Mary Beth Foster – Engaged Marriage

All Posts by Mary Beth Foster

About the Author

Mary Beth Foster is a full-time high school English teacher who lives in Mint Hill, NC, with her husband of two years and their two cats. She tackles craft projects, home renovations, and culinary adventures in her free time. Read more about her creative endeavors on her blog: http://fosterhouseblog.blogspot.com/.

Coffee Table Makeover

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

coffee table makeover

If your furniture is putting you to sleep, here’s a quick, easy and inexpensive way to give it a facelift with paint chips.

I started with a piece I already had, a Boksel Sofa Table from Ikea, but this project would work with any table or dresser with a glass or plexiglass top.  All you’ll need is a variety of paint chips and something to cut with.

coffee table makeover

Start by cutting your paint chips.  I used an x-acto knife and a ruler to cut my paint chips on a rotary mat, but don’t worry if you don’t have these tools.  I find that an x-acto knife makes for straighter, more precise cuts than scissors, but if you don’t have one, scissors would work just fine.  Also, if you don’t have a rotary mat, a thick piece of cardboard works well as a cutting surface. I chose to cut my paint chips into squares and rectangles of varying sizes.

After you’ve got a big pile of paint chips (trust me, you’ll need way more than you think you will!), remove the glass top from your table and begin positioning your paint chips directly on the tabletop.  I didn’t have a plan for their placement; I just tried to vary the size and color of the paint chips and let the design evolve as I went.

coffee table makeover

After you have a design you like, have your spouse help you to very carefully replace the glass top.  That’s right: I didn’t even glue them down.  When I started this project, I thought I’d have to figure out a way to make the paint chips adhere to the tabletop, but the glass top sat snugly enough against the tabletop to hold them in place.  Here’s the finished project.

coffee table makeover

This project took less than an hour and was completely free.  Here’s some advice I’d offer if you’re thinking of trying something like it.

  • The final effect of this project is definitely bold and busy – “whimsical,” as my husband called it.  I can see it looking great in a kid’s room or a play room.

  • Too busy for you?  If you like the idea of this project but find the final effect to be a little too bold, consider limiting yourself to a single shade of paint chips or cutting your paint chips into a single, uniform size.  Bigger paint chip pieces will also help.

  • Unless your table is very small, I would suggest cutting your paint chips into mainly large pieces.  Most of the small squares I cut went in the trash because it just took too many to cover a relatively small section of the table, and I had trouble keeping them in place without adhesive.

  • If you’re able to get by without gluing your paint chips in place like I did, this project is quick enough that you could change out your paint chips for different seasons.

  • Don’t have a glass top table?  I’ve seen variations of this project on Pinterest that involve using a craft paste like mod podge to glue paint chips to a basic coffee or side table.  I haven’t tried this myself, so do your research if you decide to go this route.

What tips do you have for giving old or boring furniture a facelift?

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

With Halloween approaching in just over a week, we’re getting the house ready for trick-or-treaters with a spooky giant spider!  Here’s how to make your own giant yard spider from PVC pipe.

Materials

Small plywood board (approximately 1’ x 2’)
6 10’ sections of ¾” PVC pipe cut as follows:
8 4’ lengths
8 2’ lengths
4 1’ lengths
8 ¾” 45-degree PVC elbows
8 ¾” 90-degree PVC elbows
PVC Primer
PVC Cement
4 ¾” U-shaped bolts
1-2 cans of black spray paint
2 black trash bags

Some notes on materials:

  • I used ¾” PVC pipe for this project because it was inexpensive, but if you want a bigger, more substantial spider with thicker legs, you could certainly use wider pipe.  Just make sure you also adjust the width of your elbows and u-bolts to match the width of your PVC pipe.

  • The “small plywood board” acts as a base to which to attach the legs; the measurements don’t need to be precise, nor does it need to be plywood.  I used a spare piece of plywood board I had in my garage from another project.  Just make sure it’s lightweight (the PVC “legs” don’t hold much weight), and make sure you cut the four smallest pieces of pipe as wide as the board you’ll be using.

Let’s make a spider!

  1. Attach 45-degree elbows to both ends of each 1’ pipe.

  2. Position the 4 1’ pipes where you intend to attach them to the plywood board.  Use a pencil to mark them.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Drill holes for your u-bolts.  Here’s a trick for making sure you drill the holes in the right place: use a permanent marker to color the tips of your u-bolt; then press the tips to the board.  The faintly stamped impressions left on the board will show you exactly where to drill your holes.

  2. Attach the 1’ lengths of pipe to the bottom of the board.  Tighten the bolts enough to secure the pipes in place, but don’t fasten them securely yet. You’ll need to be able to slide them around to glue the 45-degree elbows in place.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Glue the 45-degree elbows to the pipes using PVC primer and cement.  I’d never used these products before, but after I got the lids off the cans (which required a pair of pliers, a grip of steel, and ultimately my husband’s help), the actual gluing was pretty simple.  Apply primer to both pieces you are gluing together (the inside of the elbow and the outside of the pipe).  Immediately apply cement to both pieces; don’t wait for the primer to dry.  Push the pipe and elbow firmly together and hold for ten seconds.  Your elbow is now permanently fused to your length of 1’ pipe.  Repeat this process to attach the remaining seven elbows to each end of the 1’ pipe.  Do one at a time; the primer and cement dry fast.

  2. Use the same procedure to glue the 2’ lengths of pipe to the other side of the 45-degree elbows. At this point, the weight of the pipe will make your spider’s legs start to fall over.  To hold the legs in place, use a wrench to tighten your u-bolts.  Adjust the pipe so the legs flare out at different angles, and tighten your bolts so they stand up straight.

  3. Glue a 90-degree elbow to the end of each 2’ length of pipe.  Make sure the rounded part faces up and the open part faces down.  The remainder of your spider’s legs will extend from these joints, so you’ll want to flare them outward, like this.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

  1. Firmly stick the end of each 4’ pipe into each 90 degree elbow.  Do not glue the 4’ sections of pipe in place unless you have a space in your house big enough to store something that looks like this.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Maybe now you’re thinking, “Great idea!  Why glue any of the pipes together?  It’ll be so much easier to store if I can take it apart!”  I thought the same thing: I figured I would just fit the pipes together without glue so I could disassemble it for easy storage.  Unfortunately, it quickly became clear to me that the legs weren’t sturdy enough to hold up the plywood base without glue.  Gluing everything but the 4’ sections of pipe in place leaves you with a base that’s sturdy but still a manageable size for storage.

  1. Spray paint it black (unless you want an albino spider).  I left it on sawhorses to do this, but you could just as easily set it out in the yard for painting. You’ll need to flip it over to paint the bottom.

  2. Stuff two black garbage bags with leaves, one about ¾ full, the other about half full.  Use duct tape to to tape the corners of the back in so it’s more ovular and less, well, like a garbage bag full of leaves.

  3. Use duct tape to attach the garbage bags to the “platform” formed by the plywood board.  Viola!  A spider.

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Even with glue reinforcing most of the joints, this was still a little less sturdy than I imagined it would be, so we did two more things to support it.  First, we dug each leg into the ground about ½”.  Second, we added a leftover piece of PVC pipe under the board to support it (it’s held in place by a long nail driven into the top of the board).

Here it is at night.  Spooky!  How are you preparing your house for trick-or-treaters?

PVC Pipe Spider Tutorial

Organize Your Closet Shelves for under $25!

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

organize your closet shelves for under $25

Sharing space with your spouse isn’t always easy.  Good organization is key to keeping you both sane and helping your home run smoothly.  Here’s an easy way to organize your shelves.  The best part?  It will only cost you $24.99.

I’ve been on a mission lately to organize my master bedroom closet.  I was sick and tired of my shelves looking like this.

organize your closet shelves for under $25

I’d seen a lot of neat ideas on Pinterest for dividing your shelves into smaller compartments that house neatly folded stacks of shirts and sweaters, but most of the products I found on the market for subdividing shelves (like these from The Container Store or these from amazon.com) were constructed for use with solid, wooden shelves, not the wire shelving commonly found in closets.  Another limiting factor was the price.  At anywhere from $6.99 to $24.48 for a set of two dividers, costs had the potential to add up pretty quickly if I wanted enough dividers for all my shelves.

Use wire storage cubes

Target sells the Closetmaid 6-cube wire organizer in white for $24.99.  If you don’t like that color or brand, you can find a wide variety of options by searching “wire storage cubes” on amazon.com.

Here’s what you’ll find inside the box.

organize your closet shelves for under $25

It’s meant to be assembled like this.

organize your closet shelves for under $25

Instead of creating cubes, use the wire grid squares and plastic connectors to create a series of u-shapes.  You’re just creating bottoms and sides; you don’t need backs or tops for the purposes of dividing your shelves.  That means you’ll get a lot of mileage out of one 6-cube set.

organize your closet shelves for under $25

Move your dividers into the closet

organize your closet shelves for under $25

Depending on how many wire grids you link together, it might get a little unstable.  I was able to move a set of four into the closet with little trouble; I added the fifth and last compartment after I’d gotten it into position on the shelf.  If you’re worried about stability or maneuvering your creation through the door, it’s not difficult to do your “construction” in the closet.

Doesn’t it create unusable space in the corner?

If your shelves round a corner like mine do, then yes, you will cage in an unusable square in the corner.  However, it’s only about a square foot of unusable space.  Throw something there that you don’t use very often.  We pile up old Halloween costumes there.

organize your closet shelves for under $25

Stack your folded clothes and enjoy your organized shelf

organize your closet shelves for under $25

It’s amazing how much more organized $25.00 of wire shelving can make your closet.  Believe it or not, that’s the exact same amount of clothing in the before and after photos; it’s just much better organized.

If you enjoyed this post, check out last month’s 4 Ways to Improve Your Master Closet.

What clever ideas have you come up with to organize your home without blowing the bank?

4 Ways to Improve Your Master Closet

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

4 ways to improve your master closetSharing a closet: one of the unexpected pleasures of a domestic partnership.

While we’d all love to have custom closets designed to keep us organized and maximize our space, it’s simply not a financial reality for most couples.

Here’s a look at four easy ways to improve your shared closet space that won’t break the bank.

Re-evaluate what you store

Many single people are used to living in small apartments or shared housing with limited storage space.  Because of that, we develop certain storage habits that may not serve us well when it comes to sharing a closet.

For me, it was suitcases.  Living in a one bedroom apartment, I had always stored them in the bedroom closet.

Where else would they go?  When my husband and I bought a house, I put our large suitcases in the master bedroom closet because that’s what I had always done.  But how often did I actually use those suitcases?  Almost never.

Meanwhile, I spent dark mornings stubbing my toes on them while other things I did use frequently were pushed aside to leave room for them.

Remember: your master bedroom closet is prime real estate.  Moving large and rarely used items to another location can free up a lot of space and ease frustrations.

Let go of unused items

It’s no secret that getting rid of things is a way to clear space and pave the way toward an organized closet.

Actually getting rid of things, however, can be harder than it sounds.  We convince ourselves that we’re going to wear that shirt we bought a year ago that still has the tags on it, or that we’ll lose a few pounds and fit in those too-small jeans again.

Here’s a trick my husband and I use to keep ourselves honest: about once a year, we each look through the other’s clothes and pull the things we can’t remember having seen the other person wear in the past year.

The first time we did this was an eye-opening experience.  We each formed a pile of items we’d never seen the other wear in five years of knowing one another.  The items don’t always go straight to Goodwill.

Sometimes we still insist on keeping things we insist we’re going to wear someday, but it does help us to take a more honest look at what we’re actually using.

Invest in shoe storage

Quick: where do you store your shoes?

If you’re anything like me, they’re laying on the floor of the closet in a jumbled pile.

Investing a little in shoe storage will go a long way toward making your shared closet a more usable and organized space.  An over-the-door shoe organizer or expandable shoe rack is a relatively inexpensive, pre-fab solution.  Repurposed bookshelves and media stands also make great shoe storage.

To remedy the big pile of shoes on the floor of my closet, I used a 6’ Closetmaid shelf installed close to the floor to make room for two levels of shoe storage.

4 ways to improve your closet

If you want to be more creative with your shoe storage, there are some great ideas on Pinterest, like these magazine files used to store flip flops from Lovely Lohas, this system of tension rods from 3 City Girls NYC, and this shoe rack created from PVC pipe from Cookie Loves Milk.

Add shelves

Most closets – even large walk-in closets in new homes – tend to come with a single shelf or rod hung roughly at eye level, which can be a big waste of space.

How many things do you have that actually reach the floor when hanging from that shelf?  Adding a second “level” of shelving at waist-height immediately doubles the amount of space you have to hang shirts.

I had plenty of space to hang items in my closet, but little space to put folded items.  Installing two more shelves left plenty of space for my husband and I to hang our clothes while also creating more space for folded t-shirts, which had previously lain jumbled on a single shelf.

4 ways to improve your closet

 There’s no one-size-fits-all shelving solution for every couple, but that’s the point: if you and your spouse own your home, you can customize your closet to suit your needs without breaking the bank on an expensive organizational system.  If you rent, modifying your closet by adding additional shelving may not be an option, but you can still “customize” your space with inexpensive bookshelves, plastic drawers, or wire baskets.

What have you done to make your closet a share-able, organized space?

Spicing up the Bedroom: DIY Floating Headboard

By Mary Beth Foster | Household Management

Spicing up the Bedroom - DIY Floating Headboard

When my husband and I upgraded to a king-sized bed this spring, one of the ensuing problems we knew we’d have to tackle was the headboard.  Our old queen-sized headboard was actually one of the first home improvement project we took on together to spruce up my then-boyfriend’s bachelor pad, but it wasn’t going to fit on our new and improved sleeping space.

We found a great floating headboard we liked the look of on Hazzard’s Hypotheses.  Here’s how we worked together to make it work in our bedroom.

Materials:

  • 3 6-foot boards (see important notes on board selection below)
  • Sandpaper or orbital sander
  • Wood stain (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)
  • Protective top coat for wood surfaces (like Minwax Polycrilic Protective Finish)
  • 2 large foam brushes or paint brushes
  • 2 packages of large 3M command strips
  • Yardstick
  • Level

A few important notes on selecting boards:

  • 6-foot boards are perfect for a king-sized bed, no cutting required.  If you’re working with a differently sized bed, you might need to trim your boards or buy boards of a different length.
  • Think about how tall you want your headboard to be; in other words, how high do you want it to extend above the bed?

We wanted ours to be just slightly taller than the bedside lamps so we had a decent gap between the top of the headboard and the bottom of the framed pictures that were already hanging on the wall.  Three boards was perfect for us, but you could always make a taller headboard by adding another board or two.

  • There are several different types of 6-foot boards you can purchase at your local home improvement store.  We went with basic whitewood, the cheapest boards you can buy.

It’s a little rougher than more expensive boards like pine or poplar, and you have to dig a little to find the “good ones,” but it’s also two to three times cheaper, and we liked that the wood grain had interesting designs in it.

  • Don’t be afraid to be the crazy couple taking all the boards off the shelf and inspecting them.  Make sure you choose boards that are free of dents and marks.  Remember, you’re staining, not painting, so the wood grain will show through.

Make sure it’s pretty.  For the boards to “float” effectively, they need to sit flush against the wall, so you’ll also need to make sure you select the straightest boards you can find.

Once you’ve got all your materials home, you’re ready to work

Start by sanding your boards using sandpaper, a sanding block, or an orbital sander.  Sanding can be messy; you’ll probably want to do it outside or at least in your garage.

Sand the fronts, sides, edges and corners of the boards.  The only side you don’t need to worry about is the back, since that will sit up against the wall.  If you go with whitewood like we did, give the sides, edges and corners a little extra attention; they tend to be sharp and rough.

Sanding creates a lot of dust, so you’ll want to wipe the boards down with a dry rag after you’ve finished sanding to create a clean surface for staining.

Next, prop your boards up off the ground for staining (which you’ll definitely want to do outside). Your goal is to have them flat but elevated, sitting on something you don’t mind getting a little stain-y.

I laid mine across a pair of sawhorses, but if you don’t have those, you could lay them across a few old boards, blocks of wood, folded up cardboard: you get the idea.  Follow the directions on your stain, which are generally to brush on an even coat in the direction of the wood grain, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then wipe off the excess stain with a clean rag.

Make sure to get the sides, too.  Don’t worry if some stain gets on the backs of the boards; they’ll sit up against the wall, so you’ll never see it.

It takes 4-6 hours for stain to dry completely, so take a break.

After 4-6 hours, you’re ready to apply another coat of stain (if the color isn’t dark enough for your liking) or move on to a protective top coat.  Apply the top coat the same way you applied the stain: brush on a thin coat in the direction of the wood grain.  Make sure you get the sides, too.

You’ll want to apply 2-3 coats of protective top coat, waiting two hours and sanding lightly in between coats.  After applying your final layer of protective top coat, let your boards dry for a full 24 hours before bringing them in the house to hang.

It’s time to hang your new headboard!

You might think the hard part is finished, but oh no, my friends, the hardest part is yet to come.  

It turned out the hardest part of this project was the part that required working together to hang these boards on the wall.  The first important decision we had to make was where to place the first board.

Did we want it exactly lined up with the mattress?  Slightly above it?  Extending below it?

We decided to place it just slightly below the top of the mattress (so our pillows wouldn’t slide between the mattress and the board).  Once you decide where you want your first board, level it, and mark the corners with a pencil.

Remember, you’ve only decided where you want it; you’re not actually ready to attach it yet.  Make sure you mark your corners so you can put it in place without going through the deciding where you want it and leveling process again.

Now you’re ready to hang the first board.

Here’s the thing: command strips are harder to use than they look.  I assumed they were like tack or tape: stick them to the wall, stick your piece on it, and you’re done, right?  Not exactly.

Hanging something using command strips involves the mind-bogglingly complex process of snapping the strips together, attaching them to the board (pressing them in firmly with your thumb for 30 seconds), pressing the board to the wall, pulling the board off the wall, pressing the command strips firmly into the wall for 30 seconds, and then leaving them for an hour before you can permanently attach your board.

There are directions on the command strips themselves, but be aware that it’s probably going to be more complicated than you think.  We used two command strips on each board, one on each of the top corners.  That left us with one extra command strip, which we used on the top board, which turned out to be a little warped, so the extra command strip helped us get it flush against the wall.

Once board number one is on the wall, you’re ready to attach board number two.  

We wanted a slight gap between boards.  Here’s where a yardstick comes in handy.

Rather than measuring and marking the small gap and then leveling the second board, we simply laid the yardstick on top of board #1 and then laid board #2 on the yardstick, effectively leaving a yardstick-sized gap between boards.

Bonus: as long as board #1 was level, using this “stacking” method ensures board #2 will be as well without any additional leveling.  Remember to mark your corners because you’ll have to go through the same crazy process with the command strips.

Do it all once more with board #3, and voila!  You’ve made your own floating headboard.

This is a great weekend upgrade for couples because it’s relatively inexpensive (particularly compared to some of the fancy headboards on the market) and doesn’t require any special tools.

It’s also great for renters (or homeowners like us who like to rearrange frequently).  Because you used command strips to attach the boards to the wall, they should come off easily without leaving marks or holes.

Is this a project you’d like to tackle with your spouse to make your bedroom a romantic getaway?