Thursday, January 30, 2014

How (not) to install a magnetic knife strip

A few months ago, I cut myself three times washing knifes and what turned out to be a shattered glass hiding in the dishwater. Then a couple minutes later, I cut an apple and sliced open my thumb to the point of nearly going for stitches. So it seems wise to start keeping my knives in an open space.

Blood loss be damned though, I need more counter space! My knife set turned out to be one of my favourite Christmas gifts (even if it does have it out for me), but like many people in small apartments, I have no counter space for the knife block. I've never particularly liked magnetic knife strips, but I'm a girl on a mission and I'll sacrifice my own personal taste if it means there's room for a few more dishes to collect by the sink.

I picked out FINTORP for this purpose and actually performed the elusive mission of "popping into IKEA to grab one thing" and do you know how hard it is to RUN through the showroom because you couldn't possibly trace your way to the kitchenwares through the warehouse?

Before I get started, I think I should make one thing clear in case it hasn't been adequately communicated so far: I make things really complicated. Not on purpose, but it seems like every time I try to do one simple thing as a project, it turns into a 2-week-long debacle. Even "I'll just quickly throw up this light fixture" turned into a 2-hour nuisance. This story is peppered with moments like that, but here was the base of my problem (literally): the wall I planned to mount this on is the only cement wall in the whole apartment. My bachelor apartment was 100% cement, so I know that it is impossible to drill into without a special drill that I sort of despise. I decided to improvise...

The red box pictured here is my fail-safe for everything that is going to be temporary, won't take a nail, or simply involves enough work that my laziness takes over. I thought Velcro mounting tape could do just as fine of a job mounting a magnetic knife strip, and hey, I wasn't wrong.

This was two layers of Velcro tape because one layer wasn't thick enough to reach the wall from the inside of the strip. Two layers was too much (go figure) and it wobbled and creaked and threatened to detach itself every time I wanted an apple. For what's it's worth, this stayed up for over a week before I took it down so if you really are just looking to put it on the wall with no notion of quality, go nuts! Otherwise, plan B. (Note: properly mounting things to the wall with hardware should not be plan B)

If you refer to my kitchen photos before, you'll see there aren't a lot of appropriate walls to store stabby items upon that aren't this one. This is key knowledge when you consider where I ended up putting it.

So now to reach the sharp objects, I have to reach over a heat source. Before you lecture me, I intend to make less use of this particular burner. However, I only have one large element so yes, I made chilli on it.

Here's another Addie moment, which I will describe as a series of events:
- Find perfectly sized drill bit
- Start drilling; drill bit breaks
- Get slightly larger drill bit; drill holes
- Holes are too big for the screws
- Attempt to compensate with wall anchors
- Anchors are too big; drill bigger holes
- Insert anchors; one hole is too small and anchor gets stuck
- Pull a muscle prying the decimated anchor out of the wall; drill bigger hole
- Other hole is too big, anchor hangs around the hole
- Hope for the best and screw everything in
- Drink

I like it though, mainly because it frees up a good amount of counter space. Unfortunately, my steak knives didn't make the cut and have been relegated to the cutlery drawer. You will see before/after shots of how much more room there is on the counter in my next post, so try to not to die from anticipation.

I should end with a question, right? Okay, one that no one else has a problem answering for me.
What would you have done differently??

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Tiny Apartment Wishlist

I created this blog primarily as a way to keep track of things I plan to do or have done, and as a way to remember. So often I'll have a great idea and later on it sort of just trickles away and I'm stuck with no inspiration to solve a previously existing problem. In the process of this makeover, I've discovered so many nifty gadgets or beautiful items that are perfect for my apartment (ranging from home decor to furniture), so I wanted to both remember them and share with you if you're also looking for inspiration.

BJURSTA  Wall-mounted, drop-leaf table
$49.99 - IKEA
With thanks to my lovely friend Janet, this was thrust to the top of my wishlist immediately. I had been looking for something exactly like this to solve the fact that I don't have a desk. Since we don't have a lot of space for a new piece of furniture (and to be honest my laptop would only spend 50% of its time there anyway), this is PEFECT. It even turns into a small shelf when the leaf is dropped. The price is really reasonable, although I'm peeved that when I first found it 3 days ago, it was $10 cheaper. Dammit.

$89.99 - ModCloth

Isn't it beautiful? It's a splurge, I know, but I just love everything about how it looks! This won't be mine for a while, but once I get my pipe & plank shelves together, this will look perfect.

$16.49 - Amazon
Our dish drainer is really quite awful. Cheap, flimsy, white plastic (though I'd be lying to say it's still white by now); it's big, clunky, and this weird red film has started to develop on the tray. It's so gross I can't even bring myself to clean it. About a year ago I saw a neat double-tiered one at a bath warehouse, but then I realized the better solution - folding! The problem becomes virtually non-existent. It looks small but the layer on the bottom and the points to hold cups and glasses actually makes it very useful.
I've actually already ordered this, but it won't ship for 3 weeks. Worse than that is I forgot to buy a draining mat to go with it.

$18.99 + shipping - eBay
Why, right? If you remember, I mentioned my problem with DVD storage. There's been a recent brainwave, but it does require bringing back this out-of-date storage system. More on that later.

$10.98 $36.01* + shipping - eBay
In addition to being cute as a button, a traditional kettle (instead of the electric one I've had since my freshman year of college) is going to take up less counter room. Yes, it will consume one burner on my electric stove, but it's a non-issue; I rarely cook with more than one burner and when I do, it's for one. Easy.
I swear to god if anyone goes and bids on this I'll find your IP and ping you off the internet. Dibs.
*[Edited to Add: changed the price because SOME people had to go and bid on it, so it ended up costing me quite a bit more. But, I'm brilliant. Want to know why it was $36.01? Because I watched a lot of Price is Right in my day and my 1 cent rule on eBay FINALLY paid off because the previous bidder had $36. Bam]

$19.99 - IKEA
Nothing exciting here. Something to contain the many trinkets we have collected on top of our bookshelf so that we may one day actually see surfaces in our apartment. Cheap, and matches my furniture. Now accepting applications for help putting them up.

Coat Hooks with Shelf
I love this particular shelf from Etsy, but to get one that looks like this it's $90 plus shipping which brings it to almost double that. I really like reclaimed wood, but it's so hard for me to justify the price for what is essentially still used wood. Still on the lookout for something that would fit, but I need to replace my coat hooks and a shelf for small items is never unwelcome in a tiny apartment. Closest I've found is this on Amazon, but it comes in a bit too long.

$8.99 - IKEA
Big empty space on the kitchen wall + need for storage = hanging pots and pans from a kitchen rail.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Things I Like: My Spice Rack

I won't lie, I'm between paycheques right now and that sort of stalls any progress on my apartment overhaul. But in my years of tiny living, I've acquired some nifty tools that I think are also worth a mention.

I like to bake. Cooking isn't my friend, but I do like to bake, and over the years spices have crept into my cupboards to the point where I now have the same amount as my Mum, and, well, I guess that's adulthood. You don't expect it. With varying sizes of jars and bags floating around in my two rubbermaid baking bins (also a remedy that's going to take some thought), something had to be done. It's already bad enough I have to haul the two bins down every time I want so much as a mug brownie, but it seemed a bit absurd to keep the dill in the highest corner of the kitchen (this reference only really makes sense if you know that I add dill to damn near everything).

Sometimes you need to spend a bit more than you expected to get just the right thing, and that's definitely the case here. I bought this set of 12 magnetic spice jars from Gneiss Spice on Etsy over a year ago. In two sizes - 4oz and 1.5oz - these hexagonal jars (also available in round) come with magnets on the inside of the lids so they stick to any metal surface (my fridge). Gneiss also offers custom wall plates for them (with neat options like 'rustic') in case you have the space to have them on your wall. In which case, get out of my blog you yuppie.

I would suggest choosing the 4oz size, since the 1.5oz jars hold quite honestly very little; a glass McCormick spice jar is about 1.5oz, so if you buy the big Club House shakers (or bags) like I used to, then you definitely need the big ones. After buying these, you might as well do you shopping at Bulk Barn to save any waste. I confess that I did throw out quite a bit of seasoning when I first got them because I didn't see the point if I'd have to hang onto the shakers for the months (or years) it would take to use up the remainder.

You've probably seen something like this before. If you're like me, it was probably at IKEA.
Grundtal. Same concept, non?
Yes, and if money truly is your main driving factor and/or you don't use your spice collection enough to justify the cost of Etsy, then I wouldn't bother either. I did consider it though and here is why I chose the jars over the canisters:
  • Appearance - the jars had much more style and the interlocking shapes seemed much more appealing (as well as spatially economic)
  • Capacity - even the largest Grundtal containers don't hold as much as the 4oz jars
  • Weight - the canisters don't hold as much while staying in the same place; the magnets are just weaker

The newer sets even include spice labels! I really wish these had been around when I ordered since I Sharpied spice names on the jar lids and now there are permanent black smears all over my landlord's white fridge... oops.

So that's just my little tip if you have a lot of spices (if you don't, you're probably under 25 or male), and one more handy way to store them. Though really, any spice rack is better than nothing. Just remember to use labels correctly or else you'll be looking for oregano one day and basically cross your fingers the green leafy one is right...
I mean, theoretically.

Fun fact: these things hurt like a mother when you hit your head off them coming up from the fridge.

Cost: $68 + shipping
Source: Etsy

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mason Jar Light: Not-so DIY

Ooooo had to get out the fancy camera this time. Don't get used to it, it's just impossible to photograph a light bulb.

Kyle and I are at a constant tug-a-war with the living room light. I like the corner lamp because it's a soft light, and lights everything in a pretty inoffensive way; he hates it because it's too dark and claims he can't see anything. He likes the ceiling light fixture with its two fluorescent bulbs because everything is very clearly lit; I hate it because you could do open-heart surgery by it.
That's not why I wanted a new light fixture though. I just couldn't help but realize that I've been living with these same dome lights pretty much my entire life no matter where I was, and that maybe something fresh and different would be the key factor in truly changing the image of the apartment. My inner hipster loves anything with mason jars and since I've relapsed with my Etsy addiction lately, this seemed like a great idea.

Most DIY tutorials will walk you through how to put together a light socket kit, but as much as I want to be handy, I have no desire to start anything to do with wiring. I needed more than one pendant to make sure the room would be properly lit, so I picked up this 3 mini-pendant light fixture from Lowes ($62 with tax - this definitely would have been cheaper had I done it myself). I also got 3 wide-mouth mason jars from Micheals (total $14 with tax) - one large, two medium. That was the easy part.

My Dad has enough tools to - I think, anyway - officially call the basement a workshop. This is lucky, as I don't own a hole saw to cut through the lids. He did this for me in the time that it probably would have taken me to identify what a hole saw looked like, and I was sent home with my newly cut jar lids and my light fixture, ready to put up.
It looks like a science experiment or octopus torture chamber.

Not true, however, and this is something that no DIY tutorial told me. You need to drill a couple tiny holes in the top of the lids to allow heat that builds up from the light bulb to escape. Mason jars have one function - to trap air. If that heat builds up, I can only assume you'll have glass and filament raining upon you someday. Not hard at all though!
Remember to wear safety glasses in case of falling debris. Or if you don't have safety glasses, grab those Urban Outfitters glasses you bought last summer that you thought would look cool but actually look awful and were a waste of $16 and for some reason you haven't thrown them out. They'll do in a pinch. But throw them out after, k?
See that sweater? Trade that in for a t-shirt too. I was gasping by the end.

The short list of things I like about this apartment includes the fact that I have access to my breaker box; it makes this much easier and well, possible. You better turn off the power to this particular light. Of course you have no idea what any of these do.
Good thing your hyper-organized friend got you 5 colours of Post-Its and pens for Christmas. Take this chance to label which ones do what and turn off the right one once you find it.

One last note on safety.... DO NOT DO THIS:
I don't own a ladder, but a step stool on a coffee table that I've already admitted only has 3 functioning legs is not an acceptable cause of death. Don't let the fact that I'm alive to write this fool you into thinking it's safe. I'm an idiot, remember.

After that it was your basic dismantling. I used this as a guideline on how to switch out a light fixture. I guess it went smoothly enough, except that when it came time to put the new base in, I couldn't figure out why the new screws didn't seem to fit. This could be why:
So I used the old screws to fit the new base. Hope they don't crumble and die though, 'cause they seemed to be as old as the building.

Full disclosure, this isn't perfect. As you can see, it's an external base, unlike most places which would have a nice hole here. Because of this, the peg on my new light fixture ended up being too long, and so the fixture hung about an inch from the ceiling. I frantically paced back and forth for several minutes before the obvious solution occurred to me; the same solution I used for the screws. Use old parts.
I call it the nipple, for obvious and mature reasons, but it's the piece off the old dome fixture that filled in that hollow space between the bolt and the base. I plan on it being temporary, but unless I can find a nickel finish version of this, I guess it's not the worst thing if it sticks. Open to suggestions!
Yes, there's a tiny bit of cable peaking out. It's taunting me.

My face must have looked like Christmas when I switched the power back on and everything, well, worked. Not only that, but the lighting was perfect; it was the perfect balance between the open-heart surgery light and the too-dark lamp. The glass cast some cool subtle shadows across the apartment as well (because they hang lower, the light now shines through the liquor cabinet), and the tiny holes in the top provided a fun pattern on the ceiling.
In terms of bulbs, these are 60W candelabra sockets. I ended up using 40W clear bulbs (store was out of frosted - I'd like to try those so it's easier to look at), but I tested some 25W Edison bulbs before them. They were brighter than I expected, but just not quite bright enough to light the room to a decent level.
So that's how we pulled off the mason jar light fixture - sort of DIY. I'm happy with the result, and I'd do it for my entryway light if we wouldn't become known as the people obsessed with mason jars.

Cost of Light: $62 + $14
Source: Lowes, Micheals

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Couch: So long, Klippan

You've seen my couch before; everyone has seen my couch before. It's every student's first piece of furniture that wasn't poached from a curb, and it's not even a couch at all. The Klippan love seat is a rather large love seat that can fit 3 people no problem (as long as they like each other), where as the sofa version is kind of massive and expensive. I actually got my Klippan off of Kijiji nearly 7 years ago when I moved into my first apartment; 99 bucks, and she even threw in a free Lack table! During the one year I didn't have a black slip cover on, it was beige, as can be seen here (in my faithful old bachelor circa 2011).

7 moves, 4 homes, several summers in storage, and one unfortunate incident of the left arm caving in during one of the many transporting endeavours. I'm pretty liberal with spilling things as well, and it was getting a bit silly to be turning away guests because my couch couldn't hold anyone over 3'10". I've also acquired an extra person over the years and I guess he wants somewhere to sit too.

In October, my lovely family provided a graduation gift to me of $500 to be used specifically for a couch. I was stoked and very thankful, but a quick peak into the furniture market showed that $500 was not as lavish as I was expecting. That was the cost of the standard (real) couch at IKEA, but then there was tax, delivery, and OH CRAP assembling IKEA furniture. Next.

I ventured back into the world of used furniture with several parametres that you should also follow if you're looking to replace your tiny furniture:

  • Less than 90", more than 70" (Measure all available space as well as your current unit - my Klippan was 70")
  • Under $500 (or whatever your budget is)
  • In brand new condition (no point upgrading your furniture just to end up with someone else's crap)
  • Easy to assemble (if you want your relationship to last, this is crucial)

Kijiji and Craigslist are the worst. People who don't respond, people who don't speak English, people who sell things out from under you (thanks, Kathy in North York). It's work. So it was a miracle when I found my new sofa, Karlstad. Also IKEA, brand new condition, only $350, and leaves me with $150 leftover to throw back into my fix-up fund! So I rented an Autoshare cargo mini-van, had many problems getting out of the parking garage in a vehicle 3x the size I prefer to drive, and picked it up. 4 big pieces, and cushions. Seriously, those were all the parts. My boyfriend pretty much put it together single-handedly in just over half an hour!

The Sivek Dark Grey looks almost like a grey denim - a nice change from your standard black fabric. The sofa looks massive, but it's actually only 80". With arms half the width and not nearly as much "fluff", there's just so much more sitting room. A full-sized human can in fact lie down on it, and you're not even perching on the edge anymore. It's adult!

Funny how a larger sofa actually seems to make the room look larger, but I think it's because it takes up more of the wall and allows for  cleaner look, rather than a black hole of junk a la before.

But, let's not forget Klippan, who after 7 faithful years of CSI marathons and mid-day naps, was left out in the cold last night for a nice gypsy family to pick up.

Cost of Sofa: $350
Original Price: $499 + tax
Source: Craigslist

Friday, January 17, 2014

I'm going on an adventure!

Having moved from this apartment and now living on my own, I suggest picking up at this entry in my current apartment.

About a year and a half ago, my boyfriend and I moved into our first apartment in the Parkdale area of Toronto. Prior to that, he had been squatting at my bachelor on the outskirts of the city for 6 months, and to be honest, my bachelor was perfect for me; painted my colours, hardwood floor, spacious, big kitchen. Everything fit perfectly, but it wasn’t *ours*. I guess when I was shopping for that apartment, it just never occurred to me that a year later (or ever) a guy would want to live with me. Even he’ll tell you that our decision to move in together was not romantic; he was moving to Toronto for school and didn’t want a roommate, while my perfect apartment had been overrun by desert ants and roaches.

I love Parkdale. It’s a pocket of Toronto that is the right amount of hip, but sketchy enough that the rent is still affordable. We found a small 1-bedroom just off Queen St., but I don’t think we realized until move-in day exactly HOW small it was. It was a bit smaller than my bachelor, but it was like someone had balled up my bachelor apartment and put a wall through the middle (and lay down a hideous carpet). We had to return the IKEA bed-side tables we bought in anticipation of a reasonably-sized bedroom, and I had to banish multiple pieces of furniture to my parents’ garage (AKA Addie’s storage space and the home of my dining set).

This past month I looked into moving to a new apartment and got my hopes up over one in particular, but in the end, we couldn’t afford it. Living where we do may be frustrating at times, but the low rent means that we get to experience the city, rather than lock ourselves in a very nice apartment and eat beans. It was a bit of an epiphany, and I suddenly became content with our apartment; in fact, I saw it as a challenge.
 So if I can’t make it bigger, then I will make it nicer and better organized. Of course, I’m limited by the fact that it’s a rental; our lease says we’re not allowed to paint or technically punch holes in the wall, but I’m voiding that for the sake of my sanity. I paint over and fill in any holes when I leave any apartment anyway. So no hardwood floors, claw-foot tubs, or knocking down walls like I’d want to, but lots of prettying.
 I like the kitchen. Lots of cupboards, and let’s face it, we moved here because of the pass-through and built-in liquor cabinet (which is packed for good reason)

My ideal laundry-list:
·         Pipe & Plank wall unit (inspired by this)
·         Mason-jar light fixture SUCCESS
·         Accent walls (bathroom & bedroom)
·         Replace dresser with dual clothing-rack
·         Adding shelves/holders in cupboards SUCCESS
·         Incorporate a small desk (for my laptop)
·         Replace bed-frame with legs & fabric box-spring (inspired by this)
·         Add magnetic knife-holder (to clear counter-space) SUCCESS
·         Shelf in the bathroom
·         Remove closet doors/replace with curtains.
·         Wall shelves in the living room
·         And of course, clean and throw away anything we don’t NEED.

·         Couch (left arm is damaged, and it’s small) SUCCESS
·         Coffee table (left leg is broken)
·         Bar stools (topple in a stiff breeze and WILL kill you)
·         Coat hooks (2 hooks are broken)
·         Kitchen garbage SUCCESS
·         Living room curtains
·         Cushions SUCCESS - I forgot to mention it, but they are seen on the couch

 Now obviously I decided not to move because it was expensive, and this costs money, but this is an ideal list. I’ve prioritized some things, and for the sake of saving money and being less useless, I’ll be building some stuff myself. I’m hoping to start on the pipe shelves soon (the hardest part, no doubt) – these things retail for like $1,500 on Etsy, it’s crazy. I’ve also signed up for a sewing class next month and that’s where curtains will be born and hopefully extend into things like cushion covers (because who is actually paying $40 for a bloody cushion?)
 So consider this a how-to in both renovating rentals as well as renovating on a budget. I’ll be posting my updates, but I’d love to see any ideas or experiences anybody has had. Looking forward to watching my apartment change, so here are some shots of it now. Enjoy!
That is a lamp, not a portal to another world. As you can see, our lovely pass-through was the selling point for this place. I did the stenciling myself to add a bit of personality and I'm hoping it will still suit my plans. Note that my laptop is on the right stool, and this is basically where it lives since there's no desk of my own. The new clothing rack is actually sitting it's box right next to it. Heh.
View from the pass-through. On the right is our shelf of DVDs; we have several hundred (they're layered here) and this is the best solution I could think of, but it's still very flawed. As you can see, not a surface to be seen that isn't covered.

Our entry-way. Needs major work - coat hooks, closet, shoes, etc.
The bare wall used to have a fabric hang (basically to dull the echo) but once I decided to build shelves there, my boyfriend admitted he always hated it anyway so I took it down. You can also see a collection of empties outside the door; I'm toying with getting a narrow shelf for this purpose.
Ugh. This. My boyfriend will tell you what a pet peeve this entire corner is and how I never shut up about it. Our closet is inconveniently located, obviously, so we have a clothing rack (closet door is also broken). This rack will soon be his and mine will be where the dresser/TV is now. My hope is that this will lead to less clothing being stored on the floor.
All good. Only plan for change here is organization, new step stool that folds up (I'm short and use it every day), and re-utilizing the liquor cabinet.
Yeah I didn't do these in order. I don't see anything changing here except maybe a shower curtain.
Entrance to the bedroom. A better scope of the size and layout (and should shush all the people who are about to say I could access my closet if I just moved the shelf - WHERE)