Cat Concessions: Plants and Upholstery

Lola is a bit of a pig when it comes to my houseplants, treating them as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.  Adding plants to my hoard collection is a trial-and-error process: some plants he simply isn’t interested in, others he gorges on until he pukes.  Those are either relocated to my office (which is like a rescue sanctuary for half-eaten plants) or moved out of his reach.  What is officially “out of his reach” is also a trial-and-error process.

Cat Eaten Plant

I wasn’t even sure how he had managed to reach this one until I caught him in the act, wedged up behind and on top of the books below.

Cat Salad Bar

Whatta jerk.

Bad Cat

I decided to mount a plant container on the wall, fully out of fatso’s maw. Enter the IKEA FINTORP rail and container.


IKEA FINTORP Rail with Plant

I also love these modern hanging planters, which I picked up a few years ago at Sprout Home here in Chicago.

Hanging Planters

That’s a somona (euphorbia milii) on the left and a goldfish (nematanthus) on the right.

Hanging Planters

Another decorating concession we have to make because of the cats and their never-ending shedding is our upholstered furniture.  This used to be our solution for our armchairs:

Living Room Chairs with CoversUgh, winter.

I had yards of this fabric leftover from getting the cushions reupholstered, so I asked my tailor to sew two long pieces of fabric. I know that sewing in a straight line should be within my skill set, but, well, it’s not.  (When explaining what I wanted I called them “table runners” because because it was a lot easier than “See, we have these chairs that I want to look like normal chairs while protecting them from cat fur, so I’m going to wrap fabric around them and I want it to look tailored and not sloppy.”  Actually, that sounds pretty simple now, but there’s a language barrier. “Table runner” was easier.)

Living Room Chair with Cover

Living Room Windows

I can easily wash and iron the slipcovers, and when guests come over we can whip off and stash the slipcovers and have a cat-hair-free place for people to sit.


Have a good weekend, e’erbody.

Chair Slipcover

A Harmless Dresser-to-TV Stand Conversion


I picked up this dresser for 25 bucks at a garage sale.  Usually when DIY before-and-after posts begin with a piece of furniture like this, they conclude with the dresser coated in paint, decals and rhinestones.  I’ll end the suspense right now and reveal that I spared this dresser the razzle-dazzle treatment.


My seldom-used desktop computer sat atop the dresser for a while; in our new apartment I wanted to repurpose it as a television stand without dramatically or permanently altering its appearance.  I completed this project a while back, but didn’t put together a full before-and-after post.  So, here goes!

The metal screen was the biggest expense – it cost almost as much as the dresser itself.  The other supplies were either cheap or already on-hand.

I applied one coat of stain before cutting the pieces and another coat once the frame was assembled.  Yep, those are chopsticks being put to work once again (see this previous post for some MacGyver-esque chopstick usage).  Here, I used a set to stir the stain and another couple of sets to keep the wood elevated from the concrete as it dried.

I bought a $14 miter box and saw set a few years ago for basic straight cuts but hadn’t used it for diagonal cuts until this project. I practiced on some scrap wood before carefully approaching my stained oak.  I mounted the miter box on a spare piece of wood, which I definitely recommend as it made the plastic box much more stable when sawing.  The wood to be cut is held via a peg + hole clamping system with a simplicity that belies its ingeniousness.  It’s a quick and easy process if you measure carefully.

All hail Gregory S. Erisoty, inventor of US Design Patent #406,035!

I spray painted the metal screen black and cut it to fit the wood frame.

I apologize for not documenting the process of putting the door together, but rest assured: it was nothing to brag about.  I butted and glued together the mitered parts, using small c-clamps and the original drawer to stabilize the frame as it dried.  The metal screen is held in place with simple black thumbtacks.  The door is attached to the dresser with brass hinges that I spray painted black, and the door stays shut with a small magnet in the upper left corner.

A power strip, modem, router, DVD player and Roku box are concealed behind the door. It’s a hot mess of cables and plastic and blinking lights that I am grateful to have hidden.  My laptop lives in the drawer on the left; it’s plugged into the power strip as well.  Remote control laser beams pass through the screen with no problem.

The best thing is that no permanent structural and aesthetic changes were made to convert this mid-century modern dresser into TV stand. Down the road I can simply remove the door and use the original drawer.


Preach!: The ReBuilding Exchange

A few weeks ago Groupon offered a deal for the ReBuilding Exchange, which was new to me.  I don’t know how I had never come across it before now.  In addition to an awesome salvaged goods shop, they offer workshops and job training, all with the goal of keeping usable materials out of landfills.

Chicago folks: It’s located at 2160 N. Ashland.  The entrance is on Webster – drive through the gate to the back of the building, where there is a parking lot.  The shop’s inventory is great and reasonably priced.  I took a few pictures to give you an idea of what’s in store; you can also check out their Flickr photostream.

Furniture made from reclaimed wood:

Wine crates.



Hundreds of doors and windows.

Giant popcorn machine!

Vintage furniture.

Dozens of sinks.

Not pictured: lots of wood, leather, cabinets, chalkboards, radiators, fireplace mantels, hardware, light fixtures, mirrors and more.

The Groupon was for the Make-It/Take-It workshop series, which “gives beginning students a hands-on approach to building. The goal of the workshop series is to share simple building techniques that produce functional furniture.”  I signed up the Rustic Mirror workshop, taught by Blake Sloane.  I had previously taken a Woodworking 101 course through Woodsmyths Woodworking (not recommended: an instructive but hostile class experience), so I’m not quite a beginner, yet I found the class informative and fun.  I hadn’t used a chop saw for mitered corners before and I learned some new terms like “rabbit.”  It was very laid back – we were able to move at own pace.  We were their first Groupon group and the staff seemed excited to have us there, which was a nice change from using Groupons in restaurants and feeling loathed.

The wood used for the project was salvaged from a south side public school tear-down – it was a gym floor.

The ReBuilding Exchange sold no fewer than one million Groupons, so I assume the one-day workshops are booked full for a while, but I recommend taking one if you’re looking for an introductory experience.  They also offer multi-week courses and even some free classes.  I’ll be taking a Demystifying Wood Finishing Techniques course in February, after which I will tackle our dining table.


The pictures I included in the last post had me thinking that two big flat-weave rugs looked too, well, flat and what I needed instead was a low pile rug for under the dining table and a plush rug for under the coffee table.  I picked up the VITTEN at IKEA this past weekend.

The rug pile is smushed down from being rolled up – I need to rake it.  Did anyone else have to rake their grandparents’ shag carpet?  (My cousins will know what I’m talking about!)  It was a satisfying chore: the carpet looked so groomed when you were finished.

I think it’s a nice rug, but in the context of this apartment, with our mostly vintage furniture, it looks way too retro.  Like we’re two steps away from setting up a tiki bar and tossing our keys into a bowl.  It’s shagadelic, and the fact that this rug brings to mind Austin Powers catchphrases makes it pretty clear that it’s not a keeper.  I don’t want anything in my home that reminds me of Mike Myers. (That said, I might make an exception for Wayne’s World.)

Doozy likes it, though.  It makes him feel like a jungle cat.

Another rug up for consideration is the Arrah Dhurry Wool Rug from (or as they’re trying to sell us on these days).

(Never mind the brown around the edges: I just rolled it out on top of our current rug.)

Two people have already compared it to a barcode, which certainly isn’t working in its favor.  It doesn’t look quite as stark in person: the lighter stripes are a very light tan, not white, as Doozy helpfully demonstrates.

I’m very “eh” about this rug.  One thing I’m not “eh” about, however, is our new Ekornes Stressless recliner.  Craigslist has bestowed upon me two great finds since we moved into our new place: 1) the previously mentioned STENSTORP island, and 2) this totally awesome recliner.  I had an alert set up for “recliner” on CL and had seen at least 700 (easily) before this chair popped up.  The photo was so dark and the item was so buried amongst everything else he was selling that I almost missed it.  I clicked past and then realized “hey… that one might be good.”  It’s so hard to find a chair that meets Jarrod’s need for comfort and my need for stuff to not be ugly (and, as we’ve seen before, nearly all recliners are hideous).  These chairs are $2,000+ new, but I scored this one for $50.

The leather was in poor shape: very worn and sun-faded, with lots of oil in the headrest and pounds of food in the seat crack.  Here are a few Before pics:

I found a woman who reconditions leather (on Craigslist, of course), who made our chair good as new and even swapped out – for free(!) – the undesirable mahogany wood base for a medium brown base.

(It doesn’t dwarf our sofa as much in real life as it does in these photos.)

And there you see yet another rug option: the JORUN from IKEA (no longer available).  I love it, but it shows cat hair like crazy despite our very regular vacuuming and furminating.

Got any rug suggestions for me?  I’m starting to go insane.