I finally decided to try my hand at using chalk paint. I love using a good wood stain, I have even redone my entire kitchen with gel stain, but I had been hearing so much about chalk paint lately that I decided to give it a try with a "practice piece."
Using a decades old nightstand with many stains and uneven surfaces, the chalk paint exceeded my expectations, totally transforming the desolate nightstand into a modern piece, without any sanding or priming.
I was sold - and I'm sure you will be too :)
Here are a few pictures of the piece before the chalk paint. You can see the uneven surfaces and scratches, especially on the lower part of the shelf.
And this is a close-up of the top. It wasn't in good shapes - but the chalk paint covered it all perfectly without any sanding.
For this project, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I went back and forth deciding whether to use Annie Sloan or another brand. I was split down the middle, and I ultimately decided to use Annie Sloan because of the chemical warning I saw written on the wax container of the other brand - in comparison to the natural ingredients used in the Annie Sloan wax (like beeswax). That, coupled with the fact that it was my first chalk paint project, sold me on the Annie Sloan brand.
For the top of the nightstand, I used primarily French Linen (keep reading for how I made it look like distressed wood), and I used Pure White on the rest of the piece. The Pure White is very white.
Now, it seems like a lot of materials, but there is a lot of leftover paint, and the paintbrushes will be reused. The other thing you might be worried about is using wax. However, do not worry - the wax was simple!! Way better to use than polyurethane, and it went by way quicker than the painting.
Here I am ready to give this old nightstand a fresh new look.
Step 1 - Clean Your Piece
Step 2 - Work on the Top
As far as creating this look, I found this part of the process so much fun, and I am not an artist. Rather than just painting brush stroke after brush stroke to cover area, it was something different - and was quite fun and relaxing to create this dimensional look.
Also, as mentioned before, if you make mistakes or aren't happy with the way it looks, it is easy to fix by touching up the paint.
Step 3 - Paint, Paint, Paint
I also suggest working in the brightest light possible. If you can, bring more light into your work space so your space is as bright as possible. This will accentuate any dripping or streaking which will help if your piece will be in a room with lots of light.
Step 4 - Waxing In Circles
Waxing is actually a piece of cake. If you are good at cleaning, then you'll be great at wiping on this wax.
I would use different rags for the top than the rest of the piece in case there is any bleeding from the paint onto the rags.
Also, you could wax the gray top after the top dries in Step 2, instead of waiting until the piece is done. I did this, so I got used to the whole chalk paint profess from start to finish, before doing the whole piece.
Last, I replaced the knob. Home Depot, Lowes, and Hobby Lobby are all good choices for knobs. This knob I had on a different piece and didn't love it there - but it looks great on this nightstand!
I finished this nightstand within 24 hours I believe - as I kept moving as soon as each coat dried. It was definitely my best turnaround time on refinishing furniture. When you take away the sanding, priming, and all that dry time, it really speeds up a project.
I loved working with chalk paint, and the results are just amazing. It simply doesn't look like the same piece. Even my dad's jaw dropped when I showed him the before and after! He usually only gets impressed with Ash's projects :)
Also, I have a ton of leftover paint. I went through about 1/8 of the quart of white and barely touched the gray.
Our old piano is going to be my next chalk paint project - I can't wait to see how it will look.
Stayed tuned (ha ha pun intended!).
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Posted by Ash
Ever since building my first bookshelf in our first home, I've had a hankering ever since to do another one but on a much more grand scale. My wish came true when Eileen came to me one day with some ideas for her office in our new home. An exciting project was brewing!
Since we didn't have any large bookshelves in our present home, most of the books we packed up during our move were still in boxes. I'm talking cartons and cartons of books. They were taking up a lot of valuable space in various locations around the house. So bookshelves were sorely needed. Initially we were leaning towards a large L-shaped bookshelf in the office. Then Eileen had a great idea of placing the bookshelf against the window wall and incorporating a window seat. The office window wall was very bland and not very exciting to look at. It was almost begging for a renovation. Although it would provide a little less shelf storage than our initial L-shaped shelf idea, it would still be more than enough for all our books. Also, the window seat would provide a little extra underneath cabinet storage, which is a pretty cool feature.
The project was essentially going to be two separate bookshelves (on each side of the window) with a seat connecting the two in the middle. The seat would be sitting atop some wide kitchen cabinets for extra storage.
Above the window was just enough space for a single small shelf to store decorative items or horizontal books. Finally, some baseboard would run along the bottom, and some crown molding at the top.
Some designs I saw online used a standard shelf depth (around 12”) with the seat extending out further. Eileen didn't want a protruding edge, and she has the eye for design. So to prevent this, the depth of the seat had to be the same as the bookshelves.
Due to a closet opening on a perpendicular wall, I was restricted to a maximum depth of 15”. I was a little worried that this would not be enough depth to sit comfortably on, but a few trial sittings on 15” planks of wood proved to be acceptable. This also meant deeper than normal shelves, but I wasn't too concerned. I'm sure any extra space behind some books could be put to good use.
As with most of my projects, I started off in TinkerCad to sketch out a 3D design of what was floating around in my head. I came up with the following:
With the design flushed out, I was ready to begin. I strongly considered using melamine covered particle board for the shelves,but instead opted for some good quality birch plywood. Although the birch was a little more expensive, I wasn't comfortable embarking on a project this size using melamine - a material I have never really worked with before. Also I wanted to use a stronger material than melamine covered particleboard.
Next, I used a drawing program on my computer (Photoshop) to calculate the minimum number of 4 x 8 sheets of plywood needed to cut out all the required bookshelf pieces. I then placed a Home Depot delivery order for all the lumber (including some 2 x 4s and 2 x 6s for various segments in the design, baseboard, and crown molding for the trim and some miscellaneous hardware).
Here is the diagram I made in Photoshop to calculate the number of 4 x 8 plywood sheets needed:
When the wood arrived, I quickly cut the plywood sheets into 15” wide strips using my circular saw and stored them for use shortly.
With all the materials on hand, I started the project. The first step was to remove the carpeting where the bookshelf would rest. For a flat platform to build on, it needed to sit directly on the floor plywood sheathing. I accomplished this with the help of my utility knife and a metal ruler to help guide the cuts.
Then I removed some existing baseboard trim so the bookshelf could sit flush against the wall. The use of my oscillating multi tool helped out here to remove just enough baseboard, leaving the rest intact, so that the bookshelf would seamlessly blend in.
Here's a picture showing me making progress on prepping the floor (I had to be extra careful removing the carpet tacking strips at the edges, as they were riddled with rusty looking nails):
Once all the bare plywood flooring was exposed and baseboard removed, I started work on the foundation for the two end bookshelf segments. They would rest directly on the bare floor. I assembled the frames from 2 x 6 wood.
Here's a picture of the completed frames:
While constructing the frames In the garage, the corners needed to be very square. I didn't have a 90 degree clamp at the time to assist, so using a scrap piece of 2 x 4 and two handy bar clamps, I got creative.
As seen in the picture below, i was able to lock in place two perpendicular pieces of wood allowing me to fasten them accurately with screws:
Here's a picture of one of the frames in position resting on the bare floor (notice how I carved some grooves underneath to allow a coaxial cable to run through):
I left the middle foundation frame (that the seat would rest on) for last as it would be a little trickier than the others. There was a central air vent on the floor where this middle frame was going to sit, and so I had to redirect the airflow. After brainstorming various ideas on accomplishing this task,
I settled on a very simple yet effective method. I was just going to build a wooden duct into the foundation frame, and seal the inside edges with caulk to make it air tight. Here is a picture of the end result (a louvred vent would be inserted into the front hole, which I cut out with my trusty jigsaw):
Here's a picture after I caulked the wooden duct:
Once the foundation frames were complete, I secured them in place. I used some lag bolts to attach the rear of the frames to some wall studs. Then I used some L brackets to secure the front to the plywood flooring.
Here is a picture showing some L brackets in action:
You might have noticed a number of pocket holes in my construction. They are very convenient for attaching wood perpedicular to another one, especially in tight or not easily accessible areas. With the help of a jig (I use the Kreg Pocket Hole jig), they are very easy to make.
Here is a picture of one of the pocket holes up close:
Above the middle foundation frame, I also started building up the seat supports and cabinet housing, as seen in the picture below:
Here's a useful trick I used while making the foundation frames. I had made a few alignment errors on the first frame, and so had to unscrew a few pieces and adjust. Some wooden toothpicks came in very handy to plug the existing screw holes so that I could re-screw very near to those holes.
I simply stuck the toothpicks in the holes and broke off the protruding pieces. Here's a picture of me ‘toothpicking’ the holes (all we had were party toothpicks, hence the bright colors):
With the foundation frames in place, I decided to start work on the shelves. I was going to use the same technique as my first bookshelf I built in our old home - dado grooves to support the shelves, cut with a standard plunge router.
To start, I placed 2 of the bookshelf vertical end supports side by side, clamped them together tightly, and marked with a pencil where all the dados were to be cut. Then using some scrap wood, I built a simple jig for my router to speed up the cutting and make all the dados identical. Here are some pictures showing the the jig and the router in action.
With the help of the jig, cutting the dados was pretty effortless. Eileen even lent me a hand and cut some of them for me, while I did some other tasks.
Here are what the dados look like after routing:
After the dados were all cut, I started attaching the individual shelves. To do this, I first applied some construction adhesive to the side of a shelf. Then I inserted it into one of the dado grooves.
Then while using some right angled clamps to hold the shelf in place (I decided to buy some to assist with this project), I fastened 3 deck screws from the other side to complete the task. Here is a picture showing a shelf being attached:
Only the inner shelves used dado grooves. The top and bottom shelves were attached with just adhesive and screws. Here is what it looked like with all the inner shelves attached:
Next, I applied more adhesive to the attached shelves, and dropped on the remaining dadoed vertical support. Each shelf had to be adjusted so they fit perfectly into the dado grooves. Screws were also inserted to secure the connections.
Finally, I ran a 2x4 wood by the top shelf to serve as a mounting point for securing the bookshelf to the wall.
To complete this bookshelf, I put on 2 coats of primer, and then 2 coats of a special urethane acrylic cabinet paint (I was worried about regular paint sticking to the books after sitting for some time, so I opted for this hard protective cabinet paint).
Then, with the help of Eileen, we carried the bookshelf upstairs and set it in place. Getting the shelf upstairs was no easy task, by the way. I knew ahead of time that it was going to be a tight fit, but not impossible. Here's a picture of the shelf leaning, while we figured out just how to get it through the doorway.
The other bookshelf on the opposite side is actually slightly longer than this first one (due to the window not being perfectly centered on the wall). So that second bookshelf would definitely not fit in our stairway and would have to be constructed upstairs in the bedroom.
Using some deck screws, I attached the bottom shelf directly to the foundation frame. The left side of the shelf (touching the wall) was secured directly to some wall studs. Finally, I secured the 2x4 cross piece at the top to some wall studs using some lag bolts.
Aside from the 2x4, I had used a countersinking drill bit to make the screw holes in the shelf. This made a clean hole for the screw to be countersunk without damaging the expensive birch plywood. I planned on filling in these holes with wood putty later to hide the screw head completely.
Here's a picture showing the shelf secured in place:
Now it was time to start work on the second bookshelf that would sit on the right hand side. As mentioned earlier, it was a few inches longer than the first one and would have to be constructed in the bedroom, rather than in the garage.
I did as much as I could in the garage though. I cut all the wood to the required sizes, and routed the dados using my jig. I also painted the individual pieces in the garage as well.
I had to be careful not to get too close to the edges of the shelves with the paint though. The edges would slide in the dado grooves, and any paint (particularly the urethane acrylic paint) would increase the thickness of the shelves and make this step difficult.
Working between the garage and the upstairs bedroom meant frequent trips up and down the stairs. Many times I would have a handful of tools to juggle. Then during one of my frequent google search sessions for tool organizing ideas, I came across bucket organizers for tools. I didn't even know they existed. What a great way to repurpose the standard bucket. So I purchased one and made my garage/bedroom commute a lot easier. Here's a picture of mine:
Next, I transported all the individual shelf pieces upstairs, and started assembly with the help of some saw horses. It was a little more difficult to work in the bedroom due to the limited space, but it was manageable. After the pieces were put together to assemble the bookshelf, I set it in place using the same steps I went through for the first bookshelf (securing to the wall and to the foundation frame).
Here is a picture of the right bookshelf partially assembled in the bedroom:
Here is a close-up showing the other vertical shelf support prepped with construction adhesive in the dados, ready to be attached to the rest of the shelf:
Both the left and right bookshelves were up at the point, and they were looking great. So next I started working on the middle portion - the seat and cabinets. The cabinets were pre-fabricated ones I purchased online from Lowes. I got two of them to mount side-by-side. I just had to assemble them when they arrived.
Here is a picture of one of the cabinets after I assembled it:
To get the cabinets ready for installation, I had to build a framed housing for each. The cabinets would just slide into the housing, and be screwed in. The top of the housing would also serve as the supports for the seat.
Here is a picture showing the cabinet housing completed:
Here is a picture showing the installed cabinets, as well as the seat attached with some countersunk screws:
With the seat and cabinets in place, it was time to install the final shelf above the window and get ready for the trim work. To start, I ran three 2 x 4’s across the top of the bookshelves (in between the top front of the bookshelves and the ceiling).
Their primary purpose was to provide a nailing surface for the crown molding. In addition, the middle 2 x 4 (that bridged the two bookshelves at the top) was going to help support the middle shelf that ran above the window.
I didn’t use dado grooves for this window shelf. I just used construction adhesive and screws to attach two plywood shelf pieces in between the two end bookshelves. The top shelf piece also attached to the bridging 2 x 4 above. This window shelf was really long though (the same length as the seat), so to prevent it from drooping in the middle, I added a divider in the center to hold up the bottom shelf to the firmer top shelf.
Now it was time to install the crown molding and baseboard. This was a relatively straight forward step. I had installed crown molding in the kitchen of our previous home, so was familiar with the procedure. This time around though, I had a table saw, so the install went even easier.
For an easy crown molding install, having an angled surface to nail the trim into place is key. So I measured the angle of the crown molding (the angle it would make with the wall), and ripped some 2 x 4s with my table saw to match this angle. I attached them directly to the 2 x 4s already mounted on top of the bookshelves. Then I used my finishing nail gun to attach the crown molding.
Here is a close-up of the crown molding:
The baseboard installed even easier. I just cut the pieces to length and secured them in with the nailgun. The vent opening on the floor just needed a small top and bottom piece of the baseboard to blend in.
Here is what the baseboard looked like:
With the crown molding and baseboard installed, it was time to attach trim to cover the exposed edges of the plywood. I couldn’t leave the bookshelves as they were because the plywood edges were very rough to the touch (easily leaving splinters) and were not very nice looking.
To save on costs, I decided to cut my own ¼” thick trim from 2 x 4s using my table saw. I collected all the measurements I needed to cover all the exposed areas and got to work in the garage cutting the trim.
It worked out fairly well - although there were a number of knots in the wood causing several of the trim to break because they were so thin. Also, other imperfections in the wood caused a few gouges in the cut trim.
So it definitely wasn’t perfect trim, but considering how cheap it was to make from 2 x 4s, it was worth it. Besides, after the trim gets installed, I planned on patching up any flaws with wood putty. Then, once painted, the trim would look flawless.
Here is a picture showing the installed trim (I use construction adhesive and my finishing nailer to attach them):
Construction of the window bookshelf was pretty much complete at this point. I did attach some beadboard paneling above the seat with construction adhesive and the finishing nailer.
All that remained now was to fill all the countersunk holes with wood putty, patch and smooth any imperfections in the trim, caulk any small gaps (mostly with the crown molding and baseboard) and then apply paint where necessary.
Eileen hopped in at this point to take over the painting. She did a great job of painting the home-made trim and touching up areas here and there.
Here is Eileen hard at work finishing off the project:
The project was now finished. Eileen immediately filled up the shelves with all the books we had, freeing up much needed space around the house. She even made a really nice cushion for the seat from scratch.
Here’s a picture of the cushion she made:
Here are a few more of the completed built-in bookshelves with a window seat.
The total cost of this project was around $600 and took me a few weeks to complete. It was a lot of fun to work on, and the payoff was huge. It’s such a great addition to our home, and Eileen has a place that she loves for all of her books - it's definitely her dream room now.
To complete Eileen's office, which is a sitting room off our bedroom, it needs some kind of doors. We are thinking about French doors or barn doors. Which do you prefer?
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Posted by Ash & Eileen
Do you have a bunch of picture frames lying around and a couple hours of time on your hands? Since our move, we still have boxes of pictures frames taking up way too much of our closet space. However, we are one ample box lighter, due to the awesome picture ledge that Ash made. It was easy to build, and it looks quite elegant in our living room.
As I was digging through the box that held the white, cream, and grayish frames, I thought about a gallery; however, I already had one on a neighboring wall, so I wanted something different for this collection of pictures.
One of Ash's least favorite chores is hanging pictures up on our walls. You should hear how he tries to procrastinate the task, let alone see his expression when he languidly follows me around the house with a hammer and nails. And, his least favorite part is when I ask him to hold the picture up to the wall, as I direct from across the room saying, "A little bit left, nope too much...." With my indecisiveness, that goes on for a little too long before I usually end up putting the picture somewhere else.
That being said, I knew Ash would love the idea of not having to hang any of the picture frames in this hefty box and instead have the pictures rest on a photo ledge.
Would you know he had both photo ledges built in a couple hours? He used all scrap wood, and then I painted with furniture paint for a nice finish.
Here are his instructions on how he built these simple photo ledges:
I came up with a very simple design for the shelf. Here is an exploded 3D diagram that I created in TinkerCAD to show how the pieces came together:
I was able to use all scrap wood left over from previous projects. I cut the long pieces to the appropriate length. Eileen used the length of the love seat as a basis for how long she wanted the shelves. Then, I formed the triangle support ends with my miter saw (this is one of my favorite tools - check out my other favorites).
After that, using some wood glue, clamps, and finishing nails, I attached the pieces to each other. Once the wood glue dried, I used the orbital sander to smooth down all the surfaces to make the different wood segments blend into each other seamlessly.
Since it was scrap wood, there were a few gouges here and there that I patched with wood filler and sanded down to a smooth surface.
Finally, my painter, aka Eileen, gave the shelves two coats of paint, and then it was ready to be mounted to the wall.
In mounting, I secured the shelves to the wall using two lag bolts, directly into two wall studs. The heads of the bolts stood out slightly, so to help blend them in, I covered them with some white paint to match the shelves.
Looking back, if I had some Forstner bits at the time, I would have countersunk the lag bolt heads to make them flush with the wood surface.
The cost of the project was free, as we had all of the material in our garage; however, I estimate the project costing $10 for the wood plus a quart of paint.
I loved the way the picture shelves turned out. Ash built them so quickly, and without any trips to the store for additional materials, which is always a plus! I think it took me longer to arrange the pictures than it did for Ash to construct them. (I'm super slow at arranging things...)
Everyone who visits has been commenting on how much they like them. A few people have said, "Have these always been here?" That is one of my favorite comments because it goes to show how perfect they look where they are.
Not to mention, Ash was so pleased that we didn't have to hang all those frames. I haven't told him we still have two more boxes of pictures in the closet. I'm not quite sure where they are going either. Maybe another picture ledge will be forthcoming.
Here's another angle of our new picture ledge. The more I look at it, the more I love it - and it was a lot easier than creating a gallery, and unlike the gallery, I can easily rearrange the picture frames too.
What's your favorite way to display your pictures? I would love to hear from you. :)
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Posted by Ash
When we moved into our new home, we found an old, tall tower style CD holder shelf that the previous owners had left. It was supposed to be screwed into the wall, but the screws were loose. Seeing it as a hazard, Eileen wanted to remove it and toss it, but I had a feeling that we could repurpose it one day into something more useful. So off it went into the corner of the garage where it sat for almost a year.
As the months went by, I was starting to regret my decision of keeping the tower because it was always getting in my way when working in the garage. Then, one day as I was looking for some cashews in the pantry, I noticed something very interesting.
One side of the pantry had an extra thick wall. It was actually twice the thickness of a regular wall. How unusual, I thought. My mind immediate jumped to storage. If there was empty space in that wall, it could open up the doors for all sorts of pantry storage projects.
Ever since I built a sliding spice shelf in our previous home (in between the fridge and the wall), I had been eager to come up with something similar for our new home. The pantry was getting difficult to navigate with all our spices, and we could never find anything we needed. Unfortunately, there was no decent space to build the equivalent, so I needed other options for spice storage. This thick wall was the perfect solution.
First, I needed to assess the wall situation better. I needed to know how much space was available inside this wall. For all I knew, it could have been thick to accommodate a central air duct. I did some knocking on the wall and it sounded very hollow. Still, I needed to know what was inside before unnecessarily ripping off a large chunk of drywall just to find the area impractical for use.
I took to the Internet and purchased a very cheap endoscope camera for my computer. The endoscope would provide eyes into the wall and allow me peer around without causing too much damage. When it arrived, I hooked it up to my laptop, tested it out a bit to get a feel for it. Pictured below is the endoscope camera, which plugs into the computer via USB.
To give you an example of the detail it gives, I placed the camera inside my son's fire engine, and displayed on the computer screen is a very detailed profile of the driver.
After testing it out, I then stuck it into a very small hole I drilled into the wall. The camera had an adjustable light, so I could see inside the dark wall. I looked up and down, and all around, and the endoscope revealed what I suspected all along - a lot of empty space!
Now that I knew what type of space I was dealing with, I had to brainstorm the best way to make use of it. It was a tall vertical space, so I was thinking along the lines of a vertical shelf to hold spices. I went off into the garage to plan out designs for a custom-built shelf to fit the area.
In the garage, I saw some scrap wood resting in the corner that could be turned into shelf pieces, but once again, that tall tower style CD shelf was in the way. The CD shelf was really starting to test my patience. I was about to finally toss it out when I had a eureka moment. You know, that CD shelf looked very similar in size to the space that I discovered lurking in the pantry walls. I anxiously took out my tape measure and did an exact comparison. The shelf would indeed fit into the wall!
Good thing we did not throw out the CD shelf (more reason for Eileen to start accepting my hoard-ish ways). It seemed like the perfect solution for spice storage. It was not very deep, so it wouldn't hold large cans or boxes, but would easily hold spices and baking materials, which was exactly what we needed.
I could have used the shelf unaltered, but I decided to make it a little shorter for the pantry. The full height would have sent it nearly to the ceiling, which would made it a little impractical for food storage that high.
After the shelf was shortened, I needed to cut the hole in the drywall. I first used a pencil and ruler to outline the exact cutout on the wall. Then I used a special drywall handsaw (commonly called a jab saw) to cut out the hole. It was a little messy working with the drywall, so I kept my shop vac close by.
After the hole was made, I inserted the shelf into the wall to get a feel for how it would look. It looked amazing! I couldn't wait for Eileen to see.
Now I needed to permanently affix the shelf. The shelf was not resting directly on the floor inside the wall (it was a few inches above the baseboard), so first I had to attach a 2 x 4 cross piece to rest the shelf on. I used my Kreg pockethole jig and some pockethole screws to attach both ends of a short 2 x 4 to the wall studs. I repeated the process to attach another cross piece above the shelf to secure the top. Then I slid the shelf in between the upper and lower 2 x 4 supports and attached the shelf permanently using some screws.
All that was left now was to apply some trim. I actually had a lot of extra trim left over from redoing some kitchen baseboard a few months prior. The trim I had originally purchased was too tall for the kitchen, so I had cut it shorter using my table saw. Good thing I held onto the cutoffs. They were the perfect size to use as trim for the new pantry shelf. It was already painted too. I secured the trim directly to the shelf using some finishing nails.
I adjusted the heights of the individual shelves to accommodate a variety of spice configurations, and then the pantry shelf project was complete. I loaded it up with all my spices and our baking materials, which freed up so much space in the pantry.
This was one of the more simple projects I’ve done recently for such a big reward. I completed the project in a few hours, and best of all, it was free!
I'm hoping to repurpose more of my stashed finds in the near future. What upcycling have you done? Leave us a comment - we would love to hear from you!
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Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)