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

October 27, 2015

Bathroom Update: the Tile is DONE and I'm Livid...

Sparkly white tub surround tile

I'm really peeved at the owner of the tile shop we hired to tile the tub surround and floor.  A bunch of careless mistakes were made, plus he gave us incorrect instructions for prepping the space.  I'll flesh out all of the problems another day because there are definitely lessons to be learned from my experience.  Right now I'm too crabby because when I washed out the tub and started to wash off the hazing from the tile, I noticed the worst thing: not only did the he gouge our brand new, perfect acrylic tub, he shoved some grout in there to hide the damage and didn't utter a peep about the damage to us.  Can you believe the dishonesty?!?

Tiler damaged my new bathtub

This tub was not easy to acquire.  After getting two damaged tubs delivered, we finally drove 3 hours to Duluth, MN to pick up a tub in person and drove it the 3 hours home.  When we got it home, we saw its flange was busted so the next day we drove back to the States for another 6 hour round trip and got a new tub - but not before we spent an hour inspecting every inch of it with four anxious salespeople.  We inspected it again when we got it home, and once again when we installed it because we wanted to be certain it was absolutely perfect.  Mid-way through the tiling, I cleaned the drop cloths and cardboard I had provided for the tilers to cover the tub (they showed up with nothing so I had to scramble to find them something).  I also cleaned out the tub, worried they'd grind in chunks of mortar with their boots, and inspected it again then - still no damage. Whew.

In the final two days of the project, the owner showed up to finish up the job and that's when the damage happened.  Instead of fessing up, he and/or his employee tried to hide the damage and then they scooted out of here like their pants were on fire.  Not sure what I'm going to do (and he's certainly not returning my calls).  While I sort it out, here's a look at how the installation progressed and what my tile choices look like installed.

After day one, about half of the tub surround was tiled - the prep work had eaten up much of the day.  I'm  thrilled about the shower cubby - we definitely longed for a cubby in the townhouse.

Installing tile with Schluter Kerdi backing
Schluter Kerdi Shower Cubby Installed
Tile installation
Schluter Ditra

Day two was a stressful day!   One of the tilers sliced into his arm with a chop saw and because he was working here alone, I drove him and his truck to the hospital (which is about an hour away).  I was worried that he might feel faint or pass out on the road.  Then I was stuck in town, so my Dad drove me home and had to turn around and drive the hour back into town in the dark, through deer and moose country.  The next day, the tiler showed up to try to finish the job on day three.  Seriously - even with a big gash!  I was thankful he came back to work because he is a fabulous tile setter.  He was so careful about the tile placement and making sure that the pattern looked good.  He worked tirelessly to avoid any tiny strips of tile and he double checked every decision with me - he's the one who even thought to cover the tub!  Unfortunately, his last day with the company fell on day three of the job, so he couldn't finish the work.

Here was the progress after day three:

Tile progress
Bathtub surround getting tiled
Floor getting tiled
Large floor tiles getting installed

I always wondered how ceilings were tiled, what with gravity and all...

How to tile a ceiling

If I'm being honest, early on in the installation I had some doubts about my tile choice for the tub surround.  It was reading really beige and dull, especially when the naked florescent bulb in the shower was turned on, or the light was really dim.

Sparkly shower tile
Tiling a bathroom
Tiled shower cubby

It turns out it was reflecting some of the orange Ditra left in the tub - which I realized when I stood in front in a bright aqua sweater and the tile looked turquoise!  Now that the bathroom is devoid of junk and everything is grouted it looks like what I envisioned.  I love how it catches the light and just gleams!  Here's a look at the bathtub and surround now:

White tile that looks like mosaic
White shimmery tile

As hoped, the tile has an organic quality, with a nod to mid-century modern mosaic tile - which is what drew me to it.  I still ogle turquoise tile, but this is subtle enough that down the road I could update and refresh this space easily with some accessories and artwork.  Plus - so little grout!!  Even the tilers admitted that the fewer grout lines the better.  We might be in this house for the long haul (which is why the damaged bathtub bothers me so much), so I wanted the most expensive elements to be neutral - but not boring!  I think this tile fits the bill.

Plus it makes an excellent post-it note, apparently:

Days four and five (both half days) consisted of the owner and one employee replacing a flawed tile I pointed out (but not the chipped one I also requested be replaced), finishing up tiling the last few rows of floor tile, and then caulking/grouting everything.

The floor is very simple and I'm so happy that I went with a matching charcoal grey grout because it just makes it look so modern.  There are a few small chips on the floor tile too (argh!) and it's still looking a little washed out and dull because it needs a few more washes before all of the hazing is removed.  I'm hoping the grout just has some dust in it because right now it looks a little uneven.  Le sigh.  But I love the size and colour - it ties in nicely with the fireplace and it will look amazing with the walnut cabinetry. 

Charcoal grey floor tile
Large grey floor tile
Large dar grey floor tile

I should be feeling excited about how everything is coming together, but I'm at a loss because I really don't want to live with a damaged bathtub but I don't really know what my options are here... 

On the bright side, Hubs and I bathed inside the house for the first time in a long time and it felt amazing.  Also, our Kohler fixtures are too gorgeous for words...details soon!

October 21, 2015

DIY Walnut Storage Bins with a Mid-Century Modern Feel

DIY walnut storage box with lid
Walnut storage bin

The bedside tables in our bedroom were welded at the same time my Grandfather made the headboard I designed.  We had some leftover materials and he just whipped them up!  We had glass shelves custom cut, but the whole project was really inexpensive.  I loved the airy look of the shelves, but I hated the messy look of piles of books and magazines that accumulated, so I bought two vinyl mock croc storage bins.  I've never love the look of the bins, but they fit really well - and they solved our storage problem!

Over time, those poor boxes started to disintegrate and I decided that I wanted to make something a little bit more solid.  Wandering around my local lumber yard - looking for supplies for the more complicated slatted storage bin idea I had - I stumbled across a really thin sheet of walnut plywood and fell in love!

Walnut plywood

Because the plywood was so thin, Handy Hubby and I were able to make really sizable boxes that are still lightweight - perfect for our glass tables. 

The instructions are over at Hello Yellow - you can click here to see the whole process.  Among the supplies required, you will need a kitty, for box approval:

Kitty in a box

Once the box is completed, it will look really chalky and pale:

Unfinished walnut is so pale

I used Danish Oil to bring out the warmth, but I needed puppy approval first (the smell lures 'em!):

Curious Komondor

The last step was adding hardware.  I wanted something brushed silver, because I am the last person on the planet to favor brushed silver over brushed gold in my home.  I also wanted something oversize and modern, so it didn't look like a kitchen drawer pull.  I found these at Lee Valley - they're 10 5/8" long! 

Long brushed silver hardware

I just love the scale!

Long silver handle

After eight years of living with those vinyl bins (two of which were spent trying to repair peeling vinyl), it feels so good to have something new!  These bins are simple and do the trick, but they have such a great mid-century feel.  I didn't intend to make them quite so tall, but we wanted to maximize how much grain we could show off.

Check out the full tutorial on Hello Yellow, but first here's another look at the finished product!

MCM storage box
DIY plywood storage bin with lid
Plywood bin
Pretty DIY Storage box with lid
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October 14, 2015

DIY Abstract Art for the Bedroom

DIY Abstract Art
DIY Abstract

Recently I chatted about wanting to take more time to craft and create, to help work through my grief.  Working in the only room I could possibly call a "studio" (a.k.a. "the fish room" on the lakehouse tour) was a bit counterproductive because it's so dreary and dirty in its current state, so I pushed the dining room furniture out of the way and dragged my easel inside.

It was a good move!  For my first painting, I faced the lake and it was just so calming to dab on paint and watch the water.  It was so peaceful - almost meditative - that I ended up painting two paintings, which I hung on either side of our headboard.

I've always wanted art flanking the headboard - in fact, I originally bought two of my vintage posters (the gal with the tweed and the fellas with hats) to hang above each bedside table but because the lamps block whatever art we hang above the nightstands, it just didn't look right.  I like them so much better as a trio above the dresser.

1960s Fashion Posters Framed as Art

But I don't mind covering up my own art - I like the layered look.  I didn't want anything that would compete with the posters, and I was also trying to tie in some of the blues from the living/dining room, so I ended up creating two soft, airy paintings that pull together the greens and blues from the poster art and the rest of the home.  I added a soft layer of pale yellow, just for fun.

Art on either side of headboard

It was so enjoyable to spend an afternoon painting, but moving the furniture was a bit of a hassle.  Now I'm hatching some plans to renovate that random little room at the end of our house to create a functional, beautiful space to work on crafts or do more painting.  It has a window that faces the lake and it boasts a sink too, so it's a perfect studio space (although it's a bit on the small side).  I'll share my plans soon!

In the meantime, if you want to get the scoop on how I made this easy, DIY art, I'm sharing some step by step photos on Hello Yellow - see here.

How to paint with acrylic paint

I think that I might want to build float frames - like I did for my photo that was turned into an oil painting - but for now I'll see if I like them unframed.  Another option is to paint the edges a contrasting colour (black would be perfect) to create the illusion of a frame.
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October 9, 2015

DIY Earl Grey Tea Soy Candle - Cute Gift for Tea Lovers!

How to make a soy candle in a tea cup

I have been wanting to try my hand at candle making for years, which totally cracks my Mom up.  Have you seen Our Idiot Brother?

There's no such thing as an ugly homemade candle.

I recently contributed a whole bushel of fun, holiday-themed crafts for a fabulous holiday gift guide that I can't wait to spill the beans about.  For one project, I used some lovely vintage vessels to make some really festive poured soy candles and they turned out so beautifully.

I had scooped a solid blue tea cup from the Good Neighbour Shed awhile back, but didn't want to use it for the holiday guide because tea cup candles have been done to death.  But darn it - tea cup candles are so cute and I wanted one for myself.  My Mom had some bergamot essential oil and it dawned on me that I could make a candle that smells like Earl Grey - my absolute favorite tea!  At the last minute I sprinkled in some real, loose leaf Earl Grey, just for show (it doesn't contribute to the scent), and it turned out so adorably.

Candle making is quite the science and everything - from the temperature of the wax to the temperature of the room - can impact the success of a poured candle.  I'd love to keep practicing to perfect my technique, but even my first few tries resulted in successful candles.  Although they lack the smooth as glass surface of commercial candles, they burn really nicely!

Candle making supplies
Soy wax flakes



The first step is to measure out the wax.  According to Candle Science, you can divide the volume of your container in ounces by 16 to figure out how many ounces of wax flakes you need to use for one container.  For this candle I used about 200g of wax flakes.  It shrinks quite a bit once melted down and while I was making a whole bunch of them, I would just melt as much as I could in my Pyrex cup.  Then, once it melts a bit and there's more room, I would add more flakes and keep melting.

Measuring soy flakes

With the wax measured, I started heating it up in my "double boiler".  I filled the pot with a few inches of water, which I brought to a boil and kept simmering the whole time.  The wax needs to reach 185F and that took about 30 minutes in my experience.  I stirred it occasionally and although some lingering chunks took awhile to melt, eventually it all melted and resembled olive oil. 

Melting soy wax

While I waited, I used a hot glue gun to affix the wick.  You can also buy "wick stickers" but I wanted to keep costs low and I had a glue gun on hand already!

Affixing a wick to a candle vessel

Once the wax heated to 185F I let it cool to about 135F before adding the essential oil.  Add it too early and it will just evaporate!  You can also purchase specialty candle fragrances.  Generally folks tend to use approximately half an ounce of oil per pound of wax.  If you're buying a fragrance designed for candle making, there will be a usage guide on the label.  I've read a little bit online about essential oils and candles and there is a lot of disagreement about the amount required for a good scent throw.  Some essential oils are stronger than others, so you might need to experiment a little (and let me know how it goes!). 

Once it cooled to about 125F, I poured the wax into my cup, added a pinch of tea to the top (it sunk in a little bit) and then let the candle sit overnight.  I poured mine somewhere where it could be left, undisturbed, until it hardened.  The wax starts to harden really quickly, turning from a yellow oil to a solid white substance, before your eyes (if you're patient).  To keep the wick upright I created a grid with tape across the top, which trapped the wick upright but didn't keep it as taught as I would have liked.  A better solution is to use a clothespin to clamp the wick end, and then place that across the top - but I didn't have long enough clothespins (mine aren't the wood kind).  Some candle making guides say to warm up the vessel beforehand, but I skipped that step.  Once the soy hardened completely, I trimmed the wick to 1/4".  

I didn't add any dyes so it looks like a really milky cup of tea, but you could easily tint it tea-coloured with dyes made for candles.  Add any dyes while the wax is at 185F so it can melt and mix completely.

Adorable, right?

Handmade gift idea for tea drinker

I can now check "candle making" off the bucket list, although I was telling Hubby that it would be fun to really get into candle making: take some time to perfect the craft and make them for sale.  He seemed horrified, because I occupied the kitchen for two whole afternoons, swearing over my steaming makeshift double boiler, and we ate sad leftovers both nights because the kitchen was covered in wax and there was no way I was cooking!  So, yeah, "candle maker" probably won't be added to my resume, but I respect the people who make these for a living!  It's pretty straightforward to make a basic poured soy, but to make a perfect one (mine are lovably imperfect) and to customize with scents and colours definitely takes skill!
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October 5, 2015

I Need Your Thoughts: Can We Make Pine Paneling Work?

Better Homes & Gardens
Because we've been showering out there, I end my nights thinking about how to decorate the guesthouse.  I've logged a lot of hours out there, pondering.

Last time I showed you the building , my Mom and I were moving the Etsy shop out there, but it turned out to be kind of inconvenient (and cold in the winter).  I ended up stashing everything on shelves in my otherwise useless, 5 foot tall basement and now the guesthouse is purposeless again.  It's filled with some random furniture and some odds and sods.  What would be more practical would be to turn it into a proper guest room, because it even boasts its own three piece bathroom! 

The only downside is the pine bonanza happening in there.  The floors are a faux wood laminate, but the walls, trim and ceiling are solid pine.  I was originally going to paint it all a bright white, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much work - and paint! - that would be.  We have a laundry list of projects and renovations still to tackle all over the house so I don't really want to commit the resources or time.  Plus, the bathroom out there is what really needs our attention: a new shower, floor, and vanity will take a chunk out of whatever budget we can allot to this space (which will be tiny).  We also need to build new sauna benches (and reinforce the sauna floor), because I insisted we rip out the existing benches for reasons that I won't mention here.  (Rhymes with "cold ban walls"). an effort to save some time and cash, could I leave the pine and go for a rustic, Scandi feel?  Here's some inspiration, before I flesh out my exact plans for the space:

DSC Interiors
Life as a Moodboard
EST Magazine
Front and Main
via Paper Blog
Chapter Friday
I can't believe I'm arguing for keeping the wood...

Although it would be fun to go kind of dark and moody with a rustic feel, I'll be adding the white bed and white bedding from the guest room in the townhouse.  A faux fur throw would be a cozy touch at the end of the bed - maybe my spare faux lynx one?

White guest bed with bright artwork

Then I'd add some throw pillows with this black and white Marimekko Kanteleen Kutsu print, which has a woodland theme but a mod, Scandi feel:
I'd do white curtains and white curtains rods - not that using towels as curtains isn't a genius idea (I'm serious).  I'm thinking of painting the laminate flooring a dark charcoal grey (or maybe a pale grey or white?) and adding some cozy faux sheepskin rugs my Mom is trying to fob off on me.

A pine Ikea Tarva dresser, painted or stained white, could be placed across from the bed for some storage.  It would be brighter and lighter, but the same grain as the walls would peek through the finish.

I haven't measured, but it would be awesome if my black wool organic chair could fit out there too - although it's doubtful (it's such a small space!).

White desk with black chair // Black + white accessories

Then I'd update the lighting with something modern and simple.  Finally, I'd put my black/white abstract out there, because it's been displaced from the bathroom, and maybe add some smaller textural pieces in creamy whites and soft greys.  My black tree painting is still homeless, too, and it might look great out there.

Black and white abstract

It would be a quick and relatively easy makeover and my thinking is that by covering up the fake wood floor - and adding LOTS of white - I could make the natural wood walls and ceiling work.  It would be a fun way to experiment with a somewhat different style than the lakehouse - no aqua (ACK! Okay, maybe I'll paint the exterior door aqua) and maybe even some rustic accessories with a Scandinavian feel?  Ultimately this is a sauna building, so that could feel right.  

Am I totally crazy (and lazy) with my plan to keep the pine?  Be honest! 
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