Nails: Your Unexpected Friend in the Forest

A lot of hand skills develop hand-in-hand with other hand skills. Learning to sharpen a handplane gives you the skills to sharpen a carving gouge or turning tool. These are pretty obvious. But some hand skills help you in unexpected way. For example: Working with a lot of nails makes splitting green wood for chair parts much easier. Both skills benefit from dead-on accuracy with a striking tool – a […]

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Updating Your Rental Kitchen When Remodeling is Out of the Picture

Old world kitchen with rustic fireplaceYour home is your castle, whether you own your property or you’re renting a small apartment. Out of all of the areas of your home, the kitchen is one of the spaces that needs to be beautiful and functional for the comfort of your family, but what do you do when rental agreements prevent you from moving forward with the updates that you want?

Fortunately, there are countless ways to give your kitchen a fresh and modern makeover without the need for extensive remodeling! From temporary style upgrades to innovative storage solutions, we have the ideas you need to get the most out of the kitchen in your rental home.

Get Creative With Your Cabinets

Cabinets are one of the most important features of the kitchen, and one of the elements that has the highest impact on style. Whether you are stuck with plain white cabinets or have cabinets made from outdated materials, there are plenty of ways to spruce up this essential storage feature and get a brand-new look:

  • Replace old, outdated hardware with stylish accessories and keep the originals on hand for when you move out
  • Remove the doors from a few of your upper cabinets to create the modern appearance of open shelving
  • Use removable coverings, such as contact paper, to cover the worn-out appearance of your current doors (just be sure to test the product first!)

Turn to Nature for Inspiration

A tranquil, peaceful kitchen space can be hard to achieve with the stark white walls of a rental home, but you can fake it until you make it by getting creative with natural elements! Head to the garden center to pick out some beautiful potted plants to add a unique touch to your kitchen, or create a functional herb planter to keep on your counter for easy access to fresh ingredients and a stylish look.

Add Functional Design Elements to the Space

Are you lacking storage in your kitchen? Are you tired of trying to make a home-cooked meal without enough useable counter space? While solving these problems typically involves a lot of demolition and expense, there are several ways to get the functionality you need without permanent changes. Store-bought organizational tools can make more efficient use of your cabinets, and products such as baker’s racks, stand-alone shelving, and rolling carts can give you the work space you need.

Cover Up Obvious Eye Sores

There are some things that you just can’t change in a rental kitchen. From unsightly floor designs to an outdated paint color, it’s better to work around these issues creatively instead of suffering with the frustration of an unappealing space. Choose a stylish, easy-to-clean floor covering to hide ugly tile or vinyl, or create a unique picture wall with art pieces that speak to your personal style to start transforming your kitchen into a place you love coming home to.

Just because you live in a rental doesn’t mean that you can’t create a home that matches your lifestyle, personality, and tastes! In fact, with some creativity and a little ingenuity, you can take any drab, plain kitchen and turn it into a stylish, functional retreat that meets all of your needs—without causing an issue with your current landlord.

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Notes on a Steam-bending Jig

I do only a little production work in my shop, so I don’t have a lot of jigs and fixtures. In fact, I think I can count them on one hand: a sliding table for my table saw, a shooting board/bench hook, my doe’s feet for my workbench and a V-block for planing objects to octagons. But when I build a jig, I want it to last. This week I […]

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Rosin – Your Sticky Friend in the Workshop

Woodworkers use waxes (and other things) to decrease friction, but what about when we want to increase friction? Lately I’ve been trying inexpensive rosin – intended for the bows of stringed instruments – with excellent results. Rosin is a byproduct of heating tree sap to make turpentine or a variety of other products and has a variety of uses in industry and the arts – everything from ballet dancers to […]

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10 Ways To Make Your Bathroom Live Larger

You’ve probably seen luxurious spa-like bathrooms on home improvement shows, in magazines and in model homes and dreamed of bringing that grand style and decadent scale into your own home.

Unfortunately, one thing that many of these rooms have that most typical bathrooms don’t is extra square footage. Even if your bathroom is spatially challenged, there are some simple design tricks you can use to make if feel bigger than it is.

1. Carry through.

Nothing speaks more about your bathroom’s style than the type of tile you select to adorn it. Whether you opt for modern glass, rustic wood-look porcelain, classic subway or a chic marble tile, carry whatever surface you use on the main floor though to your shower floor. This trick will fool the eye into thinking that you have more floor space than you actually do.

2. Eliminate bases.

A little visual space goes a long way, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to vanities. Consider a floating vanity (one that installs directly to the wall and thus floats above the floor without a base). Those precious inches of open space beneath the vanity can make your room feel more open and prevent you from stubbing your toe in the middle of the night.

3. Coordinate colors.

Tone on tone looks always make a space feel larger, and the tried and true color for creating this illusion in bathrooms is white. That’s because so many of the fixtures in bathrooms – from tubs and showers to sinks and toilets – are already white. White also reflects light, which in turn opens up a space visually. Not a fan of white? Try subtle shades of cream, gray or blue to achieve nearly the same effect.

4. Cut corners.

In a small space, you’ll want basic fixtures to make a big statement, so consider eliminating the bathtub (if you know you won’t use it much) and replacing it with a walk-in shower. If you can’t live without a soaking tub, consider a claw-foot version, since it provides the same illusion of space underneath that you achieve with a floating vanity. While we’re talking scale, don’t be afraid to opt for smaller vanities and sinks rather than taking up every square inch of floor space. A little open space can feel like a luxury and create the illusion that you have even more.

5. Resort to trickery.

When you want to create the illusion of more space, mirrors should be your go-to choice. Opt for a large mirror that makes s stylistic statement and functionally reflects the room. Mirrors are also an economical choice, since they generally cost less than the equivalent tile you use to cover the walls they occupy.

6. Use the walls.

Use the precious inches inside your walls to build in everything you can. You can recess medicine cabinets so they are not hanging out into the room. Create niches in the shower wall to hold bath accessories. You might even consider concealing the toilet plumbing inside the wall, as many contemporary models do, for a streamlined look.

7. Lighten up!

Bright task lighting is critical in bathrooms, which often lack natural light due to undersized windows. Bright lighting is also essential when applying makeup and/or shaving, so use this functional necessity to make the space seem brighter, lighter and larger as well. Use multiple levels and layers of lights – sconces and/or lighted mirrors paired with overhead lighting – to help eliminate shadowy areas that can make a space feel closed in.

8. Think big!

Just as one of two larger-scale accessories feel more opulent and purposeful than an array of knickknacks, a statement chandelier, large mirror or even graciously sized tile set on the diagonal can make your space seem larger than it is.

9. Cut clutter.

In a small space, a little clutter can seem far more disruptive than the same amount of bottles (or even tasteful accessories) scattered throughout a large room. Invest in good quality cabinet organizers to keep necessities tucked out of sight, and carefully curate accessories so that each piece has a purpose.

10. Look up.

Particularly in a small space, a tall ceiling can be your best friend. Consider a dramatic ceiling treatment – tin ceiling tiles, chandelier medallions, a vibrant, unexpected punch of color or pattern – or anything that draws the eye upward to create visual space.

What do you think?

Have you used any of the tips above, or any tips not listed to make your bathroom feel larger? Let us know in the comments below!

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Save in Style: Six Ways to Light Your Kitchen with LEDs

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are a kind of light source that save both energy and money. However, functionality is not the only benefit of LED lighting. Because they come in all shapes, sizes and colors, LEDs provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to creating a functional but stylish space. This is particularly true when introducing LED lighting to your kitchen.

No matter what kind of cooking you do, your kitchen is essentially a workspace. When done right, LED lighting can help create a bright but comfortable environment for your work in the kitchen. From introducing accent lighting to illuminating the whole room, using LEDs will completely transform your kitchen space. Here are some ideas to get you started.

#1: Make Yourself at Home With Above Cabinet LED Lighting

Depending on the set up of your kitchen cabinets, placing warm LED lights above the cabinets creates a homey glow throughout the entire room. The benefit of above cabinet lighting is its ability to create workable light in the kitchen without flooding the space with light. Because LEDs are so energy efficient, using above cabinet LED lighting is a good option if you want to keep your kitchen illuminated all night.

#2: Create a Classy Look With Recessed Ceiling LED Lighting

You cannot get much classier than recessed ceiling lights in the kitchen. Canned lighting is one of the best ways to illuminate an entire space. In the kitchen, recessed ceiling LED lighting is particularly helpful in saving space and making the kitchen feel brighter and larger. If you have high ceilings, LED lighting is a better option for recessed ceiling lights, since LEDs can last as long as twenty years.

#3: Make Your Kitchen Glow With LED Toe Kick Lights

Nothing makes a kitchen space feel warm and welcoming like strategically placed toe kick lights. When placed below island counters and appliances, toe kicks go a long way toward accenting the lighting in your kitchen. One idea is to make the accent lighting with toe kicks a different color, adding warmth and style to your kitchen space. Like above cabinet LED lighting, LED toe kick lights are a good option for providing illumination at night without running up a high electricity bill.

#4: Put Your Kitchen on Display With Cabinet Interior LED Lighting

If you have open faced or glass-fronted cabinets, it is a good idea to light up that space with LEDs. Whether you are displaying your grandmother’s china or your wine collection, LED lights are small and flexible enough to highlight any space and for any reason. The small, warm lights can be hidden either at the back of the cabinet with rope lights or at the top of the cabinet with mounted puck lights.

#5: Use LED Under Cabinet Lights for a Functional Workspace

While recessed lighting is a great option for illuminating the entire kitchen, sometimes you need more illumination on the countertops where you work. Placing LEDs under your cabinets will make the workspace bright enough for any kitchen task. Not only that, but it is easy to place just one or two LED lights at a time. This means you can choose to turn on the under cabinet lights only where and when you need them.

#6: Customize Your Kitchen With LED Task Lighting

Have we mentioned that LEDs are flexible? You can even go so far as to place individual lighting systems in the drawers and darker corners of your kitchen. If you keep a KitchenAid stand mixer in the corner, for instance, you can install a LED light directly above it and only turn it on when you use the mixer. Installing lights in drawers, too, can help you avoid having to turn on bigger and brighter lights while you work.

Have you used LEDs in your kitchen? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below!

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Like Your Woodworking Teacher? Maybe You Shouldn’t

Last month I taught two short classes in Germany – a rare exception to my vow to avoid teaching and instead focus on new furniture designs. The reason I taught those two classes is quite personal, so I won’t discuss it here. But during the classes I was struck by an odd question I’ve struggled with for 30 years: Is it a good idea for students to personally like their […]

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A Different Way to Use a Doe’s Foot

During the last few years, the doe’s foot has become one of my most important workbench appliances. Paired with a holdfast, the doe’s foot can eliminate the need for a tail vise on a workbench. I have about four of these doe’s feet at my bench, and I’ve found some surprising ways to use them. I’ve just finished an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine on the topic for a future […]

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Born to Fail at Woodworking

No matter how long I work in this craft, there are days when I feel incapable of doing anything correctly. Such as today. Readers love to be reminded that even people who do this every day suffer regular failures. If you like to wallow in other people’s misery, this post is for you. (Also, it shows you how I deal with woodworking despair.) For the last month I’ve been working […]

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Your Refrigerator Needs a Makeover

The refrigerator is the unsung hero of your home. Most people only truly understand its worth when a power outage strikes. It acts as a treasure chest, storing the precious food that keeps you going. Without it, you’d be doomed to a life full of spoiled milk and expired meat. Despite the important role refrigerators play in day-to-day life, many choose to neglect their ice chest. Refrigerators across the land continuously sit in a sad state, bursting at the seams with moldy fruit and expired condiments.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A well-organized fridge can set the stage for a day that runs like clockwork. Keeping your refrigerator in tiptop condition isn’t a difficult task; it just takes a bit of planning and a smidge of effort. The following tips will help you turn your fridge into a mean, clean, lunch-packing machine.

Give It a Scrub

Before you get down to the nitty-gritty details of organizing, you’ll want to give your fridge a good scrubbing. Chances are the scene on the inside is a little on the grimy side. Start by emptying your fridge. Find a spot on a table or counter and make two sections. In one section, put all the items you want to keep. In the second section, place all of the items that are expired or no longer wanted. Remove the shelving from your refrigerator and clean all of the surfaces with a rag and disinfectant. Once everything is sparkling, replace the shelving.

Know Where to Put It

Geography plays a big role when it comes to what should go where in your fridge. Slight variations in temperature and moisture make certain areas cozy homes for some products and nightmares for others. As a general rule of thumb, the coldest portion of your fridge is at the bottom. So, the lowest shelf is where you want to keep your milk, yogurt, sour cream, and other dairy items. Raw meat should also go on the bottom shelf, where it will stay nice and cold. If any of the juices happen to leak, you won’t dirty up your entire refrigerator. Place deli meat inside the slim drawer. The crisper drawer is low in humidity and the perfect place for fruit. Vegetables, on the other hand, will last a bit longer if you store them in the high-humidity drawer sometimes labeled “vegetables.” Your eggs will be the happiest smack dab in the middle of the fridge, where the temperature is the most consistent. Butter, condiments, and soft cheeses will fare well on the door.

Use Tools to Your Advantage

You can use baskets to divide items up by use and keep them all in their assigned places. This also helps cut back on spills that mess up your newly cleaned shelves. Use labels to identify each basket so that other members of your house can follow the system. You can also place spare labels and a marker on a magnet and stick them to the door. Use these to date any leftovers.

Introduce Weekly Cleanouts

Spend 5-10 minutes every week organizing your refrigerator and discarding things you no longer need. If you build this weekly habit, it’ll be a lot easier to keep your fridge clean in the future while efficiently managing your space. This simple chore addition will also make it easy for you to remember what’s in your refrigerator and what will be perishing soon, so you’ll waste less food and save more money.

Scrubbing your shelves, putting things in the right places, using bins and labels and introducing a weekly cleanout chore is the perfect way to treat your refrigerator. Is there anything else that you do to manage your fridge that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your tips!

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