Lighted Leaning Bookcases

My wariness of decorative items — as mentioned in my last post — extends to books, which might be an unusual stance for someone with a master’s degree in Library & Information Science.  But, having worked in three libraries, an illuminated manuscripts gallery and a rare books shop, I agree with the first law of library science (though I’m not sure it’s enforceable in any jurisdiction): Books are for use.  Sure, they’re pretty, but without use, there is little inherit value.  I got all preachy about this before our last move and streamlined our collection, trying to keep only the books that we love, would want to read or reference again, or would want to be able to loan to someone else.  Maybe I’ll hoard books in the future when we’re homeowners, but as frequently-moving renters, a smaller library makes sense.  Books are heavy, man.

Here’s what the bookcases looked like the last time you saw them:

IMG_0578

And here’s what the bookcases look like these days:

Styled Leaning Bookcase

I swapped out some houseplants, got a new stereo and moved the booze to a bar stand.  I tried to style it up a bit, which isn’t my strong suit, but I’m really happy with the current look.

Bookshelf Styling and Storage

Sloane Leaning Bookcase – Crate & Barrel
HEKTAR – IKEA
Big Jambox – Jawbone
Rugby Stripe Bin – The Container Store
It seems like the EcoLogic Pots may no longer be manufactured, which is too bad because they’re awesome looking. I have them scattered throughout our apartment.  Chicagoans can find them at Gethsemane; they’re pretty expensive on Amazon.

Leaning Bookcase Cat

We’ve had these bookshelves for five years and they’ve held up really well.  They’re available only in brown now; some similar white options are:

Bookshelves Storage

The striped bin is perfect for hiding ugly board games and whatever else we want to toss in there, and the HEKTAR spotlights cast a really nice light in the evenings.

Lighted Leaning Bookshelves

The Big Jambox was a splurge and well worth it.  It’s plenty loud for our apartment and it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth with my iPhone and iMac and Jarrod’s iPad mini.  It has a super long battery life, so we can move it to the kitchen or backyard for hours without a power cord.

Styled Leaning Bookshelves

See that electrical outlet on the floor to the right of the bookcase?  That is some crazy stupid luck.  I don’t know why it was placed there originally, but the location couldn’t be more ideal for this arrangement.  All of the cords are hidden neatly behind the bookshelf.

Leaning Bookshelves

Read any good books lately?  Or read Emily Henderson’s blog and been driven crazy by the fact she doesn’t spell “cord” correctly?

The Framer’s Intent: DIY Scarf Display

A few months ago Design*Sponge posted a round-up of art scarves, including this awesome furoshiki from The Link Collective:

Furoshiki Scarf

Folded Paper Furoshiki designed by Lucinda Newton Dunn
(Photo copyright: Link)

Link says: “Furoshiki (風呂敷, fu-rosh-ki) is a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. Each of our products has been hand printed in Japan, using traditional printing techniques.” Check out Spoon & Tamago for an interview and some great photographs of the production process.

Furoshiki Scarf Printing(Photo copyright: Link)

Because I have a gallery wall of black frames in our dining room, I thought something large, textured and non-black-framed would be nice above our sofa. This furoshiki seemed like a good bet.

Airmail

Airmail is the best mail, no?

I wanted something more substantial than simply hanging the scarf on the wall, so I bought a 36″x36″ stretched canvas and set to building a frame to wrap around it. I used inexpensive pine lattice trim, which I stained with Minwax Wood Finish in Ebony.

Lattic Wood Trim

Wood Stain

I wrapped the canvas with some lightweight, neutral fabric I had on hand. It’s barely visible, but I think it’s a much more polished-looking background for the scarf than the bare canvas would have been.

Fabric-wrapped canvas

I used my chop saw to make simple right-angle corners and nailed the wood around the frame, staining the cut edges and using wood filler to disguise any nail holes.

Frame Corner

For the final step, I attached the scarf to the canvas with brass upholstery tacks. I punctured the scarf with a fine needle first, to avoid pulling any fabric threads, and then inserted the tack through the opening.

DIY Fabric Hanging

That’s it! Doozy worked his angles like a pro as I took these photos. Just kidding: a proper catloaf does not have angles.

Living Room Wall Hanging

Living Room

Living Room

Living Room Fabric Hanging

Step by Step IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Table Hack

And now for my next trick, I transform IKEA’s VITTSJÖ nesting tables…

IKEA VITTSJO

into nesting tables!

IKEA VITTSJO Nesting TablesVOILÄ

But let me back up: as with all things, I had very specific requirements in mind.  I wanted a larger table for our lamp (West Elm’s Morten Table Lamp, which I scored for much cheaper via a floor model sale) and a smaller table for Jarrod to pull out to use next to his chair when we’re camped out in the living room for the evening.  It had to be at least 18x18x18.  It had to be metal and glass because we already have too much wood happening in there.

I searched for used nesting tables on Craigslist for months before giving up.  I then searched for new nesting tables at every store/website I could think of before giving up.  It seems that stores offer only a few nesting table options, and they are very expensive.

Enter the VITTSJO nesting tables, which seemed perfect in concept, except what’s up with the child table being twice as long as its parent table?  Not sure what IKEA is going for there.  I would prefer that the smaller table nest fully within the larger table.  I bought the set planning to hack it but partially assembled it first just to confirm that the table as-is didn’t make any sense.

IKEA VITTSJO Nesting TablesNope, that doesn’t make any sense.

I totally winged it with this hack – there were several opportunities for disaster and I would have preferred to buy them used because it would made it less of a bummer if I ruined them.  The VITTSJO series is new to IKEA, however, so it’s not turning up on Craigslist yet.  Much love to Jarrod for encouraging me to barrel through.

Just like your favorite New Kids on the Block song, there were five major steps: cutting the metal frame, piecing back together the frame, cutting the MDF shelf, cutting the glass and painting the legs.  I’ll use NKOTB and some modified IKEA assembly illustrations to walk you through it step by step.

Step one, we can have lots of fun… learning how to cut metal.

Cutting Points

I needed to make six cuts, as indicated above.  I tried three approaches: a grinding wheel on my miter saw, a hacksaw and a jigsaw.  I’ll elaborate more in a separate follow-up post (oooh, I bet you can’t wait for that); for now I’ll say that I went with my Ryobi miter saw, which was fast, accurate, loud and sparky.  Hence the precautionary fire extinguisher.  (Update: see Metal Cutting Options)

Miter Saw with Grinding Blade

Cutting Metal

Sawing left me with the pieces seen below.  Modifying the bottom rails was easy; I just needed to drill new screw holes at the end of each piece to replace the holes I sawed off.  The top was more challenging because I needed to reconnect the pieces in a way that would be as stable and seamless as possible.

Table Pieces

Step two, there’s so much we can do… to piece this back together.  I walked around The Home Depot inserting all manner of things into the hollow metal tube to determine what would allow for a nice, tight fit.

The winner: a piece of 1/2 inch hardwood.  It fit perfectly tight – so much so that I didn’t need glue.

VITTSJO Metal Connection Point

Metal Wood ConnectionNot bad!

Sharpie

I touched up the cut edges with a Sharpie paint pen while Jarrod crept up on me with the camera.  I think I look half-crazed in the right-hand photo: I was really excited that this hackneyed scheme of mine was actually working out.

Table

The cutting scars are discrete like a high-class face lift – not invisible, but you wouldn’t notice them if you weren’t looking for them.

IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Tables

Step three, it’s just you and me… and a too-long particleboard shelf.  Nothing a jigsaw can’t fix.

MDF Shelf Cutting


Step four, I can give you more… 
photoshopped IKEA illustrations.

Tempered Glass

No pictures of this step, because I paid Ashland Glass to do it for me.  The IKEA glass is tempered, which means it can’t be cut, so I had a new piece of glass cut to fit.  $34, which isn’t cheap, but $34 + the $60 tables is still significantly cheaper than anything I found elsewhere.

Step five, don’t you know that the time has arrived… to dress it up a bit with some gold dip-dyed legs.  I tried three different types of gold paint and will compare the products in another follow-up post that you can await anxiously: Plaid’s Liquid Leaf in Brass, Rub ‘n’ Buff in Gold Leaf and Krylon’s Gold Leafing Pan.  I liked Liquid Leaf best.  (Update: see Gold Leaf Paint Options)

Taped Table Legs

Pro tip!: start with the back legs.  Not as big a deal if you mess them up.  I learned that FrogTape didn’t create nearly as sharp a line as good ol’ 3M Scotch Blue.

And we’re done!

DIY IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Tables

VITTSJO Nesting Tables

Dip Dyed Table Legs

IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Tables

IKEA VITTSJO Nesting Tables


You may also be interested in:

Gold Leaf Paint Options
Gold Leaf Paint Options
Metal Cutting Options
Metal Cutting Options

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

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.

Armchair

Have a good weekend, e’erbody.

Chair Slipcover

A Harmless Dresser-to-TV Stand Conversion

Before:

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.

After:

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.

Victory!