"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Saturday, September 10, 2016

taking a stand

After getting rid of my old desktop computer, my desk started to feel a little less useful and a little more sad. The drawers and shelves were still super useful, but as far as a usable desk-space, not so much. The desk top is too high for me to comfortably use my laptop there, and while I could set my laptop on the keyboard tray, that felt sort of awkward too. Most of the time, I use my laptop while lounging on the couch, but for extended use, I'm trying to get out of that habit, as I figure my sitting posture there is so bad. There are rare occasions when I work from home, primarily in the winter when our road doesn't get plowed, so I wanted a desk that felt more usable for working on either my home or work laptop. A number of people at my office have been getting standing desks. I haven't jumped on that bandwagon yet at work, but I thought maybe I'd give it a try at home. When thinking about what I wanted in a new home desk, that just felt right.

The problem with this idea, is that standing desks are generally super expensive and don't have any shelves or drawers. My current desk, as you can see from the picture below, has a good amount of storage, which I need because I have too much stuff. I wanted a desk that would still have plenty of storage and wouldn't break the bank. Now, one of the reasons that most standing desks are really expensive is because they're adjustable; they go up and down so you can get it to the correct height or even sit when you want to. I figured for a home workspace that I probably wouldn't use a ton, I didn't need to be able to put it down for sitting; if I get tired of standing, there are plenty of other places in the house I can sit for a bit. So as long as I had a desk that was the appropriate height for me to use a laptop while standing, I didn't need an adjustable desk.
I thought about building my own desk from scratch and started scouring the Internet for plans and ideas. That's when I started finding DIY not-from-scratch standing desks that use various bought pieces to create a desk. Many of the desks I found are made from Ikea shelves. Using shelves to build a desk also solves the storage problem! I found one Ikea hack standing desk that I really liked. Unfortunately, when I went on Ikea's website, they no longer make those exact pieces. Now, to be fair, the page where I found the hack didn't list desk dimensions. In any case, putting together the new, replacement Ikea pieces would have resulted in a desk about 2-3 inches too tall for me. I searched their whole site of shelves to see if I could come up with a different combination that would work. I got close, but the top pieces would have hung over the front and back of the bottom pieces, and I didn't think that would look that great.

Then I remembered a DIY table that I had just seen recently on one of the blogs I read regularly, Thrifty Decor Chick. Her table was shorter, but the idea was just two cube shelves with a tabletop across them. If I could find cube shelves that were the right height, that would work just fine. And I did find them! And also a tabletop that didn't add too much more height, so the final result would still be in the acceptable range!

The cube shelves are by Closetmaid and are 44" tall by 30" wide. I found them in a few places, but ended up buying them on Amazon to get free shipping for some other things I was getting there. Plus I have a credit card with them that gives me points for things I buy on Amazon. The tabletop is from the Container Store. Shipping would have added $20, so we drove to the nearest store about 30 minutes away.

When the cube shelves arrived, I had to assemble them, which went a lot more quickly than I had anticipated. Then Zach helped me set the desktop on top of them and get everything lined up. It turned out that I didn't have wood screws of the right length (some were too short, some were too long), so I had to wait a few days until I had time to get over to Home Depot

In that time, I had the opportunity to think about things some more, and I decided that the shelf backs were more visible than I had expected, and they didn't look good. You know what self-assemble shelf backs look like - unfinished cardboard. So I decided to paint them. At first I thought I would paint them white, since I have a bunch of white paint sitting around. But then I thought that would look weird. Then I thought of black, as I already have that too, but I decided it would be close enough but not quite a match to the shelf color that it wouldn't look very good either. So then I dug up my old Sherwin Williams color fan deck that I've had forever since my sister worked there in college. Zach and I went through it and found a color, Domino, that looked like it would be a really close match to the shelf color. I went over to our local store the next day and got a quart mixed up. 

I decided not to do any primer since that would actually lighten the color I'd be painting onto, which I didn't want to do for such a dark color. I thought I would need two coats, but after the first, I decided that was good enough. Plus, I started getting worried about bubbling and warping the cardboard with too much moisture. 

After the shelf backs were painted, we put the desktop back on. I clamped the top to the shelves, pre-drilled holes, and used 1.5" #8 wood screws to attach the desktop to the cube shelves. That was it! Super simple. Now it's just a matter of getting all my stuff put back on the shelves and getting re-organized, which I'm still working on weeks later :-p I haven't used it a lot, as expected, but I have used it some, and so far, I like having a standing-height desk :-)


a tent for a toddler

Our good friends who lend me their tools have a little girl. And that little girl is turning 2 years old! Last year for her birthday, I made her some rice-bag numbers. I wanted to make her something again this year, but I didn't think about it ahead very much, so I started scouring the Interwebs for something I could make in a pretty short amount of time. I also needed something that a 2-year-old would like. As I don't really have much experience with small children, I was having more trouble with that part than finding relatively simple DIY toys. 

Then I came across this little tent. I thought it might be perfect, so I emailed a couple of my other friends who know about small children to confirm that it would be a good choice. They basically said, "toddlers love tents!" And so it was decided.

The tent is basically an A-frame with a PVC pipe down the middle to enable it to hinge mostly flat for storage, then covered with a twin bedsheet. As I am all about trying to force my love of space onto impressionable young minds, I thought it would be really great if I could find sheets with stars on them, so when sitting in the tent, one could pretend to be looking up at the night sky. In my brief search, I didn't find exactly what I originally had in mind, but at Homegoods, I did find these:

Next it was on to Home Depot for the wood and pipe. The online directions called for 4 4'x1"x2"s and 2 60"x1"x2"s cut from 8' long 1"x2"s. 60" seemed kind of long to me; I figured for little children, 48" would be plenty long enough. Plus, then I could get away with buying only 3 1"x2"s instead of 4. A nice employee cut the 8' lengths in half, so my boards were all the right length and would fit in my car :-) When it came to picking out the PVC pipe, I again deviated from the online instructions. They called for 3/4" pipe, but when I held it up to my 1"2", it seemed too big, not leaving very much wood surrounding the pipe. So I went with a 1/2" pipe.

I got all my materials home and got to work. The pipe size is the inside diameter, so I measured the outside diameter to figure out how big my hole needed to be. It came to about 13/16", which of course, I don't have a drill bit for. I'm not sure if they even come in that size. I had 3/4" and 7/8" spade bits. I got some scrap wood to do some tests. It turned out, as expected, the 3/4" hole was too small and the 7/8" hole was too big. So I went back to the 3/4" hole and attempted to enlarge it. Using a coping saw to hack the hole bigger was fairly effective, but then there was still A LOT of sanding that needed to be done, which took for. ever. Eventually I gave in and made a trip back to Home Depot to purchase a set of files. This worked quite well, but still took a long time. Also, my holes were not quite round and not quite centered, but I figured for a kid, it was probably good enough. After getting all the holes done, I screwed the bottom cross-piece to the two side pieces for each side of the tent. I used my corner clamps to hold everything in place while I pre-drilled a little hole, then drove in the wood screw. I used #8 1.5" screws because that's what I had lying around.

The tent I'd found online just left the wood raw, but I decided it would be nicer to paint it. I had some spray paint leftover from other things. Since I was in a bit of a time-crunch, I used that instead of regular paint. I primed the tent pieces, then painted them white. I'd originally planned to paint them with some yellow I had leftover from painting a planter, but after seeing how much paint the priming used up, I didn't think I'd have enough. I thought, white is nice too.

After everything was painted, it seemed that enough paint had gotten inside the holes to make them too tight for the pipe, so it was back to filing them down again. Finally I was able to assemble the whole frame. 

Next I had to prepare the sheet. Since I'd gone with only 48" length for the tent, my sheet was much too wide. I did a bunch of measuring and math to determine how much to fold over on each side to make it fit. I did that, carefully measuring and pinning the sheet every 6" or so to hold it in place while I attached it to the tent frame.

The next step really required two people, so I enlisted my ever-obliging husband to assist. We had to get the sheet centered over the pipe and wrapped around the bottom board, held as tautly as possible. Then, while still attempting to hold it tightly, we had to put in a few staples to hold it all in place. Next we flipped the whole thing upside down, so we could wrap the sheet over the very bottom and staple it there. Of course, about halfway through, we ran out of staples, so it was back to Home Depot for more. The stapling was pretty hard, and a lot of the staples didn't quite go in all the way, but they went in enough that they could be hammered a bit to make them nice and flush. And then I had a tent!

We saw our friends the day after their daughter's birthday. At first she was a little unsure, but once we showed her how she could go in the tent, she had a pretty good time running back and forth through it. Hopefully, she will continue to enjoy her tent for quite some time.