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Flooring Installation as a Test of Personality

Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

This is NOT my home.

You learn a lot about human nature when you ask your friends and family members to help you put down new flooring, just as you almost never learn anything good when you try to do it yourself.

For example, I’ve learned that my brother Bob is first rate perfectionist, one who follows the dictum that the careful workman measures twice and cuts once. He does close work well, and because he takes his time and does thing correctly, his finished flooring looks like it was installed by professional. (He makes relatively ordinary oak flooring look like a million dollars.)

I, on the other hand, have learned that I am a sort of slapdash, happy-go-lucky fool, content to eyeball things into place, using a circular saw when a mitre saw is better, and a steel hammer when a rubber mallet is required. My flooring looks like it was put in by hobos; hobos who were being paid with jugs of cheap wine and ham sandwiches.

How two people with the same parents, birthed only two years apart, could turn out so differently with regard to working styles is one of the true mysteries of genetics. I have no patience for these intricate jobs, while he was able to build our mother an entire house. He can do almost anything with his hands, while my do it yourself skills usually end at making sandwiches for hobos.

You learn a lot when you’re putting down flooring. Not all of it good.

Space Saver Staircases

My sister, who lives in Chicago in a late 19th century architectural gem has a loft that needs a new staircase, so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ladders, and spiral staircases and other moderately affordable, space saving solutions to her problem.

A spiral stair case would be a dramatic and attractive solution. I, mean, look at this:

Sprial staircase

It’s attractive in a modern way, it doesn’t take up much of the precious floor space, and it looks like great fun. The problem, however, is that spiral staircases are really only for the young and healthy. If you’re a stout person, or elderly, or someone with a bum knee, then a spiral staircase is not the ideal mode of transportation between floors. The treads are too narrow and the turns are too tight for many of us to negotiate in comfort.

The better solution, for her however, is a space-saving staircase (especially if grandma comes to visit). The treads are not quite as narrow, and for a loft like my sister has with a shorter distance to top than a full second floor, there’s no need to put in turns to save space.

The traffic to her loft is comparatively light, they use it mostly for storage, so I would say a relatively inexpensive modular staircase might get the job done.

Today I Worship the Hammer

Eastwing 24oz Rip Hammer with Leather Grip

“Today I worship the hammer,” so ends American poet Carl Sandberg’s short poem “The Hammer“, which isn’t really about hammers so much as humankind’s dualistic nature as builder and destroyer. But, whatever, it’s a good opening line for a short meditation on high-quality hammers and their utility.

What you see above is my favorite hammer, a 24 ounce, Eastwing Leather-Handle Rip Hammer in a straight English pattern. I love it. It feels magnificent in my hand, a beautifully balanced, precision tooled piece of cold steel, made warm to the touch by a piece of cow hide leather.

A well-built, one-piece steel hammer is a pleasure to use. The force of the blow transfers exactly to where you apply it, a mis-strike won’t snap the head off, and the good balance means it’s easy to wield.

Hammers are the King of All Tools, the direct, straight-line descendent of that first rock our distant ancestor, homo habilis, picked up and banged on a coconut, or the bone of a mammoth, or the head of his neighbor. All we’ve done to the hammer since then is improve on the basic concept; added a handle, made it from hardened metal, and attached something that lets us put out the nail we’ve just bent with a clumsy blow.

The hammer: it builds, it destroys. Tools don’t get any better than that.

One Totally Freaking Easy DIY Idea

Canvases? NOPE.

Something about this clever AND CHEAP, very cheap, wall art set-up (and tutorial) from Spunky Junky has me jotting down all kinds of crazy ideas. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it is for those who have found themselves in possession of paint and shoebox tops, but no monies to buy canvases or other supplies. Seriously, those are shoebox tops, repurposed. Who does that? Who even THINKS of that? I’m kind of in awe because I have about $0 to spend on anything decorate-y right now but all kinds of paint.

Still, would probably look better on canvases. There, I said it. DIY on the cheap doesn’t always lead to super pro results. But it’s still cool, as is. And a great idea for the poor/thirfty/boxtop collecting souls who want some chevrons in their lives.

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DIY Decorating You Can Actually Do (and Be Proud Of)

I’m a big fan of DIY decorating – mainly because I’m not exactly loaded in the money department. Would I hire someone else to handle all the finer details of my house if could afford it? Absolument! As it stands, though, if I want something, I can either keep wanting it or figure out how to make a reasonable approximation of that something in my extremely limited amount of free time. The good news? Once you start on the DIY decorating path, you learn some skills and the whole DIY thing gets easier. The bad news? Getting started isn’t always easy, especially if you’re stepping out onto the path with zero experience.

And that’s where tutorials fit in. Of course, if you (like me) scour blogs for DIY decorating tips, then you know that what’s out there ranges from uber fabulous to weirdly wtf. Books tend to be one step up from blogs in the DIY decorating department, if only because there are editors busting out the quality control on the step-by-step so you don’t get to Step 5 and start scratching your head.

Right now, when it comes to DIY decorating, I am digging on Crafting a Meaningful Home: 27 DIY Projects to Tell Stories, Hold Memories, and Celebrate Family Heritage.

If you can follow directions, you can prettify your home. True story.

Crafting a Meaningful Home contains 27 projects designed to tell your personal story or to share your cultural heritage (all of which can be done on a budget by the novice DIYer). All of the projects come from well-known designers, so you know you won’t just be slapping craft paper on tissue boxes when you decide to buy this book.

Of course, necessity isn’t the only reason to engage in DIY decorating and to turn what we already have into something more beautiful. Elise Boulding said: Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. In this case, new and mass produced things.

P.S. – I also like this book and this book… what are some of YOUR favorite DIY guides, online or off?

Inspiration: Mason Jar Lights, Y’All

If you drink homemade iced tea from a mason jar, you may be from the south. Or you may just be visiting me, since a good portion of our drinking glasses actually started out as pasta sauce jars. Surely, mason jars aren’t everyone’s cup… of tea? But I like the way they feel: not delicate, but not particularly heavy, either. Substantial, you might say. And that heft is precisely what makes them good for using in DIY projects. Like mason jar centerpieces, for example. Or how about lights!

Easy enough to do, I should think, and virtually free with the right sauce.

Design*Sponge has an easy tutorial (though it does require an electrician)

Well, y’all, what do you think? Oh so awesome, or way too rustic?

Pallets In the Bedroom?

Looks great, but where'd it come from?

If I say shipping pallet furniture, what comes to mind? I immediately think of stacks and stacks of flat pack being unloaded at Ikea’s back door, but that’s just me. And it’s just wrong. Turns out that people are making more than just frames out of old, no longer useful shipping pallets. There are a ton of DIY projects for the home out there that start and end with shipping pallets. Shipping pallets, you may be surprised to discover, can be made into everything from headboards to patio furniture to bookshelves and more.

But is it safe?

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on where your pallet was born and what it has been used for since. If you want to embark upon a DIY pallet project, make sure the pallets you have at your disposal were made in the U.S. and used within its borders. Pallets used for international shipping, you see, have to be treated with some heavy duty pesticides that sink right into the porous wood. Would I want my kid sleeping up against wood treated with methyl bromide every night? Not particularly. So when you’re collecting pallets for projects, stay safe and make sure you know their chain of custody before making them into a coffee table.

What say you: Pallet furniture… cool or meh?

Quickie DIY Project: Upcycled Cardboard Vase

Got a ton of cardboard boxes stacking up in your basement and nothing to do with them? If there’s no Craigslist around where you are – people will snap up free moving boxes in two seconds flat – and you’d rather do something other than simply recycle them, I have just the project for you. From Inspiration & Realization, a tutorial that will show you in a few easy steps how to create an upcycled cardboard vase (link). Are you going to use your upcycled cardboard vase when the in-laws are coming over? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s definitely a cute project, maybe for kids or a kitschy pad or an eclectic girl who likes her springtime flowers.

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