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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    Thankful for some late blooming lilacs and a neighbor willing to let me take a few. Oh, and my cute little @fab vase that arrived today. Montana is indeed Big Sky Country. Beautiful, bright blue with fluffy clouds today. Wanna see what a less than $100 room spruce looks like? Click the link in profile to see the few cheap (and free!) ways I updated this space.

Ladder Rack

With recent fluctuating temps, light layers are the key to staying comfortable.  Outdoors and well as in.  To neatly store extra blankets, I built a leaning ladder for our bedroom.


To get started, I used two 3/4 by 2 3/4 inch by six-foot long poplar boards and two 4 foot long 1 inch dowels.  Before cutting, I measured and marked the boards for four rungs.  Mine are spaced 15 inches apart, starting from the bottom.


Using a Forstner bit, drilling the holes was quick and easy.



After drilling all holes and cutting the dowels, I used 220 grit paper to sand each piece before assembly.


Honestly, sanding almost took more time than all the other steps combined.  Attaching everything was simple.  Working on the garage floor, I squeezed a liberal amount of Gorilla wood glue in the four holes of one board as well as the dowel ends.


That was easy, but inserting the second side was a bit trickier.  Another set of hands would have been really helpful, to line the glued dowels up with the other board.  To keep everything tight while the glue dried, I placed a clamp at each rung.


Twenty-four hours later, I pulled the clamps off and lightly sanded the extra glue off.


The two foot wide rungs are perfect for king sized blankets.


I might make a second for the basement to store guest bedding.  Much easier and cuter way to store blankets than a stack on a chair.

Marble Back Splash

As I mentioned on Wednesday, the backsplash tile is installed.  Just last night we finished it up with grout.  But, here’s the uneven, ugly step before.


To get started setting tile, I opened and sorted the packages by color.  All tiles are 4 inch by 12 inch Carrara marble from Home Depot.  Indeed I am the crazy person sorting white tile by color. I’ll explain more in a minute.


Install went smoothly, but took a lot of cutting.  Ben rocked it out in six hours though.


For detailed tile jobs, Ben prefers to use pre-mixed mastic to avoid making several batches.



Unfortunately, it also took forever to dry completely.  Obviously that is an exaggeration, but waiting four days was a test of my patience.  Pulling out the spacers took only a few minutes and then I cleaned the mastic off the surface.


Yesterday, Ben took a couple of hours to grout everything.



When sorting the tiles, I created 4 different groups.  Group one was bright white with little veining, the second white with veining.  The third group was pale gray, the fourth gray with heavy coloring.


With such color variation, we made a point to pull from each group to avoid blocks of similar colors.



Also, we chose to keep the trim on the windows, cutting tiles to fit around.



Same goes for the baseboard.


The only difference is for the crown, because the profile is thinner.  We’ll add a thin spacer behind, then secure the crown, slightly overlapping the tile.


Weekend plans include replacing switches and outlets, building cabinet doors, painting window trim, and working on the office cabinetry.  Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

During our last kitchen renovation, I shared how we built our cabinets.  Over the weekend, Ben built every drawer, 9 total, for the island.  We’ve made a few changes while building our new cabinets, so I’m giving the scoop now.  To get as much detail as possible, I’m sharing how he built the boxes and drawers now.  Once we finish the fronts, I’ll discuss the materials and process for those.

As he finished each drawer, I sanded the tops and sides smooth for clear coat.  Four days later, here’s our island, ready for install.


The right stack are for either side of the stove.  On the left are the shorter cabinets the cook top will rest on.  Originally, we planned to put the trash under the sink again, but started discussing and agreed it is better under the stove.  With a half width drawer under, if someone is cooking, it’s easy enough to scoot to the side to throw something away.  At the sink, you have to step all the way over, stopping what you are doing.  So, that’s why there’s only one drawer in the lower box.

Our bathroom vanity was a trial run of sorts for the kitchen cabinet process.  All boxes are constructed with 3/4 inch thick, double-sided melamine coated particle board.  Melamine is ideal for wet or potentially wet areas such as kitchens.  Box assembly is otherwise the same as before.

One big change we made is the drawer material.  Last time we used 3/4 inch plywood.  It’s sturdy, but everything we can get now is a lower grade.  Low grade plywood warps easier, which can skew the drawer.  We also didn’t want to fill ugly edges.  This time around, we went with 3/4 inch thick poplar for the sides and 1/2 inch double-sided melamine for drawer bottoms.  Using a dado bit in the table saw, Ben cut a 1/2 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep groove a half-inch from the bottom.

Kitchen-Drawer-Assembly-GroovesHe repeated this process for both sides and the front.  The backs are an inch shorter and are glued directly to the drawer base.  A bead of glue inside the groove holds the base in place.  Each side slips in over, nailing the corners for added strength.


After the three sides are in place, Ben runs a line of glue on the base and side corners before sliding the back in.  A few more nails and the drawer is assembled.  That’s when I get to start working.  I used 220 grit paper to sand the top edges and sides smooths, paying extra attention to the joints.  Before sealing, I quickly vacuum off dust.  To keep the melamine base clean, I taped off the edges before applying two coats of clear water based poly.


One really great advantage of building our own cabinets is tailoring them to our needs.  For instance, the drawer heights are perfect for us.  We always prefer three drawers over a shorter stack of four.

Before we start building drawers, I measure a bunch of items to decide the minimum height for each drawer.  I tell Ben what I need the usable space to be.  To accommodate tall pots, leaving a little breathing room, our bottom drawer inside space is 11 inches tall.  Our top drawer can be no shorter than 4 1/2 inches inside to store our spice drawers.  Middle drawers are always the remaining space.  Knowing my measurements and that the bottom and glides take up 1 inch, Ben knows where to attach the glides.


Another big difference this go around are the drawer glides.  Last time, we didn’t want to sacrifice drawer height, so we used side mount glides.  With a bigger kitchen, we are less concerned about that and chose Blum soft close, under mount glides.

Comparatively, these puppies are not cheap.  About $17 per pair versus $6 for the same size.  We made our island deeper than standard, 31 inches, to leave space between the cooktop and bar.  Longer pairs cost $45 each.  That’s 405 dollars in drawer glides for just the island!  Even with the price tag, after using these in the bathroom, neither of us would go back to the old style.  These are the cats pajamas.  Seriously, full extension, 100 pound heavy-duty rating, quiet, and smooth.


With the slide installed, he secures clips to the under side of each drawer.  That’s the orange thing you see in the above photo.


These clips are the only thing physically holding the drawer to the glide.


Did I mention these glides are tucked completely underneath, hidden out of sight.


That’s all we can do on cabinets until we get everything set in the kitchen.  Then we add the face frames, drawer fronts, and hardware.  We’re nailing down those details soon.

We also made unexpected progress on the countertops over the weekend.  Hoping to get pricing and see our options, we popped in a local marble and granite supplier.  I said I preferred a dark, matte to satin finish stone.  The owner showed us really beautiful leathered granite and a gorgeous soap stone remnant pile.  After talking it over with him, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 100 bucks for six soap stone pieces.  Three are more than enough for our kitchen, so we loaded it up that day.  Because soap stone is on the soft side, it’s easy to cut and polish at home.  Ben’s no stranger to working with stone counters, so we’re thrilled.  Right now, the slabs are stacked together, with the backs facing out.  But, I can’t wait to share more!

Our rule is to have everything on site and ready for install before anything gets ripped out.  Slowly, things are coming in.  Flooring, a new door, and the sink should arrive soon.  It can’t get here soon enough.  Almost daily, Ben threatens to tear things out.

Dependant Pendants

We’re making progress with the kitchen.  All cabinet boxes are built, except the sink which we’re waiting to build until we have a sink in hand.  As of now, half of the basement is cabinet shells, stacked tetris style.


For appliances, we’re only missing our sink.  The current dishwasher and refrigerator are staying.  A gorgeous 48 inch cook top, stainless vent hood insert, and stacked double ovens are hanging out, waiting for a permanent home.

What we expected to be easy, has become a search: finding the perfect sink. Knowing we loved the last custom-made sink (as well as our bathroom shower pan and counter by the same fabricator), we started there.  Unfortunately, their rates have almost tripled to complete our design.  Much like Duran Duran, we’re on the hunt.  And hungry like the wolf.

In the interim, Ben is starting drawer assembly and we’re waiting for our new sliding door to arrive.  Nitty gritty details are being discussed and planned regularly.  Lighting is the most recent debate.  After several discussions, I think we’ve settled it.  The smaller white dots represent recessed cans and the black show pendants.


I quite like these small pendants at Home Depot.  Directing the lighting down should make the bar area feel cozier, and won’t blind people in other rooms.

Sleek glass pendants are my back up, if we feel the black attract too much attention.  

Then I start second guessing whether I want pendants or not.  We need a vent hood, and the wider cook top needs a larger fan.  But, with the cook top in the island, that vent hood takes up a fair amount of space.  Visually and literally.  The plan is to box around it as simply and minimally as possible.  Perhaps similar to this, but in the middle of the room.

This white with wood band is really stunning, too.

I’m not sure if I’ll like the look of the big hood and smaller pendant combo.  Especially when the lights are less than two feet from the boxing.  I’ve searched for inspiration, but most island set ups have either pendants or a vent hood.  Not both.  Few that do, have pendants to the sides, not over a bar, like this:

Any ideas, suggestions, or pictures you have to help decide?

Mirror, Mirror Against the Wall

This house came with three large, awkwardly placed mirrors.  One floor to ceiling next to the fireplace, which sadly, broke after moving it.

A shorter, wide one that’s still in the laundry room:


Though I don’t have pictures, the most um, interesting placement was at the end of the basement hall.  Right next to the bathroom door.  The first time we walked through the house, it startled me.  We decided to take it down to put to better use as a large framed for our bedroom.


To start, Ben cut a piece of OSB four inches wider and taller than the mirror and cut 3 inch strips of cedar.  OSB created a rigid backing for the mirror and frame.  We wanted to avoid glue, so Ben used the table saw to create 1/4 inch by 1 1/4 inch grooves in the back of the frame pieces.


The notched out section overlaps the mirror, leaving about two inches on the OSB sheet.


Short nails secure the frame to the backing, leaving an ugly edge.


For added interest, and to cover the sides, Ben added a 3/4 by 1 1/2 trim piece.  I wanted a 1/4 inch reveal for a layered look.

Framed-Wall-Mirror-Outer-FrameDuring the planning process, I said I wanted a leaning mirror.  Ben prefers wall mounted, but the height wouldn’t work between our trim.  So, we compromised on a slightly floating, completely straight mount.  To sit flat against the baseboard, Ben secured a scrap of trim to studs at the top.  This sets the mirror away from the wall, and gave a place to screw the mirror to the wall.


The cleats are about 3 inches shy of the mirror width, so they’re not obvious.  Unless you are literally against the wall, as I was to take these pictures.  Even then, the shadow blends in with the dark walls.


Because we had all materials, this project was free.


Filling this wall with a mirror gives function to an otherwise wasted space.  With the new dressing area, the old sconce boxes make sense.  Now to find the right lights that don’t look too bathroom-y.


I’m smitten.


Using the same cedar as the wall and night stands brought a small touch of the same to another wall.


I adore the way the wood (and everything else, for that matter) looks against the black walls.


Next for the bedroom: curtains, paint touch ups (note to self, don’t use the cheap tape!), fixing/changing the bed, and hanging art.


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