We're first time home owners (YAY!) and are tracking our DIY projects to share with family, who've been such great supporters in making this happen for us.

Indoor Herb Garden

The mason jars are back, but the use re-imagined! With tons of stain remaining from the bathroom organizer project, I reused it for our herb garden. The plants were $3 from Osh and the right size for the quart-sized mason jar. They started out on the window sill until we got around to getting the hose clamps onto the 4’ maple planks. This added functional greenery to our decor. Total project cost was about $60, which included:

  • Two 4 feet maple planks
  • 6 hose clamps
  • 6 herb plants
  • Potting soil
  • Bags of little rocks
  • Mason jars (bought a box of them)
  • Twine
  • Tags

Side note: I haven’t ever been successful with an outdoor herb garden, so I’m hoping…strangely so…that I can get an indoor one to work? Check in and keep me on the straight and narrow with watering and feeding!

  • Cabinets - Check
  • Bathroom organizer - Check
  • Final touches - Ahh…here we go…

A quick before-and-after look at some final touches we wanted to do to the guest bath. Devin and I both dislike all the stock stuff that came with the (brand new) house, so the lighting had to go. We even did away with the standard height shower curtain. To add height and drama, we raised the shower curtain to about 8.5” feet, leaving several inches available at the top because it was so dark and felt so claustrophobic as a result when we took it all the way up. For the latter project, it took awhile to find an extra long shower liner, and we made do with fancy ol’ curtain panels from West Elm since I couldn’t find anything else I loved. This by far is one of my most favorite rooms.

Painting Bathroom Cabinets

We tackled more cabinets, and thank goodness it was a much easier, more manageable project compared to the kitchen cabinets we did a few months back. We took a simpler approach. Instead of car paint, we picked up a gallon of interior enamel (Pier by Behr) and there was no need for the Dexter-like setup. Up top is the original stain for reference - and if it’s not clear, we terribly dislike that it’s throughout all the cabinets in the house! The carcass was a cinch to paint - just did a bit of masking and used a roller to paint it. We paid a bit more attention to the doors, and thankfully Devin took that part over while I went on my mini vacay ;). He used a gun to spray primer and paint. This is hands down the best way to go. We first tried painting with a good brush and roller given how other DIY’ers claimed success, but the end result just wasn’t smooth for us. If you’re painting cabinets, use the paint gun! It’ll save you from having to redo it AND it’s much quicker.

Mason Jar Bathroom Organizer
Finally got to do this — captured a look at the final resting place of our first mason jar project, which went into our guest bathroom. Forgot your toothbrush or razor? We have you covered. We’re ready for you friends and family! :)

Mason Jar Bathroom Organizer

Finally got to do this — captured a look at the final resting place of our first mason jar project, which went into our guest bathroom. Forgot your toothbrush or razor? We have you covered. We’re ready for you friends and family! :)

Stripes! I wanted them and now they’re done. This project was kind of a hot mess…well the taping was. I wasn’t terribly patient after realizing I had started out the taping job wrong and had to start all over. (Word of advice: measure, measure, measure…here comes the important part…take into account the tape! I read all about this and still screwed it up!) Anyway, even though we went over the tape with the base color to avoid the color bleed through, we found spots that needed a Michelangelo touch, hence why Devin is up there touching things up. This took longer than expected but we’re basically done with this wall in the guest bedroom. Colors: Navy Blue and Voyage for the stripes and Ashes as the base - all Behr paint. On to the rest of the painting, which will be a cinch since the rest of the walls will just be one color! Whew.

Mason Jar Bathroom Organizer

Here’s my DIY project turned Devin’s too. I love mason jars and saw a couple of inspirational ways to use them. First up - a bathroom organizer. We used a piece of maple and stained it with dark walnut. It didn’t take too much of the stain but worked out fine at the end of the day. All in all, about a $20 project: wood, stain, hose clamps and mason jars. Can’t wait for this to go up…once we get to painting the bathroom! A bit backwards, I know. Will share a look at its final resting place once we get to painting the guest bed and bath.

Karen’s chair finally showed up!  They actually ended up giving us a 100 credit because it took so long.  Pretty comfortable, and I like how it kinda wraps around your head when you’re sitting in it.  Like having horse blinders on.

After checking out very expensive cabinet hardware from Restoration Hardware, we happened across these at Ikea on clearance.  Very reasonably priced.

Installation wasn’t very fun, as measuring and centering the hardware was a bit of a pain.  Also, the hardwood faces on the drawers are actually attached to a particleboard carcass, so we had to find longer screws in order to get them to engage.

We made sure and used washers and split locking washers.  There is nothing that I hate more than a loose cabinet handle or knob.  These shouldn’t be going anywhere.

Entertainment center all done!

When sound is sent to a speaker, it needs to be divided amongst the individual drivers that make up the actual speaker.  This is done by frequency, as some drivers are better at playing highs, mids, or lows.

For the past 60-70 years or so, this division and routing of sound is done by the usage of capacitors, resistors, and inductors - hardware that can be found in just about any piece of electronics that has been built in memory.  The components are mounted to circuit boards and installed in the speakers themselves.  These are called passive crossovers and are used in the vast majority of speakers sold today.

The implementation and creation of a passive crossover requires careful measuring and calculations using computer programs, calculators, and pencil and paper.  Passive crossovers are not adjustable.  What you create is what you get - unless you want to unsolder the components and try different ones.  The main advantage of this is that you send 1 amplified signal to the speaker and the passive crossover does the rest of the work.  This means 1 speaker wire and 1 amplifier.  Very seamless and easy to use for the average consumer

In the past couple of decades, the division and routing of sound between individual drivers of a speaker has also evolved with advent of powerful and small computer chips.  These “active crossovers” can divide the sound within a computer chip and output it to individual drivers.  The negative effects of this is that this division and routing usually occurs outside of the speaker itself and requires each driver to have its own amplified source, which means the normal stereo amplifier will only be able to power 2 drivers, not 2 whole speakers.  The advantages of this is that active crossovers are very adjustable via software - the signal sent to each driver is controllable, as well as volume, polarity and other fancy stuff.  All I have to do is plug my computer into the active crossover and I can then visually adjust all of the parameters easily.

So why am I even explaining this?  I like tinkering, so I usually use active crossovers.  This lets me tailor the sound to match the room and my tastes.  Since my speaker has 3 banks of drivers (high, mid, and 2 lows), I need to send 3 separate signals to each speaker. 

This means 6 speaker wires running all over the place which could get very messy quickly.  My first step at preventing this was the usage of nice speaker wire plugs that I was able to find.  I looked for the lowest profile plugs on the market, as I didn’t want them to protrude too far from the wall and speakers.  Not only was I able to find some nice low profile ones, the ones I found featured an easy to install procedure.  Simply unscrew the tips (pic 1), insert stripped wire (pic 2), then re-screw the tip back on.  The teeth grip the stripped wire, and you have a strong and secure speaker wire connection.  Repeat 11 more times for all of the terminals, and you’re done.

The second step to preventing a mess was to use my fantastic braiding skills to turn 3 wires per side into 1.  Karen makes fun of me and wasn’t surprised that the braid turned out pretty well due to my propensity for playing with hair.  In the end, the wire turned out really well, clean, and unobtrusive - just the way I wanted it.  It also looks pretty cool - like a long infinite piece of challah bread - shalom!

With the speakers being so tall and thin, I knew that I needed to have some sort of stand/feet for them, or they’d fall over the second anyone bumped into them.  My first attempt was a “sleeve” that the speaker would fit into, providing both weight and a wider base (8.5” around).

I spent about 4 hours cutting, gluing, and priming the bases before I decided to test fit the speakers.  I was immediately unhappy.  The sleeve style bases totally broke up the flow of the thin speaker, making it look fat and dumpy.  I decided to totally scrap that idea and start again.

I then decided to let the speakers “stand alone” and make the stand as unobtrusive as possible.  I settled on a “x” shape that would fit under the speaker and have a base of 10”.  This actually would provide a bit more stability than the sleeve style bases.

Few hours of cutting, jigsawing, routering, priming, and painting later, I ended up with what you can see (or can’t) in the 3rd picture.  I painted them gloss black to match the speaker wire terminal plate on the rear.  They disappear nicely into the dark hardwood floor, and preserve the speakers’ overall thin aesthetic.

I don’t know if this counts as a house thing - new house = new car I guess.

Recently got the factory stripes on Karen’s car replaced with a more unique color/design.  The metallic grey center stripes match some of the trim up front by the turn signals, and the orange is a nice matte color that really makes the stripes “pop”.  Extending the stripes down the front and rear bumpers is a really nice touch that adds a ton of depth. 

We also had the chrome beltline that separates the windows from the body also done in black, making it a much less obvious factory division between the windows and the body.  In my opinion, it helps integrate the body much better, rather than looking like the “lid” of the car was plopped onto the body.  Additionally, the trim around the tailights and headlights were painted black with rubberized black paint.  The paint will help prevent chips from pebbles, debris, etc.  This really helps match the darker accents of the tires and striping.

We’re seeing more and more of the Countryman on the streets, so it’s nice to have something unique.

Here are the speakers that I began working on as we were in the process of buying the house.  They’ve actually been done for a few months.  I don’t know why, but it seems like every time we move, I make a new set of speakers to go with the new place.

In the past, we’ve tried to avoid “big” speakers, as they’d be too obtrusive into the room.  As a result, I’ve ended up building a lot of smaller bookshelf designs, but placed them on speaker stands to raise them to an acceptable height.  I realized that there this was pretty silly, as the overall space taken up by the speaker is the same whether the speaker is a bookshelf speaker with a stand, or a floor-standing version.

I designed these speakers with a couple of goals.  The first was for it to be unobtrusive, so I made them as thin as possible - they’re only 6”x”6” and the paint is the same flat white as the kitchen cabinets and the entertainment center.  The second goal was for it to have wide dispersion of sound.  The smaller of the diameter of actual drivers used, the better it spreads the sound (there’s physics and stuff behind the reason).  The main trade-off is that the smaller drivers have a harder time dealing with low bass, which was solved by using two small woofers per side.

Finish-wise, I used the same process - sealer primer, filler primer, finish coat.  For the terminal plate on the back, I used gloss black acrylic, I figured that it would be the exact counter point to a matte white.  I like the last few pictures showing the paint wet (shiny), and after drying (matte).  I really like the matte white, as it really picks up the characteristics of whatever light it is in and can look warm or cool depending on the time of the day or lighting.

Got the entertainment center mounted with the TV.  I like how it turned out - nice and flush to the wall like I wanted it.

One side houses the computer I use for storing and watching TV and movies.  I don’t have a normal cable box, as I get all of my material from the internet. I’ve since added 2 intake fans to the holes on the right. Air is designed to travel from the right side to the left side, and exhaust there. It is a very positive pressure design, and since it is so big, I rely on localized directed air on components that need it, such as the hard drives, CPU, etc. The intake/exhaust flow is mainly to keep the ambient temperature in the case acceptable, not to actually cool anything specifically.  All wires here run through the wall and out behind the TV.  There will be 0 computer or TV related wires visible at all.

And the other side is the stereo side.  I have a amplifier and power supply and some other stuff in there.  The wiring here runs through the wall to the speaker terminals that are wall mounted.  There will only be 2 wires visible running from the wall to the speaker units themselves.

Got the TV mounted.  Hit a stud with lag bolts in the middle.  It would have been nice to have been able to hit two studs, but the wall is constructed a bit funky because its part of the stairwell.

Used an ultra slim mount from Monoprice that only cost 14 bucks.  Compared to ~ $100 for a mount at BestBuy, Monoprice’s value cannot be beat!  Since the mount is so slim, it was a bit difficult to lock it in place, but it looks really clean and is worth it.

We do a good mix of TV watching from standing in the kitchen and sitting on the couch, so we decided to mount the TV at an in between height.  We’re sitting far enough back from the TV that looking slightly upwards doesn’t feel awkward.