Author Archives: Jane Dagmi

Jane Dagmi

About Jane Dagmi

Jane Dagmi is the Communications Manager for Parlore, an interior design project management app, and a curious observer of the way people live, shop and decorate. Jane lives in the Ft. Lauderdale area with her two daughters, and takes on occasional freelance styling and writing jobs. Check her out on Google+!

Building Community: A Scene from Delray Beach

After stomping the edges of newly laid sod, Liam Reade awaits his next task.

According to the City of Delray Beach, community service has no age requirement. At this weekend’s “Curb Appeal by the Block” project, volunteers as young as four came to paint, garden, and relish the natural high that comes from giving back. Liam Reade was the youngest volunteer among a group of 200 area residents who, over the course of the day, revitalized six homes that’d been in need of some TLC.

“Each year we go through neighborhoods and find one that has a need for improvement,” says Jennifer Costello, Neighborhood Planner for the City of Delray Beach. This year’s revitalization project focused on a series of concrete-block homes mostly built in the 60s and 70s. Lula Butler, Director of Community Involvement, describes the neighborhood as “challenging.” She explains, “There are tenants who participate in undesirable activities and then there are many wonderful families who have owned homes here for 30 to 50 years. This year we are dealing with special people at different phases of life, overcoming or living with challenges.”

Gail-Lee McDermott, chair of Neighborhood Advisory Council, holds up Pete Anuar’s landscape plan.

The event took months to plan and a good deal of money to finance. The search for a neighborhood in need began in October. “We like to do projects that have a number of homes in a cluster so we show impact on the neighborhood,” says Nigel Roberts, Neighborhood Services Administrator. The hope is that others will be inspired to follow suit.

Volunteers from Delray Beach Fire-Rescue and the U.S. Navy teamed up.

After the vetting process, each home’s façade and lot is evaluated. Delray Beach’s Parks and Recreation preps each lawn site, and before designing each landscaping plan, Pete Anuar, Senior Landscape Planner for Delray Beach, consults with the homeowners. This year, Anuar was apt to use low-maintenance plants such as Bromeliad, Crown of Thorns, Crinum Lily, and foxtail palms. Contractors, meanwhile, address exterior repairs.

Sponsorship is crucial. The Home Depot donated $5,000 plus a portion of supplies, The Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $1,200, and Behr donated the remainder of paint needed. The whole project—paint, plants, other landscaping materials, mailboxes, rollers, brushes, signage, breakfast, lunch, water galore, and event tee shirts—cost about $15,000.

Final Results: Team Depot created a great deal of curb appeal.

Of course nothing gets done, at least not in 5 hours, without plenty of volunteers. The Home Depot brought a team of 50, their orange shirts looking swell against the pale blue home they were servicing. There was lots of muscle on the scene too, compliments of the Delray Beach fire and police departments—and the US Navy. Church groups, the Boys & Girls Club, and city employees were also on hand. Entire families came, friends worked together, and students earned community service hours. It was heartwarming to watch an experienced painter teach technique to a young boy. People were sweaty and stained with mulch, but they were happy—dirt and discomfort diminished by the spirit of do-gooding.

For a visual chronicle of the event, don’t miss the Curb Appeal by the Block: Event Photo Gallery

From Construction Site to Runway: The Loop Jacket

Loop Jacket

Final countdown to spring! Time to park the parka and whip out the windbreaker. Don’t have one or looking to buy something fresh? Check out the Loop Jacket, a lightweight, stylish, and eco-friendly windbreaker from Mio Culture. The Loop Jacket is made of Tyvek, DuPont’s high performance weather-resistant plastic sheeting, most commonly seen wrapped around buildings. Mio Culture’s creative director Jaime Salm figured that if Tyvek could protect a home from the elements, then it could do the same for those who dwell within.

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A “Young House Love” Affair

Young House Love


Sherry Petersik is glowing. Her husband John is nearby. Baby Clara, one of the cutest child co-stars of the blogging world, is still sleeping. Since these passionate DIYers usually tackle their projects while their child is sleeping, chances are Sherry is spattered with paint and John is covered with grout.

Sherry, John and Clara Petersik of Young House Love

Sherry, John, and Clara of Young House Love

These lovestruck and talented power bloggers chronicle daily life at Young House Love and relish the afterglow of a challenging, down-and-dirty home renovation project. While many large-scale undertakings have their definite nerve-wracking spousal-patience-trying moments, in the long haul the young marrieds are blissfully committed in sickness, health, DIY success or disaster.

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2020 Alton Road: Prime “Green” in Colorful Miami Beach

2020 Alton Road

The super green home-to-be at 2020 Alton Road rises nearly 32’ from the ground. With a redesigned property wall and lush landscaping to come, this home site is certain to inspire major curb lust!

At 2020 Alton Road, a home on track to be Miami Beach’s first LEED Platinum residence is steadfastly taking shape. Much progress has been made since our last post, and general contractor Robert Arkin, a partner with Florida Green Home Design Group (FGHDG), confirms that the five-bedroom, five-bathroom eco-luxury residence is on schedule for completion this spring. As of February 1st, the project was tracking 108 LEED points. The entire concrete footprint has already been poured; metal furring defines the interior floor plan; and the supply and return air-distribution ductwork, which ensures a constant flow of fresh air throughout the house, is in place. Next up is electrical work and the installation of Icynene spray foam insulation, geothermal units, and mold-resistant drywall.

The following photos best illustrate what is and what’s to come at 2020 Alton Road.

2020 Alton Road

The front entrance (left) will feature wide shallow steps that will appear to float above a reflecting pond. At the back entrance, through the 2-car garage (right), a slightly recessed area is reserved for a non-slip mat that will aid in staving off dirt and other contaminants.

2020 Alton Road

2020 Alton Road

A bank of double-insulated low-emissivity sliding glass doors along the living/family area will open to a deck, pool, spa, and outdoor cooking facility. The pool water will be clean enough to drink thanks to a copper/silver ion purification system. All plumbing lines are in place and soon to be hidden by low maintenance looks-like-wood decking.

2020 Alton Road

The kitchen—designed with two sinks, two dishwashers, and an island with a built-in food steamer—caters to those who eat healthy, entertain often, and/or keep kosher. Poggenpohl cabinetry and energy-efficient appliances are also in the plan. The space beyond the kitchen includes a modest bedroom as well as a bath-cum-shower that is accessible from the outside of the house.

2020 Alton Road

(left) General contractor Robert Arkin and developer Matt Lahn, two partners of the Florida Green Home Design Group, survey the construction from the second-floor master bedroom terrace. This ample balcony affords great views of the surrounding neighborhood and (right) will have a spiral staircase leading to the roof deck.

Details are already allotted. On the wall of an upstairs bathroom, a niche for holding toiletries has been framed out, and Toto’s WaterSense bath fixtures will be installed.

2020 Alton Road

The roof is divided into two areas—one for mechanics and one for people. Mechanics include frameless solar panels, two wind turbines that can be lowered in case of super-strong hurricane force winds, and a solar light tube that works off of the sun’s radiation and refracts light throughout the second-floor hall. The pitch of the roof slopes just enough to direct rainwater toward two drains that feed into the cistern down below.

All of the waste material from the job site is either reused at other sites or recycled. Southern Waste Systems sorts and recycles the trash and gives regular reports back to the FGHDG. Every little bit of environmental responsibility helps 2020 Alton accrue LEED points and meet its very high standards.

Realtor Tara West, another FGHDG partner, is handling the sale of the home and enjoys the property’s “wow” factor. State-of-the-art design, quality workmanship, and sustainable materials and amenities from high-end forward-thinking manufacturers are to blame! And even with its heart-of-Miami Beach location, West says “This house is as quiet as a bunker.” The asking price is a bit above $2 million.

2020 Alton Road: Setting Sights on Greenest Home in America

Today’s Toile: Artisans Retool a Classic Fabric

Pierre Frey's "Les Travaux de la Manufacture" Toile

Pierre Frey's "Les Travaux de la Manufacture" Toile

Though the word “toiles” conjures up visions of fabric dotted with romantic scenes of maidens, cherubs, pagodas, and military or fabled heroes, the actual translation is simply “cloth.” Toiles du Jouy originally referred to linen or cotton cloth manufactured in the French town of Jouy-en-Josas beginning in the 1760s. Located close to Versailles, the Oberkampf factory manufactured toiles for the royals. Deemed Manufacture Royale by Louis XVI and Legion of Honor by Napoleon, Oberkampf toiles were extremely popular.

In The Decoration of Houses (1897), 19th-century tastemaker and co-author Edith Wharton notes the 18th-century French transition from heavy dust-collecting silk brocades to washable, simpler toiles. She describes the pattern: “Absorbing the spirit of Chinese designs, the French designer blent mandarins and pagodas with Italian grottoes… and French landscapes.” She continues, “The little scenes were either connected by some decorative arabesque, or so designed that by their outline they formed a recurring pattern.” Toiles were often printed in one color on a neutral ground, but not exclusively.

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Household Hints: Vintage Trading Cards with a DIY Theme

Household Hints Cigarette Trading Cards


I am a casual collector of vintage paper goods and assorted ephemera. My stash includes vintage dictionaries and encyclopedias, postcards, baby scrapbooks, and handwritten recipe files. Recently, at a Saturday morning yard sale, I scored a different type of collectible—a Wills’s Cigarette Picture Card Album filled with 50 “Household Hints” trading cards.

I was curious about my $2 find and thus launched a Google rampage. I learned that “cartophily” is the hobby of collecting cigarette cards, and so that makes me a very part-time cartophilist. Cards, originally used to simply fortify packages of cigarettes, later became vehicles for advertising and artful trading cards. W.D. & H.O Wills, a division of Imperial Tobacco, was the first tobacco company to issue sets of cards. In 1895 “Ships & Sailors” inaugurated the card craze which lasted until the early 1940s.

These miniature cards measure 2 5/8 by 1 3/8”.  They are numbered and each card features a colorful printed letterpress image on the front and a directive or explanation on the reverse. The first series appealed to men who were the majority smokers, and sporting themes like cricket and baseball were very popular. Soon enough, sets featuring garden flowers, movie stars, birds, and British butterflies would appeal to either gender. According to Colin Fawcett, Membership Secretary for The Cartophilic Society of Great Britain, a group of nearly 1,000 members devoted to propagating, enhancing, and preserving the hobby of cigarette card and trade card collecting, “Household Hints” was first issued in 1927 and there were several other incarnations up until 1936.

Household Hints Cigarette Trading Cards - Collection 1

Photo: JDagmi

The rarest cards, if in very good condition, can fetch a handsome price. A top-rated eBay seller known as Cigarette Cards is presently selling a 1901 set of 50 locomotive cards for $571 and a set of 32 Drum Horses from 1901 for $233. Household Hints, which Colin informed me was quite common, has a starting bid of just one cent. Alas, I will not make a mint from reselling it!

Household Hints Cigarette Trading Cards - Collection 2

Photo: JDagmi

Household Hints Cigarette Trading Cards - Collection 3

Photo: JDagmi

I am perfectly happy with my purchase nonetheless. I love the quaint illustrations, the 115-word DIY tips, and the diligence of the smoke.

If you would like to see the backs and fronts of every single Household Hints card (or if you should need some old-fashioned assistance in cleaning pewter or clearing choked rain pipes), see a completely photographed book here.

Blog Stars: In the Workshop

Meet four do-it-yourselfers who are creating their dream surroundings and blogging about the experience.

They are the heroes of their own dramatic real-life home makeovers. They save buildings from demise, rescue materials from the trash, increase the value of their homes, and post their adventures regularly on their blogs. They are a wired breed of make-it/fix-it enthusiasts who mix the business of home improvement with the pleasure of doing it themselves, then chronicling their experience.Emily Winters

There are thousands of DIYers who write about the process of creating their dream surroundings. For some, it’s a full-time job; for others it’s an after-hours and weekend passion. As readers, we’re impressed by many bloggers’ skill and knowledge, as well as by their practical thrift, modern ingenuity, and refreshing fearlessness. We are entertained by their stories and videos. We “like” them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and save their pretty pictures to Pinterest.

Kit Stansley, John Clarke Mills, Emily Winters (pictured at right), and Pete Fazio are four DIY documentarians out of hundreds who have captured our attention. They use laptops, cellphones, and cameras in conjunction with their cherished power and hand tools, and are as committed to finishing their to-do lists as they are to educating and inspiring the readers of their blogs and tweets. We are smitten with Kit’s authentic humor-laced gruel, intrigued by John’s thoughtful and updated period restoration, and curious about the way Emily and Pete balance DIY passion with romantic love. We hope you feel the same.

The “Merrypad-Dadand” DIY Duo: In the Workshop

Merrypad's Emily Winters and Dadand's Pete Fazio share a behind-the-scenes look at their DIY lives.

Emily Winters (a.k.a. Merrypad) and Pete Fazio (a.k.a. Dadand)

Emily Winters of Merrypad and Pete Fazio of Dadand in their workshop.. Photo: All photos courtesy of merrypad

She had a load of lumber to get home from the Home Depot. He had a car big enough to take it. Emily Winters and Pete Fazio, both of Rochester, NY, were weekday work colleagues who shared a passion for weekend DIY projects. Over the course of building a deck one summer, their friendship turned romantic, and the following spring, Pete moved into Emily’s 1350-square-foot, 3 bedroom, 1 bath, work-in-progress house, and he brought his tools with him.

Most of Pete’s stuff landed in the basement alongside Emily’s growing arsenal of DIY essentials. The 25′ x 25′ space accommodates machinery, hand tools, laundry, extra kitchen appliances, holiday decorations, and architectural salvage which Emily collects with abandon. Whatever does not fit here goes out to the garage, up in the attic, or under the guest room bed. Pete says, “Our space fluctuates greatly between being super-anally organized to complete disarray.” Emily assumes most of the responsibility for the mess.

Emily Winters Merrypad Workshop Bob VilaTwo workbenches anchor the area. Pete built the larger one; Emily, the smaller.  Pete’s was made from a sketch that Marty, his crazy and inspiring blogging partner, provided. It has plenty of underneath shelf space for power tools and kits. For her bench, Emily turned to lumber left over from “demolishing the lame basement bathroom.” Originally intended as a potting bench, it has become home to the sliding compound miter saw. Cody, Emily’s Bernese Mountain dog, is also a basement fixture and is known to nap during heavy construction.

“We don’t even swear until someone gets whaled on the finger with a hammer,” says Emily.

Both Emily and Pete credit their families with cultivating their respective construction, design, and repair urges. Emily watched her parents take down walls, change roof lines and modify the floor plan of a century-old farmhouse. Since infancy, she’s found the whir of the drill has been unusually comforting. Pete inherited his love of taking things apart and putting them back together from his parents, avid tinkerers who liked to improve upon, or extend the life of, a product with simple tweaks and repairs. Pete fondly recalls the family replacing a broken grill handle with a sawed-off broom handle.

Pete Fazio Dadand Workshop Tools Bob VilaEquipped with an early education, Pete and Emily now flourish in the DIY world. In addition to the hands-on projects they plan and complete, they deftly navigate social media and the blogosphere. Emily hosts Merrypad, a site she started so friends and family could peek in on house renovations. She also contributes regularly to DIY Network’s “The Pegboard.” Pete is a web designer by day. When not writing code, he co-authors dadand, a site that blends an affinity for gadgetry with a love of parenting. Pete also maintains his own namesake site and builds forts lit by glow bracelets for his daughter. 

“I love that, in some tiny way, we’re putting info out there that might help someone… and maybe entertain them,” Pete says. The pair is always at-the-ready to lend experience, skills, and help to friends tackling their own DIY projects. Emily says, “We love helping them save money and realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem.” This busy couple makes sure to reserve some alone time. Tuesday is date night and it often begins with a walk down the aisles of Home Depot. “Romantic!” Emily chimes.

Emily Winters Merrypad Pete Fazio Dadand Workshop Tools Bob Vila

For more “In the Workshop” blogger profiles, check out:
SanFranVic blogger, John Clarke Mills
DIYdiva blogger, Kit Stansley

SanFranVic’s John Clarke Mills: In the Workshop

"San Francisco Victorian" blogger, John Clarke Mills, opens up about his workshop and strategic approach to DIY.


Photo: Flickr courtesy of John Clarke Mills

Sanfranvic John Clark Mills Portrait Workshop Bob Vila RevAt 25, John Clarke Mills, a software entrepreneur with a background in engineering and woodworking, bought his first house. John’s “starter house,” an 1890 three-story, 8-room Victorian in San Francisco, looked like a home most people would aspire to owning somewhere down the road. For John, however, it was the perfect starter. Even before he moved in, he was able to begin plotting out, and blogging about, a slew of renovations that would restore and modernize his new old home.

“The amount of work we have taken on is due only to our own ambition,” says John, speaking about him and his housemate Brian Harris and the centenarian structure that was in perfectly fine condition. John and Brian, both handy and aesthetically minded, have a vision, and the last three years have been spent, when not at their full-time jobs, using wood, wires, siding, tile and a whole lot of tools to realize it. Crucial to this realization was a dedicated and organized work space—“the key,” John says, “to getting your projects done right.”

The shop that John built occupies the 1300-square-foot basement/garage where saws and drills share space with a 1973 BMW 2002 that John restored himself. Before John started filling the space, he called in a crew to reinforce the brick foundation. Though the house stood up to many earthquakes in its lifetime, John wanted some insurance moving forward. Once fortified, amenities, supplies, and the places to put things all followed, bit by bit.

Sanfranvic John Clarke Mills Workshop Tools Bob Vila

Central to the space is a workbench that John built using a slab of $75 maple butcher block, a $40 salvaged drawer set, 3 Rockler vises, and a couple of wood 4×4’s and 2×4’s. The periphery is dotted with iconic Craftsman storage pieces; “I feel good knowing that they are Craftsman and guaranteed for life,” he says. Hardware organizers, both hanging and standing, are labeled clearly. John believes spending time to organize saves time in the long run.

The space is well lit and overhead electric offers easy and safe power. A utility sink offers a place to clean brushes, while pegboard above offers a place to let the brushes hang and dry. A big shop vac takes care of the dust that’s generated by just about every wood maneuver. Some big ticket power tools include: a 1980s Hitachi Joiner/Planer, a Bosch 10” compound sliding radial arm saw, and a Mikita oil-lubricated compressor. He loves the ingenuity of ratcheting box wrenches and always buys extra needle nose pliers because they just seem to get lost. And there is a corner just devoted to clamps; a collection now totally more than 50.

Sanfranvic John Clarke Mills Workshop Bob VilaThe DIY gene has been cultivating since young John was a welcome presence in his father’s shop. Though not a career cabinetmaker, John’s dad is a highly skilled woodworker with more tools than anyone.  Growing up, John helped his father work on countless projects and as John got bigger, so did the projects. Most recently, Dad lent an expert hand to the install of his son’s Victorian library, a clubby red-oak-and-leather retreat John has always dreamed of.  One day, John’s collection of tools and machinery may grow to rival his father’s.

“Interesting projects have no end,” says John, who will continue to create them, execute them, and share them. John has learned a lot from the internet, and his blog— San Francisco Victorian—enables him to give back to that community. “When you truly aren’t afraid to fail, it’s amazing what you can teach yourself,” he says.

“Of course, being honest with yourself and knowing your limit is a big part of life and renovating a home is no different,” John adds. When confronted with any task, he admits to running through a complete list of questions—from actually visualizing himself doing the job to how many days it will require, will he need to learn new skills, what other projects could he get done if this one were outsourced, and, most importantly, can he do a professional job. “There is a whole order of operations that goes through my mind,” he says.

“It’s a cost benefit analysis that takes into account my own time and labor. At the end of the day I’m a realist and I have no problem admitting when something is over my head.”

You can see some of John’s San Francisco Victorian posts at Bob Vila Nation—a newly launched DIY community platform.

DIYdiva Kit Stansley: In the Workshop

Kit Stansley (a.k.a. DIYdiva) shares a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her workshop, tools and process.

DIYdiva Kit Stansley

DIYdiva Kit Stansley. Photo: Flickr

Kit Stansley has a zest for building and a talent for blogging about it. The 5’3,” 115 lb. powertool addict, tackles projects armed with fierce ambition and sharp wit, and then chronicles them with great humor and humanity on her website, DIYdiva. With two homes already renovated and sold, Kit has just moved into temporary digs. Over the next six-months, she will design and build home #3, as well as revamping the rental property where she is staying. Kit writes, “You know me, I like a challenge!”

Her major induction into the DIY world began in 2004 after she bought her first house. “Since then, I haven’t stopped buying power tools or tearing down walls,” she says. With visions of a dream home filling her head, Kit’s casual interest in pretty home projects, such as tiling and drywall texturing, quickly mutated into an obsessive passion that included down and dirty stuff like replacing rotted sill plates and lots of demo work. In February 2011 she became a licensed contractor in the state of Michigan. When not at her full-time corporate job, Kit slips on a $4 white men’s t-shirt, work jeans, a Carhartt bib (which she calles “gender-neutralizing), and a pair of muck boots any chance she gets.

Kit Stansley Workshop Di Ydiva Tools Bob Vila RevKit’s starter set of tools were hand-me-downs from her father. And while she’ll always have an appreciation for old well-used tools, she loves buying shiny new top-of-the-line machinery that she can maneuver in her small hands. Nothing makes Kit happier than having a reason to wield her Makita Compact 18v Lithium Ion Cordless Drill. Her joy is evident: “You realize what used to take 7 minutes of hand-turning a screw driver, just took 3 seconds, and now you have plenty of time to go paint your toenails.” Kit researches every major tool she buys. “I don’t buy sissy tools!” she says referring to some of the offerings targeted to women.

Online tools are as valuable as the drill, router, and miter saw. When Kit’s determined spirit crosses paths with apprehension, she remedies the situation by typing “How do I…” in the Google bar. “I do think we’re all capable of doing awesome things…if we only take the first step,” she says. She attributes her own fearless “let’s-jump-in-and-get-our-hands-dirty” mentality to her grandmother’s who showed her how to lay a brick edge around a vegetable garden when she was three. (A common bond that she shares with Bob Vila who was also inspired by his grandmother’s building endeavors.) 

Kit Stansley Workshop Tools Storage Bob VilaKit’s tools usually lie in a state of organized chaos in a shop she describes as, “a tool garage, basement, shed, car… and sometimes bedroom and kitchen.” In general the big tools like the miter saw and table saw, along with Craftsman cabinets, will be in a garage or shed keeping good company with lumber and siding. The smaller hand-held, frequently relied upon tools are kept closer to the scene of the crime project. In her last home, she had them splayed out on shelves. In warm weather, setting up shop in the open air is a good thing.

Kit has systems in place that keep her on track and motivated. She has a “5 project rule” and no matter how eager, will not introduce a sixth, until one is completed. She also uses the website as a motivational tool. “You know, you have to finish projects to have things to post,” she explains, thankful for the awesome support of her on-line community. With excitement building around home #3, Kit blazes through the DIY world, usually gracefully but at times awkwardly (and she’ll be the first to admit that) leaving a trail of sawdust behind.

Kit Stansley In The Workshop Power Tools Bob Vila

For more how-to from Kit, check out her recent contributions on Bob’s Blog.