Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Office Supplies in Their Natural Habitat

With the addition of the newly gothed office supplies, my office is less barren.  Still needs some artwork on the wall, I think.
I spend too much time in this room
new filigree paper sorter and a bat sticker for the laptop
purple notebook with swirls :)
bulletin board with Badtz Maru pins

Maybe it's silly that the aesthetics of one's office supplies matter, but somehow a "to do" list isn't as unpleasant when written in a pretty notebook.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks for Pets

Pets hold a special place in our hearts.  They make us laugh, they relieve our stress, they love us with loyalty.  They don't judge us, they don't criticize us, they don't lie to us.  They give their affection unconditionally.

Today I give thanks for my dog Bean Sidhe ("banshee").  I got her in March 1998 when she was just eight weeks old.  Much has happened in my life in the 13 years since then.  I have had four different jobs in four different states; driven five different cars and lived in eleven (!) different apartments.  Relationships have come and gone.  Through it all, Bean Sidhe has been the only constant, the one thing I could always rely on.  No matter which job I come home from, or where home is, she is excited to see me every single day.

I am happy to say that other than having a little arthritis which is well controlled by medication, Bean Sidhe is pretty spry for a dog of nearly 14.  She lost her hearing about 18 months ago, but it doesn't seem to negatively impact her life.  (In fact, she now sniffs around the backyard in peace, blithely unaware that the neighbor's dog is barking at her.)

Without further ado, on to the picspam of the aspect of my life for which I am most grateful today.

shooting rubber bands - she holds it with her paw, stretches it with her nose, then lets it fly  :-)
snoozing on the afghan my mom crocheted for me her granddog
(I wish my hair was naturally that glossy black!)

toasting herself by the heater

toasting herself by the fireplace

burrowed into a pillowcase with the pillow
2009; 11 years old and going grey
she used to burrow completely under her blanket; now that she is deaf, she keeps her face out so she can see where I am
despite 13 years of practice, the burrowing isn't always 100% successful ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Create a Faux Tin Ceiling with Wallpaper

Cost: $150 for a small room  (with half of the primer, paste and paint still left after the job)
Materials needed:
  • wallpaper primer
  • textured paintable wallpaper
  • wallpaper paste
  • latex paint for base coat
  • metallic paint
  • paint roller with extension handle
  • roller covers
  • paint tray

(Apologies for the lack of step-by-step photos. This project was done pre-blog.)

I love the elaborate ornamentation that was a hallmark of Victorian interior design. Rooms were filled with furniture, windows were swathed in draperies, and walls were covered in a multitude of coordinating wallpapers. Even ceilings could not escape decoration. Elaborate plaster ceilings were found in the homes of wealthy Europeans. In America, tin ceilings were a practical alternative. Tin was stamped and then painted white to resemble plasterwork.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in tin ceilings. There are now many resources for tin or faux tin ceilings, from custom metal to embossed plastic tiles to textured wallpaper. Some are available in multiple colors, including plasterwork white, silvery tin, copper with or without patina, and even black.

For houses sporting the oft-hated "popcorn" ceilings, one route to a decorative faux tin ceiling is covering the popcorn with glue-up polystyrene tiles. The process is easy and does not require one to disturb the popcorn – a very important consideration if it contains asbestos.

Another option is applying textured paintable wallpaper (available online, and the larger home improvement stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot carry a pattern or two in stock).  This requires removal of the popcorn, of course. The removal process is messy but not difficult as long as your ceiling has never been painted.  Paint acts like glue and the texture may be hard to scrape off if the ceiling has been painted.  You might want to test a small patch to see how difficult removal will be.

Assuming you have asbestos-free, never-been-painted popcorn, you can remove it thus:
  1. If possible, empty the room.
  2. Cover any remaining items and the floor with waterproof dropcloths -- globs of wet goo will be falling from the ceiling.
  3. Working in small sections, spray the ceiling with water using a spray bottle or a tank sprayer. Spray enough to wet the popcorn but not soak through to the drywall.
  4. Scrape off the texture material with a wide metal putty knife. Texture that has never been painted should slough off with little effort.
Now your ceiling is free of texture (or maybe you were lucky and had a plain drywall ceiling to begin with!). You can move on to the papering.

1.  Prime the ceiling
Roll on a coat of wallpaper primer. The primer makes it easier to adjust the wallpaper when hanging, and is critical if you ever want to remove the wallpaper without destroying the drywall.

2.  Hang the paper
Tip: Even if your wallpaper is pre-pasted, use paste. By my estimation, rolling on paste is roughly 88 times easier than soaking the paper with water.

DIY Network has a good how-to on papering a ceiling. The photos show only one guy, but I know his helper is there somewhere because no sane person attempts to wallpaper a ceiling by himself. :P

I, however, take the "Y" in GIY too literally sometimes, and I was determined to do this thing all by me onesies. I managed it only because
a. the room is just 9' x 11', so the strips of paper were short enough to manage
b. the bed I made in an earlier project worked perfectly as pair of sturdy platforms to stand on
c. I'm tall and have absurdly long arms, allowing me to reach an 8' ceiling with only a 12" platform
wallpaper applied to ceiling

3.  Paint a base coat
You will get MUCH better results from your metallic paint if you base coat with regular latex paint in a color very close to the metallic.  In fact, I think it would be nearly impossible to get a decent result without a latex base coast.  I used Behr paint in a medium grey called "Porpoise."  It's important to allow several hours (a full day is best) for the wallpaper to dry completely before rolling on the base coat.  If the paste isn't totally dry and set, the moisture from the paint might cause the paper to come loose from the ceiling.

4.  Apply the metallic paint
Allow the base coat to dry completely, then roll on a coat of metallic paint. I used Martha Stewart Precious Metals in "Tin."  Metallic paint has poor coverage and is unforgiving of sloppy technique.  It must be applied evenly, without a lot of overlap, or it will appear streaky.  This is when you will be very happy that you painted a base coat. Repeat with a second coat of metallic paint.
the layers of paint

this photo shows how reflective the metallic finish is
Your faux tin ceiling is complete! I am thrilled with the end result in my room.  It will really look fantastic after the crown molding is installed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Small Changes for Big Impact

Just as jewelry is the finishing touch for an outfit, accessories such as light switches, vent covers and doorknobs can be the finishing touches in a room.  Replacing mismatched outlet covers or worn knobs costs little but can make a big impact.

The vent covers, light switches and electrical outlets in my house are beige.  The doorknobs are dull brass.  Beige and dull brass do not work with my color scheme.  Plus, the 35-year-old light switches look cruddy despite my thorough cleaning (thorough as in using a cotton swab to clean in between the "on" and "off" letters) and the doorknobs have beige spots from a previous sloppy paint job.  Overall, very blah.  Some updates are in order!
Doorknobs come in several styles, finishes and price ranges.  I chose a mushroom style knob in brushed nickel for about $9.  Replacing a doorknob is easy, and you only need a screwdriver.  Your knob will have detailed instructions, but the general process to remove the old knob is unscrew two screws, pull the two handles (one on either side of the door) apart, and then remove the center portion.  To install the new knob, follow that process in reverse.  For the strike plate, remove two screws and the old plate, then install the new one with two screws.  You're done!  Allow 20-30 minutes the first time; after that, you can probably finish the job in 10 minutes.
old dull brass knob
new brushed nickel knob in simple mushroom style
 For about $3 each, you can replace the hinges so they match the new knob.  This is super easy as long as your new hinges are the same size and shape as the old.  You might want to take an old hinge to the home improvement store to match it up with new hinges.  Use doorstops or shims to hold the door firmly in place, then remove the bottom hinge to take with you.  The doorstops or shims will also make it easy to replace the hinges if you don't have a helper to hold the door.  With a power screwdriver, you can replace a pair of hinges in five minutes.

Mismatched electrical outlets can be covered with a "decorator" plate.  Sold under the Masque brand for about $2.25, these plates cover the entire outlet.  Take off the old plate, put on the new, and you're done!  Easiest cosmetic fix ever.
white plate on a beige outlet = not pretty
decorator plate looks much better
 Alas, there is no Masque for light switches.  You need to replace the switch itself.  Yes, that means electrical wiring... but it's not as scary or difficult as you might think.  First, shut off the power at the breaker or fuse box.  Back at the switch, flip it to make sure the power is off.  I recommend double-checking with a voltage tester.  You don't want to give new meaning to the word "electrogoth." :P

Remove the wall plate, then remove the two screws holding the switch in place.  Pull the switch out so you can get to the wires.  Before you begin disconnecting anything, you might want to take a photo to ensure you can wire the new switch the same way as the old.
OMG electrical wires!
Replacing the switch is a matter of detaching the wires from the old switch and then attaching them in the same way to the new switch.  For step-by-step photos and/or videos of better quality than I could make, Google "how to replace a light switch."  I replaced my old beige switch with a new "Decora" style white switch for $2.
beige switch looks grubby
new white switch looks much better
For about $22 and one hour of time, the look of the room is freshened.  It's updated, cleaner and sleeker.

For an additional splurge of around $14, I replaced the beige plastic vent cover with a far nicer cover in black steel.
beige plastic looks cheap
black steel is swirly goodness

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gothing Up the Office Supplies

Last week at work, I was moved to a smaller office for "political" reasons (new hires outrank me, so they get the larger offices).  I don't care about the size.  I do care that the new office has an entire wall of south-facing windows.  I get hot very easily, and there are few things I hate worse than sitting in direct sun, making this the worst possible office for me.  The sun blasts through like a heat lamp, basically turning the office into my version of hell for about five hours of the day.  I am EXTREMELY unhappy about this situation.

In an attempt to cheer myself up, I decided to make some fun new stuff for my office.  I gathered supplies from my crafts stash -- unfinished corkboard, unfinished boxes, paper, paints, stickers, and so forth.  I also treated myself to a new pop-up sticky note dispenser.

I painted the stacking boxes purple and black, decoupaged the sides with bat-print paper, and added orange paper behind the cutouts on the fronts.  I painted and decoupaged the small box as well.  The can, which I'll use as a pen holder, wears a "Toxic Tonic" label.

The pop-up note dispenser has the same purple-with-black-bats paper, plus glittery bat stickers.  Because glittery bats make everything better. :)

I painted the corkboard frame black and added black velvet and purple spider-print ribbon trim. The paper sorter got a glittery purple bat. I bought a new stapler and tape dispenser as well as some purple, black, and striped paper clips.