Author Archives: Larry Bilotti

Larry Bilotti

About Larry Bilotti

Executive Editor at BobVila.com and avid DIYer. Formerly Executive Editor for Country Living Magazine, Larry spends most weekends updating a 1890s house in The Catskills, New York. Check him out on Google+!

5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners

For maximum productivity and enjoyment, beginners are wise to start small. Here are five easy woodworking projects perfect for novices.

Woodworking Projects - Window Box

Photo: tobeylane.com

Don’t miss 10 Surprisingly Simple Woodworking Projects for Beginners

For the uninitiated, woodworking may seem far too daunting to even consider tackling. Dovetail joints, mitered corners, chamfer bevels—these are terms that would put fear into anyone. But the fact remains that with every new project you gain skills and a renewed sense of confidence. The best advice we can offer the wannabe woodworker is to start out small, employing basic tools for simple projects involving minimal materials.

Here are five “really easy” do-it-yourself woodworking projects for novices.

1. WINDOW BOX
Window boxes add enormous curb appeal and for city dwellers, they provide a rare gardening opportunity. They are easy to make, too. Even a beginning woodworker can make a window box using scrap wood and a small set of basic tools. For a how-to on window box woodworking projects, see our DIY tutorial.

2. BIRDHOUSE
The homemade birdhouse is a classic—and with good reason. For many youngsters being introduced to tools, it’s a fun and accessible first project. Quick, simple, and inexpensive to build and maintain, birdhouses provide a lasting reward, as they become homes for feathered friends hanging out in your backyard.

Woodworking Projects - X Leg Table

Photo: sarahmdorseydesigns.blogspot.com

If you’re thinking birdhouses are only kid’s stuff, think again! Bust out the saw, pick up some lumber (or make use of any scraps you have on hand), and dedicate an afternoon to creating one. Or ten! For a how-to on birdhouse woodworking projects, see our DIY tutorial.

3. X-LEG TABLE
While it may be tempting to try making a picnic table, if you’re new to woodworker, you may want to start smaller. We love this table by home blogger Sarah M. Dorsey Designs—brilliantly conceived and oh-so-easy to make. Using leftover fence boards, Sarah was able to make this beautiful X-leg table in little over an hour. Get the full how-to here.

4. STORAGE CRATES
We all need extra storage, and there are plenty of bins and crates available for purchase at stores. But why not build one of your own? This is another easy woodworking project that requires little in the way of materials, tools, and carpentry expertise. Early in the process, be sure to consider how the crate will be used and where it will be displayed. An open-slatted design will make it more decorative—so will knotted rope pulls, like this gem from Bob Vila Nation blogger Cher-Ann Texter.

5. UPCYCLE SOMETHING
So many creative woodworking projects begin with scrap wood that is easy to source. For example, you can repurpose shipping pallets into functional furniture of all kinds—desks, hanging plate racks, unique kitchen islands. The same is true for wine and apple crates; they’re easy to come by (and usually free) and can be transformed into just about anything. You may need to perform some deconstruction before you’re able to start building something fresh, but you still get the benefits of creating something by hand and learning woodworking skills in the process.

Woodworking Projects - Pallet Sofa

Photo: dornob.com


This Thanksgiving, Fit Everyone at the Dining Room Table

Space Planning Dining Room Thanksgiving

Photo: tonipilsbury.com

With so many dishes and serving utensils, not to mention the number of guests, Thanksgiving puts your dining room to the true test. Here are eight ways to get more out of the space, maximizing your enjoyment of the meal and the day’s family joys.

1. Clear the space. If the dining room is filled with non-essentials—in a small dining room that could mean everything but table and chairs—clear it out for the holiday. This “less is more” approach will make the room seem more spacious, and a spacious room is more comfortable. Also, removing unnecessary furniture will place emphasis on the table, which seems only right.

2. Set up a buffet. Take the burden off your dining room by serving food in the kitchen on a table, countertop, or island. For second helpings, guests can simply return to the kitchen, or hosts might take a mid-meal lap around the table.

Space Planning Dining Room - Farmhouse Table

Farmhouse Dining Bench at Target for $79

3. Ride the bench. If big, bulky chairs are occupying more than their fair share of space in your dining room, consider using a bench along one side of the table to accommodate one or two additional guests. It’s a family holiday, after all; closeness is fitting. You might also think about renting chairs that are more compact than your existing furniture.

4. Extend the table. Most dining tables are made in standard sizes of 36″W x 72″L with one leaf. You can extend the width one foot and the length an extra 24 inches by simply placing a sheet of standard plywood on top. With a tablecloth draped over the surface, you won’t know the difference.

Space Planning Dining Room - Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Photo: Livewell360

5. Limit table decor. As tempting as it may be to adorn your table with an elaborate centerpiece or grouping of candles, decor can quickly become clutter if space is short. Opt for minimal ornament and make the most of your table’s total surface area.

6. Establish a kids table. It’s been done before, and usually youngsters prefer to be on their own anyway. If your guest list overwhelms your dining room’s capacity, consider creating a satellite table even for adults.

Space Planning Dining Room - Thanksgiving Dinner Outdoors

Photo: trendybride.com

7. Take it outside. If you are fortunate enough to live in a warmer climate, why not move the feast outdoors? You can always use the dining room table as a buffet station, then enjoy the meal on a deck or patio—even by the pool.

8. Rethink the space. If your extended table is a tight fit for your dining room, brainstorm ways to position it differently. If you position the table diagonally, it might give guests on the end a little more breathing room, or even free up space for a couple more chairs.

For more on entertaining at home, consider:

10 Secrets to Successful Holiday Decorating
10 Home Movie Theater Accessories
Easy DIY Buffet Table Makeover


Hurricane Sandy: Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness

Weather.com Hurricane Sandy Threat Index

If you are among the estimated 50 million people in the path of Hurricane Sandy, you are hopefully heeding the warning of local authorities and taking disaster preparedness seriously. That may include evacuation if you live in a flood-prone area or of course anywhere where a mandatory evacuation notice has been issued.

The rare hybrid storm, currently off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC, is expected to make landfall along the central New Jersey coast sometime this evening, bringing with it extended periods of heavy rain, tropical storm-force winds, and a potentially historic tidal surge along the East Coast (including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor), according to the National Weather Service.

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Last Call for Doghouse Photos! ENTER NOW

MeyerOldDoghouse

"Home for a Large Dog"

The Bob Vila “Best in Show” Doghouse Contest has turned up some pretty stiff competition, but there are still four days left for you to enter and win.

Simply send us a good, clear picture along with your email address and a short description. If your doghouse is chosen by our editors as “Best in Show” from all of the canine quarters submitted (see Official Rules below), you’ll win a $250 gift card from PetSmart and have your pet’s abode featured on BobVila.com. The deadline is rapidly approaching (contest closes 11:59 a.m. Thursday, October  18, 2012), so enter today!

Read the rest of this entry »


Your Final Week to Win a GE Appliance

This is WEEK 4 and the final week in our month-long GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away.

If you weren’t lucky enough to win last week’s prize–the GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater, valued at $1,299–or the prior weeks’ GE Hybrid Stainless Steal Interior Dishwasher ($699) and GE Profile Slide-in Double Electric Range ($2,799), this is your last chance!

ENTER TODAY and every day (through midnight EST Friday, September 28) to be eligible to win a GE Profile SmartDispense Frontload Washer ($1,299 MSRP) and companion GE Profile Frontload Dryer ($1,099 MSRP)–now with steam technology and a laundry list of advanced features. 

GE Profile-Frontload-Washer-DryerThe Energy Star-rated 4.2 cu. ft. king-size capacity GE Profile SmartDispense Frontload Washer is designed to clean small to large loads efficiently by automatically sensing the right amount of water for each size load. The pedestal base not only stores, but also automatically dispenses, detergent and fabric softener based on each load’s size, soil level, water hardness and fabric or cycle type. The washer also boasts one of the most comprehensive stain removal systems, treating more than 40 different combinations of stains and fabric types.

The integration of steam in the overall wash and dry performance takes clothing care to the next level. For the wash, a Steam Assist option helps lift hard-to-remove stains to get clothes clean. In the dryer, a Steam Dewrinkle feature helps remove stubborn wrinkles quickly and conveniently, even from clothes left in the dryer from the day before. The 7.5 cu. ft. companion GE Profile Frontload Dryer employs both a Reverse Tumble action and a DuoDry system to ensure that clothes dry quickly and more evenly.

For Official Rules and entry, click here. And be sure to enter Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning!

To learn more about the new GE Profile™ SmartDispense Frontload Washer and Dryer and other innovative products, visit GE Appliances.

The “Bob Vila GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 1, 2012 through midnight (EST) Friday, September 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


Enter Week 3 of our GE Appliances Give-Away Now!

Today marks the start of WEEK 3 in our four-week GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away. If you weren’t lucky enough to win the first week’s GE Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher ($699 MSRP) or last week’s GE Profile Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range ($2,799), perhaps this will be your lucky week!

ENTER TODAY and every day (through midnight EST Friday, September 21) to be eligible to win a new GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater, valued at $1,299 MSRP.

GE-GeoSpring-Hybrid-Electric-Water-Heater

The GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater combines innovative heat pump technology with standard electric elements to deliver all the hot water you need at a fraction of the cost of traditional electric models. Using a heat pump as the primary means of heating, the unit absorbs heat in ambient air and trasnfers it into the water. Since the electric elements are only used when a faster recovery is required, the GeoSpring uses 62% less electricity than the conventional electric water heater. And that translates into annual savings of as much as $325 for the average homeowner (even more for those who qualify for Energy Star incentives and rebates).

GE-GeoSpring-Hybrid-Electric-Water-Heater-ControlPanelAdditional features of the GeoSpring include:

• An integrated control panel that offers exclusive features, like a “vacation mode” that lowers water temperature while you’re away and automatically restores it the day before your return.

• The GeoSpring offers greater control over water temperature, allowing you to adjust in one degree increments between 100 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Featuring the same footprint and connections as conventional electric water heaters, the GeoSpring can be installed quickly and easily.

For official rules and entry, click here. Be sure to enter Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning—and come back next week when one lucky winner will have the chance to win a GE Profile Front-Load Washer with Steam and SmartDispense™ technology (MSRP $1,299) and companion dryer (MSRP $1,099).

To learn more about the new GE GeoSpring Hybrid Electric Water Heater and other innovative products, visit GE Appliances.

The “Bob Vila GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii  are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 1, 2012 through midnight (EST) Friday, September 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


The Wright Doghouse

Frank Lloyd Wright Doghouse

Jim Berger's original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed doghouse. Photo: takesunset.com

In the summer of 1956, a 12-year-old boy wrote a letter to Frank Lloyd Wright to see if the architect would design a doghouse for his Black Labrador, Eddie. The letter, in part, read:

“I would appreciate it if you design me a doghouse, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house…” (the Wright-designed Robert Berger House in San Anselmo, CA). The boy went on to write that his dog was “two and a half feet high and three feet long” and that “the reasons I would like this doghouse is for the winters mainly.”  He offered to pay for the plans out of money from his paper route.

While the architect declined at first, he did ask the boy to write him again in six months. The boy did and shortly thereafter received a complete set of drawings in the mail, free of charge.

The triangular doghouse was designed, as requested by the client, in conformity with the main house and included signature Wright details, most notably the low-pitched roof with exaggerated overhang.  The architect suggested that the boy use the scrap pieces of Phillipine mahogany and cedar left over from the home’s original construction.

Wright Doghouse

Jim Berger standing next to a reconstructed model of his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed doghouse. Photo: AP / Alisse Gratehouse

While the original doghouse was destroyed, a reconstructed version has been created from the original plans, still in the possession of the now 65-year-old young lad, Jim Berger (pictured above). The doghouse will be touring the country for screenings of Romanza, a documentary about the architect directed by Michael Miner. Watch the film trailer below:

 

For more on doghouses, consider:

Fab Doghouses
Bob Vila Radio: In the Doghouse
10 Luxurious Doghouses for Your Pampered Pet


Enter Week 2 of Our GE Appliances Give-Away Today!

Today is the start of WEEK 2 in our four-week GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away.  If you weren’t lucky enough to win last week’s prize—the GE® Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher (MSRP $699)—perhaps this will be your week!

ENTER TODAY and every day (through midnight EST Friday, September 14) to be eligible to win a new GE Profile™ Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range, valued at $2,799 MSRP.

GE Profile Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range

GE Profile™ Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range

Designed to offer high performance with a built-in look, this GE double oven is the only slide-in electric model that offers a custom look without the custom installation cost. The stainless steel oven, with black glass ceramic and patterned graphite range, fits flush in the common 30-inch kitchen cutout and requires no backsplash to create a clean, finished look.

Among its many features, the new GE Profile™ Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range includes self-cleaning top and bottom ovens and five electric cooktop burners, including a powerful 3,000-watt Tri-ring, a warming zone to keep foods fresh and ready to serve, and a dual heat element for power boiling and precise low-temperature cooking.

GE Profile Slide-in Double Oven Open

The GE Profile™ Slide-In Electric Double Oven offers 6.6 cu ft capacity.

If you’ve ever dreamed of cooking like a pro, this is the oven to have. The top oven preheats faster and uses less energy, making it more efficient and convenient for cooking small, frequent meals, baking cakes and cookies, or reheating leftovers.

The convection system of the bottom oven includes a reversing fan surrounded by a third cooking element for even browning, baking, and roasting any menu item, large or small.

For official rules and entry, click here. Be sure to enter Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning—and come back next week when one lucky winner will have the chance to win one of the following prizes: a GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater (MSRP $1,299), or a GE Profile Front-Load Washer with Steam and SmartDispense™ technology (MSRP $1,299) and companion dryer (MSRP $1,099).

To learn more about the new GE Profile™ Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range and other innovative products, visit GE Appliances.

The “Bob Vila GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii  are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 1, 2012 through midnight (EST) Friday, September 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.


Picnic Indoors—For Real

PicNYC

Architect Haiko Cornelissen's PicNYC table

If you think summer’s end will preclude you from enjoying the pleasures of a picnic until next year, think again! This PicNYC table from the design firm of Haiko Cornelissen really delivers on the promise of bringing the outdoors in. The table top—made from premium lightweight aluminum that is cut, folded, bolted and welded together by an American manufacturer—is deep enough to act as a planter, accommodating soil and grass, even a stone foundation for drainage.

Read the rest of this entry »


Enter Our GE Appliances Give-Away Now!

This month, we’ve teamed up with our friends at GE Appliances to offer you the ultimate ‘end-of-summer’ home improvement give-away, featuring four weeks of fabulous prizes.

ENTER TODAY and every day this week (through midnight EST Friday, September 7) to be eligible to win the first of our prizes—a new GE® Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher with Hidden Controls valued at $699 (MSRP).

Bob Vila's GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away

Featuring GE’s most advanced wash system, this model combines 65% more wash power compared to their previous units and is manufactured to consistently ensure clean, dry and sanitized dishes.  In addition to its powerful cleaning, sleek styling and hidden controls, the dishwasher offers a variety of innovative features, including:

• Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior that combines a stainless steel inner door with a durable PermaTuf® tub.
• Pirhana™ Hard Food Dispenser with Removable Filter that pulverizes food particles to prevent them from clogging the wash arms, jets, or drains.
• Wash Zones that offer the convenience of washing dishes and silverware in just the upper or lower rack.
• 3-Digit Countdown Display with 1- to 12-hour Delay Start that enable you to wash dishes at your convenience

For official rules and entry, click here. Be sure to enter Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning—and come back next week when one lucky winner will have the chance to win one of the following prizes: a GE Profile Slide-In Double Oven Electric Range ($2,899); a GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater (MSRP $1,299); or a GE Profile Front-Load Washer with Steam and SmartDispense™ technology (MSRP $1,299) and companion dryer (MSRP $1,099).

To learn more about the new GE® Hybrid Stainless Steel Interior Dishwasher and other innovative products, visit GE Appliances.

The “Bob Vila’s GE Appliances Home Improvement Giveaway” sweepstakes is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia; residents of Alaska and Hawaii  are not eligible. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Saturday, September 1, 2012 through midnight (EST) Friday, September 28, 2012. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.