Aug 17, 2011

I Did It Myself

Photo from coldpants' flicker stream.

It’s not my fault.

Not really.

I had plenty of time this week to figure out where to lay the blame. I traced back to my grandma, who converted her cozy lake house in to a three-story, four-sitting-room retirement dreamhouse. I’ve considered my mother, who knew, just knew, when my dad had finished framing and installing the French doors, that they would work so much better if he just moved them six inches to the right.

Surely there must be something in my genes that inspired all this.

I considered my dear friend Kate. Kate made slipcovers for her couches out of canvas drop cloths. Kate made herself Christmas stocking out of thrift-store sweaters. Kate reupholstered a wingback chair. You can read about it on her blog.

Her blog.

That’s it.

Katy dear, she’s the one who introduced me to all those do-it-yourself blogs. It’s those blogs that are to blame.

Those blogs with their shiny custom blog layouts. With their perfectly candid family photos and the wide array of tools. They have everything they need, really. Power sanders, paint brushes (the expensive ones), and the kind of can-do attitude that can only come when you’ve hand-crafted your own bootstraps out of upcycled trunk handles. (Cute idea, right?)

Their homes are perfect. Oh, they write, apologetically, welcome to our work-in-progress. This ol’ thing? they say, displaying a photo of the chandelier they constructed out of bicycle tires and fishnet stockings. I just whipped this up between re-tiling the bathroom and weaving a rug on our homemade loom!

These people, these bloggers, they’re forever productive. They find some ugly old chair, say, caked with mud and upholstered with palm-tree-embroidered velour, and they haul it away to their backyard. This thing’s got great bones, they’ll explain. You just wait.

And I do. I wait. I tap my phone, refreshing my RSS reader until I see that little number pop up telling me I have one new post to read. I shake my phone, cursing my wireless company for the slowness of my 3G connection. Finally, the photos load. I scroll past the clever title and post teaser. This isn’t the time for your words, blog lady. Tell me what happened to that chair.

I’m never disappointed. They were right. The chair did have great bones. In about 20 minutes, that bony chair when from a trash-pile relic to a magazine-shoot ready, Eames-inspired, Martha-Stewart-can-only-dream, room-making Chair!

I never would have put those colors together, but it so works for them.

It only takes a few weeks of feverish blog-reading before I realize that I can do this. I can Do It Myself. What do these people got that I don’t got? A table saw? Bah! I don’t need a table saw! I held the flashlight for my dad for 20 years! I know how to do stuff! I bet when those bloggers started, they didn’t know a Phillips from a flat-head screwdriver. I’m already ahead.

I start small. Spray paint some picture frames. So I never actually hang them. It’s experience, right? Next I make some pillows. Well. I watch my mom make some pillows. I’m getting very good at threading needles. I decide to learn how to embroider. Just think what cute curtains I can watch my mom make after I’ve embroidered Shakespeare’s sonnets around the border.

Hang on. Embroidery’s really boring.

What Would Younghouselove Do?

I head to the thrift store. I find it: my Next Project. I’ll refinish that cabinet. It’ll take a day, probably. Maybe a weekend. A little paint stripper, a little elbow grease, I’ll have a vintage-nouveau cabinet to hold my hand-me-down lamps.

The cabinet’s in the kitchen now, drying. It took me three days just to get the original paint off, and I don’t want to talk about what I found underneath. (Hint: not wood.) I smashed my finger in one of the doors during an intense sanding session. I’ve spent every spare moment of the last five days on this thing, and I have an alarm set for 6am so I can put a third coat on before work.

I chose an olive green paint. I thought it would be a good color-used-as-a-neutral. The first coat went on like…well…it sort of reminded me of what happens when you feed a baby too much pureed spinach. I still have high hopes, though. They say paint always dries less poopy.

I’m going to finish this project, even if it means I have to prime sand it down and prime it all over again. I’m going to stain the cabinet legs to match my side chairs. Someday I’ll just happen upon grimy-but-just-right brass hardware that I’ll polish and screw on.

I know I’m going to start a new project in a few weeks, once my finger heals and the paint fumes clear out of my apartment. I also know I can’t really blame genetics or even those DIY blogs.

I did this myself.



  • Look, you are nice, and your writing is nice. And your picture of the Lego man with the hammer? Also nice (really nice). But I think I speak for all of us when I say PICTUUUUUUUUUUURES. Even pictures of DIY gone horribly wrong (pureed spinach? mmm) are awesome. πŸ™‚ Think of it as lowering expectations so ridiculously low that when you unveil the amazingly wonderful, world-changing (room-changing) finished product later, we’ll all have our eyeballs blown out of our skulls.

    p.s. which paint color did you end up going with? And, more importantly, are you still wearing those shoes?

  • p.p.s. All day I’ve been trying to picture a bicycle-tire-fishnet chandelier. Does it hold candles? (important question)

  • I’m so glad you’ve started and I can’t wait to see the results!! Okay: let’s split a lake cabin halfway between us and we can just make it one giant craft cabin. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? I’ll have to make a new page on my blog for the Dream Cabin…. Craftizzouse…. DI-(y)Wizzo…? No, no. Gables..? We’ll have to work on it.

    Also, wing back or wingback? My AP book is in storage, so let me know πŸ™‚

  • Note from the [Unbiased. Kind of.] Maternal Parental Unit: The project is turning out WAY cuter than she’s saying. πŸ™‚

  • this made me laugh and also inspired me… in fact i am going to write a list for db right now of all the projects that i am inspired for him to do. this is going to be great!

  • […] what hit me. All of a sudden I was buying embroider floss and making pillows and just generally doing all the its I could find. However, my apartment has become particularly cozy, so I’m going to say […]

  • So I disagree we don’t need pictures. You’ve painted one with words and done so wonderfully. I don’t really want to see that poop either. That said, I’m kinda curious as to the look of the carbonate now that it’s done…update post? πŸ™‚

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