Rug Shopping, Forever

Between the island, the clock, the trashcans and the rug, there is a lot of IKEA going on in this kitchen. And there isn’t a lot of color. I’m cool with both of those things, to a point, but the kitchen feels a bit sterile. The neon sign helped add some character. Now it needs an awesome rug.


I had hoped this rug would be The One. It’s the Dunham Kilim Recycled Yarn Indoor/Outdoor Rug from Pottery Barn.


But the orange was much stronger in person than it appeared on the website, and that orange really brought out the orange in our oak kitchen cabinets.


Looking at these pictures I actually like it but in person it was definitely a non-starter.


So the search continues. Probably forever. Forever? Forever ever.

A Project Room of One’s Own

We have the luxury of two small extra bedrooms in our apartment: one is used for the guest room, the other is used as my project room.  It swings wildly from tidy to chaotic.

Storage Room Mess

Storage Room Mess

It exploded into a mess recently, as you can see, but after a new year’s organizing frenzy, I think I have it under control for good.¬† I can now open the door and say to you, dear reader, “This is where the magic happens…”

Storage Shelving

I bought the IKEA IVAR shelving system off Craigslist last year for $60.¬† (Thumbing my nose here at the people who dismiss IKEA stuff as “disposable” – most of the IKEA furniture in our apartment was purchased second-hand.)

IKEA Storage Shelving

A digression: isn’t that vintage anatomical model great? Hand-painted, from Germany. ¬†My brother-in-law saved her from going into the dumpster at the elementary school where he teaches.¬† I have since sold it on Craigslist to an oddities collector.

Storage Shelf Containers

The clear storage boxes are from The Container Store, provider of all perfectly-designed storage solutions.  Case in point #1: this simple, white, handled tray, which holds my most frequently used tools.

Tool Bin

Case in point #2: this adjustable divider box, which organizes all of my screws, bolts, hooks, etc. in an extremely satisfying manner.

Hardware Storage

The other side of the room holds the tool I will admit I don’t use¬†as often as I should: my¬†elliptical¬†macine.

Elliptical Machine Room

Elliptical Machine Setup

We have a pretty nice mini-gym set-up: I have interlocking rubber tiles hidden under an IKEA HESSUM runner rug.  This base layer absorbs noise, provides stability and reduces wear on the machine.

Elliptical Machine Cushion

I mounted a simple shelf on the wall to hold a laptop.  Streaming a show or a movie on Netflix or Hulu is the only thing that can motivate me to work out.  (Well, that and the shame I feel because Jarrod exercises like a crazy person.)

Elliptical Machine Laptop Shelf

These days I’m working (slowly) through My So-Called Life and thinking (seriously) about wearing plaid flannel dresses.

Hardwired HEMMA: DIY Closet Light

While cleaning out our closet this weekend I decided that cleaning out our closet would be nicer¬†if there were a ceiling light in there. ¬†More often than not, mundane cleaning initiatives like this are waylaid by the allure of PROJECT! ¬†You know what’s not exciting? Cleaning. You know what is? Wire stripping!


We have outlets at the back of our closet and I had a plug-in¬†HEMMA cord set from IKEA on hand. ¬†My original idea was to use the cord set to hang a light from the ceiling with the addition of a pull-chain socket adapter (like this)¬†so that the light could be turned on and off easily. ¬†I went to Matty K’s¬†— a great independent hardware store in Lincoln Square — to pick one up, but realized that the adapter pull-cord was actually pretty hard to pull and would put a lot of stress on a ceiling anchor hook. ¬†I then saw this porcelain lampholder with a pullchain.

Porcelain Lampholder

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts in which people cut off the plug of a HEMMA cord to convert it to a hardwired light fixture, which gave me the idea to cut the socket off instead, leaving the plug and hard wiring the cord to the lamp. ¬†A super nice Matty K’s employee suggested that I mount an electrical outlet box to the ceiling as a base for the lampholder, making it safe and sturdy.

HEMMA Wire Strippers

Porcelain Lampholder


Closet Ceiling Light

I stripped the cord to expose the wires, connected them to the lamp holder, mounted the electrical box to the ceiling and the fixture to the box, and routed the cord down the back wall to the outlet.  Easy peasy.

DIY HEMMA Ceiling Light

Pro tip: Use the cutest Japanese toy you have on hand to personalize your pullcord.  Rilakkuma FTW!


See how it works?  There is no light on the left and there is light on the right.  VICTORY.

Light Before and After

Canopy Fail, Cinema Success

On April 4th I asked you, dear reader, to “check back soon for posts on building raised garden beds and installing a backyard shade canopy!” ¬†Well, I delivered on the garden beds… and never mentioned the canopy again.

Backyard Shade Canopy

IKEA’s¬†DYNING canopy¬†seemed like a great solution for our sun-scorched backyard. ¬†The width was perfect and installing the anchors into the back wall of our garage went easily enough.

IKEA DYNING Installation

We needed something freestanding to hold up the triangular canopy’s apex. ¬†I inserted a screw eye into a wooden closet rod, which was supported by both a patio table and a heavy patio umbrella base. ¬†Seemed sufficiently sturdy. ¬†But there are no pictures because, within ten seconds, a gust of wind caught the canopy like a sail, pulled over the table and cracked the wooden pole like it was nothin’. ¬†GAME OVER.

I then understood why The Brick House used steel plates and masonry bolts and concrete holes and huge metal poles for her shade sail. ¬†I wasn’t willing to go that route, so the anchors hung unused until my coworker loaned me a desktop projector for something far more awesome than a canopy: a backyard movie night.

Movie Candy

Curtain Clip

I used curtain clip rings to hold up a plain white sheet and weighted it down with some bricks.

Backyard Movie Night

Doesn’t look fancy but the screen worked perfectly – the picture quality was great once night fell.

Backyard Movie Night

It was a Rushmore/Willy Wonka doubleheader.  The saturated colors, direct dialogue and minimal cussing of Rushmore worked well for this forum.  I had considered The Big Lebowski but nixed it due to the ferocity of expletives and the nearness of our neighbors. Also out of consideration for our neighbors, we lowered the volume on Willy Wonka and just had it playing in the background while people hung out and talked.

Two other tips, if you want to try this at home:

  • Be sure to bring out your loudest speakers. We went through two sound docks, which were too quiet, before hauling out our bookshelf stereo system.
  • No one over the age of 25 wants to sit on the ground. Haul out all your chairs.


Willy Wonka

Side note: I divulged my blog’s URL at a department happy hour on Friday. ¬†Hello to any new coworker readers! ¬†Want to come over for a backyard movie night? ¬†We can watch¬†Ghostbusters. ¬†And, thanks again to Teana for the projector loan. ¬†(Please note: I typed this post on Sunday and scheduled its publication for Monday. ¬†I swear.)

Backyard Movie Night

DIY Metal Cutting Options

In addition to my gold leaf paint test, I put my IKEA VITTSJO nesting table hack scraps to use for some metal cutting tool experimentation.  Up until this project, my experience was limited to a manual hacksaw.

True story: when I was shopping for said hacksaw a few years ago I asked a young Home Depot employee if a particular blade would work well for metal. ¬†He replied, “Yes… well, you have to move it back and forth.” ¬†Sage advice, dear child. ¬†Whenever an under-30 guy asks if I need help, I’d like to demand “Find the oldest man you have working the floor and bring him to me!” ¬†There’s an old dude in the hardware department at the Elston Ave store who knows. his. shit. ¬†It’s hit-or-miss with the young’uns.

Anyway: I bought a grinding blade for my miter saw without a second thought but it sent out such a shocking shower¬†of sparks that I ended up trying a couple of other options. ¬†As I did with the gold leaf products test, I just want to put my own process out there in case it’s helpful for anyone else. ¬†But, as Manhattan Nest said recently, “I am not the authority, or even¬†an¬†authority on things like this.” ¬†Read your own user manual, do your own searching, yada, yada.

First up: the hacksaw. 

Hack Saw

Pro: Nice, clean cuts. Cheap ($10ish). Easy to use and safe.

Con: SLOW. Difficult to get perfectly straight cuts, even when using a miter box.

Next: a Skil jigsaw.  I have a set of blades that includes a few metal cutting options.

Jig Saw Blades

Jig Saw Cut

Pro: Fast and relatively safe.  No sparks.  Pretty cheap ($30 for an entry-level saw; $5 or so for a metal cutting blade).

Con: In my experience, a jigsaw was less user-friendly for this job. ¬†To ensure a straight cut, you need to clamp down both the item itself (so that it doesn’t bounce around)¬†and a guide rail (to ensure that your saw stays on a straight path – see an example here). ¬† I don’t have a lot of clamps or a fancy worktable, and it’s difficult to set a guide rail for such a small item. ¬†The cut above isn’t as clean because the metal tube was vibrating.

Finally: a grinding wheel.

Dewalt Grinding Wheel

I used a DeWalt general purpose metal cutting blade ($6) on my Ryobi compound miter saw ($120). ¬†It’s called a grinding wheel because it doesn’t have teeth – it’s more of a file. ¬†It eats away quite a bit of the steel, as seen below in the foreground cut, in contrast to the hacksaw cut in the back.

Grinding Wheel Cut

As I said, I was alarmed at first by the sparks this thing threw off. ¬†I learned online that some people don’t recommend using them because the flying sparks and hot metal can damage your miter saw. ¬†Other people said that it’s fine as long as you don’t do it very often and the saw is within the RPM range of your blade. ¬†I decided to proceed because:

  • I was unsatisfied with the other options.
  • My miter saw cuts very precisely, which was necessary for¬†successfully¬†reassembling the VITTSJO nesting table.
  • The blade states it can be used up to 6,100 RPM and my saw has a max speed of 5,000 RPM.
  • Most importantly, my saw’s manual includes no warnings against using grinding wheels, cutting ferrous metal or anything of the sort.

So, I suited up with unseasonably long sleeves, gloves and protective eye wear. ¬†Jarrod stood by with the camera in one hand and the fire extinguisher in the other – he used the former and not the latter. ¬†You can see some faint sparks coming out the back of the saw in this picture…

Miter Saw Grinding Blade

But trust me when I say it was really more like this:

Metal Saw Sparks

(There are four references in that photo – does anyone recognize the original sources? The white stars are the hardest.)