Craigslist Find

Finding items on Craigslist for far below retail can be exciting and an affordable way to furnish a home.  I hate paying retail for something that I know I can get at a discount and also I like the idea of reusing something that would otherwise be considered “trash.”

I had a nook in my family room where I wanted to put a desk but the desks that I found online were just too big, so I thought I’d head over to Ana White’s site to find some plans to make my own desk.  Of course I found what I was looking for but with the holidays, I put off the project.  At the same time, I did my regular check on Craigslist to find out what was out there and came across the PERFECT desk for $75 (much cheaper than even building a desk).  So, I grabbed my husband and we checked it out.  It was just the right size but had a few scratches on the chair that came with it, so the seller knocked the price down to $50 which was great!

Here is the nook before the desk (and before the installation of the  baseboards):

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And here it is with the desk:

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The desk opens up which we don’t use that often since we use a laptop which just sits on top of the desk.  But here’s a shot with the desk opened up:

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I added a 3×5 area rug that I picked up from Target to help with scuffing the new floors.  I think it goes well enough with our “Y” rug but I’m still on the hunt for something that goes better.

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I’m happy with my find since I got a desk AND a chair for $50 and didn’t have to break out all my tools and spend a couple hours making a desk.   The size and look are perfect as well as the price.  Score!

For ideas on how to find the best deals on Craigslist, YHL has a great post.  I’d also add that everyone has their quirks on what they won’t buy (used mattresses!) and will buy on Craigslist and I personally don’t buy upholstered furniture on Craigslist since I have kids and dogs and I know how gross upholstered furniture can get.  Besides, I am a major germ freak which definitely plays into that!  That being said, I know lots of people who do buy used couches and chairs from Craigslist and that are super-happy about their find.  It just depends on you!  Happy Craigslisting!

Running Lists…

So now that the family room is looking more presentable, some things still need to be done to complete the room:

The first few are all about lighting since the room desperately needs some.  For now there’s only  one skylight, why only one, I don’t know!  There’s also one window and a set of french doors that look out to the covered porch and because the porch backs up to woods, no light.  So here’s the list:

1.  Two skylights.  Although I like to DIY as much as possible since I have such a long list of items that I want done in the house, I’m not touching skylights!  I don’t do windows or skylights since if installed incorrectly, they could leak and if that happens if professionally installed, I can just call the installers out to fix it and any damage the leak caused.  The contractors that we’ve been using for 12 years (they are awesome!) already gave us a quote of $1,100 for both skylights.

2.  A couple extra tall windows with seats underneath on either side of the fireplace since it would be great to look out at the woods from the family room and also get more light in the room.  Again we’re going with a contractor on this one but this is more pricy at about $3,500, so we’re waiting.

3.  Recessed or pot lights since now we only have one floor lamp lighting the entire room at night.  I don’t know how to do recessed lighting and since it’s a fairly inexpensive project for a contractor to do, I’ll let them take care of this one.

Furniture:

4.  A new sectional couch!  Ours is 10 years old and has gone through 3 small kids and two dogs so it needs to be replaced.  I want something like this one from Crate and Barrel:

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I like the clean lines on the couch and the fact that it can seat so many people.  I think family rooms should always be cozy and comfortable, so if at all possible, get a sectional rather than a straight couch.

5.  A storage ottoman to serve as our coffee table.  There’s hardly any storage in the family room so although I’d like a more traditional coffee table, a storage ottoman works better for our family and it’s also more comfortable for putting your feet up.  It also serves as extra seating in a pinch.  I haven’t found a good place to get a nice big storage ottoman so I’m still searching.

6.  A chair for the corner near the fireplace like this one but not this one.  I want something with arms and with a pattern that’s not as dark.  I do like the clean lines on this piece though.  This is from West Elm.

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As far as furniture goes, these are some of the stores I hit:

1.  Crate and Barrel (they can be pricy but they do have sales)

2.  Ethan Allen (I only shop here for “fancy” furniture like furniture I’d put in my formal living room because EA is expensive.  BUT, the furniture is very well made so the cost is worth it.  However, for everyday furniture for our family room that I know will take a beating, I normally get inexpensive furniture since I’d rather replace inexpensive furniture when it gets kid grime and dog smell on it, than expensive furniture that I’d be more apt to keep around for longer even though it should get the boot!).

3.  Thomasville (more traditional and expensive so I stick with these pieces in seldom used parts of the house).

4.  West Elm (I like the modern lines of this furniture).

5.  Macy’s (Macy’s has surprisingly good furniture at reasonable prices).

6.  Ikea (I haven’t bought furniture from Ikea yet but I know people who have and they seem happy enough especially considering that Ikea’s prices are so cheap).

7.  Bassett

I know that there are tons more stores out there, but so far, I’ve always been able to find what I want from the above stores.  Does anyone buy furniture from other stores that should be on my list???

Hand Scraped Floors

Our family room is coming along and a big piece of that was replacing the yucky carpet that was in the house when we moved in.  Here is a before picture:

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We decided to replace the carpet with hardwood which was a hard decision because my husband likes carpet since it’s soft for lying down on and wrestling our kids to the ground, but I like hardwood because it’s easier to clean and also looks nicer.  In the end, we went with hardwood but only if I promised to get a soft area rug for the wrestling matches (which I was going to do anyway ;)).  Initially I thought about getting bamboo since it’s super durable and also comes from a renewable source but after learning that we could never refinish them since they are made from strands of bamboo that would splinter if refinished, we chose traditional hardwood instead.  I liked the idea of getting hardwood floors that are hand-scraped because it already has some imperfections in them so when my kids or dogs (or me) scratches the floors, I’m hoping that they will be more hidden.  I also wanted a darker hardwood at first, but a lot of people told me that darker hardwoods show more dirt and dust so I went with a medium tone.  At our old house we had 3 inch width strips of hardwood which I didn’t like at all since they look dated so I also wanted something wider.  I also knew that I didn’t want anything with orange or red undertones.  So after researching a lot, I came up with a medium tone, hand scraped hardwood with large planks and no red or orange undertones.

Unfortunately this is the biggest picture I could find, but the link to the product is here.

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I only had a small sample to look at when we picked the floors and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a lot of color variation when the floors were actually laid.  This is what it looks like in the family room:

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I LOVE these floors!  See how there are dark pieces mixed in with lighter pieces?  Here’s a better pic to see the contrast in the area near the fireplace:

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Here are a few more pics:

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I while back I bought a green and white rug that I thought would look great in the family room, but unfortunately, it was an epic FAIL.  The price was right but I guess you get what you pay for because it was scratchy and too thin and all the corners turned up which was a huge tripping hazard so I returned that puppy and bought the above rug from West Elm.  It is perfect!  It’s soft and the gray and tan/beige geometric pattern is exactly right for our family room.  I want to keep the family room fairly neutral so this rug works perfectly.  The only drawback is that it sheds like crazy and fills up my vacuum bag after a couple vacuums.  I know that will taper off soon but in the meantime, we are walking around with rug fuzz on our clothes (even with vacuuming everyday).  But, the shedding is worth it!  I also got a great deal on it (20% off) and although it was expensive to begin with ($850) the 20% off made the price reasonable.  Here is a close up the rug:

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Hanging a Collage

Happy New Year!  We painted our family room a while back and after sitting back and admiring the paint job, I knew I needed to cover it up…  Well at least some of it up with art or pictures.  The area really in need of some bling was the wall space above the couch.  Our ceilings are vaulted and the wall behind the couch is like 15 feet high so I needed something to fill the space.

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I thought about wall art but honestly, I didn’t want to pony up the cash for something large which is what I needed.  The next best thing to art is a wall collage.  I also liked the idea of a collage because our family room is fairly informal and I wanted something laid back and also meaningful and reflective of our crazy family.

If you’re going to have a collage, then there has to be some kind of theme uniting the pieces otherwise the collage turns out very eclectic which is fine if you’re going for that look.  To unite my collage, I chose to use the same type of frame: white with clean lines.  No crown moulding type frames, just frames with straight lines.  Over the next couple weeks, I gathered coupons from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby (because I hate paying full price for frames I know I can get discounted) and gathered my collection.  I chose all sizes of frames with the only constraint is that I needed one big enough to hang the awesome scratch-off map I got from Urban Outfitters.

After getting a whole bunch of frames, I tried different arrangements on the floor to see what would work, then texted them to my sister to get a second opinion.  Here’s one arrangement that I tried that I ended up NOT liking but it’s an example of how I arranged things on the floor:

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It was just too busy for me.  So I tried a dozen other arrangements and finally came up with one I liked.  Then I cut out templates of the frames from leftover wrapping paper.  You could also use newspaper but if the frames are large, you have to tape the newspaper together and that’s a pain in the rear.  You don’t have to do that with wrapping paper.  I also marked on the template where the hanger was on the frame.  Then it was time to tape the frames to the wall and hammer in the nails where I marked the hangers on the templates.    All this took about 15 minutes.  Then I hung the actual frames and took a long time straightening and getting the spacing right.

To keep the frames straight, I used 3M hanging strips which worked great.  They not only keep the frames from tilting and moving but it’s another layer of hanging power which is necessary because if one of the frames falls and we’re sitting on the couch, that will leave a mark!  So here is the final product:

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I prefer to not have the collage width be wider than the couch so I kept the collage fairly narrow.  We hope to get a big sectional soon and at that point I’ll add on to the collage to make it wider.

I still have to fill in some of the frames with either art or pictures of the family and I want each and every piece to be special to us and not just something I slapped up so I’m taking my time to fill all the frames.  Some of my favorite frames are the scratch off map mentioned above:

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The picture that my eight year old son drew of my father in law who recently died is especially meaningful to us.  Every time I look at the drawing it reminds me of him and what a  great, funny person he was.

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I also really like the map of Maryland that we got off of Etsy with Columbia marked since that’s where we live.

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I love how it turned out and can’t wait to fill in more of the frames and to also add to the collage.  Overall it was a fairly pricy project only because even with the coupons, the frames ended up being about $10 – $20 a piece but it is still a lot cheaper (and more meaningful) than large wall art.

Making a Mantle

So after a long hiatus, I finally have a chance to post some of the living room projects that I’ve completed.  The mantle was the one that I liked doing the most.  After painting 24/7, it’s fun to do something different (even if it still involves a paint brush).  I wanted a custom mantle for our newly painted fireplace but didn’t want to shell out the cash since I knew it would be expensive, so I headed over to my local building reclamation shop to see if I could find some inspiration.  I like to go to Community Forklift (www.communityforklift.com) in Edmonston, MD because it’s a huge warehouse chock full of recycled building materials.  There are thousands of doors, cabinets from full kitchens, tons of wood, antique elements, and many other finds.  What I was most interested in were slabs of wood since I knew I could fashion a mantle out of an interesting piece of wood.  So I found this beauty and like the nerd I am I was in love with it as soon as I saw it:

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I like this piece because it was the right length and I loved the highly grained quality of the wood.  I wanted to highlight the grain and not hide it with two much “product” so I tried stain and also lacquer on a a sample piece with the following results:

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The top (the tip of the wood) is a dark wood stain and the bottom is a clear lacquer.  I really liked the lacquer because I wanted something glossy that allowed the grain of the wood to pop and lacquer fit the bill perfectly.  I didn’t know that much about lacquer before I used it, so I don’t want to say that it was a crapshoot whether it would turn out the way I wanted, but it was :).  I painted about 8 coats of lacquer using a soft wide brush and allowed the coats to dry for at least 3 hours in between coats.  I wanted the piece to be GLOSSY and look wet so I just kept painting until I achieved that result.  But after all that painting I found that the bad thing about lacquer is that it REALLY smells, like the kind of smell that stays in your nose with you all day so use a fan to blow the fumes away from you and don’t paint in an enclosed area unless you like a major paint high and/or a killer headache!

So after three days of painting and then cutting it down to size, *ta da* the mantle now looks like this:

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The underside:

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Not to be too designer-geeky but, I liked keeping the mantle looking rustic against the modern white brick of the fireplace to add some textural interest giving the two elements a nice juxtaposition.   I kept the bark on the mantle to give it even more texture and it also made the mantle look more organic since the bark kind of curves a little making the mantle bow in the middle.  The  mantle also ties into the beams on the ceiling nicely.  This is definitely a project I recommend doing since it was cheap (it was $100 total to include the slab of wood, the lacquer, and the material to hold up the mantle) and it looks great!