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My 5 best tips for buying wood at Lowe’s

I was so pumped to share our new ceiling beams with you guys, but we had a critical malfunction during installation and they aren’t quite finished. Ah, the perils of real-time blogging.

But to tide you over until Monday, here’s an instagram shot I posted Tuesday admist the action:

They completely change the room. More on that in a few days…

While I was at Lowe’s picking up replacement lumber after our incident, I learned a couple interesting things that were too good not to share, and decided to spill my secrets and advice.

These are things I wish I would have known years ago—they would have saved me so much time, money, and headaches! Now you can learn from my mistakes.

I’m at Lowe’s more than any other place (besides my own home). No joke. So after years of marching up and down the aisles and who knows how many thousands of $$ spent, I’ve collected some important pieces of information that I think everyone should be armed with before they go for a lumber run.

Keep in mind that a couple of these may not be applicable to all stores—make sure to double check locally first!

1. The board basics


This may be common knowledge for many of you, but walking into the board aisle can be overwhelming at first. So many boards, so many sizes, so many kinds of wood! Here’s the deal: the “whitewood” boards are the cheapest, and what I use for probably 80% of my projects. They take up one entire side of an aisle in all different sizes, from 2″ wide in the front up to 12″ wide in the back, in varying lengths up to 12 feet.

On the other side of the aisle you have the higher quality (i.e. oak and poplar) boards. They come in the same sizes as the whitewood, but most do not have knots/ragged edges, and most importantly—they are reasonably straight. 9 times out of 10, the pine (whitewood) will have some bowing and/or curving in it. I always set my piece on the ground and hold it up to a flat surface to gauge the straightness. Sometimes it takes a lot of sorting to find a good one. For some smaller projects this won’t matter, but for important things like building furniture, unless you want it to be rustic looking, buy the more expensive wood.



Here’s Board Buying 101—the listed measurements are not accurate. For instance, a 1″x4″x8′ board will actually be 0.75″x3.5″x8′. All of the boards in this aisle are 0.75″ thick. In fact, any board sold anywhere that says it’s 1″ is really 0.75″. If the number is 2″ or larger, you can subtract 0.5″ from that measurement. The length will generally be accurate. Make sure you account for this when planning out your project so you don’t end up short.

2. Your wood is probably green.

No, I’m not talking about the color. “Green” wood means it has been freshly cut from the tree and it hasn’t fully dried yet. Why does this matter? Warping.

All those warped whitewood boards you see? They were much straighter when they were unloaded off the pallet. But because they’re green and dry out naturally over time, they will warp however they want to (shorter width boards tend to bend the most).

This is a problem because if you build something while the wood is still green, it may end up shifting. With “1-by’s”(1” thick boards) it doesn’t make a huge difference (a screw will usually hold it in place pretty well), but with 2-by’s, it can be a big deal.

Remember this bar we built in our kitchen?

Before I knew anything about green wood, I bought these 2-by’s that were very green (actually damp to the touch) and sadly, one board has bowed so badly that we have to rip it out and replace it. Our kitchen tabletop (made from 2×10’s) has also separated a bit (even after strapping the boards together and driving four screws into each one).

It’s really a crapshoot—some will dry straight, some will dry extremely bowed, but you won’t know until 2-3 months later when it’s fully dry.

This is not exclusive to Lowe’s—it’s everywhere that sells lumber. You can buy pre-dried wood at some places (not even sure if Lowe’s offers this) but it’s mega expensive.

Update: Reader Jonathan added this piece of advice: “The best way to dry pine evenly without warping is to lay it on it’s thin side (for a 2×4, lay it on the 2 inch side), leave a space between all the boards for ventilation, and minimize contact with floors and walls by resting them on wood scraps spaced out every foot or so.”

3. Save money by buying bowed boards

I just found this out yesterday, but oh man, I would have saved a ton of I’d had known this all along. I’m often unable to find perfectly straight whitewood boards in the size I need, and if perfection isn’t crucial to the project I’ll settle for something bowed/cracked/chipped instead of paying more for the poplar/oak wood.

Well, guess what? If the board is bent, you can get a discount! I always feel bad asking for discounts so I’ve kept my mouth shut, but yesterday while I was loading some replacement boards onto my cart, the sweet lumber guy informed me that because they were bent, he’d be happy to give me a discount. So I got both boards for 50% off:

Honestly, the boards weren’t even that bad. Probably no worse than half of them on the shelf. If I would have known that two days ago when I purchased 24 boards for our beams… I could have saved some major cash.

The associate said that any time I’m there, if I see a board that has a defect, bring it to him and he’ll mark it down for me. The cashiers up front can also take discounts, but only 10%. Go directly to the lumber guy.

This is great news if you ever find a board that is damaged at one end and you won’t be using the full length of it anyway… changes the game plan a bit, right? I’m not advocating we should all go out and abuse the system (I’ll still feel some remorse asking for dis
counts even if they’re warranted) but it’s nice to know that policy is in place if you need it.

On that note, if you aren’t picky about your wood, I also learned there’s an area outside in the front of the store where they sell discounted defective lumber. It’s worth looking through!

4. Free project wood cutting—a thing of the past?

Most of you already know that Lowe’s offers free wood cutting. I have taken advantage of this many times, having them cut my boards and sheets of wood into various shapes and sizes because I didn’t own the proper tools and/or vehicle to transport them home.

Last month when I asked them to cut a 4×8′ plywood sheet into 4″ strips for my DIY salvaged door project, they said “Sorry, we don’t do that anymore”. My heart sank. Apparently it takes up too much of employee’s time to make all these small cuts (project cutting, as they put it), so now the policy is to only cut wood to fit into cars. I had driven there in a small car so it had to be cut down anyway, and I asked super nicely if he could do it just this once so I could fit them in my car. After some hesitation, he finally agreed.

We bought a truck a week later.

I’m not sure if this is a company-wide thing, but it’s something you should definitely look into if you have smaller cuts that need to be made!

*On a semi-related note, make sure to account for the blade width when having sheets cut down. It will eat up about 1/8″, so if you have a 48″ wide board and want to cut it into 4″ strips, you’ll get 11 4″ strips and the 12th one will be closer to 3″. Also, you won’t often get really straight pieces when they rip down sheets because they are so thin and the boards flex. It’s hard enough to get them straight at home on a table saw when you’re going slowly, but these guys work fast and accuracy isn’t their concern.

Update: Reader Autumn’s husband works at Lowe’s and says his store still does project cuts, so hopefully it won’t take effect everywhere!

5. I found secret weathered-gray wood!

And it’s insanely cheap!

I’m not sure if this is a new and/or temporary addition, but I just noticed these 1x4x8″ whitewood boards underneath the 1x6x8 section and fell in love. They have this beautiful natural gray weathering to them (some more than others), and they’re smooth, straighter and half the cost of regular 1x4x8 whitewood boards!

When we lived in Florida there was something similar at my Lowe’s, but I believe they were 2×4’s (maybe even 2×6’s as well?). Sadly they don’t carry those here, but at least they have these. It might be a regional thing, but I hope they stay forever and I can’t wait to use them in some projects.

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I also have a special shop update—this has been requested so many times over the years, and I’m thrilled to announce it’s finally here!

The quality of these prints are amazing. I’m working closely with a great company here in California, and after months of sorting out all of the details, I’m so happy with our partnership and can’t wait to start sending them off to you guys! You can learn more about the canvas prints here.

I’ve also updated my discount structure if you’re looking to stock up on a few items for your home (or are in need of gifts for others!)

The codes are available on every product page and you can simply enter them at checkout for the discount.

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Alright, back to home stuff.

Now that I’ve divulged my best wood-buying tips, I need you to help me choose a bench!

Originally I had planned on adding a chaise underneath this window in our bedroom:

Old photo, I know…

But after measuring, I realized it would be a little too cramped (my max size allowance is 60″ wide by 28″ deep)

So, I started looking into benches. And I can’t decide!

Here are the contenders….

1. 


Pros: It’s only $175 shipped. The color is perfect and it has side arms which I really wanted. Perfect size.
Cons: It’s a little simple (I was hoping for tufting) and I’m slightly concerned with the quality at that price.

2.

Pros: Lovely tufting, love the shape and the legs, perfect size.
Cons: It’s $360, which is a bit more than I wanted to spend. Also I’m afraid of keeping all that white clean.

3.

Pros: Love the fabric/color, love the shape (minus the legs, I could try to switch them out). Perfect size.
Cons: $350 shipped and it doesn’t have tufting. Although it has enough detail to probably make up for it.

4.

Pros: This one is definitely a different type than the others, but it’s just so pretty I couldn’t resist. Love the shape, tufting, style, everything.
Cons: It’s $380, and the size isn’t ideal (slightly taller and deeper than I wanted), and no side arms.

5.  (added by reader suggestion)

Pros: It has tufting and side arms. It’s $309 shipped which isn’t awesome but better than the others.
Cons: I’m not sure about the color/material, looks a little cheap and darker than I wanted, and the description says beige but the reviews say gray. Not a fan of the legs but I could switch those out.

So, what would you choose? It’s surprisingly difficult to find seating that meets my criteria (and isn’t insanely expensive). If you know of something similar, please show me! Or just tell me your favorite bench so I can make a decision already 🙂

And if you have any additional questions or advice for Lowe’s lumber shoppers, I’ll do my best to answer and contribute more tips to spread the word.

Now it’s time to finish these beams so I can have some progress to show you on Monday. Have a fun & safe holiday weekend everyone!


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Master Makeover: Bedside Baskets & Accordion Lamps

After a relaxing week-long break from house projects while my sister was in town, we’re back and ready to jump right in to this bedroom makeover.

Those of you who follow me on instagram got a little peek of the action on Saturday…

This is a somewhat photo-heavy post (to make up for being MIA for a while!)

So, last time we left off with the most challenging project we’d ever tackled. And it wasn’t over yet… we were left with a ton of nails that needed to be dealt with and holes that needed to be patched. Our Friday evening looked like this:

Brad hammered all the misfired nails in while I came behind him with spackle. We had to use a hand sander on many spots because the surface was protruding where some of the nails went in (beadboard is a strange soft and fibrous material, unlike wood).

After everything was sanded smooth and patched, I ran caulk along the seams and we let everything dry overnight. The next morning we came back and sanded over the dried spackle and we were ready to paint.

A few hours later, this project was finally OVER.

And now we have a pretty new ceiling, ready for some beams.

After that was out of the way, it was onto the next project—floating basket shelves.

The gap between our bed and the wardrobes is too small for a side table, so I opted for something with a smaller footprint, and also used the opportunity to bring in some warmth through texture.

I picked up these water hyacinth bin at The Container Store for $10/ea:

To make them more functional, I decided to add a shelf inside each one using a scrap piece of wood I had in the garage:

After measuring the basket depth and width, I ripped them down to size on the table saw and stained them with one coat of Dark Walnut so they blended in nicely:

Now—how to install them? We threw a few ideas around, and ultimately decided to try drilling a couple long screws from the inside of the wardrobe to the back of the shelf, which would also hold the basket in place.

It totally worked. Here’s the inside of the wardrobe:

We also placed a screw on the side of the basket to hold the shelf level which is completely hidden by the basket weave.

The process was repeated on Brad’s side:

A couple small screws were placed at the very bottom (from inside of the basket) just to be safe, and after pulling and pushing on them, it’s safe to say they are very secure.

We don’t keep a lot of stuff near our beds (our old nightstands just had a tiny drawer), but we do like to charge our electronics so Brad decided to make the shelf extra functional and run wiring through the back for our chargers.

First, we drilled a hole at the very bottom of the wardrobe and ran an extension cord through it (this will be hidden in a second….)

I plugged the charger into the extension cord and Brad drilled a small hole in the wardrobe, just large enough to fit the end of the charger through:

And now we both have built in/hidden charging stations:

The handle opening at the bottom was bothering me, so I cut a piece of scrap plywood to size, stained it and placed it at the bottom (it’s a tight fit inside the basket so it won’t go anywhere), and now we have a flat place to set our drinks (or whatever):

Then came the lamp
s.

I picked up two of these beauties on Amazon for $147 shipped back in January:

It looks like the price has gone up a little since then, but I still think they’re by far the best deal around for that style.

Here they are in the flesh:

They were a lot more rustic than depicted in the photo (rust being the key word). I can’t tell if it was intentional or if someone just left them sitting outside for a few decades, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Brad wanted to keep them as is, but I worried it was a little too shabby so I gave them a couple light coats of black satin spray paint just to give it a slightly cleaner look.

When they were dried and ready, it was time to hang them. There were a couple hole notches in the back so we measured, marked and drilled in a couple screws, then Brad made a hole near the bottom for the wire.

Earlier we had picked up a touch pad dimmer, so instead of flipping a switch (which this lamp did not come with) it would remain plugged in full time, and we’d use the touch pad to control it.

We decided to mount the dimmer on the wardrobe behind the basket so it wouldn’t be easily visible—which also meant we had to unscrew the basket to drill another hole behind it:

The hole had to be large enough for the end plug to pass through. Here’s a shot of it from the inside of the wardrobe:

So that just plugs into the extension cord we ran earlier for the phone charger. Brad still has to organize the cables, but everything is hidden behind the wire baskets so you can’t see it when you open up the wardrobe.

I used velcro to mount the dimmer and it works like a charm:

After the wiring was taken care of and we were ready to mount the light, we realized that it had no extension control. Unless you tilted it backwards, it would be fully extended, so I used a small zip tie (painted black) to hold it in:

I can still move the zip tie down and let it extend whenever I want to, but it’s honestly not at all necessary so it will probably just stay like this.

I love the way they turned out! Ignore the distracting unfinished plank wall, we can’t finish it off with quarter round for a while.

The final element to our bedside storage are these wire and canvas baskets I picked up from Walmart (for just $13/ea!)

I love the added touch of the chalkboard. I’m a little obsessed with these baskets.

They are perfect for storing/charging my laptop and iPad, which I frequently use in bed at night:

How about some shots with everything all put together?

Don’t mind the weak basket storage styling… I just threw a few practical things in here for now so you get an idea of all the possibilities, maybe I’ll get more creative for the reveal…

Here’s the lights in action:

My absolute favorite part is the improved atmosphere set by all of the new light sources. There’s just a completely different feeling in the room since they’ve been installed.

The cozy factor is slowly steppin’ up and it’s slowly becoming my favorite space in the house.

And the kitties’, too…

Any time of day you can almost always find either Susie or Biscuit in that spot (sometimes both if everyone’s getting along).

At this point I’d say we’re just about halfway done now that a few big projects have been marked off the list (wardrobe installation, plank wall, and ceiling). The next two major hurdles are the ceiling beams and paneled wall—I think both will make a huge impact in the room.

Time to start planning our next project… I’ll check back in soon!


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Master Makeover: Beadboard ceiling, lights & speakers

You guys.

We just experienced the most challenging and physically exhausting DIY project of our lives. Our bedroom needs a deep cleaning after this one.

It all started Thursday when I discovered an accident after we had cut our holes for the recessed lights…

Four of them were in the way of where I planned to run the beams. Oops. Totally my fault…

Since the ceiling is textured, we couldn’t easily patch over it, so that meant we’d have to either forego the beams or cover the ceiling and start over. I had actually hoped to install some sort of beadboard or paneling initially, but decided it’d just be too much work with everything else we have going on. But now we didn’t really have a choice, so off to Lowe’s I went on Friday.

Fortunately, the size and shape of our room worked out perfectly to have six panels placed right next to each other. I’d use a seventh to fill the area in between the wardrobes, and the little walkway going into the room. I drew up this plan (to scale) to lay it all out before we began:

The black rectangles are the wardrobes, the brown lines are where the beams will go, and each color is one single panel. So we didn’t have to make any cuts at all in the center, just for the green areas. Should have been easy then, right….?

Before attempting to secure the first panel, we made sure to use lots of liquid nails. About 3/4 tube per sheet.

Then we hoisted it over our heads and quickly realized what a challenge this would be. Between Brad’s bad back and my 100lb self, trying to keep it from falling with our heads, align it perfectly with one hand and pass each other the nail gun across the room with the other, it was a nightmare. 

On top of that, our nail gun started acting crazy—it was sparking and shooting nails across the room. We tried adjusting the pressure level to every setting we could and it would either drive the nails in halfway, or shoot them so hard that they would go into the ceiling and fly back out 3 feet away. It was insanity. By the end, these were all over the room (and in our bed)…

Anyway, after shooting about 500 nails into the first panel (many of them still sticking halfway out), piece #1 was done.

You can’t tell from the photo but I have some serious nail hole filling to do.

At this point, we debating even continuing. How were we going to get through six more episodes of this? I tried calling my dad to come lend a hand but he didn’t answer. We were on our own. Somehow we found the willpower to forge on…

There’s a small gap in the center because the boards didn’t quite meet all the way, but there’s going to be a 5″ beam there so it doesn’t matter at all.

It took us hours, but we eventually made it to the back wall. Installing the smaller pieces that we cut for in between the wardrobes was a piece of cake compared to the entire panels.

Planking our ceiling was so much easier than this, if you were wondering (more time consuming, but at least 2 people could easily do it).

The next challenge was the entrance area:

It actually wasn’t a challenge at all compared to what we had been through. I just measured and cut four pieces to go around the attic access box. We’ll be putting crown molding here which will cover almost all of the sides, so it didn’t mater if the beading lined up or there were gaps (there were).

After the entire ceiling was covered, Brad drilled new holes for the lights with his hole saw.

We decided on two in the back over the bed, two on each side of the room, and one by the door for a total of 7. We also have a chandelier going in the center.

Then he cut holes for the speakers using a jigsaw.

He spent the rest of Saturday wiring everything up. Poor guy, all of this in one day.

We also had our electrician come by earlier in the week to add a second switch so we could have our recessed lights on one circuit and our chandelier on another.

Some of the horizontal seams are really noticeable right now but it’s nothing some caulk can’t fix. You won’t be able to tell once it’s done (and remember there’s a beam going in the center).

We also finally got around to putting our new bamboo shades in. These ones are blackout because the sun rises directly in front of our window and has been waking us up by 6am every day.

These are the Tibet Oak color from justblinds.com (the same place I got all of our other shades from—love them!)

I’ll also be adding curtains in the near future so the window doesn’t look as naked.

My favorite part of this whole project is the lighting though. It completely changes the mood of the room. It’s so nice to have an actual dimmable light source after living with the crappy underpowered fluorescent-yellow center light.

Oh, and the speakers can be connected to the TV so the audio experience is pretty awesome now too.

And that’s about it for this weekend. My little sister is visiting from Florida so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on projects this week (my body is still in pain from Saturday so I can’t overdo it).

The goal is to get everything patched, caulked, sanded and painted by Sunday night, so there won’t be any second post this week (sorry!). Family first 🙂

Hope you all enjoy your first week of summer, see you in a week!


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Master Makeover: Trimming out the window

Is it Thursday already?! This week has just flown by—and it’s been a productive one. We added some much needed character to the room with simple trim work:

It’s the same procedure we used to trim out the kitchen and studio windows last year, with one extra step that I think made a huge difference.

First, let’s see what we were working with before… (this was also before the tree was removed so ignore what’s going on outside)

It was as plain as they come. Just a 12″ deep drywall cutout. And it was the super textured drywall…

The worst.

Our kitchen windows were the same, and to smooth it out I applied a ton of drywall mud and sanded it all down. It was very messy, labor intensive and time consuming. I did not want to deal with all that drywall dust again (especially in our bedroom, where we sleep) so I came up with an alternative.

My talented Dad was my assistant for the day

These are the cheapest, thinnest sheets of smooth surface I could find at Lowe’s ($10 for a 4×8′, in the paneling section) and I figured I could simply cover the inside of the window with it.

We started by ripping two strips to the depth of our window with the table saw (around 11.5″)

Then we measured the length and cut two pieces for the sides and one for the top using a circular saw.

Before securing into place, we applied a liberal amount of liquid nails so these babies wouldn’t go anywhere. Ever.

Then we shot a few nails through it.

It’s not going to line up perfectly everywhere because houses are never built perfectly, but that’s what caulk is for!
 

Once all three pieces were in, we moved our attention to the window sill.

The window is just under 8′ long, but I had to buy a 10′ board to extend it 3″ on either side.

Once we figured out the depth we wanted, we drew it onto the board and cut it out with a jigsaw.

The line doesn’t have to be exactly perfect, because again, caulk. Although my jigsaw skills aren’t too shabby these days after my wardrobe door project.

After both sides were cut, we had to deal with one issue. The sill needed to stick out a couple inches, which meant our piece had to be about 14″ wide, but unfortunately, the widest 10′ long boards from Lowe’s are only 12″ (which means 11.5″).

So we did what we did in our deep kitchen window—add a piece to the back.

We ripped down a small piece from another board, predrilled pilot holes, added wood glue, and attached it securely with screws. I neglected to take photos of these steps (all hands were on deck), but here’s the piece added to the back of the sill after we added a bit of wood filler in the seam:

To make it look like one piece, we used a belt sander (which is one of the best inventions, ever) to smooth it all down. Once it’s painted it looks like one solid piece.

The test fit was successful!

Then we applied lots of liquid nails and nailed it in place.

Yay. Hardest part is over.

 
The last part is super easy. Measure and c
ut two 1×4’s for the top and two 1×3’s for the sides, nail in place.

Looks like more work than it is, right? I think so.

Then I spent some time filling all the nail holes and caulking all the seams.

After letting everything dry overnight, I sanded it all down the next morning and it was time to paint!

I used the same white semi-gloss paint that’s used in the entire house—Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee.

Ahhh… breath of fresh air.

I like how it nicely frames the view… kind of like a picture frame.

Instant character for around $50.

If you have a normal sized window, it should cost well under $20. And take way less time if you didn’t have an extra large window sill to extend, or textured walls to cover. It would be the easiest project ever. One of my all time top bang for your buck house projects. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and trim those windows!

In the midst of window trimming, we’ve been working with an electrician on another project behind the scenes and hope to finish up this weekend. There was an “oopsie” which led to a change in plans which led to a lot more work (hint: it involves a ceiling treatment), and our weekend is already packed so we’ll see how much can be done by Monday.

Tune in next week to see what happens! Or follow the #mastermakeover on instagram for real time progress 🙂


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Master Makeover: Planked bed wall

That’s right, another planked wall! I wish the entire house could have wood walls but since we don’t live in a real cabin/cottage, I’ll just have to pretend. Or make it happen myself.

Here’s the wall that was in need of attention:

So blah and boring, right?

Luckily I had plenty of tongue and groove pine leftover to fill it up with wood planked goodness.

By this time, we’ve been around the plank wall block several times so it was a piece of cake. In case you’re new here and looking for installation instructions, you can read about our past experiences below:

Planked kitchen ceiling
Ceiling Part 2 & kitchen wall
Planking the studio
Planking the living feature room wall
Planking the foyer

That should be enough to cover everything we know, so I’ll just do a quick run-through.

Our wall was 16″ longer than our 8′ boards, so we had to cut pieces. I prefer a more seamless look so we always stagger the seams so we can later fill them in and they’ll blend in better.

I do this by making random cuts so none of them line up.

It goes by really fast. Nail a board up, measure the remaining distance, cut the second board to size and nail it up. Onto the next row.

Once we got near the bottom, we had a couple outlets to work around. Now that I’m quite comfortable with my jigsaw skills, I was able to easily measure, mark, and notch it out in a few minutes.

We also took the time to update our old beige outlets with square white ones. Because they were now sitting 3/4″ past the wall, we had to get these longer screws to attach them to the box:

Don’t even bother with spacers—this is the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to extend your outlets.

All done! We took our time and spread this across a couple days but I’d say it took around 3-4 hours.

Instead of ripping a new board down to fit at the very bottom, we found some scrap pieces and nailed them up. Our trim would cover it all completely so there just needed to be some sort of base behind it.

Then it was time to patch the seams! If you don’t want them to be as noticeable, it’s crucial to line them up as closely as possible when you’re nailing them up. Boards like to do their own thing, so sometimes they require a few extra nails to stay in place.

I just used lightweight spackle, and went over some of the knots too.

After letting everything dry for a while, we broke out the belt sander. This part is necessary for smoothing the seams. Once painted, every last bump and groove is magnified so you have to smooth them down to one continuous piece. Hand sanding just won’t do it.

Of course it’s not going to be perfect, but it really helps.

After thoroughly wiping it all down, I made sure to use a good oil based primer over the knots. I didn’t know about this step for the first planking projects I did and I totally regret it because the knots will bleed through the paint over time. You can’t use oil based primer over latex paint, so now we’re stuck touching up the knots regularly to stop the bleed through.

I used 3 coats on these suckers… hopefully that will do the trick.

Finally, it was time to paint! I chose the same color as I used in the office—Valspar’s Ocean Storm in an eggshell finish. The Signature coverage works great every time.

To finish it off, I added baseboard and outlet covers.

Oh yeah… we drilled some light holes too. I’ll post about it next week.

The sides and top are left unpainted because I’ll be adding trim and crown molding later on.

Finally we reattached the headboard and moved the bed back. It feels like an entirely different room already.

We still have a long way to go (I’ve planned it all out and I’m predicting around 2 months of working on it almost every day), but it feels great to check off some of the key elements. It’s looking a bit sterile right now but things will start to warm up in there soon, little by little.

Thanks for stopping in to see the latest progress! Tonight I’m headed to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber, it’s time to trim out this bare window…

Come back for the transformation on Thursday!


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Master Makeover: Ikea Pax Door Hack

Our Pax wardrobe is rockin’ some fancy doors right now…

I cannot tell you how relieved I am that this project is complete. I’ve spent ~20 hours over the past 3 days on this after running into a couple road blocks, so I’m extra excited that I’m finally able to relax and enjoy them.

Yesterday I posted a little peek on instagram while the doors were drying…

But let’s rewind to Monday.

If you remember in my Pax wardrobe part 1 post, I mentioned that I had hoped to get the Bergsbo style paneled doors we have on our pantry, but Ikea didn’t have enough in stock so I settled for the  plain Ballstad doors instead, knowing I could transform them somehow.

Excuse the poor garage lighting…

At first I was going to recreate the same paneled look (I love the way it turned out on our foyer door) but then I decided since I’m going through all this trouble, I should switch it up a bit.

I settled on a criss cross barn door style pattern, similar to this but without the horizontal bar in the center:

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It has a rustic farmhouse meets German cottage style vibe—perfect. Let’s get started.

For the panels, I picked up a cheap 1/4″ 4×8′ plywood sheet at Lowe’s (the pinkish wood that’s $15) and ripped it down into 3″ strips.

Warning: this stuff is not easy to cut into skinny strips using a table saw. At all. There were two of us trying to keep it even the whole time but half of them ended up a little crooked.

It’s because they’re so flimsy. I probably should have splurged for the $30 cabinet grade 1/4″ plywood because it’s sturdier and easier to cut.

Once they were all cut, I selected the straightest strips to use for the edges and started cutting them to the correct length:

Then I chopped up some of the leftovers for the top and bottom horizontal pieces.

For the cross pieces,  I measured to find center and lined it up across the door, then used a straight edge to draw my cut line.

Then… I realized I didn’t have a saw that would cut that angle (it was way past 45°, more like 75°) so I searched through my arsenal of tools to find an acceptable alternative.

At first I tried my skilsaw, but that was a disaster, so my only option was a jigsaw. Yikes.

If there’s ever a project to perfect your jigsaw skills, this one is it. Things started out pretty rough, but by the end I had it down…

All I can say is… thank goodness for caulk. And spackle. And sandpaper.

Anyway, after spending half a day making a million cuts and using up every last board I had, my pieces were arranged and ready to attach…

Then I realized my 1″ finish nails were too long, so I ran to Lowe’s and picked up some 5/8″ brads for my nail gun.

That worked.

I spent the rest of the evening spackling all the nail holes and caulking every point where the wood met the door…

Finally, I sanded everything and thoroughly vacuumed & wiped them down with deglosser. They were ready to prime:

I used two coats of Zinsser’s shellac-based BIN primer (in the red can)—the shellac based is designed to work with the plastic-y surface of the Ikea doors:

After making sure to sand (using 220 grit) and wipe down the doors between each coat, I applied two coa
ts of Valspar’s Signature paint in satin (color matched to Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee):

While the doors were drying, I painted the edges of some strips of wood I picked up to go between the wall and the side of the wardrobe. I decided these were necessary so the doors could open up all the way (they were really close the wall).

After everything was dry, it was time for installation.

We attempted to secure our strip of wood to the drywall using inserts, which worked at first, but as soon as we secured the back of the wardrobe to the back wall, the inserts all ripped out. Oh, the joys of crooked walls.

In the end, we decided to just attach the painted wood piece to the wardrobe (instead of the wall) and secure everything in place through 1×3″ boards we added in the back corners (which are hidden of course). These things aren’t going anywhere.

Then we put the doors on.

And added hardware.

I picked these Fintorp handles up from Ikea. Love them.

And then it was time to celebrate because these wardrobes are IN!

I like them.

I like them a lot.

It only cost $15 so even though it took 3 days out of my life, I can’t really complain.

And of course I’ve already started organizing in here. I have a project or two lined up for the inside so there will be more to come.

Brad’s side is still empty. I’ll work on him.

We still need to add crown molding and baseboard and trim along the back wall, but at least they’re fully functional. And fun to stare at cause they’re just so pretty, I think.

I’ve got a packed weekend ahead (birthday party, graduation party, Father’s Day) but I’m going to try to squeeze in a planked wall between the wardrobes. Hopefully it will be picture-ready by Monday for you guys (which means I need to start this afternoon!). I’ll make sure to post real time updates on instagram if you can’t wait until then 😉

Have a happy & productive weekend!


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Master Makeover: Paint & Pax Wardrobes

Now that we have a plan for the master bedroom, I didn’t want to waste any time so this weekend we got right to it.

Step #1: Paint.

Well, paint the two walls that won’t have any wood treatment, which left the window wall and the door wall.

There’s going to be a lot going on in this room, so I wanted to keep it simple and light with a barely-there gray (Valspar’s Montpelier Madison White—the same shade we used in the living room, studio, and hallway—pretty much the base color for this house).

Brad used the roller while I cut in the edges and corners with a short handled brush and we knocked it out in under 30 minutes… so much easier than using tape!

I didn’t bother to paint up to the back wall since that’s where our built in wardrobes would go. And we’re adding crown so we didn’t go up to the ceiling.

I also didn’t paint inside the window sill because we’ll be adding trim (just like we did in the kitchen & studio)

After that was done, we removed the trim to begin preparation for the wardrobes.

Then came the wardrobe assembly!

I purchased two Pax wardrobes that were just the right size for the room…

I had planned to purchase the Bergsbo style doors like the ones we used for our kitchen pantry

But sadly, they were out of stock. So I chose the plain flat doors. Don’t worry, I have a plan to pretty them up starting tonight—hopefully they’ll be done and ready to share with you guys in a few days!

I did have something fun in mind for the inside though—fabric covered backs. I considered wallpaper at first but fabric is so much more readily available and cheaper, so I picked up 6 yards at Joann’s for $20 along with some modge podge:

I love the feminine touch the damask brings without being too girly.

There’s no photos of the application process because we both had our hands full, but we found the most efficient way to do it was coat one small section at a time with the modge podge, then pull the fabric and smooth it out, working your way down the panel. It was a lot easier to have two people so one could keep the fabric pulled back while the other smoothed it down.

The fabric was 43″ wide and the panels were 40″ so it was perfect! I just had to cut the length off at the bottom. It didn’t matter if it hung over the sides since it would all be hidden.

After the back panels were covered, it was assembly time. Pretty straightforward, easy stuff.

Here’s our fabric panels, nailed right in to the back:

Once the first wardrobe was assembled we proceeded to stand it up and…. crash…. it hit the ceiling!

For whatever reason, the ceiling height in our bedroom is shorter than it is in our kitchen (95″ instead of 96″ like they’re supposed to be), so we had to disassemble the wardrobe and reassemble it while standing up. Bummer. Always check first!

Brad was not enthused about this part.

All was well in the end…

Ignore the bed, yesterday was laundry day.

Then came my favorite part, setting up the pieces inside!

I don’t need any more clothes storage so I decided mine would be a vanity area with all of my jewelry/accessories, so I picked up a couple shelves and some wire basket drawers.

Because the wardrobe is up against a wall, I had to be careful about
how far the door could open so this wouldn’t happen…

The door opens up just enough so the basket can slide out, but after I add my treatment to them tonight I’m afraid it will be cutting it too close. This means I’ll have to add some 1×8 boards between the wall and the wardrobe to push it out slightly (I’ll do the same with the other wardrobe as well).

Here’s the setup I decided on:

Brad’s side will be mostly used for clothing:

Looking forward to stocking these things up!

The wardrobes aren’t attached to anything right now—we still have to secure them to the wall, add crown molding, and then get those walls planked behind the bed for the finishing touch.

And that’s it for now, folks. I have a lot to do over the next few days but I don’t want to rush it (paint takes time to dry!) but I’ll try my best to have the doors done by Thursday.

See you back here at the end of the week!


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The Master Bedroom Plan

I had hoped to get started on building a fireplace mantel this week, but that project turned into trying to figure out how to relocate the TV to redoing all the wiring to replacing the entire fireplace surround to rearranging the whole living room and getting new furniture… and I got overwhelmed. So I’m going to ignore it for a while until we can come up with a good solution (I’m hoping the answer will magically reveal itself to me but no luck so far…)

In the meantime, let’s focus on our master bedroom! I’ve drawn up this handy plan as a guide…

Now, most of what you see above aren’t the exact pieces/colors I plan to use, they’re just representations of similar pieces I hope to find.

Here’s what the room looks like right this second:

I’ve only posted pics of this room once or twice–since then we’ve (temporarily) hung the headboard and added bedside lamps.

Excuse the sloppiness, I clearly didn’t style it for you guys (sorry).

The only thing we did to the space was add flooring and furniture. That’s it. Even the old owner’s green high-water curtains are still up.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this space and I can’t wait to get started. I think it will be a contender with the kitchen as my favorite room in the house (or ever).

Ready for the breakdown?

First let me show you my favorite inspiration photo from The Nester. I can’t stop staring at it.

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The cozy feeling you get from this photo and rich muted tones—that’s what I’m hoping to recreate.

Let’s start with the back wall:

I bought two Pax wardrobes from Ikea which will flank the bed:

They’ll reach the ceiling and I’ll make them look built in with trim/molding. I also plan to do some sort of treatment to the doors (mirrors, panels, paintable wallpaper? haven’t fully decided).

I’m ditching the nightstands and going with wood crates mounted to the insides of the wardrobe (there’s just enough room, and it will be perfect to stash our stuff without taking up floor space). I may DIY these, or just stain the Joann’s crates like I did in the studio

Or who knows, maybe I’ll even use woven baskets.

Also mounted to the inside of the wardrobes above the crates will be these fun accordion lights I bought a few months ago:

On the back wall in between the wardrobes I’ll be using up the last of my tongue and groove planks and painting them dark gray (the same color as I used in the studio):

Now let’s move to the window wall:

Of course I plan to swap the curtains, and also add bamboo blinds. Not sure about the color/pattern yet—we’ll have to see how it unfolds. Below the window I’m picturing a comfy little chaise or settee…

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Except all the ones I like are either really expensive or too deep (I only have a couple feet to work with). There’s still upholstery foam leftover from our kitchen bench seats so I may just end up making something. Or just buy two chairs and call it a day.

I’ll probably end up painting that wall a barely-there light gray.

Next to the sitting area I’ll add a small side table and this lamp (which currently stands in the living room):

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And if there’s room on the right side of the curtains I’ll hang some framed art.

Now for the next wall…

I plan to try out a new molding treatment—square panels painted in a deep gray:

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I think I’ll make them actual squares though, like this (but on a larger scale):

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I also plan to replace the white Hemnes dresser with something wood and more vintage…

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I’m having a hard time finding anything remotely similar on local thrift sites and stores, so I may be waiting for a while (or end up spending quite a bit). It will be worth it though.

I’m also thinking about refacing my Ikea mirror with a wood treatment (maybe stained plywood strips?)

And moving it to another wall, because in that corner I’d love a fireplace…

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So romantic. It wouldn’t be an actual built in fireplace though of course… just one of these electric guys:

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The TV will stay, so I plan to frame and hang a few pieces of art on the wall surrounding it.

And now for the last wall…

From left to right, we’ve got a linen closet, the bathroom, and the main closet. When we do our big bathroom remodel I plan to get rid of the linen closet and bathroom doors (we’re gutting/rearranging the whole space), but for now they will stay as is and I have some artwork in mind to hang in the empty space between the two doors (or the mirror will go there once we get the fireplace in, whichever comes first).

But eventually, I’d love to add a sliding barn door over where the current closet is…

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That might have to wait until the bathroom remodel though, not sure yet.

And for the floors—I plan to get a large natural woven rug (at least 9×12″). I’m waiting for a good sale at Rugs USA before I pull the trigger… I might just go with my old favorite, the Maui Chunky Loop

Layered on top, there will be a plush sheepskin rug on either side of the bed:

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And as for the ceiling… a sparkly chandelier is definitely in order.

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I’d also love to try a ceiling treatment. I’m leaning towards the DIY wood beams we made for the kitchen (probably without the planks):

Or maybe I’ll do some sort of wallpaper? Or just paint it a solid color? I think it just needs something. Any good ideas?

Here’s some final bits of bedroom Pinspiration I’ve been drooling over…

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(there’s a lot more where of where that came from on my Pinterest!)


Keep in mind these plans are more of a guideline… things may change a bit once we really get into it (that’s usually inevitable with any transformation). But either way, as long as we end up with a cozy space, I’ll be happy.

If we don’t come up with a game plan for our fireplace in the next few days, I think we’ll go ahead and get started on the bedroom. First up is installing the wardrobes—so that’s what you have to look forward to next week!


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Foyer Update: DIY Salvaged Door

About five weekends ago I did a little foyer makeover but there were a couple things missing. This past weekend I was finally able to tackle them and I’m so happy with the results…

I couldn’t help but share a little preview on my instagram while staining it on Saturday…

But first let’s stop and rewind.

Here’s the best before photo I found…

Sadly I forgot to take a pic of the old light. It was just a very non-descript, round white plastic flush mount box. Nothing special at all.

I wanted to bring a little “oomph” to the space so I found this cool pendant lantern at World Market

For $99, I was sold.

It included a long chain which we couldn’t use since we have standard 8′ ceilings and were worried about tall people bumping into it, so we removed the links to hang it as high as possible.

I love it so much.

That was easy enough…. next up came the real challenge: making this door look like an old salvaged wood door. There’s not a lot of sources for real vintage doors around here, and the ones I do find are either not the right size or style, or would need too many mods to fit, or they’re just too expensive.

The existing door was one of those cheap-o hollow core synthetic wood deals… and it was pretty beat up.

You can really see the fake wood grain texture here…

If you have one of those old school plain wood doors it would be ideal for this project, assuming you could sand down the stain a bit. Because mine wasn’t real wood, unfortunately I couldn’t strip & sand the paint off. That meant I had to face my worst nightmare again… wood veneer.

If you saw my post about my first attempt at this, you’ll understand why I hate it so much. Although to be fair, it’s the contact cement I hate—not the veneer.

But I was determined to make it work this time. I bought the same 2×8′ sheets as I did last time (from Amazon) for a total of $70 (this project isn’t exactly cheap if you don’t have wood doors to start with).

Fortunately, I only needed veneer in the centers of the door so there was minimal cutting involved. I just trimmed the length with a sharp utility knife (it didn’t have to be exact at all since the edges would be covered by wood).

This time I used a LOT of contact cement. Two solid coats.

And I waited 20 minutes before applying the veneer.

And it worked.

I thought I was going to have to veneer the inside edge, but I started sanding and realized this piece was actually real wood (score!) So I just stripped & sanded the paint off.

After veneering both sides, I brought the door inside of the house to adjust to the climate. On my last attempt, my table had sat in the garage for 2 days and after I brought it inside it was ruined, so the temperature shift definitely had something to do with it. I thought if I brought it inside right away, it would have a chance.

That evening around midnight, I checked on it and was horrified to see that it had started bubbling! Not as bad as my console table, but still… I was so bummed. I smoothed it down as best as I could and called it a night, expecting to see the bubbles come back by morning. But surprisingly… I woke up and it was completely smooth.

Not sure what happened there, but I didn’t want to take any more chances so I decided to finish this project inside…

Back in the garage, I had plywood strips cut to 4″. I bought a sheet of cabinet grade plywood at Lowe’s ($30) and had them cut it for me. I would have done it myself, but the sheet was too big to fit in my car so I let them do it.

Let me tell you… those workers don’t care about your project as much as you do, so they’re just going to run your board through the cutter as fast as they can and you’re going to end up with a lot of crooked pieces.

I only needed about 7-8 boards, so I set aside the straightest ones to use for this project.

I started with one of the vertical pieces that ran along the outside edge where the door handle would be. After cutting the length to size, I traced inside the door hole and used an arbor around the same size to cut it out:

Then I lined it back up on the door and used 1″ finishing nails every several inches to attach my piece:

And the first piece was on!

Up went the next one…

Then I measured and cut my horizontal strips. I went with 6 which appears to be standard for old doors.

Then I flipped it over and repeated the process:

And finally, it was time for stain.

I used a blend of Minwax’s Dark Walnut combined with touches of Rustoleum’s Driftwood and Weathered Gray. There was no real method to this… I just dipped my sponge in and spread it around however I thought looked best. I intended for it to look weathered so I wasn’t aiming for perfection.

Then I took some 60 grit sandpaper and roughed it up until I was happy with the results.

Before rehanging it, we had to deal with this door casing. Because I made the door wider, these inside pieces of trim had to be pushed back so the door would latch properly.

We removed the strips…

It was pretty rough looking under there, so I sanded everything down while Brad removed the old nails.

Before putting them back on, the door went back on the hinges…

Then I stepped inside the closet with my air compressor and flashlight, shut the door, lined the casing strips back up and nailed them in.

A bit of caulk & paint later, and this project is done!

And here’s the new light in action:

I didn’t have time to make new wreaths so they’re looking a little sad, but can you believe these have been up for a month? They’re champs…

I love the way it warms up the space.

One day I’ll give the inside of this closet a makeover…

Here’s the view from the entrance to the kitchen:

And reflecting in from the mirror…

Here’s an older shot just for fun…

And now the foyer is officially done! I would love to do this to all of the doors in our house… but sadly they are mismatched, and I’d also have to decide if it’s worth $100 per door. Or maybe I can look for someone getting rid of their hollow core wood doors that are the right size and transform them for just $30.

Next up on the to do list? I’m trying to decide between a DIY fireplace mantel or getting started on our master bedroom. Or being lazy and taking the week off 🙂 We’ll see what happens…


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The Jenna Sue Design Co. Studio Reveal!

Another space has been marked off the to-do list…

This was one of the first rooms we started on after buying the house because it needed to be fully functional before we moved in a few months ago.

I ignored it for a while to focus on the kitchen, but now that that’s out of the way it was time to add the finishing touches.

Let’s take it way back to the beginning with the first photo we ever took in the house…

The room greets you right when you walk through the front door, and it was used as a library/sitting area (I assume?) with built in bookshelves…

The built ins were nice but they took up about 15″ of space that I desperately needed if I was going to convert this into my work area…

It also had a closet which was the perfect place for my shipping supplies.

Here’s a view looking back at the front door.

We ripped out the built ins, carpeting and gutted the closet…

Added some much needed lighting and window trim…

Built a half wall over the open stair railing and began planking…

And more planking…

Added trim, paint and lighting…

Set up the desks and equipment…

Maximized the storage space inside the closet…

Added shelves & artwork…

Finished off the desk with fabric for hidden storage, and built a large crate for bulky shipping supplies…

And finally, built this storage crate wall for smaller organization.

And now she’s ready for her big debut! Welcome to the Jenna Sue Design Co. studio…

You’ll have to make it past our kitty guard first.

I was inspired by these and made my own a couple days ago to replace the junky cardboard boxes that were there:

I love the softness the fabric brings to the space—it really helps to balance out all the hard lines and surfaces of the electronics.

But my absolute most favorite part about this space is what’s outside the window…

It’s such a nice space to spend the day in (and sometimes nights).

And that’s my studio!

So, what do you think? It was definitely a challenge to go from my last studio—a larger area where I could spread out—to a room about half the size. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it work, but it just forced me to get creative with the layout and storage solutions. So far it’s working out just fine!

If you missed any of the progress, here’s a project roundup:

Adding window trim
Planking, adding trim & lighting, painting
Setting up the workspace & adding ledges
New art & DIY floating shelves
DIY wood crate & hidden desk storage
Rustic crate storage wall
File organization

And there you have it, our second “finished” space. By Monday I hope to cross a third off our list—the foyer. You thought it was done already, didn’t you? Turns out I have two more projects planned for this weekend, one is something I’ve never attempted before and I’m nervous/excited about it—you’ll have to check in next week to see what it is!