Happy Early Birthday

… to Jeremy! Jeremy’s birthday isn’t until August 8th, but he bought himself some presents anyways:

New Turn TableA fancy “new” turn table and a cool table to set it on! We have a pretty (but not audiophile-friendly) record player in the hall/foyer, but Jeremy wanted one for the downstairs. He watched for turntables on eBay for months, and finally decided on this one, a Technics SL- D205.
The little table fits the turn table perfectly! It’s from Home Goods. Supposedly it is made in India from reclaimed/recycled wood – hence the various colors and textures. It’s pretty cool. The cabinet is the perfect size for vinyl. The drawer is also handy, since it houses the preamp. The turn table plugs into the preamp, and the preamp connects to our receiver. The preamp is necessary for the turn table to work with our modern receiver.

Hole in TableWires in HoleTo keep things looking neat, Jeremy drilled a hole in the back of the table for the wires. The turn table’s wires go in, and the preamp’s come out and plug into the wall.

Audio In JackThis is the magic of the media room! Just plug your turn table into the wall and get magic surround sound! In reality, there is a wire that runs through the walls and plugs into the receiver in our storage room. The running of the wire was my gift to Jeremy.

Here’s where things get complicated. First, let’s start with placement. Wouldn’t it be better if the audio jack was closer to the outlet? Look back to the first picture in the post, the table doesn’t hide the plug. Well, I agree with you, that would look better.

MistakesSo, I first cut a hole next to the outlet. The plan was to remove the baseboard and run the wires along the floor to the corner, and then behind the built-in bookcase. Behind the bookcase is accessible via under the stairs, so I thought it would be easy.

Wrong. I forgot that along this wall the foundation is elevated. So, behind the baseboard is cement. In order to get the wires to the corner and behind the bookcase I would have to drill a hole through the studs in my way. That was not happening. So, my new hole is on the other side of the stud. The next part was to get behind the bookcase.

Behind BookcaseHere I am under the stairs, behind the bookcase. You can see the MDF boxes we built, wedged between the studs. Now, let’s zoom-in to the upper left-hand corner:

Stud FinderThe brown to the right is the MDF backing of the bookcase. When I pull back the insulation I can access the stud that forms the corner of the two walls. As you can see, there are already some wires running through that stud: the speaker wire for our left rear in-wall speaker, electric and ground wire for outlets (don’t worry, I turned the power off). Above the electric wire I drilled a hole. Then I used the fish tape to push the audio wires through the stud and out the hole in the wall.

Wires InstalledTa-da! These wires hook up to the back of the jack cover. Now we can enjoy vinyl downstairs, very loudly. It sounds great coming from our in-wall speakers. I really can tell the difference between this new turn table and our not-as-professional record player. We’re listening to records I’ve heard a thousand times and I am picking up on elements I just couldn’t hear before.

But wait, what about that extra hole I cut in the wall? For the solution to that and many other drywall issues, check out my next post. :)

Pallet Shelf and Nautical Wall

I’ll just cut to chase:

Nautical WallAfter updating the bench with a new cushion cover and relocating it, I wanted a way to make the bench blend in more with the media room. Jeremy received the octopus/squid art for Christmas and we had not yet found a place for it. The art is printed on plywood, so it compliments the wooden bench. I also have my ship art (that I made here) so I decided to seek out other elements for a nautical themed wall.


BarometerThe barometer and weathered pulley are from an antiques shop in Annapolis. The barometer is British made. It’s difficult to tell if it is working properly or not, but the hands have moved (on their own) over the past few days as the weather has changed (it reported that today was windy and cool). There was a larger, way cooler barometer at the shop, but it was $235 while this one was $35. The man at the shop estimated that the more expensive barometer was WWII era. There were several pulleys at the shop but I like this one best because it is wooden and metal. Most of the others were completely metal, and more rusted. This one is weathered, but not damaged.

While selecting pulleys Jeremy and I brainstormed how to display the pulley. Hang it by the hook? Lace rope through the pulley and hang the rope from the ceiling? Then we decided we could display it on a shelf. Then Jeremy got the crazy idea to make a shelf from a pallet.

PalletYou might remember last week I mentioned that a pallet was one of the many things crowding our garage. Now that the garage was organized, Jeremy decided to put the workspace to use. He started by lightly sanding the rough pallet with his orbital sander.

Sanded PalletJeremy sanded the boards just enough to smooth them out, but not enough to remove the great texture that’s pictured. I liked that you could see the blade marks from when the boards were first sliced. After some sanding, Jeremy just chopped off a section of the pallet to form a shelf.

Pallet ShelfHere is the sanded pallet shelf, ready to be treated. In this photo, the top left corner of the shelf has already been treated with Behandla polish from IKEA. We purchased this sealant for my table in the craft room. It seals and protects the wood without needing to be sanded like varnish. It is also less toxic.

One Coat Two CoatsJeremy gave the shelf (top, bottom and sides) a coat of the sealant. As you can see, it brought back the rich colors that were “lost” with the sanding.

Hanging the shelfTo hang the self, Jeremy inserted a small 2×4 block into the shelf. He pre-drilled three screw holes into the block for mounting. Then Jeremy attached the block with three of the original pallet nails through the top of the shelf. I held the shelf in place while Jeremy screwed the block into the wall. The center screw is in a stud and the other two are in drywall.

Finished ShelfTo hide the mounting mechanism, Jeremy wedged in another piece of wood from the pallet.

Pulley on the ShelfThe pallet shelf is rugged and weathered like the pulley. I love that the shelf is imperfect. A shelf like this would be great for an entryway. Below the overhang you could mount some hooks for jackets or keys. Jeremy likes the shelf because it cost zero dollars.

Nautical CornerWe’re really happy with how everything turned out. There are so many interesting things happening in that corner of the room. All the different wood tones bring a warm element to the cool greys, blues and greens in the room. The nautical theme continues a little onto the mantel, where the ship art still resides with our vases of stones from the beach. Definitely still keeping my eyes open for an anchor or small ship’s wheel to add to the wall. A wheel would look awesome over the mantel.

What do you think or this nautical arrangement? Totally love Jeremy’s pallet shelf?

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Continued Clean-Up

Last week I posted about the little bench cushion revamp. Moving the bench to the other side of the media room left the corner by the window looking like this:

Hot MessThe first order of business was cleaning up the items on the shelf. Jeremy replaced the chunky green surge protector with a smaller, off-white one. He was also able to replace the ethernet wire and coaxial cable with shorter ones. The other wires were cleaned up with a few twisty-ties.

ImprovementHard to believe something so simple could make such an impact. While the wires are still not ideal, it’s much cleaner than before. We did some brainstorming about how we could possibly do a little built-in cubby for the routers. This is the only access we have to the internet, so we don’t have any options for moving the routers to a hidden location. But the shelf is hollow, so we could possible build-in a nook for them. We’ll see if those ideas come to fruition.

Owl BookendCarved BookendsThe routers are sitting on these cool wooden owl bookends Jeremy found at the thrift store. It’s a weird combination of bookends and shelf, which connects the two owls. The shelf has some cool carvings, which I forgot to capture before covering them with electronics. The shot above was the best I could do, without moving everything. Since we have our horse bookends and built-in bookcase we didn’t need these owls for books. using the bookends with the routers makes the mess feel more contained.

At the end of the shelf, I placed our music books (sheet music and guitar tabs). Then we brought over the keyboard to make this music corner complete.

Music CornerPlus, the keyboard helps hide those two remaining wires. Do you think it looks better than before?

Hot MessI don’t know if it is the new arrangement or the bright sunshine coming through the window, but everything just feels so much lighter. All I need to do now is update the keyboard’s cover with fabric that matches better. Did I mention I have a fabric problem? And the ladies at the quilt shop are enablers.

A Little Revamp

We have a lot of problem corners in our house. That is, things get placed out of the way, in the corner, to live indefinitely.

Hot MessOne such area is this corner of the media room. On the shelf we have our routers and such, our remote charger, batteries, etc. In front of the shelf is a bench that became the drop-zone for Rock Band guitars, real guitars and their accessories. I decided it was time to move the bench, and deal with this mess a little.

Bench's New LocationI moved the bench into the empty corner of the room, where we put up the Christmas tree. This bench was in my father’s house, and thus holds a lot of sentimental value. Although the dark wood doesn’t really match the other elements of the room, we don’t want to alter it. For now, we’ll work with it as it is, in the space where we can use it.

The real problem anyways is the cushion. The cushion is from the photo booth Jeremy built for our wedding. Our colors were hot pink and black – hence the fuchsia velvet of the cushion. When Jeremy started deconstructing the photo booth, the cushion moved to this bench, because it is the same length.

Cushion Shape-upThe foam was however too wide. A great trick for cutting foam is to use an electric carving knife. Just draw a cutting line and the knife will move through the foam smoothly, like warm butter.

New FabricI chose this fabric to compliment the other green tones downstairs. I suppose it gives off a little winter-sweater vibe, but I love how graphic it is.

To construct the cover, I use the same type of techniques as when making bags (like messenger bags). Check out the book Sew What! Bags for excellent instructions. Basically, you cut rectangular panels for each side of the cushion, leaving 1/2″ for seam allowance. For the bottom of the cushion, cut two panels so that they overlap in the middle. This is where you will insert the pillow/cushion.

New CushionThe new fabric helps the dark bench blend better with the room. The hot pink was just screaming, “Look at this weird furniture that doesn’t fit in anywhere!” From far away, you can hardly tell the fabric is patterned, it just looks lime greeny.

GreensHere’s a better close-up. New cushion, bench and other colors of the room. The cushion fabric picks up the lighter green tones of the paisley in the fireplace vent covers. I have some art ideas to help further tie the darker colors all together. Hopefully more about that soon (we’ve got some serious thrifting to do).

And as for the other corner of the room?

Hot MessStill a hot mess. We’ll share our ideas for how to fix that later.

What clutter projects have you been tackling? What elements of your home need a revamp?

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Art Update

Do you remember months ago when I wrote about the cool art we got at the Annapolis Art Festival? Or these colorful chickens from my grandparents? Well, I am not surprised if you don’t. The good news is that we’ve finally gotten these items up on the wall!

I was hesitant to hang the turquoise and red kitchen art before my (proposed) kitchen make-over. Then I realized that when (and if) we ever do a complete overhaul of the kitchen, moving the art will not be a big deal.

Besides, ever since I hung the art in the kitchen I have hated it less. The bright art lightens the darkness of the green counter tops and dark wood cabinets.

I finally found an embellished frame for “The Handover”. The detailing around the frame fits in nicely with the damask elements of our dining room.

That frame looks a little lonely on the wall though, doesn’t he? I think another frame the same size would balance the space out. Jeremy things that a large piece would fit the space best. What do you think?

We also added some new art downstairs – art not previously mentioned. In the photo above, the open door is the downstairs restroom and the other door leads to the laundry room.

I like the diagonal created with the light switch, art and door frame. The art is a signed posted for mewithoutYou‘s new album Ten Stories. You should definitely go check out that album right now.

How do you like the placement of the arts? How do you like that kitchen linoleum?

I Have Been and Always Shall Be Your Friend

If the title didn’t give away the content of this post, let me continue further: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise…”. Have you figured it out yet?

Yes, we have added Kirk and Spock to our collection of celebrity portraits (remember Uma and Johnny?). These silk screen prints are from DC artist Tracie Ching. To give the portraits the royal treatment, I tracked down two oval frames. In fact, they were only two oval frames I could find.

I found Kirk’s frame at Silk & Burlap in downtown Frederick, MD for $38. I fell in love with it right away, and the clerk’s measurements revealed it was the perfect size. The only problem was that frame was glassless and backless.

The girls at Silk & Burlap recommended City Glass and Mirror to fix my glassless problem. I took the frame down to City Glass and Mirror and he cut the glass for me in about 10 minutes, for $17.76

As for the backless problem, I fashioned a cardboard insert (top photo) and a back. The cardboard back is attached with eight craft staples. I was nervous about stapling into the delicate frame, but everything went smoothly.

Spock’s frame has also had an interesting journey. It started like this:

I snagged this frame for $5 at Goodwill (it even has glass!). This sad gold frame also happens to be plastic. We decided to freshen it up with white paint. I used a brush to give the illusion of wood.

This is the frame after one coat of paint. Definitely getting the wood grain effect with the brush strokes. The paint is leftover trim paint, so this was a free make-over.

Jeremy and I like how the portraits bring together the staircase with the book-case in the media room. Kirk’s green shirt coordinates well with the greens downstairs. Both portraits offer a nice pop of color on the dark grey walls.

We are very pleased with our classy Star Trek portraits. You might notice that Spock’s frame is crisp white while Kirk’s is more of an off-white. I like the not-matching, but Jeremy argues that Kirk’s frame should be bright white. It’s true that the off-white contrasts with all the crisp white trim near by. Perhaps Kirk will get a make-over.

Are you a fan of our lightspeed-traveling friends? Don’t you think the oval frames are the perfect touch? I am so glad I found them!

Fanciful Fireplace Vent Covers

We are always looking for ways to cut down on energy costs and save money (hence the audit last week). One problem that needed to be addressed is our drafty fireplace.

It is a gas fireplace; we’ve used it twice. It lacks a blower, so it is not very efficient at heating. The vents above and below the glass are bringing in cold air and thieving our warm air. I had thought about making a cover for the fireplace (like this, only prettier), but Jeremy said all we really needed were fireplace vent covers.

I found several retailers online (like this company) that sell different colored magnetic strips that cover the vents. Home Depot and Lowes also sell magnetic vent covers, but only 8″ x 15″. We need two strips with dimensions 35.75″ x 6″ and 35.75″ x 6.375″. Plus, the HD/Lowes covers only came in white. That’s when I decided to make some magnetic covers of my own.

I picked up two rolls of magnetic adhesive sheets (12″ x 24″ each). To make the 35.75″ x 6″ strip for the bottom vent, I cut one sheet lengthwise. For the 35.75″ x 6.325″ strip, I cut three pieces of magnet, each 6.325″ wide.

Then I stuck the sticky side down on the wrong side of some fabric.

I lined up the magnet strip with the waste of the fabric. Above you can see the pattern weights preventing the ends from curling up. I used black electrical tape to enforce the seams where the strip was pieced together. This helped to prevent further curling, and added some support.

Here they are! Definitely a colorful way to block drafts. I wish the bottom cover could be a little taller, so that you wouldn’t see the brass of the vent. Increasing the height would make the cover too floppy. The top of the vent is not flush with the sides, so the center of the magnet wouldn’t have anything to cling to.

The fabric is a little sheer, so the black of the magnet is influencing the colors. I already had this fabric on hand, so it did not add to the cost of the project. The fabric coordinates nicely with the other cool colors (and bright greens!) in the media room.

Here’s the view from farther away. Jeremy and I are pleased with how the colors and pattern of the fabric tie in with the elements of the room. We’re interested for the follow-up to our audit to see the impact the covers have made (albeit small).

Do you like our colorful cent covers? What are your solutions to drafty fireplaces?