept the wood from one of the trees so we could eventually chop it up and use in our fire pit, so I sorted through our wood pile and picked out what would become a future side table. I wrapped it in a couple garage bags and let it sit for several months in our garage to dry out and make sure any leftover bugs would eventually die. I actually forgot about it and the wrapped stump sat in our garage for much longer than I had intended. Oops.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I pulled it out and started working on it. I didn’t take many pictures of the process because it’s not overly complicated. In a nut shell–sand a ton and use some poly to seal it. My father-in-law used a saw to even out the one end since it was cut at a slant. After that, I used a belt sander on both ends of it and a block sander on the sides.

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After getting the sanding to a point where I was happy, we got our air compressor out so I could blow all of the saw dust and any leftover dirt off the stump–you want all of that gone before moving into poly. Then I took a damp rag and wiped it down really good.

I had picked up some Minwax Fast-Drying Poly in satin to apply to the stump. I wanted a bit of a sheen but not high-gloss, so satin was recommended. I applied a total of four coats of poly, which did darken the stump a bit because it’s not a true clear poly. I let it sit out in the garage for a couple more days because of the smell before brining it into the house. Felt feet were also applied to the bottom of the stump so it wouldn’t effect the hardwood floors.

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I’m debating whether or not I should paint just the top of it white like this picture because I don’t love the grain on the top. But overall I’m really happy with how it’s turned out! Our guest room isn’t terribly big so this is a great alternative to having a second nightstand in that room.



DIY, Our House

The Pesky Door

May 20, 2015

So the door under the basement stairs has been an issue for probably two years. The idea was to always have an angled door under the stairs so we could make use of that area for storage. Well, we certainly made use of the area but the door was put on hold for a variety of reasons…

– Tim wanted to rip the whole area out, rebuild the wall and put in a normal door. I said no.

– The way the wall and doorway was built, the hinge had to be on the outside. Well, I didn’t like the idea of a silver piano hinge on the outside of the door.

– We couldn’t agree on how to or where to put trim around the door without the trim being an issue when the door is fully opened.

So yeah, there were some discussions and a couple disagreements, but we finally landed on a solution. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’re considering finished.

The top pointed corner was previously creating some issues, so we stuck a triangular piece there to square it off. We also had to build out the right side a bit more for everything to be even and allow space for hinges.


We were originally wanting to do something like this with a track system for a storage, but realized it was over our skill level. So we opted for stackable shelving from the Container Store instead. I must say that I’ve been happy with them, too. Getting to things has been much easier now. After searching for white hinges from, what felt like, every store out there, we found some at Menards. So we worked on filling everything in, painting and installing the trim. It’s barely noticeable, but the trim has a small bit cut out of it at an angle to allow the door to fully open.

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The one main thing we need is a way to keep the door shut…whether that be a magnet or something else on the inside. It stays shut for the most part on its own, but my cat has figured out how to get the door open and likes to hang out in there.

We technically have ONE last project with the never ending basement remodel, but it’s at the bottom of the steps in the stairwell area. Well, I guess two projects if you count installing some sort of railing, but that’s basically at the bottom of our list of things to do around the house.

So there’s our pesky door. It almost killed us to get done, but I’m sure Tim appreciates that I’m no longer nagging him about it.


DIY, Our House

Gas Meter Cabinet & Wine Rack is Complete!

April 7, 2014

One more to-do item on our basement list has officially been crossed off! We finished the cabinet and wine rack hiding our gas meter a couple weeks ago and are loving it. Tim would like me to paint something to hang up, so I’m thinking about it and looking at inspiration. We went to our local grocery store and picked up 12 bottles of wine to help fill it. They have a deal that if you buy six bottles, you get an additional 10% off the lowest price for each bottle. While we were checking out, the cashier told us to buy six-pack bottles of wine on Wednesdays because you get 15% off that day. Oh heck yes.


After getting the trim installed on the top and bottom, we filled in the holes and gave the trim a fresh coat of paint. Which actually led to me giving the rest of the baseboards in the basement a fresh coat of paint. Painting baseboards is starting to haunt me in my sleep.

Anyway, we’ve filled the drawer with coozies, along with coasters and wine stoppers. Super handy for when we have guests and keeping those things in one place.


Walking down the stairs and seeing the back half of this room with the finished cabinet makes me so happy. It looks pretty bare from this angle, but there are prints framed and hung on the opposite wall that’s not in the picture. Down the road a bar and stools will be added. It’s actually worked out not having a bar yet because we’ve had to put a couple long tables together for large gatherings, and we’ve needed all of that space.


The opposite view of the room doesn’t look any more decorated, but it will be someday! Also, can you spot Tim’s head? He’s sitting on the sectional watching the game on TV.


Other than the bar, the only projects left are the door under the stairs and one little thing with the basement landing and the hand rail.


DIY, Our House

Gas Meter Cabinet & Wine Rack Pt. 3

March 4, 2014

So the last time I did an update on this project, our cabinet looked like this…


After we dry-fitted the wine rack, it was removed so we could add a “floor” for the rack to sit on, add smaller pieces of wood to help finish framing in the sides, and then we painted the inside black. Oh, and we added a black, breathable cloth to the back. The picture below just looks like a black hole, but that’s what it looked like after all of that.


This is a slightly better picture with the shelving back inside the cabinet. The shelving is now sitting on the floor of the cabinet. The small diagonal wood pieces got added as an extra support at the bottom for once there’s bottles pressing down on the angled pieces of wood. Those also got painted to blend in.


Tim’s dad worked on making the drawer, though I don’t think I ever saw it in progress. I came home after a long day of work and the drawer had been installed and the front piece had been put on. The nail holes had already been filled in, too. I was okay with all of that.


We (as in Tim) attached the front piece to the drawer, painted, and then headed to Home Depot to pick out handles for the drawer. Because it’s a fairly long drawer, I wanted two handles and they had to be darker to go with the inside of the wine rack. I couldn’t find the exact ones we got online, but they’re similar to these.


The bottom trim as been installed, and the top would have been too except the wrong style was purchased…so that has to go back. We have a couple trips coming up, so top trim and paint touch-ups will probably (sadly) be put on hold until after those.  Oh, we did figure out that we could fit at least 10 bottles of wine in the three largest cubbies, though we probably won’t. We’ve already started using the drawer by moving coozies and various bar utensils into it. It’s so handy!


DIY, Our House

Gas Meter Cabinet & Wine Rack Pt. 2

January 28, 2014

So if all goes according to plan, the cabinet and wine rack being built to hide the gas meter should be ready for paint this weekend! (Insert 1,000 more exclamation points here).

We (as in Tim and his dad) took a break from working on it through the holidays, but are back at it. The shelf was securely attached and the top half of the cabinet was finished being framed out.


We actually decided to nix the doors on the top half and do a single piece of wood to hide the meter. It allows us to hang a piece of art on it in hopes of trying to district from the cabinet. The single board is screwed into the frame with four screws, which I’m not a huge fan of and am trying to think of a way to hide them. We can’t put trim over them in the off chance of us ever having to access the meter and needing to take the board off. We all know the chances of this happening are slim, but it has to be considered. I’m hoping that once the cabinet is painted and something is hung up, the screws won’t be as noticeable.


For the wine rack portion, we’re using this as an inspiration. I like the contrast between the neutral wall color and the dark brown rack. We used birch boards which were cut to allow them to interlock with each other. From there, the wood was stained to match the shelf. Since the edges are going to be the most noticeable, we painted those a dark brown/black. We’re going to be using a dark colored breathable material in the back since this is on an outside wall. It’s similar to what you would find velcro-ed to the bottom of upholstered furniture. I was concerned that if the wood boards were painted white they would get scuffed up from the bottles and look dirty or dingy because of that material in the back. I also wanted larger cubbies so several bottles could be placed in each, so the design was based off 10 inch square cubbies.


The rack was set inside the space to be dry fitted so we can adjust everything before securing it in there for good. There’s going to be a drawer above the rack, so there’s some extra spacing there. The inside needs to be painted dark to match the rack.


Once everything is installed and painted, we have to trim up the top and bottom to match the other cabinet and the support beam. I can’t wait to get this filled with wine!