Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

August 27, 2014

DIY Wood Coasters - Two Ways

When my Mom wouldn't let me add some pink to the solid wood trivet Hubby and I made her, I needed to satisfy the creative craving so I made some DIY solid wood hex coasters and did two versions: one with a whitewash and clear coat, the other with a dark walnut stain and painted edges.

DIY hex wood coasters

The DIY coasters above were stained with the same white stain we used for the counters.  The walnut stained coasters are shown below:

DIY walnut stained hex coasters

It felt good to get that out of my system, but the more natural finish has won me over!

DIY wood coasters

Here's how to make your own solid wood hex coasters:

We started with this piece of wood, but I could have easily have worked with any scrap piece - any type, any thickness - but the thinner, the better.  Our piece was pretty smooth but if you start with something rougher, you might want to plane it or even just run a belt sander over it.

Wood scrap projects

With wood in hand, we did some figurin'.  Hubby used a sliding T bevel to figure out the angles on our hexagon coasters.  You can also kick it old school with a protractor and straight edge - or bust out some high school geometry and just a ruler if you're super bad-ass. 

How to figure out a hex shape

With the hexagon figured out and drawn onto the first section, Hubby used a bandsaw to cut out the first coaster.  After that, we traced the first coaster on subsequent lengths of the board and Hubby kept cutting.

Cutting hexagon shapes out of wood
How to cut a hexagon

This was such a fun and easy woodworking project - great for beginners!

After cutting the wood hex shapes, the edges were a little rough so I smoothed them over with sandpaper (first a 120-grit and then a sheet of 220).  I softly rounded the edges and sanded the surface as well.

DIY hexgaon wood coasters

For the dark coasters I used Restor-A-Finish in Walnut.  I used left over Saman Whitewash on the other set.  Here's what they looked like with just stain (after one coat):

Walnut stained and whitewashed wood
DIY hex coaster

Once the stain was dry, I painted the edges of the walnut-stained coasters.  I experimented a little, using both acrylic paint and household latex paint - the latter was terrible: super watery and took many coats.  The acylic paint from the craft store did a phenomenal job, especially the copper.  I used a small artist's brush and just free-handed it, painting the bottom surface too, just for fun.

Copper painted edge

Lastly, I gave each side and edge two thin coats of clear wood finish.  I gave the coasters a light sand between coats, using 220 grit sandpaper.  This is the same finish we used on the floating credenza top and I really like it because it dries in a flash.  The only tricky thing is that you have to apply it really thinly, otherwise it shows yellow (which it's not supposed to).

Clear varnish

And, voila - the painted edge I was so eager to have:

DIY coaster

Flipped over it's a totally different look: it becomes a colourful set of one-of-a-kind coasters!

Painted coaster

Here's one last look at the white-washed ones:

Whitewashed wood coaster

If you make some, you could add some felt to the bottom (like I did to my tile-turned-trivet).

I have definitely just written the longest post on the easiest project, but I'm enjoying chatting about something so simple (and so complete!) because many of our lakehouse projects have been so involved.  This was easy peasy, and I learned a valuable lesson: turns out Mom's still always right.

Which do you prefer?  White-washed or walnut-stained (with a painted edge)?

DIY Solid Wood Hex Coaster - Two Ways

August 25, 2014

Blogging Can Be Weird

Griffin, from The Design Itch, asked me to partake in a tour that's making its way through blogland.  Even though I'm pretty swamped, and I just participated in the Canadian Bloggers Home Tour (see the juicy new lakehouse pictures I shared here), I'm always so touched when someone says, "hey, you're swell.  Can I tell people how swell I think you are?"  Speaking of swell, take a look at Griffin's beautiful dining room:

Blogging can be weird.  Over the weekend someone read an older, tongue-in-cheek post of mine but didn't get the joke at all, so they decided that the only thing to do was to leave a character-attacking comment - anonymously, of course.  Le sigh.  I manually approve all comments (to catch rude spam), but I swiftly deleted that one too.  Truthfully, it was kind of funny because the person was very uninformed about the matter in question - but very opinionated, as the uninformed tend to be - and I almost wanted to approve and highlight the comment because anyone who has read more than one post of mine would have seriously chuckled, but I just don't need that kind of negative juju.  Constructive feedback is always welcome but any type of name-calling, character defamation, or attempts to make someone feel bad get a big "nope" from me.  I'm not one to complain about blogging because, uh, it's totally voluntary.  Negative comments don't ruffle my feathers anyway, but I'm sharing this to help remind myself not to take for granted the kind, sweet, supportive folks out there who make blogging so much fun.
Before I get too misty-eyed, I'm just going to get right to the questions posed of everyone who partakes in this tour:

1. What am I working on?

Right now I'm working on a bunch of different DIY projects, feverishly trying to complete them before the snow (which I'm certain is just around the corner) rears its ugly head.  I've partnered with Canadian Tire for a huge series of projects and I'm tackling some of those this week, but I've also got some of my own projects on the go.  I've been trying for weeks to stain the deck and couldn't land a sunny stretch, but I think Tuesday might be my magic day!  Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of what I'm working on via Instagram, like this sneak peek I shared of a super cute office accessory I painted and stained yesterday - details soon!

2. How does my work differ from those in my genre?

I learned a long time ago that I shouldn't compare myself to others.  I really do believe it's far more valuable to compare current-me to past-me, than to anyone else.  Have I learned something?  Have I developed a skill?  Am I improving?  Have I stopped leaving the dishrag in a sink of scungy dishwater overnight?

Past-me (townhouse-me) blogged more often and took fewer design risks.  Current me (lakehouse-me) has been trying to blog a little less, but produce more interesting, thoughtful posts.  I'm taking more design risks and tackling more daring DIY projects.  I submit the townhouse kitchen and lakehouse kitchen as Exhibit A.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I was passionate about DIY projects long before I started blogging and probably will be long after I hit "publish" on my last post.  I'm not really into DIY to save a buck, although that's a nice perk - like when I made my framed agate art for a fraction of the price of the professionally framed agate I lusted after.

Mostly I just like things my way - I DIY because I'm bossy!  Often I can't find exactly what I want (like my weird truck bed or the washing-maching hiding curtains), so I make it.  I also have this horrible affliction: I have too many ideas!  I sometimes wish I could just say them out loud and see them magically materialize, because I have way more ideas (especially for art!) than one person can ever use and never enough time to see them all come to fruition.  But, I do like learning new skills and trying new things, so maybe a magic idea-maker wouldn't be for me after all.  Sure, I wasn't the best at it - and it was a ridiculous amount of work (I'm talking weeks and weeks) - but it feels pretty awesome to say that Hubby and I painted my 1992 Dodge Colt lime green...  

I've always enjoyed creative endeavors, and I hope the well never dries up!  

4. How does my creative writing process work?

I have a notebook designated for blog post ideas, but usually I end up writing them down on everything from gas receipts to my Hydro bill.  Once I accidentally wrote down something on a student exam I was marking!  I hope they don't steal my idea...

I used to post five days a week but these days I aim to produce a blog post 3 days a week.  Truthfully, I reject half of what I write because I start to doubt the quality.  I think I have more abandoned draft posts than published posts.  I recently sat down and penned a personal essay for a writing contest which I at first thought was really funny and moving, but in the 11th hour couldn't submit it because I decided it was crap.  I hope future-me either improves my writing or confidence, because I spend a lot of time clicketing-clacking away at my computer for my own health.

Now I'm passing the tour on to Shannon, from 8 Foot Six (with whom I share a love of Pyrex).  She's currently decorating and renovating on two fronts: her already gorgeous home has undergone some renos and she has the cutest summer place.

Jae won me over with a stunning kitchen makeover - seeing the process unfold was incredible!  I definitely recommend taking a peek at Design OCD.  I'm passing the tour through blogland onward, so Jae and Shannon will be sharing their answers to these questions next Monday and then they'll each pass the questions on to another blogger.  And so on and so on, until the end of time.  The end.

Read more »

August 21, 2014

Canadian Blogger Home Tour

I'd been thinking about doing a "where are we now?" post, but we bought, took possession of, started working on, and finally moved into the lakehouse over a seven month period.  It's a very confusing timeline that makes choosing a time to share a whole home update a little tricky.  Do I share at the six-month mark?  The one-year mark?  Of which date?  I spent some time waffling over this.

When I was asked to participate in the Canadian Home Blogger Tour happening this week, coordinated by Shannon (of AKA Design) and Christina (from The DIY Mommy), I figured that the right time was now!  It's been almost a year since we officially took ownership of the lakehouse and about seven months since we moved in, so today I'm sharing a tour, along with a progress report and our upcoming plans for each space.  For my regular readers, I have some photos you haven't seen yet: some living room changes and our aqua front door...

New and old friends alike, welcome to the lakehouse!

My Handy Hubby and I bought this place on impulse last year, totally upending our plans to spend another year in Ottawa, in our sweet little townhouse.  We had been planning to purchase a house on Lake Superior (my favorite lake in the world), but wanted to wait until I had defended my PhD dissertation and we had time to prepare the townhouse for sale.  We envisioned a leisurely timeline and everything going our way...haha!  When we found the lakehouse, we just loved everything about it: its location on a sheltered bay of Lake Superior (excellent for swimming and canoeing), it's modest size and price tag, it's open concept floor plan, and it's cute little guesthouse!  We decided to go for it and although buying it was stressful (matched only by the disappointing sale of our former abode), we've never regretted the decision.  How could we, when this is our backyard?

Moving here meant downsizing - who downsizes from a townhouse?? - but we've enjoyed simplifying our lives a little.  I tell people we're doing retirement first, while we're young.  I've kept tabs on other lakefront properties for sale and realized that had we waited until the "time was right," we wouldn't have found a home we like as much as this one.  Actually, we might not have found a home at all because prices have skyrocketed!  As much as we love our little slice of Lake Superior, there are a lot of things we'd like to do to make this home ours. 

Exterior To-Do:
  • Stain the deck - I prepped the deck just this week and am waiting for a sunny stretch!
  • Build a new deck step
  • Paint the exterior to unify the stone, wood, and vinyl siding - we actually have a garage full of paint but I'm worried I won't get to it thanks to this miserable, cold summer...
  • Paint the guesthouse exterior and stain its deck too
  • Paint the detached garage exterior (I'm only just realizing how much painting I have to do)
  • Some gardening (?)...I don't know how to garden
  • Rebuild our deteriorating dock
  • Put up a fence around the whole yard for Szuka (it's only an acre, hardly any work at all...)
  • Build an electronic gate (and make it pretty)
  • Install motion lights
  • Build racks for firewood storage
  • Stencil a geometric design on the concrete pad in the car port

This is our front door and impossibly small entryway.  I brightened it up by painting the walls, trim, ceiling, and interior doors white.  We switched out the row of boob lights for inexpensive Ikea fixtures and replaced the worn-out brass hardware with mid-century inspired brushed silver levers.  A DIY abstract triptych, a thrift store painting (in a new frame), and my framed Hungarian embroidery add some colour and interest, without overwhelming the dark and narrow space.  I am still loving (and using) the solid wood stool we added.  It's so sturdy and the perfect place to set down my purse or plonk down and tie my shoes.

This will be a surprise for my regular readers: after getting everyone to weigh in on door options (paint the existing door for the win!), I (not-so) secretly painted the front door aqua.  Unfortunately, I hit a bump in the road and, yadda yadda yadda, ended up ordering this incredible exterior door.  Once the new door is painted aqua and installed, I'll loop you in on the whole story - and show you the new door, of course. 

I turned the pantry beside the door into shoe-storage and still find my system to be absolutely perfect for me.  Taking the time to paint all of the closets a fun colour was such a fun choice because I love the little hidden hits of colour.

Hallway/Entry To-Do:
  • New front door!
  • New storm door too
  • New flooring (slate would be awesome)
  • Add a shelf or hooks for more function
  • A non-beige doorbell cover would be awesome
  • We're upgrading our heating system so a sleek new thermostat is in the cards for us

To the right of the hall is our hard-working laundry room, slated for a full renovation - eventually.  For now, floor to ceiling curtains on a track hide the old, ugly washer and dryer.  An Eames Hang-It-All offers form and function.  Even just white paint, a new light (and cleaning up!) made the space seem brighter.

Laundry Room To-Do:
  • New flooring
  • Tiled walls?
  • New washer, dryer & laundry tub
  • DIY cabinet for electrical panel and floor-to-ceiling food pantry 

Beyond the laundry room is the guest powder room, to be renovated alongside the laundry room.  For now I updated it ever so slightly by painting the walls, trim, cabinetry, tile - even the light fixture and hardware.  Truthfully, I'm not totally happy with this space so I might try something fun in here...

Powder Room To-Do:
  • Curtains! (Guests will appreciate them)
  • A huge built-in storage cabinet above the toilet
  • New flooring, vanity, tile, toilet, sink, mirror, light...

Across from the laundry room is the kitchen, which just received a budget-friendly overhaul with DIY solid maple counters, cottage-inspired paneling, a DIY pantry and open shelving.  The remaining cabinetry was painted a cheery aqua and we also replaced the sink and faucet.  We're saving for a major renovation, but this update has given us the chance to fully enjoy the kitchen while we save.  I want some time to figure out how we use the space - what we love, what we'd like to change - and I'd rather do that in style.  See this post for all of the information on the kitchen makeover, with links to all of projects and sources.

Kitchen To-Do:
  • Full reno: flooring, cabinets, counters, tile backsplash, more lighting (eventually)
  • Find a piece of art for beside the window (right now)
  • Find more turquoise Pyrex, obviously

One of the things we love the most about the lakehouse is the open concept kitchen, dining and living spaces.  We updated the dining room with a dramatic light fixture.  It was a splurge but so perfect for our tall ceilings and the open space - the scale is perfect.  I think it looks like an art installation when it's not turned on, and for some reason that really tickles me.  We balanced the budget by choosing affordable Ikea lights for every other room and then hacking Ikea cabinets for a floating credenza.  A grey-stained plywood waterfall top hides the Ikea-ness and the seams. 

Dining Room To-Do:
  • New dining room table? I have some DIY ideas...
  • Definitely new dining room chairs - or these one recovered in something more colourful and mod
  • Finish the credenza by adding furniture grommets to the holes we cut for lamp cords

Beyond the dining room is the living room, easily modernized by painting the faux brick fireplace a charcoal grey and the walls and trim white.  The furniture from our last place made itself at home with new Marimekko pillows, a chair rescued from the trash and upholstered in teal velvet, and Lotte lamps stolen from my Mom.  Readers will notice I swapped out the black chair for the minty chair from the bedroom, plus I stole the second Lotte lamp from my Mom - along with a pair of round teak tables to replace my one boomerang-shaped one.   

I have a beautiful, mid-century sectional waiting in the wings, so this layout is temporary-ish, but I still find myself routinely adding layers to it.  That's how I work: I keep massaging a space until it feels perfect.  Also, thievery ranks high on the list for ways to describe my "signature style".

Living Room To-Do:
  • Renovate the fireplace and face it with slate, add bookshelves and mount the TV there
  • New flooring
  • Mid-century sectional recovered
  • Build and upholster a new ottoman
  • Replace table lamps with a chic floor lamp?
  • Build a mini ottoman for teal velvet chair (it's so low!!)

I'm currently working on the bedroom.  One of the first projects was the closet: the busted closet doors and fittings were removed.  Then the hardwood flooring was repaired, the closet was painted bright orange (Hubby's choice), and a new closet fitting was installed.

After addressing the closet issues (and painting everything white), we moved in our treasured DIY hardboard and nightstands, plus the 1960s posters I bought during my four-month research stay in Hungary.  The posters used to hang in our townhouse kitchen, but I like them even more in the bedroom.  DIY back tab curtains are a recent addition (see the tutorial here).

Bedroom To-Do:
  • New coat of paint for the metal headboard and tables
  • Tweak the bed linens/throw pillows (I have a neat DIY idea I can't wait to try)
  • Two new dressers!
  • More art
  • Closet doors (can't wait!) 
  • Build some cute storage boxes for our very open nightstands

Beside the master bedroom is our main bathroom, which I gave the same facelift as the powder room before we even moved in: I refinished the oak cabinet grey and even painted the dated tile.  Somehow I like this room more than the powder room, though.  I think it's the big black and white painting I made - it draws the eye!  We're totally gutting the space next spring and I've already begun planning the renovation - in my mind, it already looks stunning.  We had originally planned to renovate this summer but life got in the way, so I'm really happy I took a weekend to update the look.  I'd be pretty crabby every morning if I was still staring at that honey oak with those dusty rose walls.

Bathroom To-Do:
  • New white everything (tub, toilet, sinks) - good-bye beige!
  • Floating (DIY?) vanity with two sinks instead of one, and a pair of round mirrors
  • Ditch the shower portal for a turquoise tiled tub surround 
  • New tiled floor
  • Towel warmer (I really, really want one)
  • Curtains

Next on the tour: the office, which definitely needs some attention.  It's such a disaster right now, I couldn't  even bring myself to take a photo.  So far, in addition to painting walls, ceiling, and trim, we've turned a closet into a nook and completed an updated Expedit hack.  I'll tidy it up soon, snap some photos and share my plans - plus an office DIY project I'm working on right now.

Office To-Do:
  • Two new office chairs - we're currently shopping, but also considering using these vintage Eames beauties I found
  • Build a desk for two that hides everything computer related
  • Curtains - something minty green or pink, maybe?
  • More storage - maybe window-flanking shelves?
  • DIY magazine files that custom-fit an Ikea Expedit

This almost concludes the tour, but there are a couple of bonus spaces.  We have a weird (sad) little storage room I plan on turning into the most fabulous crafting/painting studio ever.  You can't tell, but it faces the lake and has an excellent view, plus it has a convenient sink.

Craft Studio To-Do:
  • New flooring or maybe paint the flooring?
  • Paint the walls, trim, ceiling, and doors
  • Add shelves
  • Hang some art
  • Window treatments
  • Track down some vintage cabinets for storage (old medical cabinets would be awesome)
  • Set up my easel and start painting again!

The last space: our former guesthouse - now the headquarters for my Etsy shop (re-opening September).  This space had a sauna but we converted the sauna to storage.  The main room (and three piece bath) will see a makeover in the winter once we're up & running (my biggest priority is unpacking and listing everything - I've been sharing some of my vintage inventory on Instagram).  I originally couldn't decide on a look, but I think I've decided that this would be a fun space to try something that is a bit of departure from my style.  I'm going to go for a very muted, Scandinavian feel: lots of black and white, some natural wood, and a few pastels.  It will make a lot more sense when the exterior is painted black and the deck is stained grey.

Etsy Shop To-Do:
  • Paint the exterior and stain the deck
  • Paint the laminate flooring matte black
  • Paint the ceiling a chalky white
  • Leave the wood walls for a Scandi vibe
  • Paint the interior and exterior doors (maybe a pale pink or mint?)
  • Add some touches of gold
  • Add some chic storage - maybe floating shelves?
  • Build a funky, super easy, DIY desk (I have drawn up plans!)
  • Paint the curtain rods matte black
  • Sew some great curtains (not that the towels aren't an awesome idea)
  • Get unpacked and set up shop again!!

The scary (but fun) thing is that my bulleted lists are only the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much potential in this house and because we plan to be here for the long-haul, I've got time to see these ideas happen.  So far we've done some quick and dirty projects to make the house more "us" while we plot our next moves.  I wish we could do major renovations now, but it's just not in the budget for us.  We're tackling this house in phases, investing in things we know we won't change, and spending a little money on hiding/painting/updating things we hope to change.  The temporary fixes are worth it, because they make us happy in our home as we inch our way toward transforming this house into the lakeside retreat of our dreams.

Take a peek at my Lakehouse Tour page if you're interested in more photos (there are more photos there) - and here are the links to my DIY Projects Page and Townhouse Tour.

Don't forget to take a look at the other Canadian Blogger's Home Tours happening this week.  Here is the full list - it's such a fun way to find some great (Canadian!) design inspiration:

Monday, August 18th
Tuesday, August 19th
Wednesday, August 20th
Thursday, August 21st
Dans le Lakehouse (that's me!)
Friday, August 22nd
Read more »
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