Tag Archives: furniture

more homemade furniture for the boys

A. has been knocking off projects with the speed of the roadrunners I see darting through the desert — he’s made three pieces of furniture in the past few months. He made a bench — that could be used in a mudroom someday — to organize the toys in what we call the “front room.” We still need to sew a cushion for the top — and lucky for us, a Jo-Ann Fabric opened in our desert town at the end of August.

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He made an Amish-style bookshelf — meaning he didn’t use any nails or glue, just rustic joints — for the boys.

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And, his most recent project: A modern desk with metal legs (my favorite).

DSC_7997 DSC_8002 I just love peeking into CM’s room (which will eventually be both boys’ room) and seeing that almost everything in there — including the bunkbed — was handmade by their papa in his tiny workshop in the garage. Oh, and our neighbor gave us his miter saw two weeks ago because he sees A. working late into the evening: “You’ll get more use out of it than I do,” he says.

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funky tabletop and handle-heavy mugs

A. finished his latest piece of furniture — from decades-old wood we found in the Indian Wells Valley. This time, he experimented with shapes, and he made a hexagonal top with three legs to support it. I was skeptical of the design at first, but it turned out fantastic and it replaces the last table he made, which has been relegated from our living room to our guest room.

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And I finally (finally!) am getting the hang of making mugs, though my handles are a bit too thick, which I’ll work on next class at Lois Hinman’s studio. It starts in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to practice more: I have found that pottery, as with any creative endeavor, takes hours upon hours of practice to improve. I’m seeing progress. And it’s a great reminder that it takes time — so much time — to be a master at anything.

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a rustic table from old 2x4s

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A few weeks ago, A. and I stumbled across a pile of wood while on a hike. A. examined the boards, and decided two of them were worth heaving down the mountain. Our guess is this wood is old — very old — maybe even nearly a century old. Luckily, we didn’t have C. with us, so we could arrange the boards in our Ford Fiesta.

One of them was rotting, so A. had to cut off the end to be sure it didn’t have any termites. And when he did, we saw a beautiful red color under the blackened surface — cedar! The wood was so weathered, it gave off a trillion little splinters like a cactus. So after working in his shop for a few hours, A. would lean against the bathroom counter with tweezers and steadily pull splinters out of his hand.

A. designed and assembled this table for our living room — to sit next to our plush red chair — and it’s our favorite piece yet. I tasked myself with crocheting a few coasters for it (you can tell I’m a beginner — more are in the works).

Now A. is excited about working with salvaged wood. Soon, instead of going on a bear hunt, we’re going to go on another wood hunt.

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a homemade easel and a ghost town

I’ve decided to take up painting. Hey, why not? I love new projects and my next pottery class doesn’t start until May. And it would be nice to work in the garage or on the back patio where C. can entertain himself. (Earlier this week he said “cat” 400 times and chased a calico cat around our backyard while I sat with my mom in the shade.)

Painting requires an easel. Or so, A. and I thought, silly us.

So A. made me an easel (one friend in D.C. said in loving jest, “Oh my god, I just barfed in my hands.”)

“What do you want your easel to look like?” A. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t even figured out where to start. Oil? Acrylic? Watercolor?”

A. didn’t care how I use it — he wanted to make an easel. So off he went to his sketchpad and then into the garage where he assembled it in a few days and painted it white. He’s proud because the joints are made out of oak instead of metal. (What a nerd.)

Two weekends ago, we took a trip to Randsburg, Calif., a living ghost town that boomed during the gold rush in the late 1800s. It’s straight out of a movie set — a main drag with a saloon, a shuttered post office and a general store with excellent milk shakes.

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And among these Old West storefronts is an art gallery. That’s where we met Cheryl McDonald. She was cleaning up her studio filled with photographs and watercolor paintings while her tiny white dog ran around and wagged her tail. We found out Cheryl lives in Ridgecrest and teaches watercolor. And she’s giving free sessions at the Desert Wildflower Festival in mid-April.

Perfect! I thought. Watercolor is cheaper, you do it on paper, and so I can practice and not spend a bundle. I’ll take some lessons, figure out what I need, and then I can start using the easel.

Then I talked with S., who went to art school back in the day. And she said, “Yeah, watercolor is a good medium to start in, but you don’t use an easel for that. The color would run.”

Right. Of course. I love having a new easel, but it may have to sit in the garage or display other art while I figure out how to watercolor first. I’ll be sure to wipe the cobwebs from it regularly till I’m ready to put my mastery on canvas.

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a hand-crafted oak nightstand

Over the past six weeks, A. has been a little obsessed. He’s been making a narrow nightstand for our guest room — one that will fit perfectly next to the bed. C. will often point to the door leading to the garage and say, “Papa?” even if A. is at work because A. spends so much time at his work bench. (He spends a lot of time with us, too, so this is OK.) 

First, A. sketched out how to put it together. He designed the top with a square of end grain in the middle so that it would have personality. He bought the oak from Home Depot. He bought a table saw and a plane. And then he put this together, complete with a perfect little drawer and knob.

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I’ll say it again: He amazes me. And I love that he’s creating family heirlooms. Last night, after he was finished rubbing on the oil and we were snuggling on the couch, he said to me, “OK, what’s next?” We’re thinking another table for the guest room, and then an easel so I can take up painting on our back patio when the evenings are a bit warmer.

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stepping up his (furniture) game

A. made his first piece of furniture with his new table saw, and I might be biased, but I think it’s beautiful. We calculated how much time it took him — and the cost of the wood — and figured he could quit his job is someone is willing to pay $400 for it. Anyone want a step stool? (Just kidding, this one is for C.!)

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a homemade bookcase

For more than two years, I’ve had a stack of books under my windowsill that just kept on growing. After deciding that I didn’t want to live like a college student anymore, I started to look online for a bookshelf that would fit in a narrow space next to my closet. But I couldn’t find anything that I liked that fit the specifications and was affordable. And then one night, A. suggested we build one.

Excited to work on a project, I sent him photos of four bookcases I found online — and he noted they all had a “panel” theme. I also liked the idea of reclaimed wood, so I looked for a place in the area to buy it, but was having trouble (it seems that reclaimed wood is expensive).

So in May, we took a trip to Home Depot. We calculated the size of the bookcase (17.5 inches wide) and bought enough slabs of poplar to make it. We bought screws, a power sander and stain. And then we went at it. We measured and cut the wood with A.’s circular saw on the balcony of his Virginia apartment. (A. made me wear safety glasses whenever I used a power tool.) We sanded the wood and tested the stain on scraps. Then we stained the slabs — I slathered it on, and A. wiped it off. And on Labor Day, we drilled holes in the right spots, screwed and nailed it all together — to make this! A beauty, if I do say so myself. And now completely full of books.

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