Make-It-Your-Dang-Self Light Fixtures

Saturday morning I spent 4 hours making light fixtures. This didn’t include all the time spent beforehand researching design blogs, how-to websites, Pinterest, and Youtube.

I came to the conclusion I needed to make these things when I initially priced light fixtures. Goodness. It is possible to buy them for about $7 a piece at Lowes. But they look weird. As in, circa 1982 weird. Those that are marginally cool will run anywhere between $35-$50 and depending on how trendy or elaborate, the sky is the limit.

So. What do I do about my 10 light fixtures? Yes, 10. Eight wall sconces, one main room ceiling light fixture, and one porch light. What can I say, I didn’t want to live in a dungeon.

Seeing as how I was looking at a $500 price tag (at least) for just light fixtures, I decided it was a good idea to look in to alternatives. I found a bevy of blogs on how to make them…there were all kinds of clever ideas using galvanized pipe and found parts.

Since galvanized pipe is a theme in my house, I decided that will definitely make an appearance.

So here is a breakdown of what I needed:

  • twisted wire (vintage look and just cool)
  • sockets
  • strain reliefs (apparently this is a thing)
  • mason jars (12oz Kerr jars…already had these on hand; spray painted the lids bronze)
  • light cages (spray painted with bronze)
  • scrap wood (for the back piece of the homemade sconces)
  • bulbs (edison bulbs, of course. what is the point of seeing the bulbs if they aren’t cool)
  • Main Room ceiling light (I wanted something amazing, so I decided to turn an antique tin ceiling tile into a light fixture…got that on the Electronic Bay for $25!)
  • Wall Lights that were waterproof for Bathroom (not that I’ll be hosing them off, but I needed something that is good for wet environments)
  • Porch Light that was ok if it got rained on

For the Porch Light and Bathroom Lights, I decided to buy them. They absolutely have to be rated for wet environments and I can’t make anything like that, so off to Lowe’s I went. I went with a semi-nautical theme for those (they are also the :


For the other fixtures, I went online to Vintage Wire and Supply for the sockets, strain reliefs, and twisted wire:

The process of cutting wire, stripping wire, and attaching all the things took a while….


I had to google “How to wire a light socket”….


Strain relief…



Oliver helping…


Cages with pipe…those will be attached to blocks of wood for support.


It’s tough being a supervisor.


Tiny house – building furniture

Last weekend was full of furniture…the desks, the kitchen sink stand, and the bathroom vanity. And I think random cabinet doors and the last of the pipes…

For the desks, I used the plans from Ana White:

She and her husband are carpenters and have all kinds of useful information on their website. Also FREE PLANS! WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?!!!

For the desks, I had to modify her plans a little so I could fit them over the wheel well. But it started by learning how to make pocket holes with a Kreg jig. This nifty tool makes hidden holes so you can screw furniture pieces together. The only thing is, you HAVE to pay attention or you’ll make the hole too deep and it will go all the way through the wood and your screw will slip out the other end. I’m guessing.


Pocket holes in action… Getting the pieces started is squirrley especially if you have glue on one end it wants to slide around. Quite a bit of time was spent correcting crooked pieces.


The carcass of the desk. See that short back leg? That’s the part that will eventually sit on top of the wheel well.


Then the bathroom vanity was next. Again, I used Ana’s idea from here:

Her plan calls for a 48″ wide vanity and NO WAY do I have that kind space in the bathroom…so I had to modify the size. I kept the basic design the same and doodled out what I thought I wanted it to look like.


Then I started putting it together.


The end product turned out a little different…I decided to put 1×2’s on the bottom shelf as opposed to a solid shelf.  And as much as I wanted turned legs, I wasn’t about to pay $69 a piece! Forget that. I’ll just use 2×2’s. I did find these finial things at the Lowe’s and they make cool feet (shown further down)!


And lastly, the kitchen sink stand….


This one did NOT want to cooperate. I got the front assembled, but the wood was warped or something dumb so I had to pull the back legs in to “square”. There was some cracking, but I’m pleased to report, nothing broke! At least not yet.


Wash-tub sink…


Then I had to schlep all the things in the house to check the fit. I’m not going to go to all the trouble of finishing the thing if it doesn’t fit!



Everything fit perfectly 🙂 So now it was on to painting… you’ll see below when the two desks are pushed together along the long edge, they almost form a square that will be for the dining table!


Bathroom…you can kind of see the cute little feet here… there is still quite a bit of work to do on this one, but at least the guts are done.


Desks DONE! The top I found at Lowe’s…I think it’s called a craft board? It looks kind of like a butcher block. I asked Lowe’s to cut it for me, then I stained it….


…and attached hinges to the back for some more storage. This space is countertop, office, storage, and dining…


I also finished the railing for the lofts…galvanized pipe painted Oil-Rubbed Bronze…


And the cabinet doors are done, but not attached. Details, details…


The stairs are cabinets… or are the cabinets stairs?

There’s no need to decide!


As with most designing aspects of this project, I started with a blank Excel sheet. You heard me: an Excel sheet. Why? Because I’m in finance and spreadsheets are my JAM!


Once I decided on the WHAT, I had to figure out the HOW… that part started with the color. I may have picked it for the name…


Then I drew the placement of the rise and run on the wall per this guy –

He is a professional builder so clearly he knows what he is doing…


I took my newly-cut 3/4″ thick mdf board and stood it in place to check the fit… also, as a side note, I had Lowe’s pre cut the mdf board in to 18″ strips. That made it MUCH easier for me to transport (mdf board is stupid heavy) and made sure the cuts were straight. Which seems to be a challenge for me.



Stuff like this bugs me, but I have to keep repeating:  It’s not perfect, it’s precious…  Thanks to my awesome sister for that reminder!


Once the fit was right, I prepainted all the pieces. It saved a lot of time taping off the edges!


I have to be careful where I set the pieces to dry…not having an enclosed workshop means I have to be mindful of dust, leaves, and bird poop.


I screwed the supports in to the wall and then screwed the risers (tall pieces) to the supports…


Following the marks on the wall, of course. Although you can see where I XX’d out a mistake…thankfully I saved my leftover wall paint, so I went back afterward and fixed that lapse in judgement…




Done…kind of. I still need to put hinges on the cabinet doors for it to be official, but you can walk up to the loft now! WOO!!! I’m noticing the pics are slightly blurry…they were taken on my phone, so maybe that had something to do with it…oh well.


Then I finished out the closets…

That started with a box of pipe. I bought this months ago and then somewhere along the line I threw away the plan. So it took me a while to remember how I had designed it.


The basic idea is that I’d use galvanized pipe as the rods in the closets. But I wanted to paint them oil-rubbed bronze.


Turns out this brand works like a champ…





It’s hard to get a full picture because of the small space, but the right side will be for longer items, the left for short items, and the middle will be a mix of drawers and something else that I haven’t figured out yet.


Kitchen coat closet


Shelves next to the closets and opposite the stove/sink area…


That business took me about 2 days. It’s a pain getting all that pipe and board level, straight, blah, blah, blah. But at least it looks cool 🙂

And to think it all started with a spreadsheet.



Tiny House – the ceiling, the trim, the floor, the bench, the door, the wheel covers and a partridge in a pear tree.

Over the past few weekends I’ve gotten SO many things checked off the list.

So. Many. Things.

I love checking things off my “list” so much that sometimes I’ll put something on the list that I’ve already done just so I can check it off.


I’m learning with this phase of building that precision REALLY matters. Because there is only so much you can cover up with caulking. I’ve tried. Therefore, going slow is the key.

This is not an easy process for me. Right now I just want to live in my cool house! But furniture (for example) looks a lot better and is way more functional if there aren’t any gaps in the sides, if it’s level, and square. Kind of like when you’re baking cookies….they taste better if you measure all the ingredients right at the beginning.


So here’s what I’ve been measuring and mixing the past few weeks…

Ceiling – I changed the original plan (shiplap) to make it look more like a Victorian tray ceiling. The hole at the top of the picture will be the light fixture that will be made with a cool tin ceiling tile I got on the Electronic Bay 🙂


Prepping the loft floors – I decided to use super thin plywood (almost a veneer). They come in 4×8 sheets and make the entire process super fast.


Stained with the same color as the window trim…


Bathroom door – I used leftover siding and I’m pretty sure it will be awesome! Although it is a little crooked, so I’ll need to true that up a bit before I hang it…


The wheel covers – The fenders are super NOT insulated and look pretty tacky, so I covered them with scraps of 2x4s, 2x2s and plywood…



The Bench – This will be the couch/storage/other sleeping place in the main living area. It’s 2×6 and 16″ deep and will have a 3″ cushion on top when it’s all done.



The color turned out perfect! It’s a midnight blue that I put Plaster of Paris in to make it look more chalk like. I’m SUPER proud of this! It took 10 hours to get it level and square, but it was worth it.


Fabric for the bench cushion!



Tiny House Siding: IT’S DONE!

During the Christmas break, my mom and sister came to visit.


Mom supervised (and took pictures) while me and sister climbed ladders in freezing cold weather to finish up the last 2 1/2 lines of siding.  I haven’t had this much fun since 3rd grade!


Also, I got Carhart pants for Christmas…they’re pretty legit 🙂


You can tell we’re related….we hunker the same.


April nailed the boards like a champ…I caulked the windows like a kindergartener.  See ^?  That will have to come off…it’s still bugging me and you can’t even see it from the ground…



Tiny House Siding: Frost and Friends and Fun Times

When I lived in San Francisco, I did a short turn as a real estate agent.  Part of the time was spent partnered with a developer who was kind enough to let me follow him around peppering him with questions while I tried to soak up everything there was to know about remodel projects.

One of the first things he taught me is this: “Construction always cost more and takes longer than you think.”

With certainty, I can say the latter is true.  I’m not yet ready to concede the costing more….not if I can help it!

So “my plan” once again was to have this tiny house of awesomeness completely done on the outside by today.  That didn’t happen….

I showed up to the house bright and early Thanksgiving day ready to start siding and I found this….DSC00735DSC00734

Frost so thick you could write in it…and I did.


Come to find out, it had only warmed up to 34 degrees by 8am.  I had to wait until 9:30 when the wood was thawed enough to see what color I was picking up.

On a side note, it hasn’t been this cold here since I don’t remember when…and I’ve lived here coming up on 8 years.  The trees are SO vibrant and I love that so I suppose I can tolerate frozen-ness for the pretty colors…



Then it was time to get to work…


Duane helped nail up siding…


My cousin Nate is a master with power tools which was awesome when it came to cutting the pieces to fit around windows…


And Jake finished out the window foam on the inside…


Aaron and Nate installed the door.


Then Friday I showed up to more frost, although it was only 38 degrees…


I managed to get quite a bit done but it took a long time to get the pieces under the windows to fit right.  At one point I worked for an hour cutting all the notches and making sure the board had all the right measurements….only to go put it in and watch it break in two places.  At that point I’m sorry to say I reverted to my 5 year old self and threw the broken pieces across the yard.  With my left hand.  From on top of a ladder.

Clearly, it was time to go get food and try again later….


In all, I got 8 rows done….not too shabby.

Then yesterday this happened!  Aaron and Duane helped me set the difficult angled pieces on the ends of the short wall.


And it turned out PERFECTLY!


We got both upper ends done as well as the door trim and in about 4 hours.  All the hard work and freezing temperatures called for celebratory drinks and fries 🙂


So the first thing I ever learned about construction, so far, is half true.  I didn’t get ALL the siding done this week.  But I got to hang out with good friends, spend time outside in beautiful weather (made much more enjoyable when I remembered my hot coffee, gloves, and down vest), and the house is turning out exactly like I pictured it.  I have a lot to be thankful for!

Time for Roof Installation! Just kidding…I ordered the wrong thing.

Last weekend I had my “to-do list” all mapped out:  pick up siding and trim from lumber yard, go get roof from Home Depot, install roof underlayment and radiant barrier, install drip edge on roof, start staining the siding and trim.

Funny how things rarely go as I plan them… what’s the saying?  Something about the best laid plans?


I left the house bright and early (7am) to go get the truck and then off to Uhaul for the trailer.  Every weekend I have something to do on the house I get so excited I can’t sleep…kind of like the day before I leave for a trip or the night before Christmas.  I don’t even set an alarm; I wake up at 5:30 and then because it’s Saturday I stay in bed until 6 on matter of principle.

DSC00668By 8:30 I was ready to unload!  The trim is 1×4 rough cut Western Red Cedar.  That’s the kind that grows in the Pacific NW and smells really cedar-y.  The siding is 1×6 smooth cut Incense Cedar…that grows in California.  You learn all kinds of useful things when you ask lots of questions at a lumber yard.

DSC00671This is the unloaded version:  covered in case it rains.  Or in case one of the dogs decides to pee on it.  The dogs have already peed on my Peppermint Hot Chocolate and took my pumpkin muffin…that was in a plastic ziploc inside a box…when my back was turned.  We’re not super good friends right now.

Next on the list was the roof underlayment.  I had planned on the sticky version of the Grace Ice and Water Shield.  You peel the back off, lay it in place (carefully…don’t want it sticking to anyplace painful), and press it down.  Easy, right?  You can imagine my disappointment when I opened the neatly packaged UPS delivery to find the underlayment was NOT sticky on one side.


So instead of waterproofing the roof before it rained, I had to pack it up the non-sticky underlayment and take it back to Home Depot.  *sigh*

Welp, time to bust out the wood stain!  NOW we’re getting to the part of the construction process I love…the creative part!

DSC00672Seriously, I couldn’t stop smiling as I sprayed down the trim with Espresso, semi-transparent wood stain and sealer.

DSC00680Trim drying…

DSC00684I wanted the exterior to be like something I’ve never seen before.  So I picked out 4 semi-transparent stains that are very close shades.  I wanted semi-transparent so you get a hint of color and you can also see the wood grain.  The effect will be that the siding looks weathered and cool.

DSC00674DSC00679From the top stick:  Polar Blue, Black Oak, Espresso, Cinder

The Cinder color is actually a dark blue-grey…almost black.  Think charred wood.  But it doesn’t look like that in the can!  I almost had a heart attack when I opened the lid and found a color that looked Navy.

The Polar Blue is more muted than the stick.  The plan is to mix a handful of the blue boards in to the siding for a little added interest 🙂  I think it will go well with the blue roof and red door…

DSC00685Process:  spray board, quickly wipe off excess, and make sure all grooves get stained…

DSC00687DSC00681From left to right:  Espresso, Black Oak, Polar Blue (more muted in real life), Cinder, and another EspressoDSC00682No two boards are the same; some are smooth with knots, others missed the smoothing process and came out with rough spots.  Other boards have a lot of red cedar streaks while some are almost white.  The rough boards take more stain, so they’re more color-saturated.  It’s gonna look amazing when it’s done!

Bookcase = Retractable Spiral Staircase

It’s amazing to me how this little project has become a real life illustration of how hard it is for me to say those three little words:

I need help.”

Well, here it is folks – HELP!

All my engineer-type friends who are handy and like powertools and figuring stuff out, I have a puzzle for you.  It involves the stairs up to one of the lofts.

Most everyone in Tiny House Land will go the route of “ladder” when it comes to loft access.  I appreciate the straightforwardness of it all, but I want to be creative!  I want to build that thing that makes you go, “What kind of wizardry is this?!”  with lots of “shock and awe” involved.

So I had an idea.  I want to somehow create a bookcase and drawers that opens up into a spiral staircase.

Is it possible?  I have NO idea.  That’s where you guys come in!  I need your expertise.  How can this be done?  Seeing as how I don’t own any fancy-dancy computer program that will draw for me, I had to break out the old pen and paper.

This is how I see it when fully retracted:

Bookcase Stairs_full spiral 1Then when I want to get up to the loft, the bottom drawer pivots 180 degrees and the rest cascade up from there:

Bookcase Stairs_full spiral 2

Any ideas?  Aaaaaaaand GO!

I have my designs on this…

By far, my favorite part of the building process is the design.  Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been able to find lots of pictures I like!  I’ve attached the ideas I like so far…

What I’m thinking for the exterior:  blue metal roof, red door (obviously), and siding stained in several different colors.

wood stainroofdoor

Interior color pallette:

paint 3I love stormy weather…greys and blues with some worn wood mixed in.  Maybe if I’m feeling sassy, a few pops of green or red.

decor 2Bamboo floors in a distressed wood.


Lighting I want to be kind of industrial looking.  Something like this:

lighting 3 lighting 1 I like the idea of making my own light fixtures….but we’ll see

kitchen 1lighting 5

lighting 4

Galvanized pipe bookcases, ladders, and storage spaces…

bookcase 1 fixtures 1

Lots of texture, cool and neutral colors!  Built-in storage, big clocks, metal fixtures, candles, greenery…Even a possible nod to the Brits… living storagedecor 1decor 4decor 3

I think I’ve FINALLY decided on the bathroom…I’m going with a corner shower that has a 1/2 wall as opposed to a completely enclosed stall.  bathroom 5 bathroom 6That way it still feels a little more open. I’m really not sure about what tile though (I’m liking the pebble look for the floor).

bathroom 2bathroom 1

Last Friday long about my 3rd trip to Lowe’s, I got lost in the tile section.  Not as in, “oh no, how do I get out,” but more “Alice in Wonderland” type lost.  I completely lost track of time and it was a blast!  All I know for sure is that I want the tile floor that looks like wood grain….bathroom 4 And I’ll have a sliding barn door on the bathroom.

For the Kitchen….oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, exposed shelving, roll-out cabinets, tin wall panels, wood countertops…

kitchen 5 kitchen 6faucet

kitchen 2kitchen 3kitchen 4kitchen 7