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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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    Door boxes + crayons + being on the newly covered deck = hours of entertainment for 2 little boys. One is drawing favorite foods while the other recreates the neighborhood. I love their style. Detail of a dresser I'm updating for a friend. She's a looker now, and the hardware is smiling. I think everyone's happy with the changes. What's the vote on this guy? Hot or not?

More Cushion

Just a few months ago, I ordered an 8 by 10 foot Jute Herringbone rug from West Elm to soften our family room.  I absolutely adore the neutral tones, subtle pattern, and how soft it is underfoot.  No scratchy material or nubby texture that hurts to walk on here, just a pretty rug to round out the seating area.


What I don’t love is that it lacks a backing, allowing it to stretch and bunch easily, especially around the coffee table and the sofa.  With such a heavy table on casters, it’s still easy to move, but the rug usually moves with it.  And the couch gets jumped on and pushed around by two little boys I know, which stretched one of the corners.  Ben wanted it to go, but I wasn’t about to let that happen.


I’ve seen plenty of cheap rug pads at box stores, but they’re thin and always smell awful, so I didn’t want to waste money on those.  Knowing rug pads aren’t the most glamorous or exciting detail, I put off my search.  Ironically, just after straightening out the rug, again, I received the perfect offer from RugPadUSA.

I could pick which of their rug pads suited my floors, rug, slip factor, cush level, and size to use in our home.  After looking at the many options, I landed on the 3/8 inch thick Premium-Lock Felt + Rubber rug pad, cut just a few inches smaller than my rug dimensions.  It arrived within a week and I wasted no time clearing the room, thoroughly vacuuming the floors, and unrolling it.  The pad had just the slightest odor, presumably from the rubber backing, but it quickly dissipated.


The under side is covered in a natural rubber backing, preventing slipping and sliding against smooth surfaces, while the top is cushy felt with a slightly sticky texture.  That sticky texture keeps the rug securely in place, but offers a nice cush underfoot.


After getting the rug pad and rug back in place, I called Ben over to give it a test walk.  I joke that he’s a rug snob because he loves thick, dense, wool rugs.  He thinks the boys’ rug is so comfy that I should get another one for the living room, despite it being too small and well, too blue for any other rooms in our house.  For the first time since ordering the rug, he approved of the pad + rug combo.  With the official seal of approval, we brought the table, sofa, and chairs back in place.


Over the last few weeks, I haven’t had to adjust the rug at all, nor have I noticed any stretching.  Count that a serious win in my book, but even better, the nearly 1/2 inch thick pad makes it plush, keeping Ben happy.  Who knew rug pads could save rugs, but also marriages?!  Ha, that’s incredibly dramatic, but, it did keep me from having to find and buy yet another rug for this space.  In summary, if you’re considering the West Elm jute rug, I’d highly recommend getting even a thin rug pad, just to keep it from bunching and stretching.

Freeze Frame!

Near the beginning of the year, I ordered a lovely 18 by 24 inch leaf print from Minted, with intentions of immediately hanging it in our living room.  After coming up short on the perfect frame, I planned to make a 24 by 30 inch frame to protect and display the print.  At that time, we were just beginning our kitchen remodel (which is still nearly finished, with one more cabinet to build and hang-hence the lack of reveal) and time was limited to pertinent projects only.  Until recently, the frames were on the back burner, but after seeing the art sitting in my closet, begging to be seen by others, I jumped in and got it done.

Before building, I bought two pieces of plexiglass from Ace Hardware because these frames are in the living room and could get bumped or hit with a ball.  Shattered glass is always a concern with two boys in the house, so this seemed like a safer choice.  You certainly don’t need to buy glass first, but if you’re making a big frame, make sure your size is available before building.

For my project, I wanted a square edge thin frame, so I bought four 1 by 2 sticks and had the store cut each one into 3 and 5 foot lengths.  To create the channel for the glass, mat, and backing to rest in, I had to router out a groove.  Pine is a soft wood, so I found it easiest to clamp a few boards down to create a guide to run the router against.


I set the router depth to 7/8 inches deep and slowly let it cut the channel, slowing at knots or weak points to prevent splitting.  Then I smoothed everything out with a thorough sanding.  Below, the top board shows the wide side, and the bottom the narrow face after cutting.


After grooved, I cut my pieces to length, mitering the corners but leaving an extra 1/8 for a little wiggle room.  Cutting after left perfectly square inside corners that a router can’t create after assembly, and with such a small face, I didn’t have much space to lose.


With tight corners, I pulled the glass out and held the pieces tight before nailing.


I found it easiest to set the two sides on a flat surface, letting just the corner over hang the counter while nailing.  This way, I didn’t angle the nailer funny to shoot it out somewhere and with narrow margins, it was important.  Two little nails are visible on each side, but not noticeable after staining.


To darken the pine, I applied a quick coat of Special Walnut stain.  I love the richness it adds to the cheap wood, and it brings out the character of each board.  Normally, I’d staple the glass, mat, and backing in place, but I didn’t want to weaken the thin sides.  Instead, I tapped small nails in.


And there’s the King now, matted in grass-green to bring a little splash of the curtain color across the room.



To balance out that print, I dried a maple leaf, photographed it, edited it, and printed a black and white engineer print.


Finally, we have art flanking the entertainment center, even more importantly, out of my closet!  Another to do list project is just staring at me in that last photo-move or create a cover for the ugly subwoofer.  With a cover, I could make it look kind of like a plant stand, right?  Let’s be honest though, who knows when that’ll happen; we’ve waited on entertainment center doors for years.  Perhaps that should happen next.  It wouldn’t be much different from making picture frames, but these would hide the ugly junk.

Rusted Steel & Curb Appeal

In last week’s deck and garden update, I shared a few pictures with peeks at the CorTen steel siding that has now started to rust.


For those not familiar, CorTen is a steel alloy that develops an outer layer of rust patina, protecting from further corrosion. When purchased, the steel is gray with a slight sheen but as it is exposed to weather, it rusts, but only as a surface layer.


Snow, rain, and two rounds of spraying with a water/vinegar mixture has warmed it up, though the process isn’t perfectly even.  See how much darker the rust looks closer to the house roof?  Vinegar quickly starts the rusting process, and helps even out the color.


Right after install and before rusting, the front looked very monotone and boring.  We wanted a maintenance free material to contrast against the traditional painted lap siding and break up the long, simple rectangle.  When freshly installed, the steel looked like a shiny version of the gray painted lap siding.


The addition of plants, the start of our bedroom balcony, and weather, the front looks very different.  When fully rusted, it actually looks like stained wood board and batten from short distances.  Once up close, the mottled look is noticeable and proves it’s actually rusted steel.  Again, you can see where moisture naturally hits the siding versus the eaves and protected areas.  Another round of spraying is on my to do list soon.


Notice how similarly toned the stained beams and bench are to the rust?  After finishing the railing install and staining, our balcony will fit right in.



When sprayed, gravity comes into play and darkens the bottoms more.  I’m going to experiment with a rag to see if rubbing vinegar will even out the top sections-at least on the easy to reach parts.


The most evenly and thoroughly rusted side is the garage end.


A lack of overhang leaves the entire section open to water.  Note: even after fiddling with settings, some of the colors are a little off; the photo above is the most accurate color representation of the paint and steel.


The local supplier/manufacturer created custom edge trim to go over the painted frames to help prevent the steel from dripping on the white.


One area got a little more water and it has streaked the white on one side, but that’s nothing a quick coat of paint can’t fix.


So far, we’re 100% thrilled with the results and ease of care, and our neighbors seem pretty happy as well.  On several occasions, people have stopped to compliment the new look, which is nice to hear considering our house is part of their view.  Heck, they probably look at the exterior more often than we do!

Deck-orating Ideas

Something strange is happening this year-something we’ve yet to experience since living in this house.  For the first time in three years (technically ever, because we always planned to pour a new patio at our old house and never got to that point), we have an outdoor space that is furniture ready without major projects in sight.


Landscaping, windows, and siding are completely finished, making the back deck the perfect place to relax.  Cue the trumpets, bring on some chilled drinks, and let’s get some comfortable seating and decorations.  Before we can fully celebrate, we do want to pressure wash and restain the deck, but that’s not grueling.  We’re checking the forecast for a rain free week to knock it all out, so fingers crossed it happens soon.  Until then, I’m dreaming and scheming ways to cozy up and create a private outdoor oasis.


On the back deck, I’d like to create different zones for eating, lounging/chatting, and enjoying the fire.  Directly off the family room, I placed four of our dining chairs in a circle with the boys’ mini table as a stand in coffee table.  These pieces are not staying here, but give me an idea of the size and layout for the furniture I still have to get.  Our dining set will sit just to the right, beneath the wide window.


This arrangement is centered on the fire pit and waterfall, allowing maximum enjoyment of all areas.

To further separate the eating and relaxing areas, I potted two arborvitae trees ($5 at Wal-Mart) in simple white $15 pots from Lowe’s.  The added height and greenery on the deck do wonders for defining the spaces, and the pots are light weight so I can move these around easily, even bringing inside for winter if necessary.  I filled two other planters I had on hand with succulents, just to add another layer, and popped them next to the trees.


For easier fire pit access, I nestled five flagstones in the rock to create a simple staggered walkway.  Sometimes, you just don’t want to wear shoes, but walking on rocks is rough.


Because we already have the two benches flanking the fire, we don’t need to add more seating over there.  Which is precisely why I want four light weight chairs to keep on the deck, but can easily get pulled over to the fire when needed.


So in place of those dining chairs, I’m considering these chairs from Lowe’s, if I can get Ben to sit in them and give his approval.

At $65 each, they’re a good deal, get very good reviews, are light weight, and stackable for easy storage through winter.  Paired with the comfortable (for me at least), lower seat, they won’t look like dining chairs either.  Though I love the comfort cushions add, I’m not the best at remembering to get them in the house before rain, so I’m happy to not sacrifice comfort with those chairs.  Once we figure out the chairs, I want to make or buy a coffee table to round out the arrangement.  Again, light weight would be nice for winter moving, but not completely necessary.


In other news, the row of grasses I plated last fall have quadrupled in size, most standing about 4 feet tall.


Flanking the wooden benches, at the end of the grass line, I planted drought tolerant, deer resistant Russian Sage.  They smell lovely and should fill in with more purple stems.


Between the house and the walkway, I created a little garden space to enjoy from the deck, but also the bedroom windows.  In the space between the windows, I’d love to add a climbing plant on a trellis.  Knowing plants attached to the house are bad, I doubt I’ll ever convince Ben, but perhaps a free-standing version that could stand a few inches away from the house would work?  Any suggestions for shade loving perennial climbing plants?


Last year’s hydrangea, on the far right in the above photo, is alive and well, with only a single bud so far.


Everything within five feet of the house gets full shade, so I schooched the hostas back and filled in with a few coral bells to contrast against all the green.  At the corner of the house, a viburnum stands guard and should grow large enough to give the back a little privacy from the driveway.


Closest to the walk, in the full sun, I alternated between cat mint and pink salvia.  Hopefully in a few years the plants will all fill in and blend together for a super lush bed.  Just for kicks, and to fully relish the last three years of hard work, here’s the back right after move in.


Broken patio, strange fountain, broken windows, trees far too close to the house, weeds everywhere, and no real place to actually hang out.  Things kind of only got worse from there after tearing off all the siding to replace windows and excavating down a foot to keep the dirt below the wood rim joist.


And this past winter, when things finally looked finished with a super beefy  reclaimed deck, windows, and brand spankin’ new painted and steel siding that hadn’t started to rust.


Now, only a few months later, we call the major components finished.  I have a hard time declaring anything truly finished, because I always get ideas to make changes later on, but nothing other than furniture (see the table just waiting to go on?) and perhaps more plants should happen back here.


Any deck plans, outdoor dreaming, or planting going on at your house?  It sure is nice to step outside, sit, and not feel like there are 1,000 things we need to work on.  It’s equal parts liberating and strange.

Butt of the Square

As our outside comes together, I’ve been furiously planting.  Almost 60 assorted plants over our property in the last few weeks.  Which spurred me to add a dose of life next to the front door.


With an 8 foot tall door, I wanted something taller, to not look dwarfed by the oversized door.  A small tree would have been gorgeous, but I didn’t want to block the doorbell.  After thinking about it, I might try a dwarf fruit tree.  We’ll see.  Before building this planter box, I looked at local nurseries, hardware, and home improvement stores but didn’t see any taller planters I liked.  DIY to the rescue.  Using four 8 foot long 2 by 4s and scrap 2 by 2 strips, I built a modern square planter box.


Before building, I decided I wanted a 17 inch square box six boards (21 inches) tall.  To start, I cut twelve boards into 17 inch lengths.  With the butt end design, opposite sides are the same length, but the adjacent pieces are shorter to fit between.  For the design to be square, I cut twelve more sections at 14 inches long (the overall size minus two 2 by 4 widths).


Based on my finished height of 21 inches, I cut four 20 inch tall 2 by 2 pieces to secure the corners to.  I didn’t want see the nails or the corners once filled.  Working on a flat surface with a square, I set my pieces together and nailed 16 gauge 2 inch long finish nails from the inside, through the 2 by 2, into the 2 by 4.  Much like hardwood flooring, getting the first row straight or in this case, square, makes subsequent rows go smoothly.

From there, adding boards, rotating the exposed ends is the name of the game.


I love the simple interest the staggered exposed ends add.


Once finished, the corner posts are tucked an in below the rim and are easily covered.


Before staining, I smoothed out the rough lumber with 80 grit sandpaper, slightly rounding the corners at the same time.


Wanting to accent the exposed end detail, I stained the box light gray.  It darken the end grain just enough to really make it pop.  To create the base support, I nailed scrap wood flush with the top of the third board down.  Then used another scrap of 3/4 inch material for the base, notching around the corner posts.  Sadly, I couldn’t find a square plastic hole-less liner to fit inside.  I improvised with four layers of thick plastic.  I really don’t want this leaking out and rotting the wood.



With the hard parts done, I got to fill it up with pretty plants my little helpers picked out.


Aromatic lavender, fuzzy lamb’s ear, a purple sweet potato vine, and a small basil plant.


With such a versatile design, I’d like to build a longer box to create a mini herb garden for our back deck.  The basil may get swapped to that one later on.  And at the end of the season, I can plant both the lavender and lamb’s ear in the ground.


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