Sunday, January 7, 2007

do it yourself catalog

at our house, we take a little do it yourself VERY seriously. luckily, my husband will attempt to build whatever i attempt to draw. the pictures that follow are projects from the last house we lived in, a 1952 flat-roofed box on a hill just outside the capitol of new hampshire.

the bigggest transformation here, excluding the removal of greasy gold shag carpet, is our fix for mushroom vinyl window syndrome (MVWS). take many cans rust-oleum black paint, many lengths bookcase molding from home depot, not so many tubes appropriate goop brand product, and call me in the morning. do not forget to paint the back of your bookcase molding the color of your outside trim (in our case, also black) because you will be seeing it from the out of doors.
the next big change was the fireplace wall. we were very fortunate to live in an area full of furniture makers and that = great lumberyards, like my personal favorite place to shop ever goosebay lumber. if you are interested, i will take you on a tour when i visit new hampshire in may.
so, we moved the door to the right as far down as we could to gain the idea of a little symmetry, and covered the whole fireplace wall in maple bookcases with a walnut mantle.
the walnut on the mantel was left over from the couch we built to gain a little symmetry on the other side of the room. we made a room within a room. the cushions are made from diamond matelesse coverlets from the tj maxx, straight off the clearance end rack for $19.99 each. the insides are down comforter wrapped foam. the mirror coffee table is an mdf box covered with mirror cut to measure, total cost around $175. please wear your dust mask, especially when cutting mdf. all curtain rods are copper plumbing pipe, painted black and hung on iron hooks from the home depot gate hardware department. also above, the photo i took before we bought the house.
and now, if you are still with me, i'll take you to the kitchen!

for reference, the window in the before photo is the same window that you see to the left of the stove in the after photos. the refrigerator did not move although we did cut a hole in the wall, remove a stud and install a header so we could gain a few more inches in the kitchen. the big transformation came with the removal of the stove wall in the before picture. the stove wall cut the kitchen into 2 small bits. one side for cooking, and behind the stove side for laundry. ridiculous, i say. laundry promptly migrated south to the basement and saws-all and crow-bar action ensued. i will spare you the mouse infestation drama.
as for the rest, we built it ourselves. the cabinets, the countertops (in walnut, my favorite wood AND it's antibacterial) we built from scratch. the glass doors on either side of the plate rack were from my travelling architectural salvage stash. we made them slide back and forth over the plate rack because if they opened normally they would wipe out everything on the counter and take up half the kitchen. my husband fulfilled my mantle over 4 oven aga fantasy (minus the 4 oven aga) and we tiled the entire back wall of the kitchen in water blue tiny mosaic tiles from home depot expo. there are a couple ceramic tiles offered at home depot expo that read en masse like a real glass tile. the difference? ceramic version = $25 a sq. ft. less. kitchen table from unfinished furniture warehouse, covered in throw from tj maxx. the chandelier is a WICKED GOOD flea market find that i take with me from house to house.


i made it myself and so can you! this chandelier is made from fishing line, craft store mirror discs and repurposed junk store lamp parts. the super glue flakes off your fingertips in 2 to 3 weeks...ouch, but worth it!


i make terrariums often. lots of crate and barrel and pottery barn types have containers big enough to hold a slipper orchid. i love the way they look with the acid green reindeer moss.


ok, my first attempt at "a little he built it himself" needs some work. i requested drawings of the platform sofa with cantelevered side table for james and ron. i failed to include the "that other people can understand" clause in that request. you may be able to decipher some of this with a magnifying glass. the original plan in my head did not have the solid platform to the floor. i wanted it on recessed legs so it would look like the whole thing was floating. then the thought of my 2 children and 3 dogs and the dirt and hair involved with keeping them made me reconsider and enclose the bottom. we built this sofa deep (twin bed deep) which would trap untold volumes of dust bunnies and hair tumbleweeds. the interior frames for the sofa are made of 2x4s and the whole thing is faced in walnut boards that make a frame for the sheets of walnut plywood that make up the seating surface and table surface. there is no frame under the cantilevered side table but because our sofa weighed 5,000lbs it did not tip over. also, if you wanted it to be less expensive you could use poplar instead of walnut and mdf (wear your mask!) instead of plywood and paint or lacquer the whole thing. this mdf version would weigh about 10,000lbs.


in reality, the budget was $10,000 to do whatever we could to transform our rust and mushroom coloured palace. we painted, constructed pergolas for wisteria over my side of the garage and over the entire kitchen portion of the deck, built the multi level deck that wrapped around two sides of the house, built big stairs to deal with the goat hill up to the kitchen door, built the pea gravel beach off the kitchen deck, built big modern planters and lattice for the lovely garage entrance and landscaped a little around the new steps and path. this house had no front as it was situated to take in the view so when you approached the house you arrived at the garage. my favorite (not). but we could not pass up the view or the privacy even though the view was to the north and we sat on top of a big hill and the wind would blow so hard the big windows would hum and bow in. but in a snowstorm it was a wonderland with up close views of the bears, and the moose, and the pheasant, and the turkeys, and the deer, and the fox and our really big waddle-y porcupine who we think lives behind the barn. worth it.


i love architecture. i always have. i have a dozen or so pretend houses in my head at any given time, a habit i formed by the time i was in kindergarten. my first serious pretend house, that i worked on from about age 6 to 8, was 3 or 4 stories tall and the front was a huge glass atrium with stone floors, a babbling brook, a bridge to the front door, and balconies across each floor overlooking it all. now that i have grown up, i realize that house would be the temperature of an easy-bake oven in the summer, impossible to heat in the winter and the babbling brook would most likely smell like an indoor public pool. live and learn. these days i draw multiple re-designs of the houses i live in using the existing footprint. sometimes with additions, sometimes not. these drawings are from my last house using the existing footprint with a garage addition. it is 3500 sq feet of stone and shake with copper flashing, eyelid dormers and a glass roofed conservatory room. it is sooo pretty in my head, planned out to the last hinge and doorknob. maybe someday i will get to bring one into the world just the way i see it.
p.s. in real life this footprint belongs to a 1952 flat roofed attempt at mid century modern. (yes, a flat roof in new hampshire and yes, it leaked when we bought it but not after we reinforced the seams and no, i never shoveled the snow off it).


can you believe it? in a freakish, completely out of character loss of all old dog that knows better sense, maxwell pigdog, aka piglet (right) ate my halfway beaded handbag front. @*%#** !?! 13 years and never has he done anything but take peanut butter sandwiches from the hands of children who are slow peanut butter eaters and do not pay proper attention to their peanut butter sandwiches. no peanut butter was involved in the beading of this bag. piglet, what the @#$%# ??


i wish i had some before and after pics but i am the world's most impatient project starter. i am an exceptionally quick draw with the sawz-all. that sawz-all and i are thick as thieves and as soon as my hubs turns his back, we are on it. more than a few times hubs has returned from a trip to find a kitchen or a wall or two missing without a trace. nothing that spectacular happened in this room...

this is our condo, the result of my failure to commit to life here. everything is recycled from the last house and the house before that except for this obscenely uncomfortable sofa. i wanted something narrow with no arms. total disaster (are you listening lee industries?) this is the first time we have not made our own sofa and it will also be the last. i have added extra cushions on the back but it really doesn't help much. and they really don't match.

uncomfortable sofa, grade school art

my room is too narrow to get a pic of the whole fireplace wall. all the mess on the table and in front of the fireplace are lamp making parts. we sit here on the floor for days and make them. i drew the charcoal on the left of the mantel in a fundamental drawing class. it was my copy of a master, pavonia, by lord frederick leighton. i was so happy with myself that i had it framed. then a friend walked in one day and said "why do you have a portrait of madonna?", and when she says madonna, she does not mean the virgin. back to the drawing board...

one day the perfect over mantel piece will present itself. until then, drum playing chicken riding elephant. so chic, so fancy.

a lovely cabinet by talented hubs.

jesus, mary, bear and donkey. i have a thing for these old wind up toys. i also have a thing for portraits with wonky eyes. this mary has a wonky eye. my friend nancy gave me the elf baby. she makes the tiniest little babies out of clay and crochets them tiny outfits. she keeps plates of tiny heads in her refrigerator... i will put my elf in a terrarium. design note: if you back your bookcase in mirror on an exterior wall, find a mastic that does not fully harden. sadly, three pieces of our glass cracked last (their first) winter as seen here. we used plain mirror mastic.

collection of fine sculpture.

piglet, model for fine sculpture.


yet another chandelier. notice it is made with leftovers from the mirror chandelier's repurposed frame. i got alot of mileage out of that one! this is fishing line and capiz shells inspired by a fixture i cannot afford.


antique malls and flea markets can turn up some great vintage brooches and pendants. some quirky, some gorgeous. several years ago, i made necklaces featuring my vintage finds and had a few trunk shows to sell them. this is an easy, but sometimes time consuming project and obviously these examples are a little outdated but it is fun to find the vintage pieces and the bead shows are amazing. tables and tables of sparkly precious and semiprecious stones. if you look, you probably have something in your jewelry box just waiting to be restrung.


Anonymous said...

Was your home featured in a design magazine? It's so lovely and the design is sooo personal and with such good taste. I'm sure you hear it all the time. Just Beautiful!!! I especially love the living room. and couch and kitchen, heel everything.

Piglet looks so guilty in the photo. You just want to kiss him!. I Love DOGS.

Anonymous said...

I Loved your ideas, the great sofa (which I fully intend to steal) and I got my laugh of the day with that &^%$# thing about your purse and the dog!
we have also moved into an older, very open concept haouse and I'm at a loss about what to do. I got some great ideas seeing yours.
Any other great furniture. crafts etc that you've got going, I'd love to hear.

Tiffani said...

I LOVE your mirror disc and capiz shell chandeliers! So talented!

For the capiz shell chandelier, how did you attach them to the fishing line? Did you have to drill holes or did you use super glue again? I would love to try to make one too! :)

design dna said...

thank you all for your nice comments!

dana, my house was never in a magazine. we just love to tinker around on our houses. one day, i would love to build a house from scratch!

sammy, stop by for a visit every now and then to look for new projects. i have a couple of chandelier ideas, a vase idea, and 2 furniture pieces on the horizon. and about the new open concept house, ours evolved into what best suited us over the first 3 years we lived there. at first i tried to make it something it wasn't, but as soon i started working with what i had things started to fall into place. good luck!

tiffani, the capiz shell on my light were already put together with fishing line type stuff. i bought a lamp on ebay for $14 that had a stained glass 70's flower top and these shells hanging down. all i did was detach the strings one by one and re-attach them to the new rings at the top. i even re-used the wiring and sockets from the old lamp. the new rings at the top came from a damaged clearance chandelier with plastic crystals from urban outfitters. i bought 2 of them because they were only 9.99 and had 5 graduated size rings each. if you have to make your own strings you would use fishing line type stuff and a little drill bit to make holes in the shells. i think its easiest to just use the bit with your hand and twist it around since the shells are so thin. then string the line through, tie a knot and move to the next. send a photo if you do it! otherwise, since the time i made this lamp, there are several places like west elm that offer capiz lights that do not cost $2000 like the original ones!