Friday, March 26, 2010

ALTER ALERT: Tools you want in your box

It seems to me that tools are everywhere you look these days: Tiger Woods, Jesse James, every single guy in an Ed Hardy shirt. I mean, MTV's even got a show called "Tool Academy," where they try and get douchebags to clean up their acts. Unfortunately, these aren't the tools I want to look at. I want everyone to have a great set of tools in their house, and I'm not talking about watching reruns of Jersey Shore.

My favorite tool? My Black & Decker 36" Accu-Mark Gecko Grip Level.

Having a basic set of tools in your home is important for anyone who wants to be able to do a little "alter"-ing themself. It also makes you a damn grownup. If you're using a brick wrapped in a towel to hammer in a nail, it's time to put on your big-boy pants and buy a basic toolkit. A basic toolkit should include at least: a hammer, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, level, tape measure, scissors, wire cutters, pliers, 3 kinds of nails, picture hangers, and anchors and screws.

But once you've got that covered, you're ready for the advanced class of my own "tool academy." As I mentioned above, I love my Black & Decker level. It goes way beyond your basic level. It's perfect for tasks like hanging multiple pictures. You can not only establish the level line for your frames, but measuring and marking where your nail holes should go are a literal snap: you slide the targets over to the correct distance, and they snap into place to allow you to mark your spots easily.

I'll revisit this topic every once in a while with more tool reviews and recommendations. After all, you don't want to let just any tool into your box. Just ask Elin Woods or Sandra Bullock.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

B&D: Tiles and Tribulations

Aaand welcome to another installment of "Before & Durings," starring my new home sweet home! Today's guest is one of the smallest but most important rooms in the house! Please put your hands together for... the bathroom!

Yeah, the old bathroom (above) doesn't exactly deserve a round of applause.

Though I encountered a lot of challenges while redoing my new home, the bathroom was one of the most difficult. This bathroom had a lot of water damage, and the vanity was literally disintegrating. No, really -- when we removed it it fell apart! We tossed that and the old toilet, and got ready to trash the floor too. I wanted to lay down new floor, but to do that you've gotta get rid of the old first.

Me and my team first tackled the nasty peel n' stick that you see in the picture above. But once we got through that, there was another peel n' stick layer. Once we got through THAT, there was a layer of green and yellow linoleum! I almost stopped there, but I kept going. under the linoleum we discovered an inch-thick layer of adhesive... and below that, something amazing:

Peeking through the adhesive was this original, and adorable honeycomb tile! I really wanted to save it, but that adhesive was, well, adhering to it pretty good.

We tried scraping, we tried melting, we tried chemical remover. Only after letting the remover sit and then attaching it with razors and flathead screwdrivers could we get the goo off. It took three cans of remover and 15 hours of scraping over a five-day period to get rid of it all. There were points where I almost changed my mind (usually after yelling "SONOFABITCH!" at the gunk), but after a few hours of labor I was resolved to save it.

And save it we did! I'm so happy with the end results. It's cute, and a piece of the house's history. I think that this tile (and me n' my crew's blood, sweat, and tears) deserves a real standing ovation!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Q&A: A lifelong commitment (to your furniture)

Dear Jackie,

I need a little relationship advice. I feel that I've outgrown my relationship with... my furniture. Oh, we got along great when we were still in college, but now I feel so much more mature now, you know? Meanwhile, Secondhand Sofa has totally let himself go, and BILLY Bookcase just can't meet my needs anymore. I think we're going to have to break up. Any advice for a grown-up gal looking for a committed relationship with her furniture?

Ready to Settle Down, But Not To Settle


You're not the only one who's "just not that into" their furnishings anymore! We all reach those milestones: first real job and real paycheck, dumping the loser college boyfriend, living on our own, tackling our first home repair solo, and of course upgrading to Grown-Up Furniture.

As you know, there ain't nothin' wrong with a little IKEA or secondhand pieces. But sooner or later you need to evaluate what you've got. A mahogany side table that once belonged to your grandmother is a "secondhand" item that you'll keep for the rest of your life. A couch that your neighbor gave you as he was moving out, complete with cigarette burns in the cushions and an aroma of wet dog, is something you chuck as soon as you're able.

Guuurl, you're too good for that hot mess.

Once you're on the rebound from your old furniture, don't just hook up with the first hot coffee table that you walk by. You have to consider where your priorities are, and how much you're looking to invest -- literally. Remember, you're looking for something that'll last "'till death do you part," so choose wisely!

For most people, their money is best spent on arguably the biggest and most important piece of furniture in their home: the sofa. Sofas are heavy, both in terms of weight and their cost. It'll be difficult to replace once your crush has faded, so don't look for a Bad Boy couch here -- stick to a Nice Guy. Pick a solid, well-constructed piece using quality materials. Yes, it'll be expensive, but yes, it'll be worth it. Also go for a simple color and material and a classic shape; even if your style is funky and trendy, you can still go that way with your other, less expensive pieces. You can always dress up your couch with a slipcover, throw pillows, or reupholstering if you're looking to add a little spice to your love(seat) life.

Hello, lover...

And I see you've brought a friend...

Once you've settled down with your settee, you can build the rest of your collection around it. End tables, bookcases, coffee tables, side chairs -- it's up to you. But go slow! Save up your money and take your time. You'll know when it feels right...