Public Service Announcement: Here’s what a drawer is not for

I really like redoing vanities and those smallish older style desks. I really dislike working with drawers in general. Mostly because I just figure it out as I fumble along. I dislike building them even more, but that is for another post.

Every time I have refinished a vanity/smallish desk except for one time, it has had exactly one drawer with a bottom ruined by water (or some other liquid? A bottle of bourbon?) that I’ve had to replace. It’s not that difficult and it gets easier as I go, so I’m not complaining. I’m just marvelling at the string of desks I’ve acquired whose former owners may or may not have known not to store liquid in a drawer.

Damaged desk drawer bottom

Wrinkly desk drawer bottom

In case you were wondering…don’t use a drawer as a water bowl for your dog. Don’t keep fish in it. Don’t dump a bottle of rubbing alcohol in it. Just don’t put anything liquid in your drawers.

Don’t know what will become of this old girl yet, but it’ll be something fabulous once I find a way to fix the missing foot in the back.

older wood desk

Smallish old desk before


Vanity Refinish the III/I do not make these things up

I love the lines of this vanity. It reminds me of something you’d see in the office of a private detective in the 1940s.

Slick lines

It was another CL find. $20 and painted peach. I deposited my son at my neighbor’s house and hightailed it over to the address I was given.

“I didn’t think anyone would want this old thing,” the seller told me. “But I got 10 emails for it the first hour.” Score.

Vanity before refinishing

Vanity in its peach incarnation.

She had replaced the hardware as well with these card catalog handles, which I liked well enough. It looked kind of industrial, which I guess is all the rage in design right now. Which means they will be this moment’s avocado green next month. It was really light and I was able to unload it by myself. So no legs were broken in the unloading of this piece.

She had done a decent paint job, but hadn’t really puttied any dents. I was curious to see how many layers of paint there were, so out came the Citristrip.

Turned out it wasn’t covered in layers upon layers of gunk. I managed to scrape off most of the paint/primer on the desktop. Then sanded. And sanded more. Then puttied. Then sanded again. Then puttied again. And sanded again. Then sanded some more.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I find that I spend most of my time sanding and applying wood putty when I do refinishes. I know, “the prep work is the important part.” Anyway, there were several hairline cracks, probably from age, maybe from the wood not being dried long enough, and my garage temperature in the middle of the summer in Texas doesn’t help. The top consisted of planks that appeared to be edge glued and probably joined with biscuits. One of the planks had shifted slightly to be millimeters higher than the adjacent plank.

Then there was the issue of one of the drawers. The drawers had dovetailed joints. They’re old but still solid. This particular drawer’s bottom was in poor shape – it looked like it had gotten wet at some point and had some deep cracks that ran nearly the length of the board, never mind the raised grain. A groove was routed in all 4 sides of the drawer so that the bottom just floated in it. And because of that, I didn’t know how to get it out.

You can see in this picture that the bottom of the back had a clean break right behind the groove. It looked like I could feasibly just break it off without any trouble and pull out the bottom. But this is my life and those kinds of things don’t happen to me.

Drawer back

Drawer back. Notice I refrained from using the word “crack” in the same sentence as “drawer” and “back”.

My woodworker neighbor had been out of town, so I was happy to see their car in their driveway (because I like them, not just because I could harass him about furniture). He pointed out a dot in the back that was apparently a nail and suggested I carefully pull out the nail, pull off the back, then the bottom.

So I got out a crowbar and started pulling very gently. It came out, but it wasn’t a nail. I ended up breaking that little piece off the back after all. And it was a clean cut! I didn’t break the drawer this time!

Drawer back after I broke it

Drawer back after I broke it.

The problem was that the bottom wouldn’t come out. One side was loose, but the other wouldn’t budge. I was sick of dealing with it, so I did what any sensible person would do. I got out a pair of pliers and just ripped the bottom into little pieces until it came out.

Broken drawer bottom, pliers.

This is where I really broke it.

Some 1/8” scrap wood, probably from another old vanity, done. Prime. Sand. Putty because priming showed more imperfections that I couldn’t see before. Sand more. Paint. Not done.

After 3 thin coats, I just needed one more light coat before applying poly. I went back to the garage and picked up my paint can to shake it. And discovered that I had forgotten to seal the lid back on.

What ensued looked like something out of a Wheaties commercial from the 80s where the camera zooms in on some liquid that’s supposed to resemble milk splashing over all the flakes. But instead of pouring out of a pitcher, picture it placed in a blender without the lid and hitting the On button. About half a gallon of Antique White Valspar paint flew everywhere. Like, on me, and on (and in) my Bosch sander. I yelled a few words, then yelled for my husband. No answer. I ran to the door leading into the house, poked my head in, and yelled again. No answer. I grabbed a few rags and sort of soaked up part of the mess.

When I got my head back on, I realized that paint was soaking into the innards of my sander, so I’d better wipe that up. I yelled for my husband again and this time he answered. I yelled that I really, really needed his help.

He grabbed towels and started mopping up the spreading puddle. He handed me some wire to clear the paint out of the holes of my sander. The scene was actually quite boring.

Sander covered in paint

My poor sander after the first clean off

Husband calmly asked me to get some garbage bags and more towels. Having splashed paint on one foot, I hopped across the living room on the other foot to the kitchen. “At least you’re ok,” he said as I handed him the materials. “It’s just stuff.”

Husband cleaning wife's mess

My patient hero.

I sadly picked up my sander, covered in paint, with a heavy heart. “I’m afraid it’s gone,” he said. “But maybe, just maybe, if we turn it on, the centrifugal force will keep the paint from congealing.” This is how nerds think.

I turned it on, fully expecting it to sputter and die a dramatic, expensive death. And it came on. And sounded and looked completely normal!

As of this writing, my sander is bravely soldering on. Oh, and I finished the vanity.

Vanity after refinishing

Vanity after

The evolving duck house

I used to say, “I have an ugly house.” Now I just say that I have an ugly-duckling house.

I clearly recall thinking when we first looked at the house, “I’ll grow to like it.” I think that’s very different from thinking, “I see what I can do with this house,” or something similar. It should’ve been a red flag, but it wasn’t.

We jumped on the house for a variety of reasons. It’s in a neighborhood we really, really wanted to be in, it was in better shape than other homes in the area we looked at, and homes here at the time were going fast because the market was hot back then.

So we got it. And I hated it. We moved from a cute condo to an ugly house with foundation problems. And I sulked for 3 years. The ad for the home when we first read about it said, “Brand new carpet!!” It was one of maybe 2 houses we looked at with carpet. I just didn’t get why someone was advertising that with such aplomb.

The house was built in the early 70s when popcorn ceilings riddled with asbestos and dark wood paneling were the bomb. The previous owner had made some updates, and for sure, I’m not complaining. But I have to say that many of them were done very poorly. Like, she repainted the whole interior of the home. She painted the whole thing, except for the two bathrooms, cream. I don’t mind splashes of cream here and there, but when your entire house is bathed in it, it just looks filthy.

It wouldn’t have bothered me quite as much if it was done well. Which it wasn’t.

I regret not taking more pictures, but I didn’t see the point back then because it was just so ugly. The front entry way actually has some really nice wainscoting. But the moulding had drips dried on it and the character of the moulding was so marred because it was caked in paint. I don’t know how else to describe it aside from picture someone with a 5-gallon bucket of paint they just threw against the wall with the lid open, then kind of spread it out with their hands.

great room before

Before: Ugly shot 1. Entry/front room. The week we moved in, adding to the ugly.

Great room before 2.

Before: Ugly shot 2. Front room/”formal dining area”.

great room/dining area before

Before: Ugly shot 3. Front room/”formal dining”.

The inside of the front door, which has stood half stripped since November, was also painted in a similar manner with hair and dirt visibly stuck in the layers. The window trim wasn’t sanded before repainting, so there are visible missing chips of a layer of paint, and a lot of the newer paint is now chipping. The painting was obviously done in a hurry and on the cheap. I often think that she must’ve paid some kids in the neighborhood to paint it for pizza and beer.

We have two living areas, the “front room” and the smaller “middle room”. The smaller living area has sloped ceilings, which is nice, and a ceiling fan. We’re not getting rid of it because we live in Texas and it’s beastly hot in the summer, even with the AC on, so sorry decor police. It had a brown fan with the biggest light fixture I had ever seen in the shape of a large white ball. If it sounds remotely cool, it was not. It was the biggest eyesore in the house and the ceiling looked like it had a malignant tumor growing out of it. I really wish I had taken a picture so I could share the offensive nature of this light fixture.

The guest bathroom was painted in a shade of blue that was love at first sight for me, Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage. It was in the garage and the outside of the can had more paint on it than the inside. There was a significant amount left, so I painted the breakfast nook with it.

I loved it so much that I wanted to paint part of the great room with it. After doing some research on paint, I settled on using Benjamin Moore’s Gray Wisp.

I know every home blogger, contractor, and their mom loves BM. I hated it. I cursed every moment that I spent painting with it and swore never to use BM ever again. The first coat looked like I put water tinted with a little paint on the wall. No matter how quickly I went, there were lap marks all over the wall. You can call me inexperienced, but I had gotten better results on the first coat using Valspar and Behr. I probably should’ve just taken it back and asked for my money back, but I didn’t know any better then.

I’ll admit that it did look great with a second coat, but I haven’t changed my mind yet.

So it stayed like that for 3 years and I hated it. I hated my kitchen with its laminate counters, dirty-white cabinets, and lack of storage. Especially when I saw a lot of friends remodel their kitchens with their beautiful, shiny granite counters. I hated it so much that I neglected to really notice the several neighbors who brought us dinner and baby gear when my son was born, would often watch my son at a moment’s notice, have dinner with us, stop to chat when we were all outside…all because I was so obsessed with how my house looked.

My husband brought up several times the idea of us moving if I hated it that much, and every time I’d say, “Well…but I really like the neighbors…”. I’m not sure what changed my mind, but one day I just woke up and realized how good we have it here. I was being petty and ungrateful and I really just needed to shut it. You can always change the interior of your house and organize your kitchen more efficiently, but you can’t really change your neighbors that easily.

This is already way too long. So my husband out of the kindness of his heart, after looking at our budget, decided to get me wood floors for my birthday in 2011, and it is my birthday present for the next 5 years.

We went with a fellow named Tom Manion, and if you’re in the Austin area looking to redo your floors, he is fabulous. We briefly considered doing them ourselves for about half an hour, then came to our senses and realized we just didn’t have the bandwidth. Which was fortunate because it took about 17 bags of concrete to level our floors. We went with laminate floors from Shaw. So that removed about 75% of the ugliness factor. Well, in my opinion, because I hate carpet that much.

I painted the wainscoting (here is a picture at the bottom) and installed the chair rail myself. I decided not to repeat the picture boxes on the other walls because I’m lazy and those walls are covered by couches anyway. I had some more oops paint which I used to paint the far walls. It is ‘Seascape’ from Valspar. I will one day paint the remaining wall, the long one with the windows, white, and perhaps install more moulding. That, along with dealing with the popcorn and replacing the octopus light on the ceiling, is for another day. Until then, I will continue to choose to be happy in this home and neighborhood.

Install chair rail

Chair rail in progress

living room after paint moulding

The ugly duckling room today in real time with sleeping cat and kid gear

A patio slab deuglified and some lessons learned

Patio set plans by The Design Confidential, built by Coffee Under the Umbrella

My DIY patio set with some cute guy

As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to build a set of benches and tables for the sad, unused little concrete slab of a patio outside our sliding glass door to the backyard. So here’s some background.

The previous owner of our home, we were told, had a dog. The backyard, when we moved in, was kind of in shambles. And the two are apparently directly related.

I’ve never had a dog, but I guess they can wreak havoc on backyards if left to their devices in that they can dig up your entire yard, which is what happened in our case. It was a large plot of bare patches of dirt, invasive trees and ivies, and a few nice trees. A sizable oak right next to the slab and a tall pecan in another location. And that’s it for the nice trees. There was a huge, huge chinaberry tree right in the back corner of our fence that was pushing the fence over into both our next-door neighbor’s yard and that of the neighbor behind us. And several hackberry and mulberry trees along the back of the fence.

About half the yard has no shade at all. An automatic sprinkler system came with the house, which we’re really grateful for, but in the furnace of the central Texas summers, not much survives in that patch.

Some previous owner seemed to have liked flowering plants, but also seemed to have not known much about those plants. There are several really beautiful bulbs planted around the backyard…all in areas that receive little to no direct sun. There was a little patch of canna lilies that never bloomed (and also which I killed this past spring, which I realize takes some talent to do…but we won’t talk about that. I never claimed to have green thumbs!). And there are several bulbs planted right at the base of the big oak, and of course, most of them are in total shade most of the year. There are some purple irises and paper whites, which weakly bloom in the spring, and several others that have never bloomed, so I don’t know what they are. My plan was originally to dig them up last winter and relocate them to the corner that the chinaberry was at (we had it cut down shortly after moving in), then install a rock patio around the oak. But I couldn’t because the bulbs started growing in NOVEMBER last winter when we started getting more rain after the long hard drought. So there they languish another summer.

Anyway. I was unhappy about that patio, as I was about the rest of the house, for over 3 years. I’ll detail more about the lessons I learned regarding that in a later post. The red chairs were my first attempts at deuglifying the slab…after which I stopped for whatever reason and decided complaining was a lot funner. Yeah, I’m sure my husband will tell you what a party I was.

Porch slab before


As I mentioned before, planning my son’s birthday party was the main motive behind getting off my bum and deciding to actually do something about it. I needed more seating, I needed a place to put stuff on, and I needed shade. I started there.

I dislike metal patio furniture, for whatever reason. It feels cold and unwelcoming to me (even though it is often too hot to sit on during the summer). I love the warmth of wood and dislike the prices of most wood patio furniture, so lumber and power tools to the rescue again. I looked through both Ana White’s site and Rayan Turner’s, and eventually settled on these benches and this table (and if you visit the links, you will see my build showcased).

I got the table frame built and square. I felt like a rock star when I saw how perfectly in alignment the aprons were with my carpenter’s square. I had built it while it was lying upside down on the patio, and was too excited to wait for my husband to come home to help me flip it, and it wasn’t heavy, so I figured there would be no harm in flipping it over myself. I thought I was pretty resourceful until 2 of the legs broke off as I was turning it.

I think my husband came home that day to me crying (again), but by then I had cried over so many projects that he was pretty nonchalant about it. I had considerably more problems accepting my imperfections back then than I do now. He gave me a pep talk and a hug as he stepped over the drill and the bits lying on the living room floor. He was, and continues to be, so awesome. I continued to sulk that evening.

The next day, I wrote to Rayan for the first time to let her know what happened and if she could offer any suggestions. I wasn’t really expecting an answer, but I actually got one within half an hour! “Don’t panic!” was the first thing she told me. She went on assure me that I didn’t completely break the table and that it was salvageable.

So I just flipped the legs over and reattached them. I think I recall having to take some things apart and redo them, which sucked, and was stressful since I had a deadline of my son’s party, but I sucked it up and did it. And made sure my husband was able to help me flip it over. (Note: If you take these on, I’d suggest you add some support brackets underneath where the aprons attach to the legs.)

That was done. I started on the table top. And here is where I learned a very difficult lesson.

I was very aware than a 1 x 4 board does not measure 1” by 4”. Really, I was. But I was unaware that a lot of them also don’t measure 3/4” by 3.5” either. I found this out when I was drilling the pocket holes for the table top. I had attached the outside frame together beautifully, then flipped it over and let out a primal scream when I saw that every. Single. Screw. Was poking out the other side.

I had already applied 3 coats of very not cheap sealer to these boards. I measured their exact width. 5/8”. Every single one. I wanted blood. I didn’t know whose, but I wanted someone’s.

I visited a few forums and submitted my questions. Was this common? Is there any way I could make this work? Some suggested I set my Kreg jig for 1/2” stock and to just use the 1.25” screws. Most told me to demand a refund and go find a real lumberyard.

I did, then called around. The first lumberyard I called didn’t carry western red cedar and explained that finding a 1x piece of cedar that’s actually 3/4” is actually difficult these days because of the nature of how they are cut. I don’t know how true that is (perhaps someone really familiar with the industry who is reading this can enlighten me), but I had to move on since they didn’t carry it anyway.

I found this place, and the fact that it’s women-owned and managed was a bonus. I got my lumber, they were all 3/4”, and I was happy. I finished the table top and was happier. Getting the little pieces in took the longest to do because the openings weren’t equal width across the length of the table top. I thanked God when I was finished with that.

I needed benches. And I needed to cut the angled back legs with something. I borrowed a jigsaw and tried at first to cut out the rounded legs on some scrap 2x4s. I decided to scrap that plan and go with angled legs.

I borrowed my neighbor’s Porter Cable circular saw. And it scared the daylights out of me with all its testosterone. So much that I had to buy my own (I bought a little Skil saw).

I had a week to build two benches. My husband lifted his eyebrows and nodded when I told him. He patted my shoulder. “No matter what happens, I’ll still be proud of you,” he said. Ok, whatever.

And I did it. I later ended up reinforcing the joints with some diagonal bracing, stretchers, and dowels, which my neighbor kindly showed me how to do. But I finished them before the party. I bought the cushions at Garden Ridge Pottery – they are actually meant for a lounge chair, but were the perfect length. I drilled an umbrella hole for the table, then looked for the umbrella. The one we chose is from Costco, made with Sunbrella fabric. The base is a very heavy granite square with wheels. The best part is that we got both from craigslist.

Bench bracing by Coffee Under the Umbrella

How I reinforced the bench

I got some charming little hanging candle holders from Pier 1 and Ikea and eventually some potted plants. The small white table I threw together with scraps from this plan. Another neighbor kindly gave me the baby spider plant that you can’t really see, and the stupid-heavy concrete planter it’s in was in the backyard when we moved in. And yet another neighbor gave me the bougainvillea in the white planter. You might be able to suspect why I decided to stop griping over the ugly factor of my house – because I have the most amazing and generous neighbors.

So that is the story of my patio, and the picture is where it stands today.

Patio after by Coffee Under the Umbrella


Ana White kid chairs and table

Ana White $4 chairs and Clara Table built by Coffee Under the Umbrella

Ana White $4 chairs and Clara Table

My little boy needed a table to sit at. The adults needed a “kids table” for when we have dinner guests. This served both functions. I had enough scrap for two chairs and spent a few bucks on the lumber for the table, some Valspar primer and spray paint, Kreg jig for the table top, and there it was. Another set of Ana White’s plans for you.

The only modification I made to the chairs was that I used pocket holes to fasten the back aprons to the side aprons for added strength instead of using wood screws through the end grain. I was barely able to squeeze my drill in the square but did it by severely contorting my wrist and hand.

My garage sale dining table

I bought my first real piece of furniture, new, when I was single and in my mid 20s. I agonized over the decision because it was my first real big purchase. As a freelance musician, I didn’t have a lot of cash to burn, and while I won’t divulge how long ago that was, I didn’t know anything then about refinishing furniture.

It was a dining table with 4 chairs and solidly built. I have no idea what sort of wood it was, but it was solid wood with a tile inset in the table top. And it was freakin heavy because of that tile top. My friends hated me when it was time to move.

My 1st real piece of furniture

My 1st real piece of furniture! With dirty grout!

I asked my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, what he thought, because I really thought that it was going to be ours. He muttered that it was ok, but that the grout would be difficult to clean. And that I should just get it if I really wanted it. I was not as practical of a person then as I am now, so I just thought I’d learn to deal with it. I loved it, so I bought it.

And I owned it for 9 years. It saw cats being shooed off and a baby smearing stuff all over the top and into the grout. By now, the grout always had gunk in it. And I grudgingly admitted that my husband had been right. And he graciously didn’t respond at all when I told him that.

My tastes had changed considerably over the years. I no longer liked the swirly pink tile look. I wanted something clean that would fit in our little breakfast nook. I didn’t want to go through all the effort to build a table that wouldn’t accommodate more than 4-5 comfortably. More on that in a later post.

One Saturday morning we spied a garage sale on the street behind us. We wandered over and I spied a dining table. It was wood and a very common farmhouse sort of style with an atrocious honey sort of shellac-y finish on it. And it was $25 because the owner just wanted it gone. Sold! She loaded it into her SUV and was nice enough to drive it over to our house.

And like a lot of projects at my house, it sat in my garage for A Really Long Time. Here it is in its original finish with, as every other surface in my house, a bunch of crap on it. Including the second Skil sander I owned that lived a very short life.

My $25 garage sale table

My $25 garage sale table in its honey shellac-y glory

I finally got around to sanding it down. And I used my Minwax Mahogany Gel Stain again. And it looked horrendous.

What I should’ve done is apply wood conditioner. It had a “fishy eye” appearance in which most of the surface looked fine, but there were these odd little blotches here and there about the size of a fish eye, which apparently is rather common, as Google told me.

So I stripped it again after it sat in my garage and served as a work table for a while. And I applied wood conditioner this time. And decided to try a water based stain. I tried Minwax’s Express stain that comes in a tube. And here was the result.

Table refinish 1.

Take 2. Ugh.

Yeah, I wasn’t a fan, either.

By now I was crying at the thought of stripping it again. My husband told me to just “spend the money! Stop being a tightwad! We’re going to use this for 20 years and it was $25!” I was told to spend money?! Wahoo.

I went to my local Woodcraft. I heart those guys. It’s 5 minutes from my house and staffed mostly by old-timers who never look at me funny when I show them pictures of my projects that I just broke and ask what I need to fix it (with the understanding that I’m going to actually buy something from them, of course). I showed the guy there a picture of the horrible stain job. He refrained from laughing hysterically at me and politely asked what I used, and he never batted an eye when I told him. “Not good?” he asked. “Not good,” I replied. I threw a barrage of questions at him, including whether I’d have to strip the table again completely. “Not necessarily,” he replied. Which made him my hero.

I told him I wanted to use water-based stain. Mostly because I can’t throw away oil-based stains or staining rags in the garbage. I’d have to take them to our city’s hazardous waste facility and it’s a 25 minute drive from my house (laugh all you want, big-city dwellers. We complain about commutes longer than 15 minutes in these parts). He showed me General Finishes water-based stain in Espresso. “I use this for clients all the time,” he told me. I asked him if water-based stains were all that much worse than oil-based. “Ten years ago, they were,” he said. “They’ve come a long way since then.” I asked what he would use for his own house. “Oil. I’m old school,” he replied.

Since this is already way too much detail, I bought the GF water-based Espresso stain. I gave the table top a light sanding and applied the stain right over the existing mahogany with a rag. And it looked amazing. 4 coats, then 4 coats of poly, a fresh coat of white paint on the legs, sold the tile top dining table, and done.

dining table refinished espresso

Isn’t she slick?

dining table after refinish espresso

Because you have to see it in context.


One can never have too much vanity

A lot of people on craigslist, I have found, oftentimes do not know the value of what they have.

I acquired two vanities around the same time. The first I bought from the original owner’s granddaughter for $25. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a before shot, but it was overall in good condition. It has a long crack on the inside and the two halves of the crack shifted, if that makes sense, so I couldn’t just stuff a glob of wood putty and call it done. In the end, I decided not to do anything since the vanity was still quite solid, and I also wasn’t planning on selling it. I had wanted a “writer’s desk” in the guest room of my house for awhile, inspired by Centsational Girl’s writer’s desk here, and it was not going to see much use anyway.

Sand, prime, paint the body, and done. I used Zinsser’s water-based primer in the blue can and probably some Valspar basic white. I stripped the top down with my sander, 80-100-150-220, and for the rounded edges I used a folded up piece of 60 grit sandpaper and went up from there. I stained the top with 2 layers of Minwax Gel Stain in Mahogany and 3 coats of polyurethane.

Vanity #1 After

Vanity #1 After with Pretty Little Chair.

Here’s the other vanity I bought in process because I again forgot to get a ‘Before’ shot. I don’t remember what I paid, but as I don’t buy things for more than a few bucks on CL, it wasn’t much.

Vanity #2 in process

Vanity #2 in process

The seller bought it from someone who bought it from an antique show or dealer, though I don’t think this would qualify as an “antique”. It was covered by a heinous paint job. Whomever spray painted it didn’t bother to sand, fill in any gaps, or anything. The drawer hardware was also wood and painted on. Eesh.

Sanding a section revealed, again, layers upon layers of paint, so Citristrip to the rescue again. I unscrewed all of the hardware from the inside of the drawers, got out a hammer and chisel, and pried them off. Here are some very fuzzy pictures from before I learned how to take a decent picture.

Drawer with painted-on hardware

Drawer with painted-on hardware

Hardware from above

Hardware from above

Around this time, I stopped into Lowes for something and behold, they were having a massive clearance on drawer and cabinet hardware. I went completely insane for half an hour since it was a weekend and I was kid-free, picking up knobs, handles, and even Euro hinges to my heart’s delight. I picked up over $100 worth of hardware for about $30.

All that is to say that these drawer knobs are from this stash, which I still have. My woodworker neighbor poked his head in one day as I was working in my garage and took a closer look at the vanity, realizing that it was constructed from a hard wood, not pine, though he couldn’t tell what species. Kewl.

So after stripping came sanding, then putty, more sanding, then finally priming, painting, and poly. Done.

Vanity #2 After

There she is.

Ana White’s Tryde Media Console

We have a TV that we got for free and rarely use. Not a flat screen, but one of those the-mothership-has-landed old school ones.

My husband owned a condo before we got married. One day, he came home from work and saw the lone TV next to the dumpster, and of course, he went to take a look. On it was a note that stated it was for the taking and the picture was fine, but there was no sound. Of course, he took it home.

Let me explain a few things about him. He works with computers. He thinks about computers all. Day. Long. He thinks about them as he goes to sleep at night. He LOVES to be at the computer on the weekend, and he always has a project going on involving his computer. We are a Linux run household. He proposed to me by hacking a proposal screen, on a Windows machine, into a game found only on Linux machines. Nerd love.

He had free cable at this condo and an elaborate setup involving his laptop, a desktop, a VCR, the stereo, and now, the TV. And he somehow got the sound to work. To top that off, he wrote his own DVR script, so he had a boatload of recorded shows. We watched a LOT of commercial-less TV back then.

He used a coffee table with a broken leg that he bought from Goodwill to hold the TV at the time (I knew nothing about furniture repair or refinishing back then) and when we got married, I told him the table had to go. We bought the house and it sat unused in the garage for over a year.

Then we bought a Wii and had to bring the TV into the house. And we are tall, so the floor was not an option. Ana White to the rescue, again, and the Tryde Media Console.

Here’s the plan I used. I used MDF for the box, which I wouldn’t recommend anymore because of the lack of strength compared to wood, pine boards for the legs and top, and beadboard for the sides.  I did not have a good understanding of the order of things to follow in a build at the time, so instead of painting the inside of the box before actually assembling, I built the whole thing and used spray paint for the inside. And of course, it didn’t reach all the way back. I used black gloss latex for the boards.

This is the first time I used Floetrol, a trick I learned from Kate’s paint tutorial. I’d use it again.

Tryde Media Console, Coffee Under the Umbrella

In progress. In my “workshop”. I.e. garage.

And a picture of it, in real-time, with a bunch of crap on it. But hey – the table looks great.

Tryde Media Console, Coffee Under the Umbrella

Tryde Media Console. Please ignore everything else about this picture.

Storage for the kiddo’s toys and mama’s toys

I didn’t have much toy storage, and the clutter was giving me hives. I built this plan and I’ll detail the modifications, plus how I had to take it apart and redo it.

ana white pottery barn knock off bookshelf

Kid toy storage for now; big people storage for later.

Instead of fastening the shelves directly to the sides, I fastened 1×2 stretchers to the insides to place the shelves on. I try to avoid butt joints when I can. I would love to try mortise and tenon joints. Let me know if you’d like to contribute to my “Buy me a router” fund.

I also made the shelves 36”. Then I also constructed a frame out of 1x2s to fasten to the front because the lack of frame bothered me for some reason, and also to reinforce the shelves. I used some leftover beadboard for the back, which I cut with a circular saw. I sanded and painted it before fastening it to the back, which I had learned by this point to do.

I had the box constructed. I had nailed the shelves to the stretchers. Then I walked into the garage one night to finish. And it leaned. A lot. And I cried.

In my hurry to finish, I had neglected to use a square at a crucial step, which was to make sure the shelves were square to the sides when fastening to the stretchers. Yeah, lesson learned.

I can’t quite remember my rationale, but I just used pocket holes to reinforce the shelves to the sides, which pulled it into almost square. Then I fastened the pieces of the frame to the front, instead of just constructing the frame first, mostly because it’s not 100% square. Putty, prime, paint, poly, yay.

Here’s a breakdown of how it went/should have gone (refer to Ana’s plan for exact steps):

1. Started with the sides made of 3/4″ BC grade plywood and sanded the heck out of them.

2. Cut 4 1×2 stretchers to the depth of each side and fastened them to the insides with glue and wood screws. Used a carpenter’s level to make sure that the shelves would be level when fastened to them.

3. Cut the shelves to 36″. Set them on top of the stretchers, double checked with the level, and using a carpenter’s square to ensure as close to a 90 degree angle as possible between the sides and shelf, fastened them to the stretchers with glue and wood screws. Used pocket holes as well for some.

4. Measured the back’s dimensions, and with a circular saw, cut the beadboard. Sanded, primed, and painted.

5. Nailed it to the back. Tried to avoid cursing the fact that I don’t own a nail gun.

6. Cut the top out of MDF, drilled pilot holes, and, with glue and screws, fastened it to the box, countersinking all screws (I don’t own a countersink bit, I just drilled a pilot hole for a #8 sized screw, then with a bit wide enough for the head of the screw, drilled another hole on top of the pilot hole. A trick I learned from my local mom and pop hardware store.)

7. Measured the edges, then cut the 1x2s for the frame to size.

8. Glued and nailed each piece in. Used a nail punch to get all the nail heads below the surface.

9. Filled all holes and gaps. Sanded, primed, painted, topcoated.

Now onto Mom’s toy storage.

This is my favorite build so far. I put this at the top of my to-do list when I saw Lady Goat’s cart, another Ana White plan. I bought all the lumber from a local lumberyard over the phone and paid for it. It took a few days to get it ready. The owner, from whom I always buy my lumber now, was nice enough to leave it outside the door after hours for me because I can’t get down to the yard during the day with the baby seat in the car. She lives nearby and kindly gave me her cell phone number in case I needed help loading.

I got down there and discovered that I’m too weak to load a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood into my car. So I called and she walked over to help. And it didn’t fit into my car. Crapola.

I hate borrowing other people’s trucks and really didn’t want to have to rent a truck or borrow a table saw. So I paid to have the plywood ripped and picked it up myself, which took a few extra days.

Here it is, with some modifications: I cut the wings to be 24” and added a diagonal support on each side using good ol Pythagorean’s Theorem. I also added another shelf to hold my sander, drills, and circular saw, a back to further reinforce the shelves, and because I am paranoid and this is my life and these things tend to happen, reinforced the top shelf even further by fastening it to the sides with 3 inch dowels.

ana white lady goats miter saw cart

Mama’s toy storage

I could hardly believe when this actually went very smoothly and according to plan. So just follow the directions.