I’m so thrilled to be healthy again, that I’m doing a happy dance (see the video below if you want to witness it.) The pneumonia is gone and my boys are back in school. Can I get a “Woot Woot!”?

The bonus room/art studio renovation is rockin’ and rollin’ again and I have some progress to show you: Read more


A few months ago when I got the call that Woman’s Day wanted to send a photographer to photograph me and my garage, I kind of freaked a little. I mean, it was my garage, the least attractive room in our house! Part of the unattractiveness stemmed from my workbench with a huge gaping hole in it.

It was suggested that I could just cover the hole with some fabric (which, yes, I could have done.) But, being that it is my workshop and a sawdust producing place, I felt I could do a little a little better than just some fabric. I decided to build custom doors for the opening. Luckily they turned out to be less of an involved project than I originally anticipated. (I love when that happens.)

Come on in the workshop and I’ll show you how I built these open frame cabinet doors. Read more

When last I left you, I was covered in dust and debris from scraping the popcorn ceiling in our laundry room. After a shower and some sleep, I was ready to start another productive day.

First I hired some cheap labor to help me paint the walls. Well, I helped ;-).

The color I used was Benjamin Moore’s Glacier Blue in the Aura Bath & Spa Line of paint (since it is a laundry room.) And every time I walk in the room the color makes me want to sing! Read more

It’s a jolly good day, wouldn’t you say?! Did you watch the Royal Wedding this morning? Or did you DVR it to watch later  (like I did.) I hope you enjoyed my photos from London and didn’t mind the diversion.

Now I’m back into DIY tutorial mode for the time being. Today you can get a double dose of Pretty Handy Girl! Can I get a “WOOT!”

First up I will be showing you how to make Cubby Shelves out of a Bread Crate and a wooden pallet.

And the best part about this project is it doesn’t require any nails or screws! To view this tutorial you will want to head over to visit with the very lovely and very beautiful Amy from Positively Splendid.

Not only is she as beautiful as Kate Middleton, but she also possesses the talent to create a royal wedding gown. Too bad Kate didn’t call her to design her dress. Amy is a sweetheart and a fellow blogger I met at Blissdom. You will just love her blog!

After you have read my tutorial (and gobbled up several of Amy’s tutorials) you can slip back over here to learn how to hang almost anything on the wall perfectly level and plumb the first time. I’ll be showing you how I hung my bread crate cubby shelves in the tutorial.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Materials:

Picture Hangers (be sure to check weight limit)

Hammer

Level

Pencil

If your object doesn’t have hooks or a wire yet, you will likely need:

D-ring hooks

Screwdriver or Drill with a screwdriver bit.

 

If you have had misadventures hanging pictures, I have the tutorial for you! Hanging anything on the wall successfully doesn’t have to be hard. All you need are the right hangers and the right technique.

Because my crate didn’t have any hangers attached to it, I needed to add D-ring hooks. Starting on the left, I carefully measured 3″ down from the top of my object. Then made a mark 4″ in from the side. I repeated the same steps on the right side making sure the hooks would be the same distance in from the edges and 3″ from the top edge.

Then I screwed the D-ring hooks into the back of the crate.

Hanging something heavy requires using some different hangers that are rated for the weight of the object you are hanging. Bulldog Hardware sent me some of their rubberized picture hanging hooks to try. These have rubberized tips to keep pictures from shifting or moving (like when my son rushes inside slamming the door behind him.)

In my case, my crate weighs about 12 lbs. filled up. So, I reached for two 50 lb. hangers (Did you forget I have boys that can exert up to 100 lbs. of pressure on anything in my home?)

Start by holding your object up against the wall where you want to hang it.

Make a pencil mark at the top of your object. Set your object down.

Now determine what you want to center your object on. For example: centering the object on a wall;  centering it between two windows; or centering your object on another object. In my case I am centering my shelf on the toilet.

Find the center and make a pencil mark.

Set your level vertically against the center mark.

When the level reads perfectly plumb (straight up and down) you can transfer the center mark higher and closer to the top of your object.

Now, measure the distance between the hooks on your object.

Mine are 3″ down from the top. And let’s say the hooks are 16″ apart.

This tells me I need to install my picture hangers at 3″ down from the top of the object and  8″ out from the center mark on both sides.

Use the level to make sure that both marks are level.

Set the picture hanger against the wall so the bottom of the hook lines up with the marks you made.

Gently tap the nails in with a hammer.

Carefully lift your object and line up the D-ring hooks with the picture hanger hooks. Sometimes it helps to have an assistant for this part.

Pull down on your object and make sure it is secure. Now fill ‘er up and enjoy!

What do you think? Did this method make sense? You can certainly use the same technique to hang pictures or a group of pictures.

 

Happy New Year! I love January 1st. It is a new beginning, with new goals, resolutions and a chance to start fresh.

We had an open house style party on New Year’s Day. I was talking with my friend Leslie about how little changes can really make a big difference in your home and attitude. It is better to make some small alterations to your home instead of waiting to make bigger changes. We all have many reasons for waiting:

  • Lacking Money
  • Lack the skills
  • Lacking a vision
  • Lacking time
  • Lacking motivation
  • Insert your own reason here!

When we first moved into our home I didn’t want to do anything to our master bathroom because I knew we would need to gut it one day.

But, I can’t tell you how awful I felt every morning as I stepped into that hideous bathroom.

Finally I stopped waiting and made a few changes. I didn’t rip out the tile, I just added some paint, stain and new fixtures. And it really made me happy! Sure I still have to step into a harvest gold tile coffin to shower. And I will have to wait until we have the funds to renovate the room one day. But, at least that room makes me happy for now.

So, in the spirit of a fresh start, I decided to give our Master Bedroom a little face lift this week.

Our bedroom was the first room we painted when we moved in, and I stopped loving the room last year. Especially when these showed up!

Yuck, I’m not sure how our roman shades got stained. I think it might have been from the vaporizer I run in our bedroom because I can’t find any other places where water could have penetrated the window.

I admit, I was in a holding pattern. I found myself stalling, thinking that I had to wait until we scraped our ceilings. Then we could re-do that room.

The truth is that I had all the supplies to give our room a mini-facelift. Back when Layla posted about her new window treatment in her master bedroom, I was all eyes!

Our bed is situated in the same location as her’s (in front of two windows.) I had struggled with what to do with our bed and those window until I read her post. Luckily, I was able to find these natural grass shades at Bed, Bath & Beyond on clearance. $9.99 per blind! SCORE!

Thank you [email protected] for sharing your window treatments!

But, I waited another 2 months to do anything with those blinds! Sheesh, I can’t believe it took me that long to pull on my big girl “go ahead and do it” panties?

I started by removing the old stained blinds. Sadly I sewed them myself only three years ago. Sniff, sniff.

Then, I held up the new blinds to the height I wanted them. I hung them higher than the window to give the illusion that the window was taller, and also to be sure not to block too much natural light from the room.

Made a mark on the wall with pencil.

Next, I used a level to mark a line across the whole window.

I measured the width of my blinds and held up the first bracket at one end. Lucky for me I had already located a stud near the one end of the blind. (Read about stud finding HERE.)

Here is the first trick you NEED TO KNOW about hanging any window treatments! Those screws that come with blinds will not hold up your window treatments over the long haul even if you are screwing them into a stud. Especially if you have small children that may try to play Tarzan on them one day.

The wimpy 1″ screws are not long enough to go through the drywall and into your studs. And DO NOT expect them to hold if they are simply screwed into drywall either.

Be sure to purchase some extra drywall or wood screws that are 2″ long.

Also have some of these wall anchors on hand at all times! They screw into the wall when a stud is not behind your bracket. I can’t tell you how much better these are than those cheap wall anchors that you get for free.

Next I drove the screws into the bracket using my cordless drill. (Finishing off at the end with a screwdriver.) I used two of the wimpy screws and two longer screws.

I repeated the process to hang the other bracket. Then followed the directions for hanging the blinds I bought.

I was able to hang the other side the same way and used my level line to make sure both blinds were hung at the same height.

Next I adjusted the cord stop and pulls to fit our windows. Because the blinds weren’t custom made for our windows, they hung down below the window sill. I started by closing the blinds to the bottom of our windows. Then moved the small stop bead to the top of the cord.

Next I moved the pull knobs to a location in the middle of the blinds, added new knots to hold them there and then cut off the excess.

Next up on Pretty Handy Girl. How to hang curtains and a no-iron way to iron your curtains!

Plus, I have some more frugal changes that cost me – ummm – nothing! I added a big graphic element to the side wall (Tutorial HERE.) I know, sorry to tease you like that, but if you follow me on Twitter, I gave away the secret there.

Until then, I encourage you to embrace the New Year by making a small change to a room you really don’t like.

  • Try hanging a new picture.
  • Try hanging new blinds or curtains.
  • Cover up something you don’t like with fabric.
  • Buy some new throw pillows.
  • Change around your accessories.
  • Or switch out your bedding.

If you have a little more time and energy, It really is amazing what a new coat of paint can do for a room!

So, please don’t wait. Make yourself happy! Change out something today! It doesn’t mean you have to buy something new.

I am planning on swinging by our local Goodwill this week. You should have seen the lines of people donating their items before the new year (myself included!) I bet there are some treasures to be found this week.

Addendum: Monique sent me an email asking if she would be at risk of electrocuting herself when using the longer screws. Good question Monique. Here is my answer:

When I used the 2″ screws I was screwing them into the studs. See THIS post to determine how to find a stud. It is about halfway down the post past the bench assembly. Electrical is not normally in a stud, occasionally it is run through a stud, but the 2″ screw is actually only penetrating the stud about 1/2″ to 3/4″. Sometimes electrical wires are fed through a hole in the stud, however, it is normally centered in a 2″ x 4″ stud, so about 2″ back. But, normally electrical is not run up near the ceiling through studs (where I was hanging the blinds). The electricity for your outlets is down near the outlets. The electrical for your ceiling light would run vertical from the switch and up through the ceiling. Most of those wires are either loose in the cavity between the studs or stapled to the middle of the stud (about 2″ back).

If you are mounting your bracket into the drywall cavity (not a stud) I wouldn’t use just the screw. That is where I would use the plastic toggler anchors that I showed above. The cavity in the drywall is 3 3/4″ deep (the width of a stud.) Should an anchor touch the electrical (which that would be rare, it is sheathed in thick plastic and would normally flex away from the anchor. Plus, because it is plastic it wouldn’t conduct electricity.)

In other words, long explanation short, you don’t need to worry about shocking yourself if you are using anchors in the hollow areas and 2″ screws into the studs.

Come see this Closet Reading Nook Transformation! Learn how I turned this closet into a Reading Nook in a weekend. This area could also become a built-in desk area at a later date.


Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl

When is a Closet not a Closet? Reading Nook Transformation!

Have you seen all those cute closets on Pinterest? The ones that were closets but are now a new space like a reading nook or a home office? Well, today I’ll show you how you can give your closet a makeover by turning it into a reading nook!

Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl

The Back Story:

My husband took the boys camping! Translation: A free weekend – by myself – peace and quiet!

{insert sound of hammers, jigsaw, table saw, and more hammering}

Well, forget the quiet part, I decided to tackle another DIY project I have been thinking about for almost two years. My son’s closet!

My three year old has two full-size closets in his room. And, yet, his toys were always strewn around the room. Here is the “keeping it real” BEFORE picture:

Boy's Room Before | Pretty Handy Girl

Last year I took the doors off one of the closets and put up some curtains so he could have a little hideaway. That was an easy task, but I wanted to give him more storage and a fun spot to sit and read books during quiet time. When I saw this picture in a magazine, I knew I had the perfect solution.

Kym, the homeowner, turned her son’s closet into a private nook. I thought, no problem, I’d complete this project in an easy 2 days. After all, how long can it take to renovate one 6′ x 2′ closet? During stopping points I could squeeze in a pedicure, swim some laps and possibly have a friend over for wine and some chat one evening.  Truth be told, it ended up taking a full 3 days (and nights). If I had a helper, I probably could have knocked it out in a day and a half.

Before and After:

Ready to see how I transformed a standard 2′ x 6′ closet into a multi-functioning reading nook, toy storage, sleepover bed, and creative play space?

How to Turn a Closet Into a Reading Nook:

First (after cleaning up all those toys, of course), is removing hardware, base molding, and patching holes. (This is where I found I didn’t know my own strength and ended up having to patch a larger drywall hole after trying to remove the closet cleats.)

Once the closet is empty it’s time to build!

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Optional: trim molding & shelving

Home Office Desk Option:

If you want a home office in your closest, skip the base and only build the framing for the bench, but install it at 29 inches (standard desk height).

Measure and Cut Lumber:

Measure the floor of your closet to determine the size for your base and bench.

Cut all your lumber to size, then build two frames. One for the base and one for the bench.


Your base frame only has to have one center support because it doesn’t have to hold much weight. The bench seat frame needs two center supports at 2′ intervals.

Find and mark the studs in the wall. (Here are 5 different ways to locate studs without a stud finder.) Then secure the base frame to the studs using a few screws.

Cut your finish grade plywood to top the base and bench frames.

Scribing Around Molding:

Here is a little trick for scribing the profile of trim or other obstacles onto your board. Use a compass and set the width to the same distance from the wall to the outside of my door casing. Then draw a line around the casing being careful to keep the compass perpendicular to the casing. Then you can cut out the profile with a jigsaw.


Set the plywood on top of the base. Secure the plywood to the base with a few screws (or wood glue and trim nails.)

Next build the second frame the same way (but add two center supports for the bench.)

To simplify things, you may want to prime as much of the framing as you can before nailing it into place. It is easier to prime wood on sawhorses.

Installing the Bench:

If you have a helper, this process will go easier. If not, you need to temporarily hold the framing before securing it. Cut some scrap blocks to hold the bench or temporarily drive in a few screws.

Measure up 18″ from the floor. This is standard bench height.

Use a level (both a carpenter’s level and laser level if you have them) and level the bench platform before screwing it into the studs. Use at least two screws on each side and several into the back and one on either side of the door frame to secure the bench in place. Set the plywood on top of the bench framing. Secure it with a few screws or wood glue and  trim nails.


Remeber that note about having a helper? I wish I had one because at some point the right hand side of my bench shifted while I was securing it, which resulted in a slight slope. Seriously, I really did level it! I even have the pictures to prove it! Shhhh, don’t tell anyone! My lesson learned is that next time I will either screw the frame in place to hold it or put a brace underneath to keep it from slipping.


Bench Cushion:

Cut the foam cushion for the bench seat. If you haven’t heard, the best way to cut foam is with an electric carving knife! (Huge thank you to my friend and neighbor Karen for the use of her 1970’s electric carving knife.)


You can sew a bench cushion later to cover it. Here’s how to sew a simple bench cushion with piping.

Decorative Molding:

Sewing will have to wait, for now we’re going to finish off this closet reading nook with some decorative molding. This is a personal preference, but I chose to install board and batten molding for the back like I did in this bathroom.

But, if you don’t want to use board and batten, you may like the DIY shiplap look instead.

Then I added decorative molding under the shelves. Did you know that some of the molding in your home, especially crown molding, is made up of several different molding profiles? You can make molding more decorative by using several different pieces and then caulk seams to hide the edges?

Painting Prep:

Before priming all your wood, caulk all the seams and let it dry.


This is the Pretty Handy Girl’s tried-and-true caulking method:

  1. Squeeze out your bead of caulk with a caulk gun.
  2. Keep your finger at the front of the tip of the caulk and use a baby wipe smooth the caulk as it’s dispensed.
  3. Follow up with a clean baby wipe if necessary to smooth any spots.

It’s easy to caulk like a pro if you follow my tutorial.

Once the caulk dries, prime all the wood and trim. Let it dry.

How to Tint Primer:

After trying some Benjamin Moore paint swatches, I settled on a deep navy blue called “Symphony Blue”. I knew I’d need to use some tinted primer before trying to paint such a dark color on the light walls. You can save money by tinting your primer. Simply add 1 part paint to 3 parts primer.


Isn’t the marble effect pretty! Mix well.

Painting:

Always use at least two coats of paint. This makes it easier to clean the walls and eliminates any missed spots.

Paint the trim first. Then cut in around trim with a good quality angled brush.

Use a paint roller to paint in between your cut in lines.

So, are you ready to see this Closet Turned Reading Nook?? The drumroll please…

Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl
Can’t you hear the Symphonic Chords playing?


The copper wall sconce was also from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I scored that gem for only $5! It has a cord that I snaked around the molding and then plugged into the outlet just outside the closet. Click Here to Learn How to Add a switch to a Hard-Wire Light.


Plenty of storage bins for all the toys a three-year-old can hoard.


Star pillows were super easy to make with cloth napkins and fabric I had on hand.


Finally, a nook built for reading, sleepovers…


…or just hanging with big brother.

Wall-mounted IKEA LILLÅNGEN Mirrored Cabinet turned Stuffed Animal Storage | Pretty Handy Girl
Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl

Boy's Red, White & Blue Themed Room | Pretty Handy Girl
That’s all folks! Bye-bye!

Did you like this transformation? If so, you’ll love more custom spaces in my home!

 

When I was 18, and bought my first car, and thought I was the coolest girl in town with a little zippy sportscar – sorry, just a little trip down memory lane.  My parents gave me my first tool kit. That tool kit is still with me today and I do use it a lot. The set has a series of sockets, crescent wrenches, interchangeable screwdriver bits, allen (hex) wrenches, needle nose pliers, and locking pliers.
 
That set got me through several repairs (both auto and home). Now, as a homeowner, I have found that there are a few more tools to have on hand.
You will likely want to look for a multi-piece set like this one:
This will give you a wide variety of tools for a low cost. If you want a deal, try shopping for these sets around Father’s Day or Christmas. The set above was listed on Amazon.com for approximately $50 – $60.
Regardless if you are buying these items in a set or separate, these are the tools I recommend:
Homeowner essentials:
  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdrivers – Phillips head and a flat (straight or slotted) head. Try to buy a small and medium size of each.
  3. Allen (Hex) Wrenches in several sizes
  4. Adjustable Crescent Wrenches – I suggest buying at least two. One 6″ and one 10″
  5. Slip Joint Pliers (handy for overall gripping)
  6. Needle-nosed pliers
  7. Vice grips (Locking pliers)
  8. Tape Measure
  9. Level – 24″ is preferrable
  10. Utility knife (mat knife)
  11. Safety glasses
  12. 12″ Handsaw
  13. Stud Finder
  14. Flashlight
  15. Pry bar (must have a flat sharp side and the other side a notch for pulling nails.)
  16. Tool box or case to keep all of the above in 
  17. My favorite DIY guide to my home: Home Depot’s Home Improvement 1-2-3 – the best $15 I ever spent!
 Screwdriver bits:
 

Last but not least, the most indispensable tool I’ve ever owned:
Cordless Drill with screwdriver bits and a small set of drill bits 

For Electrical DIY:
  1. Wiring instruction book or guide
  2. Wire Cutters/Strippers
  3. Electrical Current tester 
    • You only need the simple tester with two probes and an indicator light to test if the power is on. 
For the committed DIYer:
  1. Palm sander
  2. Carpenter’s square
  3. Staple gun
  4. Power Circular Saw 
    • Be sure to hold one in the store and feel how the grip feels in your hand. This is especially important as a woman with a smaller hand size. (more on power tool shopping in another blog post – coming soon!)
  5. Jig Saw
  6. Saw Horses or Folding Work Bench
  7. Clamps – A Variety of Adjustable Clamps and Clips

I hope this list gives you some good information so you won’t feel overwhelmed when buying tools. Definitely ask a sales person for help or opinions. Don’t tell them you are new at this. Ask them for the tool they would purchase if they were buying one for their shop. You should aim to buy a quality tool (especially power tools) that will last your lifetime. A cheap tool will either break or not have the power to do the job you need it to do. However, you don’t need to buy top of the line or break the bank to get a good tool.
Savings Tip: Many of the big box home improvement stores will usually price match tools that are priced cheaper at a competitor if it is the same make and model, plus take 10% off the price. Be sure to bring the ad with you or they will need to call or look up the price online.
 
Home Depots price guarantee:  
NOBODY BEATS OUR PRICES
If any competitor tries, we’ll beat their price by 10%. Guaranteed.*
*If you find a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any retailer, we will match the price and beat it by 10%. Excludes special orders, bid pricing, volume discounts, open-box merchandise, labor and installation, sales tax, rebate and free offers, typographical errors and online purchases.
Lowe’s price guarantee:
Everyday Low Prices, Guaranteed
We guarantee our everyday competitive prices. If you find a verifiable lower everyday or advertised price on an identical stock item at any local retail competitor that has the item in stock, we’ll beat their price by 10% when you buy from us. Just bring us the competitor’s current ad or we’ll call to verify the item’s price that you have found. Cash (charge card) and carry purchases only. Competitor’s closeout, special order, discontinued, clearance, liquidation and damaged items are excluded from this offer. On percent-off sales, Lowe’s will match the competitor’s percent-off offer. Limited to reasonable quantities for homeowner and one-house order quantities for cash and carry contractors. Current in-store price, if lower, overrides Lowe’s advertised price. Price guarantee honored at all Lowe’s retail locations. Labor charges for product installation are excluded from our price guarantee offer in our stores with an Installed Sales Program. Visit store for complete details.
Sear’s price guarantee:
If you find a lower price on an identical branded item with the same features (in Home Electronics identical brand and model number) currently available for sale at another local competitor retail store, Sears will match that price plus, give you 10% of the difference. Just bring in the original advertisement to a sales associate at the time of, or within 14 days after, your purchase. More fine print…

Happy Shopping!