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

November 30, 2015

How to Update Pot Lights without Replacing the Can

We recently updated our kitchen pot lights with a quick fix:

Our kitchen has two pot lights over the counter that I usually croped out of photos because they just looked so terrible!  In the lakehouse tour, you can see them in the "before" photos, but they're cropped out of every "after" shot of our aqua makeover.  They functioned well and I used them every day, but they were old and discolored, and one of them had just been coated in silicone by the silicone-happy former owner:

Update dated pot light without replacing it

I'm seriously embarrassed that we lived with them for so long!

We had been wanting to replace them for awhile, but we weren't enthusiastic about climbing into the attic to remove the cans.  Recently one of the bulbs burned out so we headed to The Home Depot for a new one.  They're $10!  I suggested to Handy Hubby that we finally replace the lights and purchase two fresh bulbs - I didn't want to end up with two different bulbs in addition to wonky lights.  We sauntered over to the lighting section and pondered for awhile.  Finally, we made our selection and were about to head to the check out when a salesperson asked if we needed help.  We asked how difficult it would be to replace our pot lights, and if he had any tips.  He discouraged us from replacing them because removing the cans could really damage a ceiling.  Instead, he showed us the LED bulb and trim retrofit kits.  They're actually a bit more money than purchasing new cans, but it is so much easier to use these kits to update the look and technology.

Halo LED Retrofit Pot Light Kit Review

Here's how we updated our pot lights, the easy way.  First we bought two Halo LED 4" retrofit kits from The Home Depot, for about $50 a piece.  This one is fairly similar.

Pot light retro fit

As with any electrical work, we turned off the power.  Then we removed the old pot light trim by gently pulling it down and then squeezing the metal retaining wires that held it in place.

Replace pot light without replacing can

The arrow is pointing to the wires:

How to remove old pot light
How to remove old pot light trim

Then we were left with just the can, which was perfectly functioning and really not that old:

Pot light can

Then it was time to install the new light and trim retro fit kit!

Can you replace pot light without removing can?

First we installed the light socket adapter.  Then we took the new LED and plugged it into the adapter.  With a screw driver, we used one of the self-tapping screws (included) and screwed the ground wire into an existing hole in the can.  Instructions are included with the kit, and we followed them completely.

Fast and easy way to update pot light
Pot light trim kit

The installation was straightforward, except we hit ONE stumbling block: when we tried to push the trim in tightly against the ceiling, the can shifted too so we couldn't get a nice, flush fit.  Genius Hubby (I call him "Handy Hubby" for a reason), figured out that if he threaded a wire through the gap between the gimbal and the trim, looped it around a fixed point in the can, and then back through the trim, he could pull down on the wire to hold the can down while pushing the new trim piece up.  It worked!  Once it was tightly in place, he pushed the wire back through and removed it.  You might not need this step, but it's a handy hack to know, just in case.

The light bulbs should last 50,000 hours and only draw 10 watts, but they are SO much brighter than our old lights, which were 50 watt halogens.  Now that the days are getting shorter, I love that I have brighter kitchen lighting, although I do miss the halogen bulbs a tiny bit.  They were dimmer, but a touch warmer.  These are bright and offer a very white light - much better than flouescent, but I'm still clinging to my incandescent bulbs and irrationally resistant to liking any other type of bulb. 

It goes without saying, though, that they just look so much better now!

New pot light
Pot light before and after

Now we're eyeing up the eyeball pot lights above the fireplace and thinking that we might use this same style of LED retro fit to update those, too...


November 26, 2015

GlobeIn Artisan "Refresh" Box Review

GlobeIn Refresh Box

I'm not in the habit of reviewing products that aren't related to DIY, home improvement, or life on the lake, but when I was offered a chance to peek inside one of the GlobeIn Artisan Subscription Boxes, I was intrigued because it's an interesting concept.

The "boxes" are actually handwoven baskets, filled with beautiful, curated goods from around the globe, as well as an introduction to the communities and people whose wares you will get to enjoy.  Although they can be purchased individually - and their contents can be bought à la carte - a monthly subscription seems to be most popular.  You have to love a surprise to sign up for this, though! 

GlobeIn Artisan Box Review
GlobeIn Artisan Box Review - Refresh

Because I am finally indulging in some indoor baths (yay!), I chose the Refresh Box, which boasts spa goodies from all over the world:  dead sea soap (Israel), hemp wash cloth (Bangladesh), shea shampoo (West Africa), hand-painted candle (South Africa) and some tea (South American Atlantic Forest).  All of the products are fairly traded and help support remote artisans.

What really appealed to me about this subscription service is that so many of the items are consumable and usable.  If you subscribe, you will end up with some decorative and useful items (like the ceramic mug from Tunisia in the Cozy Box), but you won't get inundated with clutter and knick knacks.  Instead, you'll be treated to indulgences like cocoa powder from Ghana and vanilla from Madagascar - things you can enjoy and use up.  The quality of the items in the Refresh Box was lovely, but just note that the quantities of some items are sample sizes, with full size versions available for purchase.  

Fair Traded Gift Ideas
Gift ideas for students away at school
Gift ideas for travellers

Although I can think of many people who would love this idea - and welcome a parcel on their doorstep filled with goodies - I keep thinking that this would be a great gift idea for a student living away from home for the first time, or as a get well gift for someone on the mend.

Disclosure: I was provided a GlobeIn box but was not asked to provide a positive review.  As a feminist, I'm committed to empowering women and GlobeIn supports many initiatives led by women around the world.  Many men and women - especially in remote regions - have a difficult time supporting themselves and earning a living wage.  Hopefully GlobeIn can play a role by providing global reach to many talented artisans. 
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November 23, 2015

Bathroom Update: Floating Walnut Cabinetry

Floating Walnut Bathroom Cabinetry

The walnut bathroom cabinetry was installed last Friday!  Unfortunately, two of the drawer fronts were damaged (and the one that wasn't damaged seems a little kitty womper - like the drawer isn't square).  I just can't catch a break!  Not to worry:  the cabinet installers noticed right away, so new drawer fronts are already on order.

Walnut Bath Vanity
Walnut veneer cabinetry

I was going to wait until the cabinetry is perfect to share, but I just can't wait.  Things are still a little unfinished, but that's a real life renovation for you!  It can require a lot of patience and you learn to celebrate the small victories.

Remember my dilemma about mounting the cabinetry?  As you know, I hate a toe kick and, in my experience, cleaning around legs in a bathroom is just a total pain.  Plus, in the townhouse the melamine vanity legs started to peel after only four years of mopping around them.  So I knew that I wanted wall-mounted cabinetry, but I didn't love the look of the tower and and vanity floating at the same height.  It was suggested that I just float the vanity and perhaps add legs to the tower...

But then it dawned on me: float them at different heights!

Wall mounted vanity and linen tower

The linen tower and the vanity are actually two different depths because the kitchen/bath designer who helped us order the cabinetry suggested that the tower be deeper so the door doesn't bump the corner of the stone counters.  Otherwise, we would have been stuck with a rounded corner but we really wanted squared off corners.  Her clever solution means that the counter can be as squared off as we want, and the tower door won't be damaged every time I whip it open.  This is why it pays to loop in the professionals!  I never would have thought of that - or even known that was an option!

With the cabinetry different depths, I decided that different heights for floating the two sections would look great.  We confirmed with the cabinet installers this was possible (it was!) and then Hubby and I installed the proper blocking behind the drywall to make it happen. 

The blocking lines up with the top and the bottom of the cabinets, with additional points in the middle for strength.  Long screws were also drilled through the cabinetry right into the studs.  The installers affixed the cabinets to the back and side walls, and then to each other from both sides.  It's so sturdy, you can sit on the vanity!

Deciding on the heights was the hardest part.  We wanted the vanity to be approximately 35" from the floor (including the stone), which meant the bottom would be about 13" off the floor.  With that height determined, we worked from there to figure out that we could lift the tower off the floor about 8" inches.   Now that it's installed, it looks even better than I imagined!  I'm so happy I went with my gut and pushed for all floating cabinetry.  I've already washed the floors since the cabinetry was installed and it's a breeze to reach under there to clean.  I'm thrilled with the function, plus it looks really custom - with that mid-century modern feel I'm after.

Floating vanity and linen tower

I'll let you in on a little secret:  at one point during the renovation, I found myself wondering if I should have gone with white cabinetry because it's not a huge, super bright room and I started to worry that the dark floors and darker wood cabinetry would make it seem small.  Well, now that it's installed, I have no more doubts because look at that grain:

Walnut bathroom cabinetry

I'm drooling!  Every night I sit in the tub (no shower curtain yet) and just gaze at it with a goofy smile on my face.  Hopefully we'll soon be looking at it with quartzite counters and my beloved aqua sinks.
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November 20, 2015

DIY Evergreen + Feather Wreath

How to make an evergreen wreath

Living lakeside in the country has definitely changed my aesthetic, and I find myself turning to nature more and more for inspiration.  I put together a DIY evergreen wreath tutorial for Hello Holiday that has such an organic, earthy feel to it that I surprised myself! 
 Rustic organic looking wreath
How to make a natural spruce wreath

You can see the full how-to on Hello Yellow but this was pretty straightforward to make.  Once I gathered armfuls of evergreen branches (using pruning sheers for a clean cut), I cut down the branches into smaller piece.  I grabbed bunches of these trimmings, fanned them out, and affixed them to my wreath form using green floral wire.  Easy!  Then I just worked my way around the wreath, layering on the boughs.

How to make a wreath
Crafts with spruce boughs
How to attach spruce to wreath form

Once I got into the rhythm of it, making this evergreen wreath was actually really simple!  The trickiest part was creating a nice balance and keeping a round shape.  I wanted a really natural looking wreath so I kept the arrangement loose, but I had to be careful because it went really wild looking very easily.  I tried my best to tame it!
  How to make a natural spruce wreath

When I was finished with the wreath, I accented it with feathers.  I picked up a zillion Canada goose feathers from the yard one day and I was so enraged by their constant presence.  For some reason, vowing to make something pretty with their feathers seemed like the perfect revenge (I do not understand my logic).  I actually wanted to make something like Britt Bass' arrow art, but then I found adorable clip-on birds at the craft store and decided that an earthy wreath would be an even better use!  Take that, geese.  Ha!

After collecting them, I cleaned the goose feathers.  First I popped them all in a ziploc bag and placed it in the freezer for a few days (to kill any bugs), then I gently washed them in dish soap, rinsed, and let them air dry.  I mixed them with some shimmering faux foliage stems and a handful of teal feathers from the craft store for some subtle colour, inspired by the lake and it's moody, grey blues this time of year.  A dab of hot glue is all that was required to affix them.

How to decorate a wreath

The wreath is so full and lush - and smells amazing.  I love that it is huge because it makes such a statement on my walls. 

Midcentury modern holiday decorating
Ideas for crafting with feathers
Crafts with birds
Budget-friendly wreath ideas
Nature crafts
Modern Christmas decorating ideas

You can see this wreath - and tons of other holiday crafts, DIY projects and decorating ideas - in Hello Holiday!  And, if you missed my other modern holiday decorating ideas, check out my DIY agate wreath and DIY dyed bottle brush trees

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November 16, 2015

DIY Dyed Bottle Brush Trees + Styling a Narrow Mantle

In addition to contributing some holiday DIY projects (like my agate wreath), I also styled my mantle for Hello Holiday.  My mantle is super narrow and has two unsightly vents that impede any efforts to make it look good, which is why I normally "style" it with a collection of rocks and call it a day!  But I was up for the challenge of styling a narrow mantle because I knew this would be a perfect excuse to go crazy with DIY dyed bottle brush trees, which are small enough to spruce up (see what I did there?) even the skimpiest mantle.

Collection of teal and turquoise bottle brush trees
Teal holiday decor
Wintry mantle styling in teal and turquoise

I bleached and dyed most of the bottle brush trees various shades of mint and teal, but I left a few of the trees green.  I clipped some real evergreen branches and arranged them in my huge West German pottery floor vase. 

Dark grey fireplace with teal holiday decor
Blue and green holiday decor
West German pottery floor vase

The DIY dyed bottle brush trees turned out so well and the project was so simple!

How to bleach and dye Lemax bottle brush trees
Mint and turquoise bottle brush trees

How to bleach + dye bottle brush trees

*I ordered the plain bottle brush trees but was accidentally mailed the snow-covered ones, with no time to return them.  The bleach removed the "snow" from some, but not all of the trees.  If you try this, definitely get the plain bottle brush trees - which is what I linked to.  I have heard good things about the Tim Holz bottle brush trees, which already come bleached with a pretty wood base, but I liked having variety in the sizes.

Lemax snow covered bottle brush trees review

My packages of Lemax trees were a little rough around the edges.  I didn't worry about re-shaping them until after the bleaching and dyeing, but I did do a lot of trimming because mine had some rogue branches:

Lemax snow covered bottle brush trees review
Once I was done fussing, I put on my rubber gloves and grubby clothes and got to work.  I poured some bleach into a small container and started dunking my trees in, one at a time, until all of the colour was removed.  Eventually the bleach would get sludgey and murky, so I'd dump it and start fresh.  Some people dilute the bleach, but full strength worked just fine for me.  After bleaching, I gave each tree a rinse and set it aside.

How to bleach bottle brush trees

I mixed up two buckets of concentrated Rit dye, using only about half the water recommended by the manufacturer.  I dunked a tree and set it aside to dry upright (with a towel to protect the surface from dye) - no rinsing required.  Then I dunked another tree in the dye mix, but let it soak for a few minutes, then removed and let dry.  I played around with each tree, letting each one absorb the dye for a different period of time.  Sometimes I dunked a tree in both dye mixes.  Near the end, I mixed the two dyes together and kept dunking trees.  I only used two colours of dye, but ended up with a lot of variety with this method.

I spent a couple of hours bleaching and dyeing these trees, and sequestered myself in the laundry room because it did make a bit of a mess.  When all of the trees were dyed and dried (over night), I brushed them with a stiff bristle brush to restore any wonky branches to their proper shape.  Unfortunately, some of the ones that arrived really smooshed never bounced back, but once they're on the mantle in a grouping, they look fine.

Teal bottle brush trees
Teal and copper
Dyed bottle brush trees DIY
How to dye bottle brush trees

I love the vintage feel of the pastel hues - and how they really pop against my dark grey fireplace.

Bottle brush trees on mantle
Huge collection of bottle brush trees
Grey, teal, mint, cream holiday decor

The candle holders are a thrift store find, which I cleaned, lightly sanded and spray painted a cheery mint.  They have the same shape as the trees, so I thought they would be a perfect way to add some height and interest - plus the mantle looks so cozy when the candles are lit!

Candle holder makeover - before
Vintage-inspired holiday mantle decor
Bottle brush trees dyed to look vintage

Behind the trees are two DIY painted "skies," inspired by the moonlit look of my teal bottle brush trees.  I grabbed two scraps of wood from my wood pile and painted them black and teal, to mimic the Northern Lights we see over the lake.  I added specks of white acrylic paint to look like stars - or falling snow.  These paintings hide the vents successfully, but they also add some drama to my mantle decor.

Last year my light up celebrate sign hid the vents, so this is clearly going to be an annual challenge!

How to style a narrow mantle for the holidays
Komondor in front of dark grey fireplace
How to decorate with turquoise and teal for the holidays

I'm really pleased with my foray into styling our narrow mantle - it's definitely doable!  Plus I can check "dye bottle brush trees" from my every-growing DIY to try list... 
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