Domestic domination

The Vanity Plan

Now that my new desk is done, I’m starting to think about how I want to make over my old desk into a vanity. I’ve been scouring Pinterest for inspiration.

The old desk/new vanity came into my possession in 2003. My first mother-in-law gave it to me; she bought it at a yard sale in Colorado in 1968 or ’69 and painted it green. I replaced the hardware about five years ago because I wasn’t in love with the bronze drawer pulls.

Here’s the current set-up:

It's in the location where it will live permanently, but that's about the only thing permanent about this situation.

It’s in the location where it will live permanently, but that’s about the only thing permanent about this situation. Except maybe the cushion underneath, because the cats like to hang out there.

The old desk has great lines that lend themselves well to a two-tone paint job. I’m thinking a pale gray, with deep zinc or silvery accents… And a matching darker frame for the mirror. While I have old rectangular mirrors left over from the downstairs bathroom renovation, I’m not completely sold on those. As you can see, they’re in somewhat rough shape. Debating round or oval instead, which would also work better with the odd ceiling shape in that part of the room.

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Knitting again.

So, about two years ago, I posted about my triumphant return to knitting. No more hand pain. Whoo-hoo!

Some of my needles.  Many of these were gifts from long-time knitters, duplicates they wound up with through the years.

Some of my needles. Many of these were gifts from long-time knitters, duplicates they wound up with through the years.

And then I started a new job that turned out to be a lot more taxing than I thought it would be, which left me without the focus and concentration required for the things I like to knit: cables, lace, ribbing, circular stuff that requires a fair amount of counting. Sad.

Especially since I have a good-sized yarn stash and collection of needles. Plus I finally gave myself permission to frog some unfulfilling previous work… A hat I started during my first marriage. A glorious plum alpaca tank top in a difficult ribbing pattern that didn’t fit. A scarf that just… yuck.

Now I’m at a different job. And I have the focus (and free time) to knit again. I’ve also had a few of my favorite ladies express an interest in learning to knit, which makes me all warm and fuzzy and amped up to get them started.

I’m currently cranking away on a pair of fingerless gloves:

Fetching, a free pattern from knitty.com

Fetching, a free pattern from knitty.com.

I’ve also commissioned my friend Carole to sew a knitting needle organizer for me – I sent her cute fabric and a sketch… I can’t wait to see what she sends back. I’m all kinds of fired up to knit more gloves and such.

The desk is done!

One of the things I decided to do when I accepted a job working from home: make a new desk. I know nothing about desk-building, but I’m pretty resourceful (and stubborn) and Tim has lots of tools, and how hard can it be, right? Yeah.

So, six months later, I have a desk.

I knew I wanted something funky that combined different woods and metal. I like interesting juxtapositions. And That was about all I had in mind when I started. I visited Bingham Lumber in Brookline, New Hampshire to pick out wood for the desktop. Everyone there was really helpful, and I loved their reverence for old wood. I opted for walnut and some white oak.

Tim decided that the top part of the desk really needed to be smooth, well-joined, and functional, or I would go crazy trying to use it every day. He joined the three boards for me and sanded everything down to a beautiful silky finish.

Tim sanding the top of my desk.

Tim sanding the top of my desk.

frame.

Simple frame.

Then I put a frame on the underside of the top to offer some additional stability (and a way to attach legs). I didn’t get fancy with the frame, just used some 1″x2″ we had in the loft in the garage. I planned to wrap the edge of the desk in molding that would cover that frame later. Next, I had to sort out the legs. That took a while. I knew I wanted some kind of metal, but wasn’t sure what – and I knew metal would be harder to work with than wood. Hmmm. Maybe just some kind of metal element? Old brackets? Fence parts? Rusty something interesting?

Trench grates. Awesome steampunky industrial heavy intricate trench grates.

They're 7.5 pounds each. Beefy.

They’re 7.5 pounds each. Beefy.

How do I incorporate these puppies into the legs? Uhhh… yeah, I had no idea. I went to Home Depot and started looking for wood that could work. I found some 2″ square poplar in a length that felt desk-height-y.

trying out ideas for the legs.

trying out ideas for the legs.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of recessing the grates into the legs. Tim and I could do it, but it would have taken a long time and probably ended in marital strife. Things really stalled, as neither one of us was looking forward to a weekend of meltdowns.

My attempt at illustration.

My attempt at illustration.

Then the wonderful and talented Jack Younger had some free time and took pity on me/us. He even understood my wacky drawings… Yeah. Bonus points there.

While Jack was working on the legs, I gave the top of the desk a few coats of Tung oil to bring out the grain of the wood. The legs and the molding got different flavors of Danish oil to create a variety of tones and add depth… I wanted all kinds of grains and hues in this desk. No matching here.

Leg parts, drying after Danish oil baths.

Leg parts, drying after Danish oil baths.

Finally: assembly time. Tim spent the day helping Jack with studio projects, leaving me alone so I could work at my own pace and figure things out for myself. It took longer than I expected, and some of my plans changed as I tried things and found that they didn’t go quite as well as I thought they would.

Those galvanized plates holding the trench grates in place? Not part of the original plan, but worked well with the concept of different woods/metals together. Also, they kept the trench grates from falling out on my feet.

Those galvanized plates holding the trench grates in place? Not part of the original plan, but worked well with the concept of different woods/metals together. Also, they kept the trench grates from falling out on my feet.

Finally, after a day of sawdust, sweating and swearing, she was done.

The final product, on location.

The final product, on location.

A closer view of the top.

A closer view of the top.

It’s a standing desk, so I needed to raise the monitor to a more comfortable height. Cigar boxes from our neighbor were just the right size and let me incorporate more cool wood into the design. I’m thrilled with the way the desk came out – everything about it is funky, unique, and functional. It’s exactly what I wanted. So cool to have an awesome work space that I MADE.

Next up… converting the old desk into a glamorous vanity.

 

Pretty planters and pots

As soon as the weather gets warm enough, I look forward to putting together my own hanging baskets and pots for the front steps. While in the past I’ve used whatever pots I’ve had on hand, Tim prefers symmetry. To humor him, this year I bought matching hanging baskets and got rid of the mismatched plastic pots I’ve been using.

I like mixing different colors and textures in my baskets, contrasting dark and light, large and small blooms. I’m pleased with how things came out this year. As a bonus, I used some stock, which smells wonderful.

Let the basket-making begin.

Let the basket-making begin.

Yes, that photo is blurry. Taking photos with an iPhone while wearing gardening gloves = less than ideal.

Pots on the front steps.

Pots on the front steps.

My new baskets.

My new baskets.

More stripy petunias.

More stripy petunias.

The front steps.

The front steps.

In the background here, you can also see the clematis I planted. I love the big, dark wine-colored flowers on these – I can’t wait until they climb higher up the trellises on either side of the porch.

Front and center.

Front and center.

Let’s talk about inflation.

It’s tax day. What better time to think about money and the economy, right? Probably depends on whether you filed early or you’re rushing off to the post office today; I’ll bet it’s also a delicate subject if you discovered you owed Uncle Sam more than expected. Anyway, some interesting data on household budgets:

From the booklet "Establishing a Home" published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

From the booklet “Establishing a Home” published by the New York Herald Tribune. Copyright 1940.

This chart fascinates me. It shows the percentage of a two-person family’s annual income spent across a variety of categories in 1935-1936. I love that both reading and tobacco made the list. Reading DEFINITELY makes the list in my book!

Ironically, my commuting costs, car payment and insurance premiums cost 6.7% of my annual income–it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that even though this guide was published in 1940, some of the other percentages still hold true as well. Taxes and medical expenses, probably not, but I’m curious about some of the others.

I can’t even imagine trying to live on $1500 a YEAR. For TWO PEOPLE. Not in the United States, anyway.

A good day for creativity…

My horoscope for today–

“Today is all about art. It’s a great time for creating new work if that’s where your interests lie, but it’s just as good for soaking up culture in all its forms. Your creative energy is magnificent!”

OK, so it’s not just MY horoscope, it applies to Scorpios all over. Including the other resident of this house. Which is probably a good thing, as I may need Tim’s guidance in today’s endeavor: I’m building a desk. Yesterday I left work early and hit up a ton of antique stores; while I didn’t find anything that was exactly right, I did come home with a ton of ideas. Couple those with all the stuff I’ve curated on Pinterest recently and… you’ve got a recipe for a one-of-a-kind desk with personality. Keep your fingers crossed that I can translate what’s in my head to a functional piece of furniture.

If you don’t follow me on Pinterest (hi, Mom!), here are some of the sorts of things I’m drawn to for inspiration:

Garment Factory Desk

Deco Industrial Desk

Simple wood and industrial vibe

I’ll incorporate lessons learned from my current desk into the design of the new one.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

My current desk. Soon to become a dressing table.

Those lessons:

  • I like real wood.
  • This desk is a good size in terms of height, length and depth.
  • I need drawers for storage.
  • I also need to be able to fit my legs UNDER the desk, which completely can’t happen now. And it’s not about the chair. If I lower the chair enough to get my knees under the desk, my keyboard is in my boobs. Awkward for typing.

Wish me luck. I’m off to finish my coffee, put on some lipstick and head to the lumber yard.

 

 

Mid-way through the makeover

I had an incredibly productive weekend and rocked rearranging my office. I also figured out what I have, what I need, and what I ultimately want the space to look like. While I love old furniture and pieces with a sense of the past, I haven’t chosen any of the furniture that’s currently in my office – it’s all been given to me. That translates into a space that  doesn’t necessarily reflect my own taste, so I’m working to rectify that while maintaining a balance of familiar pieces and carefully chosen new ones.

The big paint reveal:

Blue paint. Very blue. I love it.

Blue paint. Very blue. I love it.

I do love the paint. I will love it more once I get the desk situation sorted out. Lighting, filing, and organization are all dependent on the desk; until I have those, I’m holding off on putting things on the walls. I need to get a desk in here to see how the space will work and what makes sense for me.

The story behind my current desk: my first mother-in-law gave it to me about 12 years ago. She bought it used at a flea market in Colorado in the late 1960’s and painted it the antique-y green you can barely see in the photo. Don’t worry–you’ll get to see more of the desk in future posts as it gets its own makeover. Bernadette suggested that I turn it into a vanity/dressing table – I’ve always wanted one, and the lines of this desk will be wonderful for that. It will go against the wall by the window pictured below – just behind the papa-san’s current location.

The view from the doorway.

The view from the doorway.

I turned one of the bookshelves to make an L and create more a of a separation between work space and my reading/relaxation nook. The sloped roof means there are limited spaces where I can put the shelves…I love them, but sometimes wish they worked better in this house.

These bookshelves came from my dad's parents.

These bookshelves came from my dad’s parents.

The papa-san (actually mama-san, it’s not a huge chair, it only holds one person) is gone. My friend Amy is carting it off to donate it for me. I’m excited to have that out of the office–I want a new comfy chair for reading! I’ve always wanted a leather armchair, but I’m not sure that’s in the budget. We’ll see what I can find.

At some point, I plan to replace the carpet with cork flooring. That’s a bigger project than I’m willing to take on at the moment, though. In the meantime, however, I’ve treated myself to an area rug with a nice print. It will work with the colors in the office, as well as my plans for the vanity. That should arrive soon, I’ll post photos when it gets here.

My grandmother's sewing machine.

My grandmother’s sewing machine.

My grandmother’s sewing machine is going to live with my cousin Becky. As much as I love the machine, I don’t know how to sew and with the current state of upheaval in my life, I’m unlikely to learn any time soon. She’s been sewing for years and will appreciate the machine for its functionality, not just the sentimental attachment to my grandmother.

Overall, I feel like I’ve made good progress in a short time. While I’ve still got a lot of work to do, I’ve got a plan and I’m excited to see everything come together.