Snow Days!

We got moved in to our new digs just in time for our first big (~8″) snow! Simon & I had a day off of work, and we all three had a wonderful time walking through the neighborhood, towing Joey on a sled, and enjoying how quaint everything looks covered in white.

We’ve got nothing on New England (and are thankful for that!) but really enjoyed finally getting some of the white stuff after several weeks of really cold, sleety/slushy weather.

 


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Save Money & The Planet: How To Make Old Furniture Look Nice

Paint it!

You may have guessed from our earlier announcement that we’ve been quite busy with DIY home projects recently. We are also big fans of second-hand furniture. For our new home, we decided to only buy high quality items (no more particle board!) I discovered just how easy it is to improve old wooden furniture by painting it.

This plan relies on starting with high quality, sturdy furniture. The color, finish, scratches, etc don’t matter. The structural integrity does. 


 Method 1: Regular Paint

I started with two sturdy wooden dressers that were woefully scratched and dinged.

  1. Quick sand to remove any loose splinters and clean.
  2. Use wood fill to repair the worst of the chips and dings. Let dry.
  3. Sand and clean again.
  4. Paint! I used Behr Ultra Premium Plus, which is a paint and primer in one. I applied a total of four coats, each of which has to dry for 24 hours. The first two coats were very then primer coats, focusing on knots in the wood and areas with the wood fill product. The second two coats were much heavier, applied with a roller.
  5. Finally, I added two coats of polyacrylic to the top for protection, since these will be our bedside tables.
  6. Finishing touches – I replaced the chipped wooden knobs with white laquer knobs, and lined the drawers with yellow & white paper to make them more cheerful.
  7. Done!

Total Time: 5 hours over ~7 days

Total Cost: $140

Pro Tips: Make sure to let each coat of paint dry fully before re-coating and applying polyacrylic. Shelf paper liners & new knobs were inexpensive but really nice touches.

Items Needed: 1 quart of Behr Ultra Premium Plus Semi-Gloss in Tropical Seas. Elmer’s color-change wood fill. Painter’s multi-tool. 1 small can Minwax polyacrylic protective coat. 2 rolls of shelf paper. 18 white knobs with screws. Foam or detail brush. Roller, handle, and paint tray. Sanding block.


Method 2: Spray Paint

I started with six dining chairs that Simon had reinforced and two red kid’s chairs, all from craigslist.

  1. Quick sand to remove any loose splinters, then clean.
  2. Set everything up outside on tarp/cardboard.
  3. Prime. I used 4 cans and applied many light coats of primer.
  4. Paint! I used 12 cans for everything. Again, lots of light coats 10-15 minutes apart.
  5. Clear coat – optional. I sprayed on gloss finish after the paint for durability.
  6. After everything had dried thoroughly, I added on little feet (glides) that nail in to the chair legs to prevent scratching.
  7. Done!

Total Time: 4 hours in 1 day

Total Cost: $80

Pro Tips: Spray paint works best when applied in a slow, sweeping motion as many very light coats. All of my items looked patchy until about the fourth coat, and I was still picking up detail spots 10 coats in. Choose an appropriate weather day to spray outside (50 – 90 F, low humidity) and wear protective goggles and face mask. Take the time to set everything up away from anything you don’t want sprayed, and use lots of tarps and cardboard to position items. If you do get paint on your skin, acetone (nail polish remover) will get it off.

Items Needed: 12 cans Rustoleum 2x Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Gloss Seaside. 4 cans Rustoleum Flat White Primer. 3 cans Rustoleum clear coat gloss. No-scratch feet for chairs. Sanding block.

Save Money & The Planet: Why We Use Craigslist

The environmental argument for buying anything used is strong. An impressive amount of resources and energy go into the shipping and manufacture of new items. Buying a previously owned item, be it a house, car, furniture, clothing, or household item, avoids the hefty environmental cost of manufacturing and production. It also minimizes the distance an item travels, since most sales are local – you aren’t having materials shipped internationally to produce an item that is then shipped from a factory in Asia to a distributor in the US to a store near you or directly to your doorstep.

Buying second-hand items also saves money. Depending on what you are looking for, you generally save 30-80% off the new sticker price.

Those are the two main reasons we use craigslist. But there are more. We’ve been after furniture recently to outfit our new space, but most of these apply to anything,

  1. Because items cost less, we can afford significantly nicer furniture than we would buy new – solid wood versus particle board, for example.
  2. Many craigslist sellers have multiple items on offer, and will throw in freebies or reduce prices if you come to remove a dresser from their home before they move.
  3. It goes full circle – you can re-sell your used furniture on craigslist, often for a similar price. This is really handy if you want to change your look, upgrade to a larger kitchen table, etc.
  4. When you move, craigslist buyers come to you and take things away that you don’t want. They even give you money for this service.
  5. There is a sense of adventure that does not exist in a store. Finding the perfect item & negotiating a good price is surprisingly fulfilling.
  6. The possibilities are endless. During my furniture search over the past month I’ve seen a children’s dresser with a perfect meter-high depiction of the Frozen characters on it, vintage Coca-Cola products, a full set of lime green kitchen cabinets, and more.
  7. The opportunities are endless. Say you wanted all of your furniture to be white or turquoise. I learned a handy set of tricks over the past few weeks to make exactly  that happen.

Disclaimer – always be wise with craigslist rendezvous. Try to go as a pair during daytime hours. Don’t invite buyers into your home – have items ready to go by the door for them. 

Second disclaimer – I am willing to buy almost everything second hand – even Joey’s diapers. But I do draw the line at mattresses. We elect to purchase those new as they harbor a variety of yucky things.

Third disclaimer – I also frequent consignment and thrift stores, but I prefer craigslist when I’m looking for specific items (set of six wooden chairs, tile top table, etc) since you have so many more choices.

 

 

We Bought A House!!

FAQ:

  • We would love help moving!
  • Yes, there is a guest room. Please visit 🙂
  • No, we are not fully “grown-up” yet
  • Yes, we will be here for a few years (probably)
  • 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 1530 square feet
View from the yard. The addition is very obvious here where the roof line changes - that used to be the end of the house!
View from the yard. The addition is very obvious here where the roof line changes – that used to be the end of the house!
Our open floor plan and dream kitchen - two big items on our list when we started house hunting.
Our open floor plan and dream kitchen – two big items on our list when we started house hunting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon & I are the new proud owners of a cozy Cape Cod in Alexandria, Virginia and we can’t wait to move in this weekend (Valentine’s Day).

Sometime over the summer we started seriously discussing taking the property plunge. We narrowed in on a very specific area, convenient to work (biking distance!), shops, Old Town Alexandria, and where we could afford a detached house with a yard. Nearly all of the homes in this neighborhood (Belle Haven) were built in 1950 on a similar Cape Cod footprint of 1080 square feet with two floors, a tiny kitchen, 3-4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and a nice yard.

Joey helps with a home inspection during the negotiation period.
Joey helps with a home inspection during the negotiation period.

We quickly realized that we would struggle to live happily in one of the original houses because they were so compact. On the advice of our excellent realtor, Ali, we waited for a renovated house to come up in our desired area. An expanded home in our choice neighborhood that ticked all of our boxes was listed in November.

It's still a hot mess while we get everything set up and organized, but it is our home! Everything should look a lot better by Sunday night :)
It’s still a hot mess while we get everything set up and organized, but it is our home! Everything should look a lot better by Sunday night 🙂

(Have you watched House Hunters recently? That doesn’t happen too often!) Things got very interesting when the price was slashed by 40K to sell quickly. Although it was a little earlier than planned, we decided to join the bidding war. Thanks to Ali’s help we managed to place the winning offer! We closed on December 23rd, just before departing for Williamsburg and Indonesia for several weeks.

Joey's first non-white bedroom!
Joey’s first non-white bedroom!

Since our current rental lease doesn’t expire until the end of March, we had lots of time to paint Joey’s bedroom, touch up caulking and trim, and otherwise set up the house for move-in over the last few weeks. The house had been “flipped” – bought at foreclosure by a general contractor in April for a very low price, updated and renovated, then put back on market. This meant we had to be very careful with our home inspection and go through and do some finishing work before we moved in. (I’m sure the sellers were thrilled to learn that their buyers were a pair of scientists, one an engineer and one related to several reputable property attorneys). But it also meant the house was pretty move-in ready, and no major work was required. We are stoked and ready for the big move on Friday.

Our new house!
Our new house!