Thursday, August 6, 2015

Geometric Art Desk

Because fully intend to turn our new office into a master closet and bath one day, we just needed a simple desk for our temporary office. We considered a few different desk options on a trip to Ikea, but ultimately decided a cheap, makeshift desk would be the best idea.

We wanted a desk in a very specific size, so we used a pressboard countertop meant for a garage work bench. We could have used MDF for a very similar price... and maybe we should have. The MDF would have soaked up more paint, but the finished surface would have been smoother than the pressboard. But, the workbench top didn't require any extra cutting, and we were feeling lazy. The legs were sold individually, bringing the cost of the basic desk to about $40.

Then things got a bit crazy. The plain workbench top looked too much like... well, a workbench top. I decided to paint it. I first made a basic design on graph paper, which I used as tracing paper to create a design for the desk.

I sketched out a few shape ideas that could be created from it. Aaron liked the triangles and diamonds the most, saying that he wanted the triangles on his side pointing to the squares on my side. I drew a box to scale with the table top, and created a design by tracing over my custom template above.
Geometric designs are a great way for anyone, despite artistic ability, to make something awesome. It all boils down to straight lines and tracing. I initially tried to spray paint the desktop, but this would have taken too much paint and time. I used two coats of a flat, very light gray paint and primer in one instead.
I wanted to use thing masking tape for the design, eventually ordering .125" tape from Amazon. It's clear that whoever was selling this tape was merely buying regular sized tape and cutting it into thinner rolls on some sort of saw... but whatever. I couldn't find anything thinner than .5" in stores near me. I marked the edges of the table with little lines every inch, then connected the lines according to my design. 
Obviously, this resulted in a lot of wasted tape, but it was the easiest way to recreate the design. Unfortunately, once I was on the squares side, I realized I had made a sight error in laying out the tape. The boxes were slowly going askew as I continued. I adjusted the design on the fly to make the mistake less apparent, so that side differs from the original design.
I used cheap acrylic craft paint from Michaels to fill the shapes. I sort of randomly picked the colors, going for whatever felt about right. There's a mix of flat, satin, and metallic colors. I was able to get 13 bottles for $9 dollars, and still have a ton left. I intend to use the extra paint later to make wall art in the same colors as the desk. 
I thought foam brushes would be the best way to paint this, but just a regular paint brush would have worked fine. The foam brushes came in assorted packs of 9 for $5 at Home Depot.
In addition to just sort of guessing what colors to use, I just sort of guessed where to use them. I started at the triangles end and painted toward the squares, trying not to rely on one color too much or using the same color right next to itself. I used the flat and satin colors the most, and used the metallics sparingly. 
One of the most rewarding parts about this whole project was pulling off the tape once the design was complete. This was also terrifying, as I still needed to cover it with a top coat. I used triple thick polyurethane. Some type of epoxy might have been better, but I didn't want to deal with the mess or stress. I prefer to use epoxy on things with edges

Because the surface of the desk is slightly textured, I was unable to sand between coats. The polyurethane was self leveling, so the brushstrokes could not be seen once it dried. We're very happy with how it turned out, and are now impatiently waiting for the polyurethane to fully cure so we can start using it!

Renovating Poker Chairs

Aaron found a couple chairs at Goodwill that he thought we could refinish and resell. I thought we'd be able to use them for our new desk, but it turns out they are a bit short. The original fabric was billiards themed and rather faded. 
Removing the chair cushions wasn't too hard, aside from digging out the wood plugs. Once the chairs were disassembled, we lightly sanded the frames with stain and poly in one. I hadn't used this product before, and I'm not sure that I like it. Even though staining and sealing separately takes more time and effort, I think it's easier to control that this product. At first, I tried to use too much at once - I expected the consistency to be in between stain and poly, but it was nearly as watery as regular stain.

This was also my first fabric recovering job. It was like wrapping an awkward gift with staples. I don't think it's that great, but Aaron things I'm being overly critical. Because of how the chairs were constructed, I was advised to just cover the existing fabric instead of removing it. This was probably wise, but I had to scrub them down well before starting. 
The original fabric was heavier, so getting the staples in at some of the corners was tough. I bought three yards of fabric, but used less than two. I think the finished product looks fine, but I think I'd prefer regular desk chairs.

Now Hanging

Cleaning up the rest of the house meant consolidating some of our excess junk into the basement. There's plenty of space down there, but I'm cautious of storing more than we need. Until we find the time to sort through this stuff, we've stacked it on either side of the stairs. This space is completely unused otherwise, but it was still a bit unsightly for the time being.
While cleaning I found a couple gigantic posters from when I worked at a movie theater in college. I hung them on either side for the staircase, in front of the piles of stuff we brought down from upstairs. The posters are actually taller than the basement is deep, but for now they are sufficiently hiding our random, unsorted junk.

Makeshift Office

For the last year, our fourth bedroom was more like a public storage unit for stuff that we didn't want to deal with. While we were both on staycation, we bought some metal frame shelves and boxes from home depot to get it all tucked away in the basement.

Getting everything sorted and moved out of the room was a bit tedious, but didn't take too long. Now that we have the room back to a blank slate, we are turning it into a temporary office. The temporary part hinges on us actually turning the room into a master bathroom and closet, which if I'm being honest, may never happen. Maybe that's why I'm overdoing it a bit for a makeshift office.

We're going to have a long desk for both of us to work on, a couple bookshelves, and probably a large recliner. I'm thinking the recliner will actually be a secret birthday gift for Aaron next week. I know it doesn't seem secret if I'm posting it to this blog, but I doubt he'll read this before then...

Guest Room Clean-Up

Our guest room and fourth bedroom were mostly holding a bunch of random things that had no home. My sister and brother-in-law's visit gave us the motivation to get ourselves together and get things cleaned up.
I changed the direction of the bed, moved the media bookshelf, brought in a chair from downstairs, and unrolled a rug that use to be under our dining room table.
The things in this room don't really match right now... but, our guests enjoyed it all the same (and so did Roxas).

One Small Step

Because we live in our home while we renovate, everything tends to get a bit scattered as we take on projects. Every few months, we take a break to deep clean the house and get everything tidy again. Cleaning out the pantry was an easy place to start, and helped get us mentally ready for our new goal of being vegan flexitarians, (which for us means eating about 80% vegan).

 I still intend to strip the paint off of this pantry and the bookcase in the living room and refinish them one day... but for now it's serving as motivation to tackle bigger organization chores.

Installing Basement Drains

We've had lots of small, necessary, mostly boring projects so far. Our first major step towards getting our basement finished was getting the drains installed in the floor, along with a big new well and grinder pump. We needed a total of four drains - one for the kitchen, one for the sink in the bathroom, one for the toilet, and one for the shower.

One of the difficulties in getting the plan right was the number of obstacles in the way. We had to account for the pump and the connection to the sewer (located in the center of the bottom wall), the four windows on that side of the basement, one of the poles holding up the house, and the electrical panel (located on the right wall). We also wanted to create a plan that made it possible to build a master suite in the future if we decide to rent out the home in the future as two apartments.We had many versions of the layout before finally coming up with a workable plan.
Though we do a lot of our renovation work ourselves, this was certainly a job we did not want to tackle. This work was too integral to the basement's function,and to hard to remedy if incorrect. We took this opportunity to finally join Angie's List, and hired Olis Construction to do the work.  We picked them because they were fine with just doing one piece of what will be a much larger project, allowing us to decide what to tackle next and when. Other contractors wanted us to do the entirety of the plumbing at once. Additionally, Mark Olis was polite, fast, and reasonably priced.

On day one, Olis and his assistant arrived in an unassuming pickup truck and got to work breaking up concrete. Lots and lots of concrete. The well they put in was 3 feet deep, so they also had to dig out for that. The ditches they cut out were much neater and narrower than I imagined. The jackhammer was exactly as loud as I imagined.

On the second day they laid the drains.

On the third day, they were covering up the ditches. with concrete That was it!
Naturally, this was dusty work and left a bit of a mess. We decided this was as good a time as any to get things cleaned up and organized around home, and save up for the next big project.

Osage Trees

I mentioned I hated yardwork, right? I'm quite ready for the winter and the frosty hibernation it brings to all of nature. Unfortunately, between then and now is fall, and a driveway full of Osage Orange fruit, known as hedgeapples.

What are those? The fruit of the tree of the devil, in my opinion. Some people love them, but I'm unimpressed. The wood from these trees is very strong, making for good fences and bows. I've heard from one of our neighbors that the ones lining the west side of our lot are protected, and cannot be cut down. In the spring, all the buds fall off and make a mess of our driveway. I used the blower to clear them off every day, a task that Aaron thought to be futile. In the fall, these trees litter the ground with endless hedgeapples. The squirrels go crazy for them, and will carry many of the early ones off the driveway. They are mostly inedible for humans, but they are known to ward off spiders and other insects if you place them in your window and near doors.

These are the bane of my existence from September to November. When they hit the ground, they usually remain intact, but when they split open they are a slimy mess. If we don't get them off the driveway, we end up with mounds of goo everywhere. Last year I had an afternoon ritual of removing them from our driveway every day when I got home from work. I kept count of how many I cleared until I got to 200. By then it was just depressing.

One last fun fact about these trees is that when they are first growing, they have thorns like you wouldn't believe, making clearing out of hundreds of square feet of honeysuckle all the more horrible. 

Clearing the Side Lot

I'm not sure exactly what came over me, but I took up the ambitious goal of cleaning out our side lot in late March. I think I just wanted to get ahead of the spring.
We call it the side lot, but it's really just the extension of our driveway past where it turns toward our garage. It's probably about 30 feet wide, and as long as our back yard. I cut down everything i could reach back there, aside from the giant Osage trees.
It took three evenings of work to get it done. It was WAY MORE than we expected, and still haven't found a good way to haul it all off. My current plan is to wait till late fall, cut down everything that has grown back, and then rent a U-Haul to take it to the dump.
 Disappointingly, every type of weed took advantage of this newly cleared space and grew like the Amazon forest of Indiana. The picture below is from early spring, when they sprung up seemingly overnight. These weeds grew taller than the shed before we got around to knocking them down. It's enough to make you want to pave the whole thing.


A few months back, we hosted a party for Aaron's cousins. Having a theme was by no means necessary, but we chose Pirates all the same. The flag and statue are from Assassin's Creed IV, and I just happened to see a gift set of Captain Morgan that came with cannonball cups. We made a pirate Spotify list (turns out there are a lot of pirate songs out there) found a bunch of rum drink recipes, and decorated the mantle. That was in march... and I've since added a pirate book and a bottle of rum to the mantle. I'm not sure what it says about who I am as a person that this still delights me greatly. Even better, Aaron has said nothing about taking it down, which is either a sign of his love or his indifference. I recently realized that whenever delivery people come to our door, their first glimpse in into the house reveals a gigantic black pirate flag...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Meridian Kessler Home Tour

Home tours are an interesting concept - you pay a small fee to walk though a collection of other people's homes. It's like House Hunters with the pressure to actually buy a house. The Meridian Kessler Home Tour is features homes in the historic district of the same name. Most of the homes have been renovated and modernized over the years, making each one distinct. Honestly, it's worth a visit to Indy just to go on this tour.

This year was a bit offbeat, with one of the homes being completely empty and mostly gutted (they intend to feature on the tour again when the home is complete) and another that was a music school, artists residence, and private residence in one.

They won't let you take pictures, which is a bit strange considering hundreds of people will be walking through these homes. Because we have major renovations planned for our own home, it was helpful to see how other people dealt with renovation challenges. We could see some other finished basements and observe how they managed low ceiling heights, duct work, and other tricky situations.

Granny's Porch

I wasn't quite sure what to get my grandmother for her birthday when I had the good and possibly a bit ambitious idea to put down new flooring in her screened-in back porch. She had been complaining about her floor for some time, which was just peeling paint on concrete.
I used vinyl plank flooring, which I love for many reasons: It's relatively cheap, it's a floating floor that can be installed over many surfaces, and it installs quickly. We surprised her with the flooring one Friday evening after work, and were finished laying it by sundown. Once the new floors were in, it was clear that it could use a new coat of paint as well. I fully intended to paint the ceiling too, but she's LOVING it all the same, so I figured I'd leave well enough alone for now and go back to working on my own house.

The Indianapolis Home Show

The Indianapolis Home Show was definitely better this year than last year. I actually ended up going twice: once on the weekend with friends when it was super crowded, and once on a weekday with Aaron when it was almost empty.

I felt that a lot of the smaller, less relevant booths were grouped together in an auxiliary pavilion, making the main pavilion more interesting. We saw some cool ideas, nice products, and the feature home was lovely. The master bedroom was especially impressive.
The feature home also made a shallow platform in their media room, which we might consider making in our basement game room
One company featured lighted tiles in a weave pattern.
Another company constructed a massive outdoor room using a covered, angled pergola.
One of my favorite features was an above ground pool with a patio and landscaping build up along the edge. The pool felt integrated into the landscape even though it was above ground. I'm sure that this was more motivated by the constraints of the home show, but I thought it was a great idea for a pool all the same.

City Sewer Connection

Our neighborhood was still on septic tanks when we moved in, but had a deadline to convert to the city sewer by early 2015. Luckily, the seller agreed to pay for this connection (which costs a few thousand dollars). It's a little strange that homeowners are required to pay for the connection that will result in them paying the monthly sewer fee as well... but that's the cost of living in the city.

The company that we had do this work for us was abhorrent. They took forever to come out, didn't say so much as hello before digging up our yard, and left a gigantic pile of of dirt in our driveway for no stated reason.

That said, they didn't have to run a pipe through the middle of our basement, didn't need to move our deck and they were done with the work in a couple days. We haven't had any issues, so they seemed to do a fine enough job. They didn't return to regrade or re-seed the lawn. They happened to dig up a small bolder, which, out of indifference, we haven't moved from where they placed it.