The Garage (Apartment)- Part 7

>> 7.26.2012

 (continued from part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6) I just know that this thing will be finished in fewer than 10 parts! 

Things are REALLY moving along! After a bad week, I'm really happy with where we were with the apartment yesterday. As you might guess, I get pretty cranky when I have to spend a lot of money that I don't plan on spending. So, I was especially put off by our pilot light going out (=no hot water) within a week of the AC shutting off! The AC ended up being a maintenance issue (don't get me started) and wasn't covered by our warranty. So, that was over $150. Being so hot, we barely noticed the lack of hot water for a few days, but eventually found out that our pilot light was out. It wouldn't restart on its own so we called a plumber.... another $150 to basically blow the dust out of a vent. Boo! 

So, back to the garage, I got in a much better mood after we had an amazing electrician come by and add some outlets for less than half the estimate of another recommended guy. Always get more than one estimate on the big stuff! Not only did he add some outlets in the garage and laundry area, but saved us a ton of time by switching out all of the old and corroding switches/ sockets and covers for way less than our budget for the new outlets alone.

Things are looking so much more liveable!! The bathroom before:

The bathroom now:
 Please note the new paint, faucet, doorknob, and shelf.

In my opinion, the little details make the biggest differences in the feeling of the space. For example, we just slapped a coat of paint on the walls instead of replacing the 60 year old beadboard, but adding a fresh faceplate makes the room seem like it was built much more recently. It definitely feels that way in person! 

Can you "feel" the difference from this angle? (say yes) Before:

 The kitchen corner is slowly moving somewhere as well. Now that we have an outlet on the back wall, we can shift the refrigerator there, adding more flexible space for the new tenant.
 The kitchen cart is this one from IKEA, but I found it for $20 on Craigslist. The two shelves will hold the hot plate and toaster oven perfectly (remember, doing a regular oven isn't an option). I think I want to paint the base to match the other cabinets and maybe add a towel bar. Ideally, we'd build some sort of floating countertop above the cart and refrigerator to unify the workspace, but we'll see if we get there. I do, however, plan to add wall shelves from IKEA above that area so it should help to better define the "kitchen" side of the apartment.

I'm excited to finish things up and start showing it to people. Four out of the four people I contacted through the Craigslist- Housing Wanted section want to come see it this weekend... knowing that it doesn't have a full kitchen! Full "finished" pictures to come next week!


The Garage (Apartment)- Part 6

>> 7.24.2012

(continued from part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5

We did a little work on the apartment this weekend. Nate did an amazing job on the baseboards and if you do a little squinting, the room seems pretty much finished:

 There's still some shoe molding and caulking to do, but I'm really impressed with the difference this makes in the room. I'm especially impressed with Nate for doing it all without power tools! Oh, he did use the Dremel to bring the existing molding up a bit.

I was busy not succeeding at repainting the cabinets.

I did learn an important lesson about paint removers:
I've used the Jasco stuff before, but decided to try something new... bad idea!

In more successful news, I did get the new path area leveled and ready for the new stones:

These suckers are 48" by 22" and weigh 200 lbs each... I'll let you know how that installation goes!


Upcycling Birchboxes

>> 7.20.2012

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a stack of empty subscription sample boxes sitting around.

I thought that they would make great gift boxes, but didn't want to have the situation that I went through soooo many times as a child where the box didn't match the actual present (it's not okay when you think you're getting a tv, but get a pair of socks instead!). Nate gave me the idea to use oilcloth when he compared my table project to a Christmas present.

Perfect! It would be thick enough to cover the logo and sturdy enough to reuse.

I had to sacrifice one box to make a template for the wrapping. If you look closely, you can see where the box has a lip. Just peel of the lip and cut around the oilcloth making the same shape that wrapped the original box.

I used some double-sided glue dots to hold the sides in place:

Before wrapping the top, I made sure to include the corner cover. This keeps the box from showing through on the edges:

I used my Super Tacky Tape to hold the most important edges down. This cloth isn't going anywhere!

You have to be careful to keep the fabric on the corners thin because the lid is already a tight fit. With the cost of the fabric being around $.50, I wasn't too worried about playing around and making mistakes until my template lined up perfectly.

In the end, I'm happy that I was able to use the oilcloth again and I think it will eventually make a great gift box!

Depending on the cloth, it could also sit on a shelf as a nice decorative storage box:

How have you reused your Birchbox? 

PS I'm happy to say that we do have AC again after two nights of 85 degree temps! To make the story short- get your AC serviced ;).


Bad News/ Good News

>> 7.18.2012

Bad news: The electrician told us that the laundry attached to the garage apartment sucks up so much energy (he used technical terms) that we would have to run a whole new line to power an oven in the space. The costs are just too much for us to do right now considering the amount of time it would take to make up for the difference in profit.

Good news: We have a renter for August 1- September 1 that did not question paying $650 for a tiny place without an oven. A friend of ours is moving out of town and had an extremely hard time finding some who would accept him for such a short period of time. He was concerned for us in that we would miss the window of time to find a student to occupy the space, but I told him we wouldn't have an issue finding another tenant for September. We'll see how that works out!

Bad news: Our AC went out last night. July isn't the best time to go without an AC in Texas!

Good news: We'll get to use that home warranty that the seller provided to us when buying the house. Maybe we'll get a brand new unit out of the deal as well?


Living Room Thoughts

>> 7.17.2012

Our living room is really bland at the moment. We haven't done much more than paint, move in our old furniture, and swap out a light fixture. That doesn't mean I haven't thought about how it could be better:

The tricky thing for us right now is that we know that we want to build a 500+ sqft addition in the near future. It's tough deciding if we should save as much money as possible now or make the rooms that we have nice and build the addition as we reach our savings goals. For the living room, it would be really nice to do a built in so that we could take advantage of the extra storage now. Something like this would be perfect for that corner wall:
New curtains would not only add a little life into the room, but would be much more functional than the existing broken shades. I'm having a tough time deciding how we would place them considering the awkward placement of the window behind the couch. I'm thinking this, but not yellow (for Nate):

In us-actually-doing-stuff news, we finally replaced the light fixture from the living room.


I sold the old one for $30 and got the new one from Lowe's for $88. The old fixture hung so low that Nate would accidentally hit it almost daily. He still cringes as he stands up from picking something off of the floor.

Funny story about the pillows: So, I find these Ralph Lauren goose down pillows for $20 at Marshall's and buy them back February. Then, a few weeks later, I find one for something crazy like $12.99. Of course, I buy it too and end up with a crazy number of the same pillow... in winter... when they don't even really make sense.
Of course, now that they do make sense for the season, the whole room is just kind of "blah." Hopefully I can get my act together with this room before fall rolls around. I do have to swap out the covers in fall, right?



>> 7.16.2012

Around six months ago, I started getting into makeup. I guess it all started after we finished 2010's wedding-having/ house-buying palooza and I actually had some disposable "fun money" on hand. My allowance was about $100/ month and I spent most of it on makeup teenage-girl-style. I've definitely simmered down since then, but I have some new (thrifty) thoughts on the subject now that I spend more than $3.58/ month on the stuff.

When I first began buying higher-end makeup, I tried to do it in a strategic way. I'd been hearing about the subscription companies for a while and thought it might be a good way for someone (who didn't wear a lot of makeup) to buy nicer brands on the cheap.

The truth is that these subscription companies are more fun than they are thrifty. If you're planning on purchasing from the product line again, it's great to have the chance to try before you buy, but you're not going to be able to rely on the monthly samples to replace the makeup you use on a daily basis. In other words, you're not going to save anything at all with them- these will be extras to your budget. Here's the $40 full-priced microfoliant I ended up buying because of an amazing sample:

Pricey, but worth it... after a coupon!

Oh, but they're so fun! Here's what every thing looked like in my July Sample Society box and Birchbox looked like when I opened them last week:

In my opinion, they're the best two subscription services out there as far as value (I don't think a $20+ box will ever be worth more than scouting out deals straight from the companies) and consistency. 

Sample Society costs $15/ month, but offers monthly $15 off of $50 coupon when you buy one of the products in the box as well as points for purchases. They give out true deluxe sized samples and focus on the products that they offer on their Beauty Bar site. As a bonus to signing up, you get a subscription to Allure magazine as well.

Birchbox costs $10/ month, but includes a rewards program where you can earn 10 points for every product review and a $10 credit for every 100 points earned. Their samples seem to be more of grab bags from young and trendy eyeliner to mature perfumes.

As for the negatives, sometimes my skin reacts poorly to the samples (think: breakouts and dry skin) and the value of the boxes aren't always great. Once, I had a Birchbox with a value of <$10 :(. Still, last month's was >$50 so I think it generally evens out in the end. At this point, I'm so addicted to getting the "presents" in the mail that the extra $10-25 will be in my budget for months to come.

If you're looking for a makeup value, I'd skip the randomness and go straight to the "value set" sections of stores like Ulta or Sephora. These sets often cost around the same price point as the subscription sets and include the same deluxe-sized samples (3+ weeks of use) of the products, but you're able to pick them ahead of time based on your needs.

With all of my experimentation and research, I've found some new favorites I feel the need to share. Here are some of my absolute favorite makeup values (great price/ product) from the past few months:
1. Kirkland (Costco) brush sets (not all pictured): Costco puts out a set of brushes + bag each winter for around $30. Wait until January/ February and you can get these surprisingly good quality brushes for <$20!

2. Eye palettes:They're color-coordinated and usually include everything you need to do multiple looks. Everyone loves the Naked palettes, but I'm a big fan of Sephora brand's quality and love this blue eye set for $28.

3. Revlon Colorstay foundation and Color Burst Lip Butters: You can always find coupons for Revlon, but you can also find shockingly good quality and color selections with these products! Love them!

4. Benefit's Erase Paste: This is going to sound dramatic, but this product was a LIFE CHANGER! I have the worst dark circles and this paste covers them up. The best part is that I can usually buy it as part of a value set, like this one or on its own for $10, and the deluxe sample size will last me at least 3-6 months.

5. NYX eyeshadow base: Again, there are always coupons out there for NYX, but this base could fool anyone in the department store. It holds shadow really well, but I also love using the skin tone option alone when I'm feeling especially lazy.

I'm still on the hunt for more great higher-end or drugstore makeup deals (I don't have a favorite mascara yet). Have you come across any makeup recently and been shocked at the value?


The Garage (Apartment)- Part 5

>> 7.13.2012

(continued from part 1part 2, part 3, and part 4

The stain is on the concrete!

We decided to stain the floors for a few reasons:

  • The sheet vinyl that we ripped up caused mold issues and we wanted to go with something that would allow the flooring to breath a bit more.
  • The stained look is popular with our target tenants.
  • We knew that we could DIY the project and do it for less $$ than most other options.
  • It would be a pretty green choice: no ugly temporary flooring to rip up in the future.
  • If we hated it, we could always put a different flooring choice over it. 

Obviously, paint would have been an almost equivalent choice, but we liked the *idea* of a more textured surface. We went with grey because the bathroom tiles were already a darker greyish tone and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

To stain the floors, we basically followed the instructions on the back of the cans: 
  1. clean floor
  2. etch floor (found in the paint section next to stain)
  3. wait overnight
  4. clean/ dampen 
  5. spray stain 
  6. wait overnight again
  7. spray stain again and roll to even out look
  8. wait overnight AGAIN
  9. spray stain in random spots that we missed
  10. wait overnight again and thank ourselves for being smart enough to make this a weekday project instead of a weekend project
  11. use sealer
etching using bug chemical sprayer:
Don't worry, it took about 45 seconds to realize that we had forgotten to put on our masks!

The individual steps were pretty simple. I did spray some stain on the walls a couple of times, but we fixed that issue by using a roller in the edges. Oh, and there was the fact that we are not experienced/ artistic enough to make anything close to a natural-looking texture on the floors:
 Not cute!

And, another re-do...

Luckily, there was the flat-look option that we ended up achieving after rolling out the stain:
Last week:


I can't say that I think it's the most wonderful, fabulous result, but it's much better than the flooring before. Most importantly, I don't think that any potential tenants will be afraid of it.

Also, we're seriously considering going ahead and buying an apartment-sized stove (thanks to your persuasive comments). The electrician is coming this afternoon so we should know if it's even possible today.


Dining Differences

>> 7.11.2012

My posts on refinishing my old Craigslisted Pottery Barn table have been by far the most viewed since I've been blogging... which is a little sad because we don't even have that table anymore!

The table in our old house:

It was just way too wide for the dining area of our new home (we did try it out for a couple of months) and the stain really took away from the beauty of the old existing floors of our new home:

(before we moved in)

The old table and six chairs cost a whopping $200 on Craigslist (still one of my best buys) and totaled closer to $300 after I made some refinishing mistakes and painted/ recovered the chairs.... so I think I really did well by reselling the old table for $175 and finding a new one for $125:

This table is much narrower than the old one and I love how the curves of the legs relate back to the curves of the chairs. Plus, the butterfly leaf is pretty convenient.

As you can probably tell from the before picture above, the massive chandelier didn't work in the space at all. Luckily, I'm a crazy hoarder and had this modern light tucked away in the garage six months before even buying a new house:

What can I say, it was only $50 at Marshall's and I figured we would eventually buy a house that needed a new light. Nate, again, thought I was crazy. Score one for team hoarders! Bonus: I sold the old chandelier for $30 on Craigslist.

Here's what they look like now in the room (the colors are off due to my poor photography skills and back-lighting):

Over on the right, you can see an idea that we're playing around with and would eventually go up on the wall:

And, on the left, is that annoying bar *that isn't even large enough for my plates* and will go first thing after we rent out the garage apartment (which was my deal with Nate)!!

Speaking of the garage, we began staining the floors last night. It is embarrassingly far away from being presentable, so I'll give you an update later this week when we (hopefully) sort out how to make it look less splotchy. I think I also owe you a better picture of the true dining room wall color- one day!


Old Table, New Oilcloth

>> 7.09.2012

Spending all of my diy time in the garage apartment was getting old so this weekend, I paused for an hour to do a fun project for myself (and I say "myself" because Nate HATES the after).

I've had this table forever and kept it around simply because I liked the lines. Unfortunately, it never got the love it deserved and sat out on the covered porch gathering dust...

...until Saturday when I took a bit of black spray paint and a couple of feet of oilcloth (a store near me sells them $2/ foot) to do this:
"It looks like wrapping paper," "Ugh, so kitschy," "kill me now" -Nate

The project was inspired by my love of the bright, easy to clean fabric and a quick search for what to do with it on Pinterest. It didn't hurt that I already had a staple gun on hand from my last headboard project :).

I set the table back up in the same spot it sat before and pulled in the other (super dirty) black chair from the yard to create a nicer spot to sit and enjoy the mosquitoes. The bucket holds the bug spray and the candle should repel them. 


Cheap and easy! Just how I like it.

Anyone else have a love for oilcloth these days?

PS I have to share what I found after I cut the fabric and left the scissors laying out:
seriously, not posed!

 Linking to the Summer Pinterest Party!


The Garage (Apartment)- Part 4

>> 7.06.2012

(continued from part 1part 2, and part 3

Buying a home with a garage apartment has definitely been a lesson in "you have to spend money to make money." I'm having a tough time deciding if I would go back in time and re-do the whole thing by hiring everything out six months ago. We would have spent more money on labor costs (we were too busy fixing up the other rental, painting our own house, and training for the Ironman), but we would have made around $3,600 by having it rented out over that time period. At the same time, I'm not sure if our bank accounts would have been able to handle all of the upgrades right after buying our house. 

Oh well. Here we are at the home stretch!

Thanks to a some mid-week day off of work, there are just a few more things for us to check off of the list before renting it out:

1. Finish the floors- In a perfect world we would put down some hardwood or tile across the entire thing, but with the past mold issues and costs, we'll try to stain the concrete for now. We've never stained concrete and I'm a little worried about the patched portion taking the stain... so I'll let you know how that goes...

2. Add new baseboards and trim- This is another new-to-us task. I'm sure it will be super easy and we won't have any issues at all! (sarcasm)

3. (Re)Paint and hang the cabinets- We primed, we painted, and they peeled so we'll try again. After three unsuccessful attempts, we'll also try to eventually find new hinges that will actually fit with the doors. 

4. Swap out the faucets and toilet seat

5. Make a better path to the front door- The old broken concrete path went through a muddy patch of our yard and we would like to better separate their space from ours.

My July 4th fun:
I really hope I can convince someone to take this pile of rubble!

The rock above sits on top of our Invisible Fence which will keep Hugo away from the tenant. If you look at the before picture, you can see the flags which outline the walking path.

6. Have an electrician replace and add plugs- $$

7. Buy kitchen appliances- I'm leaning towards getting a simple hot plate and toaster oven combo instead of a full oven. There isn't any ventilation in the apartment and I'm just worried it will take up too much space/ budget. Plus, detached apartments in our area are very popular so I think we don't have to necessarily appeal to the masses... If you were renting out a <400 sqft space, would you need a full-sized oven? 


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