Author Archives: Rebecca Thienes Cherny

Rejuvenation’s Can Light Conversion Kit


Too many recessed lights can have you seeing stars.

Also known as “can” lights thanks to their cylindrical shape, recessed lights are inexpensive, work well with low ceilings (where clearance is an issue), and get the job done. They’re common in new construction, but there are “remodel” housings available, too. Cans offer a clean and modern look, but let’s face it, they lack personality.

What if you have a recessed can light where you’d rather see a surface-mount fixture? Changing the recessed housing to an electrical box is a situation that typically requires hiring an electrician. That could cost roughly $200 per fixture, according to New York-based general contractor Colin Campbell of Campbell Construction. Plus, the sheetrock around the fixture would need to be replaced and painted, making the project even more expensive to tackle—$200 or $300 total per fixture, depending on the surface area involved. And that’s before you add in the cost of the replacement fixture.

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things to Do with… Apple Crates

Wooden crates used to be the way to get everything to market, from fruit and produce to soda bottles. These days, those same lovely vintage crates are popping up at garage and estate sales, local antiques stores and salvage yards—they seem to be everywhere! In addition to being decorative, they are great for storing all kinds of housewares. Here are five DIY-friendly ways to enhance their appeal:



DIY with Apple Crates - Baileys Home and Garden


Baileys Home and Garden shows how, from a stash of equally sized crates, you can create wall-mounted storage for virtually any space. Planning is key; lay out your crates on the floor to determine the best arrangement. If you can’t find a cache of crates the same size, consider building a more organic Tetris-style formation. Locate the wall studs and then start securing crates to them, having a helper hold the crates level while you work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bathroom Sinks That Rise Above the Rest

Bathroom Sinks - Kohler Botticelli


Unlike standard bathroom sinks, vessel designs sit above the counter surface. Reminiscent of historical bedroom washstands that consisted of a wash basin and pitcher for freshening up, current vessel sinks utilize modern materials and designs to sculptural effect.

Since vessel sinks are top-mounted, you’ll have to adjust your counter height to accommodate for the vessel’s depth. Since standard sink rim height is 34″ high, subtract your vessel’s depth from 34″ to figure out the ideal countertop height. You might try retrofitting a vessel sink to an existing console or dresser under 30” high to achieve an ergonomic sink height.

You’ll also want to consider its location. Vessel sinks are usually found in powder rooms and guest baths where they see lighter use, typically just hand-washing. That’s because this type of on-display design requires a bit more cleaning and maintenance than your average below-deck sink.

For instance, a clear glass sink will show watermarks or dirt, so you’ll want to wipe clean frequently. A copper sink’s living finish will develop natural patina and is therefore less fussy, so that may be a better choice in a frequently used master or main bath. Whatever material you choose, make sure the sink base doesn’t have tight angles; you’ll want a base that’s easy to clean around. As with most fixtures, use non-abrasive cleaners to keep your sink in top form.

Bathroom Sinks - Designer Glass Vessel Sink

Designer glass vessel sink from

The faucet pairing and placement requires forethought as well. A wall-mounted faucet is common, but a carefully selected deck-mount faucet will also do the job. Like with other projects, site measurements and product dimensions are majorly important. Keep in mind that the faucet must be long and tall enough to reach the basin. Also be sure to position the faucet so that the nozzle sits directly over the drain to avoid bothersome splashing.

If you’re after eye candy, vessel sinks are the way to go. Don’t miss our gallery Vessel Sinks: 10 Works of Art for a set of fine examples from around the market, at every price range.

For more on bath fixtures and fittings, consider:

The New Bronze Age for Fixtures
12 “Decorator-Worthy” Bathroom Vanities
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks

5 Things to Do… with Vintage Ladders

Vintage Ladder DIY


Chances are that, languishing in your basement or garage, you have an old wooden ladder splattered with coats of paint and worn from years of use. If not, old ladders can usually be found for a fair price in antique and vintage stores. Repurposed, they are a great way to bring character into a modern interior.

What exactly can you do with a dilapidated ladder? We’ve got five ideas on how to transform your time-worn climber into something useful again.



Vintage Ladders

Photo: Martha Stewart

The small stature of a step ladder makes it an ideal nightstand, no alterations required. The steps provide multiple levels, so a reading lamp, books, beverage and even flowers can share the real estate. Spied on Vintage With a Twist.



Vintage Ladders

Photo: Deborah Ory

Avid DIYers can try this ladder-as-pot-rack project. Head to your local hardware store for four lengths of sturdy chain, four screw hooks and toggle bolts, and long S-hooks. Attach the screw hooks to one side of the ladder, loop the chains onto the hooks, and attach the chains’ other ends to the ceiling-mounted toggle bolts. Be sure to locate the ceiling joists when installing the toggle bolts for secure installation. Finally, use the S-hooks to hang your pots and pans. For full instructions, visit Woman’s Day.



Vintage Ladder Shelves

Photo: Networx

Two ladders and some plywood create a wide shelving unit perfect for housing books and decorative objects. Since finding two vintage ladders of the same dimensions can be tough, consider buying matching new ladders to achieve the look. Courtesy of Furious Shirley.



Photo: Chic Cheap Nursery

Utilize the rungs on both sides of a folding ladder and attach plywood shelves; the result is a great spot to display your treasures. Paint the shelves with a durable semi-gloss finish for a nice contrast with the weathered wood.



Ladder Storage

Photo: West Elm

West Elm shows how to use vertical space in a bathroom wisely. This leaning ladder easily becomes a multi-tiered towel rack. A typical ladder takes up about the same width as the average towel bar but allows for more towels to be stored simultaneously.



Vintage Ladder Storage

Photo: Cory Connor Designs

Another simple use for old ladders seems downright obvious yet helps clear the clutter from your coffee table. Cory Connor Designs suggests leaning a ladder against the wall, then draping magazine issues or newspapers on the rungs.


For more on repurposing, consider:

5 Things to Do… With Mason Jars
10 Reasons to Love Architectural Salvage
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry

The New Apron-Front Sinks

Apron Front Sinks - Whitehaven

Kohler's “Whitehaven” sink with short apron, from $990 for 30” wide and $1090 for 36” wide. The enameled cast iron finish resists scratches, stains, and burns, and comes in 18 color options.


Apron-front sinks—also known as farmhouse sinks—can pose significant installation challenges. But as these farm sinks have grown in popularity, in part due to their vintage charm, manufacturers have stepped up and made these country kitchen staples much easier to incorporate. In the past, in order to accommodate the size and considerable weight of apron-front sinks, installation required either custom cabinetry or custom modification to standard base cabinets. Many newer models are simpler to retrofit. In addition, apron-front sinks now come in a wider range of materials, among them enameled cast iron, fireclay, stainless steel, and even copper or stone. Before you buy, however, consider this: The deep basin of a farm sink can hold large pans and its design also saves you from having to lean over. But the very same features that make it appealing for some homeowners might actually make the sink difficult for some people to use comfortably.

Apron-front sinks, once a great spot to scrub a deep pot, soak dirty dishes, or even wash the baby or pet, are a staple of traditional country style. Today’s models are now easier to retrofit or install in standard cabinets. Instead of a deep apron-front sink requiring a custom base cabinet, innovative manufacturers like Kohler and Native Trails have created shallower versions to fit in standard base cabinets with ease.

Kohler makes two shallow apron-front sink models—the cast iron “Whitehaven”, shown above, and the stainless steel “Vault,” below. To install these sinks, make a rough cut in a standard 30”- or 36”-wide sink base cabinet where the false drawer fronts usually appear. Because the apron is self-trimming, the cuts are hidden once the sink is in place; no gaps and no need for trim work. And even though it’s shallower than some apron front sinks of old, a 9” interior depth will easily accommodate taller pots, especially when paired with a gooseneck faucet.

Apron Front Sinks - Double

Kohler's “Vault” 36” Stainless Steel Sink, $750

One thing to note: The “Vault” requires top-mount installation, making it great for remodel scenarios involving existing cabinetry and laminate countertops. The installed sink sits flush to the counters. Crumbs can be easily brushed inside, so cleaning up is a snap.

Apron Front Sinks - Paragon

Native Trails' “Paragon” Sink in Antique Copper, $2,990

Native Trails specializes in hand-hammered copper sinks, and the “Paragon” apron sink is no exception. Created in 16 gauge hand-hammered recycled copper, the sink comes in Antique Copper and Brushed Nickel finishes. Measuring 33” wide with a generous 10″ interior depth, its apron measures just 6.5” high but provides plenty of style.

Note: Native Trails’ “Paragon” sink and Kohler’s “Whitehaven” sinks are undermount applications, as shown, so they are best for situations where new countertops will also be installed over the sink’s top edge for a clean look.

Visit Kohler and Native Trails for more information and where to buy.

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Kitchen Sink
Cabinet Door Styles: What’s Yours?
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks

Wood Floors Go Gray

Weathered wood floors grayed from years of wear go so well with the ubiquitous reclaimed wood and industrial furniture in today’s market. What if you love that look but don’t have years to wait for the floors to age naturally? Monocoat makes products expressly for this purpose.

Turn Your Wood Floors Gray

Phto: RCherny

Launched in 1962, Monocoat operates right here in the U.S. out of Lithonia, Georgia. I had the opportunity to use this product in my own home with good results. First, our contractor’s crew installed white oak plank flooring in a generously-sized five inch width. Along with the gray tone, I hoped wider floor planks would recall historical floors, typically wider than today’s 2-1/4” standard width.

After cleaning the floors of dust, the crew applied the “Fumed” product. Utilized on natural unfinished oak flooring, it reacts to the tannic acids in the wood, turning it gray. One liter runs $52 and covers 200 square feet, and the product releases no fumes or vapors during application.

Wood Floors Go Gray - Applying Fumed

Photo: RCherney

Knowing the tell-tale sign of a new floor is its shiny finish, we wanted to skip polyurethane and go with a more matte oil finish. The “1-Coat Natural Oil Finish” in white has no VOCs (that’s volatile organic compounds to you and me), and it toned down the rather intense reaction between the white oak’s tannins and the Fumed product.

Wood Floors Go Gray - Action Shot

Photo: RCherny

One liter of 1-Coat Natural Oil Finish typically covers 400 square feet of flooring and runs $105 for the clear Pure finish or $129 for color finishes like white. Compare that with traditional finishing techniques, which require three gallons and three coats for the same results.

Buffing was our last step. This evened out and sealed the finish.

Wood Floors Go Gray - Buffing

Photo: RCherny

The flooring crew used the Monocoat products for the first time at our home, and we were all unsure how it would come out, but we all agreed in the end that the results were as promised. For more info on the Fumed product and available oil finishes, and to see other photos of completed projects, visit Monocoat.

For more on flooring, consider:

Wood Flooring 101
How To: Dye Concrete Floors
Installing a Herringbone-Patterned Flooring

Encaustic Tile Makes a Comeback

Encaustic Tile

Don’t be afraid to add some pattern. Basic cabinets get a boost from encaustic tiles. Photo courtesy: 1910Foursquare

While popular following their development in the mid-1800s, encaustic cement tiles fell out of favor in the mid 1930s. Today they are on the design radar again and finding renewed popularity.

Producing encaustic tile uses less energy than firing ceramic tiles does, and the materials are natural. The design layer is typically created by pouring a mixture of Portland cement, marble dust, and natural pigments into a dye that resembles a cookie cutter, which has been placed inside a square mold. The base layer is solid gray concrete and provides stability. Before the tiles cure, a hydraulic press is used to sandwich the layers together.

Pluses for using encaustic tile include lovely patterns, inspiring colors, and greater longevity. The design layer is typically ¼” thick, allowing for years of wear. The downside, as with most tile, is the weight; you’ll need to factor shipping costs into your budget. An 8″ square tile typically weighs in at 3 lbs., so a room’s worth of tile can add up. Tiles are typically boxed and palleted (to protect them in shipping) and sent via freight carrier. Remember to always add overage (generally 15%) to your tile order in case of breakage on site or during transit. Leftovers can be stored for future repairs.

Here are some great sources for encaustic tiles:

Encaustic Tile

Villa Lagoon Ikat Tile "A" Encaustic Floor Tile

Villa Lagoon’s Tile “A”, shown above, is one of four new Ikat patterns in black and white; all are in stock and ready to ship. They cost $7.65 to $9.00 per 8” square tile, depending on quantity. Custom colors are also available with an eight-week lead time. Visit Villa Lagoon to browse other patterns and colors.

Encaustic Tile Grow House Grow Massapeag Deco

Grow House Grow Massapeag Deco Encaustic Tile

Talented wallpaper designer Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow just added encaustic tiles to her repertoire. The line will expand and reference her existing wallpaper designs, making it easy to coordinate walls and floors. Shown here is the “Messapeag Deco” tile. It costs $14 per 8” square tile with a four- to six-week lead time. Custom colors are available.

Encaustic Tile L'Antiguario

L'Antiquario Encaustic Floor Tile

If you prefer a bit of history, consider the reclaimed selection of tiles at L’Antiquario. Boasting over 300 authentic patterns and border designs, these tiles are reclaimed from the U.S. and throughout Europe and come with a certificate of authenticity stating their provenance. Pricing varies based on pattern rarity. Costs begin at about $30 per square foot and run up to $200 per square foot. Visit L’Antiquario for more information.

For more on tile and tiling, consider:

Installing Tile
How To: Choose Tile
Subway Tiles: The New Classics

La Cornue’s New Built-In Rotisserie

La Cornue Built-In Rotisserie

La Cornue Flamberge Rotisserie in Cabinet

What’s more delicious than slow-roasted chicken on a summer day? Fans of fowl (and fish and other meats too) will be happy to learn that La Cornue has created the first UL-approved gas rotisserie—and this built-in doesn’t require a flue or special ventilation.

Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things to Do with… Shipping Pallets

You’ve likely seen wood shipping pallets piled up next to dumpsters outside local stores. Once the pallet has done its job, which is to provide ease of transport, these plywood structures are often tossed. For those with an eye for DIY, that means free building materials! Sure, they’re usually built from basic, no-frills pine, but there’s something appealing about their simplicity, no? Ever wonder about ways to prolong the life of these utilitarian constructs? We found five great shipping pallet DIY project ideas for you; scroll down now to see them all!



Apartment Therapy Shipping Pallets Bed

Photo: Apartment Therapy/Elle Interior

This is an easy and affordable solution for a daybed on a porch or in a sunroom or guest bedroom. By combining two pallets with a twin-size mattress and adding industrial caster wheels available at your local hardware store, you have a great-looking place for guests and family to take a snooze or read a magazine. For more, visit Apartment Therapy.



Shipping Pallet DIY Projects - Desk

Photo: Flickr/Pierrevedal

By adding a set of sturdy, colorful table legs (in this case from budget-friendly IKEA), the pallet becomes a super-functional desk with pretty great storage capacity built right in. Instructables shows you how it’s done.



Shipping Pallet DIY Projects - Plate Rack

Photo: Remodelista

This project requires very few modifications to the pallet but goes a long way towards creating rustic charm in the kitchen. Adding a couple of long nails to keep each plate from falling forward and two eye screws to hang the pallet on the wall, designer Katrin Erens stylishly displays her plate collection. Find out more on Remodelista.



Shipping Pallet DIY Projects - Chair

Photo: Studio Mama

Originally created by Studiomama for display at a design show, this low-slung lounge chair was crafted using two pallets and 50 screws. Instructions are available for purchase on the Studiomama website.



Shipping Pallet DIY Projects - Island

Photo: Apartment Therapy

The most ambitious of these projects involves a bit of deconstruction and rebuilding to take a few pallets and build a great-looking industrial chic island. Painted black it’s hard to see the original source of the wood is a lowly shipping pallet! Even more great ideas can be found on Apartment Therapy.


For more DIY projects, consider:

5 Things to Do… with Wood Shutters
Great Places to Buy Architectural Salvage
30 Days of Easy Summer DIY