How many clowns – I mean computers – can you fit on a desk? A lot, if it’s this one.

I know it’s been for-ev-ah since I posted last – various health problems, freelance gigs, and just ordinary life wouldn’t stop happening. But we all got healthy and summer slowed down, and the constant mess around my “work area” had been under my skin long enough.

"Work area", before

Lord, help me.

There were a few factors contributing to the mess. One was that as long as we’ve had this house, we’ve been denying that we are nerds. We don’t have a TV and are obsessed with our computers. My son watches his shows on whichever computer is not being used, though obviously we limit how much and what he watches. It is a crisis when a computer breaks and we have to share computers around here. We had been fighting this room ever since moving in 5 years ago and not structuring it to fit our needs. We’d simply been in denial that this room has functioned as a work area, as obviously there are 2 computers in here and a desk, and sort of passive-aggressively struggling to make it into another living area separate from work. Why, we don’t really know; we have 2 living areas in our home, so it’s not like we really needed this to be a living area.

The majority of our time at home is spent in this room, on our computers. We carry on deep conversations here in this room, on our computers; before we had our son and started eating at the dining table like normal people, we did what you’re not supposed to do and ate on the couch in front of a computer. Our other living area has become my son’s play room and general relax area, and I prefer that room over the pictured room; for one thing, it’s not a hot mess. Another, it has windows and faces our street, so it has a lot of natural lighting.

The room in this post has very little natural light. It has a sliding back door that leads to the patio and it opens to the “breakfast area” (I put that in quotes because I think it’s a stupid concept, at least for our house. It’s not like we eat our other meals in another room. That was before Mr. Kid came along). Anyway, the eating area does have a window. But our patio has a beautiful, ginormous oak tree right next to it that blocks a lot of light. Unless you’re sitting at a computer, in which case the sun sends death rays right into your eyes. Even then, that room is still very dark, and in either case, you’re blind, whether from the sun burning your eyes out or you’re at the other end of the room where there’s no light.

Another factor was that desk. That particle board, teeny tiny desk I bought in 2002 from Target. I think it was the first piece of real furniture I bought with my own money. As I had graduated from college the year before and had been working as a freelance classical musician for less than a year, cash was a precious commodity, and I didn’t have a lot to spend on furniture. It was part of some crappy modular fake wood system that Target hasn’t carried in years, and for whatever reason, I had to have that desk. Seriously, my list of adjectives describes all the reasons not to buy this desk. But whatever. On top of it being small, I had nowhere to put stuff, so it all just went into an abyss on top.

Work area before - CUTU

Once again, shame motivates me like nothing else.

Then on top of all that, my husband didn’t have a workspace out here because there was no room for one. He had a sort-of office in the back of the house, but didn’t really like being isolated. His laptop was on the coffee table with wires leaking from every orifice (on the laptop) in seemingly every direction. I really felt like I was drowning in cables every time I walked through this room. It was like the Blob had taken on a new incarnation as technology in this room and was eating up space.

If I sound like I’m complaining, I guess I kind of am, but also acknowledge that this was a FWP. After all, we have multiple computers in this room alone and more elsewhere in the house (I wish we did not have a computer cemetery because we pay a lot in electricity, but that’s not up to me). But it is hard to be efficient when I can’t find anything and feel stressed just walking through this room.

Again, time to stop complaining and time to start doing. Ana White to the rescue again.

I had long had my eyes set on Ana White’s Eco Office plan. It was just a matter of convincing Husband that he did, too. This particular room is about average, maybe 10′ x 12′, with a hearth/fireplace cutting a little into the dimensions. In discussing a plan for this room, we agreed that the current configuration was not working because we were fighting its true function, which had become a work space. So why not just make it a nice work space. He requested I create, on paper, a reduced scale outline of our room, complete with the proposed work area and current furniture. I think he did that to see how motivated I was, because I am famously lazy.

Because I am married to an engineer who would otherwise never agree to anything without a hard-coded plan, and I was highly motivated to stop wanting to grit my teeth every time I entered this room, I actually did it. I took a large sheet of construction paper out of my son’s giant drawing pad, measured the room and all the existing furniture, and actually cut out reduced-scale drawings of my furniture. They were more like rectangular blobs because I have the crafting skills of a turnip, but they were accurate. Unfortunately, I tossed them out in glee once I completed the work space (“Pics or it didn’t happen”, I know). He was uniformly impressed that I actually did that during my kid’s nap. So like a 2-dimensional, all-white doll house, we moved furniture around and discussed where to put our work area, came to a plan, and moved forward.

Several months ago, I had the good fortune of reading a post from a friend on Facebook who just happened to have a garage filled with lumber that he wanted to get rid of. I jumped on it, and he happened to have a full sheet of 3/4″ plywood in red oak. Red oak!! So he gave it to me and it sat in my garage ever since then and I had been wondering what to do with it. I mean, I felt like it would be a waste to paint over a sheet of red oak ply. So when we decided to build the Ana White desk, this seemed perfect for it.

Ok, so why this desk – it’s 8′ long. It’s huge. It’s meant for 2 people. It had plenty of storage. I could build it with drawers or without, and with adjustable shelves. This plan just called to me when I first saw it. And the sheet of oak I already had would cut down on my expenses since this plan in its entirety called for 3 sheets of plywood. I even had the finish I wanted in my head – white bases with a dark stained top – and my husband more or less gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted with it as long as his requests for his half was worked in.

Pictures of the journey:

Clamping the base to the open shelf base via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Clamping the base to the file base with oops paint.

Open shelf base and large bookshelf via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Post-production, pre-finished open shelf base and large bookshelf

The Open-Shelf Base plan, pictured above on the left, is meant to stand without drawers, and I had originally planned to use that one for my side because I hate building drawers. Husband had asked me to build him the Office File Base (pictured below)so he could have a file drawer, so I did using these drawer slides from Woodcraft, which were actually pretty easy to install.

Completed drawers on the Ana White desk before finishing, Coffee Under the Umbrella

We have drawers!

The problem arose when I looked at these smoothly-running drawers and became madly envious. But I already built the open shelf base and I couldn’t use the Woodcraft slides because the shelves were in the way, so I constructed what were more or less boxes with a drawer front for the top 2 compartments. As this post is already a verbal vomit, I’ll spare you the details of how I tried multiple times to install a wood slide for those boxes and failed because I suck at installing drawers. So they just sit inside the open shelf base and work fine.

Spacers for the tabletop via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Spacers and chalklines

(So yes, I realize one side is kind of wavy. I don’t have a table saw, so I had to have my husband help hold this sheet steady while I ripped it down with a circular saw. i am really not that bad with a circular saw, I promise. I use the Kreg Rip-Cut tool and again, I won’t bore you/embarrass myself with details, but suffice to say that my advice is to always make sure it is securely attached to the saw before using. Otherwise the above happens.)

Red oak-colored Famowood putty via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Red oak-colored Famowood putty

The red oak ply was in pretty good shape with a few dings, so I went off to Woodcraft to find something appropriate to fill them with. I was planning on staining it espresso, so I needed something that would match the original wood. One of the guys there recommended Famowood putty in red oak and I was initially sceptical, but it was $5 and I needed putty anyway. It looked like chocolate when first put on, but when dried and sanded, actually blended in really well.

I didn’t want to use edge banding for the table top trim, so I bought some 1x2s in red oak, mitered the corners, and nailed it on. It’s also stronger that way.

Almost finished desk via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Pre-papered and pre-stained

I used General Finishes water-based stain in espresso, which I had on-hand already, and GF water-based polycrylic to finish. Paint was Valspar’s paint+primer line in Antique White from the oops bin. Drawer handles are from Lowes. I bought them a couple of years ago when they were having a blow-out clearance sale on drawer and cabinet hardware. I bought over $100 worth of hardware for about $30. These were originally in a garish The-80s-Called brassy finish and I spray painted them with a Rustoleum iron color. I covered the insides with contact paper. I also used Band-It iron-on edge banding.

Finished open shelf base with after-thought-of drawers via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Finished open shelf base with after-thought-of drawers

For the Large Bookshelf middle unit (below), I used the Kreg Shelf Pin jig to install 2 adjustable shelves. Then when we actually moved it in the room, husband saw it and requested a slide-out tray for one of his old monitors instead and a grommet hole for the cable. So I somewhat grudgingly dragged out the drill and appropriate bit, and later on, the vacuum. But I admit we’re not good enough planners to anticipate every single one of our needs.

Grommet hole via Coffee Under The Umbrella

When you can’t plan ahead of time.

Slide-out monitor tray via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Slide-out monitor tray

Pop-up monitor pull-out tray, via Coffee Under The Umbrella

Ta-da.

But I have to admit, I think it’s pretty creative and out of the way.

Ana White's completed Eco Office desk via Coffee Under the Umbrella

The new work space corner

Tabletop stained with General Finishes' water-based stain in Espresso via Coffee Under The Umbrella.

Tabletop stained with General Finishes’ water-based stain in Espresso.

The inside of drawer now, organized with Ikea's Kvissle line via Coffee Under the Umbrella

The inside of my drawer/box now, organized with Ikea’s Kvissle line.

Instead of having a bunch of crap on top, I got these boxes from Ikea for the inside of the drawer.

Ana White's completed Eco Office desk via Coffee Under the Umbrella

How many computers can possibly fit on one desk?

Some things to keep in mind if you take this on:

It’s a bit of a tight squeeze between each base unit and the large middle unit. My desk chair (not on their website any more but from Ikea) won’t fit under the tabletop. The sliding keyboard tray on the left has a mouse platform you can attach, but there wasn’t enough room for it. Given that Ana’s plans are structured to give you the most bang for your buck, I don’t think there’s much you can do about that. Maybe if you used 10′ planks for the top, but if you’re a hack carpenter like me, that may not be practical if you need to use this as a writing surface.

I’m not a fan of edge banding, but I have neither the tools nor skills to make my own frames. Wish I did. I think it looks kind of chintzy and is annoying to work with, but I guess it doesn’t look that bad once you paint it. Making your own out of solid wood pieces is, as I understand, more permanent and adds a lot of strength. It was easy to add solid wood to the table top with a nail gun. I used Band-It from Lowes and it was fine, but I didn’t like the trimmer that they sell with it. I had better luck with a box cutter (and super-sharp blade).

Plan grommet holes accordingly.

That’s all I can think of. I used pine for the bases and beech for the drawer faces on the right, red oak ply for the table top. Now that Hub’s laptop is on top and the wires are hidden, I no longer want to cringe when I enter this room. I just think, “How many clowns will fit in a car…” when I see all the monitors. We also had 3 track lights installed in here at the same time that we redid the space, so it’s a little hotter in here than it used to be. But it’s a lot lighter and I can find stuff. We both love this space now. There is much truth to the belief that a cluttered space is far more stressful than necessary.

Next up – shoe cabinet. Til then, hug your kids and drink coffee.

Linked at The DIY Showoff’s That DIY Party, The Shabby Creek Cottage, Creations by Kara, and at All Things Pretty!

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Trainwreck to cute DIY spice storage tutorial.

Coffee Under the Umbrella DIY spice rack, after

After. I want to leave the door open just so I can stare at it.

Coffee Under the Umbrella DIY spice rack, disaster before

Before. Nothing motivates like a little public shaming.

That’s right, world. You get to see what my spice cabinet looked like in its train wrecked glory!

Oh, the 1970s. How did residents organize their stuff in their small number of cavernous storage spaces. Oh, they probably didn’t have as much stuff as we do today. Ah, materialism.

So, as I was waiting for that $5k to fall out of the sky for our kitchen remodel, I continued to be on the lookout for storage gadgets that would fit in our cabinets and budget. And of course, if one criteria was satisfied, the other was not. I began to seriously consider building this one and just modifying it. Then noticed it was for a pantry rather than a small cabinet, and a one piece in-the-door rack wouldn’t be practical for this cabinet because the shelves would prevent the door from closing.

I was lackadaisically intending to just design one myself to build, then I saw this. Problem solved. Here’s what I did. The measurements I include are for my cabinet, so you’ll have to adjust. I’m really sorry that I neglected to take pictures of the process, but it’s not complicated and I think it will make more sense if you look at the picture of the rack. If you want to try this and have trouble visualizing, get in touch with me.

Supplies for 3 little 12″ racks:

1 8′ 1×4

1 4′ 3/8″ dowel

12 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws/12 2″ wood screws

12 1 1/4″ wood screws

2 wood screws to hang the rack (I used 1″ screws)

Enough 1/4″ plywood for 3 3 3/4″x12″ pieces

3/8″ drill bit

Miter saw, carpenters square, tape measure, wood glue, carpenters level

Cut list:

3 12″ 1x4s (bottoms)

6 3″ 1x4s (sides)

3 12″ dowels

3 3 3/4″x12″ plywood pieces (back)

Directions:

1. Cut your pieces.

2. Drill 2 pocket holes, set for 3/4″ stock, in each of the 6 3″ 1x4s. Drill them in the side that is 3 1/2″ (a 1×4 is actually 3/4″ x 3 1/2″). If you don’t have a Kreg jig, I would drill 2 pilot holes through the bottom of the 12″ pieces where the sides will attach.

3. Drill the holes for the dowel. You will need to figure how high from the floor of the rack you want the dowel and how far in front. This will largely depend on the size of your spice jars. I designed mine so that the top of the dowel hit exactly 2 1/8″ from the bottom (pocket holes are at the bottom) because of the way the clamps on my jars were positioned and the front of the dowel was at about 3″ from the back, maybe a little more. I found this point, traced the hole, and drilled. I drove the bit up and down after the hole was drilled to make actually driving the dowel through the hole easier.

4. Fasten the sides to the ends of the bottom 12″ piece with glue and screws.

5. Fasten the 1/4″ plywood backs. I drilled 4 pilot holes – 1 through each of the side pieces and 2 to fasten to the bottom piece (through the side grain). Use glue. Use screws, not nails, for strength.

6. Bang or twist the dowel through the holes.

7. Get out the level, mark on the inside of the cabinet door where you want your rack to hang, drill your pilot holes, then fasten to the inside of the door. My cabinet door was 3/4″ thick.

DIY spice rack after measurements

Here are the measurements corresponding with steps.

DIY spice rack

I love my spice rack.

I found these cute little jars at World Market for $1 a piece. If anyone has ideas for cute, non-permanent labels, I’ll take them.

Beethoven, shelf fails, new DIY shelf and picture frame.

bathroom floating shelf fail

Shelf last week. Floating shelf massive fail.

A slew of last minute freelance work and a sick toddler has kept projects from happening as quickly as I’d like. But I get to use my college degree and play my violin for money! I thank God I’m able to freelance and do projects while staying home with my child. I realize I’ve been blessed beyond measure and remember that whenever I’m tempted to complain about being short one screw, yet another load of laundry that has been calling me for 2 weeks by now, waiting impatiently for paint to dry, or a project is an utter fail.

So about 2 years ago, with storage remaining an ever-present (actually, not present at all at my house) problem, I decided to try my hand at some floating shelves, these in particular. At that point in time, I was much less experienced, I didn’t have a stud sensor, and we still couldn’t hang things on the walls without it being the drama of the week.

So I built the shelves and stained them. I built 3 for the master bathroom, one of the lesser touched up rooms of our house. I constructed the frames, then got a rare earth magnet and started stud hunting.

What I found was that the studs in the bathroom are…bizarrely spaced. Not like I know much about framing, but I’m guessing to allow for plumbing and/or electrical? Whatever. So some studs were 12″ apart, some 6″ apart, it all seems kind of random. So that was challenge 1.

Challenge 2. Our walls, for whatever reason, are not straight. I don’t know if this was a hallmark of 1970s era homes and if contractors at the time were all wacked out on hallucinogens, just had cruel senses of humor, or if it’s even just a factor of time, but if you get at the right angle and look at our walls, they “wave”, kind of like a funhouse mirror.

Challenge 3. I just don’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I tried 1 drywall anchor + 1 stud for the short shelf under the mirror, completely missing the fact that there are 2 studs. So, while it hung ok for a couple of years, it ultimately ended as a fail.

The other 2 were massive fails as well. They had at least 2 studs, but this is my life, and these things happen to me.They do not happen to Ana White, who built her own home with her bare hands, but they happen to me. The picture at the top was what the most successful shelf looked like after 2 years. That is what the other 2 shelves looked like immediately.

Last week, I was practicing for a concert when I just got sick of visualizing my shelf fail, as it mocks me every morning. So I took a break and decided to build this shelf. I found some scraps in the lumber bin and went to work, and I had it built in an hour.

ana white ten dollar ledge

A necessary work distraction. This is the bottom of the shelf.

I sanded, puttied, finished, caulked the edges, drilled pilot holes, and I hung it myself under the mirror, using the 2 studs. And I didn’t screw up. Then I went back to practicing.

ana white ten dollar ledge bathroom storage

Scraps + oops paint = thrifty win. I can’t decorate worth the salt in your turkey, but I can build you a shelf.

I still have to replace the other 2 floating shelves. And my hub’s substantial essential oil collection needs a home, so more will likely come.

The second little project I undertook around the same time involved the photography of this guy, whose work I discovered a few months ago. I fell in love with this particular print of his and decided to gift it to myself for my anniversary. <Snicker>. I showed it to hubs and asked nicely, and he replied, “If you build a frame for it.” Deal.

I used a plan from Ana White’s new book, The Handbuilt Home (p. 70), which is also very similar to this one.

Ana white wall frame clothespin frame

Picture frame – first step.

I used pine and my Kreg jig for pocket holes. Titebond glue is drying  and various clamps are squeezing the joint together. This was my first time to use the Kreg face clamp. I don’t know how I survived before it. Here I’m using my miter saw cart leaves as a work table.

ana white wall frame

Frame, step 2 – constructed

Here’s the front of the frame after the inner part was constructed.

ana white wall frame

Wall frame step 3 – glue and clamps

I don’t have a nail gun, and I know by experience that using a hammer and nails would’ve probably destroyed the inner frame (don’t ask me how), so this step went a little slower.

ana white wall frame clothespin frame

Finished. Middle print by Patrick Latter.

And here it is. Finished with Valspar spray primer and spray paint in black semi-gloss that I had sitting in the garage. I bought a square of glass from Lowes, which came in a 16″ x 20″ size, for between $5-$6 USD. The cardboard backing the print came with provided just enough thickness for 1″ screws and mirror clips, which cost about $1.50. The lumber cost about $5. Not bad for a 16″ x 20″ fully equipped frame for under $15.

The print on the left I bought years ago. It’s an unusual size, 11″ x 11″, so I was never able to find a frame for it. I used this plan and glazing points to keep the print in place.

Up next – a real-deal antique school chair from a one-room school and a toy chest I’m building for someone. So, I guess if you want me to refinish or build you something, I’m available.

And may your turkey not be dry and your crazy family members as entertaining as ever, especially if you’re the crazy one. Happy Thanksgiving Eve 2012.

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

Blech

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

Today!

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.

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.

“Close my eyes and leap…”

When I got married, I was in Pottery Barn heaven. I got so many gift cards that I was able to buy a set of dishes and a vase or two at the outlet. I’m being tongue-in-cheek, but we drove down to the outlet (like I said…a couple of perfectly matched tightwads) and went nuts. I ended up with a darling little coffee creamer and sugar set that turned out to be broken when I took it out of the box at home. I had lifted it partially out of the box at the store and so didn’t see that the bottom of it was hanging off. Oh well.

In addition to the broken creamer set we bought an iron coat tree since I had always wanted one. And here is a fuzzy picture of it with our crap hanging on it.

Coat tree in entry

Coat tree in entry way, 3 years ago

Moving forward two years, and we had a child who was crawling and pulling up on stuff. Including the coat tree, which would wobble every time we would pull a jacket off. Of course, the kid was not allowed to touch it, but crawling older babies have a way of doing just that when your head is turned the other direction. So we knew we needed to replace it, but I didn’t like a lot of the alternatives I saw, and I especially didn’t like the prices attached to them.

Enter Ana White. When I first saw her site, I thought it was a joke. Or something. I don’t know why, but I guess I thought it was too good to be true. Then I thought that was too bad because I really liked her designs and the pictures people were uploading of stuff they built. And then I saw she had a Facebook page and built her own house. And I saw this plan and knew that was the one.

So I showed my husband and told him I wanted to build that. Could I spend a bunch of money on lumber? He said, “Ok.” I knew jack about dimensional lumber, counter sinking screws, how to hold a hammer correctly, and I was terrified of the idea of power saws.

After that conversation, I mentioned to my neighbor that I was considering trying my hand at building furniture since I had the plans. He responded that he grew up working in his dad’s woodworking shop and put himself through school designing and building furniture for people. Bonus. And that he had a miter saw that he would be willing to let me borrow to see how I liked it. SCORE.

I bought the lumber. My neighbor brought over his DeWalt 10” miter saw and showed me how to use it. I cut my lumber, nailed and screwed it all together, and painted it in 2 days. Then I told my husband I needed his help hanging it. And went out and bought my own saw. I was in love.

Pulled out the chalkline, level, drill, bits, and screws. It felt like it took longer to hang it then it did to build it. Our walls are not straight and our floors aren’t quite level, making it harder, and we have kind of bad luck hanging things on the wall for some reason. It was just the 2 of us, hoisting it on our shoulders, hurriedly drilling pilot holes, and yelling at the other to hurry because this was extremely awkward. And we did it. And my husband loved it. And also told me never to build anything that had to be hung ever again.

“I figured, why not. I don’t have anything to lose, and if anything, we’ll only gain furniture,” he told me tonight when I asked him why he was willing to take a chance. I asked him what he thought when I told him I wanted to build us a hanging shelf. He replied, “To humor you. And of how much I hate hanging things on the wall,” he said.

I eventually also repainted the moulding at the bottom on a whim. The texturing was awful – thick, goopy, and didn’t match the orange peel above the chair rail, which is why there is picture (the front door is an ongoing project):

Sanding the entry way

Husband: What are you doing?
Me: Get a picture of me sanding.
H: I’m still trying to figure out what you’re doing.
M: I forgot to ask if you’d care that I’m painting the wall.

And here is the result of him taking a chance on me.

ana white entry shelf entry after

I present…wall storage and wainscotting.