Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hey, Maker! - 8 Questions with Tina of Change Soap Co.

Welcome to Hey, Maker!, our first maker feature in four years! (Almost) every week, we'll showcase one of our awesome artisans with Q+As, house and studio tours, and instagram takeovers. Our first Hey, Maker! is with Tina of Change Soap Co. The organic skincare maven makes organic soaps, scrubs, serums, and more in scents so delicious, you'll want them all! Change products can be found in our Chicago storefront, an are coming soon to apt528.com.

Follow us on instagram @apt528 to see Tina's Apartment Takeover and get a sneak peek behind-the-scenes at Change.

First question, NSync, Backstreet Boys, or 98 Degrees? It's super important!

Seriously, this is the most important question ever!!  In my middle school days, my life goal was to marry Lance Bass from N’Sync!  My aunt took me to see Janet Jackson in concert and N’Sync was the opening act, before they were very well known.  It was love at first sight, and I’m pretty sure I wore my N’Sync shirt from the concert 24/7.

What's your favorite music to throw on when you need an extra jolt of energy on long days?

My 10-years ago self would be mortified, but I’ve fallen in love with country music!  I love Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and The Band Perry.  And of course Taylor Swift, even though she’s not really country anymore.  I’m not nearly coordinated enough to know the actual line dance moves, but if nobody’s around, I’ll bust a move and make up my own dance while I’m working!  One day my four year old walked downstairs where I was working while I was wearing a full on activated charcoal face mask and making hair mists while dancing, and he walked up to me and gave me a kiss, and walked away.  He’s so used to my bad moves and face masks that he doesn’t even take a second look at me!

It's a crazy morning and you only have 5 minutes to get ready and head out the door. What's your basic 5-minute (or less!) beauty routine?

This sounds like every morning around here!  I don’t wear a lot of makeup which makes mornings quicker.  I’ll dab a couple drops of serum on my face for a little glow, throw on a little mascara, and mist Pink Sea hair mist in my hair to embrace my wavy bead-head hair.  Oh and I don’t leave home without lip balm, I’ve even been known to dab it on my cheekbones for a little extra glow!

You started making soaps to create natural alternatives for your son. What encouraged you to push it from a hobby into a business? What was the first product you made?

The first successful soap I made was super gentle with lavender essential oil and calendula petals to soothe my little guy’s skin.  It really helped him, and it’s now in my line as Relief soap.  When I made the first batch, the recipe made 20 bars of soap, so I had lots of extra!  I gave it to my family and friends to try because I wanted to make more.  They loved it and asked what else I could make, and insisted started placing orders!

I imagine finding the right scent combos and ingredient mix is a bit of trial and error. What's your biggest disaster story? 

My biggest disaster was a painful one!  I was getting ready to make a batch of soap and I was getting my ingredients together.  I went to open a new one pound bottle of lemon oil, and the lid was stuck. So, I did what any impatient girl would do, and I pulled it as hard as I could until it flew off, and lemon essential oil splashed all over my face and in my eyes!  Did you know that it takes 150 lemons to make just one ounce of lemon essential oil?  This stuff is super concentrated!  I felt my way up the stairs since I couldn’t open my eyes, and my kids were horrified because my face was bright red and splotchy.  My husband helped me flush my eyes with cold water for about 30 minutes (I later learned that apparently flushing with oil is better), and I was ok. But I’m a lot more careful when I open the bottles now!  Oh, and I remember thinking thank goodness it wasn’t peppermint oil!

For some people, making the switch from commercial to natural products can be scary. Do you have advice for those that are on the fence and thinking about making the transition? What product did you have the hardest time letting go of?

I read a pretty scary statistic that I’ll never forget: women put an average of 168 chemicals on their bodies every day, and 60% of what we put on our body is absorbed into our bloodstream within seconds!  This scared me, and made me think about what I was putting on my kids too.

For me, deodorant was by far the hardest thing for me to switch. Did you know that it’s really bad to keep our body from sweating?  Apparently sweating is our body’s way of naturally detoxing, and traditional antiperspirants contain aluminum and other nasty ingredients. I discovered Rustic Maka deodorant and have even become good friends with the founders of the company, and now even my deodorant is natural!
Pink Clay & Activated Charcoal Soap

There are outrageous amounts of serums, creams, and potions on the market but somehow, you managed to keep it narrowed down to a lineup of essentials. How did you decide what make the cut?  

Serums are what have taken the most experimenting out of my whole line!  There are SO many out there, all with a different promise of what they will do. It’s funny because I used to be terrified of getting oil anywhere near my face because I thought I’d break out, so I’d use products that stripped my face of any possible oil. Once I learned that oil actually fights oil, my whole routine changed!  Some girls collect shoes or purses, but for me it’s oil. I have a collection of oils, from rose hip to almond to argan, and I tested every possible combination to find what works best. I choose oils that balance both oily and dry skin, and that are amazing at hydrating which, in my opinion, is the key to a glowing complexion. If I’m lazy at night and I don’t put my serum on, I’ll wake up, look in the mirror and think, “wow I look old!” When your skin is properly hydrated with good, quality ingredients, you look younger and healthier! Who knew?

Packing orders. Laila is not only a guard dog, but a huge help around the studio!

You already have the perfect assortment of goods but I imagine that as a maker, you're always think up something new. What do you see happening for Change in the coming year?

I am always dreaming up new scent combinations and how I can use different ingredients!  I’m intrigued by what caffeine can do for skin and I’m playing around with a couple different recipes that incorporate caffeine.  It can help with puffiness, cellulite, and fine lines, it’s amazing! And it’s obviously a main component in my favorite food group, coffee.

Don't forget to check out Tina's Apartment Takeover on our instagram @apt528.

Aaand, we're back!

So, um, it's been awhile. My last blog post was almost two years ago. Oops! Don't worry, I have a good excuse - WE FINALLY HAVE A STOREFRONT!! 

Yep, we finally did it! For the first five years, Apartment 528 was an online shop but we dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar location. After years of searching and not finding what we were looking for, we came across the perfect little Humboldt Park shop and fell in love. With a bit of elbow grease and help from our handy friends and family, we knocked down walls, built new ones, and got everything just as we wanted.

BEFORE: the day we got the keys to the new shop!


Since our grand opening in September 2014, a lot has happened. We've added tons of amazing makers to our roster, started selling handcrafted furniture, and switched off most of our vintage inventory to focus more on our handcrafted lineup. We also launched Crombe & Co, our own line of completely custom sofas and chairs at affordable prices. 



So what's next? Well, we're adding a new collection of high end furnishings this summer. And we're hoping to expand the storefront within the next year. We also have a few top secret business ideas in the works. And now that the storefront's up and running, we're committed to keeping the online shop, apt528.com, updated with new products and getting this blog back up and running! Look for maker interviews, house and studio tours, and features about our favorite artisans. We may even sneak in a DIY post or two! You can check out our first feature today with Change Soap Co., an awesome, all-natural skincare brand based in Michigan. 

Here's to many, many, MANY more posts. We promise!

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 black...it'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?