We can’t go to the ocean right now, so we’re bringing the ocean to us.
We haven’t split up. And we haven’t given up working on the house either. Quite the opposite. We’re done with the living room, made a few pieces of custom furniture, and started work on the half bath / laundry room…the inside AND outside!
The reason we haven’t posted in a while is because we’ve been crazy-busy with life. In order to make time for the stuff we need to get done, we have to give up a few things. Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end is usually the first thing we’re willing to give up. Plus we haven’t had the time or energy to sit down and sort through hundreds of photos and then write something.
Don’t worry though. We’ll be back to posting soon enough. We’ll skip the overwhelming task of catching up and just jump right in with how our house looks these days.
Sorry for keeping everyone hanging. We’re almost ready for our triumphant return.
Hey guys! We’re just checking in to say we’re alive and well. Superstorm Sandy missed our house completely. We didn’t lose our power or get any flooding in our basement. Some others in our area weren’t so lucky. And our hearts are aching right now for the city that will always be our home to some extent. New York really took a beating. But as usual, when NYC is down, she gets right back up and starts kicking ass — buses are already running and everything.
We have quite a few readers from areas affected by the storm. If you’re one of them, we hope you’re doing OK and that your cities are back in working order soon. Hang in there!
It’s weird to segue from something so monumental to something so trivial, so we’re just going to throw it out there: sorry we haven’t updated the blog in a while. When you spend 50+ hours a week sitting in front of a computer, you sometimes need a break. Rest assured updates are coming soon. We’ve been working on some built-in cabinetry for the office and dining room, and those are almost finished. We’ll be back with more updates soon.
(And thank you to the readers who checked in on us. You guys are the best.)
First things first: to the lady who commented and said that Bradley’s hot…I know, right?? He’s also really nice, really funny and really smart. I’m a big fan of that guy. Especially when he does stuff like this and lets me put it on the internet for everyone to see:
Heh heh. What a guy.
Things are starting to cool down in our neck of the woods. We built our first fire of the season recently:
This year, we’re determined to use our wood-burning stove for heat 90% of the time. We had our oil boiler topped off last winter, but we hate using oil for heat. A few weekends ago, we had two cords of wood delivered and we spent two full days stacking wood. I didn’t take any photos of that because I had the flu and really just wanted to curl up and nap all day.
We know the living room is going to be insanely cold this winter — no insulation, remember? — and it’s the room we spend most of our time in. We won’t get around to insulating it this year, which means we’ll freeze our fannies off if we hang out in there too long.
Now that the dining room is fully insulated, complete with new door and new windows, it makes sense to move the couch and TV in there for the winter. For those of you keeping track at home, this is our third living-room-to-dining-room migration in 18 months. Sigh. Someday, the madness will end. But not today, peeps. Not. Today.
Before we move in, we want to paint the floors and put up trim to finish up the room. But before we can do that, we have to address some issues with our dining room floors.
The floors are old and weathered, but we love the way they look. What we don’t love is how much they bounce, creak and groan when you walk around. Bradley’s mom summed it up: “You could never sneak up on anyone in this house.” We’re pretty used to creaking wood floors from years of living in pre-war apartment buildings. It’s the bouncing that freaks us out.
The bounce in the center of the dining room was so bad that it felt like you were inside a bouncey castle. Or on a trampoline. OK, fine, we’re totally exaggerating, but it was pretty bad. Last winter, Bradley built a wall in the basement so we could store our firewood in one corner:
That wall happens to be right under the dining room, and as soon as it was in place the bouncing stopped. Now we just had to worry about the creaking.
In our case, the creaking was due to wobbly boards. The solution was to nail them down so they stop shifting around.
We used these special nails that have a corkscrew twist through the body. This helps keep nails from popping up and also makes it really hard to pull them out once they’re in place.
We started by snapping some chalk lines along every beam that runs under the flooring:
Finding the beams was easier than it sounds: the butt end of each board has to rest on top of a beam. So we snapped a line down the center of areas where a lot of butt ends met up. Pretty soon, we had a series of parallel lines at fairly regular intervals:
Then we just went in and bang 2 nails per board all the way down the line.
The nail heads are totally visible, but they form nice, straight lines down the length of the room. This is not going to be the right solution for every creaky floor. It would look pretty odd in a new house with shiny new floors. But it works for our old house because the floors are already distressed and rustic. Visible nail heads just adds to the charm.
We nailed down the floor boards in the hallway while we were at it:
And we’ll do the same in the living room once we’ve moved all the furniture out.
There were some crusty, rotten strips of wood in the doorway that connects the living room and dining room, so Bradley removed them and replaced them with new strips of wood:
The process was exactly the same as what we did in the guest bedroom close way back in May 2011. You can read all about that here.
While he took care of that, I put up all the switch plates and outlet covers:
It’s been hard to photograph the color of the walls accurately, but you can really see it now that the outlets are in place.
It’s starting to look finished, but we have a lot of small details to take care of before we’re done. Like installing our new doorbell:
We don’t have any good before pictures of our old doorbell because we ripped that sucker out and stomped on it, Office Space style. You can see it in this picture from earlier in the year:
It was a beige monstrosity straight out of 1975 and they didn’t even bother to center it. We replaced it with this bell that looks like a teeny-weeny version of something that might hang in a middle school classroom:
We centered it, of course. But we’re not 100% happy with it. We might paint it white so it’s not so shiny.
It looks fine during the day, but it’s hanging so close to the track lighting that it blinds us at night. A crisp white will help it blend in a bit and hopefully keep us from burning out our retinas every time we walk through the room.
We painting the floors this weekend, and we can’t wait to share that with you guys. We also have some more updates on what we’ve been up to for the past couple of weekends. Plus we have to share our plans for the laundry room, downstairs bathroom and kitchen. Stay tuned!
We’ve already shared how we take existing frames and turn them into mirrors on the cheaps (read up on that here and here). Now we’re going to share how we make our own frames from scratch. We have a lot of stuff we’ve been meaning to frame and hang over the years, but we never got around to it. A few weeks ago, we found this in a thrift store:
Bradley had a nerdgasm. We scooped it up for $10, then chortled and mouth-breathed all the way home. This is the purchase that sent us into a frame-making frenzy. We had some solid oak boards lying around that we thought would be perfect for the job. It looks a little worn and aged — sort of like driftwood. Check out the texture:
We got a bunch of these from Lowe’s for $50, and that was enough to make 5 frames.
The wood was a little rough and had some splinters along the edges, so we started by sanding each board to take the grit off.
While I sanded, Bradley set up the table saw to cut a channel:
Think of a standard picture frame you’d get at IKEA or Target. If you take it apart, you have the frame itself and the glass, plus some sort of backing made out of cardboard or masonite. The glass and backing sits inside what we’re calling the channel.
Bradley ran the end through and then pulled it back out to see if the channel would be deep enough for both the glass and the backing to sit in:
We have more than enough room for everything. So Bradley went ahead and cut the entire length of board. There were some clingers left, so he used a chisel to slice them away:
After that, it was time to cut the board down to size.
We used a miter saw because we need to cut 45-degree angles for the corners.
We simply made a cut with the angle facing in (like the photo above). Then we moved the miter saw blade to 45-degrees on the opposite side and made the next cut. The angles on each cut of wood face in. Once the cuts were made, we could simply piece together the frame:
We have two short cuts and two long cuts. If you want a square frame, just make all the cuts the same. If you want a really long, skinny frame (for a floor-length mirror maybe?), just make the long cuts super long. This is the beauty of DIY frames — the possibilities are endless and the cost is low.
With our frame roughly pieced together, we marked each corner with a pencil:
We made a line to indicate the center of the joint. We didn’t actually measure it out — eyeballing it is good enough for our purposes. This is super important to do because it shows us where exactly we need to make our cuts with the biscuit joiner.
Each joint was also assigned a number 1 through 4, and we marked either end of the center line with that number. We’re doing this so we can take the frame apart and piece it back together later.
The next step is to make cuts with our biscuit joiner. For this we need biscuits:
Not the nummy tea-and-biscuits kinda biscuits, but little football-shaped wood chunks that hold two cuts together. (Sidenote: Bradley’s Dominican coworkers these “cookies,” which is beyond adorable.)
This is how biscuits work:
…except they’re on the inside of the wood. Not following? Lemme break it down for ya:
- Each corner consists of 2 pieces of wood butting up together.
- We make a slot in the butt of each piece of wood.
- We spread wood glue in each slot.
- We put the biscuit in one of the slots. It should fit so that half of the biscuit is sticking out.
- We butt the ends together so the biscuit sits halfway in one butt and halfway in the other butt, thereby joining them. BAM! Biscuit joining!
- Heh heh biscuits in butts.
This is the biscuit joiner Bradley picked up a few weeks ago at the Grizzly warehouse:
It’s a Porter-Cable. He chose it over the others because it has a few more settings than its rival Dewalt. It’s slightly more pricey, but also seems more durable.
See what Bradley’s pointing at there? It says FF. That’s the dial for setting biscuit size. We have to make sure and use FF-sized biscuits or they won’t sit in there properly.
We double-checked. Then triple-checked. And then we made our cuts:
Bradley dangled the piece of wood off the edge of our workspace, with the end he’s cutting facing him. He used his hand to hold it firmly in place. Later, Bradley said, “Don’t do it that way ever.” Why? Because the wood isn’t clamped and could move around. So there you have it: use a clamp, not your hand.
Next step: we line up the red line on the tool with the center mark we drew on the wood.
Once it’s in line, turn the joiner on and firmly push it into the wood. This is what the cut looks like when finished:
We made all our slots first and then moved on to the gluing stage:
We gave each slot a good schmear of wood glue. (Schmear. Always schmear, never smear. That’s the New York in us.) Then we popped the biscuit in the slot
And pressed the ends together. That’s it. We let our newly joined rectangle dry for a few hours. Once dry, we came back to tidy up the joints. For this, we needed wood filler and a putty knife:
A lot of people skip the filler step, but we think it’s worth taking 5 minutes to do. It makes the difference between a frame that looks cheap and a frame that looks fancy. This is what the joint looked like before filling:
We gave it a schmear of wood filler:
Then we pressed it in so it fills the crack:
And finally, we scrape all of the excess off:
Just say no to crack:
We let the filler dry for about 15 minutes and then sanded the joints to make them as smooth as possible:
The next step is crucial. Under no circumstances should one move to the finishing stage without first completing the hammy-posing stage. We take this stuff seriously, people:
Being serious all the time is exhausting.
We really need to lighten up. And learn to use auto-focus properly:
In case you missed it, Bradley’s fingers are doing kind of a weird Dumbledore thing (Level 5 nerd status achieved.) That’s because he stained our frames and didn’t wear gloves:
We felt like experimenting with the finishing, so we tried a few different stains on some leftover wood craps. White made the oak look pink. Black seemed too heavy. Grey looked chalky. So Bradley tried something new.
- First, Bradley stained the entire frame white and immediately wiped it all off. That way the white stayed in the cracks and gaps, but not on the entire surface.
- After that, Bradley lightly stained the surface brown. Emphasis on the lightly. If he used too much stain, it would stain right over the white in the cracks and defeat the whole purpose. So Bradley used a cheesecloth and barely dipped it into the stain. He also took care not to apply pressure at all. Just a light swipe of the cloth gently across the surface.
We really dig the result:
We ordered the glass and it showed up a week ago. Next on our to-do list? Cut mats with our new mat cutter:
Then we’ll be ready to hang up some art. Kinda. We still have to redo the walls in most of the house before we can hang anything. Minor details.
We’re spending our weekend plastering and working on tree trunk side tables, so we’ll be back with more updates soon. Stay tuned for more DIY dorkery!
We weren’t paid, perk’d, hugged or high-fived for any of the brands we mentioned in this post. We do it just because.
Hey peeps! It’s our favorite pug’s birthday — or at least the birthday we made up for her. We like to celebrate it on St Patty’s Day because Jabba looooves beer. Anyway, we thought we’d do a special post all about our special pup on her 6th birthday. (We don’t really know how old she is so she turns 6 every year.)
We found Jabba through a rescue group in NYC in May 2007. At the time, we weren’t sure whether we wanted to adopt a dog, so we decided to give fostering a try. I had weeks of downtime in between freelance gigs that summer, so the timing was perfect. On May 12th, 2007, we picked up this sad little pooch:
We named her Jabba the Mutt because those fabulous neckrolls reminded us of that other Jabba..
She pretty much hid under a chair for a few days. Oh, did we mention we decided to foster two dogs at the same time?
That’s Fester. We named him after Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. And because he smelled awful when we got him. His tongue pokes out of his mouth all the time. Even when he’s asleep.
A super-nice couple saw that photo on Petfinder and decided to give Fester a permanent home. He still lives in Brooklyn, and the last time I saw him, he looked (and smelled) great. His parents decided to keep the name Fester regardless.
Jabba and Fester’s old lives didn’t seem very happy. Both dogs showed up with serious medical conditions. Fester had a gnarly ear infection that had been neglected for so long that his ear lost all its fur and looked like elephant skin. Jabba had bladder stones that had to be surgically removed. She was in pain pretty much all the time. And it shows in all of her photos from that summer.
We spent May and June taking the dogs from Brooklyn to Harlem on the subway for visits with the rescue group’s vet. At the end of June, Fester’s ear cleared up and he went home with his new family. Jabba had 2 surgeries, and pulled through just fine. And then this happened:
She went from looking miserable all the time to looking pretty happy.
At this point, Jabba and I were pretty much inseparable. It was a slow summer for work, so we hung out in Brooklyn all day, every day. I can tell you pretty much every dog-friendly establishment in Park Slope because we hit em all. We made it official and adopted her. And she’s had it pretty good ever since.
She’s also done a little modeling for his company’s website:
Happy birthday, Jabba the Mutt. May you turn 6 every year for many more years!
There’s a small, local shop in our town that sells everything. Literally everything. From candy to light bulbs to fabric — they’ve got it. A few days ago, we wandered in to check out their fabric selection (planning out a new project!), and found these:
We think they’re stocking hooks for mantles, but we’re not sure. We picked up both for $5 and we have big, big plans for one of them. Here’s what we’re thinking: remove the hook, paint it black, and turn it into an amazing finial to top off our staircase baluster:
I can’t believe the only picture I could find of our baluster was this hideous shot before we removed the carpet. Yiish. There might have been a finial on the staircase at some point, but currently, this is what it looks like:
We plan on painting the staircase black to match the floors. And we think our new DIY finial would fit right in. We admit it: we’re a little bit goth on the inside. Just a little. We embrace our inner Lydia Deetz:
We’re not sure what we’ll do with the second one, but we’ll figure it out.
Check out what else Bradley found:
Two stumps. And they’re the perfect size to make side tables for our couch! We love the way this one is shaped:
We need to dry them and strip the bark off the sides. Then we’ll sand them smooth and finish them off with a lacquer. It could take a while — just the drying is going to take about a month. To speed things up, we’re going to haul them inside and put them next to the fireplace.
By the time we’re finished, we’ll have something that looks like this:
Except ours will be free. Whooooo!
We’re smack-dab in the middle of a big project right now. We’ll be back tomorrow with some updates. Stay tuned!
Hey folks! We’re going to start this post off by apologizing for being M.I.A. We’re long overdue for an update on the renovation, and we have so much to share. We’re living in an actual bedroom now! With an actual closet!! So what if our mattress is on the floor — it feels like we’re living in luxury after sleeping in the freezing dining room for the past 7 months.
The reason we’re so behind on our updates:
That’s Margot Tenenbaum. We named her after a character in one of our favorite Wes Anderson movies, The Royal Tenenbaums:
Heavy eyeliner. Brown fur coat. They could be twins.
A few weekends ago, we decided to start volunteering at our local animal shelter. They’re pretty understaffed and they don’t get much funding. We thought we could help out by walking dogs a couple of hours a month. Before we headed over to fill out the paperwork, we made a pact that we would absolutely positively not be adopting any of the dogs. Nope. Wasn’t gonna happen. Just walking ‘em. No attachments.
And then she looked at me with those big brown peepers and I crumbled.
Bradley held his ground and refused to take her home. We’re renovating a house, we spend 2 days a week in Brooklyn, we do 3 hour drives. A new dog requires a lot of time. It’s a serious responsibility. Deep down, I knew he was right and we didn’t adopt her. He cracked a few days later.
7 days after we first met Margot, we took Jabba to the shelter and let them meet. The next thing you know, we’re riding home with one more dog than we arrived with.
We learned that she’s one or two years old and is a beagle mix. She was found as a stray in early October and brought to the shelter by Animal Control. Someone adopted her in November and then returned her a couple of weeks later because they weren’t ready for the commitment. She’s completely untrained and she’s not housebroken. And she shows signs of abuse and neglect.
She’s also incredibly smart. She learned “sit” and her name in the matter of hours. She’s making some serious headway on the whole potty training issue. And, even though she’s a little skittish and nervous, we think she’s starting to realize that we’re not going to take her back to the shelter. She’s starting to bond with us. Snuggling helps:
There’s been a lot of that:
Put on a sweater? Check. Sit down? Check. Look cute? Check. Nice job, ladies.
Now that Margot’s been with us for a few days, we’ve got our schedules back to normal. Or as normal as they can be when we have to take turns tethering a dog to our belts. We’re finally getting into the groove of things, and we’ll be back to updating like normal starting tonight. Stay tuned, peeps. We’re back!