Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Hide an Ugly A/C Unit

 Air conditioning! In my opinion, it's one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. Except for the way those gigantic outdoor units look. Now if you're lucky, your A/C unit is located in some obscure part of your yard where no one sees it. Me? Not so lucky. Ours ended up on our front porch.

I honestly couldn't stand looking at it. I wanted to hide it, but I could figure out a way to screen it that didn't look worse than the unit itself. So I decided to build something to go around it that could be easily removed if the unit needed to be serviced, but would integrate well with the rest of the porch. So here's what I came up with.

You can hardly notice it now.

I used cedar lumber and pressure treated lattice. I found some of the lumber at Home Depot, but I had to go to a lumber yard for the rest. The materials cost around $200. You could also build this from all pressure treated lumber which would cost substantially less. It took me several hours to build. I had the lumber cut when I purchased it, so that saved some time. I just needed help when I was attaching the side sections to the front (it's hard to hold and attach at the same time). Otherwise I built the whole thing on my own. I built this 2 years ago and have just let it weather. I think it's held up quite well. It makes a great plant stand as well as a spot to put things down as you unlock the door.

I've included a complete tutorial, but please note if you want to build something like this, don't use my measurements. Measure your own unit first and adjust accordingly. It's also important not to build it too tight around the unit. You need to ensure there's plenty of airflow.  So here goes!


(2) 8’ long cedar 2x4’s (each cut into two 40” pieces)
(3) 8’ long cedar 1x4’s (each cut into two 38.5” pieces)
(2) 6’ long cedar 1x4’s (each cut into one 40” piece & one 21.5” piece)
(3) 8’ long cedar 1x2’s (each cut into two 38.5” pieces)
(1) 6’ long cedar 1x2 (cut into one 31.5” piece & two 18.5” pieces)
1 sheet of square pressure-treated lattice (cut into one 40” x 31.5” piece & two 40” x 18.5” pieces)

Additional supplies:
Self-tapping exterior deck screws
Drill or electric screw driver
Sander or sand paper
Measuring tape
Carpenter’s square

Important! Before beginning, measure your own unit. It may not be the same size as mine, so adjust the size accordingly. This is built like a table that will slide over the A/C unit. It should not be permanently attached because the unit may need to be serviced and it’s important that there is access.  

 Step 1: Make the front section (see diagram below). 
1.     Lay down 2 of the 2x4 pieces approximately 40” apart (with the 4” side down). Place one of the 40” 1 x 4 pieces across the 2x4’s so that the top of the 2x4’s are ¾” below the top edge of the 1x4 and the ends of the 1x4 extend ¾” beyond the sides of the 2x4’s. Attach the 1x4 to the 2x4’s making sure to keep everything square and the angles at 90°.
2.       Flip this over so the 1x4 is on the bottom. Attach a 38.5” 1x2 to each 2x4, making the top of the 1x2 flush with the top of the 2x4’s.
3.       Attach the 31.5” piece of 1x2 to the bottoms of the 38.5” 1x2’s. It should be flush with the bottom of the 2x4’s. You’ve now made a square.
4.       Attach the larger piece of lattice to the 1x2’s.

Step 2: Make the side sections (see diagram below).
1.       Lay down a 2x4 piece so that the 2” side is down. Place a 21.5” piece of 1x4 perpendicular to the 2x4 (i.e. forming an “L”) with the top edge of the 1x4 ¾” above the end of the 2x4 and attach.
2.       Flip this over so the 1x4 is on the bottom. Attach a 38.5” 1x2 to the 2x4, making the top of the 1x2 flush with the top of the 2x4.
3.       Attach another 38.5” 1x2 to the other end of the 1x4 so that it’s 1.5” in from the end of the 1x4 and ¾” below the top edge of the 1x4.
4.       Attach one of the 18.5” pieces of 1x2 to the bottoms of the 38.5” 1x2’s. It should be flush with the bottom of the 2x4. You’ve now made a square.
5.       Attach one of the smaller pieces of lattice to the 1x2’s.
6.       Now repeat these steps to make the other side, but remember, it should be a MIRROR IMAGE of the first side since one side will be the left side and the other will be the right side.

Step 3: Attach the sides to the front.
1.       With the front section face down, align one side section with the front section so that the 2x4 of the side section is on the opposite side from the 2x4 of the front section. You may need a helper for this part. Attach the 1x4 and 1x2 of the side section to the 2x4 and 1x4 of the front section.
2.       Repeat this for the other side section. You should now have a table (without a table top). Stand it up so the 1x4’s are on top.
3.       Take the remaining 40” piece of 1x4 and use it to connect the back of the side sections so that the top edge of the 1x4 is flush with the top edges of the 1x4’s of the side sections.

Step 4: Make the table top & finish up.
1.       Place the 38.5” pieces of 1x4 onto the lip formed by the tops of the 2x4’s and the top of the lattice. They should be even with the top edges of the 1x4’s on the front and side sections. There is no need to secure these and this will make it easier to access the top of the A/C unit if needed.
2.       Now place the whole thing over your A/C unit. Done!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Warmer Welcome: Front Entrance Makeover

This year, we've started to focus more attention on the exterior of our house. We spent the past two years working on a major overhaul of the interior and ended up neglecting the outside. We're making up for lost time now. We redid one of the decks, had the whole house repainted, and built a firepit. More on those projects coming up. But today I want to focus on the front door. When we moved in, there wasn't much going on with the front entrance. It was actually hard for people to notice it. We had a lot of people knocking on our slider because they didn't see the front door. I wanted to create a more attractive front entrance that would not be overlooked.

This is what it looked like when we moved in. Not bad, but pretty blah. Easy to miss.

Here's how the front entrance looks like now:

We still have more to do. The deck and steps will need to be replaced, but this is such a big improvement. First, we replaced the glass door with something that had more presence. We chose a fiberglass door with a divided light at the top. This provided more privacy, but still let in some light.

We had the house repainted in BM Stonington Gray with white trim. Just painting the trim around the door did wonders. The door itself is BM Patriot Blue. I think it makes a nice contrast with the gray siding, but also looks bright and fun. Then I added some details.
A new door mat from (Ikea $7.99):

A scallop shell door knocker ( $45):

 A woven twig basket for seasonal decor ( $15):

Then I replaced the existing light fixtures with these traditional onion globe lights. They really say coastal New England to me!

I also worked on adding some more landscaping including ornamental grasses, hydrangeas, roses, and lavender.

Finally, I built a surround for the air conditioner which unfortunately ended up on our front porch.The surround is not anchored to the porch so it can be easily removed if the unit needs servicing.

I think these changes made a big impact. And people don't come knocking on our slider anymore!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Farmhouse Table from Consignment Store Find-- with Tutorial

You may remember my Ballard Designs Messina faux zinc table knock off. We used it for our dining table for two years and it was great. However, it could only accommodate 6 people and we ended up getting upwards of 12 people on the holidays. I started thinking about getting a bigger table, but something with leaves so it wouldn't take up too much space on a regular basis, but would be expandable when we had a crowd. Also, I was loving the farmhouse table look and wanted to go in that direction.

I found a great table at a consignment shop a few months ago. It was solid oak and had 4 leaves! The lines were perfect, but the finish? Not so much.

I was actually thinking of something more like this:

Houzz Cottage Extension Dining Table
Houzz Cottage Extension Dining Table

So I came up with a plan to turn my consignment shop find into my vision of a farmhouse table. And here's the result! 

I achieved this look by stripping, sanding, and white washing the top. The legs and apron were then painted with Annie Sloan Old White washed with Paris Gray and lightly distressed. It was a fun project and I'm so happy with the results!

If you're interested in trying something like this, here's what how I did it:

Citristrip or another stripper
Mineral spirits
Cheap paintbrush for stripper
Plastic scraper
Empty aluminum can from the recycling bin
Plastic cup and spoon
Chemical resistant gloves (the regular kind will melt which I found out the hard way...)
Steel wool
Sandpaper or electric sander
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White and Paris Gray
Good paint brushes for paint
Rags or paper towels
Clear wax

Tip: If your table has leaves, insert them before starting. That way your whole surface will be uniform.

Step 1: Strip the table top
  • Using the cheap brush and wearing gloves, apply a thick layer of stripper. Now go and have an iced latte for about 45 minutes. 
  • Next, take the scraper and test a small area of the finish. If it doesn't scrape off easily, go have another latte. If it comes off, use the scraper, always going in the direction of the wood grain, and scrape off all the finish which will now be in the form of a disgusting-looking brown goo. The goo goes in the empty can. 
  • When you have finished scraping, go over any stubborn spots with steel wool dipped in stripper. 
  • Then take a paper towel or rag and pour some mineral spirits on it. Use this to carefully wipe down every inch of the table surface. Let dry.
  • Use the sander to remove any remaining traces of stain. Keep going until the table top is light enough for your liking.
Step 2: Finish the table top
  •  Put about a cup of water into a plastic cup. Then add a spoonful or two of Annie Sloan Old White to make your white wash. Mix well.
  • Now, working in sections and going in the direction of the wood grain, apply the white wash and then immediately wipe with paper towels. Less is more. You can always do another coat if it's not white enough for you. Let dry.
  • Go over the table top with your sander. This will really bring out the depth of the surface.
  • Finally, finish with 2 coats of clear wax. (Note: you could also use satin finish wipe on poly if you prefer).
Step 3: Paint and distress the apron and legs.
  • Clean all surfaces with a damp paper towel to remove all dust.
  • Using Old White full strength, paint two coats on the table apron and legs.
  • Put some Paris Gray in a plastic cup and then add water to thin it. It should be about 1 part paint to 1 part water.
  • Apply the gray wash to the apron and legs and wipe off as you go. Let it really settle into any crevices or details to emphasize them. Let dry.
  •  Using sand paper, distress to your liking. I used a light distressing on this piece--just hitting the high points and knocking down the edges.
  • Finish with a coat of clear wax.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and feel inspired to tackle a find of your own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ikea Kitchen Island Hack

Hello all!

I'm going to start sharing some DIY projects I completed along with the complete tutorials. First off, my Ikea Kitchen Stenstorp Island Hack.

So here's what I started with:

This is a great piece as is - roomy stainless steel lined shelves, solid oak top, and room to pull up two counter-height stools.

And here's how it Looked in my kitchen:

Nice, right? But there was one thing that really bugged me. Anyone walking by the kitchen (which you have to do to get to the rest of the house) could see all the junk I had crammed on the shelves. It actually does not look too bad in this picture. I took this before I really started to fill things up ... I also wanted it to look a little more permanent and custom. So I came up with a plan to hack it:

Not a big change, right? But I think it looks more finished and it hides all the stuff on the shelves. Here's the back view. You can see how much stuff it holds. I use it for my small appliances and dog food.

The hack itself was very simple. I used some of the beadboard That was left over from when we did the walls. I cut it to size and attached it to the existing frame with my nail gun and some liquid nails. To finish it off I added a small piece of molding along the bottom edge. Both the beadboard and the molding fit in between the legs so it looks like it was always meant to be there. Finally I caulked the edges and the nail holes. I also ended up staining the top to match the countertops - That tutorial is coming soon!

We use the island all the time. Besides storage, it provides extra prep space, a place to lay out a buffet, and it's my favorite spot to eat breakfast.

Here's the details on everything I used:
Island: Ikea Stenstorp ($ 399)
Counter stools: Ikea Ingolf ($ 59)
Beadboard, molding, liquid nails: Home Depot (under $ 20 total)
Placemats: Simple Pleasures, Charlestown RI ($ 5 each)
Fish plates: Johnson Bros. (Purchased on eBay)
White plates: Pottery Barn (at least 25 years old)
Candle holder: Target from a few years ago
Flatware: Yamazaki Gone Fishin '(available on Amazon and Bed, Bath, & Beyond)

Thanks for stopping by!

TDC Before and After

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Renovation Report: Coastal Colors & Flooring

After a very long hiatus, I'm back! The renovation on the beach house is almost complete, so I'll start posting pics and tutorials documenting the entire process. I found that while I was actually in the midst of the renovations, I had no time to post about it. Now that things have settled down, I'd like to get back to it.

Just to recap--this was a complete renovation of a 1600 square foot 3 bedroom 2 bathroom vacation home in South County Rhode Island. The house had been built around 1980 and had never (apparently) been updated. It was complete with the original kitchen with disintegrating cabinets and nonworking appliances, chocolate brown bathtub, original wall-to-wall carpeting, and wallpaper--lots and lots of wallpaper. Step one was getting rid of all the carpeting (including the wall-to-wall in one of the bathrooms) and wallpaper. The next step was choosing the new backgrounds: paint and flooring.

For paint colors, I focused on gray-green-blue colors. Because the house has an open plan, I wanted the colors to flow nicely while still defining individual spaces. The trim was painted white throughout. All of the paint is Benjamin Moore.

1 Palladian Blue (Entry & Mudroom) 2 Gray Owl (Kitchen) 3 Horizon (Great Room) 4 Sea Foam (Downstairs Bedroom & Bath) 5 Super White (Trim) 6 Woodlawn Blue (Master Bedroom) 7 Wickham Gray (Upstairs Bath) 8 November Rain (Upstairs Bedroom)

On to flooring. After considering many different options, I decided to go with a laminate flooring throughout (except the bathrooms and the entryway). Keeping the open plan in mind, I wanted continuity with the flooring. It's also a beach house. I didn't want to have to worry about wood floors getting ruined by sand. I wanted my family and friends (and pets) to be able to kick back and live in the house without anything being too precious or delicate.

The flooring I chose is called Reclaimed Chestnut by Bruce Flooring. It's a a very thick laminate (12mm) and my contractor was amazed at how sturdy it was. He said he tried to bang up a piece of it with a hammer and then a screw driver, and there wasn't a scratch. It's now been installed for almost two years and it looks brand new. In terms of appearance, I wanted something with gray tones to go along with the rest of the color scheme. When I saw it all together, I was thrilled! Here's a sneak peek of the kitchen to give you an idea.

I'll be back soon with before and afters of the entire project.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Craig's List Dining Table & Chairs: Completed Makeover

I realized that I never got around to showing you the finished makeover of my $100 Craig's List dining table and chairs. Here's what I started with:

And here's how it looks now!

Pretty amazing change, right? In previous posts I showed you how I created the faux zinc paint finish for the table top and how I painted and distressed the apron and legs, but I never got around to showing you the chairs.

The chairs were fairly simple. I started by removing the seats. To do this I turned each chair over and removed the four bolts and washers that were holding the seat to the chair.

Wow! Don't you love the original fabric! :-)

Next, I painted the chair frames using the same DIY chalk finish paint I used on the table base. The color is Benjamin Moore "Sleigh Bells".

I used two coats, lightly sanding between coats. After both coats were dry, I used a sanding sponge to distress the frames.

I used indoor-outdoor fabric from Jo-Ann to reupholster the seats. For 6 chairs, you'll need 2 yards of fabric (regardless of width). For 4 chairs, you'll need 1 1/3 yards. I cut the fabric into 24" squares and stapled the new fabric right over the old. You need to pull the fabric taut, but not so tight that it will distort the fabric. Finally, I reattached the seats to the frames using the existing bolts and washers.

Here's how it looks all put together. Yes, those are the subfloors--we're in the middle of a major renovation, so try to ignore the rest of the room!

Not bad for a $100 Craig's List purchase!

TDC Before and After


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