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[ 2 ]

Spring buds on our Annabelle hydrangeas

By on April 17, 2014


Look what I found budding on our hydrangeas this morning!

Hydrangea Buds | Rather Square
(photo originally published on Instagram)

You may remember that I drastically pruned back our Annabelle hydrangeas last fall, based on some research I did on how to keep them growing big and beautiful for years to come. Not being well-versed in ornamental gardening (vegetables and herbs are more my thing), I worried that this pruning technique might harm or kill the plants entirely. Which would be a travesty – they’re so pretty in full bloom!

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Last autumn, I pruned the branches down to about 24 inches or so. It was a little scary, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Pruning Hydrangeas | Rather Square

Pruning Hydrangeas | Rather Square

So imagine my relief and delight when I saw some buds on these branches today! Annabelle lives!

Hydrangea Buds | Rather Square

Does this mean it’s finally spring? (I vote yes!)

April 17, 2014

[ 8 ]

The great DIY cover-up

By on April 9, 2014


Today I’m sharing a fun little DIY project that I did recently as part of our built-in bookcase renovation.

The Great DIY Cover-Up | Rather Square

As you saw in this post where we styled our built-in bookcase, we were looking for a way to hide the DVD collection we’d stored on the shelves under our flat-screen TV. Even though John designed the height of those shelves specifically to fit DVD cases, we didn’t want our DVDs visibly “front and center” all the time. They don’t integrate too well with the rest of our (admittedly user-friendly but still curated) bookcase style.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

We are planning to adapt these long open horizontal spaces with some pull-out or pull-down drawer fronts sometime in the future, but for now I brainstormed for ideas to hide the DVDs. I needed a simple fix that wouldn’t be too much of a time or cost investment, but still be effective and visually pleasing until we were ready for something more permanent.

My solution: fabric-wrapped foamcore covers!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

This was such a cost-effective and easy DIY project, and a great way to add a fun pattern to the bookcase. I used the following materials:

The only material I had to actually go out and buy was the foamcore – I already had the rest on hand. We also happen to have a large stash of leftover fabric remnants* that I was able to rummage through to find a color and pattern that would work for these covers. So all in all, the cost for this project was only about $4 for the foamcore (which I got at Michaels).

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

First, I measured the height and width of the shelves I wanted to cover, then cut the foamcore to fit. I had to make a few minor adjustment trims to make sure it would fit snugly into the shelves – it didn’t have to be perfect, but I also had to be careful not to cut the pieces too small (otherwise they might tip over and fall out). In addition, I also had to remember to allow a few millimeters of room for the fabric to cover the edges.

Then I placed the foamcore pieces on my larger fabric remnant and cut the fabric out with scissors, allowing a few inches on each side to wrap around to the back. One thing I kept in mind while positioning the fabric was to make sure each cover would show the same design area of the pattern (instead of running on different angles or showing slightly different pattern sections). This way, the covers would all look unified and cohesive as a group. My flowery fabric pattern was variable enough that I had to pay special attention to this – it would probably be easier with more uniform patterns or solid colors.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

Next, I stretched the fabric around the edges of the foam core and secured it with masking tape, working from the centers of each side and then moving along toward the corners. I went with masking tape over glue for less mess, a faster process (no drying time), and the ability to remove and reposition the fabric on the fly if necessary.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

I trimmed the corners of the fabric before folding those over to minimize bulkiness, and taped them down as well.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

And that’s it!

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

I went ahead and set them into the DVD shelves. The fit was perfect – just snug enough to keep them upright, but we can still easily remove them to access the DVDs whenever we want.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

So far, it’s turned out to be a great solution. The DVDs, once directly in our line of sight, are now hidden – instead we see a nice band of color and pattern that functions as a visual break from the rest of the shelves holding books, objects and electronic equipment.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

What DIY projects have you been up to lately?

P.S. Want to learn more about our built-in bookcase project? Read our previous posts on:
The built-in bookcase: Cut-out customization
The built-in bookcase: Two-toned painting
The built-in bookcase: Shelves and drawers
The built-in bookcase: Intentional style
DIY bookends: If it’s (a little too) Baroque, fix it!

*What’s the story behind our stash ‘o fabric? When the toddler was born, we did a yearlong weekly photo shoot with her, similar to Young House Love’s baby photo project. Like YHL, we used a different fabric as a backdrop for each week’s photo, so we now have lots of assorted fabric remnants left from that project. We’d like to make a quilt or some other memento with it all, but we haven’t gotten around to that yet. Meanwhile, our personal in-house fabric store sometimes comes in handy for other projects… like this one!

(linked on Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic)

April 9, 2014

[ 10 ]

The built-in bookcase: Intentional style

By on April 3, 2014


It’s been a few months since we finished the custom carpentry and the painting of our built-in bookcase, and now we’ve finally styled it with our favorite books, treasures, and more!

The Built-In Bookcase | Rather Square

I’ll admit to feeling intimidated by the thought of filling our bookcase with actual contents. There are so many ways to style a bookcase (thanks, Pinterest!), and it’s been a little overwhelming to consider all the design possibilities. One of the most difficult tasks was finding a good balance of aesthetics and functionality. Since we bought this house, John and I have tried to make careful and intentional decisions for how we’ll use the rooms and the furniture. It’s fun to explore cosmetic things like color palettes and accessories, but we also want everything to be well-designed with a clear purpose in mind. That’s a tall order, and we’re constantly evolving and revisiting our ideas.

After the renovations we did last fall, the bookcase looked great with its fresh white-and-gray/green color and new shelving arrangement. Here’s what we last showed you:

The Built-In Bookcase | Rather Square

Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to configure this major focal point of our living room. We’ve been watching shows and movies on our flat-screen TV mounted in the center, or doing puzzles and games with the toddler on the floor near the lower shelves, or browsing through our randomly stacked books and records. This helped us get a sense of how we would utilize this furniture piece, so that we could arrange everything into a cohesive design that would work for our family. And today we’re sharing the finished look!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The two lowest rows of shelves are easily accessible by our toddler. Rather than storing anything breakable or delicate here (and then trying to protect it from curious young hands with child-proof doors, locks or other barriers), we decided instead to make it into an organized area for our toddler’s books and toys. With the shelves at her level, she can help herself to anything she feels like reading or playing with (and can also put things away on her own when she’s done). We just make sure it doesn’t get too cluttered by carefully curating what goes there and switching items out on a regular basis as she grows and develops. So far, this arrangement is working well!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Just above the kid-friendly area, we’ve got our DVD collection.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Wait, you don’t see any DVDs? Look a little closer…

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

When John re-designed the center shelves of the built-in, he constructed the shelving underneath the TV to be the same height as a standard DVD case (with an inch or two extra to spare), so we could store our DVDs here. While this is an ideal storage solution, we don’t really like looking at the DVD cases all the time, especially since these shelves are at direct eye level when you’re sitting on the sofa. So I came up with a fun and easy solution: fabric covers.

I’ll detail how I made these in another post (update: here is the how-to!), but essentially they are just foamcore that I cut to fit the shelves’ height and width, then wrapped in fabric. We’ve been leaving them in place most of the time, and they’re easily removable when we want to pull out a movie to watch. Not only do they conceal our digital media, but the fabric is a nice visual “divider” between the toys and the more grown-up things we’ve stored further up in the built-in.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Above the DVD shelves, we’ve got our electronic media equipment: TV, DVD player, cable box, record player, and stereo system. We kept all of this stuff together at a comfortable adult-accessible height because we use it pretty frequently. And bonus – it’s also out of the toddler’s reach! Since electronic equipment can be pretty stark and industrial, I added some decorative touches here to break up the all-black-glass-metal look. A simple candle holder, a white ceramic crock with evergreen branches, a flower-shaped wooden mirror.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

On the left and right sides of the built-in above the electronics, I arranged selected titles from our book collection. Books are important to us and we wanted them to have a featured place here, but they don’t always see regular daily use, so I placed them up a little higher. They’re loosely organized by genre and include vintage paperbacks, non-fiction, monographs, and guidebooks from our travels. I also used our repainted bookends on these shelves – a nice glossy black against the white shelves and colorful books.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Finally, on the very top shelves, some bookcase eye candy! Here, we’ve set up John’s antique camera collection, as well as some framed photography and a Nuzzle that John made for me back when we were dating. This art display section is really nice to look up at from the vantage point of the sofa. And these objects are delicate/breakable/valuable, so it’s best to store them out of reach from grabby hands (kids and grown-ups alike)!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

We’ve been enjoying our completed built-in bookcase for a few weeks now, and it’s really become the highlight of our living space. Even though we took a bit of time and a lot of thought to plan out its design, it still has a comfortable, real-life vibe. From custom carpentry to painting the case plus the shelves and drawers, and now filling it with treasured things, it’s gone from being just “okay” with good bones to becoming our favorite DIY project so far.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

In the future, we may add some enhancements, such as building custom pull-out drawers for the DVD shelves and installing doors on the lower shelves (and once the toddler outgrows her toys, we can repurpose that area for general storage). One of the great things about this furniture piece is that it’s designed to be flexible for our evolving lives.

But for now, we’re calling this project DONE!

Missed part of this project? Read our previous posts on:
The built-in bookcase: Cut-out customization
The built-in bookcase: Two-toned painting
The built-in bookcase: Shelves and drawers
DIY bookends: If it’s (a little too) Baroque, fix it!
The great DIY cover-up

(linked on Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic and Thrifty Decor Chick)

April 3, 2014

[ 5 ]

Office bins and baskets

By on March 27, 2014


The toddler and I went shopping at HomeGoods and Target this weekend in search of some bin and basket storage options for the Ikea Expedit in our home office. We found some good potential candidates, and brought them home to try out.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

First, at HomeGoods, I saw these industrial wire baskets for $8 each. (They were originally $9.99 each, but two of the baskets were stuck together, and neither I nor the salesperson could pry them apart, so I bought both and she gave me a discount. Later at home, John pulled them apart in about 10 seconds!) I really like the old-school feel of these. One is a dull metallic silver and the other is kind of bronze-ish, but we’re thinking of spray-painting them both orange for a pop of color.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square
(Inspiration image: General Eclectic Wire Shopping Basket)

Next we hit up Target, where I picked up two of these warm gray patterned fabric bins for $17.99 each. Bonus – they have “pop-out” corners inside that we can use for divided storage if we need it. Or popped in along the sides if we don’t.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

Finally, I bought a couple of these white shallow “Branch Weave” plastic bins at Target for $9.99 each. I thought we could use these stacked as smaller pullout drawers, by building a simple inverted-U-shaped support inside one of the cubes.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

All different materials, but they seem to play well together in the shelving unit. I like the idea of a mix of patterns and textures, but still keeping within the same general color palette we envisioned in our moodboard: orange, gray, white and black. Having more than one bin size also makes sense so that we can store a variety of items in these.

But at the moment, we’re still working on the purging and organizing part of the office redo. I suspect we won’t be finished by our self-imposed early-April deadline – we keep getting a little distracted from this project lately by other things (such as furnace issues and general life happenings). So maybe finishing the office sometime by the end of April feels like a more realistic goal at this point. We’re very eager to get past the messy “sorting through paperwork and other odds-and-ends” phase and onto the fun design and decor phase.

So, what do you think of our bin and basket options?

(Linked at Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic)

March 27, 2014

category: Design + Projects  • Tags: ,
[ 4 ]

The new refrigerator: Installing the water line

By on March 24, 2014


Today we’re sharing a DIY plumbing fix I made to complete the installation of our new refrigerator!

How to Install a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

In our last post, I talked about the delivery and installation of our new stainless-steel refrigerator, which includes an ice and water dispenser – something we didn’t have with our old refrigerator.

Installing our New Refrigerator | Rather Square

The professional installers were supposed to hook up a water line for the new fridge, but once they saw our kitchen setup, they realized that it wouldn’t work for connecting the refrigerator’s water line to the sink pipe (which was the only method they were authorized to use). The sink and refrigerator would have to be on the same side of the room, and ours are not.

Installing our New Refrigerator | Rather Square

When we originally ordered the new refrigerator, we’d paid an extra $135 for water line installation labor. After I learned the installers wouldn’t be doing this work, I was luckily able to get this charge removed from our total purchase/installation cost. But that still left me with the problem of our non-working ice and water dispenser.

I wanted a solution that would preferably not involve tearing up our kitchen floor to run a pipe underneath, or any other similarly-major DIY construction effort. So I decided not to connect the refrigerator water line to the sink across the kitchen, but instead to go down through the kitchen floor and connect to the main water pipe in the basement. And here’s how I did it:

I still had the 1/4-inch copper water line that I purchased for the humidifier last year, but had never used. It ended up fitting perfectly into the hole in the floor behind the fridge space that had been made for a no-longer-used TV cable (why had there once been a TV cable behind the refrigerator? No idea!). So I put some tape on the end of the water line and threaded it down through the floor to the basement.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

Then I had to somehow hook the water line into our 90+ year-old galvanized steel water pipe (which fortunately is located just under the kitchen, so I didn’t have to run the water line too far to reach it). The connection would need some kind of valve to both seal and allow water to flow into the refrigerator line as needed, like a saddle valve. And I just happened to have a leftover saddle valve that came with our humidifier parts. The valve came with some written instructions which were helpful… but I wanted to watch someone actually using it to make sure I understood how it worked. Fortunately, I found a few instructional videos online, and it looked pretty straightforward and relatively easy to install.

I started by turning off the main water valve, and opened a faucet in the basement to drain water out and relieve any pressure. After the water slowed to a drip, I got ready to drill into the pipe. It is important to know where on a pipe to drill for a saddle valve installation. Making a hole on the bottom of a horizontal pipe will cause any sediment in the pipe to collect in the valve and can cause a blockage, so I made sure to drill into the top of the pipe. I used a 3/16-inch metal cutting drill bit that the saddle valve instructions called for.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

Then I installed the saddle valve. The valve simply wraps around the pipe like a saddle (hence the name), and as you tighten the screws, the rubber gasket inside the valve creates a water-tight seal against the pipe at the point of the valve tap hole.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

With the saddle valve installed on the water pipe, it was time to attach the 1/4-inch copper line for the refrigerator that I had previously pulled down through the basement ceiling from the kitchen. I inserted the water line into the opening of the valve’s brass compression fitting and tightened it with a crescent wrench.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

Then I headed back up to the kitchen to finish installing the water line. There’s an identical compression fitting on the back of the refrigerator, but before I connected the line to the refrigerator, I needed to cut it to the correct length. It’s important to keep in mind that the refrigerator may need to be pulled out again in the future, so you want to leave enough slack in the line to allow for this! I marked where I wanted to make my cut, grabbed my pipe cutter, cut through the metal and cleaned off the burrs. Finally, I connected it to the fridge with my crescent wrench in the same way I had done with the saddle valve.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

I went back down to the basement, turned the main water connection back on and checked the saddle valve. No leaks! So I opened the valve to send the water to the fridge, then headed back up to the kitchen to check the fitting on the back of the refrigerator. Again, no leaks!

So I pushed the fridge back against the wall, grabbed a glass and tried out the new dispenser.

Installing a Refrigerator Water Line | Rather Square

Hey, we have water! And ice! It worked! And as you might imagine after all that hard work, my celebratory glass of filtered ice water tasted quite refreshing and delicious.

We love the new refrigerator, and the only maintenance we’ll have to do from now on is change the filter every six months.

What kind of DIY projects have you been taking on lately?

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March 24, 2014