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.

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With the plank finished, all that was left was to pick the desk components.

I installed a power plug right above the desk’s edge with handy USB chargers - perfect for charging Karen’s phone and tablet at the same time.  Also, it’s actually level (congrats to me).

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Karen picked out a nice rug for her space from homedecorators.com

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And a chair from Crate and Barrel.  It doesn’t have wheels, but it swivels so it’s easy to get in and out of the desk area.

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Karen also picked out some speakers that “were good looking”, which also happened to be received by critics as good sounding, so that made me happy.  These are the Audioengine A2+ model, which have a built in amp and DAC, which meant less wires.  I also sleeved the exposed wire, which is always awesome.  Sound wise, these are pretty phenomenal for the size.  I haven’t heard anything around the size that sounds as good.

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Lamp came from Target - we ordered several to test out, apparently they all came damaged (don’t use Target’s online shopping/shipping for anything).  The laptop stand is from Rain Design Inc. (mTower).  I love how it frees up desk space and keeps the laptop running cool.

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Karen is apparently extremely picky when it comes to keyboards and mice.  We already spent some time a few years ago finding the perfect mouse for her, so we just got another one for the desk.  We then proceeded to test a half dozen keyboards (she doesn’t like mechanical keyboards cuz she’s crazy), so we had to find a nice scissor switch board.  Apparently Rapoo is some crazy Chinese brand that is HUGE - and makes good quality stuff.  I found this board and imported it from the dark streets of Hong Kong, and it’s worked out well.  Nice thin design and aluminum frame.  I think it looks pretty cool.

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I also made a wire hider channel thingie (technical term).  It basically is a little channel for wires to run in underneath the desk.  I then painted it the same color as the wall, so you can’t even tell it’s there.

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It’s a great little area.  Karen kinda zones out and does work/wedding planning from here, which is great, because I get to go play video games by myself.  I also sneak in some work time on some days where I work from home.  Great project overall - really happy without how it turned out.

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One of the nice things about the layout of our house is that the builder “bumped” out the rooms into neat little nooks wherever possible.  This makes it feel less like we’re living in a box, and gives our main living space some character and angles.  We always planned on putting in a nice desk for Karen to work from and have easy access to the kitchen for frequent snacking.  However, it was very hard to find a desk that fit the dimensions that we had in mind, so we finally gave up and decided to build our own.

This desk had to:

  • Be large - to provide a good work area for Karen to not only do computer work, but to also have a writing space (and snacking space).
  • Be “cute” - It’s Karen’s desk, so that is a requirement apparently.
  • Fit a hidden computer - allowing easy swapping between the built-in computer and Karen’s work laptop.
  • Do a good job of concealing wires.
  • Have adequate lighting.


I can’t take credit for sourcing the desk material - my mom’s contractor had found her some nice butcher block style counter tops which were reasonably priced.  I would have loved to gone with a live edged piece of wood, but those start at least at $4,000 in the sizing we were interested in.  Ikea (of all places) has some nice simple cabinets/drawers (Alex series), that matched our decor, and were the correct height/depth to fit a desk top.

Purchased the Ikea cabinet and modded it for some cooling fans, as well as built a custom shelf/divider to house the computer components (there’s a whole computer in that bottom shelf.  Also cut some wiring routing holes as well.

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We purchased the plank from Perfect Plank in Paradise, CA in black walnut.  Their planks utilize hardwood strips that are finger jointed and glued with alternating grain.  This makes for an extremely rigid plank that doesn’t really need any support, even when spanning 5+ feet.  They have a ton of options for sizing - we settled on 1 3/4” thick x 24” deep x 8’ long.  Trimmed 6” off of the plank, and we had a perfect fit.  This is a picture of the test fitting of the unfinished plank.  You can’t see the fridge, but its literally right outside of the frame - perfect for Karen.

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After getting the plank fitted, the next step was to finish the wood.  I didn’t want to color the black walnut too much, so I just used some wipe-on poly.  I used several coats of the gloss, then moved to a final coat of the matte.  Here’s a picture of our test piece.

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And here’s a picture of the finished product.
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When not procrastinating from DIY home projects, Karen and I also enjoy cooking.  Over the past year, I’ve caught the sous vide bug - which was natural, considering I love eating meat.  As some of you may know, the perfect finishing touch to a great piece of meat is a nice sear in a cast iron skillet.  With our overly sensitive fire alarms, it’s gotten very annoying to do indoors, so we set out to move this smokey step outdoors.

Project requirements:

  • FIREPOWER - a good sear requires a ton of heat, I wanted to get a burner that would do nice steaks justice.
  • Small - this would be going on our front porch, so we didn’t want a huge BBQ set.
  • Portable - would need to be able to be tucked away so our HOA doesn’t yell at us.

A good friend of mine recommended the Camp Chef brand of stove.  Pricing on them was very reasonable (~60$) and even better, their units are extremely high powered.  Normal home burners max out at 15,000 BTUs, restaurant burners put out about 35,000 BTU.  This Camp Chef puts out 60,000 BTUs!!!!!!  Steak does not stand a chance.

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The main problem with this burner is that it’s meant to simply sit on the floor with those dumb legs.  That is not fun for cooking, unless you’re doing the Asian street food vendor squat.  Also wasn’t portable either.

Solution was to weld up a cart to house the burner and the propane tank.  I had some heavy duty wheels lying around too, so I bolted those on.  They’re a racing red color, so they probably make the food cook faster.

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A little grinding and a little paint later and we’re looking better.

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I was originally thinking of affixing a piece of ceramic tile to the top due to heat concerns, but I then realized that drilling tile sucks, so I gave up on that idea.  Got some aluminum diamond plate, cut it to size, and glued and screwed it on.  Turns out that most of the heat goes upwards, so I had nothing to worry about.  The metal stays normal temperature to the touch, even when 60,000 BTUs of pain is being delivered to the cast iron pan.

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And, we’re all done.  Nice and compact, wheels around very easily.  If there was some sort of contest where you have to roll around while searing meat really quickly, I am confident that I would win.

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And here are some food pics.

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This project was a long time in the making. 

I set out with a few design goals:

  • Needed to fit a king size mattress that was HEAVY (Karen decided we should get a latex mattress).
  • Should be simple in design and unobtrusive.
  • Minimize chances of stubbed toes and bruised shins - a huge pet peeve of mine with bed frames.
  • Match the aesthetic of a headboard purchased from West Elm in “heathered wool”

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I envisioned a floating bed frame that was basically 2 boxes stacked on top of each other in a reversed “tier”.  Since the bottom support box would be much smaller than the top one, the chances for stubbed toes would be minimized.  Karen decided that we should wrap the top mattress housing box in 2 inch open cell foam, so the chance for a stubbed shin would be nil.

Every single store bought bed frame that I’ve ever had starts out nice and solid, but after a month or two, they begin making annoying creaking and popping sounds every time I roll over in bed.  Based on this, I set out to build a “tank bed” (in terms of strength, not in looks - although that would be awesome) to both support the heavy latex mattress, as well as ensure against any flimsy noise issues in the future.  By utilizing 2 “torsion box-esque” boxes, I figured this frame would be incredibly strong forever.

We utilized plywood for the construction and made lots and lots of LONG cuts (a king sized bed is huge).

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We were also able to find some premium felt at Joanne’s Fabrics that generally matched the material used on the headboard.

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Forgot to take pictures of the construction of the bottom support box, but it looks just like the top box which you can see Karen applying foam to here.  The bottom support box is 1 foot smaller around than the top mattress support box.  The individual supports really keep the piece from being able to flex in any direction and make for an extremely sturdy setup.  To attach the foam, we used 3M Super 77, which is basically super glue in an aerosol can - really strong, but can be a complete disaster if it gets in the wrong place.  I’d recommend masking the entire area off very carefully if you don’t have experience with it.

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And here are some shots of the frame after the foam and felt wrap.  The felt was stretched and affixed using staples every 1 inch.  Rather than using an air compressor for the staple gun, I used a adapter that lets you use a simple paintball co2 tank for the gun.  I went through about 3 16oz fills of co2 for the entire bed frame’s staples.  I really like the natural radius that stretching the felt achieved.  Nice, smooth, and rounded over.  Shins will be safe.

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Cooper also fits into the bed.

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Here’s the frame with the headboard.  The final support pieces are also in place, creating a “lid” for the mattress support box.  I’m happy to say that this was incredibly solid.  I spent a good few minutes jumping up and down on it to make sure that it wasn’t going anywhere.

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Cooper tested it too.  He was kinda fat - I suspect from the winter, so it was a good time for him to test it.

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And here is the mattress finally in place.

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All in all, we’re very happy with this project.  The bed frame has remained creak-free, and Karen has directly walked into the bed several times without any injuries.  Its really nice to be able to walk closely  around the perimeter of the bed without worrying about a stubbed toe.  It took about 3.5 sheets of plywood to complete (there was a ton of leftovers due to special long cuts).  If I were to do it again, I may have used less support (I may have gone overboard, but then I wouldn’t be able to call it a tank bed.

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.