Weekend Project: New Bathroom Floors!

I just finished installing TrafficMaster Allure Ultra vinyl tile flooring in my bathrooms! Here’s the before & after of the master bath—pretty nifty, eh?





There are loads of helpful youtube videos on installation of this material so I won’t be providing step-by-step instructions here. What I will do is share a list of things you might want to know before installing these tiles.

  1. Order ahead. Boxes of the ceramic tiles aren’t typically carried in stores (I got mine through Home Depot), so you’ll need to check out samples in stores, then order them online. It takes about 5-10 days for the products to come in (they were shipped to Home Depot, then I got an email telling me they were ready for pick up)—so plan to order these a few weeks before you’re ready to install them (they also need to sit out for 48 hours to acclimate to the room temperature that they’ll be installed in).
  2. Color may vary. There are different dye lots, so even if you order the same color/pattern, each box may be a slightly different shade. You can specify in your order that all boxes should come from the same dye lot.
  3. Buy more than you need. You’ll be cutting apart large pieces to make small end pieces to fit your rows, and before you know it, you’ll have planks in all sizes. If you want a consistent pattern, buy extra to use for ends.
  4. The planks are tough to cut. The “tile” version of this flooring is thicker and tougher than the “wooden plank” version that’s in stores. It still works the same, but be prepared to put some major elbow grease into scoring these puppies—very sharp, heavy-duty box cutters are a must.
  5. Get intimate with your toilet. You’ll need to remove the toilet, and before removing it, it’ll need to be empty of water. Be prepared to bail excess water out of the tank and bowl and come face to face with the spooky sewer pipe beneath it (stick an old rag in the pipe while you work).
  6. That toilet might need some TLC. If you put your new floor down on top of your existing one (which I did, since the previous floor was just a sheet of ugly vinyl), your toilet will sit higher up from the sewer pipe and might need an extra wax ring underneath it to seal it tightly (these are cheap and available at most places that sell general hardware/home improvement stuff).
  7. Doorways are tricky. The installation directions say to start fitting your planks together from the back of the room, then moving towards and ending at the doorway. That’s really hard to do when you have doorway trim that the plank needs to fit under. Because the planks need to be angled to “snap” together tightly, and you can’t get that angle under the door frame, well…you can see where this is headed. I ended up cutting and laying out all the planks, then doing the final fitting together starting at the door frame and working towards the back wall where there were no obstructions and I could angle the pieces properly to get a tight seam.

Here are the tools I found necessary for this project:

  1. Tape measure & pencil: to measure the floor and mark measurements on the planks
  2. Metal ruler or T-square: to guide your score marks and cut straight lines
  3. Box cutter with sharp blades
  4. Mini handsaw: to trim door frames so new flooring fits underneath
  5. Prybar & pliers: for removing your baseboards/trim and any caulk prior to floor installation
  6. New wax toilet ring(s): it’s recommended to replace these each time you take up your toilet

I think that’s all you need to know. It took me 2 days to do both bathrooms, and though it was a bit more challenging than I initially expected, I do love the outcome! The floors look really nice (I chose the shade “Carrara Oyster”), and the vinyl planks feel really good underfoot. And, if you want to redo your floors down the road, the planks are fairly easy to remove since they “float” and aren’t nailed or glued down.

If you’re thinking of installing this material, I’d love to hear about your experience or answer any questions you may have. Good luck!


DIY Chalkboard

cabinet-doorI’ve been wanting to update my kitchen cabinet doors, but since I change my mind a lot I figured painting was too much of a commitment (not to mention a lot of work). After removing a few of the doors to open up the space (read about that project here), I decided to turn some of the remaining doors into chalkboards. This creates a convenient space to make lists, jot down notes before I forget them, or display temporary artwork.

You can purchase chalkboard paint at hardware stores, but again, painting requires a decent amount of effort and commitment. A much easier, cheaper method is black contact paper! You can purchase contact paper marketed specifically as “chalkboard contact paper,” but I’ll let you in on a secret–it’s exactly the same stuff as plain black contact paper, which you can purchase at most home improvement stores (I bought mine for $6.99 at Fred Meyer).

Simply measure the area of your cabinet door, cut the paper to fit, and stick it on. My door required two pieces, but you can barely see the seam. A few things to keep in mind while putting up large pieces of contact paper:

  1. Clean the surface before you use it (contact paper likes a smooth, non-greasy surface)
  2. Peel off a bit of the contact paper backing at a time and smooth out bubbles as you go
  3. Contact paper is fairly easy to remove and re-position, so remain calm if it’s crooked–just peel off and try again

My supplies for chalkboard labels

I also love the look of chalkboard labels on jars and cans, so I purchased a paper punch from the craft store. The one I bought is called “flourish square” from Martha Stewart Crafts and is super easy to use. Regular chalk works perfectly well on black contact paper, but for more precise lettering or for writing in smaller spaces (like the labels) I recommend a liquid chalk marker. These can also be purchased at most craft stores.

Below are some ideas to get your crafty juices flowing. If you make something, I’d love to hear about it!


Here’s a cabinet door in my kitchen–lots of space for shopping lists, recipes, and doodling.


A pretty idea for a fridge sticker–just trace a design on the paper before cutting it out.


More fridge stickers–according to her blog, the bottom sheet is for the author’s kids to scribble on. Neat!


For a framed version, simply take the glass out of a picture frame and cover the cardboard insert with contact paper.


For a DIY version of this clock from ThinkGeek, just trace around your clock on the paper, stick it on the clock face, and make your own numbers!


These straws and cups were made with strips of black contact paper. Writable cup labels would be a cute idea for keeping tracking of guests’ cups at a party.


Jars labeled with black contact paper.


A cute way to let people know what’s behind the door!

Instant Kitchen Facelift: Removing Cabinet Doors

Maybe it’s the darker winter days making everything a bit gloomy, or my tacky kitchen cabinets that make that space overwhelmingly…brown–whatever the reason, I recently decided my kitchen wasn’t bright enough and could stand a facelift. The cabinets could certainly stand to be painted a lighter color, or completely removed and replaced with floating shelves, but I don’t have that kind of time or energy at the moment. Another easy way to open up the space in your kitchen, but without having to do a lot? Remove the cabinet doors!

This is relatively easy to do, and lets you make a minor change that can have a big impact. It’s also a good project for folks on a budget, or for renters who aren’t allowed to make drastic changes to their kitchen.

A few tips:

  1. You can do this alone, but if your cabinet doors are heavy, proceed with caution–nobody wants you to get bonked on the head with that door, and holding it steady while removing the hinges can be tricky (I used an electric screwdriver and made sure to move breakable things out of the way).
  2. Once the inside cabinet is revealed, you might want to spruce it up with some contact paper (easy to find–check out the links in my post on contact paper projects), or a contrasting shade of paint.
  3. Because the cabinet contents are now on display, group things in like colors so it doesn’t look too cluttered (I opted to keep a few doors on, in order to hide my mismatched items), or employ some baskets or storage bins to keep things tidy.
  4. Make sure you have a good kitchen exhaust/vent if you remove cabinet doors near your stove–airborne oil particles from frying stuff may travel and cling to exposed items.

And there you have it–a more open space that looks lighter and brighter! It’s also much easier now for guests to find things and to put things away. Some inspiration:


from Apartment Therapy


from Emily Ann Interiors


from Houzz


from In Your Back Pocket


My own work in progress. Next up–covering the interior with contact paper!

DIY Chevron Stripe Lampshade

IMG_1568-miniChevron stripes have been around for awhile, but I feel like I’m noticing them more and more lately. What’s not to love? All the tidiness of a stripe, with a devil-may-care zig-zag in it. I’ve been wanting to incorporate more chevron into my decor, and earlier this week stumbled upon a great DIY lampshade tutorial over at pomp & circumstance.com. Their directions were pretty straightforward, but I’ll recap here, with a few additional tips/warnings.

You’ll need 4 things:IMG_1563

  1. A fabric lampshade
  2. Acrylic paint (a 4 oz. tube should be sufficient)
  3. A sponge brush
  4. Painter’s tape (I used masking tape because I had some handy and kind of regret it)

First, clear some space and lay down something to protect your workspace in case you spill your paint. Measure how far up the lampshade you want the peaks of your stripes to go, and stick a band of tape around the lampshade:


Start taping your first row of triangles from the bottom of the lampshade to just below your tape circle. After your first row is complete, remove the tape circle and tape on your second row of triangles, then your third, and so on until the shade is covered. Don’t forget to add little pieces/points to the top and bottom to complete the pattern:


Next, pour some paint onto a plate (acrylic washes off with soap and water), and sponge the paint onto the lampshade. Note: my masking tape didn’t stick as well as painter’s tape will, but whichever type you use, make sure it’s pressed down firmly before you begin painting so the paint doesn’t bleed under the tape.


Another important note: a single coat of paint will probably look streaky once the shade has light coming through it. A good way to check your progress is to wait until your current coat is dry (usually takes about 30 minutes), and gently set it back on the lamp base, turn on the light, and evaluate how evenly you applied your paint. A streaky look can actually look sort of neat, but I wanted a dark, uniform color, so I ended up doing 3 coats of paint.

Once the paint is dry, carefully peel the tape off of the lampshade and inspect your handiwork. If you look closely at mine, you’ll see spots where the paint bled under my masking tape. Fortunately, I’m okay with it looking a little homemade. It’s…um…charming, right?


The final step: pop the shade back on your lamp base and turn it on. Looks pretty snazzy, eh?


Contact Paper: The Lazy Decorator’s Best Friend

I’ve been thinking about updating my kitchen cabinets. And lining the insides of my bookshelves. And putting a large-scale silhouette on one of my walls. Guess what product does all of those things? Contact paper! Not only is it easy to apply, it’s also easy to remove or rearrange (for any commitment-phobes like me who like to change their minds a lot). And, because you’re basically applying a big sticker to something, prep, application, and clean-up is fairly easy and offers near-instant gratification.

Contact paper has come a long way since Mom installed the orange & yellow flowered variety in her kitchen cabinets in the 70s. Places like Home Depot, Target, Michael’s, and JoAnn carry patterns that mimic trendy fabric designs, realistic marble, and wood grain.

A few things to note about contact paper before launching into a project: it typically features a plastic coating so is easy to wipe clean, but may not adhere well in moist environments such as steamy bathrooms and above a kitchen stovetop. Contact paper can get air bubbles trapped under it when you apply it, so it’s helpful to have a squeegee, ruler, or hardcover book to smooth it down with as you go. Most contact paper has a grid on the back of it to help you make straight cuts, but it helps to have a separate ruler and pencil, as well as a measuring tape to make sure you’re cutting the paper to fit perfectly.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it! Measure, cut, apply, and voila! Now for some inspiration:


Birch tree wall decals


Chevron striped walls


A dresser dressed up with stencils


Snazzy ceiling fan blades


Frosted glass


Zebra stairs

IKEA Hacks

As someone who owns a fair amount of IKEA furniture, I’m always inspired by folks who can personalize these often bare-bones products and take them from ordinary to extraordinary. I make regularly-scheduled visits to IKEAhackers.net, and my DIY flame just got doused in kerosene by ApartmentTherapy‘s recent roundup of their top IKEA hacks of 2012. Since the best part of these are the before & after shots, I’m re-posting some of my favorite IKEA hacks below. A-mazing.


Lack end table: before


Lack end table after: with a collage and glass top


Lack end table after: with a bottom shelf and nailhead trim


Office organizer: before


Office organizer after: with antique stain and brass nameplates


Rast dresser: before


Rast dresser after: painted with brass chest accents


Rast dresser after: painted with added trim and molding


3-drawer dresser: before


3-drawer dresser after: painted and stenciled


Birch credenza: before


Birch credenza after: different shades of wood-grain contact paper

Silhouette Art

fox-faceI’ve already noted my fondness for tree silhouettes, but I recently discovered how easy (and neat-looking) framed silhouettes are. If you’re a Photoshop user, you can open an image and adjust the brightness and contrast until it’s a silhouette, then print it out, or simply sketch one onto paper or canvas, and color it in with paint, pastels or colored pencil. If you prefer not to draw freehand, print out a copy of a picture, lay it on top of carbon paper, then lay both on top of a canvas. Trace along the outside of the silhouette, and the carbon paper will copy the outline to your canvas.

If you use a flat canvas, it’s fairly easy to find a cheap picture frame to go with it, and thicker stretched canvases look nice hanging unframed–just paint the sides so it looks uniform around the edges. If you go the frame route, check out local Goodwill and second-hand stores and give that frame a new coat of paint (or not, if you like it as-is), and your homemade art instantly looks legit! Here are some silhouettes that inspired me:
bear-silhouette deer-silhouette dog-silhouette foxy oh-dear


found this nice silhouette online…


…so I painted a copy for myself!

Repainting a Mirror

Finally made some time to repaint my recent estate sale finds! Repainting the headboard was a bit of a headache since I was too lazy to detach it from my bed frame prior to slapping on the paint, but the mirror repaint was a cinch–see walk-through below.

Things you’ll need:

  1. Spraypaint — I used a glossy black interior/exterior can of paint from Rust-Oleum
  2. Medium-grit sandpaper — to provide a rough surface for the new paint to stick to
  3. Newspapers or dropcloths — to protect the surface you spray on
  4. Painter’s tape and paper — to cover the mirror if it can’t be detached from the frame
  5. Screwdriver — to remove the mirror if it can be detached from the frame
  6. Rubber gloves (optional) — to protect your hands from the spray paint nozzle
Step 1: remove the mirror from the frame (for mirrors that don’t come apart, you’ll need to cover the glass with paper and secure in place with painter’s tape after step 2).
Step 2: Lightly sand the frame to provide a rough surface for the paint to stick to. Do this outside if you can so you don’t have sandpaper dust flying all over the place.


This is also a good time to clean the mirror glass.

Step 3: On a flat surface outside (preferably someplace out of the wind), spread out papers or dropcloth so it’s a foot or so wider than the object you’re painting. I had to anchor my paper with a few rocks so the breeze wouldn’t flip the pages up onto my frame.

Step 4: Spray away! Most spray-paint cans advise you do this in a well-ventilated area, holding the can about ten inches away from the surface you’re painting, and moving the can in overlapping strokes. The type of paint I used covered very thoroughly on the first pass, but you can do a second coat as needed.
Step 5: The paint I used was dry to the touch in about 20 minutes, but wouldn’t fully dry for a few hours, so I moved the frame indoors (with the windows open), where it could dry peacefully without being exposed to dust and dirt blowing around outside.
Step 6: Once the frame is dry, remove the paper & tape protecting the glass, or replace the glass and backing you removed. Hang your mirror, and enjoy!

Before: antique gold


After: glossy black