Monday, March 28, 2016

DIY Pipe & Plank Shelving

We began renovating our basement last year and it has proved to be a challenge!  The space itself is not challenging (it's basically just a big rectangle), but we're a family of 6 in a 2000 sqft house, and much is demanded of our basement. We need it to be a media space, play space, guest space, office space and a music space (yes, that's a lot of spaces to fit into one big rectangle) - oh, and we're on a tight budget.  I was turning out to be my own most difficult client!

I spent hours puzzling over how I could fit everything in, in a logical, functional way - still give things some measure of aesthetic appeal, and make it all fit in our budget.  During this time I had the opportunity to design a basement for a family who also needed many things from their basement.  It turns out that sometimes you need to look at someone else's space in order to derive solutions for your own!

I had seen pipe and plank shelving before and thought it to be a brilliant solution for low budget, custom shelving needs.  I used it to create a home office space for this particular client of mine, and in the process, realized that it could also solve some of my own problems with my basement.

Pipe and plank shelving is great for a number of reasons:

1) It's affordable
2) It's customizable
3) It's pretty easy to do
4) It looks cool

I did the regular Google research and found a tutorial on DIY Show Off which gave me the general gist of things.  I thought this was a good tutorial, and don't see the need to re-invent the wheel - so I would refer people there, but I did make a few tweaks of my own:


- Measuring tape and pencil
- 1/2" steel pipe fittings of appropriate lengths, 1/2" flanges, T-joints, and 90* elbows
- Spray paint (if you want to change the colour of the pipes)
- 16" wide wood planks (mine were listed as 16"wide, but were really more like 15")
- Wood stain and lacquer (opt)
- Drill
- 1" hole saw
- screws & screw driver
- Stud finder / hollow wall anchors


STEP 1: Plan out shelf and collect pipe fittings

After briefly reviewing the tutorial on DIY Show Off, I thought building this shelf was going to be a piece of cake.  I set to work designing the shelf I wanted and then ran out to the hardware store to get the necessary pieces.

The first problem arose at the first hardware store I visited.  I knew what I was looking for, but didn't really know what to call it.  After wandering around the hardware store for awhile, I finally found my way to the "Pipe Fittings" section of the Plumbing department.  There were plenty of copper pipes and plastic pipes - neither was what I wanted.

I finally found the pipes I was looking for (they're called 1/2" steel "nipples" by the way) - but was sorely disappointed by the selection!  Apparently steel pipes aren't in high demand, and a lot of hardware stores don't stock a ton.  They come in standard sizes (6", 1', 18", 2', 3'), but I had a really hard time finding the 1'-2' sizes (locally I had the best luck at Lowes, but they still didn't have everything I needed).   I was also hoping to avoid spray painting the pipes if I could, so I was hoping to find all the pieces I needed in the colour I was hoping for (they come in galvanized pipe, black iron, and black steel).  I couldn't find all the pieces I wanted (my original design required 36, 1' pieces), let alone pieces of the same colour - so the hunt began!

I visited 5 different hardware stores and gained an assortment of various parts of various colours (I was going to have to spray paint - boo. . .).  I basically had to scrap my original design and look at what I had and what I could do with it and then make a design based on that.  This is what I ended up with:


STEP 2: Put the pipes together and make sure it's going to fit your space

Another problem I encountered was accurately calculating the height of the pipes when put together (this is because the joints add height, and I wasn't sure how far I could screw the pipes into the joints).

I had to just do this the old-fashioned way and put a section of pipe together and physically make sure it would fit in my space.

In doing this, I also discovered another problem.  The 12" lengths with 90* elbows were designed for the shelf to sit on top of (they needed to stop short of the wall) - but I would need the top 12" length with a flange to extend past the 12" length with elbow in order to go right back to the wall.

So I went back to the hardware store and picked up a "1/2" close" and "1/2" 2-way connector" for each of the top 12" lengths.  This solved my problem!

 STEP 3: Measure and drill holes in planks

Once I had the details of my design worked out, I picked up 3, 16"x 8' unfinished pine planks from The Home Depot .  

In the DIY Show Off tutorial, the author made a cardboard template to cut the holes for the pipes in their wood planks.  I started with 1 board, and just measured and marked 3/4" in from the side and front of each front corner:

From there, I measured where I wanted my other two pipe supports to go, and marked them in 3/4" from the front edge of the board.  Once the placement of all my holes was measured and marked, I drilled the holes in the center of my marks with my 1" hole saw (attached to a drill):

Because all of my boards were going to be the same, after I finished cutting the holes in my first board, I just clamped it onto my other board ensuring that the edges were flush, and used it as a template to cut the same holes in my other boards.

After all my holes were cut, I proceeded to sand, stain, and lacquer my shelves.

STEP 4: Assemble and install 

You're probably going to want a partner to help with this next step!

Instead of building my shelf from the ground up, we chose to just put it all together on the floor and then stand it up in place.

Once we had it up in place, 1 person held it steady while the other marked the holes in the top flanges.  Because I had specific objects in mind that I wanted to place at the bottom of my shelf, I positioned the pipes around those objects, and did not place the pipes where there were studs in the wall.  Where there wasn't studs, I used heavy-duty hollow walls anchors and screwed the top flange into them.  I did however, get lucky with 2 pipes and hit studs!

We did find that there was some flex and wobble in the shelf while we were putting it up. Consequently, we started by securing the one end pipe to the wall, and then measured from pipe to pipe to make sure that it was the same distance on the wall that it was on the shelf before securing the next flange to the wall.  

After all the top flanges were secured to the wall, because I put this shelf into my basement and didn't want to anchor the bottom flanges into my concrete floor (through my new carpet!), I used 4, 1" corner braces on the bottom side of the bottom shelf to anchor the unit into the studs of the wall:

The end result was very sturdy, and fit just the way I wanted it to!  Huzzah!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If You Are Buying, Building, or Renovating a Home in 2016 - Please, PLEASE - AVOID the Following:

Most often posts on my blog are about what-to-do, but today this post is about what-NOT-to-do in order to love your home more.  I have the great privilege of being able to go into many different people's homes and help them out with their spaces.  It seemed like in 2015 I was often called into homes to help address some of the same problems over and over again - which is why I feel the need to speak out now - before it's too late for other homes.  These are problems that are not easy to work around - because the problems lay in the way the space has been constructed - which can not be easily changed.  So please, PLEASE, for the love of all that is good and holy - if you are buying, building or seriously renovating a home in 2016 please AVOID the following 5 things:


The biggest culprit I saw in 2015 was the corner fireplace.  I don't know why, but it seems like a bunch of home-builders decided this was a good idea - it's NOT, and I'll tell you why:  

When designing a space, the first thing you want to determine is a primary point of focus.  That primary focal point is where the attention and direction of the room is focused and everything else falls into place around it.  Focal points should be clearly defined and organized in a hierarchy (primary, secondary, tertiary. . .), and should not compete with each other for dominance.

Primary focal points are almost always the most commanding architectural feature of a space (like a fireplace, or big window, etc).  Thus - when you have a fireplace in a room, it should be the primary point of focus - not a side thought.  If you are going to put a fireplace in a space, it should be centrally located where it will be easy to arrange everything else around it. My favourite is smack-dab in the center of the main wall of the space - not stuffed into a corner.

Being side by side, the TV /fireplace and piano are competing for attention, but because of the corner fireplace there's nowhere else for this piano to go . . . 
I know corner fireplaces can be made to look nice in show-homes - but it's easy to make show homes look nice because they don't have real people living in them with real stuff!  Don't be deceived!  Corner fireplaces limit furniture arrangement possibilities (most often you are limited to a L-shaped arrangement), and eat up wall space (because it impacts the two walls they are attached to instead of 1).  They become really difficult when another element that commands attention needs to be included in the space (like a TV, or a piano - or both in the case of one of my clients!), because the two features when placed side-by-side (which you often have to do because you have no other choice) will compete with each other disrupting the hierarchy and creating confusion!

There are very few ways to pull off a corner fireplace well.  The best is in a very large, open space without much else in it.  This maximizes your options for furniture arrangements.

If you're reading this too late, and you're already stuck with one of these suckers, the best thing to do is to give it more prominence by pulling it up all the way to the ceiling.

If you can't do "best" try for "better."  We couldn't change the position of the fireplace in this home and the piano had to stay in this room - so we cleaned up the decorative arrangement above the piano centralizing attention by using a round mirror and some lamps.  Then we drew the fireplace all the way up to the ceiling, kept the TV above the fireplace and balanced it out with tall drapes on the window.  It's not the best, but it's better.

If you also have a TV in the space, place it above the fireplace, NOT beside it.  This way you are combining these two attention grabbers into a single focal point instead of dividing them into 2 competing ones.

TV & fireplace combined in a single focal Point

Corner fireplace & TV placed side by side in 2 competing focal points.  I don't know where to place my attention - the TV?  Or the fireplace?  


Next to walls, nothing divides space more effectively than flooring.  Chopping up flooring makes space feel smaller and limits options for function and aesthetics (determines what the space can be used for and restricts how furniture can be arranged).  When it comes to flooring - particularly in open and connected spaces - less is always better.  Ultimately if you can be consistent with just 1 flooring type in the space that is ideal, but two can work if they are different mediums and you are using them to specifically and purposely divide spaces with different functional purposes (ie: a tile/carpet or /wood/carpet or tile/wood).  3 different flooring mediums in an open and connected space is pushing it.  It can be skillfully done, but is best avoided, and I would never do more than 3.  DO NOT put different selections of the same medium next to each other (carpet next to a different kind of carpet, tile next to a different type of tile, etc) and don't put fake wood (like laminate or tile wood planks) next to real wood - ever.


Sometimes people will build these in simply to avoid having too many blank walls.  DON'T!  There's nothing wrong with blank walls!  Blank walls give you multiple options - small alcoves limit your options.

Decorative alcoves often draw a lot of attention to whatever is put in them.  They are great for displaying famous pieces of art in European cathedrals - but they most often seem out of place in average homes and the main challenge to residents is: "what the heck am I going to put in there?" Decorative alcoves tend to create a "shrine" effect.  They draw attention and give importance to whatever they display - and most often, average home owners don't really have something of great importance to put in them.  Most often they become cluttered with trinkets or become collecting points for junk.

Large alcoves can be great, and can enhance the function and character of a space - but that is because they are big enough to support different options.  Small alcoves are limiting, and you're better off to just avoid them.


When I see this, I often think to myself that it would have been better just to carry the walls around the closet up to the ceiling.  Maybe the dead space could be turned into clever hidden storage accessible from the other side that would actually be useful.

These seem to be have been a real trend for home-builders at one time and I see them frequently in homes that have been built in the last 20 years.  Again, they can be made to look OK in a show home where there's no real people with real stuff living in them, but often they're a pain in the butt for real home-owners.  Much like the alcove, the question is always what to put on them.  They limit options in the space, and inevitably just get cluttered up with junk that collects dust.   It kills me - because most often something like this is unnecessary, it takes up floor space for no real purpose, takes extra time and money to do, and a lot of time and money to undo.  Save your money and your sanity - just don't do it.

If you want something to decorate with - use shelves.  Shelves can be nice and they give you options. If you don't like them in 5 years you can easily take them down and do something different.  Built in ledges leave you stuck with only 1 option or a major renovation.


Again, a popular trend among home builders that is often a thorn in my side.  These can add more softness and flow to a space, and are often more resistant to chipping than conventional 90* corners - however they are a pain because they again they limit options.  How so you ask?

Well, let's say I want to use more than 1 colour on the walls in a space.  Rounded exterior corners are great for flow, but not so great for separation.  If I want one colour on just one side of the wall It's really hard to know how and where to divide one colour from the other on a rounded corner, whereas it is clearly defined with a 90* corner.

Unless you are a master finisher - they also make the application of trim and moldings difficult because there's no easy-to-cut right angle.  This can limit you from being able to apply any kind of paneling effect that you may want to add to a space.

This just hurts me . . .
There are probably a couple of other things that I could add to this list of do-nots, but these are the main 5.  The trait that they all have in common is that they limit the options of what can be done with your space.  When creating a space, I like to have as many options available to me as possible, which is why the restrictions imposed by these things bother me so much!

For most people, the purchase of their homes will be the biggest investment they will ever make, and I hate to see people spend money on things that will only be headaches for them later.  I want you to love your home - to love being there.  Avoiding these things will help!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Over the course of the year, I manage to generate a fair amount of scrap fabric left-over from the projects I have completed.  Last year I decided to whip up some quick pillow shams from this fabric and offer them to my customers as a Black Friday Sale!

It was so successful I have decided to do it again!  We have $5 17x17" cotton print pillow shams again, and have added $10 cotton print Euro shams (26x26" with 2" flange)!  Quantities are limited - when they're gone they're gone!  Sale starts tomorrow, Friday November 27th at 9am (MST) and ends Monday, November 30th at 12am (MST).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Something New For Christmas

I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE pretty things - so naturally Christmas decorating is something I like to do!

I had built our family's Christmas decoration collection slowly over time by adding something new to the same theme each year. Eventually after 8 years or so, I felt like I had topped out my theme, and I was tired of my decorations!  For the last couple of years I have been looking for something new, but nothing has really grabbed me.  Gradually however, I felt myself moving away from the fancy-schmancy, gold and glittering decorations to something a little more simple, clean and natural.

I fell in love with red berries and decided to make the transition last year, experimenting with some new themes and began to build a new collection - so it was perfect when I received an email this year from asking if I would be interested in reviewing a couple of their products!  I could choose a couple products that they would send to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review on my blog.  Free Christmas decorations of my choice in exchange for my honest opinion?  It seemed like a no-brainer.  So things around my studio got a little Christmasy a little earlier this year. specializes in beautiful artificial Christmas trees, but to me it's just not Christmas without that real-tree smell, so I opted instead to review a couple of items from their other accessories.

Because I have fallen in love with red-berries and have based my new decoration collection heavily around that theme - the Classic Cranberry Christmas Wreath instantly caught my attention.

The wreath was larger than I expected, which I was quite happy about!  It's simple and natural but beautiful, and aligned entirely with my new vision and direction.

The cranberries on the wreath are quite realistic, which I appreciated.  The twigs do seem to shed a bit when the wreath is handled - but overall I am very happy with this lovely wreath!

The 2nd product to catch my eye was the Silver Glass Beaded Finial Set.  In my new vision, what to do with the tree is what I have wrestled with the most.  I started with clear lights and lots of berry sprigs, but after that I was getting stuck.  I wanted a clean and natural look, and felt myself moving away from ribbons and garlands - but I didn't really like the pine-cone, burlap/twig ornament look either.  I experimented with some "ice and snow" styled decorations, and decided I liked that much better.

I love finials because they remind me of icicles, and these elegant beauties grabbed my attention.  I loved the 2 different shapes which provided some variety and thought the glass beads would catch the light from the tree in lovely ways.

These ornaments are a nice weight and quality - but I just didn't love them as much as I thought I would.  That being said, I can't really put my finger on why exactly.  I think in the end, they were just a bit chunkier than I expected, and they just didn't catch the light quite as I hoped they would, but they are still a lovely decoration that brings a little touch of fancy to my new, much more simple tree.


All in all, I was quite impressed with the products I received from!  If you're looking for something new this Christmas, check them out!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Easy Upgrades That Will Transform Your Bathroom

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Kelsey Reaves from about doing a guest post. is where you come to get inspired, see what's possible, and connect with a professional who will make your dream home a reality!  The following are ideas from about some easy upgrades to transform your bathroom:

Bathrooms are often the last thing in your home to be updated. We tend to overlook cosmetic
repairs to favor just the necessities of such a utilitarian space. The bathroom is actually a place
where you will spend a lot of your time so why not make it an enjoyable experience? At
Modernize, we know that the delight of an updated bathroom will not only improve your daily life
but will be noticed by your guests and your family.


The first place to look to upgrade is your fixtures. By changing your bathtub handles and knobs
you will create an updated and clean look. Choosing deep matte brown fixtures for your tub will
add a warm and cozy vibe. Make sure to match the fixtures throughout the whole bathroom to
pull everything together.

Cleanliness is just as important as style, take this opportunity to clean
out your drains and do an overall scrub as you go. Then, set a rotating weekly schedule to keep
everything clean on a regular basis. It’s much easier to perform maintenance cleaning than to
deal with a bunch of grime that has built up over an extended period of time.

Adding in a new paint color to your bathroom is the cheapest upgrade with the greatest effect.
Choose a bright happy color to motivate you in your morning routine. Shades of yellow and
green make especially good choices. You can also use a peel and stick wallpaper to take a
chance with a bold pattern. Bathrooms are usually your smallest room, and it’s a place where
you can take the biggest stylistic risk. With temporary wallpaper you can create an accent wall
in a bold pattern. Use a navy stripes wallpaper and go for a nautical theme or baroque flowers
for a classic sophistication. The possibilities are endless.


Choose a light fixture for your bathroom that makes a splash. Incorporate bright lighting so that
you can see clearly as you prep for the day. Choose lights that are bright but still calming. If you
want to keep your existing lighting but hope to match them to your new fixtures just use a can of
spray paint to paint your lighting to match. Simply turn off the lights and unscrew the fixture from
the wall. Cover the bulb area with a plastic bag and attach it with painter’s tape at the edge.
From a few feet away spray an even paint coat over the fixture. Allow it to dry for at least a day
before reattaching your new lighting to the wall. It’s easy to make small updates that will make a
huge difference. Many of these upgrades can be done yourself for a fun at home project.

Add in a few key accessories to show off your personal style. Change out your dingy old curtain
for a new one.  Shower curtains get dirty so quickly, so keep an eye on the shower liner and
replace them on a regular basis. Get some new accessories for your bathroom and let
everything feel fresh and new. Choose toothbrush holders and soap dishes to match your
fixtures. It’s a great idea to update your towels to match your new theme.

Once you’ve completed your new bathroom, you’ll be shocked by the difference it makes. Easy
upgrades will make a huge change and soon you’ll love spending time in your new room. Many
quick and easy DIY projects will make a big difference within your home. The bath is an easy
place to get cluttered and messy with so much traffic. Don’t forget to give your old bathroom the
same TLC you give to the rest of your home.

- Kelsey Reaves,

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How to Re-Upholster Furniture with Wood Parts

It wasn't long after I tackled re-upholstering my first sofa that I wanted to try and do some other furniture pieces.  I just wasn't entirely sure how to get around the exposed wood bits.  With some trial and error I figured it out.

Most of the steps for re-upholstering are the same as those in my tutorial on "How to Re-Upholster a Sofa"  so I won't repeat them here, just the bits that are different.

STEP 1:  Check and see if the wood sections detach.

In many cases, I have found that often the wood sections will detach from the furniture frame.  They are usually held in place with wood dowels and glue.

Check the fabric to see how it is secured around the sections of exposed wood.  If the fabric is secured around the wood with staples and piping the exposed wood is most likely permanently attached to the wood frame; however, if the fabric is secured to the frame underneath the exposed wood sections, those sections should come off.

STEP 2: Remove the wood sections or piping.

If your fabric is secured to the frame UNDERNEATH the exposed wood sections: 

Use a lever (flat-head screw driver, butter-knife, whatever!) to gently pry off the wood sections.  They will most likely be attached to the frame with wooden dowels that insert into holes drilled into the frame.  They may be glued and be somewhat stiff at first. Start small and be careful not to damage the wood (you may need to wrap your lever in a piece of scrap fabric).

Work to remove the wood section evenly a little bit at a time to avoid breakage (this is particularly important when working on a delicate antique).  Find where the dowels are and exert more pressure there.

In some cases, wood pieces may be attached to the frame with screws.  Look for any screw holes (usually on the bottom) - and remove the screws with a screw driver.

If your fabric is secured to the frame AROUND the exposed wood sections: 

Carefully remove the fabric around the exposed wood.  It is usually finished with furniture tacks or piping/double piping.  This has to come off first.  Try to keep it as intact as possible so you can use it as a pattern for your new fabric.  Note how the fabric and piping/tacks are attached - you will want to re-attach your new fabric/piping/tacks in the same way.

An example of a chair with the fabric finished around the edges of the wood with double piping.  The piping is usually attached with staples that are hidden in-between the piping.  Use a flat-head screwdriver or butter knife to gently pry it off.

An example of a chair where the edges around the wood are finished off with furniture tacks.  Use a flat-head screwdriver or butter knife to gently pry it off.

STEP 3:  Refinish wood sections (if needed)

See my post: "Re-Upholstering Furniture Part 1: Refinishing Wood" for instructions.

STEP 4: Remove and replace fabric

See my post: "How To Re-Upholster a Sofa" for instructions.

STEP 5: Re-attach wood sections/piping

If your wood pieces are removable:

A) To get the wood pieces to fit back on the frame you may need to scrape or sand off any old glue still attached to the wood pieces (particularly on the dowels).  You will also want to re-drill the holes to make sure that they are clear, cut away any fabric, and look for any staples that may get in the way of the hole.

*If the dowels were damaged when you removed the wood pieces, you may need to cut them off, drill them out and insert new dowel pieces with wood glue.*

Do a "dry-fit" first, to ensure that your wood piece will fit back on properly - if it doesn't, repeat step 5A and keep checking until the piece fits properly.

B) Apply wood glue to the inside of the dowel holes and the dowels on the wood pieces - position the pieces and press firmly into place (be careful not to drip glue on your new fabric!!!)

If your wood pieces are not removable:

Attach the fabric around the exposed wood pieces the same way the old fabric was attached.  Often this is folded under, and pulled tightly around sections like these chair legs . . .

Drape the fabric around the wood section.

Fold under and tuck in around the wood.

Fold the fabric edge under and pull tightly.

Pull the fabric tightly around to the back of  the frame.

Secure the fabric to the bottom of the frame with staples.

. . . or secured at the edge with staples and then finished (covered) with piping/double piping or furniture tacks.  When using piping be sure to hide your staples in the crease of the piping so that they are not visible (you may need a hammer and nail-punch to ensure that they are inset deep enough so as to not be visible).  When using double piping place your staples in-between the piping to hide them.  When using furniture tacks - use a hammer to gently secure the tacks in place.  Be careful not to accidentally damage the wood with your hammer.

STEP 6: Love your "new" furniture!