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Perfectly Imperfect

*Editor’s Note: I didn’t plan on featuring this project on RHR, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured you might enjoy it. It’s hardly up to par in terms of my usual aesthetic requirements & the pictures are crummy at best —  but in terms of fun & function, well, it’s one of my favorite projects ever.

We’ve been losing a lot of sleep over the closet in Sonia’s room. Literally.

The sliding doors provided by the landlord were VERY heavy (like solid-oak heavy) and hung from rails under the doorjamb rather than sliding on floor rails. Which made me nervous. Seriously… they’re REALLY heavy! So we chose to remove them — and of course, store them safely in the basement — so Sonia wouldn’t injure herself.

For a while, we just left the closet doorless, but Sonia recently started having nightmares & wanted to avoid her room. It took a while, but eventually she told us that it was because her closet was “too scary.”

Yikes. I guess I can’t blame her. That mess IS scary.

Although, in my defense, I’m only saving all that stuff so I can donate it. Which I’m gonna do. Soon. Jeez… get off my back ;->

Anyway, it was obviously time to come up with a solution for the missing closet doors.

We considered going with curtains, but I worried that they’d blow in the breeze from the fan & spook her even more than the doorless-ness. Then we thought about hanging lighter wooden closet doors (like the ones we used for our bathroom closet)

but it would have cost way too much because the closet in Sonia’s room is so long.

What were we to do? We needed a cheap, simple, temporary way to close off a long area… Then it came to me… Church!! The church basement! Those accordion-like, vinyl room divider thingies!

They’re light enough that we won’t have to worry about them falling; solid enough to keep ghosts & scary monsters away; cheap and easy to install. Win-win-win!

Of course, they are kind of ugly. And we could only find them in faux-wood-grain, which didn’t help. But frankly, after all those long nights, we were willing to compromise on aesthetics in exchange for a solid 8 hours of sleep. So we grabbed them & decided to figure out how to make them “work” later.

The installation was a breeze — it only took about 30 minutes & we were hardly rushing.

Once they were in place, we figured it might help Sonia to “trust” the new doors if she got to decorate them herself. So I picked up some tempera paint & glitter paints … and we let her go wild!!

She just can’t believe it’s true!

I joined in on the fun by using some very simple stencils to paint animal shapes on the top half of the doors.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to buy stencil adhesive, so I just taped them up & did the best I could. The results are a little crude, but they do the trick.

We also plastered the doors with colorful, sparkly stickers:)

Of course, letting a 4-year-0ld loose with paint has its consequences…

… but that’s the great thing about tempera paint — it washes right off with soap & water! So both child & closet can be restored to their original paintless glory when the time arrives.

So, did it work, you ask?

Like a charm! Sonia is no longer afraid of her room. And there have been way fewer nightmares.

So, despite the mess, we’re thrilled.

And when I asked her what she thought of her new closet doors, Sonia said, “They’re perfect.”

You are, kiddo. You are.

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Star Stuck

So…

… I guess it’s time to break down (pun fully intended) and buy another dish rack.

I am not, however, non-plussed. Because I have fancy plans for this piece of “junk.” Oh-ho-ho-ye-eah.

See, we need some kind of outdoor wall art. There’s a large, empty space to the right of the door & I simply won’t have that. Its throwing off the whole feng shui of the porch. I can feel it in my duodenum.

And this year, everybody’s all into starburst mirrors. My inner child is thrilled. The 7-year-old Amy is turning cartwheels & flashing her best Pearl Drops smile!!

But I didn’t want to use an actual mirror for our starburst, because the late afternoon sun hits our porch just so… and I just knew that our mirror would catch that sunlight, bounce it across the street & directly into our neighbor’s living room like a super-powered-laser.

And she likes us. And we hope to keep it that way.

I briefly considered frosting a mirror to cut the glare, which I think would work & has the potential to look way cool. If any of you try it, please send me pics!

But, in the end we decided against a mirror & started to consider other options for the center of the starburst.

After much conferencing, we decided a simple dinner plate would be best for our starburst center. Waterproof? Check. Won’t blind our nice neighbor? Check. Looks cool? Well, it’s red Fiesta Ware, so check.

Plus, since Dan’s a chef, it provides a subtle personal touch 🙂

Heh, heh. He’s gonna kill me when he sees I posted this.

So — here’s how I constructed it:

First, I disassembled the dish rack by gently pulling on the center part of each piece of wood (for even pressure). Fortunately, the glue was old & the little tiny staple-nails didn’t give me too much trouble. Once I’d pried them off, I removed all of the little staple things with my…? Yup. Needle nose pliers. Man, those things are handy.

Tip: Keep a lidded container nearby when removing nails, staples, etc. Because stepping on shrapnel is fun for nobody.

After disassembly, I pulled off all the little glue gobs & gave each wood stick a good wipe down with a clean cloth. I considered sanding them for a more finished look … but frankly, this is an outdoor piece. I don’t want to over primp. Besides, it would take forever to sand every one of those skinny, four-sided bastards. And I don’t have all minute.

So, I sent my inner perfectionist to Starbucks to fetch fat free mochas with whole milk & whipped cream — heh, heh, that argument should keep her busy for a while — and just hit the sticks with some stain without sanding. I chose ‘golden oak’ and ‘dark walnut’ stains to give the piece some variation.

Brush it on, wipe it off. Gotta love stain.

Worthy of note: Stain only works on bare wood. If your materials are painted, you MUST sand THOROUGHLY before staining.

Then I let the newly-stained sticks dry overnight.

Once they were dry, I laid out my pattern to get a better idea of where I wanted to position each individual stick. This wasn’t hard at all. Starburst patterns are so forgiving, they’re practically idiot-proof.

Just use your offshoot pieces to make a splayed pattern underneath the edge of your center piece.

Once your confidence is high, turn the center piece over & start gluing. You can choose whatever placement you like. Want it all to be uniform? OK. Want it to be all random? Cool. It’s up to you! 🙂

So, I flipped my plate & got to gluin’. While most of the other starbursters out there use a hot glue gun, I chose to go with Gorilla Glue instead.

Why?

1) This is an outdoor piece/kinda heavy. I worried that hot glue wouldn’t hold up to the weather/strain.

2) The back of the plate is uneven. I don’t know how well hot glue guns work on uneven surfaces.

3) I don’t actually own a glue gun. I probably should. It would certainly come in handy.

Unfortunately, I have this weird psychological block when it comes to hot glue guns. When I was in college, everybody had one. They’d use them to make puffy photo album covers & picture frames with wooden sorority letters all over them. It was never my style, though I hardly have a problem with glue gunners. I’m just more of an industrial adhesive chick than a hot glue girl. Just a ‘different strokes’ sort of thing.

So, I used Gorilla Glue, which I’m familiar with. It works great on uneven surfaces. It’s some kind of glue-foam hybrid that actually expands to fill empty spaces. It’s not pretty — looks like bubbly tree sap when it dries — but the back of the plate won’t show anyway, so… Gorilla me, baby!

Tip: Avoid accidentally gluing your starburst to the table by laying down some wax paper. (Forgot to get pic of that, sorry.)

Anyway, I glued the biggest sticks in a somewhat-but-not-totally-evenly-spaced basic starburst pattern. I used a flower pot to hold them in place as they dried so they’d stay flat.

Then I glued more of the sticks on, kind of willy-nilly, one size at a time. There really isn’t much that’s teachable about this process. Just go with your instincts & make sure you move around the piece as you glue.

Don’t work on a small section at a time. You’ll bunch up your sticks without realizing it & your starburst will be all lopsided. Yes it will. Yes it will. (Jeez.)

I used rolled-up washcloths & such to prop the sticks up at random angles. That way, the starburst will be all multi-dimensional 🙂

It took me 3 stick & dry sessions to achieve my desired effect. I did the first two with the plate face-down, then the third face-up so I could layer the shortest sticks between the ones in back more evenly.

I used copious amounts of glue & even cut out a circle of cardboard to stick on the back to further encourage my creation to join together into one big, glorious glob of adhesion.

(OK. I kind of went overboard with the glue. So sue me.)

If you make the same overzealous misstep, don’t fret! The best thing about dried Gorilla Glue is that you can trim away excess! Of course, I’m not gonna blow sun where the sun don’t shine, if you catch my drift. Trimming away excess foamy glue from between a ceramic plate & a bunch of tilty sticks isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

I used a flathead screwdriver for gentle, careful prying & needlenose pliers for grabbing. This combo allowed me to get rid of the bigger chunks. I left the rest alone, because:

1) I was afraid too much futzing would dislodge my sticks.

2) The back won’t show anyway.

Finally, I got ‘er ready for hanging by adding a plate hanger.

MUY IMPORTANTE!! If you’re gonna try this method, put the plate hanger on first so you can glue your sticks around it. Trust me. It was NOT easy to get it on once the sticks were stuck. Oops.

I like to imagine the archeology intern who someday discovers a single red plate with bizarre foamy stuff, wire & cardboard stuck to it. “Um… Dr. Professor Big Shot Archaeologist? What the HECK is THIS thing?!?”

Then, because the sticks increase the depth of the plate — which pushes the plate further from the wall than the plate-hanger specifications allow, I added some picture wire from which to hang the starburst on the wall.

And viola! A starburst!

We’re kind of crazy for it. It turned out SO cool. A hip young couple strolling by with their baby & dog actually stopped to compliment us on it before we even had it fully hung!!!

I mean, can you blame them? ;->

It’s also a nice visual draw to detract from the large, bathroom-caulk-filled holes leftover from where our old mailbox was “mounted.” (Seriously, one letter too many & that whole box would have fallen off the wall.) Dan’s theory is that the handyman had to use caulk to hold the screw anchors in the wall. The mortar is… well… not superawesome.

Dan, Dan the starburst-hangin’ man says: “If your anchor won’t stay in, step away from the caulk. Try breaking off part of a pencil inside your drill hole instead — worked for me!”

NEXT POST: THE BIG KAHUNA. THE MAIN EVENT. THE WHOLE KIT & CABOODLE. IN OTHER WORDS… THE CURB-APPEAL PROJECT REVEAL. TONS OF PICS = TONS OF FUN!!! 

Mailbox “Paint-ina” Reveal!!!

Well I’ll be damned.

She’s a beauty. She’s a one-in-a-million girl.

See how she catches the light?

WOOOO!!!! THAT’S MY BABY! THAT’S MY BABY GIRL UP THERE!!!

What.Ever. This outfit was totally my idea. She was going to paint me blue.

Watch your sass-mouth, young lady. I brought you onto this porch, and I can take you off.

Anyway…

One way or another (*ahem*), we went from this:

To this:

To this:

To this:

How’d I do it?!?!?

Elementary, my dear reader.

I started with a base coat of metallic copper spray paint…

Then blended coats of a bluish-green metallic spray paint in a highly inappropriate fashion.

After that dried, I applied the green-black paint from the patina kit I got at the craft store. Then I wiped off the excess before the paint dried. This provided “lowlights” to give the piece more dimension.

Then I layered on the bright green paint from the patina kit to bring in some highlights…

and wiped that off before it dried, too. (patina process here)

Finally, I finished the paint by watering down some of the black-green kit paint & painting on some lowlights:

I laid it on thick in the cracks & crevices to replicate a naturally weathered look.

Then I dabbed on random spots all over the rest of the mailbox. (Quickly.)

Instead of wiping this layer off, I used a dry paintbrush to stipple the watery green-black paint into the surface. I really put some muscle into it, using a quick stabbing motion.

This technique absorbed some of the watery paint into the brush bristles, while mooshing the rest into all the little nooks & crannies. I had to work fast, but it was kinda fun.

“I don’t get mad. I get stabby.” (75 Cool Points if you can name that quote!)

Then I finished her off with some loose highlights using the gold paint from the patina kit & a sponge brush.

Tip: For a loose effect when stippling, dab your brush/sponge on a paper towel after dipping it in the paint. 

I would have used copper paint, but they didn’t have any copper patina kits left at the craft store, so I just grabbed what they had & figured I’d roll with it. I’m CRAZY like that.

Here what I ended up with:

Actually, it looked much better in person than this pic.

Sorry for all the cruddy photos of this step. I was doing it using the under-kitchen-cabinet fluorescent light at 10 p.m. (While re-heating some pizza. Yum.)

Then, I just let it dry for a good few days to make sure ALL the layers were playing together nicely.

When I was comfortable with the level of dryness, I hit it with a triple-coat of Rustoleum clear acrylic sealer spray to weatherize it, since craft paint is not waterproof!!! 

I progressed from “very thin” to “pretty thick” coat-by-coat, which is what gives her the shine she now flaunts 🙂

Either blurry, dark or shadowy. I guess the National Photography Association won’t be calling anytime soon… if they’re really a thing… can’t say as I rightly know…

Dan was the big hero in getting the diva onstage:

He started by holding the box up to the wall while I said helpful things like, “More down on the other part.”

Once we finally got it level (-ish… oops), Dan made marks through the mounting holes using a felt-tip marker.

And drilled using a masonry bit. (Because our house is brick.)

Then he sunk screw anchors which help the threads of the screws to “grab”.

We don’t want the combined weight of our mailbox & all the junk mail stuffed inside (Seriously… it’s an epidemic.)

Make sure you drill your holes a bit deeper than the length of your screws/anchors.

Tip: If you’re not comfortable eyeballing-it when drilling, wrap a piece of tape around your drill bit at the point that corresponds to the length of your anchor. Then when you drill, just stop when you “hit tape”. 

In our case, the screws & anchors were 1 inch, so Dan drilled “about this far” — his measurements, not mine — into the wall, then pounded in the anchors with the back of a set of channel lock pliers (Because he didn’t feel like looking for a hammer. See how we’re made for each other?) and twisted in the screws with a regular old screwdriver.

Dan, Dan, the Anchor Man Says: Work smarter, not harder! Use a screwdriver bit on your drill to speed up the screw-in process if you’re doing a bunch of them.

Once the screws were in, it was just a matter of hangin’ er up…

Doin’ a test run using a piece of outgoing mail…

And admiring her awesomeidity.

Here’s a shot from the sidewalk.

I like it that she doesn’t scream patina at you. You have to get a little closer to notice her.

BUT I’m pretty sure that when the sun hits her, she’ll give off all kinds of light & color. Unfortunately, it was mucho overcast & rainy by the time we were finished hanging her, so it doesn’t really do her justice.

If she beams like I think she will once the sun comes out, I’ll absolutely post some “show off” pics ASAP 🙂

And it will be SO good to get this eyesore off of the front of our house!!!

And while we admire our postal carrier’s ingenuity:

We think she deserves better 🙂

Hopefully we’ll also stop receiving mail addressed to E. Monster on Sesame Street. That guy owes money all over town ;->

NEXT POST: TBA (Oooh… mysterious…)

**pic of Rustoleum can courtesy of Rustoleum website

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