Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Being Productive with No Power

Sandy came and blustered and has left the area but in her wake is extreme devastation. We were spared but spent a chunk of time with no power. Our home is located in a very rural corner of Connecticut on the end of a power line. We generally are the last to get power. After a storm like this we develop power free projects to complete so that we don't go bonkers. Yesterday, one project I tackled was an easy one - organize the marker drawer. I never throw away a magic marker and I have a drawer full of strays from previous sets. It is frustrating to grab a marker only to discover it is dry.

Locating and disposing of dried up markers is a great organizing chore for a powerless day. I sat in the sunroom and opened every marker in every set and tested it.

About ten percent were bad. Why then does one always grab a bad one? Must be a law of the disorganized.

It was a great chore to get done. How do you spend powerless days?

And the good news is that the power came back on at 3:30 this morning. The whole house lit up like a Christmas tree and everything started beeping and whirring.  What a wonderful sound! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Twigs become Thanksgiving Centerpiece

I am sitting here without electricity waiting for the world to return to normal after the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. I am thankful that my inconveniences will be minor, no electricity or water, loss of about 15 trees, lost time from work. At this point on Tuesday morning many others are still assessing damages far worse.

But I plan to use that which has been offered by nature to be creative. What I have in abundance is downed trees and branches and, if you follow my blog, you'll know I do love those resources. I started with a little research in my pinterest collection of twigs ideas with my though being something for a Thanksgiving centerpiece.  Here are some of the inspirations I've seen.

Source: Tiny Prints

Source: Carl Oosterhouse •  Via:Fresh Home

Source: Centro Garden

Now, I'll post this, sign off and go out and gather resources! We'll see what I decide to create.

Meanwhile, remember my branch series. If you to have a ton of branches down (or just like decorating and crafting with branches) check out my branch series.

Click here to resources on my Branch Inspirations • Series Overview.

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Constructing Countertops

Since our contractor vanished we decided to finish up this laundry room project ourselves. Step one was building counters and adhering laminate to them.  This is a job that is relatively easy if you know a trick or two. And a simple Google search will connect you to sites with instructions. Here is what we did after we reviewed the online advice.

We decided to make the counters out of a double layer of A/C plywood. Online source recommended MDF and the local lumberyard recommended particle board. We have a section that spans about 48" that I don't want to put and additional column under. We choose to spend a little more for base material because of the span.

Step 1 was to glue and screw the plywood together. We used regular yellow wood glue and sheet rock screws.

Step 2 was to cut out the actual counters. We did this with a combination of skill saw and hand saw work.  We clamped wooden boards to guide the skill saw in straight lines.

We then placed the counters temporarily in place.  I balanced the folding counter on storage tubs to understand how it would fit. One change I made was to make the counter a few inches thinner to allow for storage space for the stool. Lots of high storage in this room and I am short!

Have you played with the panoramic option on your iPhone yet? David took this following shot using that technique. It gives you an idea of the layout. Keep in mind that the only light source I have is a floor lamp in the center of the floor. Finish electrical work can't be completed until the counters and final cabinetry is in. Makes photography a challenge.

We moved the countertops to David's studio to apply the laminate. The temperatures had dropped outside and the glue requires warmth for 72 hours. Laminate is attached using contact cement. You apply it to both the wood and the backside of the laminate then let it dry for 20 minutes. (Run outside and breath in fresh air while waiting. Contact cement stinks!) The trick we learned is to place dowels all along the counter base once the glue is dry. You then place the laminate on top.

Pull out the center dowel allowing the two surfaces to touch in the middle. Using a roller, apply about 25 lbs of pressure on the area now touching.

Pull out the next dowel and repeat. Continue doing this working from the center to the ends. Once done your laminate will be firmly attached with no air bubbles. Works like a charm.

We purchased a router bit for edge trimming laminate and David cut the material to fit.

We didn't apple laminate to the edges because I want a white wood trim there. (Still on the to-do list)!

And then we brought the counters back to the laundry room and again put them in place to get idea of how the room will look.

Washer, dryer and folding table on the left, extra counter space for organizing when I entertain on the right and storage EVERYWHERE!

I am loving it.

Finishing installation of the last of the cabinets is next on the list- which gets shorter everyday!

Other Laundry Room Redesign Posts:

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Laundry Door • IKEA Kvartal Solution

One of the goals in the completion of my laundry room was to minimized the space required by the mechanicals, move them out of sight, yet leave access to them so that they can be maintained or replaced when needed. The plan was to position them behind a sliding panel, one that could be removed when maintenance people needed access. Here is a photo after completion of the wall. It separates a tiny corner into which our miracle working plumber fit everything.

I considered many ideas to close off this area from bi-fold doors (hate them), to a sliding barn door (dryer hose is in the way), to a fabric curtain.  I then remember the Kvartal hanging panel line at IKEA. I helped my daughter and son-in-law install those in their bedroom awhile ago. David and I went to IKEA, liked what we saw and came home with the parts. This system includes a triple track and very thin panels which slide beautifully.

I didn't need the triple track, only two and we adjusted the rail to minimize thickness. Space is at a premium in this room.

I am very pleased with the results. The fabric panels are stiff, have an interesting weave, will allow air flow through them, and although semi-transparent, are dense enough so they effectively hide all the mechanicals behind them. The are beautifully engineered and slide easily. And the panels pop-right out when we need unobstructed access to the plumbing behind.

Behind the left panel (which slides behind the laundry chute, is the electrical panel, water heater and pressure tank.

Slide the doors the other way and in the smaller end you find the water filtration system, washer and dryer access panel and hooks for storing my LLBean bag collection. My vacuum cleaner fits there as well.

Incredibly functional space, hidden by two sliding Kvartal panels. I am considering painting a border design along the bottom of the panels. When closed it is too much uninterrupted white. Still thinking about that though.

I am going to get a triple set though to use under the folding table.  I didn't put cabinets there because I want to place a couple of large storage containers with laundry baskets on top. my original plan was to have two carts that I could wheel out with panel doors on front. Space seems too tight for that solution. A triple set of Kvartal looks like a better solution.

Other Laundry Room Redesign Posts:

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Laundry Room Update • Major Stall

Who would have guessed?  I started the construction phase of finishing my laundry room back on August 6th. I hoped for 3 weeks of chaos, planned for 6 and here I am approaching 3 months and we still aren't done. What happened? I'll explain further on but first let me share a progress photo - because we have finally made more progress!

Here is my laundry room today. Because of the tiny size (and the fact that I am turning just about every square inch of it into functional space) photography is almost impossible.

And because it has been so long since I last posted about this project, I am sure you need a reminder of what it looked like before.....

We have come a very long way. Then what happened?

The problem was caused by logistics and supply chain, and the counter tops did me in. I didn't order the counter tops at the beginning of the project for a variety of reasons but mainly because I knew the room was possibly (read probably) not square and that adjustments might need to be made. I was right, so luckily I didn't end up with counter tops that wouldn't fit. I just ended up with none.

When it became time to actually order the countertops my contractor recommended I just order the Formica and he'd build them to fit. It would take much less time. This was an add-on job, not part of the original contract and there would be an additional charge. The quote was acceptable. I thought that sounded like a great solution and ordered the surface material. It took five days to learn it was a discontinued pattern. I went to the lumberyard and picked out a second choice, determined it was still available and placed another order. I was given a 1 week delivery date. Didn't happen. Time was spent by my making phone calls and the lumberyard people avoiding them. They kept saying things like, "Wednesday, definitely." Didn't happen.

I then went to Home Depot and settled on one of the in-store options. It clearly would be a compromise but I wanted to proceed. Then my contractor started avoiding my phone calls. When I finally pinned him down he said he was very busy now but that next week he'd squeeze it in. Didn't happen. After several, "I'll try's", he finally said he wasn't coming back. And, six weeks after ordering the surface material, it finally arrived!

I had the material (in 2 patterns), a job 90% done and no contractor. And that's when my husband said, "I guess it is up to us!" So last weekend we made the counter tops! I will share a series of how-to photos in another post. Below is a detail shot of the surface.  I will be adding white edge trimming this week. Need to get a miter saw first.

Lessons learned: 
• Hold back money to the contractor even when he has completed work covered by that amount. He would have fit me into his schedule if I owed him money for work already completed. It was the added on jobs that had me paying, expecting yet another payment to go out.
• The economy must be improving if it is getting hard to get a contractor.
• Home Depot gave me better service than the small lumberyard, and they allowed me to return the Formica!

I'll share some of the progress photos over the next few days.

Other Laundry Room Redesign Posts:

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pumpkin Ladder for October

Back in April I quickly put together a ladder from branches. This ladder has been the most flexible base for many entry arrangements this year. This week I took off the wood slice flowers and instead adorned it for the autumn season.

The arrangement includes pumpkins and swamp grasses arranged in IKEA pails which hang from each rung of the ladder.

A couple of weeks ago I had harvested a huge bouquet of swamp grass plumes to create a fountain of them in a glass jar. I repurposed the weeds to provide the bedding and contrast for the pumpkins.

I had purchased the tin pails from IKEA months ago. I simply punched some holes in one side with a nail and then threaded jute through to suspend the pail.  I taped a block of styrofoam in the base and then arranged grasses and plums before placing a variety of small pumpkins.

I gathered a collection around the base.

The ladder makes it so easy to create unique entry decorations. I have used it every season since April this year.

I posted a tutorial on making this ladder here back in April. If you made one, I'd love to see photos of how you have used it.

Previous Posts of Interest:

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Birch Theme • Series Overview

Over the past two years I have done more posts about birch trees and using this beautiful natural resource than any other single topic. It is time to pull all of those posts together into an overview and add it to my themes page. Creating the theme pages is rather a time consuming bother but I find I use them over and over again. I think you would also find them useful. You can see the others I have completed by clicking on the Theme heading in the header navigation links above.

But before you go exploring, take a minute to review my birch theme designed to pull together so many ideas into one place. I have mixed them up and put the inspirational ones first and then some of my projects last. The source information for all these photos is listed on the original page - so just click through for the complete listing.

Birch Bark as a theme: - A collection of ideas and techniques for putting a birch pattern on your walls - decals, paint, wallpaper.
Originally posted April 18, 2011

Birch Bonaza: A couple of ideas for incorporating birch trees into your decor - if you have the real thing.
Originally posted April 17, 2011

Simply a Birch Stick or Sticks: A collection of ideas for using smaller birch sticks and branches.
Originally posted April 1, 2012

Cole & Son Birch Wall Paper • A Classic - A collection of ideas for using the so familiar wallpaper by Cole & Son
Originally posted March 31, 2012

Batik Birch Trees – I shared the work of artist Carolyn Doe. She uses batik to depict birch trees on fabric.
Originally posted March 31, 2012

Birch Trees in Quilts and Fiber Arts - I share the work of many different quilters and the wide range of compositions using birch trees in fiber arts.
Originally posted April 21, 2011

Birch Inspired Ceramics - There is a breadth of ideas for incorporating the birch theme in ceramics.
Originally posted April 19, 2011

Birch Update • Containers - As more birch ideas collected in my Pinterest folder I added an update showing more containers using birch bark.
Originally posted March 30, 2012

Update • More Birch Ideas - Here are a couple of kitchen utensils that I found simply stunning - in the birch theme of course.
Originally posted March 30, 2012

Birch Branch Triptych by John Oman - A post about the birch wall hangings created by John Oman.
Originally posted June 19, 2012

Harvesting Birch Bark for Crafts - A birch tree fell and I experimented with harvesting the bark. I shared my techniques and experiences in this post.
Originally posted May 23, 2012

Birch Trees • Using a Windfall - Photos of how I used another fallen birch tree to dress up my front entry.
Originally posted May 8, 2011

Birch Tree Nursery - A post about the nursery my daughter created for my granddaughter after being inspired by my blog.
Originally posted June 4, 2012
Branches • Birch Centerpiece - Tutorial on creating a birch fence centerpiece from birch sticks.
Originally posted February 1, 2012

Want to keep up with my continued interest in birch ideas? Follow my Birch board on Pinterest.

Here is a button for you to pin to easily return to this collection of ideas and inspirations.

Other collected themes assembled by me can be located by clicking on these links:

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Hope to see you there as well!

©2012 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy