DIY Office Renovation and Weekly Update

Today was a bit of a bust in terms of productivity, but it was an absolute blast in terms of spending some QT with a friend and my BF. We have a 7-hour brunch to thank for that. :)

If you haven’t already, don’t miss your chance to enter the $100 cash giveaway I’m part of–three days left!

Weekly Miscellaneous:

Weekly Update This past week was somewhat of a wild ride. As I mentioned in Friday’s Link Love post, I was featured on CNN Money on Wednesday. It was somewhat unnerving to have this blog tied to my full, “real” name, but I think it’s a great sign for what’s to come from The Happy Homeowner. Plus, it was fun to finally tell close family and friends about my blog!

Aside from the highs of the hurricane of traffic CNN has been sending my way, things were sailing along quite smoothly over the course of the week. That was, until Thursday night when I somehow managed to crack part of a molar eating rock candy. Seriously?? I’m not looking forward to that dental bill when it comes in, but I suppose it’s a great lesson: One piece of rock candy is plenty; two pieces = disaster.

This week was also hugely productive for my 2013 goal of turning my second bedroom into an office. I priced out some options for my built-in desk, and I settled on buying base cabinets from IKEA (only $30 each!) and DIYing the top of the desk with lumber from Home Depot.

My DIY Office Renovation

Here’s the progress so far:

DIY Built-in Desk Cabinets

Base cabinets

DIY Built-in Desk Layout Pre-Stain

Laying out pattern for top before cutting boards to size

Staining Boards for DIY Built-in Desk

Staining the boards

DIY Built-in Desk Stained and Assembled

Assembled desk before shelves and doors, etc. are added

DIY Built-in Desk Corner Detail Sideview

Side view of corner detail (still need to anchor everything so it’s flush and touch up edges with more stain)

Meal Plan:

So far, so good for my mission of cooking my way through the Joy of Cooking this year. For next week, I have some traveling scheduled so we’ll be eating all the awesome leftovers from this week’s adventures. Here’s one of my favorite dishes so far:

Orecchiette with Chicken and Mushroom Sauce

Orecchiette with Chicken and Mushroom Sauce

Favorite Pins of the Week:

Blue Morpho Butterfly Swarm

this is so my cats!


Have a great week!

Renovate and Organize Your Home Office on a Budget

Home Office Renovation--Construction Cupcakes As I’ve mentioned, one of my 2013 goals is to renovate, redecorate and reorganize my home office. While future posts will highlight the before/after and various DIY projects I tackle throughout the process, today’s post is focused on the financial aspects of this endeavor. Or more importantly, how to save money while renovating and/or organizing your home office.

With this project, it’s all about the budget, baby. :)

Use what you have

I have plenty of shoe boxes, storage containers, cereal boxes, file folders, etc. lying around. With a bit of creativity and a small amount of supplies (duct tape, glue, a utility knife and yard sticks), I fully intend to turn these items into storage devices. Hopefully, I won’t also need a serious supply of Band-Aids as well!

Use-What-I-Have Budget: $50

Be a Discount Diva

I’m a self-proclaimed Curbside Diva, and I’ve been known to be a Discount Diva. By this I mean a dollar and thrift store connoisseur. I’ve never been too proud to shop in either type of store, and I’ve often found some great items at incredible prices while doing so. The plan of attack here will be seeking out sturdy baskets, a trash can, cheap frames, funky art pieces and a few other miscellaneous decorative/storage items.

Discount Store Budget: $100

DIY Your Heart Out

Much like my quest to make my own storage devices from items already in the house, I’ll also be tackling the larger parts of the project (desk, cabinets, etc.) on my own. I’m thinking a built-in desk, a la Young House Love’s sweet work space coupled with some overhead cabinetry ought to do the trick. I’ll also need to repaint the room as it’s currently a lovely terrible shade of mint green…ugh!

In order to keep the budget in-tact, I’ll be visiting the ReStore in my area, stalking the local second hand shops and making my monthly pilgrimage to Home Depot in order to find cheap options for this project. I’m also going to reach out to friends & family to see if they have any cabinetry they’re trying to get rid of and scour Craigslist for cast-offs.

DIY Budget: $350

Allow Only One Splurge

With my current plan to spend more time working from home, it’s a necessity to me that the home office be a calm, clean and uncluttered place. I also don’t want everything to be done on the cheap because I will be spending so much time here, and I think a balanced splurge will help the room feel more cozy. More Jen Zen Zone and less work, work, work. Therefore, I’ll be allowing myself one splurge item: A wall-sized mural.

Splurge Budget: $100

Account for Unexpected Costs

As with any major renovation or redecorating project, unexpected costs are bound to pop up. By budgeting for them in advance, you’ll be more likely to stay on budget for your home office renovation. The potential bonus is having money leftover to save or spend on overlooked items you need. :)

Miscellaneous Budget: $75

If everything goes according to plan, my entire home office renovation/decorating project will cost less than $700. Considering this sum includes furniture, paint, decor and storage, I’m pretty happy!

Total Project Budget: $675


Do you have a home office? How did you renovate or organize it on a budget?



Photo credit: clevercupcakes


DIY Pipe Shelves

DIY Pipe Shelves I’m a self-professed DIY junkie. There are very few projects I won’t at least attempt and even fewer discarded pieces of furniture this curbside diva won’t attempt to pick up & re-purpose or refinish.

Today’s post, DIY Pipe Shelves, will kick off the ‘DIY Wednesdays’ posts I promised when I posted my new blogging schedule. All of the projects I’ll feature are things I’ve done myself and can all be done on a budget.

Supplies Needed

In order to make these shelves for your own home, you will need:

  1. Measuring supplies (tape measure, pencils, marking chalk, etc.)
  2. Spray paint (I used Rust-Oleum Universal in Flat Black)
  3. Stain (I used Minwax in Dark Walnut)
  4. Pine boards (I used 1″x12″x10′ boards cut down to length–done for free at home improvement stores)
  5. Plumbing pipe and fittings:
    1. Steel plumbing pipe cut in various lengths to fit your desired design (some may have to be custom cut, which any home improvement store will do for free)
    2. 90º elbows Pipes and Fittings
    3. 3-way tees
    4. Base Flanges
  6. Tools/Supplies:
    1. Drill/Driver Kit
    2. Anchor screws
    3. Stud Finder
    4. Sandpaper
    5. Dish soap and a bucket
    6. Scrub brush/Brillo Pads
    7. Ladder
    8. Old T-shirts
    9. Rubber gloves


Make sure to sketch out a detailed plan that includes measurements before you do anything else (this is also a handy reference sheet to take with you to the store–mine is pictured in the photo below). Your measurements need to be precise, so adhere to the adage, “Measure 3 times, Cut Once.”

Also, it’s much easier to identify potential issues if you pre-build the pieces to ensure they’ll fit your space (enlist a helper to hold them against the wall while you step back to view the whole picture).

DIY Pipe Shelves

However, you will need to take everything apart for the next step…


After the supplies are purchased, the next step is to completely soak & clean all pipes and fittings. Most will come pre-greased and will have stickers on them–be sure to remove all residue before painting! I soaked the smaller pieces in the bucket with soapy water, and I put the larger pieces in the bathtub.

I let them soak for about 6 hours before scrubbing them with the Brillo Pads. I also let everything dry overnight before painting began.


Once you have the various pieces assembled, it’s time to paint. Slow, even movements with the spray paint are necessary to ensure a smooth finish. Be sure to do your painting in a well-ventilated area and give each coat a full & proper time to dry.

While you’re waiting for the pipes to dry, you should begin staining the boards. I prefer to use an old T-shirt balled up instead of a paint brush–it helps to prevent brush strokes and over-saturation of the stain in certain areas. Don’t forget the rubber gloves to protect your hands!

Staining Boards for DIY Pipe Shelves Stained Boards for DIY Pipe Shelves


After everything is painted, stained, dried and re-assembled, it’s time to install the shelves! I used a stud finder to locate the wall studs, pre-drilled the holes for the screws and secured everything using extra heavy-duty cabinet screws. Here is a (rather ugly, un-styled) photo of the finished result on one wall of the room:

DIY Pipe Shelves

Stay tuned for more updates (these were built at a friend’s house, not mine so updated photos may take quite some time)…


What are some of your DIY projects or adventures?


Holiday Checklist: Protect Your Home Edition

When it comes to my home, I love me a good DIY project.  I’m also a self-proclaimed Curbside Diva, and I’m always looking for ways to do more around my house for less.

In order to protect my largest investment to-date, I keep a maintenance list organized by month.

Below is what I do each December to ensure my home is ready for the impending winter. All of these to-do items are relatively easy & inexpensive, and they provide a huge bang for your buck because they help to avoid expensive repairs down the road.

After all, if we don’t put forth an effort to maintain our investments, what’s the point in having them?!

Holiday Checklist–Indoors:

  1. Check your GFCI outlets (ground-fault circuit interrupter–most commonly found near water sources; ie. bathrooms, kitchens, basements) by pushing the “test” button. The “reset” button should pop out, indicating the receptacle is operating properly. Don’t forget to press in the reset button after testing.
  2. Check inside bathroom vanities and kitchen sink cabinets for moisture and other signs of leaks. Make sure to check for condensation and any slow leaks.  Fix these ASAP–water is your home’s #1 enemy!
  3. Unpack and test all electrical holiday decorations. Repair or replace anything that isn’t fully functional–this is not an area to skimp on.
  4. Replace filters in heating system and humidifier.
  5. Check for air leaks around windows, doors, heat vents, etc. You can do this pretty easily by picking up a smoke stick at your local Home Depot–make notes of areas that cause the smoke to flicker and replace weather-stripping and/or install plastic weather proofing sheets over drafty windows, etc. This is one of my favorite things to do because I love the shrink-wrap effect of using my hairdryer to seal windows that won’t need to be opened throughout the winter!
  6. Adjust your storm doors so that they close properly. Most modern doors have a winter setting on the door-side mounting pin. The pin should be in the outer-most hole on the closer mount for winter
  7. Clean underside of range hood and clean or replace filter.
  8. Inspect and flush water heater.
  9. Double-check your home’s emergency kit–it should hold the following at the very least: batteries, water, ready-to-eat food, blankets, flashlights, and a battery-operated radio. I also like to have candles & matches, hand sanitizer, a disposable camera, copies of my important documents, small tools (hammer, bungees, screwdriver) and some kitty supplies on-hand as well.


Holiday Checklist–Outdoors:

  1. Take advantage of future melting snow and fertilize your lawn & shrubs after pruning them. Bonus points for also applying any weed killers, etc. you’ll use in the spring.
  2. Prepare for plowing & shoveling–mark your sidewalk lines & driveway with small wooden or plastic stakes to help keep plows off of your lawn. If you have an oil tank and it’s underground or low to the ground, mark that with a small pole so it’s easy to find in the snow drifts. It’s also important to stake off any fragile plants and shrubs. Extra-sensitive plants should be mulched around and covered with burlap.
  3. Turn off and drain  exterior faucets or cover them with a protective polystyrene insulating helmet (found at any home improvement store).
  4. Stock up on your ice melt, snow shovels, and traction supplies now.
  5. When it snows:
    1. Check your roof for ice dams and break them up to release water if necessary. Frozen dams along the eaves cause melted snow to puddle above and possibly leak through the roof.
    2. Knock snow from tree branches to keep them from breaking under the weight.
    3. Consider sweeping snow from roofs that have shallow angles or little support if it can be done safely.

Do you have a home maintenance list? If so, what’s on your holiday checklist?
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