Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


Weekend Projects: 5 Sunny DIY Window Seats

What's better than a sunny seat? One with a view! See five cozy takes on the classic window seat—and how to recreate them in your own home.

Seating and storage—is there ever enough of either? Enter the window seat, the dreamy solution that marries function with style. Whether you need an extra chair, a cozy reading nook, or an out-of-sight spot to store blankets, books, or baubles, these multi-use structures offer it all—with a view, to boot! While custom-built benches can run you a pretty penny, you can achieve similar results with a cost-effective DIY. Read on for five projects, ranging from near instant gratification to true labors of love, that will inspire you to take advantage of your own .

 

1. BRING ON THE BOHEMIAN

DIY Window Seat - Bohemian

Photo: thejungalow.com

This cozy nook looks like a built-in, but it’s actually a low-profile chest of drawers nestled against side table in an alcove! When recreating in your own space, know that it’s OK (even better) for your two pieces to not match in height—the cushion atop your chest can even out the two surfaces. Get the bohemian style seen at The Jungalow by using a solid colored fabric for the cushions, then layering ’til your heart’s content with brightly patterned pillows and throws.

 

2. FLOAT AWAY

DIY Window Seat - Float

Photo: instructables.com

For a modern, airy window structure, opt to build suspended seating. You won’t have the luxury of hidden storage, but the wall-mounted benches take up zero floor space and are visually light on the eyes. The best part? This easy DIY has just four steps: install heavy-duty brackets, lay out your wooden base, paint, and dress with cushions. Voila! Get the complete tutorial at Instructables.

 

3. CREATE A CLASSIC

DIY Window Seat - Classic

Photo: shanty-2-chic.com

Forget about paying retail when you can make a catalog knockoff of a pint-size storage bench using your own two hands. Aside from the actual materials, a few specialty tools will go long way to make this project go smoothly: Whitney from Shanty 2 Chic swears by her Kreg Jig, Right Angle Clamp, and Ryobi Jig Saw. Visit the girls at the Shanty for a well-photographed journey, then hop on over to Ana-White.com for the free plans.

 

4. REPURPOSE AND RELAX

DIY Window Seat - Storage Bench

Photo: fourgenerationsoneroof.com

Building from scratch doesn’t always mean starting at square one—if this isn’t your first DIY rodeo, you likely already have a fair amount of supplies and materials at hand. This bench from Four Generations One Roof makes use of almost entirely leftover materials, like scrap pine from previous projects and even repurposed pillows covered with coordinating fabric. So, go assess your workshop: What’s on your hands? It won’t take you long to put together this endlessly functional chest using glue blocks for support and nails for reinforcement.

 

5. BUILD A BAY BEAUTY

DIY Window Seat - Bay

Photo: prettyhandygirl.com

A bay window makes the perfect spot for a sunny seat, but its unique shape requires a little extra custom work. Although this particular project from Pretty Handy Girl appears somewhat advanced, you can certainly handle it if you have some basic carpentry skills under your belt. As always, just remember: Measure twice, cut once! And in the end, you’ll bask in the sunlight of your new dining nook, complete with lots of sneaky storage space.


Genius! Boards and Brackets Create a Window Haven

Constraints beget creativity, as evidenced by the simple, useful, modest, and unexpected refined DIY breakfast nook one blogger devised when short on space.

DIY Breakfast Nook

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com

Last year, Tiffany left her roomy rental house for a compact apartment closer to downtown. Though ideally located, the apartment offered limited space—not simply for stuff, but also for activities. At her old place, Tiffany had loved to host occasional guests; to do the same in her comparatively cramped new digs, she would need to get creative. After weeks of brainstorming, she struck upon the idea for what would become a DIY furniture equivalent to a Swiss Army knife.

It’s a breakfast nook. It’s a dining area, desk, and project area. It’s all of those things. It’s genius. Here, in one corner of her apartment, Tiffany created a sunny, versatile zone in which to do everything she feared there wouldn’t be enough room for. The best part? Once she had figured out the design, the rest was easy. Tiffany spent under $200, but theoretically, you could ratchet down costs to a minimum by opting for low-cost shelf brackets and pair of secondhand stools.

DIY Breakfast Nook - Shelf Bracket

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com

You can read, in Tiffany’s own words, how she did it. But here’s the gist: Having carefully measured the window area, Tiffany decided the desired dimensions for her table. Next, she gathered materials that included two boards cut to the correct width. Because she wanted the table to have some heft, she chose to double-up the boards, placing one on top of the other. With wood glue, she joined the boards, applying pressure as the adhesive set. Then she secured the bond with screws.

Bracket time! To determine the right height for the brackets that would support the table top, Tiffany sat on one of her stools and marked where her knees touched the window trim. That’s where, with a couple inches added for leg room, she drilled in the brackets. Next, she placed the table top into position on the brackets, then screwed the two together from below, adding stability. Last, Tiffany finished things off with a soft wax that really brings out the knots and texture of the wood.

FOR MORE: Offbeat and Inspired

DIY Breakfast Bar - View 2

Photo: offbeatandinspired.com


How To: Clean a Shower Curtain

Say goodbye to soap scum-covered shower curtains and mildewy liners! A cleaner bathroom is just one load of laundry away.

How to Clean a Shower Curtain

Photo: shutterstock.com

Though your shower curtain performs a valuable service, preventing water from cascading across your bathroom floor, you’ve no doubt noticed a paradox: The more showers you take, the more gross the shower curtain gets. Before you replace it, thinking the mildewed and soap-scummy plastic or fabric cannot be salvaged, hang on a minute. You may be able to clean the shower curtain, after all—quickly and easily—by running it through the washing machine. The only trick is that, when you clean a shower curtain in the washer, it’s best to bolster the detergent with a couple pantry staples or, in extreme cases, bleach.

How to Clean a Shower Curtain - Bathroom Corner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Baking Soda and Vinegar
Place the shower curtain into your washing machine and throw in a few soiled towels. These create the agitation necessary to separate the mildew from where it has lodged. Start the machine, and when it comes time to pour in the detergent, be sure to add a half-cup of baking soda. At the start of the rinse cycle, follow up with a half-cup of vinegar. If there’s any mildew remaining, the vinegar can be expected to kill it. (If there’s a great deal of mildew, ratchet up the vinegar dose to a full cup.) Finally, before the spin cycle gets going, pull out the shower curtain and inspect its condition. If you approve, hang it back up in the bathroom. There’s no need to put the curtain in the dryer.

Bleach
If you’re dealing with a great deal of mildew and soap scum, and if your shower curtain is white or transparent, reach for a bottle of bleach. Place the curtain in the washing machine along with some towels (white towels, that is). Start the machine, and as the drum begins to fill with water, pour in a half-cup of bleach and a quarter-cup of detergent. From here, let the washer do the work. Then, before the start of the spin cycle, pull out the curtain and check to see how it looks. If it’s cleaner but not satisfactorily clean, consider repeating the process above. Also note that at this point, you may be able to finish up by hand, using mild soap in combination with a sponge or cloth rag.

Additional Notes
Be proactive in keeping your shower curtain clean. The following tips can help you to prevent mildew from taking root and proliferating in the future:

Most bar soaps generate soap scum. Body wash, on the other hand, rinses away without buildup.

After bathing, spray the area with homemade shower cleaner. The next time you shower, the water will wash away the cleaner, along with collected grime.

Use a scrub brush to loosen mildew as you wipe down the curtain as part of your regular weekly bathroom cleaning routine.


Quick Tip: Renew Dull Wood Finishes with Mineral Spirits

Wood worse for wear? Even if you someday plan on refinishing tired furniture or trim, right now you can revitalize the material, quickly and easily, simply by using mineral spirits.

Renew Wood Finishes with Mineral Spirits

Photo: shutterstock.com

As you go about your spring cleaning routine, take a few minutes to inspect the condition of your wood furniture and trim. Are any of the finishes looking dull, murky, and tired? Though you may choose to refinish worse-for-wear woodwork at some point in the future, in the meantime you can try an easier way of revitalizing it. In many cases, simply applying mineral spirits—otherwise known as paint thinner—goes a long way toward restoring warmth and shine to surfaces.

Renew Wood Finishes with Mineral Spirits - Table Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you don’t have mineral sprits on hand, check your local hardware store or home center. Widely available, this stuff also boasts the virtue of being inexpensive. When you’re ready, douse a clean and absorbent cloth in the mineral spirits, then wipe down the wood whose finish needs a refresh. As a solvent, mineral spirits work to cut through stubborn grime and buildup from polish, wax, and oils.

Adding more mineral spirits to the cloth as necessary, continue rubbing the wood until the cloth no longer picks up any residue. To access detailed or hard-to-reach areas, such as the carved portion of a fireplace mantel, use an old toothbrush or a pad of fine steel wool. For something even gentler than mineral spirits alone, some restorers cutting the solvent with a mild soap (e.g., Murphy Oil Soap). Apply the solution by means of a sponge or a paintbrush, before wiping it away with a clean cloth.

Though relatively potent, mineral spirits do not cause any damage to clear wood finishes and are therefore at least worth experimenting with. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. Be careful, however, not to use a stronger solvent, as doing so might remove the finish altogether.

Since there are fumes to wary of, take pains to ensure there’s sufficient ventilation in your work area. Also, bear in mind that mineral spirits are flammable. So once you are finished with the job, be conscious of where you put the cloths used in the process (or in what manner you dispose of them).

Compared to stripping and refinishing woodwork, applying mineral spirits is quicker and much, much easier. But of course, even after renewing the finish, you may still feel that the furniture or trim still needs to be refinished, but at least you can save that work for another day—or maybe next year!


5 Things to Do with… Eggshells

The incredible, edible egg, indeed—even the shells serve up extra usefulness! Put your breakfast remnants to work in the kitchen, garden, and even the first aid kit with one of these five hacks.

Delicious and versatile, eggs are on the ingredients list for countless favorite recipes. But while the yolks and the whites go into breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, the eggshells typically go nowhere but the garbage bin. All those wasted shards add up, apparently. According to Earth911.com, Americans trash about 150,000 tons of eggshells each and every year! Things would be different if everyone knew that you can actually use eggshells for a variety of tasks both in and around the house.

 

1. PLANT A SEED

Uses for Eggshells - Seedlings

Photo: shutterstock.com

If you’re itching to start gardening indoors before spring officially arrives, remember that eggshells make an excellent vessel for seedlings. When your plants finally outgrow their temporary homes, you can transplant them, shells and oil, directly into the soil, because the shells biodegrade. Read all the details at Instructables.

 

2. BAND TOGETHER

Uses for Eggshells - Natural Bandage

Photo: shutterstock.com

The next time you nick a finger while slicing and dicing in the kitchen, rest assured there’s a natural bandage within easy reach. It so happens that in a hardboiled egg, the membrane between the shell and the white can help stop the bleeding and serve as a makeshift Band-Aid until you can give your injury proper attention.

 

3. CHALK IT UP

Uses for Eggshells - Sidewalk Chalk

Photo: shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, you can make sidewalk chalk out of eggshells. First, grind the eggshells into powder. Next, mix the powder with tap water, flour, and food coloring (in your favorite bold hue), forming a batter-like paste. Finally, add the mixture to a silicone mold. For step-by-step instructions, head over to Pink Stripey Socks.

 

4. STAY SHARP

Uses for Eggshells - Sharpen Blender Blades

Photo: shutterstock.com

You already know that ice cubes sharpen the blades in your blender But did you know that eggshells do the same thing? Why not save the shells in your freezer, pulling them out whenever your blender needs a performance a boost? Just make sure to clean the blender afterwards, so you don’t get any crunchy surprises.

 

5. BUG OFF

Uses for Eggshells - Get Rid of Snails and Slugs

Photo: shutterstock.com

Gardens are gorgeous; unwanted snails and slugs are not. To get rid of these slimy creatures without resorting to chemical pesticides, simply spread crushed eggshells in a circle around your plantings. Rather than crawl over the jagged edges of the shell flakes, the pests would rather crawl back to where they came from.


Genius! VCR Turned Automatic Pet Feeder

With access to outmoded technology, the steadfastness of a marathon runner, and the skills of an electronics engineer, you too can turn a VCR into an automatic pet feeder!

DIY Automatic Pet Feeder

Photo: makezine.com

Remember back when successfully programming the VCR felt like a minor triumph? Now imagine how James Larssen of Make must feel: He actually figured out how to use the timing mechanism within an old VCR to solve a frustrating, everyday problem: We can’t always be home at the times when our beloved pets are accustomed to eating. Rather than set the machine to record a favorite show, Larssen configures it to activate a pet-feeding contraption of his own devising. Genius!

An electronics engineer by trade, Larssen began, in true engineer form, by taking everything apart. With the internal components of the VCR revealed, he located the video head drum and removed it, along with the drum’s motor. Next, Larssen hooked up that motor to something he had lying around his workshop—a gearbox. The gearbox, in turn, connected to an auger Larssen had salvaged from an old meat grinder. It’s all coming together! In the next to last step, using bolts and plenty of glue, Larssen secured the assembly to the top of his covered VCR. And for the finishing touch, he slid a lidded funnel into the open top of the auger.

Before leaving the house, Larssen can load the funnel with dry pet food and set the VCR to “record”—that is, dispense the food—at a specific time of day. Though everyone may not share the engineer’s gift for reinventing old technology, his fascinating tutorial reveals how Larssen managed to pull off something so inventive.

FOR MORE: Make


How To: Remove Hard Water Stains

Say goodbye to ugly water spots on your kitchen faucets and stains in your toilet bowls! You can clear up these gritty hard water deposits in five easy steps.

How To Clean Hard Water Stains

Photo: shutterstock.com

Are there always white spots on your bathroom fixtures? Does a cloudy film coat the carafe of your coffeemaker? If so, yours probably belongs to the 85 percent of households with hard water. The discoloration you see is the buildup of minerals left behind by evaporated water. Unchecked, hard water deposits can go a long way toward gunking up some of the most commonly used components in your home. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove hard water stains on any sink, tub, or toilet.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Plastic gloves
- White vinegar (or acidic household cleaner)
- Spray bottle
- Toothbrush, toilet brush, or scouring brush
- Sponge
- Soft, dry cloth

STEP 1
Pull on a pair of gloves and reach for an acidic household cleaner, such as metal-and-rust remover. Or, if you prefer, make your own formula by combining equal parts vinegar and water. Add the mixture to a spray bottle, then get to work. If it’s a store-bought cleaner, be sure to consult the instructions printed on the label. If you’ve gone the homemade route, simply spritz the vinegar over the entire water-stained surface. Let it sit for a brief period of time before you continue.

Cleaning Toilet Hard Water Stains

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Scrub, scrub, scrub the area with an old toothbrush (or a toilet bowl brush, if that’s what you’re cleaning). The brush bristles provide just enough abrasive power to wear away the acid-loosened mineral deposits.

STEP 3
Continue spraying on additional cleanser, following up by scrubbing, until even the most stubborn hard water stains are gone. If it’s tough going, try this: Pour the vinegar-and-water solution into a small bowl, then add enough baking soda to create a paste. Dip your brush in the paste, then try scrubbing again. This time, the stain ought to give way. The more often you clean, the less stubborn the stains become.

STEP 5
Having removed the last of the mineral deposits, rinse the area with a dripping wet sponge. Finish by wiping the area dry with a soft cloth. Be sure to dry the area completely, or else the spots may reappear!

Preventing Hard Water Stains
Here are two tricks to prevent hard water stains from making your cleaning regimen a tedious chore:

Wipe away water as soon as you are done using a faucet. Hard water cannot leave a staining deposit if you get rid of it quickly. Keep a cloth near each of the faucets in your house and wipe up excess water.

At least once per day, wipe down or lightly mist vulnerable areas with a natural cleaner. Doing so may not completely prevent hard water stains, but it’ll make the job easier when you clean in earnest later on.


5 Things to Do with… Leftover Tile

If you were left with extra tiles in the wake of a remodel, don't miss our favorite ways to reuse all those spare squares.

Whenever you’re assembling materials for a tiling project, it’s recommended that you purchase a little extra—about 10% more than strictly necessary for the job. That’s why, at the conclusion of a remodel, even fastidious do-it-yourselfers may end up with lots of leftovers. Rather than relegate the surplus to a corner of your basement or garage, why not put the tile to work in your next DIY project? Scroll down to see five creative ways of repurposing tile in and around your home.

 

1. CREATE COASTERS

Reuse Tile - Coasters

Photo: instructables.com

You may be a diligent steward of your furniture, with a pledged commitment to the use of coasters. Still, your home’s wood surfaces won’t be safe from damage until every household member follows your lead. To make responsibility more fun, encourage the family to photo-personalize a set of tile coasters. Here’s how.

 

2. CUSTOMIZE YOUR KITCHEN

Reuse Tile - Backsplash

Photo: shutterstock.com

Here’s a high-impact way to dress up a rental kitchen. Whereas a backsplash normally installs directly to the wall, you can, as a non-permanent solution, adhere your choice of tiles to a panel of medium-density fiberboard. Wall-mount the panel, not the tile, and when it’s time to move out, simple remove your handiwork.

 

3. BUILD A BIRDHOUSE

Reuse Tile - Birdhouse

Photo: instructables.com

Welcome birds to your backyard with an all-season feeder. Though porcelain or ceramic tiles could be used theoretically, the example here boasts a quartet of linoleum tiles. Having been decoratively painted, the tiles were set into the metal frame of a salvaged lantern. For the step-by-step details, visit Instructables.

 

4. ADDRESS YOUR VISITORS

Reuse Tile - House Number

Photo: instructables.com

When announcing your home to visitors, ensure the street number remains legible even after nightfall. Glow-in-the-dark paint provides an easy way to do so. In this project, the tiles are held securely, but are not fixed in place, by two rabbeted boards. Move the rightmost tile, and you find a clever cut-out for a spare key!

 

5. MAKE A MOSAIC

Reuse Tile - Mosaic

Photo: shutterstock.com

Looking to blow off a little steam? Haul out your leftover tiles! After donning safety goggles, go ahead and hammer the tiles into pieces of irregular size and shape. Now you’ve got plenty of material with which to design mosaics for tabletops, counters, or garden path stepping stones—get instructions for the latter right here.


Genius! DIY Portable Fire Pit

A streamlined, modern fire pit makes your outdoor living area look like a million bucks, and it costs only $25 to make.

DIY Portable Fire Pit

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

Karen loves fires—summer bonfires, barbecues, and winter evenings spent ’round the living room hearth. Even so, she’d hesitated to add a fire pit to her backyard patio. But when she saw a portable fire pit her sister had made, Karen realized that during the so-called “shoulder” months—March, for example, or September—a small, portable fire feature would not be an eye-catching decorative addition to her outdoor living space, but would also afford a few extra weeks of patio season.

On her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, Karen provides a step-by-step tutorial for building a DIY portable fire pit that looks about $300 more expensive than it actually costs to assemble—$25. The patinated metal base of the fire pit actually started out as planter. Karen got hers on sale at a garden center. Meanwhile, the glass components are repurposed from a quartet of cheap picture frames that were lying around her house, as if it waiting patiently for a second chance in life.

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Process Shot

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com

With clear marine silicone (available at hardware stores and home centers), Karen adhered the glass panels both to each other and to the planter base. Then, having measured the space within the chamber, she cut a piece of metal mesh that would fit perfectly inside. Before placing in the mesh, though, Karen added her secret ingredient, gel fuel. Sold in small, low-cost canisters, gel fuel burns cleanly, and though it produces no smoke, its flames look convincingly like those of a genuine wood fire. The mesh layer separates the pebbles from the gel, while concealing the canister even from those standing right next to the fire pit. To ignite the gel, simply inch the pebbles aside and administer a flame by means of a long kitchen match—or take a cue from Karen, who likes to use a spaghetti strand!

If you enjoy splitting wood, hauling logs, and disposing of ashes—tasks often entailed by a traditional fire pit—this isn’t the DIY for you. But if you love the minimal maintenance requirements of Karen’s version, her ingenious tabletop version, clean-lined and modern, may be the perfect addition to your deck, porch, or patio.

FOR MORE: The Art of Doing Stuff

DIY Portable Fire Pit - Close Up View

Photo: theartofdoingstuff.com


DIY Concrete Wall Planters

If you want a modern-looking planter, concrete is a DIYer's best friend. But this tutorial takes it to the next level by mounting your plants on the wall.

DIY Concrete Modular Wall Planter

These concrete modular wall planters made by Ananda at A Piece of Rainbow are the perfect geometric accent for the modern home. And with a little know-how and a dose of patience, you can recreate them on your own. Simply follow the instructions below and you’ll have the beginnings of your own living wall to hang in your bedroom, bathroom, or anywhere else you please.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

- Pourable concrete mix, such as Quikrete 3000lb (used here)
- Cardboard or thick card stock for making the molds
- Template for the molds, formatted for 8.5″x11″ – download template
- Plastic containers
- Plastic bags
- Box cutter or scissors
- Glue and tape
- Gloves
- Dust mask

STEP 1

DIY Concrete Planters - cardboard

Print and cut out the template, trace onto cardboard, and cut out the inner and outer molds. The template for the outer mold on page 2 is larger than 8.5″x11″, so rotate it when you trace to complete the shape. Score, fold and tape each mold with scotch tape or masking tape. Fold 3/8″ wide strips of cardboard into triangular shapes and glue them to the inside bottom of the outer molds. These will function as drain holes and openings for hanging later.

STEP 2

DIY Concrete Modular Planter - Pour

Screen those really big chunks of aggregates out of the Quikrete 3000lb mix- a plastic nursery pot works great, and leave some small aggregates for strength. Mix the concrete following the proportions recommended on the bag, using the screened concrete as if it is the original mix. Wear dust mask and gloves when working with concrete.

Pour the mix into the outer mold till it’s level with the triangular pieces, then place the inner mold inside, making sure it is centered. Pour the walls using a popsicle stick to help pushing the mixture down.

STEP 3

DIY Concrete Planter - dry

Let the planters stay in the molds and cure for at least 3 days by misting them daily and wrapping them in plastic bags. This is a very important step to ensure that the concrete hardens as much as possible so they don’t chip or break. The more moisture you can keep in the plastic bag the better.

After day 3, take the planters out of the molds. Since concrete is very alkaline and that can be a set back for plant growth, soak them in a tub of water for a day and let dry. I decided to paint the edges with gold acrylic paint for an added sense of mystery.

STEP 4

DIY Concrete Modular Planter - Plant

Now we are ready to plant. Succulents are great because they are easy to care for. Give the plants a couple of weeks to form roots that hold the soil in, and now we can hang or stack these planters to create our own mini vertical gardens! To create a pattern on the wall, use the template to mark where the 3 openings on the bottom of each planter are, and use 1 or 2 nails/screws for each planter depending on the pattern you want to create.

DIY concrete modular planters - finished

Thanks, Ananda! For even more amazing tutorials, visit A Piece of Rainbow.