Winter home improvement and decor projects

Since I started my new full-time job in December, I haven’t updated the blog at all (I’m very sorry). Although we have been very busy adjusting to my new job over the past few months, we still somehow found time to do several smaller DIY home improvement and decor projects around the house. Since many of them aren’t significant enough to warrant a dedicated blog post, I thought I would cover them in a few combined posts with brief descriptions of each project. Of course, if anyone wants more information or details on these projects, just let me know in the comments. I’m excited to share what we have been up to with you!

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1. Vintage church pew restoration

Before and after photos of vintage pew restoration

We actually completed the church pew restoration in October, but I never got around to posting it. We don’t know much about the origins of the pew, but the staff at the local salvage store told us it was found in storage unit for the local Catholic Diocese. We got to work on it almost immediately after finding it. The most important part of this project was the significant amount of sanding. We started with a higher grit sandpaper and worked our way to a finer grit. It took hours. We also had to remove some remnants of paint using a paint scraper. It seemed as though someone had started to restore the pew in the past because most of the paint was removed, but there were nooks and crannies where layers of different colored paint were visible.

Some ‘before’ photos of the pew in its original condition

Brian did have to remove and fix one of the ends of the pew using some wood glue because the arm was broken, but we ultimately elected to leave the cracks on either end of the pew because we were concerned about the integrity of the piece if we were to take it apart. Plus, we felt that the cracks add a bit of character and indicate the age of the piece.

Once everything was fixed and sanded, we elected to cover it with tung oil. This protects the wood without drastically changing the original color and feel of the piece. The pew now sits in our front entry and is a great place for guests to sit and remove their shoes.

2. Small nightstand construction

Finished nightstands in the guest room
Finished nightstands in the guest room

This project stemmed from a need to fit two small nightstands on either side of the bed in our guest room. Because of the radiator, window, and closet placement in our 100-year-old house, furniture placement can be a bit difficult. After doing extensive research to try to find narrow nightstands (read my post here), I realized that in order to get what I wanted we would have to make them ourselves.

The process of constructing the nightstands
The process of constructing the nightstands

I knew from my research that I wanted the nightstands to have turned (round) legs. Since we do not yet have a working lathe, we were happy to find some legs that would work at the local salvage store. Using those legs, Brian built a basic box and drawer (you can find a tutorial for a similar project here). I then primed and painted them with my favorite furniture paint in SW 9169 Chatura Gray and added the hardware. They are very tiny but there is just enough room to charge your phone or place your glasses when you sleep, so they serve their purpose well.

3. Ikea decking installation

Balcony before and after decking installation
Balcony before and after decking installation

We have a small balcony off of the guest room that did not have any flooring. It was just covered with tar paper and was very uninviting. We were thinking about putting down traditional deck boards but were worried about water draining correctly (plus, nothing is 100% square in a 100-year-old house). While shopping at Ikea, we saw these interconnecting deck pieces and thought that they would be a great solution. They were very affordable, easy to cut to size and install, and looked nice. 

After measuring the balcony, Brian used his miter saw to cut the edge pieces to size. As predicted, the balcony was not square. Once they were cut to size, we installed the pieces by clicking them together. Some pieces were reluctant to snap together, but eventually went together with a bit of force (and sometimes a bit of stomping).

Wear and distress on decking after less than one year
Wear and distress on decking after less than one year

Initially, we were very pleased with this solution. However, we are not impressed with the durability of this product. Even though it is made for exterior use and the space in which it was installed is very well protected, it has begun to show significant wear. Specifically, the finish on the decking, which has been installed for less than one year, has begun to wear away. At some point we will attempt to refinish the decking pieces and add some sort of protective coat, but I cannot recommend this product. Hopefully a bit of work will get it looking nice again.

4. Creation of mud space

Finished mud space with coat rack
Finished mud space with coat rack

In August, I wrote about how we updated a vintage cedar chest and indicated in that post that we intended to use it as shoe storage. Once the chest was completed, we designed and built a coordinating coat rack to complete the ‘mud space.’ It wasn’t a complicated build. We purchased the corbels and the trim from Lowes and actually used left over wood and inexpensive coat hooks to complete the project. I painted it with the same paint I used to paint the chest (SW 243 Distance) and we have a great, functional mud space near the back entrance that we use everyday.

5. Adding doors to built-ins

New doors on living room built-ins
New doors on living room built-ins

The previous owners of our home installed some floor-to-(almost) ceiling bookshelves in the living room. I personally find the task of decorating that many bookshelves quite daunting and thought it might be nice to have some storage in the room that was hidden. So, I asked Brian to make some doors for the existing built-ins. Brian made standard panel doors and we added some molding to match the style of rest of the bookcase (here is a decent how-to video for making panel doors). I picked out some brass hardware and painted the doors to match the bookcases (SW 7011 Natural Choice). I am happy to have a few less shelves to decorate (it is currently a work in progress) and now I have a place to store some items that I wouldn’t want to leave out for everyone to see.

So, that is a quick overview of some of the home improvement and decor projects we completed last winter. What do you think? We have seemingly endless projects we want to do on our home or to furnish our home and I hope to share more with you soon!

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