We almost didn’t get to shoot Meghan and Adam’s wedding. They found themselves needing to find another photographer with only about a month to go. We had another wedding that weekend, but were able to fit them in. Meghan owns her own dance studio, and Adam is an opera singer. An opera singer. That’s the coolest thing I have ever heard in my life. They welcomed us in like we were family, and photographing a wedding day has never flown by so fast. I hope you can see their love in the photos the way everyone attending saw it that day.
Our house has this really awesome third bedroom that extends right off of a long wall in the main area near the kitchen and the dining room. Unfortunately though, instead of having any kind of door, it just had a cheap closet style mirror sliding door. Very Florida-ish. Here’s a before shot with the mirror door open. Behind it is even more mirror, built right into the wall. I dreamt of building an epic barn style door to replace the mirror door, and finally was able to make it a reality. But it was hard work.
I decided that if I were to do it, I might as well go all out and do it right the first time. I wanted to build the door completely from scratch like bearded dudes used to do in the good old days. I went to the store and bought a bunch of 1x6 boards as well as an electric miter saw, which I was overdue for buying with everything I have on my to-do list to build. After a ton of planning, measuring, and cutting (not shown), I began building the door. I wanted the front to be clean of screws and stuff, so I used my trusty Kreg Jig to join the boards together. It makes awesome joints and I recommend it to anyone looking to do simple novice building like I do. It boroughs holes in the wood to connect two adjacent pieces. Then I filled the holes with oak to stain over and hide most of the screws completely. I did leave some screws exposed on the edge of the back to give it an industrial look (and it was much easier).
After putting the door together, I sanded it really well, including dulling all of the edges. I sanded down areas where two boards butted up unevenly until they were even. Sanding helps hide imperfect wood and imperfect building.
Then came the long process of staining and multiple coats of polyurethane to seal and it really make it shine.
Last step was attaching all of the hardware. Upscale rolling door tracks and systems are $300-$600 to buy and we don’t want to spend that kind of money, so we bought $5 ball bearing rollers at Home Depot and used the existing closet door tracking that was already built in.
So here is the finished product. The door is open when it is to the right. And most awesome of all, we decided to paint the built-in wall mirror with chalkboard paint. So when the door slides left to close, it reveals the chalkboard. We put one coat of white primer paint on the mirror first, then two heavy coats of chalkboard paint.
I was worried about the heavy door sliding OK in the track (it’s at least 100-150 lbs.), but it works like a charm. The chalkboard paint is a lot better quality than I was expecting as well.
I put barn door hinges on the door, but they are just for decoration and don’t serve any purpose except looking awesome.
Here is the back of the door from inside the room. Since the door slides open right in front of the wall, I couldn’t put any handles on this side because they would obstruct the siding. So I bought a little grip handle and chiseled into the wood to screw it in.
The wood was $36, the hardware was $17, rollers were $10, the oak hole fillers were $5, and the chalkboard paint was $14. The miter saw was $120, but that’s an investment that I will use for countless other projects over at least the next 20 years. We already had everything else we needed (sliding track, stain, primer, brushes, drill, Kreg Jig, screws, sander). It really gives the whole area a lot more personality and is my proudest home project to date.
Rita’s parents gave us this old map of Tampa Bay that they had packed in their garage for the last 10 years. It’s a great map, but it was stuck in an old 70s looking wooden frame. I couldn’t figure out how to get the map out without tearing apart the frame, and I was worried about damaging the map. I decided to take it to a frame shop to maybe let an expert figure it out. However, I decided not to take them up on their offer to have it custom framed for $537. Instead, I went with plan B: build my own frame.
Rita thought it would be cool to find some old pallet wood or aged wood to make a cool frame, but I didn’t have time for that. I went to Lowe’s and bought some regular old 2 x 4 boards. Then I brought them home and beat the crap out of them with every tool I had. I dinged them. Scratched them. Hammered them. Scraped them. Dragged them around. Even water logged them a little so that the stain would go on uneven. After I cut and attached the boards, I lightly applied the stain and wiped it off to give it an old look.
Here is the back of the boards (that I didn’t do anything to) to show the difference.
I painted the 70s looking wooden frame white to turn it into the matte, then attached it inside my beat up frame I made. It fit perfectly snug (math!). It is huge and heavy and makes a nice focal point of our back den.
The boards cost $7.41, and I already had the tools, stain, white paint, and brushes. Less than 8 bucks beats $537, and I like to think I would have preferred this result more anyway.
One of the countless awesome things about the home Rita and I bought is that the older couple we bought the home from left us their full speaker system, record player, and 300+ records—including 18 Beatles albums in ridiculously good condition. We now have two old but fully functioning entertainment systems with record players on opposite sides of the house. It’s like stepping into 1968.
Our favorite receiver, record player, and speakers are kept in our front living room, but we didn’t have any good way to display them. The record player and receiver just sat on top of one of the speakers. Rather than buying something, I decided to build a custom cabinet that was designed to hold exactly what we had.
I am not a carpenter by any means, so this was a little outside my comfort level. But I thought it would be fun to try. My first step was designing the cabinet and calculating exactly what sizes and materials I would need. I factored in the thickness of the boards, the saw blade and even planned the order of cuts to the boards to maximize use of the smooth factory edges of the boards.
I started out with two large 4 x 8 foot pieces of high quality birch. Also, you can see my workbench my dad and I built using scrap wood.
I planned out how much wood I would need and knew what pieces of the cabinet would be taken out of each board. I double checked my measurements and then made the cuts very slowly and carefully with my power saw to ensure the straightest lines possible.
Once I had all my pieces, it was time to start assembling. I assembled the cabinet where it was oriented face down on the ground. I drilled screws into the 1/2” thick boards as straight as possible to avoid any splintering of the wood on the other side. I also reinforced each piece with strong wood glue before screwing them together, then would wipe away any wood glue that may have seeped out.
I started with the outside frame, then added the shelves inside. This is a good time to mention that although it annoyed me at the time, my wife was right that I would be glad she took pictures of the whole process.
Then I attached the back. Adding the back is what finally made it really sturdy.
I was happy with this, but I wanted to fancy it up a little by adding some trim. Trim will also hide the screw heads.
I had to use a miter box and hand saw to cut the trim diagonally to fit nicely on the edges.
I glued the trim. No matter how much I measured and carefully cut, I couldn’t get the trim perfect. Without a table saw or much knowledge of quality carpentry, it was impossible for me. So I would smooth out any imperfections with wood putty.
The last step was a couple of coats of stain and polyurethane. Also, you can see the hole I drilled for the cords to go through.
And here is the finished product. The stain wasn’t as dark as I was expecting. I have a power sander, so I may sand it and restain a darker color this spring if it keeps bothering me. Or I might paint it. Final price was $54 for the boards, around $18 for the trim, $6 for the stain and a couple of dollars for screws. Overall, I am really pleased with how it turned out and makes all the music listening in our front living room much more fun. Someone with real building talent might laugh at how simple it is, but it was just what we needed!
One of the joys of owning a home is making it your own. Rita and I have a lot of big plans for the house we bought 3 months ago. Our first project (the only thing we did before we moved in) was painting the dining room. The open floor plan had a tan/taupe color going from the front of the house, through the dining room, and into the back den. We decided it needed to be broken up with a pop of a different color.
First, we taped all the edges.
I should have taken more photos in between these steps. But after priming, I painted two coats of blue and three coats of white on the bottom to make absolute sure that the darker color didn’t show through.
We added a chair rail 1/3 of the way up the wall, breaking up the blue and white.
One more step left. To fancy it up a little more, we added white frames along the bottom as kind of a cheap wainscoting. The frames were bought as is—we just slapped some paint on the them and nailed them into the wall. The chair rail was the same way.
Rita filled the nook with white dishes to compliment the room.
Here is a different angle of the finished product. You can read about building our dining room table here if you are interested.
The paint was around $40, the chair rail was $15, and the 6 frames were about $9 a piece. Everything was bought at Lowe’s. Overall, a nice improvement to the room for a little over a hundred bucks. I am not a talented carpenter/painter/handyman, but I like to pretend I am. I am in the middle of building a cabinet/shelf to hold our stereo, speakers, record player and records and can’t wait to post a step by step for it too.