When Our Little House was built, some corners were cut. As we've improved our spaces, we've corrected a lot of those issues, but there are still minor things that are slightly annoying. One of those minor things -- the poorly cut spaces around our light switches. I've been looking at switch plates for a long time -- basically, as long as we've owned the house.
Recently, I stumbled across some leather switch plates online. I thought they were the perfect solution for our cabin in the woods. They're rustic but still feel a little fancy. The colors are in the palette we've been using. It was one of those synergistic things. What wasn't synergistic? The price. They were listed for $200 a plate, which is way too rich for our blood. So, I decided to make them myself.
I made a trip to our local craft and fabric store and bought a bag of scrap leather for $10. The bag was filled with thick leather in browns and blacks, more than enough for every switch plate in the house. Creating a switch cover was as easy as tracing the existing switch plate, marking the switch opening, and drawing triangles on the top and bottom to create an irregular hexagon. To cut the leather, I used our kitchen shears for the outside and an X-ACTO knife for the inside. For the interior spots, I used a metal ruler and slowly cut on the same line until the leather was cut through.
I found that even though the leather was stiff, when it was screwed onto the switch, it didn't stay flat. I solved the problem by putting the leather over the original switch plate. It actually gives it a bit more depth as well as keeping the leather flat. Maybe the best part -- as we use the switch, the leather will become more and more weathered, looking better and better.
For 10 bucks and some craftiness, I was able to solve an eyesore, create something beautiful, and save hundreds of dollars. How about that for a weekend project?
Last May, I put up some peel and stick slate tile. It was pretty, and it also protected the wall from dings when we were stacking our firewood.
Well, because of our orange peel textured walls, the adhesive wasn't long-lasting. Less than a year later, the tiles were starting to peel off. It may never have been a problem if we had lovely, smooth walls, but since the entire house is orange peel, longevity of stickiness was not in the cards. Or on the wall.
We liked the way that slate behind the firewood looked, and we were intent upon keeping it, so we went down to the hardware store and picked up some Devcon WeldIt. To re-adhere the tiles, (and not all of the tiles fell off the wall. Only a few decided to be a problem.) I first squirted a zigzag pattern on the back of the slate. Then I repeated the process on the wall, making sure to keep the tip of the tube against the wall. I didn't want to drip this stuff anywhere else! Once the adhesive becomes tacky, it's time to slap those slate pieces back up. I was working on dinner while this transformation occurred, so I checked it after ten minutes, and it was ready to go. Make sure everything is squared up before adhering because once those two sticky surfaces find each other, nothing's going to tear them apart.
So far, everything is behaving nicely. The slate is back on the wall, and the adhesive is doing what it's supposed to -- being sticky. The tiles seem really solid now, and I'm not too concerned with future slate sagging. This "quick" project may have ended up requiring more attention than I had hoped, but it's still a very easy way to add tiles -- and interest -- to a wall.
I love the easy fixes. Of course, sometimes it takes a few tries to get something that really works, but that is part of the glory of the trial and error of home ownership, right?
What I referring to specifically is a strange alcove that exists in the living room area of our home. Below it is the coat closet, but instead of drywalling all the way up to the ceiling, the home builders created a space to gather dust. As our home was built in the 70s, I’m sure it was intended for some far out plant displays or some such.
I did try to do the 70s fern display in the past. Unfortunately, I have a habit of letting plants die when I can’t reach them for watering. Having to climb a ladder becomes one too many impediments. What can I say – I’m a lazy sod.
Then I decided to peruse my home design books, and I found inspiration in the pages of “English Decoration.” There was a photo of the entryway of a lovely farmhouse. Underneath a trestle table were a haphazard stash of baskets. I thought a collection of old baskets up on the alcove would look quite sweet and would add some nice texture to the space.
Gathering the baskets ended up being super simple. I had a few, but I also have a habit of giving our baskets away, so I didn’t have enough for a collection. My Charles and I needed to go down the hill to stop by Home Depot anyway, so while we were in Auburn, we also decided to stop by Goodwill. For $36 – with tax – I loaded up my little alcove, and I love the look. We’re one step closer to a nicely styled home. Until I put mail everywhere and Charles covers the rest of the flat surfaces with food samples, but at least we’re getting there.
I was spending some idle time one day, half-way watching a marathon of "I Want That" on the DIY Network, my mind wandering as fancy objects flashed on the screen. I sat up at attention when they showed an adhesive slate tile and thought, "That's exactly what I need to protect the wall behind the stack of firewood."
Lo and behold, when I went to the website, that was the only product not listed for the episode. Instead of throwing up my hands and screaming, "Why me?" which was my original inclination, I decided to do some Google sleuthing until I was able to find a similar product. I thought it would be nice to have something similar to the patterns in the slate floor, as well as something that would compliment the wall color. After some deliberation, I chose "Indian Multicolor."
According to the show, the tile was easy to cut using a utility knife. However, there were two road blocks. One, I wasn't sure it was exactly the same tile that was shown on TV, and two, I couldn't find our utility knife when I decided to prettify my wall.
These were the tools that chose to accept the task: a level, a box cutter, my pair of Fiskars multipurpose snips, a pencil, a thrift store rolling pin, and of course, the exciting tile that might just change my life.
The tile was very thin, almost like poster board, and the back was covered with a peel-away sheet. The adhesive on the back was very strong, with just enough give to help me feel that I had a bit of wiggle room to get each piece just right. Since it's real stone, each tile was unique, and also, very pretty.
Installation began by removing the baseboards. I will be putting them back up soon. Eek! There's that burgundy again. I swear it's haunting me!
I took the first tile and leaned it against the wall, finding where the top rested. Once I knew that, I grabbed the level and marked a line so that the course would be level with the wall, not the floor. As you can see, there is a small gap at the floor, but that will be covered up when I put the baseboard back.
I peeled off the backing of the first piece and slapped that puppy up. My Charles held the second piece up to the level line while I marked off where the wall ended. To cut the tile, (and it probably would have been even better if I knew where in our thousand square feet our utility blade was,) I used a straightedge and marked the back with a pencil. Then I scored the back a few times, still using the straightedge, with my box cutter. I then whipped out my fancy Fiskars -- seriously, I love those things -- and cut down the score mark. The cuts weren't quite as pretty as they would have been if I'd been able to cut straight through with the box cutter, but the organic edge worked with the patterns of the slate. Once all the pieces were up, I made sure everything was nice and stuck by using the rolling pin. Seriously, use one you don't care about because you will get stone dust all over the pin.
Three tiles up was all it took. Now the wall is protected, and that corner looks like it should be the landing place of a couple of snow-filled nights worth of firewood instead of I'll-just-shove-it-here. It adds a bit of beauty to an otherwise utilitarian corner, and the clean lines evoke that modern cabin feel I'm striving to convey throughout our little house. I think I'll wrap the tile around that wee bit of wall on the left to make it feel even more finished. Maybe the best part -- it took all of an hour to get the project completed, and I'm sold on those peel and stick tiles.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.