Design, DIY

Giving Craigslist Furniture a Makeover

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So, as promised, I want to show y’all this dresser I’ve been working on. A couple of months ago, I was browsing the free section of Craigslist and saw 2 matching antique dressers that were put to the curb.
These babies were in really bad shape, but I could see the good bones in them. One was a tall, narrow piece and the other short and wide. They both have an elegant curve in the middle and some of the original (what I thought was) brass hardware.
I rushed across town to get them in the truck. The family was out in the yard & helped us load them. They had many young children, and it looked like they had really put these dressers through the ringer. Many drawer pulls were missing, and the wood had been scratched, burned, drawn on, and ripped apart at the legs. Ouch!
But guess what?! FREE!
Nothing better than free. I didn’t have a place in the house for these lovelies, but I knew someone would want them, so they sat away in the garage until now!
After I showed them to my mother in law, she said she needed some more storage space, so I got to work!

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First, I took all the hardware off and pulled all the drawers out.
Then, I sanded the finish off of all the drawers and lightly sanded the top of the dresser.

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Next I got some Elmer’s stainable wood filler and filled in the places on the legs where some layers had been torn off and there were extreme imperfections. The goal here wasn’t to make it look new, as I planned a distressed look, but just to ensure that no further pieces would be coming off and make the surface a little more even for painting.
After all that dried, I sanded lightly again in the area where filler was used. I then used Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean the whole piece down, removing any dirt or dust from sanding.

Now the fun part!

I painted the outside of the dresser with homemade chalk paint. It’s so easy & cheap to make and use! Walmart carries gallon sized flat latex paint for $10. I mixed about 1 cup of that in Country White with about 1 tablespoon of non-sanded grout. I just eye it, I don’t bother getting paint on measuring spoons. You can buy non-sanded grout for $4 a container at Home Depot.

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Anyway, I painted the dresser in 2 coats of the chalk paint (no priming needed.)
When it was entirely dry, I used my Black & Decker palm sander all over the top, edges, and sides to distress. I wanted this thing to have the charm of something treasured but well used through the years.

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Then, I stained each drawer in Minwax’s Dark Walnut and quickly wiped it off before it got too dark.

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While the stain dried, I picked a few of the original drop-handle drawer pulls that weren’t broken or cracked. They were super tarnished, so I soaked them in a mix of apple cider vinegar, water, and salt for about an hour. After that, the black gross stuff came right off with an old toothbrush.

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When all was dry, it was time to seal. I lightly brushed clear Polyurethane on everything.
While that was drying, I had some minor repairs to do by gluing loose drawer tracks in place with Elmer’s wood glue.

For the final touch, I replaced the missing drawer pulls for all but the top drawer with some drawer pulls that were only about $1.30 a piece at Lowe’s. They came in silver and black. I bought the black ones and spray painted them with Rustoleum in Almond.

Ta-da!

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I think it turned out really beautifully. The rustic, chippy-paint look of the outside mixes well with the rich, deep color of the drawers. The mixed drawers pulls add a touch of character.

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So, what do you think? I love it!

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Uncategorized

Random Rant

I have had sooo much on my mind this past week! Do you ever feel like you have so much running around in your head you aren’t even present anymore? I keep catching myself staring into space for unknown amounts of time.

So I suppose this will be a post about a jumble of things!

In the past, I’ve discussed choosing the right place to go off-grid. Now, all that is great and well, but when it comes down to it, choosing a piece of land to purchase and call home is huge.

For starters, if you are like us, you are choosing that area,  city, and state FOREVER. Forever? That’s huge. If you purchase 20 acres and start building your off-grid life, it’s pretty permanent. Not to say you couldn’t sell, but… Who has that kind of time and money to invest for fun?

We were getting overly excited about purchasing property and trying to change our ideals to fit certain tracts available, when it hit me. This is a lifetime commitment! I want to find something absolutely perfect. But what is perfect? That’s subjective. Much of land that is for sale already has a home on it. Is this good or bad? We want to be able to build our dream home, but that can be a headache.

In the end I think, the best thing to do is to wait and watch, and when the right thing comes around, we’ll know.

On another brain wave…
We are going on leave in a couple weeks, and while I’m so excited to see my family, I’m so dreading the drive. And the money spent on gas. And traveling with pets. And the disorganization/chaos that will inevitably ensue.
However, I do fully intend to show up at my in-laws’ house with 2 pieces of furniture that I am currently working on fully refurbishing for them. (They’re gonna be awesome!) Sneak peek “before”:

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On a final random note, I have recently become obsessed with the 1940s. I mean, I always have been a little bit. I adore the glamour and the music, the patriotism during the war, and that all-American mentality. I love that women were so feminine and soft and sexy, yet strong feminists at the same time. I’ve also realized that 1940s hairstyles are some of the only styles I find flattering on myself. I’ve always sort of struggled with this semi-wavy, semi-thick hair that can’t make up its mind, and an unusual shaped face that makes more modern hairdos difficult without looking like a chipmunk or giraffe or something. The soft, full waves and rounded styles of the 40s are so flattering. Our grandmothers really knew their stuff about beauty.

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Off-Grid

Why Renting Sucks

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I love our little house. I really do. But then, other times, I hate it! Do you ever feel this way about your home? To start,  if you have read my older posts, you know that we are renters. Renting bothers me for several reasons. It’s ok for now, considering we only live in this city because we are required due to my husband’s military service. But I am ANTSY. So antsy. So ready to get back to the real South. (I don’t consider Florida the south. Maybe I am the only one.) But our current situation has been bugging me more and more, and here’s why:

1. We are too attached. This is our home, but it doesn’t belong to us. We can’t make long-term plans for it. We have lovingly planted a vegetable garden, grown from seed, and planted little trees, and an abundance of flowers. We have made our little plot in the city as much of our oasis as possible, but we can’t take it with us.
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2. We pay too much money! All the thousands of dollars we pay per year renting could have paid off a nice tract of land. It seems like money down the drain.

3. Our landlord SUCKS. There, I said it. At first, we thought he was great. He seems to be a very friendly, easy going guy. We sung his praises. As time went on, I started to realize this was not the only part of being a good landlord. He doesn’t take care of anything. There are multiple issues (we’re talking 10+) with the home that to this day he has not repaired/resolved. We live in a relatively high class end of town. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to take care of the problems myself. We pay him to do that. We pay him a lot. On time. Every month. This has drawn on and on for so long with endless excuses and promises that I’ve begun to resent him deeply. It’s not even healthy the amount of time I stew on it.

4. Relating back to #1, it’s not ours! So I can’t exactly make this place look like I want. I’m crazy for remodeling. I have a hawk eye for it. Whenever I see a house for sale/rent, I talk about all the little things I would change. I do it so much that my husband has started doing it. Then he’ll shake his head and snort, “I hang around you too much.” Who, me?🙂

So, I know I went a little crazy on #3. I’m pretty stewed over it, if you couldn’t tell. I digress. All these reasons are culminating in my brain day after day, making me the most antsy person on Earth. Probably. I feel like I am dying for my husband’s contract to be up so we can hightail it out of here (terrible of me?). Not that Jacksonville is a bad place. As far as cities go, I’d have to say it’s one of the best. It has a lot to offer and it’s very spread out. Not cramped at all.

In the mean time, I am plotting planning for our future homestead! Some people think I’m crazy. That planning on going off the grid is crazy. I think they’re crazy for accepting high utility costs and food  dependence as commonplace.

We have decided that in the 1-2 years we have remaining here in Jax, we are going to downsize and try living in a smaller space in order to save big bucks that can go towards property. Try I said! The big task will be finding a home that falls into this criteria and also suits our needs. July 31st is our last day with the lazy landlord. Phew!

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Uncategorized

Easy No-Sew Bedsheet Curtains

Hi everyone!

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Yesterday I just got tired of looking at our dining room curtains. They were too long, too red, and didn’t match the curtains in the adjoining room. Besides, I can’t stand the walls in there, and having curtains that I didn’t like either was just too much.

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Before!

I went to Walmart and saw some sheets that I liked. Bingo!

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What You’ll Need
– Bedsheet
– Scissors
– Iron-on hem tape
-Iron
-Curtain rod clip set (I used two sets for 4 curtains)

I have 4 windows I needed curtains for. Because I like mine short, I got 4 curtains from one queen sized flat sheet. You could use a king size and they would cover the whole window. Or, if you wanted floor length, you could just cut the sheet in half instead of into quarters.

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First, I folded the sheet bottom to top and cut the fold. If you want floor length, then fold it lengthwise and cut.

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Then I folded it again and cut, so the sheet was divided into four sections.

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Lay out your fabric to be hemmed. About half an inch to an inch from the cut edge, iron-on your heat-n-bond hem tape (paper side up). Just place it where you want it and iron it for a couple seconds.

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Peel the paper off.

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Fold the edge over the tape and press down lightly for 6-8 seconds.

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Repeat on both cut edges!

Now, just clip on your curtain rings. I split the packs in two because a whole pack was just too many, and evenly spaced them on the curtain. Voila!

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I made 4 curtains for $18! What do you think? Have fun with this project, and make it your own!

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Uncategorized

Bathroom Designs That Inspire

Happy Saturday everyone!

Now that the hubby and I are back to our home in Jacksonville, my mind keeps switching back and forth between Homestead-planning mode and DIY mode. I love making plans for our future home, but I also need to work on the home we already have.

My focus right now is on our bathroom. I’ve included touches of my style in our bathroom, but I’m just not pleased with it. The wall color especially bugs me.

You’ll get a thorough rundown on it as soon as it gets its makeover, but for now it’s in the planning stages. Today, I want to post some bathroom features that inspire me!

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Lovely wash table & basin

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Farmhouse sink & wall-mounted faucet

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Large tub & relaxing view of nature

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Sweet old chair for undressing

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Asymmetrical placement of sink & distressed mirror

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Lacy shower curtain & mirrors & footstool

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Claw foot tub & vintage shower curtains

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Rolling barn door

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Dutch doors to the outside

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Shelving behind the toilet

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Vintage toiletry cart

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Black walls

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Reclaimed wood beam counter

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Weathered blue & wooden sink

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Exposed masonry & claw foot tub

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Barn wood vanity

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Sunny windows & vintage mirror

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Chippy paint door & weathered walls

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Vintage bathroom mirror

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Open industrial shelving

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Grey walls

What do you think? I’m gonna have a hard time turning all these ideas into one!

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Off-Grid

Taking Your Toilet Off the Grid

Hi there🙂

This past week I’ve been talking about off-grid amenities, starting with stoves, and most recently about refrigeration methods. Now, I’m starting to think about the bathroom. Toilets, showers, and sinks.

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Toilets seem pretty daunting to me.  Everybody is so funny and picky about the way they do their business. Most of our grandparents or at least great grandparents used an outhouse sometime in their life, but these days the mention of an outhouse elicits thoughts of hillbillies and dirt poor days gone by.

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People just don’t want to do what’s natural in a place where they can see that other people have too. I get it. If I were to ask my parents to come visit and tell them my only toilet was a compost toilet, I’m sure they would imagine visions of a port-a-potty and head for the hills.

But, believe it or not, it is possible to have “green” toilet in your home, sans plumbing, and it still be comfortable and sanitary. Just like every other “off grid” amenity, your level of modernity depends on the amount you are willing to spend. Personally, I’m not going to go off grid if it costs me more to build my self-sustaining homestead than it would a regular house.

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A doable option for many homesteaders is a commercial compost toilet. These come in many different variations, but the principle remains the same.  You do the doo and cover it with a material such as sawdust to prevent odor and aid the decomposition process. Then, you periodically empty the tank. After your compost pile has decomposed a year or two, you have a wonderful fertilizer.

My biggest fear would be the smell.  A number of homesteaders swear by their compost toilets and vow that they have little to no odor. I’m seeing rave reviews about a book called The Humanure Handbook. This book is promised to be life-changing, and give you all the information you would need to set up your own compost toilet. The benefits go far beyond the one that initially caught my eye: the next-to-nothing price tag. I intend to purchase the book soon (and it is available digitally)!

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I’m also very interested in outhouses. They don’t have to be as primitive as you think. You are limited only by your creativity as to how snazzy you make it. And, if you don’t like seeing the whole household’s business, what about adding a little flap?

I’m imagining combining these ideas into one, using the compost toilet concept but placing it inside an outhouse-style toilet structure (like a little bench) and adding a flap to the hole so that no one has to see the “humanure”. Straw or sawdust, etc. Can be put on top of the flap to keep it relatively clean and assist the decomposition.

Besides what it can do for the soil, why use gallons of water every time we flush? A compost toilet or outhouse is a major step toward going off the grid!

What do you think? Is this appalling or appealing to you? I can’t wait to tell you about some great shower options I’ve found for off-grid use.

Check out this cool combination outhouse-style bathroom I found with my Houzz app!

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Off-Grid

Choosing the Right Refrigeration for Your Off-Grid Home

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Hello there!

In my last post, I talked a little about how much solar and wind power it would take to power my wasteful energy habits. Most off-grid families cut down on their energy use drastically anyway, but to help that switch to conservative usage, I suggested installing appliances in your home that use an alternative source of power.

My first example was replacing an electric stove with a wood-burning stove for winter, and a propane powered stove for warmer months. Now, I want to propose a few more ideas about some really great off-grid refrigeration methods!

There are a lot of options out there to choose from. Propane powered refrigerators are pretty common and a great solution, however, I’m not planning on going too crazy with the propane. It might be great to have one as a back up, but as far as year-round use, I’d like to have a more reliable way to store food. You never know when something like propane might not always be so readily available. 

My first stop was to check out “clay pot” refrigeration.  Also called a zeer, this method dates back to around 2,500 B.C. in Egypt and the Indus Valley. The basic idea is that one clay pot is placed inside a larger one, and the gaps in between the two are filled with moist sand. The food is placed inside the smaller pot, and the top covered with a cloth. The evaporation of the water in the sand through the outer pot draws heat from the inside and keeps the food much cooler than the outside temperature.

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To me, this seems like a great method for modern day off-grid families to use for storing vegetables and grains, etc.

I really got to thinking hard about ways I could use a natural source of running water for keeping more perishable things like meat and dairy. After a while, it suddenly popped into my head. Almost ten years ago, I visited a place called Exchange Place in Kingsport, Tennessee.  It’s an 1850’s living history farm, and used to be an entirely self-supporting farm (the off-grid mindset has been around quite a while!).

There I remembered the spring house!  This is where it gets exciting. I remember it being pretty cold in there.  In July.  The spring house is where they kept their milk and perishables.  Apparently, these were pretty common back in the day, both on Southern plantations and Northern farms, and homesteads all over the country.

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The idea is this: a structure (well insulated, and preferably stone or brick, though wood is acceptable), is built either over the source of a natural spring, or beside a natural flowing creek or river.  The cold water is diverted through the spring house in trenches. Ceramic ware filled with milk was set into the water to preserve it,  and vegetables and meat were placed in containers in the spring house. The cold water kept the temperature in the building plenty cool enough to be considered a giant walk-in refrigerator!

Place some zeers inside your spring house and you have a double whammy! This idea just really appeals to me. I love the thought of going into the spring house on a hot summer day to cool off and get some milk that has been chilled naturally in a clay pot. So charming!

It’s a great idea to build your homestead close to running water, not only for refrigeration, but for many other reasons. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, a root cellar seems like a great option.

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Root cellars are most often dug fairly deep into the ground, with a home or structure built on top, and a trap door leads to the root cellar. The natural temperature of the earth at that depth keeps food cool during the summer but keeps it from freezing in the winter.  Other root cellars are built into the side of a hill, and some (in rockier areas that are tough to dig) are built on top of the earth, with natural materials piled on.

These are all great methods and I think ideally, I would love to use a combination of all three. What do you think? I’m very interested in learning more about other methods of refrigeration that don’t depend on the grid. 

Next, we can talk about toilets that don’t require plumbing! (Yikes?!)

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