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

July 28, 2016

Modern DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover)

Between shoveling two 3/4 tonne truckloads of gravel (one in the pouring rain before a birthday party, the other at midnight in the pitch black) and getting bit by a German Shepard while buying supplies, you'd think I'd be cursing this DIY fire pit - but I can't wipe the goody grin off my face!  I love how our modern, welded fire pit turned out and, despite some back breaking manual labor, it was surprisingly easy to make over our fire pit.

Hubby and I readily admit that neither of us are very adept at landscaping or gardening.  The first summer we lived here we were really focused on updating the interior and last summer we were barely here (and when we were, we were working on our bathroom reno - the "reveal" is going to pop up on the blog soon!).  This year we originally had an ambitious summer to-do list but then decided: hey, you know what's better than weeding and painting and digging around, trying to repair our shoreline and remove our horrible dock?  Making s'mores and watching the sunset! 

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

But we needed somewhere nice to make our s'mores and do our sunset watching, because our old fire pit was too janky!

Fire Pit Makeover - Before

The fire pit is positioned in the center of our lawn, which I like, but having this crumbling fire pit front and center ruined the lake view from the house.  Although we've used it a lot over the years, I hated that the fire pit was just plonked down in the grass because I was always stressing out about ticks.  It was not a very inviting outdoor space.

Fire Pit Makeover - Before
We mulled over some fire pit landscaping options and decided anything involving paving stones or lock stone was silly because our lawn, in addition to sloping toward the water, is very lumpy.  The previous owner had tried lock stone, but it just sunk into the lawn and grass grew over it.  We needed something cheap and plentiful that could move with the ground.  Enter: gravel!

Simple Fire Pit Zen Garden - Supplies:

Simple Fire Pit Zen Garden - Steps:

First we created a little "box" out of 2 by 4 pressure treated lumber we found in the garage.  Instead of buying longer lengths, we just attached two lengths together with screws and scrap wood:

DIY Wood Gravel Pit Frame

We dug up and transplanted the sod (waste not, want not), and then laid down some landscaping material to prevent weeds from peeking through:

Landscaping Fabric
DIY Gravel Fire Pit

Then we hauled home two, 3/4 tonne truck loads of dolomite, which is a nice white gravel.  Weaving my way through the trees and parking the truck on the lawn was SO much fun.  Shoveling 5,280 pounds (!) of gravel was slightly less fun but my arms feel super muscley now so I can't complain.

Ram 2500 Parked on Lawn
Dolomit Landscape Gravel

You've already caught a sneak peek of the modern fire pit we built for what is essentially an adult-sized sandbox.  I started a Pinterest board devoted to plants, exteriors and landscaping and started pinning a lot of fire pit designs.  I stumbled across this pin and tracked it back to The Brick House (I miss Morgan's blogging so much!).  Hubby and I both loved the modern look of her welded fire pit, so we decided to make our own - with one minor alteration to her design.

How to Weld a Modern Fit Pit - Supplies:

How to Weld a Fire Pit
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

We went to a local steel fabricator for the metal and had them cut all of the pieces we needed to size, making this project a LOT easier.  That's where I got a little too friendly with a German Shepard - who did not want to be friends.

How to Weld a Modern Fire Pit

How to Weld a Modern Fire Pit - Steps:

To start the box, Hubby laid one piece on the floor and held the other one upright with the magnets - which are really, really handy.  He tack welded it into place on both the inside and outside just to hold it in position:

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

He continued to tack all the sides in place until the box was assembled.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

Once it was tacked, he laid it down and confirmed it was square by using a tape measure.  Then he proceeded to weld the whole seam, inside and out.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

Welding this fire pit was really easy and took so little time - no more than a couple of hours.

Before I show you any more, Hubby would like me to remind you that he's not a professional welder, and has not actually turned on our welding machine for years.  I think he did a wonderful job, but he sees imperfections.  I just see s'mores and sunsets, baby.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

Instead affixing steel rods in the corner, like Morgan did, we added cross bracing inside the box.  This adds some strength and ensured that the box stayed square when we awkwardly moved it from the garage down the hill to the fire pit.  Jeesh, this thing is heavy.  The process for the cross bracing was the same: check for square, hold the braces in place with magnets, tack them in place, and then completely weld them.

This is what the finished, unpainted, welded fire pit looked like:

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

I really loved the natural patina of the metal and didn't mind that it would quickly rust, but Hubby was adamant that we paint it.  It didn't take long for our old fire pit to rust completely through, so he wanted to protect this new fire pit and keep it looking good for as long as possible.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

I decided to try Rust-Oleum's High Heat Ultra Enamel Spray Paint in Aged Copper, although matte black would have looked sharp too.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

I'd love four Adirondack chairs encircling our new modern fire pit, but for photographs I hauled out my Eames score.  I could not restore the chrome legs, so I painted them matte black. 

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (

See why I love our modern fire pit so much?  I ogle it from the kitchen window every morning and admired it while we canoed around the bay last night.

The gravel is working out perfectly.  I used a rake to level it as best I could, and it was like playing in a giant zen garden.  No grass or weeds have poked through and I love that I no longer have to sit with blades of grass tickling my ankles!  I'm planning on planting some mosquito deterring plants around the fire pit area.

Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover with Eames Chairs) | Dans le Lakehouse (
Modern Square DIY Welded Fire Pit (Our Fire Pit Makeover) | Dans le Lakehouse (
How to Weld this Easy, Modern Fire Pit - Love the Square Design and Copper Finish // DIY Fire Pit // Full tutorial with photos and instructions from // Great beginning welding project

Yep, I'm pretty smitten with our modern, DIY welded fire pit.  If you need me this summer, you know where to find me!  Bring marshmallows.

July 25, 2016

13 Easy Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer

Usually summer here isn't that hot, so we don't tend to get anxious about keeping our dog, Szuka, cool in the summer.  We know the basics of avoiding dog heatstroke: lots of water, don't leave her in a car, let her splash in the water.  But recently we had a scare that got us really thinking about easy ways to keep a dog cool during the hot summer months.

13 Easy Ways to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer Heat |

Hubby had been away for work and the day he came home there was a heat advisory for our area - which is rare.  We were loving the balmy weather (I even ordered two summer dresses online).  Szuka was SO pumped Hubby was home and she just went nuts, jumping all over him and looking at me wide-eyed, like "do you SEE who is HOME?!?"  We all went outside before she broke something - like her tail, which was thumping maniacally against the walls - and she had the zoomies in a big way.  She darted around like crazy, diving under the deck of the guesthouse and burrowing under the deck stairs of the main house.  She ran full tilt for about five minutes until she started to pant like crazy and we decided to take her inside.  We gave her some fresh water to drink and encouraged her to lie on the cool tile.  It was fairly cool inside our house, but maybe a little warmer than usual?  Tuckered out from about five minutes of activity, Szuka (and Hubby) had a nap.  Hours later, Szuka started to get restless and was panting like crazy.  She just would not settle!  As the evening wore on, I started Googling, "dog won't stop panting" and all of these articles about heatstroke and dogs popped up.  It had never occurred to me that a dog can get heatstroke from a few minutes of activity, but I read about a dog who died after a 10 minute walk!  It was heartbreaking.  We started researching ways to cool her down.  We wrapped a pack of ice in a towel for her to cuddle.  She happily curled up around her little ice pillow and munched on some pieces of ice.  We grabbed a small hand towel, soaked in cool water, and placed it on her head.  We read that wrapping a hot dog in a damp towel can have the opposite effect - creating a sauna heat trap - but she loved the towel on her head.  She's always been an odd duck.  We encouraged her to drink a little water and she even nibbled on a snack.  She started to calm down and the panting stopped, although her breathing was still pretty heavy.  We phoned the emergency vet number and spoke with our vet, who asked follow up questions about her condition: Was she vomiting?  Had she lost her appetite?  Was she dizzy or unsteady on her feet?  The vet was fairly certain that Szuka did not have heatstroke, but had just become overheated and likely overtired.  We were encouraged to keep her cool, monitor her for other signs and, if we were at all uncertain, bring her in the next morning for an exam.

Szuka was fine - WHEW! - but it really gave me a scare!  I thought I knew the basics of keeping a dog cool but, after doing research, I realized just how susceptible dogs are to heatstroke, so it made me want to get prepared to keep Szuka cool because it looks like this summer might be a hot one!  Here are 13 easy (and stylish) ways to keep your dog cool this summer, to prevent heatstroke but also to make sure your dog is enjoying the balmy weather as much as you!

1. Encourage Your Dog to Stay Calm During Hottest Part of the Day

Seems like common sense, but it didn't dawn on us that she shouldn't run full tilt at 3:00pm!  We were loving the warm weather and she didn't seem bothered by it either - until she was.  To be safe, keep your dog calm and preferably somewhere cool when it's hottest, and try to stick with early morning or late evening for any activity.

13 Easy Ways to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer Heat |

2. Consider Some Protective Dog Booties

We exercise Szuka on the grass, but if you walk your dog on pavement or asphalt, it can become scathingly hot on a puppy's paws - even at night when the air is cool.  There are many different styles of dog booties on the market that can protect your dog's feet from scalding asphalt.  Look for a style that can offer your dog traction and allow him or her to still feel the ground to prevent the booties from becoming a stumbling hazard.

Dog Boots to Keep Dogs Cool in the Summer |

3. Keep Water Handy at Home (& Get a Collapsible Bowl for When You're on the Go)

I love these turquoise collapsible bowls for dogs, which can be filled up on the go from your water bottle.  In a pinch, toss an old plastic cottage cheese container or ziploc container in the car, just in case.

Turquoise Collaposible Drinking Bowls for Dogs | How to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer on Walks
When we're at home, we keep TWO bowls of water handy - one inside and one outside.  Szuka often won't want to go inside for a drink, for fear of getting stuck in there all day, so she will power through and go without.  We let her drink from the lake in a pinch, but I worry about her consuming something she shouldn't, like floating debris, so I keep an old, dishwashered Pyrex bowl outside in the summer.  When we're playing or she's just chilling, it's filled with fresh cool water from the hose and she often runs to it for a drink - giving me the stink eye if it hasn't been filled with fresh fresh water in the last five minutes.  She'll drink from a swamp but not from a water bowl that's a few minutes old. 

Tips for Keeping a Dog Cool Outside in the Summer |

4. Wrangle Your Pup into a Cooling Dog Vest or Cooling Dog Bandana

A cooling vest - or a cooling bandana for those fashionable pups - is a great way to help keep your pup cool on hot days, and, as a bonus, can make him or her more visible on the road, when folks might be squinting in the sun (we have a bright yellow high-vis jacket that doubles as a cooling jacket - we just didn't think to put in on her, duh! - but even blue is better than a dog's natural coat for visibility)I couldn't find Szuka's vest online:

Jackets that Help Keep Dogs Cool |

 But this Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest for dogs, although not bright, has amazing reviews on Amazon!

Cooling Vests for Dogs

For a dog who loathes coats, a simple cooling bandana might be enough!
Cooling Bandanas for Dogs | How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer ( 
5. Fill up a Kiddie Pool - or Special Doggie Pool

Szuka sweetie has ready access to the lake if she wants to cool down, but not every doggie does!

 | How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer (

For land locked dogs something as simple as filling up an old kiddie pool - or a special doggie pool - with water can be enough for a dog to cool down on a hot day.  Place the pool in shade and don't worry if it's really shallow - dogs cool from the feet up, so even if only the paws and belly get soaked, that should be enough.

Dog Wading Pool  | How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer (

6. OR... Let Pup Dig!

Gah, digging in soil is the worst, but it's one way Szuka keeps cool.  At home she can jump in the lake, but even here sometimes she prefer to just create a little soil bed to keep cool.  She loves shimmying under the truck, where it's extra grimey.  At my parents' place, she's done this a lot - to my Mom's chagrin.  Yes, she'll track in a little dirt but it's a small price to pay for keeping her comfy and healthy in the hotter months.  So if your pup dives for the garden and want to nestle in, that's a sign he or she is too hot so let 'em, or bring 'em inside to cool off.

Dog Hiding Under Truck to Keep Cool  | How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer (
Why you should let dogs dig in the dirt in the summer! Why do dogs like to dig dirt in the summer?  It helps them stay cool!

7. Buy a Cooling Bed

Live in an apartment or don't want your dog soaking wet from the kiddie pool or lake?  That soil tip probably doesn't sound super appealing either.  A dog cooling pad is a clever way to keep your pup cool without the mess.  Plus it can be used outdoors or inside.
A Cooling Bed for Dogs | How to Keep a Dog Cool in the Summer (
8. Pick up or Make a Cooling Pad/Compress

We wrapped a ziploc bag of ice in a towel for a makeshift cooling pad that Szuka hugged against her chest.   Bringing a dog's temperature down too quickly by dousing him or her in an ice cold bath, or surrounding him or her with ice packs, can actually do more harm than good, causing blood vessels to constrict which prohibits their ability to let off heat.  By wrapping the ice bag in a towel, it was only slightly cool, not freezing cold.  My Mom makes all natural, buckwheat stuffed cotton lined heating/cool pads and I'm thinking that we need one too (for us and Szuka! We'll share).  I can keep it in the basement so it's always cool, but not freezing, and it's something I can hold against her chest to help her cool off.
If you buy a cooling pad, or make one, just watch your pup if he or she is a chewer because you don't want a hole gnawed!

9. Spoil Your Dog with Covered Dog Shade

Some dog houses, although they offer shade, can really be quite the sauna on hot days.  If your dog is outside a lot, consider a canopy dog house kennel cover, or try one of these easy-to-set-up covered dog canopies, which keep your dog off the ground and offer air flow. 
Covered Dog Shade, Portable | 13 Ways to Keep a Dog Cool this Summer (
This covered dog canopy is even stylish, for anyone who has an outdoor space that isn't as...wild and untamed as our mess of a yard over here.  That is a seriously chic dog canopy bed!

Stylish Covered Shaded Dog Bed for Outside | 13 Ways to Keep a Dog Cool this Summer (

10. Pop a Chew Toy in the Freezer

When Szuka was a puppy and we were still living in Ottawa, even though it was September there were some steamy, humid days so we'd make a fruit smoothie and pour her a little or pop one of her toys in the freezer.  This adorable plush popsicle just needs to be soaked in water and popped in the freezer for a cool, crunchy chew toy with a squeaker inside.  It comes in a ton of fun shapes, like a kiwi slice and ice cream cone.
Dog Toy to Put in Freezer | 13 Ways to Keep a Dog Cool this Summer (
11. Keep an Eye on Your Pup's Activity

Sometimes dogs can be dummies and they need us to look out for them and do what's in their best interests.  But sometimes dogs can indicate what they want or need so if you're outside playing or hiking and your dog starts seeking shade or wants to lie down, he or she is getting overheated.  Watch for these signs and act immediately.  When Szuka started diving under the decks, I think she was seeking a cooler area but she also wanted to be close to Hubby, so she fought her instinctive urge to cool down in an effort to play with him more.  We should have brought her in right away!

12. Leave Your Pup at Home

When it's cold outside, I'll often take Szuka into town with me.  Often I leave her at my parents', but if I'm running a few errands, she'll hang out in the vehicle.  When she's woolly, even if it's winter she's totally fine in the car for fifteen minutes.  Come summertime, it's less convenient so she spends more time at home.  I NEVER leave her in the car in the summer, not even for two seconds, but even just being at my parents' place in the summer, because they lack air conditioning, can be taxing for her.  I leave her at home where she knows where the cool spots are and let her just chill on the ceramic tile.  A fan helps keep air moving and provides a cooling breeze in lieu of air conditioning.

13 Ways to Keep a Dog Cool this Summer (

13.  Don't Shave Your Pup!

Szuka's fur is a bit long right now but shaving a dog right down is a bad idea because it can leave them exposed to sunburn - plus the coat does protect them from overheating.  A trim can definitely help, but a naked shave is a bad idea.  If your pup needs a haircut, chat with an experienced dog groomer about the right length for the summer.

There you have it: 13 easy ways to keep a dog cool in the summer, gleaned from hours of frantic research and an emergency call to our vet!  We're going to be implementing these tips for prevent dog heatstroke more rigorously to keep our pup cool as a cucumber.

Annnddd...Get a Doggie Thermometer.

This won't keep your dog cool, so it didn't make the official list, but getting a dog thermometer is the best way to monitor a dog's temperature if you suspect heatstroke.  Feeling a dog's nose is unreliable and a rectal thermometer is cruel (to the human who needs to use it), but this thermometer goes in a dog's ear!  Yes.   We definitely need to order one these right away because that's one of the first questions the vet asked.

This goes without saying, but always check with your vet about what you should do to keep your pup healthy and happy.

What are your tips for keeping your dog cool in the summer heat?  Have you had a heatstroke scare?
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July 22, 2016

5 Reasons to Love a Dark Grey or Black Fireplace + 10 Dark Fireplaces to Love

When we first stepped foot in the lakehouse, I spotted the wall to wall fireplace and immediately pictured painting out the pine wood paneling and discolored concrete "stone" a deep, charcoal grey.  I wanted a modern, dark grey fireplace to help balance all of the creamy whites and bold shades of aqua I was dreaming about.

Nearly three years later, Hubby and I both love our DIY charcoal grey painted fireplace!  Over the years, dozens of readers have written to me to say they were inspired by our fireplace and painted theirs a striking shade of grey too (varying from light grey to a near-black, like ours).  Sometimes it's so helpful to see someone else try something before taking the plunge and I'm happy to be a guinea pig!  I was certainly inspired by other dark grey fireplaces I saw online and it gave me the confidence to give it a try.  Stories like these remind me why I started blogging in the first place: to connect with other DIY-driven folks with small budgets but big ideas!

Dark grey painted fireplace

Pros and Cons of a Dark Grey Fireplace:

A dark fireplace, however, is not for everyone.  Although some folks have seen our fireplace, grabbed a paint brush and busted out a makeover in a weekend, others have sent me photos of their "before," asking for my input and whether I think a dark grey fireplace will work with their decor.  At the end of the day, I think the most important question to ask is, "do you love it?".  In the case of my fireplace makeover, it's just paint - as long as you're committed to painting it (because stripping paint is miserable work), trying a different, lighter color will only take a little patience and a gallon of paint.  So the best advice I can give is, "try it, you might like it!".
Because that's a little wish-washy, I also make an effort to explain why I think the dark fireplace works for us:  we have tall ceilings, an open concept lay out, and lots of natural light in the living room, which keeps the dark grey from making the room feel small or dark.  In a smaller room, a dark fireplace might be overwhelming - but it could also help create a feeling of coziness when paired with the right decor:

Charcoal grey fireplace
Vogue Living
It really boils down to the look you're trying to create.

Another reason I love our dark grey fireplace is that the dark grey is picked up elsewhere in the house (like the floor tile in our new bathroom), so it feels cohesive as you move from room to room.  In fact, I'm planning on adding this same hue to the kitchen (any guesses where???).  Painting the fireplace dark grey was also a great way to determine if we like the look of a dark grey fireplace, before dropping thousands of dollars on something like slate. 

We're definitely sold on a dark grey fireplace - there are plenty of reasons to love it!

5 Reasons to Love a Dark Grey Fireplace:

1.  A Dark Dark Fireplace Grey Hides Soot and Ash:
One of the many perks of a dark grey fireplace is that the color hides dust and ash, which showed on the natural concrete of our old fireplace.  If we hadn't spotted that staining, I might have been tempted to paint the brick teal (because teal) or maybe white to match the walls (like this stunner - a white fireplace really does look very crisp and airy).

My Domaine
But knowing our fireplace had the tendency to get a bit smokey was good information and our color of choice disguises this flaw perfectly!  

2.  A Charcoal Grey Fireplace Suits Any Style:
The interesting thing about peeking into so many readers' homes is that I've noticed how versatile charcoal grey is!  A charcoal grey fireplace looks equally at home in a modern space as it does a more traditional room.  No matter your style or taste, you can make a dark grey - or even black - fireplace work!

Apartment Therapy
Black fireplace
via My Domaine
Nina Dobrev's Living Room
via My Domaine
Modern dark grey fireplace design
3.  A Painted Grey or Black Fireplace Adds Drama to a Room:
Having never before tried a bold accent wall, I grew unexpectedly attached to the statement our dark grey fireplace makes.  I love that it became the focal point of our living room and I'm definitely considering dark grey stone for our eventual fireplace renovation to keep the bold look. 

4.  A Dark Grey Fireplace is a Great Backdrop
I love a white wall (obviously) because it provides such a crisp backdrop for furnishings and artwork, but there's something to be said for a dark fireplace (and dark accent walls) because they really make colors POP.  Even whites seem whiter and earth tones seems earthier against a rich, dark background.  And look at how vivid turquoise looks!

Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson dark grey fireplace
Emily Henderson
Aqua malm wood burning stover
Apartment Therapy
As an added bonus, dark fireplaces help disguise televisions.  In our new living room arrangement, the corner TV is less prominent thanks to our charcoal grey fireplace and, in rooms where the TV is mounted above the fireplace, a black screen really blends in with a nearly-black fireplace.

White living room with dark grey fireplace

5.  A Dark Grey Fireplace is Timeless
I'm not one to throw the "oh, this is a classic" line around because I think that's what everyone was saying about the forest green bathtubs you could buy in the 1980s - no one dreamed that one day, a new generation of design-savvy home owners would take a sledge hammer to so many design elements deemed "classic" back then.  I once chatted with an antiques dealer who told me that in the 1980s, he had to throw away a lot of the 1950s/1960s furniture we clamor for today because no one would buy it - it was just too "dated."  Now we call mid-century modern design timeless, but at one point you couldn't give it away, for love nor money.  

Some things, however, do stand the test of time and I think a dark grey or black fireplace is one of those things because it's so versatile and works with so many design styles. 

Warm dark grey painted fireplace
The Brick House
Modern fireplace design
Home Adore
midcentury modern fireplace
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design
Have you painted your fireplace a rich grey or tackled a more expensive dark and moody fireplace renovation?  If you have - or you see any gorgeous dark grey or black fireplaces - tag me on Instagram because I'd love to see!

5 Reasons to Love a Dark Grey or Black Fireplace PLUS 10 Dark Fireplace to Love |
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