Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Weekender: Urban Gardening Part 1 - DIY Raised Patio Garden Planters

Over the past year, my inner Martha Stewart has been clawing its way out. I'm not sure what's caused this sudden domestication, but lately I've been all about making things from scratch. From fresh baked bread to the three layer, triple chocolate cake with peanut butter chocolate chip cheesecake and peanut butter buttercream frosting cake I made for my husband's birthday, I've been baking and cooking like crazy!

Which is what led me to gardening. I started with herbs planted in vintage canisters and milk glass bowls. I spent an obsessive amount of time staring at my gorgeous herbs before deciding it was time to go bigger and start a veggie garden.

My little indoor herb garden.

The idea didn't take much planning. If you google raised garden beds, you'll see that they're pretty easy to make; it's a box on legs. Our landlords had planned to build their own raised beds the year before but never got around to it so they still had the wood, plus a few scraps from other projects. Using their wood as a starting point, we decided to keep our design pretty simple and build 3 4' x 2' tables. The first two tables were 33" high and 11" deep with a shelf on the bottom to hold gardening supplies. The last table was 16.5" deep to hold veggies with longer roots and only 24" high, which makes it the perfect height for growing taller things like tomatoes and cucumbers.

After coming up with our plan and making a list of needed materials, it was time to make the hardest decision ever:

TREATED OR NOT?- Seriously, there are HUGE debates about this online. Some people fear that the chemicals in treated wood will contaminate their garden. The wood that my landlord had was treated so we had no choice but to work with it. To be safe, I googled and found that since 2003, arsenic is no longer used to treat wood. Nowadays, treated wood contains alkaline copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole (CA-B) which work to protect the wood from soil rot and ward off insects. If you're worried about the copper getting in your soil, studies show that only a negligible amount of copper actually leaches into the soil, so even if ingested, you'd have to eat a LOT of veggies in a short period of time for it to amount to much.

That said, if you have the money for it and want a certified organic garden, go with cedar or for a cheaper option, try fir. The treated wood we had from our landlord wasn't enough for all 3 beds and when we went to to buy more, all they had was cedar. To make our planters look uniform, we used the cedar on the fronts of the planters and saved the treated wood, some of which had warped from being stored in the garage, for the backs.

My first time at Menard's lumber warehouse. I think THIS Home Depot girl may have to switch teams!

There are other things to take into consideration such as soil choice and planting method. I'll go over that stuff next week. As far as style, do a google image search and you'll come across tons of design ideas. We wanted easy and inexpensive so our design is pretty basic but you could go crazy with built-in benches, powder-coated metal legs, and built-in water systems. Make them long and narrow to fit condo patios or go big in a suburban backyard. The possibilities are endless!



TIME: 1 day
COST: $50-$100 per table depending on type of wood
  • (1-2) 4"x4"s cut to desired table height for use as legs (ours are 33" and 24")
  • (2) 8ft 1"x6" boards cut into (4) 4ft sections
  • (1) 8ft 1"x6" board cut into (4) 2ft sections
  • (2) 8ft 1"x4" boards cut into 2ft sections (add an extra 1"x4" if you want to build a shelf, optional)
  • (1) 8ft 2"x2" cut into (2) 4ft sections (for the shelf, optional)
  • bolts or decking screws (we used screws)
  • vinyl hardware cloth
  • landscaping cloth, window screen mesh, or cardboard
    **calculations based on one 2'x4' table that's 11"deep

BUILD - This is super easy. Screw (or bolt) the 1x6s to your legs. When it's all together, turn the table upside down and lay your 1x4s across the bottom to serve as the supports for the soil. If you plan to add a shelf, attach your supports to the legs at the desired height, then screw the extra 1x4 boards on top. (Side note, you don't have to use 2x2s for the shelf supports. We did because that's what we had on hand but you could use any size boards cut to size.)

STAIN - Staining isn't necessary. My landlord was super worried about the cedar warping and had me add the stain, which is also a waterproofer, to help it last longer. We used Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain. This was my first time using a solid color stain and I have to say, I LOVED it! Unlike regular wood stain which is thin and watery, it goes on thick like paint which came in handy for doing designs. It only took one coat, 2 in a few spots, to finish the job. 

MESH - Cut the hardware cloth and your landscape cloth/screen/cardboard to fit your table adding a little bit extra to go up the sides. Place the hardware cloth inside the table resting on the slats and use a staple gun to staple it to the frame. Add the fabric/cardboard and do the same.

Raised planters have a problem retaining water since there's no ground under them to keep the moisture in. For this reason, landscaper's cloth or cardboard are good liners since they both hold moisture. If you use cardboard, just be aware that eventually it will decompose which is good for the soil since it will leave behind lots of beneficial nutrients, but bad for you since you'll have nothing keeping your soil inside. We were going to use cardboard to line the bottom of the planters but we didn't have enough so we used our landlord's landscape cloth. The weave of the cloth is so tight that it doesn't drain when you water your plants, and instead, the water slowly evaporates through the bottom of the cloth which is good. We've been watering every 1-2 days so far no problems!

FILL & PLANT - Now you're ready to fill your planters! Move the planters to your desired location (they're heavy once soil is inside) and add your soil, plants, and seeds. I'll post about our soil and gardening choices next week. Till then, happy building!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Weekender: DIY Concrete Countertops Part II - 2.5 Year Update & Resealing How-To

Our resealed concrete counter!

Two and a half years ago, we embarked on our biggest DIY project - a concrete-topped kitchen island. From designing the island to building the frame to pouring the concrete, we did the whole thing ourselves. Talk about stress! I spent months researching concrete and trying to convince my husband that we really could do this on our own. After finally getting him to say yes, it was MY turn to freak out. What if the base we built wasn't strong enough and we ended up with 500lbs of concrete crashing through the floor? I'm pretty sure we'd lose our security deposit. Nonetheless, we dug in and after a few mistakes with the base (like screwing up the measurements and not realizing it until AFTER we finished building) and a lot of mistakes with the concrete finishing steps, we ended up with the island of our dreams!

>> Want to build your own countertop? Check out our concrete countertop DIY tips.

So after 2 1/2 years, how do we like the concrete? We LOVE it! It's just as beautiful as it was the first day and we couldn't be happier. If we weren't renters and I didn't already like the wood counters in the rest of the kitchen, I would do all the tops in concrete. As long as you're willing to do light maintenance and get rid of harsh cleaners, you'll love concrete too. Below are a few basic rules we follow.


Cleaning - Bleach, vinegar, and other harsh cleaners will eat through your sealer. Instead, stick with soapy water, gentle sprays like Clorox Anywhere Spray, and granite/stone cleaners. We generally do soapy water for daily cleaning and use the Anywhere Spray for disinfecting. I've cheated and used bleach kitchen cleaner a couple of times when we were out of Anywhere Spray. It won't immediately ruin your concrete but if you do it regularly, it will. We use the granite cleaner when we want to give the counter a little treat or when we're having guests over and we want it looking its absolute best. We also use it after waxing the counter. Our favorite is Method's Daily Granite. Like all their products, it's eco-friendly and smells AMAZING! They were sold out of it when we went to the store last month so we bought Zep CleanStone Plus Cleaner + Polish instead. Like Method, it's around $5. It smells good and I like that it's a foam.

Food & Drinks - No matter what you do, your concrete is going to patina so don't freak out too much if you notice something. Still, there are little things you can do when cooking to keep the wear to a minimum. Most things (use a cutting board when cutting, use trivets for hot pots and serving bowls) are pretty standard for any countertop surface. As for drinks, we rarely use coasters. Once, I left a glass of ice water on the counter and came back to find it dripping and sweating all over the concrete which left a ring. 15 minutes later, the ring had evaporated. If you're going to leave a glass of freezing cold water dripping on the counter, I'd say use a coaster just to be safe. If you're just having a cup of coffee or glass of water and it's not sweating like crazy, you're fine since most water rings will evaporate. Be careful with acidic foods and drinks because they can eat away at or penetrate the sealer. I left a jar of condiments on the counter (can't remember what it was) and it left a ring that took weeks to go away. Now if I look hard, I can still see a very faint ring.

Waxing - We waxed our countertop EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. like clockwork. We used paste wax but you could also use carnuba wax or beeswax if you want something more natural. The wax provides a barrier and helps the sealer last longer. A lot of websites suggest that you refinish your counters at the 1-year mark, but because we were faithful about waxing it every month, we were able to make it 1.5 years before we started seeing any wear to the sealer. 6 months later, we resealed the counter. To see if your sealer is on its way out, try the drop test: if a drop of water soaks into the counter, it's time to refinish. If it beads, you're good to go! I knew our sealer was worn when I left a damp towel on the counter for a minute and the water absorbed into the counter. This happened more and more as the sealer continued to wear. Once we decided to reseal, we stopped waxing so that the wax would have time to wear off.

Holes and Cracks - Another sign our sealer was worn was when I noticed all the little pinholes we'd left on the surface kept filling with flour every time I baked. They had partially filled with sealer when we first made the counter, but when the sealer wore down after a year and a half, the holes became deeper and began to hold flour and other particles. We were left using nails and toothpicks to clean them out. It made me hate cooking!

I learned during my research that hairline cracks are to be expected during the life of your counter but we've made it this long without seeing a single one. This past Christmas, we went to Ohio for a week and I absentmindedly turned off the heat while we were gone. Our landlord came in on the last day and turned the heat back on because they noticed our apartment was making theirs cold. He said it was 32 degrees in our apartment and that he could see their breath. When he told me this, I freaked out. Freezing temps don't exactly play well with concrete, just ask your tires! Thankfully, our counter remained in place and crack-free. Awesome! Still, if you see a hairline crack or two, it doesn't mean anything horrible is happening. Just fill the cracks like you would a hole and you're all set. (If it's a large crack, you may have something more serious happening in which case, feel free to freak out!)

Tiny holes filled with flour

And that's it! See, keeping up with concrete counters isn't that hard after all! Now it's time for the last maintenance step, resealing.


TIME: about 1 day
  • leftover cement color (optional; new - $5.17)
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Sealer (new - $18+)
  • Wax (new - $7+)
  • Grout/compound (new - $5)

2 MONTHS OUT - Stop waxing. The wax creates a barrier that you'll have to sand off in order to reseal the counter. Once you see your sealer is worn, stop waxing and make a plan to reseal the counter in 2-3 months. When it's time to reseal, you'll have a lot less work to do if you don't have wax to deal with. By the time we were ready to reseal, our counters were pretty much worn down to the bare concrete. 

SAND - If you recently applied wax to the counters and can't wait 2 months to reseal, you'll have to use a sander to cut through the wax and into the sealer. There are also etching products that can help if you have a lot to get through. You could even try using stripper, though I'd recommend using a less harsh citrus stripper. If you used a stain or cement color, you may want to stick with sanding so you don't eat through your color. If your counters are as worn as ours were, a quick sand by hand may be enough. After that, I washed the counters to get rid of dust.

FILL & SAND - After a mistake vibrating the bubbles out of the concrete the first time around (more on that here), we ended up with a lot of holes that we decided to leave unfilled because we liked the look. It was fine until the sealer started to wear and I was left with a bunch of tiny holes that filled with flour when I cooked. This time around, I decided the holes had to go. 

I tried using Quikrete's Concrete Filler, but the filler was very rocky and the holes in the counter were too small for it to work. So we headed to Home Depot to search for grout and instead came across Quikrete Paching Compound. It's the perfect consistency. It took me a couple of passes to make sure I got all the holes but it was easy to spread with a putty knife and the excess wiped off with a damp towel. We used charcoal grey concrete color to make our counter so after the compound dried, I put a little color on a paper towel and went over the holes a couple of times to die them the right color. After that, do another light sand to level off the grouted areas and clean once again to remove the dust. I mostly concentrated on the tiny pinholes in the middle since those are the most annoying. We still like the look of the rough edges so I didn't go too crazy filling the edge holes all the way.

Filling the holes with compound. I used a towel to add color to the grout after the compound dried.

SEAL - From here, I followed the same steps I did when I sealed the concrete the first time. I still had my spray bottle of sealer so I gave it a good shake, then sprayed it on the counters and used a big foam roller to even it out. Originally, I only did 3 coats but this time I went crazy and did like 4 or 5. There was no reasoning behind it, I just had a lot of fun spraying I guess! Unfortunately, I got distracted during the last coat and the sealer started to dry before I could roll it out which left me with faint marks where the foam sat too long. I didn't notice this till after I finished and applied the wax so now I'll have to lightly buff the spots out with 400 grit sandpaper. Thankfully you can only see them if all the lights are on and you stare at the right angle so t's not a huge deal.

Applying the sealer.

WAX & ENJOY! - Apply a coat of wax and resume your monthly waxing schedule like you normally would. Then you're finally ready to enjoy your newly sealed counters!

All done!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Living Room Color Change

So, it was bound to happen sometime. I'm bored with the living room and kitchen paint colors and ready for a change! Today, I figured I'd focus on my living room. Take a look and let me know what you think!


The color we wanted was a rich coral like the one on the left. What we got was pink.

The color currently on the wall was never what I wanted. The living room was supposed to be more of an orangy coral but came out a deep pink that looked red at night. I hated it. A year later, I decided to repaint and had a custom color mixed that I thought was going to be THE ONE! But as we finished the 2nd coat, we noticed it wasn't much different than the last color. Ugh. My husband gave me that "I told you so" look and I was forced to admit that, while the new color was slightly lighter, it still was too dark and too pink. So we were stuck with a color that I still didn't like. Now, I'm ready to change all that. Maybe my nesting instincts are kicking in since the weather is getting colder or maybe it's just that the upcoming holiday entertaining season has me wanting my house in tip-top shape. Either way, I'm ready for change. Below are quick mock-ups of the living room in various shades of gorgeous color, along with inspiration photos.

By the way, the green couch is the one we have now. I (quickly) Photoshoped it to make it orange in some of the pictures because we have an orange couch in storage that we're thinking of switching in to replace the green one. Sorry for the crappy editing...I just wanted something to give you a gist of what an orange couch would look like since I don't have any pics of it yet.

(For more gorgeous pictures and color inspiration, don't forget to follow us on Pinterest.)

I'm a HUGE fan of charcoal and grey. We did our last apartment in charcoal with black accent walls. Is it dark? Yes, but when the sun hits it during the day, it creates this gorgeous, stormy glow with pops of color splashed throughout and at night it feels sleek and swanky.


I'm a sucker for green. From avocado to olive to hunter, I can't get enough. Several of our apartments have had avocado green accent walls, but I have yet to pull the trigger and do a whole room green. Maybe now's my chance! We would of course switch out the green couch for the orange if we went with green paint.



I love me some teal. If you look at the top of the page, you'll see that teal and avocado is my go-to color combo. We did our dining room in Boston a dark teal blue, but this time I think I'd add a little more green to the teal and choose a lighter shade like the ones below. Though I love teal and green together, I actually think the orange couch looks better with the teal since it pops more.



Yellow is my absolute favorite color. In Boston, I did a yellow accent wall in our master bedroom and loved it, but it's a tricky color to do. Even on pinterest, I had a hard time finding just the right color for the inspiration photo. I want something vibrant and rich but also soft enough that I won't go blind. The yellow we used in our bedroom was perfect but sadly I don't have any pictures. Just look at the pictures below and imagine them about 2 or 3 shades lighter and you'll know what I'm talking about.


I suggested navy to my husband and he got super excited. He's a boy so of course his favorite colors are navy and grey. I like navy for the same reason I like grey and's moody and stormy and looks magical when the light hits. I like the dark, though I'm also thinking a softer, more dusty shade would be great as well.



So, which would YOU choose?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's Our Birthday!

Yay! Yahoo! Yippeeeeee!

It's been 4 years since we first opened our online doors and we're still here peddling handmade & vintage. As exciting as the first 4 years have been, we can't wait for what's to come. Be on the lookout for new designers, more furniture, a new in-house line of household essentials, and our first storefront!

To celebrate 4 years, take 28% off everything in the store, now thru Friday! Just enter promo code "BDAY28" at checkout.  >> SHOP NOW

Here's to an amazing year 5!
India & Jerome
Apartment 528

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

By the Book: Dining In

So I'm still flipping through my 1968 BH&G Decorating Book. I just can't get enough! Last time I was all about technicolor living rooms and this time I'm madly in love with this bold dining room. The table and chairs, the lighting, the credenza, the paneling, the art; it's all great! Even the checkerboard floor, which is normally reserved for casual kitchens and diners, seems perfectly at home here. Major swoon!

Image via Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book, 1968