Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gallery Wall of Love

One of our crafty projects from our wedding involved building a display to showcase old wedding photos of our families.  While we are still looking for a good place to put the cool (and very big) display in our house,  we've been meaning to repurpose the old photos that we had our families dig out of photo albums and boxes. We love looking at the photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days - it's easy to see how happy they were and to imagine how (they too) consider that day, one of their best.

[Photo by Rich Chapman Photo]

I knew we had about 9-10 photos, so I finally decided on a small wall in our hallway as the location for our "gallery wall of love."  Before heading to IKEA, I had to figure out what size I would print each photo.
1- 8x10 (Reed & Deanne)
2- 5x7s (Each set of Parents)
6- 4x6s (Reed's Sister and 5 photos of grandparents)

I had intentions of buying 9 Ribba frames, but my plans changed when I saw the Versirum frames. I liked how the Versirum frames were a little thicker than my original plan and luckily they came in all of the sizes I needed (and then some!).

I laid out the frames on the floor in our office and tried a few different arrangements (the one above is actually a little different than the one we decided on).  Like our entryway gallery wall, we didn't follow any real planning process.  The frames sat on the floor of the office for a few weeks (I should mention, right in the doorway).

Once Reed was tired of strategically jumping over them to maneuver his way into the office, he told me it was time to start hanging.  What he failed to notice, however, was that his ninja-like jumping skills had drastically improved over those few weeks.  Obviously with all of the rigorous training, I determined he was the perfect candidate to hang my newly planned gallery wall. Jumping skills, hammering skills= basically the same.

So we got to work. I shouted orders, he smiled and hung frames. Perfect duo right here.

And then he got distracted. I blame ESPN.  So I  took over hanging duty- at least I could reach this part of the wall.

And there you have it, a little "gallery wall of love" in a place you would least expect it.  Just another project off the "let's fill these empty walls & pretend we live in this house" to-do list.  Many, many more walls to come.

P.S. The number "1" and the "P" are just wooden letters/numbers from hobby lobby spray painted white and navy.  We  used the "1" to take pictures on our one year anniversary!

Monday, March 26, 2012

We Didn't Start the Fire-place (Actually, We Finished It!)

We absolutely promise this is our final post about the fireplace wall.  Feel free to check out our other posts in case you missed out on us building the new mantel (part 2), picking out new tile for the hearth or laying the new hearth tile.  It took a little longer than expected but we finally put the finishing touches on our fireplace wall makeover.

After the tile had set for 48 hours, it was time to grout.  Both of us prefer lighter grout lines to dark, so we went with a creamy, white grout that matched both tile colors.  This was our 5th (and hopefully final!) tile project in our house, so we've learned a lot of the do's and don'ts.  Reed is responsible for spreading the messy grout, and I clean it up; which is fitting in our house because he usually makes the messes and I clean them up.

You can see that even after the cleanup, our tiles were still pretty hazy but as we've learned, after a few wipe downs with a clean damp rag, the haze will go away.  If the haze won't come off with water, most tiling stores sell grout/haze removers to help with the stuff that is really stuck on there (if only we had known that when we tiled our bathroom shower!).

Up next on the makeover project was painting the inside of the fireplace.  A few months ago we tried to clean up the brick inside of the fireplace, but I just ended up with a slightly cleaner (but still very dirty looking) fireplace interior.  We figured if we painted it black, no one would be able to tell if it was clean or dirty (cause really, how often do people clean their fireplaces?). 

We bought some black Rustoleum high heat enamel paint and followed the directions on the back of the paint can (clean the floor/walls, let dry, apply paint) to make the fireplace look fresh & clean.  Now all the soot will blend right in and you will never know it's there! Muah-ha-ha.

Craftsman Reed came to the rescue by replacing the wooden trim that surrounded the tile with some new pieces of oak.  He measured (twice), cut (once), and stained the new wood to match our hardwood floors.  After the stain & poly had dried, he used 2 inch # 6 trim screws to attach the new oak trim to our existing hardwood floors. These screws are nice because the heads are small so they holes aren't as noticeable once they're filled.  These little trim details make a world of a difference when it comes to making a project look complete.

Last but not least, we whipped out the Stone & Grout sealer from Tile Shop (we had extra from sealing our kitchen backsplash) and applied it to our new "chevron-ish" tiles.  With the stone sealed, we could finally stop spraying water all over the place in an effort to view the true colors of the tile.  Ta da!

So that is it, ladies & gentlemen, our completed fireplace wall makeover. Just for fun, here's a final little before & after shot for you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We Heart-h Our New Tile

Since the tiling project required both "Crafter" and "Craftsman" expertise, we decided to write this post together.  In case you missed it, we built the mantel (read about it here) and then installed, stained, and 'polyed' the walnut (read about it here). And then we decided we had to replace those red tiles.

He Says:
Deanne and I strategically planned to replace our tile hearth this weekend because my red cast was coming off on Friday.  The night before my cast removal appointment, we got a little ambitious and decided to start removing the old tiles. This was our third time ripping out tile in our house and it was a breeze the first two times. The red tiles in front of our fireplace should have been just as easy, right?... Well, after a few hours of hacking away at these 3/4 inch thick tiles  with hammers, pry-bars, chisels, we managed to dislodge 12.5 of the 39 tiles.  Typically when we've torn things out of our house we find ourselves asking "what were the previous owners thinking?" (usually with more colorful language) but I have to give them some credit for this particular tiling job.  These bad boys did not want to come up. 

Walking into the doctor's office the next day, I had a pretty big grin on my face when the nurse cut my cast off. My smile quickly faded when the Doctor looked at the xrays and said the words, "4 more weeks." Rather than cringing at the thought of more showers with a bag on my arm or smiling about my new excuse for not doing the dishes; my thoughts instantly went to our tile plans for the hearth. Thankfully (without even knowing the cast was going to be on for another month), Deanne decided to surprise me and remove the rest of the tiles. After about 6 hours, she eventually got the rest of them out (and only whacked her hand with the hammer a few times). Best wife ever.

The next day we decided to forge forward with the tile project, cast and all.  We figured we would just do the best we could with 3 working hands. 

With the red tiles removed, the concrete pad wasn't very smooth so we covered it in a layer of thin-set and laid a sheet of 1/4 inch concrete board on top.  Although it probably wasn't necessary, we secured the concrete board to the pad using some tapcon screws (screws specially designed for use in concrete).  This gave us a nice smooth base to attach the tile to.

She says:
Prepping was the easy part of this project.  As you may know we were initially struggling to decide which tile to use (read about it here).  Eventually, tile #5 won our hearts, but we hadn't picked out a design yet.  I was envisioning a chevron-like pattern that would run horizontally across the front of our fireplace.  

Side note: Let's talk about chevron for a minute.  I remember the first time I saw fabric in a chevron pattern. It wasn't exactly love at first sight.  I actually thought it was kind of dumb.  I shared similar "hate-and-then-grow-to-love" feelings for short socks in the 90's (um, hello, you can't roll or scrunch those?) and skinny jeans (is it just me, or does everyone look the opposite of skinny in them?).  But surprise surprise - this short sock, skinny jean obsessed girl is now totally on the chevron bandwagon. And it seemed like the perfect way to tie in one of today's trends in a subtle way.  

Reed informed me that "chevron" wasn't actually a tile laying term, but that laying the tile in a "herringbone" pattern would give us a similar result.  Same difference.

Chevron (image found here):

Herringbone (image found here):

We picked out two different colors of travertine tile and bought double the amount that we needed from Floor & Decor.  Travertine is a natural stone and the colors can vary significantly - hence the reason we bought so much extra.  We wanted to have our choice of the actual tiles we were going to use. (And thankfully, Floor & Decor Outlets let us return all of the extras).

We laid my first (chevron) pattern idea on the floor to see what it would look like. After misting it with water (to see the true color when the stone is sealed), we really liked what we saw.  And then we measured it and were pretty disappointed.  If we laid the tile the way I wanted it, we would be cutting every tile along all four edges.  And they would be diagonal cuts, not straight cuts = lots of wasted tile (and time). With Reed's hand in a cast and my lack of desire to learn to use the tile saw, we decided to look into other options.

Reed suggested turning the pattern sideways, so the tiles would no longer be on a diagonal.  I'm not going to lie, I wasn't too crazy about the idea.  But we laid it all out, did the measurements, and found we would only have to cut a few tiles in half (easy cuts and no waste) for the top & bottom edges.  Regardless of my pouting (I still liked the first design better), we both knew this would be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to lay the tiles.  And thus, a decision was made.

I mixed up some thin-set mortar and we got to work. We started in the middle of the fireplace so the pattern would be centered.  While I laid the tile, Reed made the cuts with the wet saw in the backyard. 

After about an hour of work, our 1950's fireplace had been transformed into a more updated version of itself.  There's nothing we appreciate more than a quick and relatively easy house project.  We are especially enjoying being one step closer to completing "operation fireplace facelift".  Grout, tile sealer, trim around the tile, and some new paint inside the fireplace all coming soon!

P.S. The tiles in the pic above are a little hazy- their true colors will come out when they are sealed (in our next post!).  Also, ignore the random pieces of wood trim, they are just there temporarily to make sure our tiles didn't shift while the thin-set dried.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who's the (Part 2)

I know that the suspense has been killing everyone so here is part two of our mantel saga (“saga” might be a stretch but it’s a fun word to say).  With the mantel all assembled, it was time to mount it.  I didn’t want to have any visible brackets so it took a little creativity to hang this baby.  I started out by using my hammer drill to drill a few holes through the limestone ledge.  If you’ve never used a hammer drill, they are basically a cross between a jack hammer and a standard drill.  They are great for drilling through harder materials like stone or concrete because the hammer action helps to drive the bit in.  

Next, I used the holes that I drilled to attach a 2”x 4” to the ledge using  a few lag bolts. 

I was then able to set the mantel on top of the 2”x 4” and attach it with some 2 inch wood screws.  I made sure to countersink the holes so I could hide the screws with wood filler.  To minimize any strain on the top piece, I also used some L-brackets to secure the mantel on the bottom side.  

Next up was the staining.  We started out by putting up painters tape to keep the stain off the wall.  Ideally we would have stained the piece before we hung the mantel but the screw holes complicated things.  Wood filler is designed to be stained / painted so it made sense to fill the holes before the stain was applied; ergo the mantel needed to be hung before it was stained.    

One area that my grandpa and I disagree is staining.  He thinks that dark stains take away from the character of the wood, but to me, dark stains make the wood look even better.  Deanne and I like to use Minwax’s Special Walnut Oil-Based Stain.  It is on the darker side but still allows the grain to show through.  We applied it with a brush in nice even strokes, let it sit for a few minutes and then wiped off all of the excess stain.  Once the stain was dry, I sanded it with 220-grit sandpaper and we wiped the dust off with a rag dipped in mineral spirits.

Next up was the polyurethane.  Since we used an oil-based stain we needed to use an oil based poly.  I’m not a big fan of high gloss finishes so I always use Minwax’s matte finish.  Being the bargain shopper that I am, I snagged a dented can of it in the bargain-bin at Home Depot for $5.  

When using poly, you always stir the can.  Shaking will create air bubbles which will appear when the finish dries.  You also want to use a natural bristle brush and use long even brush strokes.  Once the first coat dries; sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and wipe up the dust with a rag dipped in mineral spirits.  For the final coat (I only did 2 coats), I "wet sanded" using 600-grit sandpaper covered in lemon seed oil.  This method is described on the Minwax website.  

With the mantel all finished, it didn't take Deanne long to start decorating.  We still need to re-tile the hearth and paint the inside of the fireplace but we are really happy with how the mantel turned out! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DIY Subway Art (Partial Fail)

When Reed and I aren't picking up garbage or wasting away our days at Menard's/Home Depot, we can be found window shopping at Restoration Hardware.  A few months ago while wandering through RH, we noticed a gorgeous subway art sign. It was an enormously tall (like 6 inches taller than Reed tall), stunning, statement piece of art towering over us.  We stood there, eyes wide open, in awe at its simple beauty. And then we looked at the price tag- at a mere (ha) $850, it was about $800 more than we were willing to spend. We quickly scurried away, but the thought of that sign never left us.

[image found here]

A few days later I suggested we make our own subway art. One minor dilemma- we had never been to NYC. And, as much as we love Glen Ellyn, it seemed like a pretty hilarious idea to make a sign out of GE words (Glen Ellyn Public Library, Main Street, Einstein Bagels, Prairie Path... On second thought, maybe a GE Subway sign would be semi-charming?).

Thankfully Reed pulled out all the creative stops ("train stop" pun intended) and put an end to my brainstorming.  He proposed using the Illinois Zephyr Amtrak line stops between Galesburg (his hometown) and Chicago (near mine).  We rode this train line a few times during our college days, so it was personal and unique. "PERFECT!" I exclaimed as I hurried to the internet to figure out how I could make this possible.

Without much research (I blame all of the excitement), I decided I would use a big piece of canvas (24x48 inches to be exact) with vinyl letters. Part of having a DIY blog is letting you all know when one of our projects is an epic fail. This is one of those times.

I have a serious addiction to spray painting. Its so quick and easy, barely any set up or clean up involved.  Which brings me to mistake #1 - don't spray paint canvas without some sort of primer.  Seems like the pros on the internet recommend a product called Gesso or even a basic primer.  Without primer, the canvas soaks up the paint so quickly, making it nearly impossible to get an evenly distributed coat of color. Painting this canvas took my entire bottle of green spray paint.

After my 28 layers (kidding...sorta) of spray paint dried, it was time to apply the vinyl (again, custom ordered from Becky @ Vinyl Crafts). This vinyl on canvas option brings me to fail #2.  Have you ever tried to apply vinyl on a fabric surface? The stretch/give of the canvas was just enough flexibility for the vinyl to refuse to stick to the surface.  So I recruited Reed for some crafting assistance.  Don't be fooled by my smile, we weren't having fun individually peeling away each of the letters and trying not to move them.

Once we had all of the letters removed from the vinyl backing, we had only a few minutes before we needed to Mod Podge the heck out of those babies.  Right in front of our eyes the vinyl was peeling and bubbling up from the canvas.  It was nerve wrecking.  We Mod Podged the canvas twice and managed to salvage our nifty little sign.  Don't get me wrong, this is most definitely our favorite piece of art in our house- but I want to make it clear you should not try this one at home (better yet, learn from our mistakes!).

If you are interested in making some subway art, I would recommended using a hard surface especially if you are going to use vinyl.  A piece of sanded plywood would work well (primed and painted, of course).  I would also suggest ordering your vinyl as a stencil like Shelley @ House of Smiths.  The advantage of actually painting the letters versus using vinyl letters is that you have the option to sand them down and make your sign look distressed (bonus!).

When all is said and done, we are very happy with our final little subway art project.  It's a perfect reminder that things don't always work in our favor.  Its also a perfect reminder that there are 8 stops on the Amtrak line between Chicago and Galesburg, and that, my friends, is an invaluable (and semi-useless) little tid bit of information. ;)

[Note: This project is linked up to the "Winter Pinterest Challenge" on YHL (click to see the other projects: Katie’s, Cassie’s, Erin’s, and Sherry's)!]