Category Archives: DIY

5 Reasons Why This Former Dorm Dresser No Longer Has To Fear Dirty Socks

Or, 5 Reasons Why I’m One Step Closer to Organizational Nirvana

1. I rescued this dresser from the surplus store.

If you live near a big university, chances are their physical plant has a surplus or salvage store. If you’re lucky, the store will be open to the public, not just the university community, cause there are some good deals there, y’all. You’re not going to find anything super fancy (although my store does boast a few nice antiques and collectibles), but I’ve had an eye on dorm furniture for a while. That stuff is designed with storage in mind and built to outlast successive years of abuse.

dresser

Bless her heart. She just needed a little love.

With the new school year starting, a bunch of the older dressers got relegated to the scrap heap, as it were, but they were still in pretty good shape. This old girl caught my eye as I wandered past. I felt an immediate bond. She was all, “Omg I’ve been through dresser hell. You don’t even know. Do me a solid and get me out of here.” And I was like, “Right on, talking dresser.” $37 later, she was in my garage and ready for a makeover.

supplies

Here’s what I used for the job. Ignore the thumbtacks; they represent a short-lived idea that was scrapped as soon as I realized how dang hard it was to push thumb-tacks into that dresser. Seriously, built to last!

2. I primed her the lazy way.

Buy this stuff, guys. It’s the only way. I barely even wipe the dust off a piece of furniture before I slap on the Zinsser. I’ve used it over chips, stains, polyurethane, you name it, and it never disappoints. And thank God, because sanding furniture turns me in the Autumn Monster.

primed dresser

I know it looks like it doesn’t cover well, but it totally does. One coat is all it takes. And it dries in ONE HOUR omg.

3. I painted her a fun color.

I found a quart of mis-mixed paint at my local hardware store that just happened to be in the family of colors I wanted. Naturally, if you buy discount paint you have to be a leetle flexible in terms of color schemes, so if you’re totally committed to that perfect shade, just pay the extra few bucks rather than drive around looking for unlikely deals. But this time I got lucky. What can I say—I saved a turtle on a bike path so I have awesome karma right now.

painted dresser

Didn’t the color turn out beautifully? I’m loving this seafoamy green right now.

4. I put labels on her drawers.

Ok, this part has lots of steps. You know what that means. Prepare for…A LIST WITHIN IN A LIST:

1. Find a free label shape online and print one you like. Then make a cardboard cutout and poke a hole in its center.

cutout

I used an empty beer case for my cutout. Reduce, reuse, recycle! Also, drink a lot!

2. Measure each drawer and mark the center (a level is the best tool for the job).
3. Place the cutout’s center hole over your center mark on the drawer. Make sure it’s straight, fasten it to the drawer with masking tape, and trace with a pencil. Repeat as necessary.
4. Paint the outline of your label (I used a can of leftover spray paint for a nice glossy yet translucent effect—just spray the paint in a cup and dip a brush in).

label outlines

My original idea was to outline the label shape with thumbtacks, but I am loving the red paint so much more. Serendipity, y’all.

5. Use this recipe to mix up some DIY chalkboard paint and fill in your labels. (Tip: Don’t be lazy like me. Actually sand and condition like Martha says. Otherwise your labels won’t be very smooth.)

finished labels

I needed two coats for good coverage. Also, be warned that the chalkboard paint is thickish, so use a good sturdy craft brush.

5. I filled her with crafty things.

This poor dresser. I can only imagine the horrors of her past (moldy food, wadded up clothes, bugs and rodents, bad music, roommate fights, awkward sexual encounters—ah, college!). But now she has a new life holding my pretty yarns and threads and fabrics in a highly organized fashion—clearly what all dressers aspire to. So tune in text time for “Reasons Why I Insist Upon Treating Items of Furniture Like Sentient Beings.”

finished dresser

I know that lampshade is too small for that lamp but I’m liking the color and I’m too cheap to buy a new one. Also, see how my chalk didn’t go on terribly smoothly? Heed my warning! Sand! Condition!

yarn

There’s another drawer of yarn under this one, but I figure the average blog reader can only take so much.

sewing stuff

Silverware trays and other drawer organizers from the kitchen aisle are handy for all this little stuff. I love Target’s selection!

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4 Reasons Why I’m a Jedi Master*

Or, 4 Reasons Why My Life Is Slightly Less Higgledy-Piggledy Than It Might Be Otherwise

1. I made my own bike bag.

So all the bags out there for bike racks are either 1) panniers, which I don’t want because that’s just inviting a lot of weird balance issues, or 2) fugly. Come on. Why is everything black and utilitarian? Fashiony ladies, help me out here. Start designing some cute bags for the back of my cute bike. In the meantime, I had to make do with my own modifications to this tote bag, which is the perfect size and shape for the back of my bike. It’s insulated like a cooler, it’s nice and tall with lots of outside pockets, AND it has a crossbody strap. I can toss all my Autumnalia in there and just take the whole bag with me once I arrive at my destination. All I did was sew a couple Velcro straps to each corner and it works like a dream. Is the stitching neat and even? No. Did I separate my fingernails from the nail beds trying to push a needle through that tough fabric before I was smart enough to use a thimble? Yes. But, you know, it works. That’s the important thing.

Kindle, phone, keys, bike lock, change of clothes…everything fits.

2. I recovered the cats’ old scratching post.

Dear Piglet, Monkey, Turkey, and Cricket: Your beloved scratching post has been restored to you. Please stop shredding the armchair. Please. With tears in my eyes, y’all. Seriously. Love, Autumn.

scratching post

Piglet enjoys the new post (after spending three hours attacking the sisal rope I was trying to wrap it with and making the whole process hideously difficult).

Anyway, I originally made this post a few years ago. The design is pretty simple if you want to do one yourself. The cats wear out the covering after about 18 months and then it needs to be sort of rehabbed, so this is the third time I’ve done this. But the structure itself is still going strong! Here’s some basic instructions if you want to build your own:

Make sure to wear gloves—sisal is ROUGH on the hands.

3. I embroidered this.

If you’re a cataloger, you’ve probably heard this slogan before. I find it’s a helpful reminder not only for the finicky work of cataloging (which requires that you interpret half a dozen complicated standards and formats with incredibly lengthy documentation), but also just for life. Stop freaking out so much over all the tiny details, guys. Be more like me. Be zen.

Sadly, I did not follow this advice when I took three dozen photos trying to get the best angle.

4. I cleaned out the car.

I don’t really have a picture of this or anything. I just felt like you needed to know.

*When I say “Jedi Master” I really mean “DIY goddess.” Same diff.

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5 Reasons Why My House (Or, Technically, Condo) Is Almost Put Together But Not Quite

Or, 5 Reasons Why I Continue to Experience Facial Tics Whenever I Stroll About My Domain*

1. The living room wall is bare.

Pictures of my house always end up looking like the cat version of Where’s Waldo?

Y’all, this wall is huuuuuuge. It really needs something special to draw the eye, and though I finally came up with something, I haven’t found the time or (let’s be real) the courage to put it together. Here’s my idea for a three-canvas hand-painted mural large enough to span most of the width of the couch:

Imagine a few inches of space between each canvas where those black lines are. It’s the height of elegant yet folky self-aware nerdiness, no?

I spent a couple hours designing this and I’ve got the canvases primed and ready, but I haven’t yet busted out the brushes and smock. Artoo really deserves to look his best, so the dork in me feels a lot of pressure to get this perfect, and I’m no artist so the whole thing is kind of intimidating. I’m thinking of finally tackling it this weekend. For the right effect, I should probably, you know, get a beret. And set up an easel by a south-facing window. And turn on French accordion music. And possibly contract tuberculosis. Really get that artisty vibe going, if you feel me.

2. The front entry needs furnishing.

All that’s missing are some weeds and a rusty old hubcap.

What I’d really like here is a non-pile-of-junk. As you can see, I have the opposite right now. I’ve been scouring Craigslist for a small buffet or sofa table or even baker’s rack that might serve as a nice decorative piece and also functional landing strip for the front door entry—but no dice. I guess for now I’ll have to live with a giant cardboard box, a folding tray, and a heap of shoes instead. Welcome to our home! ::massages temples::

3. The bar/buffet is lackluster. 

Thank you, Trader Joe’s, for making it possible for us to buy an entire case of wine without going bankrupt. #livingthedream

I painted this brown a couple years ago when it was against a light wall in a room with a bright sofa and chairs. But now it looks blah next to the taupe walls and dark cherry-ish stain of the other furniture in the area. I’m thinking I should paint it a sort of medium slate blue, perhaps? I’m feeling like there’s not enough blue in my life right now. However, the last time I painted something in our garage I nearly killed us (I didn’t realize high-gloss spray paint fumes were that toxic, gah), so I feel kind of reluctant to haul out the drop cloth once more. But seriously, this thing is so boring it makes me grind my teeth.

4. The nightstands look grouty.

Ick. The edges look like they’re coated in dried crumbly toothpaste.

Grouty is too a word. Shush. So I tiled the tops of these black end tables before we moved with a pretty coppery glass mosaic (don’t you just lurrrrves it?) and they turned out beautifully, except for the fact that I couldn’t be bothered to put a little wood strip as a border. Mistake. The light-colored grout around the edges looks grainy and messy and unprofessional and I just want to SCREAM. I was thinking I could get some black caulk and smooth it over the edges? What do you think? Is black caulk even a thing?

5. The craft/storage area is wonky.

Yarn, yarn ball winder, craft paints, brushes, sponges, glue gun, glue sticks, software, music CDs, headphones, chargers, device accessories, Irish tin whistles, recorders, guitar, photos, wedding videos, memorabilia, sewing machine, pins, scissors, thread, notions, fabric, stationary, checks, post-its, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, printer paper, coupons, file box, manuals/warranties, extension cords, tote bags, throw pillow covers, candlesticks, candles, knick-knacks, and seasonal decor.

Help me, Craiglist—you’re my only hope. I seriously need a giant but cheap entertainment center or armoire in which to stash all this stuff. I’m obsessively organized, yes, so it’s at least neatly arranged and contained. But it still looks junky and cluttered and I want it to disappear behind some cabinet doors STAT. Lately, since my Craiglist search has been unsuccessful, I’ve been considering building something out of plywood and MDF and using cute fabric panels instead of doors to hide everything. But for that I’d need a Dremel (drrooolll), and believe me, I don’t need to be giving myself an excuse to buy power tools right now.

*I am omitting “The light carpet is a godawful hideous dingy disgusting disaster that never EVER looks clean no matter what I do” from this list because we are just renters and a girl only has so much control over these things, ok? ::crazy eyes:: 

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