Category: Interior Design


The Designers Who Move In, Remodel, and Leave Houses Transformed

Jersey Ice Cream Co. designs homes instead of serving up frosty treats, but there's something satisfyingly sweet about the way they renovate their lived-in homes.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Tara and Percy

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Meet Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, the brains, braun, and creative force behind a truly unique home remodeling company, Jersey Ice Cream Co. This duo’s impressive renovations are a sight to behold, but equally impressive is their design process. Consider them the method actors of home remodelers: They actually move into their remodels, and by living there, they ultimately discover what each house needs and how they should look. It means living in an active constructive site, but the results speak for themselves. They spoke to us about their company and being able to work at their dream jobs.

The reason we started doing what we do is…

When this whole thing got started, we were both in that murky mid-twenties stage where we thought “What am I going to do with my life?” We met while Percy was in the midst of renovating his house in Philadelphia. Almost simultaneously, we completely fell for each other, and started working together to design, furnish, and decorate his house. While looking for furniture, we talked about starting an Etsy shop, selling at flea markets, and hopefully one day expanding into design. At the time, Tara was waiting tables and the thought of any of that coming to fruition was beyond belief. The fact that 5 years later all of those dreams have come true, is just an utterly mind-blowing blessing.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Breakfast Nook

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our renovation process could be described as…

An organic evolution. We get asked so often how we decided on a paint color or a wall finish or a piece of furniture. And the honest (and usually unhelpful) answer is that we let the project evolve and listened to our guts along the way. Sometimes an unexpected vintage find will totally change our initial thoughts for a space. Sometimes randomly moving a couch will give us a new perspective for a room layout. Living in the space gives us a real understanding for what is needed, and we let our inclinations guide us. I love that our final design feels like a discovery, a surprise, a solution—even to us.

The thing we love most about renovating houses is…

Truly, there are so many things we love about our job, but there are these little moments. Maybe it’s stepping back to really admire something we just finished, maybe it’s that feeling when something suddenly clicks and you realize everything will make sense if you move a doorway, or go with dark plaster instead of light. It could really be anything, but when it happens I feel completely overwhelmed with a feeling of “This is why we do this.” It doesn’t happen everyday, sometimes it doesn’t happen for months. But when we get that feeling we know we’re doing something right.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Vintage Kitchen

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our first jobs were…

Renovating and designing Percy’s house in Philadelphia was our first job. It was the best kind of job because we were our own client and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. It really allowed us to develop confidence in our work and our style. From there we did a few small jobs, but our first real official “can you believe this is happening to us?!” job was the house at Shipley Corner. We had a little section on our website at the time about what our dream job would be. All we wanted was for someone to give us a budget, some keys to a house and the freedom to do whatever we wanted with it. When someone emailed to say that wanted to hire us to do just that, we totally lost our minds. It’s been non-stop since then.

Our main sources of inspiration are…

Though we look at blogs and Instagram and things like that for inspiration, I think more of our inspiration comes from the world around us. Details on old barns, the paint color of a restaurant, a scene from a movie. It can get really overwhelming scouring through Pinterest and ideas that seem fresh start to look repetitive and stale. I find the farther away I stay from a computer while we’re working, the better.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Wood Paneled Room

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The most challenging thing about our work is…

One main challenge is that we don’t really have a home base. We live where we work, so we have no actual apartment or house of our own. At times, it’s very freeing, but naturally there are moments when I wish we could go home to a place where we live, with our things, in a house that isn’t currently undergoing major construction. But it’s a choice. I’m sure one of these days we will get an apartment and pull our things out of storage and put dishes on shelves and clothes in dressers. And still, there is a part of me that thinks we’ll do that and discover we like being nomads more than we realized! So it’s a challenge, but also one of the things that keeps us from getting bored, so a mega bonus at the same time.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Open Shelves

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our favorite part of the process is…

There is a lot of joy in the design process along the way, but nothing really beats the big client reveal. Usually we are running around frantically trying to make everything look perfect, and their knock on the door is like Christmas and getting an exam grade back combined. Our adrenaline is so high while they are walking through the house seeing everything for the first time. It’s a really exciting and really exhausting day.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Exterior House

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The story behind our name is…

We went up to the Brimfield Flea Market a few weeks into dating and stumbled across a booth with a bunch of old embossing stamps. I had never seen one before, but Percy explained how they worked, and I slipped a piece of paper in, stamped down, and there it was! Jersey Ice Cream Co! We joked that we would use that as the name of our business, and then, as all too often happens, that joke became real. We worried a bit about the confusion factor a few years ago, but stuck with it. I’m so glad we did.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Bathroom

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our all-time favorite tools are…

Tara: My favorite has to be a paintbrush. There have been so many days, when I’m painting a porch, or a kitchen with the windows open, listening to music, maybe sipping on a late-afternoon cocktail when I think “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”

Percy: I’d have to say my hammer. Not many days go by when I don’t use it for one reason or another, and you can’t go wrong with a classic, right?

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Rustic Dining Table

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

If you loved these pictures, find more—or set up a consultation—at Jersey Ice Cream Co.


Bob Vila Radio: Get the Right Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting fixtures have one thing in common—they're all meant to be installed within the ceiling. Beyond that, however, recessed lights can behave in a variety of ways, each enabling you to achieve a different desired effect.

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling the interior of an existing residence, recessed lighting offers to add both style and functionality to your digs.

Types of Recessed Lighting

Photo: zillow.com/digs

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RECESSED LIGHTING or read the text below:

But before you head to the home center, give some serious thought to exactly what you want to do with the lights. There are several different types of recessed lighting fixtures, and each has its own specific purpose.

For example, wall-washer fixtures flood walls with wide swaths of light, and when they’re positioned around the perimeter of a room, the walls appear to recede, making the room look more airy and inviting.

Narrow-beam adjustable lights, on the other hand, can be aimed at artwork to create dramatic effects. Installing them on the ceiling about a foot and a half from the wall usually gives good results.

Fixtures that have recessed reflectors put out the most light and are best for illuminating such things as a desk, a computer, or a favorite reading chair. Be careful, though. Make sure to position task lighting directly above, not to the side of, the target area; that way, you won’t get shadows from your head or shoulders.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


How To: Measure for Window Blinds

For instant privacy and better control of the natural light that fills your home, window blinds are a fine addition to any room of the house. The best news? Installation is easy—provided you start with the correct measurements. Read on to learn how to get the most accurate numbers.

How to Measure for Blinds

Photo: jenkinsbaer.com

As challenging as it may have been to settle on blinds, not curtains, you’re not quite finished yet. On the contrary. Before you can buy or install new window treatments, you’ve first got to take some careful measurements. And in order to measure for blinds the right way, you must know whether you’re planning to mount the blinds inside or outside of the window molding. There are pros and cons to each style. On the one hand, inside-mounted blinds foster a clean, modern look that shows off the window trim. On the other hand, outside-mounted blinds conceal the window trim but do a better job of blocking light. There’s no right choice; it all depends on the room in question and your style preferences. It’s not a trivial decision, but don’t deliberate too long, because only once you’ve selected a style can you get down to the real business at hand—measuring! Read on to learn how to measure for blinds; the steps are slightly different, depending on your mounting choice.

Inside-Mounted Blinds
Begin by measuring the width—that is, the distance from one inside edge of the casing to the other. Do this in three places: the top, middle, and bottom. If you find that the measured widths are not uniform, keep the narrowest measurement to ensure that once installed, the blinds are able to operate freely, without obstruction.

Next, measure the height of the window—that is, the distance from the sill to the bottom edge of the upper casing. This, too, should be done in three places. Except this time, be sure to record the longest of the three height measurements. While “too long” blinds are no problem, blinds that are too short admit unwanted light.

Finally, measure the depth of the window. Here, focus your attention on the upper window casing. On its bottom side, you ought to see a flat surface whose face looks down on the sill. How deep is that flat surface? For inside-mounted blinds, that can be a critical measurement, as there are minimum depth requirements for many designs. If there’s no flat surface onto which you can fasten the headrail for your blinds, that’s a reason to reconsider installing outside-mounted blinds.

Window Blinds

Photo: shutterstock.com

Assuming that you met no impediments along the way, you’ve now recorded the dimensions you’ll need to purchase inside-mounted blinds for the window. Now repeat the process for the remaining windows.

Outside-Mounted Blinds
One reason to choose outside-mounted blinds is that, unlike the other style, these can be installed no matter what idiosyncrasies exist within the window opening. Just as they conceal the window trim, outside-mounted blinds can also usually cover the cranks and handles used to operate some windows. Another benefit: There’s a more forgiving margin for error when you measure for blinds of this type.

Start by measuring the width, not of the window itself necessarily, but of the left-to-right space you would like the window treatment to cover. If you wish to maximize privacy and light control, plan the set of blinds to extend as much as three inches beyond both sides of the window. (If there’s another window nearby, however, that may not be possible.) Before moving on, record the ideal width you’ve determined.

To measure the length, you must first determine where you’d like to position the headrail (the housing for the mechanical parts that control the up-and-down motion of the blinds). Assume the headrail is going to be at least a few inches tall. From there, measure to the bottom of the windowsill. And if you’re going to want the blinds to hang down below the sill, add to the length measurement accordingly. When in doubt, err on the side of a more generous length measurement, as blinds that are too long can always be adjusted.

Unlike with inside-mounted blinds, you don’t need to take a depth measurement for the outside-mounted variety. That means, once you’ve got the width and length for each of the windows you plan to cover, you’re ready to go select your favorite blinds, whether you’re shopping online or at your local home center.


How To: Remove Wallpaper Glue

To remove wallpaper glue, you don't need any advanced skills or exotic tools—only energy and time.

How To Remove Wallpaper Glue

Photo: shutterstock.com

Removing wallpaper is, in a word, laborious. The process takes a great deal of energy and time. And lo and behold, even once you think you’re finished, you’re not. Stubbornly positioned between you and a smooth, clean wall, there still remains a smattering of stubborn wallpaper glue. You can get it off. Anyone can remove wallpaper glue. It doesn’t take any advanced skills or exotic tools. But much like the work you’ve done already to get this far, removing wallpaper glue requires patience and commitment. When you’re ready to power through to the finish line, continue reading the step-by-step instructions detailed below. We salute you!

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Liquid dish soap
- Baking soda
- Vinegar (optional)
- Bucket
- Sponges
- Rags
- Putty knife
- Plastic tarps
- Painter’s tape
- Clean cloths
- Trash bags
- Disposable gloves
- Ladder (optional, if you have high ceilings) 

How to Remove Wallpaper Glue - In Progress

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
First, get all furniture and accessories out of the room. If you can’t move everything, at least protect it with a plastic tarp. Use another tarp to cover the floors. As a further precaution, we recommend using painter’s tape to cover the electrical outlets in the room. In fact, it’s not a terrible idea to cut off power to the room altogether. The last thing needed to prepare the work area: trash bags, and plenty of them. Things are about to get messy!

STEP 2
In a bucket, combine hot water, liquid dish soap, and a heaping tablespoon of baking soda. For particularly stubborn adhesive, add one cup of vinegar for every gallon of water used. Next, soak a sponge in the solution, squeeze out the excess liquid, and gently rub the sponge over a small section of wallpaper glue. Having done so, test the glue with your fingernail. You should notice—miracle of miracles!—that the wallpaper glue has softened considerably and seems willing to budge.

STEP 3
With a rag, try wiping the glue off the wall. If it’s ready, a good portion of the glue will come right off. At that point, you can reach for the putty knife and scrape away any last lingering pieces. Because even a speck of leftover wallpaper glue can detract from a future paint job, it’s important to get off every last bit.

Note: If the wallpaper glue seems unfazed, consider purchasing commercial wallpaper remover. It’s not usually necessary, but different installers use different types of glues, some more stubborn than others.

STEP 4
With a clean cloth, use circular motions to wipe the softening solution off the wall. Move on to the next section and repeat the process in step 3. One finished with the entire wall, let the room fully air out.

STEP 5
Remove the painter’s tape and the tarps, and replace the furniture in the room—unless, of course, you plan to paint. If that’s the case, you’re basically all set to continue working—if you have any energy left, that is!


Quick Tip: Clean a Rug with Snow

Save on the cost of professional rug cleaning by doing the job yourself, using a clever technique from yesterday.

How to Clean a Rug with Snow

Photo: shutterstock.com

A Snow Day Event

Rugs get dirty. It's only a matter of time—but just how much time depends on a rug's location and the amount of foot traffic it receives. When a rug starts looking dingy, professional cleaning is certainly one option. The pros know what they're doing, but the work must be done off-site, and it's not cheap. If one of your wool, cotton, or polyester floor coverings needs a refresh, here's an old-fashioned cleaning technique that costs nothing and requires less than an hour of your time. Here's the catch: There needs to be snow on the ground—dry, powdery snow. Provided you have the right conditions—a recent snowstorm and temperatures at or below 25 degrees Fahrenheit—this is possibly the easiest, and certainly the most fun, way to clean a rug.

Before hauling your rug outside on a cold day after a snowstorm, first vacuum its front and back. Alternatively, shake the rug well, releasing all the loose dirt and debris. Next, let the rug sit outside and acclimate to the temperature for about 30 minutes. Don’t skip this step! There are two good reasons for the waiting period: One is that this exposure to the freezing weather will cause accumulated grease and grime on the rug to harden and break up. Equally important is that once chilled, the rug is not likely to melt the snow it’s soon going to lie upon. That’s critical, because if the rug were to be warm, this process would leave it a wet mess.

So once and only once the rug is good and chilly, go ahead and lay it face down in the snow. Next—this is the best part—proceed to beat it with a broom or rake or whatever you have on hand. If you want, you can simply walk back and forth over the rug, but it’s better to use a long-handled tool. You don’t want to crush the rug into the snow. Instead, the goal is to create vibrations between the textile and the snowy ground. When you get tired, flip the rug over and repeat the process.

Finally, pick up the rug and carry it back to your deck, porch, or patio. Shake out as much excess snow as you can, then hang it with clothespins or fold it over a railing. Leave it for about 30 minutes. That should be enough time for the snow within the weave of the rug to turn back into water vapor. When you’re putting the rug back into place indoors, you can admire its renewed colors and the fact that, while it may have been looking the worse for wear, it now looks virtually new!


So, You Want to… Install Recessed Lighting

With a flick of a switch, recessed lighting can suffuse a room with a warm glow, without the fussiness or limitations of elaborate fixtures. Before you decide to install this appealing convenience in your own house, however, you have some homework to do, and a few decisions to make.

How to Install Recessed Lighting

Photo: billfryconstruction.com

Recessed lighting has been around since the 1930s, and even though its popularity seems to have waned in recent years, manufacturers continue to innovate in the category. Homeowners in the market for recessed lighting have an ever-growing number of functional and aesthetic choices to make. So whether you’re renovating an old house or building a new one, successful recessed lighting installation starts with you—your project and its specific variables, as well as your vision for the completed space.

Before beginning the installation—and even before making any purchases—take the time to understand what limitations (or opportunities) lie in the project you’re planning. Recessed lighting comes with certain requirements. For instance, the housing must be tucked between framing joists. It’s easiest, therefore, for recessed lighting installation to take place during major remodeling or new construction. That said, there are work-arounds: fixtures specially designed to be retrofitted in existing homes. If you plan on doing nothing more than install recessed lighting, then you must be careful to purchase only those fixtures that can be installed under those circumstances.

Early on, you must also decide what type of recessed lighting you would like to install. Shopping is often easier with other types of fixtures, because table and floor lamps, pendants, and sconces each provide only one type of illumination, be it task, ambient, or accent lighting. Recessed lighting fixtures, however, can serve any of these applications, depending on the product you select. You just need to know what you’re looking for.

How to Install Recessed Lighting - Dining Room Detail

Photo: billfryconstruction.com

Wall-washer recessed fixtures emit wide swaths of light. When positioned around the perimeter of a small room, they can make the space appear much brighter, larger, and more inviting. Coupling wall-washers with dimmer switches provides even more control over the mood of the space.

Adjustable narrow-beam eyeball fixtures are used to highlight features and objects, such as works of art. Positioning the light directly in front of the piece and about a foot and a half from the wall usually gives good results. If your aim is to illuminate a three-dimensional object, you might want to consider installing two or three eyeball fixtures, as that combination produces the most dramatic effect.

Task lighting calls for the most light possible, so opt for recessed fixtures that include reflectors. Again, dimmers can be used to precisely tailor the amount of light. Just make sure the fixtures are positioned directly above the target area, so your head and shoulders don’t block the light.

Most recessed lighting fixtures come in one of three standard diameters: 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch. The 6-inch models are the most powerful, and as such, they are best suited for rooms with very tall ceilings. Smaller-diameter fixtures are better for average-size rooms. Bear in mind that the diameter of a fixture also determines how close it can be can be placed to another fixture. A common rule of thumb is to position fixtures at least one foot apart for every inch of the fixture’s diameter: For example, 4-inch fixtures should be spaced four feet apart.

Some recessed lighting fixtures require special wiring and/or a transformer, so you must be at least somewhat familiar with the construction of your home. How far apart are the ceiling joists? What sorts of wiring are you likely to encounter? If you have questions, hire a pro who can do some poking around to see what’s in the ceiling.

One final note: Many municipalities require you to pull a permit before installing recessed lighting. Take care of that before doing anything else. Much better to be safe than to risk having to tear out a nice new installation!

Also, once the fixtures are in place, give careful consideration to the question of which of the many types of light bulbs you are going to use. Bulb costs run the gamut, color rendition levels span from poor to exceptional, and energy efficiency differs, sometimes dramatically, from product to product. Know the pluses and minuses of each type of bulb, and choose wisely.


Show Love to Your Leather Furniture

Protect your investment in leather furniture by keeping the material soft and supple, free of cracks, with the regular application of conditioner.

Homemade Leather Conditioner

Photo: shutterstock.com

When our hands get dry and the skin cracks a bit, we quickly reach for the lotion. The same logic applies to leather furniture, which often deteriorates under conditions of low humidity. Besides regularly cleaning your leather sofa or armchair, consider going a step further and treating the material with a leather conditioner. Doing so not only keeps the leather soft and supple, but it also goes a long way toward ensuring the furniture lasts a long time. There are many leather conditioners on the market, but you can actually make your own using nothing more than common staples found in most kitchen cabinets. So without further ado, pull out a soft cloth, open your pantry, and show a little love to your leather with one of these all-natural homemade leather conditioner recipes.

Essential Oil and Vinegar
Oil-based conditioners are a controversial topic in leather care. While many homemade leather conditioner recipes involve the combination of olive oil and vinegar, some experts warn that olive oil can cause damage over time. What do those experts recommend instead? Lemon essential oil. Though the liquid has the desired conditioning qualities, it’s comparatively safer to use. After cleaning the leather, gently massage its surface with a cloth dipped in, or dampened with, 10 to 15 drops of lemon essential oil. In addition to leaving behind a fresh scent, this works to prevents cracks and promote the longevity of the leather piece.

Homemade Leather Conditioner - Sofa Arm Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Beeswax
An alternative to a liquid solution, beeswax-based leather conditioner works great but requires more preparation. To make, combine beeswax, cocoa butter, and sweet almond oil in a saucepan, using a 1-1-2 ratio. Apply medium heat, being very careful not to overheat. As soon as the solid fats have melted into the oil, remove the pan and allow the mixture to cool. After 30 or 40 minutes, you should have a thick balm. Apply the balm directly to the leather with your fingers, gently massaging in the conditioner, wiping away any excess. Once finished, buff the leather with a dry cloth to make it shine.

Mild Baby Soap
When it comes to homemade leather conditioner, most soaps are poor choices. Natural baby soap is an exception. Just be sure to choose one that includes no potential stain-causing color additives. To make baby soap-based leather conditioner, mix one quart of warm water, one tablespoon of soap, and a couple drops of vinegar. Dip a cloth into the mixture, wring it out so it’s damp and not wet, then wipe down the entire surface of the leather furniture piece. Allow the leather to air-dry once finished.

A note before you go to work: As with any leather care product, homemade or store-bought, be sure to test your conditioner in an inconspicuous spot before you commit to using on the entire piece of furniture. Only proceed if you’re happy with the results of the conditioner in the test area.


The First Material in This Man’s Furniture Is Passion

For Jermain Todd, there's more to creating a striking piece of custom furniture than knowing the basics of woodworking. Read and watch about the creativity that goes into each of his pieces.

Jermain Todd of Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

Meet Jermain Todd, owner and craftsman of the St. Louis-based Mwanzi Co. From the sounds of it, he’s certainly one of the busiest makers we know. He creates green and sustainable cabinetry for Greenhaus Cabinets® and the custom furniture brand FeRRUM™. On top of that, he fashions completely custom interior furnishings for residential and commercial clients using local, reclaimed, and repurposed materials. We spoke with Jermain about his work and his process. Here’s what he had to say.

Dining Room Tables in Restaurant - Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

I started my business when…
I started my business in 2005, but it was not until 2009 that I was able to have my very own wood shop. That period of time was very difficult because I was trying to figure out how to run a business while running it, learning as I went—one obstacle at a time. I didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t have anybody that I knew who could drop $10K in my bank account, so it was a slow, painful crawl to that moment in 2009.

The reason I started doing what I do is…
I quickly realized that I got more emotional satisfaction—and ultimately a greater sense of control over my business—when I sold things that I made, right here, in my studio.

Colorful dining room table - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

The thing I love most about working with wood is…
Just how beautiful wood looks to me. I think wood looks so sexy. I’m a wood geek. Many times I just stare at a board and admire all the features that were created so organically, so naturally, aware that no two boards are alike—anywhere on planet and at any time in history. And the amount of history they’ve witnessed blows me away. Sometimes I walk under trees and wonder about all the people, things, and events that this tree has had happen underneath its branches.

My first job was…
My first paid job was as a paper boy for a local newspaper at the age of 13.

Reclaimed wood chair - mwanzi

mwanzi.com

My main sources of inspiration are…
Hot and quiet showers each morning. That’s when the ideas for many of the things I will create that day develop.

The most challenging thing about my work is…
Managing my time and prioritizing. In order for me to meet my many deadlines, I have to decide what’s most important for me to deal with on an hourly basis each day. And when you make something custom from scratch, so many things can go wrong that you may not have encountered before—you need the time to deal with it.

Reclaimed Wood Bench - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

My favorite part of the process is…
The moment with you can see the piece take just enough shape that you can now envision the completed piece form in your mind. Makes me smile every time!

What makes my works eco-friendly is…
The raw materials and finishes that I use. I only use wood that was harvested from trees that grew in my state—but mostly my city, or FSC-certified wood, or reclaimed, or repurposed wood. I also only use recycled steel and only use low-VOC topcoat finishes.

Colorful DIY Stools - Mwanzi

mwanzi.com

Other materials I would like to master are…
Aluminum. I want to start making/welding furniture out of aluminum.

My all-time favorite tool is…
My Festool Kapex compound miter saw.

Multi-stain wood desk - Mwanzi

Photo: mwanzi.com

My biggest DIY success is…
Whatever project I’ve just completed.

To find out more about Jermain’s work, visit Mwanzi.com and take a look at his feature in Once Films’ critically acclaimed Spotlight Series.


Before & After: An 80s Living Room Rockets Forward

Stuck with limited lighting and excessive pastel left over from the previous owners, these Canadian homeowners rolled up their sleeves to DIY a more modern living room. Step inside to see the dramatic makeover.

Living Room Makeover

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

Since 2011, Becki Peckham and Chris Nicholas have been hard at work remodeling their home in eastern Canada, all the while blogging their experience at The Uncommon Law. When they began work, the house had a long way to go before it would reflect the couple’s modern, unconventional design sensibilities. The living room, in particular, shows what Becki and Chris can do when they flex their creative muscles—and their actual muscles, since they did almost everything themselves. Today, the living room channels the couple’s shared love of photography and film, from the moody lighting to the vintage camera display. ”We even made backlit light boxes, which feature actual X-rays of an old 35mm camera and Super 8 camera,” Becki says. Overall, Becki thinks the living room makeover, represents “sort of a fusion of both of our professions, photography and radiology.” Scroll down to see the dramatic difference that DIY dedication can make!

Living Room Makeover - Room Complete

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

What was the space like before you got started?
It was very ’80s. When we first saw it, the previous owner had furniture there—and the layout wasn’t ideal. The room is quite large, and the furniture was all pushed against the walls, leaving a large, empty space in the center. There were no ceiling lights, and the trim and wall color were pretty builder-basic.

Sounds like a pretty blank slate. What was your end goal for the redesign?
We wanted to create a moody/loungy media room that was both modern and stylish. We had actually found an ad in a magazine for the company Minotti and fell in love with the style: a dark room which contained a light gray couch and dark wood/walnut accents. That’s where the initial design inspiration came from.

Living Room Makeover - Window Treatments and Sectional

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

What was the biggest challenge? Did you find yourself having to make any compromises along the way?
We definitely had a few challenges with this space. Figuring out how to drop the ceiling and create a reveal to hide LED mood lighting took a bit of planning. Then having the plastering done only to find a leak was very trying.

But the slat wall was probably the most challenging, because of all the work it took hand-sanding, pretreating, staining and clear-coating the wood. There were over 640 linear feet of wooden 1x2s that required manual preparation.

As for compromises, Chris and I originally wanted a propane fireplace, but it was really out of our budget. We ended up settling on an ethanol fireplace; it had a similar feel but was much more affordable.

Living Room Makeover - Gas Fireplace

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

You did a lot with the room: built a slat wall, installed heavy-duty floating shelves, mounted an ethanol fireplace, even lowered the ceiling. Tell us a little bit about the thought process behind these choices.
We wanted different parts of the room to have different functionality. Using a sectional and adding the floating shelf/desk on the back wall helped with this. The fireplace wall with bench underneath acts as its own little area as well.

The media wall started out as a simple feature wall that we were going to paint a different color. This evolved to wallpaper, then wall tiles, then finally to the idea of a full-blown wooden slat treatment. Our ideas always seem to snowball until we realize we’re knee-deep into a project that’s 50 times the work of the original idea!

The ceiling was stucco and we were going to just drywall over it, but Chris had the idea of recessing LEDs around the edge of the ceiling in a reveal. We scraped the stucco from around the perimeter of the room, strapped out the old ceiling, installed the new drywall so it stopped about 1.5 inches from the wall, and added J-trim for a nice clean edge when we plastered.

Which piece of the room are you most proud of, and why?
I think we are both most proud of the slat wall. We love the way it looks, especially at night, and we get a lot of compliments on it. We also have seen a few people making their own, so the fact that we’ve inspired others enough for them to take on such a hellish task is flattering. If you consider the adjacent staircase part of the living room, then the DIY frameless glass rails are also something we’re pretty proud of, if only because so many people told us it couldn’t be done.

Living Room Makeover - Slat Wall

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca

Without a doubt, a fresh coat really helped set a tone for the rest of your room. Any painting tips that you swear by?
Paint can make all the difference in a room. The plasterer we use (when we’re too lazy to do it ourselves) taught us a few tricks that have changed the way we paint—like back rolling. After initially rolling on about three roller widths of paint, go back and re-roll over the section you just painted, only rolling top to bottom. It gives a perfect, uniform finish. Also, quickly give the wall a light sanding between coats of paint to knock down any rough spots on the wall.

As for paint choice itself, we are huge fans of matte paint. Maybe not the best choice for families with kids’ hands touching the walls all the time, but the matte finish gives the walls a flat, creamy look, which we love. It also hides any imperfections in the plastering.

Looking at it all now, how has this makeover changed the way the space is used? What needs did it meet for you and Chris?
This is our day-to-day room. We hang out here, watch movies here, and sometimes eat meals or work here. It’s really a multipurpose space. We didn’t want to have a room that wouldn’t get used much, so we made sure to load it up with things that would draw us to the space. Having the built-in shelf on the back wall double as a desk, for example, gives Chris a place to do his studies or a place for us to sit and write the blog.

Living Room Makeover - Wall Hangings and Shelving

Photo: theuncommonlaw.ca


Weekend Projects: 5 Easy DIY Candle Holders

What comes first, the candle or the holder? We bet that if you weren't already planning on it, these easy projects might very well inspire you to light a few candles this wintry weekend.

In any given year, there are probably only a handful of occasions that merit hauling out the formal candlesticks from their place within the dining room sideboard. For the quiet evenings and casual get-togethers that fill the rest of the calendar, candle holders ensure, not only that the wick and wax burn safely, but also that your votives, pillars, and tealights look beautiful, lit or unlit. As decorative accents, candle holders are among the many little details that help make a house a home. And while we love how they provide that finishing touch, we also love that DIY candle holders are so easy to make. Here are five favorite designs.

 

1. GO AU NATUREL

DIY Candle Holders - Birch

Photo: oleanderandpalm.com

As part of a natural tablescape or set inside a nonworking fireplace, birch-carved DIY candle holders bring the beauty of nature indoors. To make your own, simply flatten the ends on a cut-to-size log, and with a 1-1/2″ bit, drill a hole to accommodate a small, shallow candle. For instructions, visit Oleander and Palm.

 

2. MAKE CONCRETE PLANS

DIY Candle Holder - Concrete

Photo: homemade-modern.com

After you’ve completed your concrete countertop or concrete walkway, use any extra material to create modern, minimalist DIY candle holders. Though intimidating to the uninitiated, basic concrete projects like this one are just-add-water affairs. See how easy it can be; watch the video on Homemade Modern.

 

3. BREAK THE MOLD

DIY Candle Holder - Clay

Photo: gatheringbeauty.com

From Gathering Beauty, here are DIY candle holders made from a completely unexpected material: air-hardening clay. Mold the clay with your fingers, using a knife to facet the gem-like edges. Set a tea light into the top, and then as the last step, sit back and wait for your creation to dry—that’s right, no kiln needed!

 

4. PLUMBING PIPES

DIY Candle Holder - Plumbing Pipes

Photo: endlessacresfarmtiques.com

Kelly at Endless Acres Farmtiques set out to make DIY candle holders using only pipe fittings from the local hardware store. The result couldn’t be more dissimilar from traditional, fancypants candlesticks. Besides combining the pieces into your own creative assembly, all you need to do is spray-paint the metal.

 

5. ON A ROLL

DIY Candle Holder - Rolled Paper

Photo: instructables.com

Magazines, catalogs, brochures and leaflets get a second life when folded into cylinders and glued side by side. Together, they form a column that can support even a bulky, heavier-than-usual candle. Be careful, though: You should never leave a candle unattended, particularly not one resting on a paper holder!