Shoji Screen Sliding Doors – Getting the Look Without Using Glass

Last week I posted about our dining room transformation after we removed a wall. If anyone were to ask me what the biggest impact was in renovating the space, I’d have to say the sliding doors that hubs and a friend built. Once we knocked the wall down, I wanted the option to close it off occasionally but still let the light through. It was the perfect opportunity for me to design something spectacular!

As you may have seen in our previous post, hubs mocked up my design in cardboard to make sure the scale would work first before he even purchased the wood. I’m so glad he did that because I could see that I wanted the wood on the bottom of the door to come much higher than the mockup, so we were able to make the adjustment and not waste a thing!


Hubs installed the sliding door mechanism, but before he did, he added a piece of plywood so we could add a valance to it later.


Then he installed the doors on the track by following the manufacturers directions. We used KN Crowder hardware.  It’s not cheap, but we also used their pocket door hardware in my craft room because we think it’s the best on the market and believe that you really do get what you pay for  (and no, we don’t get paid to say that)!

We didn’t want heavy frosted glass in the doors so hubs came up with a brilliant idea to get the same effect! Want to know the secret? Laminated rice paper! It looks beautiful and can still be cleaned if necessary. If you want a true shoji look though, make sure that the laminate you use is low sheen. The laminating shop we took it to actually used high sheen on one side and hubs didn’t notice it until after he installed it. We don’t like the shiny side (too much reflective glare), but we never took it back to fix it so I’m passing this tip along to you so you don’t make the same mistake we did.


Since we took the wall opening right up to the ceiling and I didn’t want to see the track hardware, we created a valance to cover it in matching wood. Before we added the valance, I decided to stain the edge of the plywood it would be mounted to so the lighter colour wouldn’t catch my eye if I ever looked up into the gap. I can’t say I ever look at that gap, but maybe that’s because there’s nothing to notice! Anyway, the best time to do something is BEFORE it’s all finished, so I went ahead and put in the extra effort.


To attach the valance itself, we stapled on some heavy duty velcro so we could simply velcro it into place. That way, if we ever have to get to the mechanism, we can still easily access it by detaching and lifting away the valance.


It took two of us to lift the valance up and attach it; here it is all finished off:


On the other side of the door, we attached a smaller piece of valance in the same manner just to bridge the space between the door opening.


As you saw in the dining room reveal, we repainted and redecorated. Here’s the finished look:


I think the doors really do make the space, don’t you? If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. Follow us either on Bloglovin’ or right here at Birdz of Feather and you’ll get an e-mail whenever we post.

If you missed our DIY on how we knocked the wall down in the dining room, click here for a link to that post.


For more reno DIYs, check out our tutorial on how to tile a backsplash….


….how to replace a bathroom fan or…

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maximize space in a bathroom renovation:

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And don’t forget that I’ve just started a new craft blog called Birdz of a Feather Craft. You can check out by clicking here.  I have an incredible indoor water feature tutorial coming up soon, so follow me there too!

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Removing an Interior Wall – Dining Room Transformation

This post is dedicated to my sister who’s thinking of opening up a wall in her home. Even though I love her house just the way it is, if she’s determined to do it she might as well know what she’s getting herself into, right?

For us, removing an interior wall was the best investment in time and effort we’ve ever undertaken. Because our house faces north and there are no windows in the front of the house, our dining room was dark and uninviting. Opening up the shared wall to our family room let in a flood of southern light and has changed the whole flow, look and feel of our main level.

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However, it’s not as easy as just knocking through to the other side. There are things to consider such as whether the wall is load bearing, how to transition the flooring where the wall is removed and whether there are there any utilities such as plumbing or electricity in the wall cavity that may have to be moved. Most importantly, if you don’t know whether a wall is load bearing or not, call in a professional. Don’t be tempted to mess around with a wall that could potentially be holding up your second story! Bryan Baeumler has some good insight on load bearing walls in this video clip:

As hubs used to build custom homes, he knew our wall wasn’t load bearing so we went ahead with opening it up. Once we determined the size of our opening, hubs cut some exploratory holes into the bottom of the drywall to see what obstructions we would need to deal with. We only found an electrical outlet on the other side of the wall. Whenever you’re cutting into drywall, ALWAYS TURN THE ELECTRICITY OFF AS A PRECAUTION!  I learned that the hard way on my very first house reno when I was shocked by a loose wire.

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If you’re able to, it helps to open up to the studs on either side of the opening so you won’t have to add additional studs to finish it off.

Before you start, don’t forget to don a mask, safety goggles and gloves. This is messy, dusty work so don’t overlook these safety precautions:) Speaking of dusty, cover up any furniture pieces you’re not able to move to another room. Have a wet/dry vac on hand to vacuum up any debris as you go to keep the work site as clean as possible (or you’ll just trek the dust through the rest of the house).

First remove the baseboard on either side of the wall (you’ll be using it again to trim out once you’re done). Hubs used a stud finder to determine where the studs were. It’s helpful to mark the opening with  painters tape so you can clearly see where you’re cutting, but we used pencil to draw out the opening on the wall.

We decided to remove our drywall right up to the ceiling so hubs scored and cut along the lines with a utility knife. If you have crown moulding that you want to keep, as in my sister’s case, you’ll want to match the height of your opening to other doorways in your home. In that case, remove the drywall up to the height of the doorway, then cut the studs with a reciprocating saw and leave them hanging from the ceiling so you can add in a header. If your crown is plaster, be careful as you nail in the header or the force of hammering may crack it. The video at this link gives some good general tips for framing out an opening in a non-load bearing wall and framing out for a pass-through.

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We worked on one side of the wall at a time and used brute force to break off the drywall in sections (it’s actually not very hard once the perimeter is cut). We pulled the drywall off the studs as we went.

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Once the first side was done, hubs drilled through the corners to the other side so we could accurately transfer our cutting lines. He cut through the drywall on the other side with the utility knife as he did before. I couldn’t wait to kick through the lower parts of the wall, which was way more fun than just pulling it off! There’s a reason that demo day is a favourite among many HGTV personalities!

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Once the drywall is removed, you can start pulling out the studs within the opening.

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You can cut the nails with a reciprocating saw first along the top and bottom plates or just hammer the studs outwards until the bottom is released and then pull out the upper part.

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Once the studs are removed, you can cut the bottom plate through to the floor and the top plate against the ceiling and remove those too if you are taking the opening full height. As you’ll see later we were going to be installing sliding doors (designed by me and built by hubs and a friend).

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I’ve had the crow bar shown below since I renovated my first house and it’s an absolute must for any renovation (I can almost hear my sister asking me to borrow it now!) It will help pull the bottom plate away from the floor.

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Hubs took care of mudding and sanding the opening. You can now re-cut the baseboard you removed to size and re-use it (in our case, we took the opportunity to replace our baseboards on the entire main level).

We painted our previously red walls with a colour called ‘muslin’ from Benjamin Moore; it’s a lot easier on the eyes! Hubs then mocked up my vision for our sliding doors in cardboard so we could visualize how it would look. You’ll see more about those in our next post!


We replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors, installed the sliding doors and, as you’ll see in the final reveal, we also replaced our light fixture.

Here’s how our dining room looked before we took down the wall…

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And here’s how it looks now.

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The light just floods in from the back of the house and illuminates the space. It’s fresh and modern; it even looks bigger. We couldn’t be happier with the result!

Next up, I’ll be posting some tips on how we did the shoji screen sliding doors. In the meantime, if you’re interested in other DIY reno’s, check out our laundry room tiled backsplash:


And how to make the most of your staircase and landing:


If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. Follow us either on Bloglovin’ or right here at Birdz of Feather and you’ll get an e-mail whenever we post.

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve just started a new craft blog. Click on this link which will take you to my new site where you can find craft projects such as the blue jean planter and dog bone basket shown below. Some people think these blue jean planters are creepy; others think they’re fun, but we can all agree that they’re definitely unique 🙂


This dog bone basket is the perfect gift for any dog lover in your life – or make it for yourself to corral all your dog toys!


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Organizing a Craft Room

Today marks the launch of my new craft site Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab! I’ll still post our home reno projects at this site (Birdz of a Feather Home) but if you’re interested in crafts, be sure to follow me there too! Follow this link and click on the follow button if you’d like to get an email whenever I post a craft tutorial. Craft Rehab is about more than just my addiction to crafts: it aims to put sustainable crafting on the map with creative, fun and easy to accomplish projects that pack a wow factor so check it out!

Since finishing off my craft studio at the end of last year, I’m spending more time on craft projects. To kick off my new focus for 2017, (and celebrate my new craft studio) I thought I would dedicate this first post to craft room organization.

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Hubs built an entire wall of storage cabinets for me using Ikea Pax units. Although they’re meant to be used in the bedroom as a wardrobe, the interior options are ideal for a craft studio. I’ve used the interior organizers to full advantage. Here, we’ve installed a pull-out shelf to store one of my sewing machines:

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I put a few felt dividers into one of the drawers to corral small items such as my pressing hams:

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There’s a ton of room to store both my hanging and tissue patterns, my glass grinder, my tools and even my thread (although I changed my mind about the tread as you’ll see further on).

The clear glass drawer fronts allow me to see everything I have in an instant!


There’s a flat storage space for my self-healing cutting mats and all of my tools are stored on pull out shelves so they are readily accessible. It’s impossible to loose anything when you can simply pull out a drawer to see what you have! The only trick to keeping it organized is making sure to return everything back to where I got it; so far it’s worked like a charm.


I even have a few pullouts to store some closed storage bins:

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Instead of hiding my cone threads and yarns in the cabinet, I decided to relocate them to display them in all their glorious colour. The vintage glass oak display cabinet keeps the dust off everything.

The 6-drawer card catalogue resting on top of the cabinet adds additional closed storage. I organized things like tape and fasteners in the drawers.

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To organize my collection of vintage irons and other cast iron objects, I’ve displayed them on an Ikea Lack shelf. I love being reminded of how far technology has come in the last century.

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I couldn’t believe it when we found the shabby chic highboy shown below on the side of the road. It was missing its drawers, but it turned out to be perfect to tuck away larger project components so I can clear my work table when I have things in progress and need to move on to another step. It’s so easy to store and grab things from the open shelf space.

My grandmother bought me the industrial pattern table to christen my first studio. Hubs added a shelf onto the bottom of it so I could store some closed bins that are holding my fabrics. My grandmother (and Mom) taught me most of what I know about crafting and I always think of her when I’m looking for some inspiration for my next project!


My favourite piece (if I had to pick just one) is the kitchen drawer units we repurposed from our kitchen renovation. We faced the front of each drawer with MDF to get a clean slate. I blew up a picture of a VW beetle that hubs restored and attached it to the MDF for a unique storage piece.

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There are six large and deep storage drawers as well as a vertical pullout (similar to the pull-out cabinet we built for our new kitchen). I store most of my finished projects in the drawers that are still waiting for their final place in our home (or someone else’s home!).

In one half of the pull-out cabinet I’m storing mostly liquid items such as paint, caulk and glue. The shelves are adjustable so that my storage options are totally flexible and I can switch things around whenever I want to:


On the other side of the divide, we installed a perforated metal backer. I can hang some items on the metal,  either peg-board style or by magnets. I haven’t organized this spot yet, but will likely store my rulers here.


My work area will one day hold a laptop or desktop computer so I can design and execute in the same space.

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For now, it’s the perfect work surface to shoot my how-to videos, such as this Duct Tape Pop-art portrait of Elvis Presley that gets constructed before your very eyes:

While you’re watching, subscribe to my Youtube Channel. Once I have 50 subscribers, I’ll be posting the full tutorial on Craft Rehab, so subscribe to my channel if you’d like to see it!


Above the floating desk, we installed additional wall cabinets to maximize storage space.


I’ve got inspirational magazines stored in one of the cabinets, as shown below, and a collection of craft books in the other units:


I’ve organized all my smaller items in a vintage card catalogue. Everything is labeled alphabetically so I can easily find it:


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Lastly, here’s a little project that we completed just outside my studio doors. Click here to see how we built the floating shelf.


Now that everything is coming together organization-wise, I can fully concentrate on the fun aspects of my new craft studio: creating and making things!

Here is a sneak peak of my very first craft project in 2017 where I showed you how to make your very own blue jean planter. Isn’t it adorable? Click the link to see the full tutorial and video!


Here are a few more things you’ll find on my craft site: a floating tap water feature made from an upcycled paint can, a paint stick pallet wall hanger and an industrial remote control caddy I made for my husband’s new mancave (the mancave will be revealed right here very soon, so follow me here too if you haven’t already).


Don’t forget to follow me on my new site, Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab if you want full tutorials when they’re hot off the press!

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. If home and garden makeovers are your areas of interest, check out a full listing of the projects we’ve done right here on our home page.  If you follow us either on Bloglovin’ (link below) or here at Birdz of Feather (link in footer), you’ll get an e-mail whenever we post a new home or garden project.

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Reupholster an Office Chair

Happy New Year everyone! For my first post of 2017 I have a tutorial to show you how to reupholster an office chair. You may have seen the embarrassing state of my office – which I finally got organized. My office chair was no better shape and when the tear in the seat looked like it was trying to run right out of the office, I knew it was time for a makeover. I relocated it to my craft studio to give it the Cinderella treatment.


I’ve never reupholstered an office chair before so this was uncharted territory for me. There’s nothing more fun than a challenge and learning a new skill! I was interested to learn just how it had been professionally done at the factory so I could try to duplicate it the best I could.

For this project, you will need:

  • sewing machine,
  • serger,
  • airgun with staples (both light and heavy weight),
  • pin nailer with 1″ pins,
  • staple puller,
  • eye protection and heavy gloves (to wear while stapling or nailing),
  • upholstery weight fabric (find something heavy that will be durable),
  • needle nose pliers
  • thread, and
  • some cord.

I also used some brown packaging paper to make a pattern for the backrest and panel. You could use a regular staple gun but I find it too difficult to squeeze; having a compressor with a pneumatic stapler is a real hand-saver!

I broke the project down into 3 stages: the seat, the back panel and the backrest.

First, I turned the chair onto its side to explore how it all comes apart. Looking at all the levers was a bit daunting, but I noticed 4 large screws in the centre and removed them.

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I thought the arms of the chair had to come off too, but it wasn’t necessary at this stage. I removed one and left the other one on so I could prop it up to get some leverage (and a better picture) once it was in my work table.

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Interestingly, there weren’t too many staples holding the fabric on around the perimeter of the seat. All the work in gathering up the fabric was done by a black grosgrain ribbon tape with cord running through it.

I decided I wanted to reuse the ribbon again; you have to be careful not to let the cord slip out of the slots as you remove the staples.

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I removed all the staples using my upholstery staple puller; tie a knot at the ends of each cord before you remove the staples holding the cord. This will prevent the cord from accidentally slipping out – trust me on this, you don’t want it to unravel or you will have to feed it back through the teeny tiny slots in the ribbon and that won’t be fun!

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Luckily the manufacturer left enough of the cord to work with before cutting it or I would have had to replace it. I did a quick Google search and couldn’t find anything comparable online so I don’t have the faintest clue what it’s called or where I might be able to buy it again (if anyone knows, please leave me a comment)!


To save the ribbon, I had to use a seam ripper to cut through both straight stitching and serger thread holding it to the fabric. It was a bit time consuming so I just cranked up the music and chilled while I was at it. To break up the monotony, I would leave it every once in a while and then come back to it. When it was finally released from the fabric, I pick out all of the loose threads from both the ribbon and fabric and set the ribbon aside.

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Now it’s time to cut new fabric; I used the old fabric as my pattern. If you have a directional pattern as I did (shells), ensure that all your pattern pieces are placed on the fabric in the same direction. I wanted the fat end of the shells pointing downward (as you’ll see later in the finished chair).

I folded the new fabric right side in, put the old fabric on top of it and pinned around the perimeter (my antique irons helped hold it down).

As I only discovered after I cut the fabric, the old fabric had stretched out of shape so it was now bigger than the length of the ribbon; I had to adjust and re-cut the fabric so the perimeter was the same size as ribbon. This part was a bit of trial and error.


After the fabric is cut, make sure to iron out all the creases – otherwise they’ll always be there in your finished chair. Don’t get lazy and skip this step!


Pin the cord around the perimeter and sew it on. Because I re-used the ribbon and it had already been gathered onto the seat cushion, you will have to straighten the area you are sewing so there are no gathers, then push the gathered section ahead into the area you just sewed so the next section is smooth. It sounds confusing but it will make sense once you get to this stage.


Once the ribbon is stitched, I also serged around the edges. Again you’ll need to move the gathers around so you’re stitching on ungathered fabric as you serge. Once that’s done, you can pop the new cover onto the seat cushion.chair-makeover-028_bof

You’ll need to pull it tight as you go to get it evenly distributed.


Put on some eye goggles and gloves. Where the cords cross over, add staples in a zigzag fashion as shown below to hold them in place. I forgot to get a shot using the actual fabric (this is a before shot).

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I used a pneumatic staple gun with my air compressor to place staples around the perimeter. You’ll notice that I finally removed the other arm so I could maneuver the fabric around. I found it hard in some places to stretch the fabric over the sides so do your best to get it evenly distributed.


Turn it over and admire your work!


Now on to the back panel and backrest of the chair. I wasn’t sure how to take it apart but I noticed a seam running all the way around, so I inserted my staple puller and gave it a little tug around the edges. To my delight – and relief – it popped right off.


Here’s what the back panel looked like on the inside and outside.



The panel had been held together by small head pin nails. They were shot right through the fabric of the panel into the backrest and because the heads were small, they sunk right through the fabric; brilliant!



I made note of how close to the edge the pin nails were placed so I could reverse engineer it again when I was putting it back together. I also noticed that this time, there was no ribbon with cord gathering up the slack. Instead the manufacturer just simply serged around the edge of the fabric and inserted a cord right along the serger thread! Again, I decided to do the same thing.


Remove all the pin nails with the needle nose pliers.


For the back panel, I didn’t bother to remove the fabric so I made a paper pattern instead. Roll out some brown paper and place the panel on top. Mark the top and bottom, then roll the panel to the right side as you trace the outline. Roll to the left side and trace the other side.


Measure with a ruler to see now much allowance you’ll need to add onto the pattern for the edges.


Add the seam allowance onto the pattern . I add 1 3/8″ around the perimeter.


Cut the pattern out.chair-makeover-061_bof

Before you pin and cut the fabric, make note of the direction you want the fabric to run. If you have a pattern or nap you’ll want everything running in the same direction. I put an arrow on the paper pattern – but forgot to photograph it.


Once the fabric is cut, serge around the edges and then feed a cord through the serger threads using a blunt needle (I used some rayon knitting yarn I had left over from another project).


Start the cord at the centre of the bottom and make sure you crisscross the yarn once you’re back to the beginning so the two threads overlap – it’s easier to pull them tight in the opposite direction when they’re crossed over.

Lay the panel onto the wrong side of the fabric and gather up the fabric by pulling the cords until it’s neat and tight around the panel.chair-makeover-073_bof

I used some lightweight, shallow staples to hold the fabric in four spots, plus another few to zigzag the cords as I did with the seat cushion to hold them in place. Here is the finished back panel. Note that the shells are running in the same direction as the seat cushion and I could have ironed it a bit better!


The last piece is the backrest. The backrest was held onto a metal brace with three screws; once the panel was removed the screws were exposed and could be unscrewed.


Again, I decided not to remove the fabric and make a new pattern instead, as I did with the back panel. Using the directions above, make a paper pattern and cut out the fabric (in the same direction as the other pieces).


Serge around the edges, insert the cord, put new fabric onto the chair backrest and gather up the fabric.chair-makeover-085_bofchair-makeover-086_bof

Flip it upside down and then staple around the perimeter in the same manner as the back panel. I used a heavier gauge staple for the backrest than I did on the panel because of the difference in the depth of the material and the amount of use it would get.


As an extra precaution, before I pinned the back panel back onto the backrest, I marked with some piece of green tape where the staples were (only if they were an inch from the edge – which is where I was going to pin). By knowing where the staples were, I could prevent some potential ricochet off the staples when I pinned on the back panel.



I also dry fit the back panel on and did the same thing with the green tape to mark potential hazards where there were staples.


At this point, I needed an extra set of hands and Hubs jumped right in to help. He held the back panel in place and squished it all together as I pinned 1″ in from the edge around the perimeter of the panel. It probably would have been a good idea for him to be wearing gloves just in case, but he was careful to keep his hands away from the target area and I moved the nail gun around. I should also mention that we were wearing eye protection – you can’t be too careful.


Remove the green tape and ease off any fabric that may have caught in the nail heads so you can’t see any puckers.


Here she is all done up in her new red dress.

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The chair looks so great with all the red accents in my studio that it’s going to be hard to put it back where she belongs in the office upstairs! I think I’m going to have to search out another second hand chair that’s the same model. This one was made in 1998 by the Global company and I was impressed with the construction (as you saw in the before picture, it has gotten a lot of use over the years!).

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If you enjoyed this tutorial, please pin on Pinterest and/or share on Facebook.

This is the second in a series of 3 chairs I’ve done for my new craft studio. The first one was this drafting chair:


I’ll have one more chair makeover coming in a future post so if you’re interested in seeing that, be sure to follow me here on Birdz of a Feather or on Bloglovin’!

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Maximizing Bathroom Space

Today, I’m showing you a renovation we recently completed in my Mom’s house. As I showed you in a previous bathroom transformation, renovating a bathroom gives you the ideal opportunity to maximize the space you already have. Mom’s bathroom had never been updated in the 30 years she’s owned the house so it was high time for a reno. For us, it was just as important to make the sure the space was as functional for Mom as it was beautiful.


Mom didn’t want another beige coloured bathroom yet she was insistent on keeping the old beige bathtub which gave us a narrow focus on our tile selections.

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I was happy with her decision: if something is still functional, I always try to keep it and work around it because it’s the sustainable thing to do!  Keeping the beige tub in mind, I managed to pull together a nice palette to make the bathroom look fresh.

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I was able to make the beige bathtub work by by finding a neutral floor tile in an off white with a slight streak of beige running through it. Although it reads more like a white, the slight streak of beige really ties in the old beige tub and pulls it all together.

Below you can see the floor tile against the field and accent tile we used for the tile surround. We’ll use the colour of the blue accent tile to paint the existing vanity, which was the only other original element of the bathroom, besides the tub, that we kept.

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Two inch tile for the shower floor is an ideal size to accommodate the curve of the floor toward the drain, but can I tell you how hard it was to find a decent variety of tiles in that size? At the 11th hour, we finally found a dark grey hexagon pattern which helps to ground the starkness of the white tile on the floor and shower walls.

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You can see the grey shower floor in the picture below and the original vanity base – which we kept because it was sized to fit perfectly into the alcove and was in good condition.

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One thing to note is that we have started to replace all the light bulbs in Mom’s house with LEDs and the bathroom is no exception. It will save her a substantial amount of money on energy costs!

Here’s a before and after of the vanity area with updated with new mirror, lighting, quartz countertop, sink and faucet. The vanity is still a work in progress; it will be painted blue to pull in the tile surround on the bathtub and the hardware will be replaced with a more modern silver metal pull. The holidays have a habit of putting finishing touches like that on hold!


A tip that I gave you in my last bathroom makeover that I’ll give you again is to get rid of any bulkheads above the bathtub and shower areas. You can see how removing them really opens up the space!

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Here’s another before and after comparison of the bath area that demonstrates how much more expansive it looks without the bulkhead:

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The lighter colour scheme also helps make the bathroom appear larger:



Another useful tip to open up the space if you have one of those ‘corner’ showers, is to knock down the back wall and go deep. Originally there was a tiny little cubicle of a shower stall; Mom was in real trouble if she dropped the soap! Below you can see that we removed the original back wall and made it flush to the wall of the tub. We also opened up a ‘window’ between the shower and tub to let the light flood in (which will be fitted out with glass when the shower door gets installed).

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Increasing the size of the shower allowed us to add a bench seat for Mom (and of course a grab bar to help her get up!)

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It also allowed us to fit in a rain shower head as well as a hand held sprayer too.

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A nice finishing detail is a shower niche to hold soap and shampoo. Its a huge improvement over the metal soap dish that was originally there! Which would you rather have?

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Happily, Mom wasn’t as attached to the beige toilet as she was to the bathtub. Both technology and looks have come a long way in the last 30 years and a one-piece low flow toilet is the way to go!

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Here’s how the new finishes look now. It’s a calm relaxing space!

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Once the glass for the shower surround went in, Mom was finally able to enjoy the new space to its fullest.


If this new bathroom space has inspired you, please pin and post on Facebook. You might also want to check out some of our previous bathroom renos:

Reclaim and Maximize Space in Your Bathroom:

Colour Scheme

Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

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This Is How We Roll Thursday Party


Festival of Lights: How to Make an Oil Menorah & Wicks!

Hubs and I have been on a journey this year to lead a more sustainable life, so I challenged myself to make not only an oil menorah, but the wicks as well, out of nothing but found objects around our home. Check out my very first YouTube tutorial of this project near the end of this post!

For the display itself, I used our Ikea SATSUMAS plant stand. It has a heat resistant metal top that is perfect for burning the menorah. We temporarily moved our herb plants so I could play with the setup before Hanukkah.

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The tricky part was going to be figuring out how to make the wicks; I wanted to create something that would be re-usable, cheap, readily available and would burn safely. I experimented so much with the wicks over the past two weeks that I was beginning to think I wouldn’t have this tutorial ready in time for Hannukah! However, there was one wick that passed all my requirements with flying colours that I can’t wait to show you!

My wicks will work not only for Hanukkah, but for burning oil candles any time of year; you could adapt this for Christmas too! All you need is some tin foil, nine K-cups (the kind used in single use coffee machines), cotton twine and a nine metal snaps (you’ll only need the post). I’m proud to say it’s the most sustainable thing I’ve crafted to-date!

Making the Menorah

A few years ago Hubs found an entire box of shot glasses in the garbage. He was going to donate it to our local thrift store and even put it in the car, but kept forgetting to drop it off. Luckily he mentioned it to me because the shot glasses were a great starting point for the Menorah. Although the glasses had advertising on them, I knew I could still work with them.

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I needed 9 glasses in total (including one for the ‘Shamash’ that acts as a servant candle to light the others and re-light in case one blows out).

The Shamash needs to sit higher than the rest. To accomplish that I removed an old candle from a shallow glass holder and washed the glass so I could put it under the Shamash and raise it above the others.


If you’re going to do this project, pick up some glass vessels from your local thrift store. It doesn’t matter what they look like, because we going to fix that!

Decorating the Shot Glasses

I wanted to add some sparkle so I incorporated metallic elements onto the glass – and hid the advertising in the process! Below you can see a side-by-side comparison.

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To add alternating squares of silver and gold, you’ll need to gather up some clear double-sided tape, rub-on silver and gold foil, painters tape, a pencil, scissors, paper cutter, and the glossy paper backing from a sheet of labels or self laminating cards.

Place a piece of 1/2″ painters tape over the glossy side of the lable backing and mark 1/2″ increments on the tape with a pencil. The green tape is only there to help see where to mark it since the glossy side is too slick and the reverse side is pretty busy.


Cut the strip of tape into 1/2″ squares with the paper cutter and peel off the green tape.

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You’ll end up with the white squares shown below. Also cut some strips of silver and gold foil slightly wider than 1/2″:

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To prevent the glass from rolling as I worked, I used a curved piece of wood I had, but you could also nestle it into a towel to keep it steady.

Measure a piece of  the double-sided tape to the length of the graphic you want to cover; 2″ was perfect for my shot glasses so I could create four 1/2″ squares with the foil. Apply the double sided tape right over the graphic on the glass. If you’re piece is too long, trim it back to 2″ using an X-acto knife.

You can see right through the tape, but not for long!

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Take the square pieces cut earlier and apply two of them to the clear tape – glossy side down – leaving a 1/2″ space in between (you can use one of the squares as a spacer as shown below). The squares will stick temporarily to the tape and act as a mask where you don’t want the foil.

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Apply the silver foil (dull side down) to the first exposed square and rub it well to adhere it to the tape. Carefully peel it back to expose the foil that’s stuck to the double-sided tape. Move on to the next exposed square with the same colour of foil and adhere it in the same way. If there are any spots that were missed, you can rub a fresh piece of foil onto those areas to fill in, but it doesn’t have to be perfect!

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1st square receives silver coloured foil

Once the first two squares are done, remove the white squares that are still covering the tape. Apply the gold foil to those remaining squares. You’ll end up with alternating silver and gold metallic squares.

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Gold being applied to 2nd square

Alternating squares of silver and gold are complete and oh so blingy!

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If you have a straight glass, you could do this foil treatment all the way around if you wish. My shot glasses are angled so I couldn’t apply the tape in a straight line around the entire glass without wrinkling it.

A big advantage with this method (if you opt for cheap double-sided tape from the dollar store) is that the metallic feature can easily be removed to restore the glass just by removing the tape!

Now that the glasses are out of the way, it’s on to the wicks!

Making and Testing the Wicks

I scouted the house for items I could use and found a roll of cotton twine and some metal snap components (you’ll only need the post part that’s shown on the right).
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To that I added some tin foil, a metal skewer and a used K-cup that was headed for the garbage (good thing I started drinking coffee again). I tried many different experiments with other variations and was pleasantly surprised that this one worked so well! It may seem a bit far fetched that these few components are going to create a sustainable wick, but if you follow the steps below you’ll end up with a beautiful display of light like I did.


1. Tear off the top to open up the K-cup and expose the spent coffee grounds.


2. There are many ways to recycle used coffee grounds (see this link for 14 great ideas). Wash the K-cup and cut the sides off it down to just the bottom + 1/16″ around the edge so you have a bit of a lip.


3. Use an X-acto knife to cut an ‘X’ through the middle so you can insert a piece of cotton twine for the wick. I inserted the Xacto knife in the middle and then rocked it back and forth to each of the four corners of the ‘X’; I found that this gave me a precision cut.

Don’t worry about the original hole in the K-cup; the whole thing will get wrapped in foil.

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4. Wrap the plastic disk in foil. The picture below shows the disk face down – all the ends of foil get wrapped to the back. Poke a hole through the middle of the foil where the ‘X’ is in the plastic using a metal skewer (or you could even use a toothpick).

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5. Fill a shot glass about 3/4 full with water and then add in 1/2″ of olive oil into the water (the oil will float on top). Olive oil is a great option for the ‘fuel’; it burns clean and has no odor. There’s no need to buy extra virgin olive oil – regular cooking oil works just fine.


6. Cut a piece of cotton twine to about the height of the glass and soak it in olive oil; I soaked it in the remaining oil in the spoon and allowed it to absorb for the tutorial, but will soak all the wicks at once assembly-style for the real set-up. Add more oil if you need it to be sure it’s thoroughly saturated. I have to say, with all the soaking I’ve done in olive oil, my hands have never looked so good!

Insert the ‘wick’  through the hole in the foil so some will be below the water line and some above the foil disk. Note: the wick that’s below the waterline can be cut back to only the depth of the oil; it doesn’t need to extend into the water as shown on the video.  You may need the skewer again to help poke it through – or if you have a wide eyed needle that you can thread, even better! Float the disk on top of the water/oil combo in the glass; note that the rim of the disk should now be facing upward.


7. Lastly, use the post portion from a metal stud and insert it on top of the foil disk, threading the wick through the centre of the post (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE PLASTIC FOR THE METAL):Stud with post_bof.jpg

Finally, it’s time to light it. My lighter ran out of fuel when I took this shot and just singed the wick, so I used my backup to light it.


Success the second time; the ‘wick’ (aka cotton twine) lit beautifully!


I transferred the shotglass to the SATSUMAS stand to see how it would look; it burned there for at least an hour! To further enhance the display, I added a Star of David around the Shamash and magnets that spell ‘Hanukkah’ onto the vertical face of the metal top. If I have time I may apply the same foil rubbed treatment to the letters too!

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The foil disks bounce the light around and make it look magical. The foil also enhances the metallic foil that’s decorating the shot glasses. When I do another test before Hanukkah, I think I might line up the water level with the top of the metallic band around the glass. Once I see how that looks when it’s lit, I’ll decide the final water level.

My measurements may be different than yours because of the size of glass you use so if you are going to make this project for Hanukkah, be sure to test your own oil/water/glass container ratios to ensure your vessels will burn for at least 30 minutes every day and one-and-a-half hours on Friday evening (for Shabbat).

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This oil menorah is an upcycle that you can use over and over (but of course, you’ll need to replace the cotton twine for the wick each time). Don’t forget to soak the wicks in oil first before you light them and only use a metal snap.

Here is the menorah ready to add the wicks and oil to; I can’t wait to see it fully lit over the eight days of Hanukkah!

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Be sure to check out the video of this tutorial on YouTube: Hanukkah Menorah Video Tutorial.

For those interested in the story and history behind Hannukah, you can read a bit about it in this recent article. This year, the first night of Hanukkah falls on December 24th.

Happy Hannukah to those who celebrate and happy holidays to all! If I don’t post again this year, I’ll see you right back here at Birdz of a Feather in the New Year!

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This Is How We Roll Thursday Party



A DIY Gift of Decor: Staircase Niche Picture Ledge

This year’s reno project has been finishing off the basement. We completed my craft studio and have been working on the mancave to finish that off too. A few months ago, hubs surprised me with a gift he made for the stairway leading into the basement. Although the basement stairs have yet to be finished, he made me a picture ledge so I could display some of my photography and have something pretty to look at in the meantime!


Hubs tore off all the old drywall to start fresh and gain every inch of space he could. Here is the stairwell in progress:


On one side of the stairway, hubs built up the depth of the ledge. Below, you can see two views looking up and down the stairs. Most people would just keep the drywall flush all the way up the wall, but this way we’d gain some display space with less chance of accidentally knocking down our decor as we brush by.


Once the drywall was complete and the walls primed, we thought it would be nice to add a picture ledge so we went to browse at Ikea in anticipation of when it would be painted. Ikea had two different picture ledge configurations we liked; one with a smooth base and the other with a routed groove to hold smaller items (both examples are shown below).



However, because of the length of our wall, we would’ve had to piece together two ledges. I didn’t like the idea of having a seam in the middle and a leftover space at the end. That’s when hubs decided to surprise me with a custom-made picture ledge.

When you’re making this project, the rail can be cut to whatever length you want. Keep in mind though as you determine the depth of your rail that there will be 1/2″ of material on either side when it’s sandwiched together, so you have to take that into account when you’re determining your final measurements.

Because it was a surprise, I don’t have step-by-step pictures, but you can follow the plan shown below for inspiration. All hubs did was take 1/2″ MDF (but you could also use wood) and cut three pieces to the length of our ledge. He didn’t miter the corners like the Ikea example; he simply used butt joints. He cut the front piece about 1 1/8″ high, the bottom 2 1/2″ wide and the back about 2″ high.

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I didn’t show the groove in the diagram above because that step is optional, but hubs ran a router along the bottom piece through the centre, then primed all the pieces. The base was sandwiched between the front and back (with the router notch face-up) and joined together by gluing and using a pin nailer to attach the pieces. Once everything was nailed, he filled and sanded all the nail holes then painted with the same colour as our wall paint so it would all blend in seamlessly.

Hubs promised me a mock-up so I’ll update this post with a picture as soon as I have it.

UPDATE: here is the mock-up as promised; hubs outdid himself and provided more than one!.   The following mock-ups show 1) the v-groove routed into the MDF, 2) how the piece will look once it’s pin-holed together and finally, 3) a shot of the painted mock-up:



In a little over a month, hubs took the stairway space from this….




Don’t you just love the masking tapes shoes to protect from drywall dust?

…. to this after it was painted. It’s already a huge improvement for such a small area, don’t you think? There’s still more transformation to come when we tackle the stairs. We’re going to work with what we have and see what we can come up with. We’ll entertain any and all suggestions in the comment area. The stairs should be a fun project!


Hubs could have made the ledge the same depth as the drywall but I like that it was set back because drywall is never perfect (even with Hub’s level 5 finish!) and any discrepancies are not noticeable this way!

The beauty of this project is that it’s cheap and you can make it any length and depth your heart desires! You also have the choice of any paint, finish or substrate you want. Whatever you can imagine is possible and it will be a unique piece in your home by the time you’re done. It’s so satisfying to  make something with your own two hands; it really doesn’t get any easier than this!

You can velcro the picture ledge in place for added security if you wish, but we just left it sitting on the drywall; the weight will keep it in place. If you don’t have a niche, like we do, you could also screw it into the wall in the traditional way.

For more inspirational decor projects check out our Bridge Lamp Makeovers:

Bridge lamp after2_bof

and Pheonix Rising:


Our most recent renovation post shows you how we knocked down a wall and opened up our space in our dining room, taking it from this…


…to this:


If you liked this project, please pin and share on Facebook. Follow us right here on Birdz of a Feather or Bloglovin’ if you’re interested in upcoming home renovation or decor posts.

And if you’re interested in crafts, be sure to follow my sister site, Birdz of a Feather craft. I’ll have a ton of fun and interesting ideas in the new year, starting with this Blue Jean Planter:


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