Buy New Level. Cut Walls Open.

Makes total sense, right?

Buy a new four foot long level.  Cut open some walls.

They go hand in hand, right?  Right?

I saw an Aldi flyer with an aluminum level for a mere six bucks and I thought, eh, six bucks, a new longer level.  Hey, why not?

Got it home, gave it it's own spot near the workbench.  Heard the old little level whimper in despondence.

Your own place of honor, New Level.
Then one evening we're sitting on the couch, Mike watching some terrible movie or playing a game or something.  I faintly hear the stair wall behind me purr...cut me.  Cut me open.  The level and I wanna play.

Who's crazy?  Me??  Noooo.

Casually as we head upstairs for sleepy time I drop, "hey babe, how about a few open rectangles here?"

"Yeah babe, sounds cool.  I like it."


Mike comes home from work the next night, something catching the corner of his eye.  He turns to look:  holes in wall.

No response.  Nothing.  A stare of disbelief.  Blink blink.  Then a slight smirk.  Then wee little double take head shake, another smirk, head tilt, smirk.

Not able to stand the silence anymore I say, "well, you said it'd be cool."

He emits a chuckle.  Head shake.  "You were busy today I see."  pause pause pause  "Seems there's no going back."  pause pause pause  "I like it.  Yeah.  I like it."  A you-are-a-crazy-person, what-did-I-marry head shake.


Have I ever done this before, cut holes in walls for decorative purpose?  Uh nope.   No sir-eee.  Was that gonna stop me?  No way, dude.

It twas a messy endeavor, all right, so head's up on that.

Ah, the obligatory before shot.  My grandma's macrame!
First order of business, a check, a recheck, a recheck and recheck, recheck, recheck of where the vertical studs are in the wall.  The same to see if there were horizontal ones then out came New Level.  wuuuuuuaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, the angels sang!

I drew vertical lines using New Level along where the stud finder said the edges were then figured where I wanted the horizontals.  Erase erase.  Ok, how 'bout here?  Nah.  Here?  Nah.  Ok, yeah, it took a few tries.

Huh, the handrail, it'll be slicing across?  I had hoped to miss it but once I realized that that wasn't going to happen, I resolved myself to its presence.  Then drew the holes larger.

Though I wasn't completely set, I went at it with the drywall saw then the handy mini circular saw which made quick work of slicing and dicing.

Ta da!!  Big cutouts side one!
Do note, you gotta be really careful when jabbing tools into your walls if you don't know what's lurking back there.  Really careful -- you could hit plumbing or electrical or who knows what and that would be bad.

I always feel like, somebody's watching meeee...
Once I got both sides open, it was time to frolic.  Stick my hands through the wall, do a little butt wiggle dance, disco with New Level.  Well, that and time to plan the patching up.

On my next trip to my second home, I grabbed a 2x4 and these super wide paper faced metal corners.  Upon trimming the 2x to the required dimensions, I found I could not get them in the walls.  Just no way, no how.  Nope, nuh uh, not gonna happen.  Too wide, the 2x's.  What the....who built this crap?!  Oh right.  Bad flipper.

I thought about trimming the width of the 2x's but that would be padded-room batty since the appropriate tools to do so do not exist in this workshop.

What I did find...my obnoxiously large pile of mis-cut 2x2's.  Yup.  Hey, at least they're getting used!  And they worked perfectly too.

After getting those all screwed in, it was time to trim the drywall for the perimeter of the cutouts.  Easy peasy with that handy mini circular saw* through the chunks I removed.  Super dusty but that's the running theme of this project.

Since the smaller of the two rectangles was far too narrow to get any kind of fastening tool in there, I whipped out the ol' Liquid Nails and glued the drywall to the studs.  The top pieces got screwed in, and now I can't remember...oh, I think I glued on the bottom pieces.

Check out that bead o' Liquid Nails!  Aww yeah!  I'm a dork.
I'm all proud of myself for thinking ahead though -- I put the screws for the 2x2's in a place where the paper faced corner pieces would cover them.  Yeah?  Yeah?  Smart, yeah?!  *fist pump*

Drywall is in, baby.
Next up.  Next.  The super duper messy parts.  Mess.sssyyy.

I went through almost a whole tub of joint compound here despite attempting moderate judiciousness.

Trimming the paper metal corner pieces was effortless, just a pair of straight tin snips.  Be sure to wear gloves so you don't chow up your hands, fyi.

Yes, it looks a disaster.  But it wasn't.
I slapped some compound on both sides of a corner, dampened the paper as advised by familyhandyman.com, smooshed the corner pieces in, then smoothed those down with a plastic putty knife, squooshing out the excess, then left it all to dry overnight.  I did find on occasion a corner piece refused to stay where I wanted it, so I tacked in a few staples.

Just had to share this photo, Finn looking all pouty and mad at me.  Probably because I blocked off the front door -- I had painted another coat on that door and didn't want him glued in it.  He already has other paint on him, aka Officially Related to Me Now.

The next day, more mess.  I slathered the goop over the corner pieces.  Let dry.

Sorry all these photos are so terrible.  It has rained and been cloudy pretty much every day this month. 
Next day, sanding.  Holy dusty mess.  I did this by hand with one a' those foam sanding blocks* to quell the dust plumes and it worked but holy dust piles anyway.  I was really hoping I could get away with one coat of joint compound but alas, nope.  So another coat.  Another dry.

And another sanding the next day.  Although, much to my dismay, the paper was starting to fray and fuzz and come through so I was beginning to dislike these corner thingies.  Hmph.  Ok.  Another splop over the fraying paper parts.  Yet another dry.

Horrible photo but you can see the paper frays.  Sad face.
Yet another sand.  See, this is the part where I lose project interest, I find is much less fun than cutting holes in walls.  Yawn, goop and sand, goop and sand.  Booooring.  Plus joint compound/drywall dust on my hands?, ick, it's just a yucky sensation to me.  Not sure why.  Yick.  I'm weird, *shrug*.

The paper was still showing through in spots but I thought well, what if I give it a coat of white paint, see what happens.  And whew, for the most part, the paper frays disappeared.  Whew!!!  Thank goodness.  Moving ahead then!  Light at end of tunnel!  Or stairwell!

Next day, finally able to paint.  Mike had inquired, "what color are you going to paint the wall on the living room side?"  The same lighter blue as it currently is, I stated.  "No you're not," he announced.  Oh!  Ok then!  What color should I paint?  "I dunno."  Heh.  Thanks.  Helpful yet...  I do love that guy though.

So I painted it the Sonata blue, the living room color.  Finishing up the cutouts also allowed me to finish painting the stair walls which had gone on hold and wow.  Wow!  Yay!!  No more dog vomit yellow in the house!  Yay!!!!

Yes, paint is still drying here.
And wow does that cheap a** carpet look horrifyingly worse now.  Like emphasis:  glaringly awful.

But Mike loves the paint. (repeat link)  I think it's pretty damn cool too.  Bright and happy yet dark and rich.  Not everyone's taste for sure, but hey, what can I say.  Funny though, Mike didn't even notice it done when he came home that day, he's so used to me changing things.  Heh.

This whole area is kinda sorta taking shape now.  Sweet!  With the wood shelf and the shades of gray.  But the shades of gray together with the new Lake Superior paint, yay!  They highlight each other.

All that's left for the stair is a new handrail (in the works), the carpet runner and painting of stairs, heh likely a new foyer light fixture, then dressing the stair walls up with artwork and such or something or whatever.  Hey cool!

New Level is quite pleased with our adventure together and is resting comfortably in its designated spot until our next exploit.

In the end, I suppose the lesson for me here is to be careful buying new tools as goodness knows what will happen when I get them home.

*The foam sanding block and similar yet different mini circular saw links are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.


My 99 Cent Shelf.

What?  Ninety nine cents for a shelf?  You gotta be kiddin' me.

Well.  No.  No, I'm not.

I paid ninety nine cents for the keyhole brackets.  The rest was free to me.  Well, ok, maybe minus some gasoline and ancillary supplies I had on hand.

Ok, I realize this is a one in a million trillion shelf but ya never know.  My point in sharing this with you is to encourage you to keep your eyes open.  Keep your mind open, think creatively, because you never know what you're gonna see while out and about.

Truth be told, I probably should not have picked this up.

For several years now the Emerald Ash Borer has been wrecking havoc around town.  Killing so many trees around the city, this dumb bug is.  Its latest target is beautiful Humboldt Park, the neighborhood and the park proper.  According to The Chicagoist, 650 trees in the area are slated to be cut down.  :(  Ugh, heartbreaking.

At least the city is going to plant 350 trees.  Or so they say anyway.  Mmm hm.  Ahem.

The tree chopper people have been buzzing away in the park for the last week or two or so, felling these huge huge trees.  Such a shame.

I'm walking Finn one day and I see this wedge shaped tree piece all alone, drowning in a puddle.  I look all around, see no one, look at the wedge.  Think to myself:  that'd be a Ridiculously stunning shelf.

I should keep walking.  Continuing on, I glance back over my shoulder, hear a blurp blurp, gurgle, save me!

No, keep walking, I shouldn't touch it.  I bet that was Rational Brain again.  Mmm hm.

The next day Finny and I pass it again.  On purpose?  Iiiiii dunno.  Lemme, for the sake of argument, juuuust take a closer look.

Aw, that is soooo cool (yet unfortunate for the tree) how the bugs burrowed and made that snake-y pattern!  Look at the funky ripple effect there, the top is flat? wow, and there's still bark on it too!  Omg, too good to be true.  Pinch pinch.

No, keep walking.  I shouldn't touch it.

I hear the wedge whisper, you will be so sorry if you pass me up.  So sorry.

I just kinda hear Mike in my head too, "Whaddya crazy?!  What're thinkin'?!"

But I'm also thinking maybe he'll find it insanely cool too.  One day I'll figure out his taste.  Maybe in another ten years.

(Mike does like the DIY library rug, by the way, yay!  "Perfect!" he says.  And when I showed him the newly recovered pillow on his and Finn's side of the couch, he shot me a wide-eyed, omg-are-you-super-serious-this-is-awesomeness look while petting it and hugging it and cuddling with it.  You should see Finn's face when he's resting his head on it too, heh.  "You're going back for more of this fabric, right?" said my enraptured husband.  +1 win for Brain on Fabric!)

Ok so day three I decide all right, look, if it's still there, I'm gonna grab it.  Walk by and....it's still there.  I glance around like a prowler.  Ok Finny boy, c'mon, let's hurry back to the car!

A quick zip over, pop the trunk, do a thieving 360ยบ look-see, surreptitiously in broad daylight fish the wedge out of the puddle, toss it in the car, shut the trunk, and off like bandits we were.

I let it sit in the garage for a few days to dry out.  Then I brought it indoors.  Where I was finally able to admire it in all it's grandeur.

Wow.  Damn cool.

Sanding the top a bit and then several coats of semi-gloss polyurethane (oil based) later (yes even though I know the wood is still "green"), I venture out for some keyhole brackets.* 

I ended up with not the kind I wanted but it's what Menards had.  And, really, can't beat ninety nine cents.  AmmI right or ammI right?

Right.  I measure 2" down from the top edge, some arbitrary measurement I randomly decided upon, and that was center of the catch.

 Attach brackets.  Important:  pre-drill your screw holes.  And don't overly tighten the brackets on.

And I arbitrarily picked the distance apart from each other too.
So now I have to decide where in the house I'm hanging it.  The hard part.  My immediate, and initial, desire is by the front door.  Hm.  But Finn jumps like a hysterical lunatic at passerby.  Passerby dogs and Mr. Mailman especially.  Would he knock into and destroy it?

What about next to the bed in the hall bedroom?  I haul it up there.  It looks outstanding.  I look around the room and think, wellllll, maybe this is a tad much.  Or, I can hunt like a vulture on every park walk for another one.  I have indeed located one but it's trapped under a jumbo slain tree trunk, so um, not readily available.  Or, we'll see.  *cough.*

But of course it's not too much for the room, I was feeling selfish.

Mike, after I stupidly mentioned the yarn art still being up, made me move it under threat of it dying a horrifying death.  Sigh.  It's in the hall bedroom now.  I thought, huh, maybe on that wall in the master bedroom.  But.  That's over Finn's main sleeping spot, probably not the best idea.

Ok.  Front door.  Keep fingers crossed.

I use that painters tape trick you see all over the Pinterests and interwebs.  Stretch the tape over, jab through two holes...

Oh yeah, Finn's totally holding it for me, multi-talented pooch that he is.
...mark a level line on the wall, stick tape, drill away.

Hey, tape!
Once hanging I discover that the flat side against the wall and the top being level eh, nope.  Ah well. Case in point that geometry was the math subject I was worst at.  Oddly.  Whatever.  So I cut a little block from my ginormous pile of mis-cut 2x2's.

Doh, not level.
And bingo, nearly level top.  Big gap I wasn't anticipating but, hey, whatev's.

Finn looks a little crazy-eyed here.  Hopefully he's not planning a shelf attack.

 Wow, right?!  What a find.  Am I sorry I grabbed it?  Nope.  Nope, not in the least.

Mike came home from work yesterday and said, "ooooh!!"  He turned and smiled, "I knew you were going to do something like this," all proud that he had me figured out ahead of time.

"I like it, very cool!"  Pause pause, admire, smile, checks it out.  "I figured you would put this..."

"Yeah, I thought about it and it looked great up there but in the end, I wanted to see it every day."

"Mommy, you're seriously leaving that stuff on there?!"
Check out those wild ripples!
And no, I'm not so out of touch with reality that I'm leaving that stuff on the shelf.  Wait and see.
Whaddya think?  Damn awesome, yeah?

Now keep those eyes and minds open, ya hear?

*The keyhole brackets link is an Amazon affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab above for more info.


The DIY Library Rug.

You're not going to believe this.

The DIY library rug?  'Member?  I had an idea a while back.  Jumped in with no plan.  Then threw in the towel.  Or, opted to leave it alone.

Mmm.  Bath rug.  Sad.
Well.  Guess what?  It's done.

Whaaaaaaaaat?!,  you're asking.

Are you confused?  Me too.

It was a confluence of several crazy moments, not gonna lie.  Well, ok, maybe crazy is a wee exaggeration but I totally was not expecting, well, yeah, this all blew up wildly out of nowhere.

So I'm at the hugely insanely mammothly large fabric store over there in Pilsen.  The one with seemingly two hundred names but it goes by either LZ Fabrics or Textile Discount Outlet mostly.  This fabric store is not for the faint of heart.

One (tidier) aisle of oh, five trillion.
If you ain't from around these here parts, you can check out this video, holy cow.  Honestly?  It barely gives a glimpse of what this store is about.


So right, I'm over there to find some fabric for the jumbo curtain I'm making.  The remnant I purchased is a hair too short, and will be shorter when hemmed, so I needed filler fabric.  Project beginnings dependent on fabric purchase.

After digging in some boxes on the first floor and locating a wad that's perfect for a curtain in the hall bedroom and a potential filler, I start wandering.  You really have to be in a specific state of mind to peruse here.  I was close but not quite, hence some aimless meandering happened.

Upstairs I went and immediately found a white for the filler.  Sweet!

Rational Brain:  "Ok, let's go, we gotta get outta here before we spend too much."

Brain on Fabric:  "But!  But!  C'mon, what's the harm in poking around?"

Rational Brain:  "No.  Now.  Let's go."

Brain on Fabric:  "Well, we have to go back through an aisle to get to the stairs anyway...ooooh, what's..."

Rational Brain:  "You suck."

All three of us end up walking through an aisle of boxes overflowing with remnants.  I "accidentally" discover a fabric that's a version of one of our couch pillows, different color.  Hem, haw, hem, haw.

Rational Brain:  "Stop it.  Move along."

Brain on Fabric:  "Ugh.  Fine.  You suck."

Two boxes later I find another color of that fabric, defy Rational Brain, add to handful.  Then what do I see there, what is...omg...this glorious mound of fuzzy, holy...omg, what do my eyes behold?!?!  Omg.  Not even unraveling it and before Rational Brain could pipe up, it's in my hot little hands and I'm running for the stairs.

"It's perfect for the DIY library rug!!!," Brain on Fabric is screaming at Rational Brain who's trying to catch up.  "You cannot stop meeeeeeeeeeee!!!"

See, here's the thing about that library, it doesn't get a whole heck of a lot of use (read: none) so using fabric for the rug is, well, perfect!

Brain on Fabric kicks Rational Brain out of the cutting table line to make planning and scheming space for the rug creation.

Once home, I hurriedly dashed upstairs, grabbed rug-in-progress and breathlessly snipped all the bath rug looking pom poms off.  Like a crazed fiend, I zipped down to the first floor to grab the oh-so-glorious, my new Favoritest Favorite Fabric in the Whole Wide World Favorite, and giddily skipped to the basement.

Now for the first time I see the swath of furry happiness in all it's glory laid out on the floor.  Jaw drop.  Eyes flutter.  I want to roll around in it.  Cuddle with it.  Savor the fluffy.  But no!  Task at hand.

My fabric store haul.  All that for $30.
Then I ran into a problem.

Well, not so much a problem per se.

Note his crossed front feeties -- it's so cute, he does it all the time.
More like a larger, fluffier roadblock.

And then that happened.

So I had to wait.  Eventually fluffier Finn wandered off to bark at whatever.

I stretched out the non-slip whoo-ha onto the back side of the fabric then trimmed it smaller so as to salvage as much valuable floofy favorite fabric as possible to make however many heavenly pillows I can possibly squeak out of the leftovers.

Ran upstairs to the handy dandy sewing kit box I've had since, oh, as a kid, which would mean forever.  Grabbed a needle and some thread.

Maniacally I sped downstairs.  I tacked the non-slip carpet thingie to the fabric using one stitch plus a few knots in several places.  A pair of sharp scissors, snip snip, cutting the fabric a bit wide as I noted the edges liked to curl.

Snatched the whole mess up and hustled my happy butt up to the library.  Move move move furniture, spread the new rug, move move move furniture back.  Grin.

Bam.  In fifteen minutes I had a finished library rug.  Done.  Finished.  Done.

Ha ha, Rational Brain.  Nah nah.

My total cost?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of $15.00.  I can't remember how much the rug pad was, though I vaguely sense it was on sale for less than $8 or so.

So end result here:  awesome finished rug on the cheap created in a flash.  Can't beat that!  Check and mark.  Woo hoo!

Sweet.  It's additional texture in the room along with the nubbly pallet wood blinds and the swanky light fixture.  Looks good with the chair.  Nifty with the happy flowery pillow (oh, theme.  Finn laying on fabric.  Huh.)!  Looks most fantastic with my grandparent's table.  Oh yes.

And do not think for one silly second that Brain on Fabric isn't already vying to go back to the store and hunt for more fluffy floofy goodness.

(Anyone need a mountain of gray pom poms?)


My NeoCon Momo.

My design for the 8th floor food court during NeoCon was a hit!  A smash!  A hit!  Yay!  I'm thrilled!

As I mentioned before, my old pal Geoff invited me to design the space in conjunction with Goose Island Catering for the three days of NeoCon.  He's got this spiffy company, Criterion Productions, and he puts up events and festivals all over the city.  It's been amazing to watch him grow this business over the years and I'm mighty proud of his accomplishments.

So this design....as the budget for this was, well, um, nil, we were quite elated that the Mart picked up the tab and made this happen.  As the budget was um, nil, we had to be smart and resourceful.

But first I just thought it was sooooo cool that Geoff asked me to design this.

Second, wow, at NeoCon?  Seriously?  In the Merchandise Mart?  A smidge intimidating since it's only the biggest most important hugest contract/commercial interior design event I venture to say all year.  All those designer types floating around? -- this had to not be poopy.  A thrilling opportunity nonetheless.

Third, the Mart.  NeoCon.  Whaaaat?!?!  Cool.

Fourth?  It pulled together and everyone was ear-to-ear smiles.

Thought I'd show you a few shots of how it turned out since I'm proud and smiley myself.

So here's a before....

Photo courtesy of Criterion Productions
Um.  Wow.  Chipper space, yah?

Photo courtesy of Criterion Productions
Ooophf.  The Mart was using this room as storage.  Stating the obvious as I do, a-yup.

View south -- note the windows.  Photo courtesy of Criterion Productions
Dark.  Industrial.  Gloomy.  Very raw.

No problem!  I could turn this frown upside down.

The area we had available to us was about 11,100 square feet.  Huuuge!  The bank of windows along the south wall overlooked the Chicago River....

Wow, what a view, right?!  That's looking south west.  I love this city.

Geoff informed me that a new museum was setting up an area in this food court/beer garden/cafe area called Foodseum, which is a very clever creation.  So we were talking and chatting and came up with the concept of Chicago neighborhood summer festival.  Then after a meeting with the uber lovely fantastic Mart ladies, the Foodseum folks, Goose Island and it seemed like one hundred other folks, the idea morphed into Chicago backyard barbecue.

We wanted to bring a hint of city backyard neighborhood summertime to the onslaught of folks who would likely not be able to venture out of the Mart general vicinity.  Albeit maybe a little upscale-ish but hey, it's the Mart and NeoCon, folks.  We also wanted the space to be a relaxing, happy, bright, lively, yet catch-your-breath-in-the-midst-of-all-the-design-product-madness kind of spot.

So here's what I did!

Holy night and day, right?!

Those breathtaking trees and benches were lent to the Mart ladies specifically for this and I was embarrassingly far too eager to accept.  Those trees are insane.  Birch tree trunks with wool felt "leaves" and they light up.  They're about seventeen feet tall.  I found out later one tree retails for $17,000.  Yes, you heard me right.  $17,000.  Wow, yeowch.

Go check out their website, Green Furniture Concept.  Dreamy stuff.

We strung globe string lights across the space which, yeah, in daylight is a little tough to see.  That huge green patch is the Foss EcoFi Tee Time indoor/outdoor carpet I love so much (um, planter pouches!  Um, cork boards!)  I cut the curvy shapes to break up the linear-ness of the space.

At that far end there in the photo above, that was one Foodseum installation area sharing information about three city neighborhoods and they were fabulous, well done.

The seating areas consisted of picnic benches provided by Goose Island on astroturf rugs (there I go with the astroturf again but hey, the Mart had it) plus tables and chairs provided by the Mart.  We brought in some faux plants and I planted twenty two planters with faux flowers and greenery.

These photos I took were at about 4:30 in the afternoon, hence so few people in here.  NeoCon runs until 5 pm daily so all those tired designers were probably heading out for foot massages or foot soaks or dinner and drinks.

The west side of the space consisted of Goose Island's set up with a large chalkboard menu, a food booth and a beer booth.  Foodseum set up their main area next to them as well.  I had shade sails and multi color mini lights strung up over there to add visual pull and interest.

Planting twenty two planters, man, that took longer than I expected but they were colorful, green, had height and added more outdoor backyard visual interest throughout the space.

Those incredible trees also come as pendants too.  It appears the largest pendant didn't arrive but the two smaller ones make me drool in want.

Here's looking west towards the food/beer set up.  Goose Island brought their rustic counters, the barrels, picnic benches and farmhouse tables.

So yeah.  My NeoCon moment in the sun.  :)  Little giddy butt wiggle dance.  I'm a very happy girl.

Oh but omg you guys, oh I have so much for you, coming soon, it's awesome.  I've been a busy little beaver so yay!  I'll see you right soon with loads more fun!