Category Archives: DIY

BATHROOM VANITY

I write a wildly popular and critically acclaimed blog that is beloved by nearly every man, woman and literate baby on the planet. You know this. I know this. Your mom knows this. What your mom also knows is that, from time to time, I let things slip through the cracks. I apologize for that. On occasion, I have been known to, erm, forget to update you all on what I’ve been up to. Sometimes I work in secret. Listen, pals, I agree: that’s a terrible habit to have when you’re a DIY blogger who makes a six-figure living writing instructional how-to’s for anonymous people to disparage over the Internet. I blame my parents. Truthfully, I point the finger at them for a lot of things that have gone wrong in my life–missed opportunities, failed relationships, bootcut jeans–and I could go into why they are responsible for all that stuff but that would be long and bitter and not becoming of me. The simple fact is they are not here to defend themselves. They live across the country and this is my blog and I can do what I want, so if I’ve done something to offend you just shake your fists at the heavens and yell through clenched teeth, “DAMN YOU, EVAN’S MOM AND DAD! DAMN YOU FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE FOR HIM! MAY LUCIFER HAVE MERCY ON YOUR ROTTEN, WELL-INTENTIONED AND SOULS!”

Feel better? I do.

So, yea, occasionally I do secret things and occasionally I don’t write them down. But, like you, I’m only half-human. I can only keep so many secrets to myself before bursting at my cyborg seams! Now that Gone Girl is out and I’ve been asked by 1) friends 2) family and 3) random passers-by on the street (who try to tell me I don’t need to yell to be heard) to not let any spoilers slip I’m at max capacity, kittens. I have to let something out! It’s bad enough I walk around pretending like I didn’t listen to the free U2 album a few 18 times or that I’m not all in when it comes to Viola Davis teaching law students how to be ninja assassins or that I’m never THIS CLOSE to having cookie dough for breakfast every morning or that when I finally get my wits about me and make a cup of coffee I’m not just standing at the counter, staring longingly at that tight tube of butter, flour and chocolate, while softly weeping into my scrambled egg whites. I’m so tired of carrying the weight of the world on my narrow, slightly hunched shoulders, you guyz!

So here’s my secret: I’ve been working on my bathroom. I’ve been working on a lot of things, actually–my temper, my communication skillz, my anger when the coffee lady gives me skim milk WHEN CLEARLY I ASKED FOR HALF-AND-HALF, my temper–but my bathroom is getting most of the attention. I’ve been in my apartment for over two years now, which coincidentally is 20 years shy of my age (and not 30 as my birth certificate would have you believe), and I’m getting more than a little fed up with it. The apartment itself is fantastic. I know this and you and your mom better know this. But, as is human nature, after a lengthy period of monogamy you want to ruin the good thing you have by seeing someone younger and sexier. That’s where I’m at with my place. I love it, but when spend your days like I do, working inside other people’s luxury high-rise sky buckets, how can you come home to your own place and not want to make a few dozen changes here and there at the very least?

I started with the bathroom because it’s the most egregious room in the apartment. Most bathrooms of rental properties are terrible. You know what? No. All. All bathrooms. And kitchens, too! THE WORST. That’s just, like, the 7th Universal Law of Man. And if you don’t believe me then I assume you think yours are *pretty nice? Well, I find that kind of ignorance adorable, my little aardvarks, like someone pushing hard on a door marked ‘pull’. You can try to deny it but being a renter (or a first-time homeowner) means you have a shitty wash closet and an even shittier counter top.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s get acquainted with my bathroom, WHICH I CALL MISS JACKSON BECAUSE IT’S NASTY:

CUTE, RIGHT????? Like you in college this was an experimental phase for my bathroom, circa last year. I did what I thought was my best at the time, but even MUR decals and some half-mirror bulbs can’t hide that heinous, generic, store-bought, sloth-turd, slithering succubus of light AKA the Hollywood vanity fixture.

Here’s another shot from even earlier, when I first moved in:

EL OH EL I just love this picture. I put a task lamp on the sink and I’m wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. I WAS SUCH THE COMEDIAN BACK IN THE DAY. No but really 2012 was a year I erased from my mind.

Now, if this were a hearing and I the prosecutor, at this point I would rest, confident that I made my case against rental bathrooms on the whole, but more specifically my own nest of toilet horror. The defense, however, would counter by asserting that questionable styling and misguided decor decisions are to blame, not my bathroom vanity, and that charges should be downgraded from second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter of my eyes. As the prosecutor I would agree so I would take my two index fingers and tap them repeatedly in a half-hearted attempt at applause, as it is a fair point to make, but then I would present this piece of evidence, highlighting the culprit:

Ignoring for a moment the frightening man-monster I artfully drew, you can see without a doubt the light fixture and medicine cabinet are, in fact, giant assholes. At this point the judge would bang her gavel, the courtroom would erupt in cheers, I would lean over the bar, high-five my students whom I made work on the case for free and then Shonda Rhimes and I would walk hand-in-hand out of the building to a Hall & Oates song. The end. Roll credits, ABC.

But seriously. Something needed to be done. So I got my hammer, took my neighbor’s screwdriver without asking and set off dismantling the tentacled man-monster:

This was me feeling optimistic and grand about the whole endeavor, as you can tell by the fact that I hadn’t yet removed the Hollywood fixture’s mounting plate. (More on that in a second.) An unforeseen causality during the demo was my super-stellar MUR decals. They bit the dust along with the vanity, but other than that so far, so good. I can see what I’m working with and everything seems right with the world. OH JOYOUS DAY!

Now some disturbing news…

Nestled inconspicuously behind the cabinet, on the ledge of a steel frame, was a shekel. “A shekel?” you say. “Yes,” I answer. “Hm, a shekel,” you say again. “Stop repeating what I’m saying and just read the post, jerk,” I scold. I found a shekel behind my medicine cabinet. Normally I wouldn’t think twice about finding a piece of currency in an odd place because HEY we all come home from time to time and throw our money around like we’re Scrooge McDuck taking a lap his money vault. However, on the right hand side doorpost to my apartment is what appears to be the outline of a mezuzah which has since been removed. That, along with the shekel I found and more importantly relocated from behind my bathroom wall, can only mean one of two things: 1) I’ve defiled a Jewish tradition meant to protect my apartment and I’m going to die tomorrow or 2) I’ve lifted a Jewish curse on my home and now I’ll live forever. I’m holding out hope for the latter but if there are any Jews who read this blog please don’t hesitate to speak up as my life is on the line. Thank you.

Back to the vanity. So like I said, aside from the curse on my soul, everything was peaches and baby farts up until this point. It was all breezy. I’ll admit I didn’t have a great fix lined up for this project. I went to IKEA and bought a similar fixture for 15 spanks, and while it still had the same shape it lacked beveled edges or garish-looking plastic aluminum and that was enough for me. Then I decided to hack away at the mounting plate of the Hollywood fixture and shit got real. Really real:

What. The. Fuck.

What your human head lenses are seeing is a junction box installed approximately 5 1/2 inches OFF CENTER. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, OLD-TIMEY PEOPLE WHO BUILT MY APARTMENT? What were they thinking! No doubt this had to do with something obnoxious and asinine like a fire code but all I knew as that a hole slightly to the left of center was not a hole I wanted to tango with.

This ruined my plans for a quick and painless $15 IKEA fixture. Just decimated them. Poof! Gone.

I knew I didn’t want to keep the Hollywood fixture under any circumstance, and that decision meant the wall would have to be patched, even if I didn’t know what was going in its place.

That’s just some spackling paste and a spatula I used to fill in the uneven spots, like the holes where the fixture attached to the wall and the edges where years of paint buildup met the fixture. I let it dry then with a fine grit sandpaper–something like 240–leveled the entire slop bucket out so it was as supple as something that is supple.

Oh, wait! Did I mention this part? I put up a new medicine cabinet. Dur. Hello, Evan.

And how! IKEA. $70. The proportions work so much better than the old one. Fills out the space nicely. Me likey.

Back to the vanity light. Once the spackling paste dried I ran downstairs and stole some paint from my super’s utility closet, rolled it out on a piece of cardboard, huffed a bit and painted over everything so it was all one color:

Not bad, right? WRONG. THAT HOLE IS STILL NOT CENTERED, DUMMY.

What to do, what to do? I looked at a ton of options. A ton. A fuck ton, to be precise, but I couldn’t find anything preassembled that would fit this unique requirement. I decided to take a page from my own book and build one because when the chips are down and it’s the 11th hour that’s the time when you want to forget about reinventing the wheel and rest on your laurels!

Apologies for the shit picture. I’m not Ansel Adams and you’re not an art critic neither!

That’s a variation on the Lindsey Adelman chandelier I (and everyone else) made sometime last year. I won’t go into how I did it because I’ve done that before. You can check out the post I linked to above, or just email me directly if you have any questions. The construction follows the same format as the hanging pendant.

I chose to make my own because the off-centered j-box meant I needed an asymmetrical fixture. This particular fixture, however, with its three sockets feeding into one arm, created some tight spaces to work in, so its important to buy manageable wire gauges to work with. Everyone will tell you to buy 14 gauge–and they’re right!–but if you are creating a fixture like this and you have any more than two sockets running through one arm you will need 18 gauge wire. (Just keep the bulbs at or under 40 watts and you’ll be free from the threat of turning your home into kindling. No promises, though.)

So that’s it! Phase One of the bathroom completed. There are a few more phases to come but I’ll probably be secretive about those, too, until someone shames me into posting about it over social media LIKE SOME OF YOU HAVE BEEN DOING, YOU MONSTERS.

* Should we have a challenge? I love a challenge. All joking aside, if you think your rental bathroom and/or kitchen is decent send me a picture (pre-any work you’ve done to spiff it up, if you can). Prove me wrong. And, no, all you fancy individuals in your turn-key apartments and you exorbitant incomes. You only qualify for this particular contest if your apartment didn’t come with a deadbolt upon move in. How’s that to even the playing field?

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PLANTER DIY

I want to start our adventure in the treehouse of honesty because there are no secrets between us. This post barely qualifies as a DIY and I know that. This is actually part of a much larger post about an update to the back patio but I haven’t gotten all that junk organized yet. I also know what a large and ravenous fan base this site has amassed, so rather than leave the hundreds of thousands of you in the dark I’ll give you what I have at the moment. I’m just a simple servant, really, whose actions are dictated by the will of the masses. If you find yourself cackling about the thread-bare nature of this website’s content then I suggest you turn the mirror on yourself and take a cold, hard look at the reflection, you monster, because you pushed me to do this. Furthermore, if in your inevitable state of despair over the lack of a meatier post you choose to flood the TINAH account with emails containing subject lines like, “need moar plz”, “Suspense is killing me!”, “RE can’t breathe you are like air BRB dying” or something less specific, I won’t encourage it but I also won’t stop you.

OK.

Now that I’m free from any legal liability I can remind you of this DIY trellis I once made with medieval decorative death utensils:

Savage beauty.

As far as plant ladders go I’m not mad at it. Somewhere Sandra Lee is on her seventh cocktail and is enjoying this trellis. (Like, she just finished an end-of-summer tablescape for her new book “TablESCAPES” and instead of using sugar water like her producers suggested she used real rum in The Malibu Bay Tease and now she’s ass-over-teakettle after taste-testing one too many and Andrew Cuomo’s locked himself in his study because he knows she gets aggressive when she drinks brown liquor.) So it’s not the trellis:

Vomitfest.

What I abhor is that slop bucket of a planter. IT’S DEFILING MY PEEPERS WITH ITS MEDIOCRITY, YOU GUYZ. It’s got a dumb stupid face and I don’t like it.

**RANT BREAK It’s slim pickings out there, my little goat herders. You really only have two options when searching for a planter. Your first option is Home Depot. There are lots of planters to choose from at Home Depot! They have small ones and they have big ones! They have ones with edges and ones without edges!! They come in a great many variety of colors, like orange and green!!! Most are plastic but some are terracotta, which is exotic and also fun!!!! They are very sophisticated and classy and unique AND BY NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SENSED THE IRONY THEN YOU’RE A MONSTER OF EPIC PROPORTIONS. Yes, Home Depot has what you need but they also have what your neighbor needs, too. You will find an affordable planter but it will be dull and boring and look like everyone else’s. Buy one and you will end your own life from being a basic bitch.

What’s the alternative? LUXURY MONEY. That’s right! The other option is taking out a second mortgage and investing that luxury money into a planter from Design With Reach or Modernica or some other fancy place like that. This option gives you a lot of variety and a lot of sophistication and a lot of glamor. Wouldn’t life be easier if we didn’t have a budget hhhnnnnnggggghhhh???? But that’s not reality. Reality is we’re all poor and have to stick to a budget and eat our tuna from the can by bending the lid into a spoon. THOSE ARE FACTS.**

I didn’t like the options I was left with. I could either get another ugly dump trough like the one I had before or spend an entire weekend running around Manhattan in search of a new one only to possibly come up empty. No. Not for El Jefe. I like a challenge but our public transportation system is teeming with rat kings and cockroaches looking to kiss me on my mouth place so instead of taking the train all over town I just went to this local mom & pop shop in my neighborhood called The Container Store.

IMG_5393

For $10 and a few air kisses I got this amazing accessory basket, which looked vaguely like a planter but more importantly like something I could make definitely look like a planter. So I bought it. When the clerk handed me my receipt and thanked me for shopping I said, “OH NO, THE PLEASURE WAS ALL MINE, BETH!” and howled with laughter as I ran out sipping my venti low fat upside down caramel mochaccino.

First order of business was to prime this little dime piece so I could paint it later. Brushed nickel is just fine for your mom but this is not your mom’s website, is it? NO. So stop being a total mom and go buy a spray can of primer, you goon! I used Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch ULTRA because I only like to use products that sound INTENSE. I would not recommend using the half-empty can of slop primer you have laying around from one of your last projects. You won’t get as even of a finish with a brush as you will with a spray can so spend the $4 for the spray stuff, will you? I don’t want to have to call you a goon again. It hurts me more than it hurts you.

The longer you leave it the better the bond between the primer and the planter,  so set it aside to dry while you scoot on down to the hardware store again. Like a goon I forgot to mention that you should’ve bought spray paint when you picked up your primer. I went with black for mine because that’s the color of everything on my patio and on this day I was feeling unoriginal and matchy-matchy. Like I said before, I’ll explain what I’m doing on the patio later SO STOP HARASSING ME ABOUT IT. Gawd.

Just like last time, let the paint dry.  And just like last time walk your human legs down to the store while you wait. I intentionally didn’t tell you to pick up top coat while you were picking up spray paint because the Rule of Three suggests that things are inherently funnier when they happen three times. You should be laughing right now. Side-splitting laughter is what should be happening to your entire body at this moment. Maybe even a little pee is coming out, I don’t know.

I think I tweeted about this when it happened but–GUYZ–promise me you’ll pay attention when applying your top coat, mmmm’kay? Your top coat can looks strikingly similar to your primer can:

IMG_5462

I know! You’re thinking BUT, EVAN, THE CAPS ARE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS. YOU’RE A DUM-DUM and you’re right! They are two different colors but if I wanted to be a detective I wouldn’t have used the pages of my Hardy Boys books to make cootie catchers when I was a kid. Keep your eyes peeled on this last step! You don’t want to spray some gray primer on your sleek black basket and have to start the process all over again.

Once you’re primed, painted and properly sealed, it’s time to line the inside of the basket so it can be filled with dirt and plant corpses. The weave of the accessory basket I got is large so I bought a $3 roll of vinyl-coated aluminum; that’s Spanish for screen door material. (You can use chicken wire if the weave of your basket is smaller.)

I’m going to attempt to explain this next step but words and I don’t really get along too well with math. To get a snug fit between your basket and lining measure the bottom of the basket–the length and width. Now measure the height of the walls. Hopefully you’ve picked a basket with even sides. If not, may God have mercy on your soul. The size of the square of material you need to cut for your lining will be:

[(2 x Height) + Bottom Width] by [(2 x Height) + Bottom Length]

Make sense so far? Once you have your rectangle of lining cut, you have to cut into the corners to make them fold up and join together. Measure, from each corner, the length of the height of the basket. Cut a small snip in the liner. That’s your marker. Carefully cut into each marker until it meets the cut  from the opposite marker of the same corner. Finish and you should have some funk-looking thing like this:

How did we do? If you ended up with something resembling an oval go ahead and roll your eyes and say in a loud, sarcastic voice, “THANKS A LOT, EINSTEIN.” It’s fine. I can take it.

If by some miracle you made it out of this step with a piece of aluminum like you see above then the smell of booze probably doesn’t remind you of your childhood. Congratulations to your parents!

Next step. Zip ties. Those you should’ve also picked up at the hardware store and why you didn’t I have no idea. To save myself from having to paint again I got black ties. (If you’re swinging for a chartreuse planter, well, dude, you’re shit out of luck. I would wait to paint your wildly inappropriate colored planter until the very end.)

Jam that freshly cut liner in the basket and with the ends of the zip ties poke holes through the liner’s weave and secure it to the basket’s uprights:

Work the ties all the way around the perimeter of the basket so the liner is super secure!

A note about the liner: it should be given a generous spray of top coat so it doesn’t corrode and rust over time. I did with mine and I did it after I secured the zip ties. You’re probably screaming at the computer WHY ARE WE DOING A TOP COAT AGAIN. WHY DIDN’T YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU WERE DONE WITH THE LINER TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE YOU BIG DUMB GAY MORON and to that I say ANOTHER COAT CAN’T HURT. IT WILL LAST LONGER. I TAKE OFFENSE TO THE WORD BIG. THE REST IS FINE.

Bite your tongue, spray it again, let it dry and you’re pretty much done. Really! You’re standing before a fully operational planting mechanism. Your eyes are melting in their sockets from the beauty of it all.

For filler I used moss as a bed and then threw in some dirt…

…but you can use just dirt or rocks or empty Otter Pop wrappers or whatever else you have in abundance. I don’t know your life.

All that’s left to do is take this new invention from Apple called a screwdriver and affix it to your favorite wall-thing:

This is a huge improvement over those run-of-the-mill plastic ones, am I right?

Here’s what you’ll need:

Accessory basket $10

Rust-Oleum Primer ULTRA Cover $4

Rust-Oleum Spray Paint (matte) $8

Rust-Oleum ULTRA Cover Gloss (clear) $4

Roll of vinyl-coated aluminum $3

Pack of zip ties $2

Dirt (steal it from your neighbors)

Plant (steal that, too)

Total cost: $21

Now go make yourself a cocktail to enjoy as you sit and ogle your new beauty creation. You’ve earned it!

DRESSER UPDATE OR HOW TO RACHAEL LEIGH COOK YOUR FURNITURE

As I mentioned in my previous post my DIY libido has been a little low lately. I look around my apartment and I see a lot of things I want to tackle–bathroom renovation, patio facelift, custom planters, new hallway fixture, new fence, new kitchen cabinets, new doors, NEW EVERYTHING. When you’re a renter like me some of this stuff is realistic and maybe some of it’s not, but all of it is most definitely overwhelming when you can’t to take a step back and break it up into manageable bits. I Want It All Done And I Want It All Done Now is the common M.O. of someone who struggles with patience and rationality and their undeniable lovechild, prioritization. A sane, productive person would look at a mountainous pile of To Do’s and set small achievable goals. Then they’d begin chipping away at it, brick by brick, project by project, until the task is completed, always keeping in mind that the whole is only as great and the sum of its parts. But what do you, the restless, self-doubting, self-sabotaging person, end up doing? Buckle under the enormous pressure to finish everything by planting yourself in bed, hoping to drink red wine and watch Bob’s Burgers but really playing Candy Crush, staining your sheets red and hating yourself for not giving your full attention to Bob’s Burgers.

Of these two types of people, Type A and Type Human Landfill, I will forever be the latter. It’s my birthright. That kind of destructive behavior is never going away.

Here’s an example of the dialogue I have with myself every evening, upon walking in the door from work: 

Smart Evan: Hm, my place looks pretty damn good. Go me! [Grunting] 

Dumb Evan: What are you doing? 

Resourceful Evan: Trying to get this dresser I found on the street through the door! Can you get the other side, Daddy-o? 

Unimaginative Evan: No. 

Sane Evan: [sweating] Whew! That was heavy! I can’t wait to start sanding this down. It’s going to look great over there in the corner.

Stupid Evan: Mother of God.

Rational Evan: What’s that?

Destructive Evan: [stepping into the hallway] I said, there’s a half-painted flower pot over there that should be a fully-painted flower pot.

Rational: Oh, you! I see that but I’m not in a rush, mister man! I’m letting it dry completely before applying a second coat, otherwise it may streak or chip. Duh!

Destructive: I see. And that pile of salvaged wood out by the patio? That must be waiting for a second coat, too?

Rational: No, you silly-ba-nilly! The wood is there for when I start building the fence. But before I can do that I need to get these pots done. And then after the fence I’m going to do this dresser. You are too funny!

Destructive: Ooooh, ok ok ok. Got it got it gooot iiit. Because, like, I didn’t know if you were actually trying to accomplish something or just auditioning for the next season of Hoarders.

Rational: No way, Jose! What’s Hoarders?

Destructive: Yea! You know it’s that show where people can’t stop saving things and it piles up and up and up and eventually they bury themselves alive in their own, like, mausoleum of junk and broken dreams?

Rational: Um….huh?

Destructive: No no no, it’s not a big thing I’m just saying, like, if you need someone to film your submission tape I’m more than happy to do it. We just need a few more paint cans and secondhand wicker dining chairs and you’ll be golden.

Rational: I’m sensing some sarcasm.

Destructive. What? PFFF! Fat chance, Lance! No sarcasm here.

Rational: Ok…

Destructive: I mean, ok, there was a tinsy bit of sarcasm.

Rational: I knew it–

Destructive: –you don’t need any more paint cans or secondhand wicker dining chairs. You have enough already.

Rational: It’s not that bad.

Destructive: Hey, who am I to judge, right? Today I had guacamole and chips for breakfast. Lemme just ask you this: are you really going to get this all done?

Rational: Well, that’s the plan…

Destructive: Because I’m ALL FOR you getting it done, don’t get me wrong…

Rational: …but…

Destructive: …BUUUUUUUT it just seems like, you know, all I see is an apartment full of half finished projects and projects that haven’t even been started and projects that even if you wanted to start you wouldn’t have the room to start because the half finished ones are taking up all the available space.

Rational: I….I can see that, sure.

Destructive: And, you know, I’m just looking out for YOU.

Rational: I…appreciate that.

Destructive: Because, hey, lemme tell you right now buddy it’s not normal to have a shipping palette in your bathroom.

Rational: I AM PLANNING ON BREAKING IT DOWN AND MAKING IT INTO A WALL TREATMENT!!!$%#@

[Pause]

Destructive: Whoa.

Rational: I’m sorry. I’m so stressed. I want to die all of the deaths.

Destructive: Shhhhh. Shh-shh-shhhhh. There there. You don’t need to be stressed.

Rational: I don’t?

Destructive: No. Just sit down. Relax. Drop your bag and lay down on the bed. [Goes into the kitchen]

Rational: Ok.

Destructive: Red or white?

Rational: What?

Destructive: Do you want a glass of wine? To unwind?

Rational: Oh. Sure. Yes, that does sound nice. Red, please.

Destructive: Great. [Returns to the bed] Here you go. Poor baby. You’re so exhausted.

Rational: I really am.

Destructive: Would you like me to turn on the TV, see what’s on?

Rational: That’s perfect.

Destructive: Netflix?

Rational: Mmm, yes.

Destructive: Bob’s Burgers is streaming. Sound good?

Irrational: You’re the best.

And so it’s been going, every night for the past few months. Rational Evan eventually caves and willingly, cooly and numbly falls into the warm, cozy embrace of Destructive Evan’s clutches, or what is commonly referred to in my home as The Cabernet Haze.

It was after this last stretch of The Haze that I realized my creativity boner would need a little Viagra if I was ever going to get back on track and stockpiling old futon frames in the corner of my living room again. What I needed was the movie equivalent of a nerdy girl makeover–low effort, high impact–like when Molly Ringwald pulls back Ally Sheedy’s hair to reveal she has a jaw or when a girl discovers contacts and snags Freddie Prinze Jr. [SIDE NOTE: Try getting that Six Pence None The Richer song out of your head now. I dare you.]

I sat in my bed for a long while, looking around my apartment with a discerning eye, before it jumped out at me as if to say, “HELLO, MORON,” like a stripped sweater in a Where’s Waldo book:

Say what you will about IKEA but this Hemnes dresser has been a stalwart–A STALWART, I TELL YOU. To be unabashedly hyperbolic, it is, without a doubt, the William Wallace of my apartment because for three hundred bucks and half a dozen meatballs no other piece of furniture in this shack is as much of a warrior, OK? (Sorry, Design Within Reach. I’m still available for sponsorship. This post can and will be deleted without hesitation.) But, despite it’s redurlability–that’s durability and reliability (you’re welcome)–I think we can all agree its monochromaticity is a little bit like a wet fart, no? A big brown mess that just kinda runs all over the floor.

Cue Home Depot:

No, this is not the back of an issue of Highlights; the knobs are a different color! What a novel idea, right? I AM A DESIGN GURU.

But seriously–honestly–look at those brass beauties and what a difference they make. Then look in the mirror and tell yourself a well-deserved I Could’ve Done That because you can and you should and it’s ridiculous that for *$20 you can justify having a blog about home design.

Anyway, that’s the show, kids. I hope the heavy fireworks delivered. Knobs. Unscrewing old ones and screwing on new ones. Who would’ve guessed? It may not seem like a lot (and it’s not) but it was what I needed to put that spring back in my step.

*If you can claim you found the knobs were mislabeled the whole abysmally unskilful project can come in under ten bucks, but the money you save you will pay for with your pride. This comes from a trusted source. My pride is worth ten whole dollars.

FREECYCLED: SCHOOLHOUSE BENCH

There are a lot of things I’m painfully unaware of in the moment. When I order popcorn at a movie theater and leave with a buttered crotch–that’s one. When I’m texting in bed and forget about gravity (ouch!)–that’s another. When I’m caught picking my nose by the person in the cab right next to mine–WHICH WE ALL DO BECAUSE WE HAVE MEDICALLY-DIAGNOSED IRRITABLE NOSTRIL CAVITIES AND THAT’S A REAL THING–well, sure, that’s probably another good example of how I’m not always aware of my surroundings. The exception is when I’m on the street. That’s a different story. On the street there is garbage and garbage makes me happy and garbage keeps me focused. If you don’t know by now how much I love garbage and the potential I see in it then you must just be here for the silly dog pictures.

It was one of my first winters in Manhattan when I went to meet some friends for a CWC (classy woman’s cocktail). The night before it snowed almost a foot and the city was enveloped by a thick, white blanket of powder, like a layer of butter cream frosting over a sheet cake. One margarita became nine and what was intended to be a night cap turned into a sloppy stumble home at 3 AM through the dark streets of West Harlem, which should tell you something about what a fearless terror I was at 22 years old. Speaking of, I would like to take this opportunity to formerly apologize to all of the five boroughs of New York City for the emotional and physical distress caused by 22 year old Evan. He roamed the streets at night, inebriated, sifting through your garbage. He aspired to be Cry Me A River Timberlake but could only pull off Like I Love You Timberlake. He said things like “chill” and “that’s bananas”. He didn’t have much regard for his personal safety and when he rode the subway he always had a scowl on his face. He acknowledges that after three pitchers of tequila he really should’ve just taken a cab and called it a night but instead he did cartwheels up and down 137th Street, listening to She Wolf on his iPod, and he’s real sorry about that.

Drunk, damp and cold I barreled ass over tea kettle down the street, exercising the limits of my healthy buzz, when out of the corner of eye I caught a bright yellow table leg poking up from the snow, buried beneath a black Hefty bag and stack of AM New Yorks. What I dug out from that mountain of trash would eventually follow me from place to place (to place to place to place) for the next 8 years:

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Battered and bruised but brilliant (alliteration!)

Even through my double vision I could tell this thing had good bones. It was beat to hell but it weighed a damn ton. The top was bespeckled with all kinds of things: paint, plaster, stain, polyurethane. One of the legs was missing a huge chunk from it, but the cross braces were in good shape so structurally it was sound, which I tested by laying on it in the middle of the sidewalk (22 year old Evan’s idea). I found it 3 blocks from my apartment–I’m not sure how I was able to haul it back home–and my arms had given out by the time I made it to my front door. I woke up the next morning and marveled at my accomplishment, yet still slightly unsure of how this bench got to be in my room. Go figure. Most people have a drunken night and wake up with a strange person in their bed. I have a drunken night and end up with strange furniture. I’m proud to say that since this time I’m a little more socially acclimated–but only slightly.

Because the circumstances surrounding the bench were so unique it moved with me to each subsequent apartment. When I moved into my studio and got some outdoor space I made a pact to finally give it the facelift it deserved. Sanding can be a difficult business to tackle indoors. You can do it, for sure, but the prep work and clean up is drag. I’ll have to write a post on that later because it can be done. Whether or not anyone actually wants to do it (or read it) is another matter entirely.

Initially my plan was to go very simple and elegant with it; strip it entirely, use a delicate maple stain to highlight the wood grain, upholster the top with black leather and brass nailheads. It was a good plan, it was, but things kind of went south when I ran a sheet of coarse sandpaper over the top and found out how deep the different layers of paint and stain actually went:

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That right there took Daddy roughly 90 minutes of hard, finger-paralyzing labor. Ugh.

So I changed my plans. I think it’s great to go into a situation with your guns blazing but leave yourself some room to edit and scale back. Be practical and don’t get down on yourself for cutting corners if needed. The original design for the bench would’ve been stunning if it was executed but it also would’ve taken 10+ hours, and if you’re a weekend warrior like me that’s several weeks of work. Nah-uh. No thank you, sir. Next!

As a compromise I decided I would sand down the entire the top. The struggle was real on that poor bench’s face and it needed some love, no doubt about it. I couldn’t cut a corner there. However the legs and braces were in good shape, so to save myself some time I would lightly sand down any rough patches, prime and repaint in a darker color, most likely black, to cover any blemishes I couldn’t remove with the paper. The leather idea I threw out because who am I Finn Juhl? GET REAL, EVAN, YOU CAN’T UPHOLSTER.

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat of stain. I went with Minwax Dark Walnut instead of maple since I knew I would be painting the base a deep black and needed a wood tone to compliment:

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I had to make several passes before I was satisfied with the color. Also some woods are far more porous than others so if your stain doesn’t take right away just persist! You’re not doing anything wrong. For this project I went with five coats in total. By coat three I had achieved the dark walnut look but I wanted a deeper tone so I kept slapping that shit on. With a foam brush. Have a mentioned that before? TEAM FOAM BRUSH. I hate bristle brushes. They need to go somewhere far away–like hopefully where Woody Allen’s films from 1987 to the present will go–and never ever come back. I also use a rag when I stain, too, to wipe down any excess, so don’t forget to bring one of your old camp t-shirts with you. It helps ensure I can be as sloppy as possibly when applying the stain and I don’t have to worry about streaking or pooling.

For the base I went interior semi-gloss from Behr, but only because I had some extra lying around. This is hardly an endorsement for Behr. Unless one of the good people at Behr is reading this. In that case you can make the check out to CASH. Please email me for my address and thank you in advance!

Here is where I ended up:

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For a garbage bench salvaged from the bowels of uptown Manhattan I think it has been done justice. Sadly I had to part with it just before the Apartment Therapy shoot but I was able to find a friend who could take care of it for me until I get a little more room. All in all this project cost a whopping $9, which was the cost of one of the ‘ritas that sent me off into the night when I first discovered it all those years ago.

Now, for the people who are here only for the silly dog pictures, thank you for putting up with all of this nonsense. Your reward is a Finn in a shearling:

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NIGHTSTAND DIY

Last month you might remember I mentioned an exciting little nugget of DIY showed up on my doorstep. Well, that mystery package was actually a hunk of beautiful Northern California buckeye burl wood and the DIY in question is a new, sexy and rugged nightstand for myself.

The inspiration came from Morgan over at The Brick House. She did a fantastic color dipping project for Sherwin-Williams’ National Painting Week which I have been dying to do myself ever since I read about it. (By the way, go check out her blog! It’s brilliant and you’ll be much smarter for having given it a look-see. Promise.)

If you scroll down to my previous post about upcycling my Jon Hamm look-a-like lamp the last picture shows what I was working with in the nightstand department. When I moved into my studio I needed a something in a pinch and chose the Mid-Century Nightstand from West Elm. While I like West Elm furniture (my bed is WE and has been outstanding for going on five years now) it didn’t really fit the style of my apartment–I always knew I’d swap it out at some point–and once I found the perfect piece of lumber (from eBay! Who knew?) I finally had the opportunity to do something unique with the space next to my bed.

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The piece came totally raw, so I first started by finding the lowest grade sandpaper the corner hardware store carried (40) a buying a lot of it. I don’t generally recommend buying sanding blocks. If you’re like me and don’t have a lot of storage go with paper sheets instead. They’re just as effective, cost less and are easy to store if you have leftovers. I seem to always have a use for sandpaper, too (strange, I know), so having a little extra is always a good thing. Plus, for this project, you will need an assload.

Then I set about creating a smooth and even surface by sanding with the wood’s grain until my hands became bloody stumps. Even though I new which side would be my top I sanded both sides of the wood anyway. It might seem like more work than’s necessary but if you don’t you’ll have wood dandruff flaking off from the underside of your nightstand for years to come.IMG_4416Burl wood is a fairly soft wood but if you get a piece as raw as mine you’ll really need to work at it to get an even consistency throughout the piece. IMG_4417Also, burl wood is an abnormal growth found on trees, the product of an environmental stress suffered by the tree, most often caused by fungal or insect infection, so you may need to sand deeper than you expected to eradicate any bands of dead fungus or such. (Oh, nature!)

IMG_4418Oh wait, did I mention sanding until your hands are nothing more than oozy little potato buds? I did? Well, ok, I really meant it.

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Seriously sanding Susan

If you’re not giving yourself blisters THEN I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT.

Once you’re done with the coarse sanding and you’ve bound and dressed your wounds, if you can still lift your arms take a finer grade sand paper (120 or higher) and give the whole thing a little love. Nothing nuts, just light and even to smooth the whole thing out. Again, with the grain people. The grain is your friend.

Now, depending on the piece of wood you find–raw, vintage, pre-stained–this step may be different for you. Since my piece was raw (and because I’ve made no illusion to being a patient person) I didn’t use a primer; just went straight to staining. If you don’t have a raw piece of wood, or if you do and are seeking a specific tone, priming never hurts and will always give you the upper hand. I, however, had some leftover stain from a previous project that wasn’t as dark as I wanted so I knew I’d be making several passes with the stuff to enrich the color anyway, regardless of the wood absorbing the stain or not. Leave it to me to not do thing the way you’re supposed but that’s half the fun of DIY-ing. You have to find your groove!

Speaking of staining, I get asked a lot what kind of brush do you use for what and why. Well, friends, this may be wildly inappropriate for me to admit but I don’t really know. Nor do I care. I use foam brushes for just about everything because I feel they’re more forgiving than bristle brushes when you make a mistake. Plus you’re not forced to hunt for runaway bristles stuck in the coat of the thing you’re painting/staining/priming/sealing. For me, it just cuts out the worry of screwing up. So…foam brushes. Forever and always.

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Dark walnut beauty

Stained and drying, I went on to the next step: the legs. For this you’ll need an equal number of galvanized pipes and floor flanges. No, a flange is not one of Pheobe Buffay’s fake names, but what you’ll need to affix the leg to the bottom of the nightstand. The size and length are totally up to you. For this project I used three 1/2″ x 12″ pipes and their corresponding flanges. Home Depot will always have this stuff in stock–look in the plumbing aisle.

Grab a ball of twine while you’re out, too. Jute is best or any other kind of untreated rope. I found a roll of jute at the corner hardware store for $3. Just don’t get anything waxy or plastic. You won’t be able to paint that and also…gross.

IMG_4426Warning: this next part may obliterate your thumbs, so if you actually gave yourself blisters from sanding earlier, well, (1st) Bravo to you, welcome to the club! and (2nd) you may want to wait until you’re healed before attempting the following. However if you’re feeling wildly adventurous throw on that White Snake denim jacket and continue being a total badass!

IMG_4427Screw the flange to one end of the galvanized pipe. Place a small bead of glue (I used hot glue because I’m Martha Stewart and have a glue gun at the ready at all times, motherfucker, but you can use Gorilla Glue or something else if you’re basic like that) at the top, where the flange meets the pipe.

Using your bruised and bloody thumb as a guide tightly wind the jute around the pipe with your other hand, pushing upward with your thumbs every few rotations to make sure everything’s right and tight. I used a relatively thin gauge of twine so it took me about 30 minute/pipe, but if you’re using thicker rope it may go quicker.

Drop a little beadlet of glue every inch or so along the pipe to make sure the jute doesn’t jostle. When you reach the end of the pipe cut the twine, giving yourself roughly 1/2″ on the end to tuck inside the pipe and glue. Maybe do this step with a knife, or chopstick if you have one handy, so as not to burn yourself/adhere your first layer of skin to the pipe.

Once that’s done it’s time for my favorite activity: spray painting wildly and without abandon! Like Morgan did in her post, you can dip the legs in a can of paint, which is probably easier and less messy, but I didn’t have any so I just went full tilt with a can.

The length of the color block is totally up to you. I did 3″ from the bottom of the leg, taped if off and covered the rest of the leg in a grocery bag:

IMG_4428Jute is spongy so don’t be surprised if you have to dip or spray a few times to get your desired color density. Those should dry pretty quickly but you may be held up at this point for a day or two as you wait for the stain to dry before applying your top coat.

I’m not a huge fan of polyurethane in general (it just seems so obviously environmentally egregious) but I understand why we use them, so use it I did. It’s important to seal up your work after putting this much time and energy into it. When you do apply the poly top coat definitely use a foam brush. High gloss polys are very unforgiving to mistakes so a fat foam brush will be your best friend for this next step. I also recommend three to four coats. Seriously. You know I’m not a fan of extra steps but I think you’ll really be glad you took the time here.

Allow each coat of poly to dry fully before taking a microgrit sandpaper (maybe 240) and lightly sand to even out any inconsistencies. And, as always, wear your mask and goggles, ya dopes! How many times do I have to say it!?

IMG_4441Wipe off the poly dust you made from sanding with a damp rag, let the surface dry then repeat the whole thing again until the top of the nightstand has your desired sheen.

Oh right. I already attached my legs by now, so you should do that, too. Screw those suckers on.

IMG_4442Last, pick up some Johnson Paste Wax. It’s like $6 and you can find it anywhere, maybe even at your local drugstore. This will give your studly table a creamy, smooth and delicious finish.

Take your time and work it into the wood. You’ll want to do this every 3-4 months or so just to keep the top supple and sexy. Grrrr!

IMG_4446And that’s it!

I will finish this post by saying this project was CHEAP (because it was) but I won’t finish this post by lying saying it was quick. The steps are easy and require very little skill, but you really need to set aside an entire weekend and then some to complete the process.

I will say, however, that your time will be rewarded ten fold. This thing is a real beauty.

Also, see that nudey portrait in the stunning aluminum frame? I found it the day before, leaning against a tree on my block, while taking Finn on his morning walking. Pretty great, right?

*Cue the Countess*

UPCYCLED: TABLE LAMP

I’m always on the hunt for a new light fixture. I have a preternatural addiction to all things ceramic and glowing. A friend once told me, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, he thinks I will come back as a lamp, and while I find that charming and idiosyncratic it’s certainly not ideal being pegged as the Thomas Edison of cat ladies by your pals. Luckily for my sick perversity, the other side of the double-edged sword that is having an apartment with very little direct sunlight is always having an excuse to enable my bad behavior. This is unlucky for my sense of propriety, however, as I sit in bed and count six–count ’em SIX–lamps in my less-than-300-square-foot apartment.

A few months ago I found a fantastic mid-century stud sun bathing on the sands of eBay and I knew I had to have him:

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WOOF

Is that not the Don Draper of bedside reading lights or what? You could practically smell the Lucky Strikes coming off the computer screen, so I snatched it up and waited not-so-patiently for it to arrive.

A few days later it was delivered and I scurried up to my apartment to rip open the box like a mongoose with a ball of tin foil: all teeth and very little dignity. Once opened I made a curious sound, something like a ‘hrmph’ but closer to a sigh. My gorgeous, curvy electric boyfriend wasn’t as gorgeous as I imagined. Online he was understated and evocative but what laid before me was just dull and sorta lifeless and not at all fresh. Something about the color, the wheat into umber, felt like a huge THUD when I put him on my nightstand.

The day before my mail-order husband came I popped my head into a Pottery Barn and found a super simple yet super classy coarse weave linen drum shade, which just happened to be on sale and which I thought would give the lamp some nice contrast of texture, however it really just made the whole thing monochromatic and flat, so now I was really stuck.

[SIDE NOTE: Can we talk about what a racket the lampshade industry is? First, drum shades are shockingly hard to come by. Even in New York City everything is either tapered or squared or tasseled or embroidered or ruffled or silk taffeta-ed. Since when did Christy Masters and the rest of the A Group start dictating design trends? Then there’s prices! Shades upwards of 300 spanks with most beginning around 75! HUH? And if you don’t want to take out a loan for a little diffused light the only other option is a $15 shade that looks like it was made with Xerox paper and a stick of paste. Where’s the variety, terrible lampshade industry? The whole mess is a hot sack of dead weasels if you ask me. I’ll have to figure out a DIY project for us, the levelheaded and under-served, and post it later. #endkanyerant]

So rather than trash the lamp and accept defeat I decided the give it a facelift. The main problem for me was the color and I figured if I could freshen it up a bit the whole thing could be salvaged.

I started with selecting a primer. When choosing, it’s always easier if you know the top coat of the thing you’ll be painting. My local hardware store had a very small selection of spray can primers so I went with Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover. The canister said it bonds to plastic and since the lamp had some type of acrylic sealant as its top coat (I guessed) I figured this was my best bet.

To help the primer bond to the lamp I took a piece of coarse sandpaper–something like a 60 grade–and sanded the whole thing. ALWAYS WEAR A MASK AND GOGGLES WHEN YOU DO THIS. I know I’m a crazed stickler about this but who knows what chemicals you’re releasing into the air by messing with sealants. Protect yourself!

After I scored the lamp with sandpaper I wiped it down with a damp rag to remove any residue and let it dry. While it was drying I covered the lamp’s brass fixtures by wrapping them in sandwich bags and taping them off. Make sure every milometer of what you don’t want painted is covered so you can really go to town with your spray can and not worry about leakage.

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat of primer:

IMG_3846It’s important not to coat the entire lamp, tits to toes, on the first pass. It will require at least two coats to get a smooth, even finish with the primer, but I’m an impatient jerk and I tried to get it all done in one shot. When you do what I did though you run the risk of the paint collecting unevenly in spots and running. Which is what happened to me. Which is why I began to cry.

If this happens fear not and LET THE THING DRY. Once your horrid, lumpy beast of a paint job is dry you can go back with a very fine grade, gently sand down the imperfections and start again:

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It really pays to be patient and follow directions. Give yourselves a big pat on the back, parents!

One way or the other you will get a smooth and supple finish, however I do not recommend doing it my way. It will only cause you unnecessary pain and heartbreak. Take your time and spray gingerly.

Once the primer was dry (I let each coat dry for an hour, even though the can said it would be fine after 20 minutes, to give it maximum hold) I went in with the color. I used Rust-Oleum’s Indoor/Outdoor Satin spray. Again, I’m not a guru about this stuff. I just knew I wanted something durable and if the can says it’s good enough for outdoor furniture then it sure as hell should stand up inside, right? Also I went with satin because it has a matte finish, which is always easier to pull off for novice painters like myself. Remember: the glossier the paint the more imperfections will show when it dries. If you are not at all confident in your skills (like me), do yourself a favor and paint in matte.

IMG_3848Here’s a good tip to keep in mind: spray paint travels. Make sure to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need when painting. It may seem like overkill to buy three tarps when one will do you just fine but after a few coats and a light breeze those small particles can accumulate to make a big problem. Check out my patio once I finished. I lifted the rug just for some shits and giggles:

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Finn does not approve.

Don’t be like me, kids. Take the time to cover your workspace. You (and your landlord) will thank you.

I gave the lamp four coats in total. That was probably overkill but I really wanted there to be a richness to the satin and a sense of texture to work with the shade. I think two coats should do most everyone else just fine.

Here was the end result:

IMG_3853I think it’s a vast improvement over the original. Now it works with the shade, the brass fixtures and my apartment, and for $14, two cans of spray paint and roughly two hours of actual labor I was able to salvage something old and make it my own. There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently in hindsight (namely, taken my goddamn time) but even when things went wrong they were beyond simple to repair.

CHANDELIER DIY

I first discovered Lindsey Adelman‘s work during a recent window shopping sweep through SoHo. It was in one of those furniture shops where nothing has price tags. You know the ones I’m talking about. You walk in, someone stares you down and suddenly you’re Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive.

As uncomfortable as they may be I never count these places out. If your door is open I’m-a comin’ in–that’s how I feel about it, regardless if I have the money to spend (which I don’t). Who cares if the place might be a little stuffy and the staff’s a tad rude? Use it as an opportunity to find great inspiration for a cheap DIY project. The world is your Ikea! Go out and take it by the meatballs! Lucky for me, Lindsey’s site has instructions for a DIY version of her very popular Agnes chandelier series.

My only prior experience with electrical wiring did not end well. It was July of 2012 and the third day in my new apartment. I went to Home Depot to pick up a few things and came back with a beautiful bistro-inspired pendant light for the kitchen. I hadn’t planned on changing out that fixture but it was marked down 80% and for a discount I’ll do anything once.

It was the ground wire that tripped me up. Since my apartment building is old most of the ceiling fixtures don’t have one. (If you open a fixture in a newer home, or buy a ceiling light from a department store, the ground wire is the green one, along with the white wire, called neutral, and the black or red wire, referred to as hot.) A very oversimplified explanation for the ground wire is to ensure you don’t shock yourself when touching the fixture. I may sound all smart and educated and junk about this stuff now, but last year I was clueless. I took one look at that little green devil and, recalling my second grade color wheel, figured it would go best with black, so I wrapped the two together, stuffed it all back into the ceiling and flipped the switch.

Blowing the breaker, I sort of expected. The fireball and subsequent man squeal I made, I did not. Needless to say, as gorgeous and exciting (and cost effective) as Lindsey’s chandelier was, I was nervous going in.

Most everything I needed I found at Grand Brass and the few things I couldn’t get there (wire, wire strippers, etc) I picked up at the hardware store. Nothing was hard to find nor was it very expensive:

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The beauty of this project is there really are no rules. Unlike stripping a piece of furniture or tiling you can do this any way you want. It’s a little bit like Lincoln Logs. You can build a fort for your G.I. Joes (my brother) or you can construct a three-story condo with attached garage and indoor sauna for your female X-Men figurines (me). It’s up to you. Just make sure you get enough wire. The last thing you want is to be wiring all these arms and run short. Plus if you’ve never used wire strippers before it may take some practice, and if you’re not careful you will cut through your supply faster than you realize. Play it safe and get 2 yards more than you think you’ll need. It’s cheap and you’ll thank yourself later.

Wiring a lamp is deceptively simple. All you’re doing is connecting the neutral and hot wires to the socket, which houses each bulb, then building each arm of the lamp around the wires. It doesn’t matter how many arms you decide to make, for each bulb it will be the same process:

Connect each wire to the porcelain socket. The hot wire, black or red, will always attach to the gold screw

Then build the arm around the screw, threading the wire as you go

When you finish each arm of the chandelier you’ll end up with multiple neutral and hot wires sprouting from the tips. Rather then fuss about with all these wires make life easier on yourself by combining all the blacks together and all the whites together. Strip two more long pieces of each wire, connect those to their respective cluster and twist the whole thing together with a wing nut:

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 2.44.11 PMThis makes everything less confusing when you go to wire it to the ceiling or a wall socket. Wiring a lamp is all about current; allowing the electrical current from the power source to travel the length of the wires and into the bulb to turn it on. When you combine a cluster of wires, like above, just make sure each wire has enough of its insides exposed (about an inch is fair) to permit the current to travel between each one.

That’s basically it! So here’s what I started with:

And this is what I ended up with:

photoQuite an improvement, don’t you think? It’s incredibly simple and classy, so now you really have no excuse to have one of those terrible ceiling boobs in your home if you don’t want it.

P.S. Grand Brass has done a brilliant thing! You can buy Lindsey Adelman’s entire lamp kit in one fell swoop by clicking HERE. It’s $140–a little more expensive than piecemealing all the components together like I did but worth it if this is your first go at wiring a lamp!

P.P.S. I even added a dimmer switch, which you really do need for a lamp with this many bulbs, but that’s for another post!