Be Innovative, Not Expensive

Welcome to the Jennifer Radil Studio.

Adults who work full time in the United States log an average of 47 hours a week, according to our friends at Gallup. I know many who work far longer than that in seven days time, which brings me to the point of today’s post: the design of your work space matters.

When Omaha artist Jennifer Radil asked me for some thoughts on the look and feel of her new studio space in the Hot Shops Art Center, I jumped in with both of my size 10 feet.

I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era.

First, I’m a big fan of her work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era, one steeped in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Second, I couldn’t wait to tap into the creative energy that fills the Hot Shops, a downtown landmark that’s home to four anchor studios, more than 80 studio artists and multiple spaces.

For starters, Jennifer knew she wanted to add color to at least one of her studio’s two existing white walls. I talked her into a deep gray – Sherwin Williams Iron Ore.

She was a little shocked at first, but I assured her it wouldn’t feel oppressive in the space, which long ago had served as offices for the Serta Mattress Factory. I’m a big fan of this hue – I’ve got it in my home office and LOVE IT!

I love, love, love Sherwin Williams Iron Ore that helps showcase Jennifer’s work.

“She was right,” Jennifer said of the bold color choice. “The deep grey added an edginess and showcased my artwork beautifully.” We also agreed to leave an expansive plywood wall in the studio unpainted. Jennifer’s studio is a working space in a former factory, so it shouldn’t be too “pretty.” It needs to function as a gallery and retail space for her work plus shirts, cards, prints and other items.

Since the studio is at street level, Jennifer had concerns about maintaining privacy at night, which I totally get – how unnerving would it be to find someone peering in at you from the sidewalk? We removed the plywood from a large window and discussed a variety of treatments that might work. In the end, we went with the simple and most effective solution: placing a row of tall atlases on the deep windowsill along with a framed piece of vintage wall covering on an easel. Perfect.

A carefully curated selection of books, plants and framed art on an easel provide a natural buffer between Jennifer and those passing by on the sidewalk.
This corner of Jennifer’s studio is the perfect place for a retail display.

The final thing we did was rearrange the furniture and displays in a way that maximized both appearance and functionality. We created a display along a wall outside the studio that naturally draws people in. The kicker? We only used tools and art objects plucked from Jennifer’s belongings.

“Elizabeth’s changes didn’t require me to spend a fortune or even pick up a single new object,” Jennifer said. “This, to me, is the sign of a truly resourceful and innovative designer.”

Awww, thanks, Jennifer! Want us to do the same for you? Schedule a meeting today!

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

Advertisements

Sarah Saves: My “Custom” Basement Shower

Sarah B.
Sarah B.

I love saving, whether it’s time or money or the planet. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and it allows me to channel my “do it yourself” energy in a lot of different ways.

When Kevin and I decided it was time to tackle our basement, I knew we had to keep the costs down. I also wanted a nice shower – one with a custom feel that set it apart from your typical inexpensive fiberglass or acrylic surround with a curtain.

I decided to tile the shower walls, so I started with a standard sized shower pan. I picked the pan I wanted instead of tiling the floor because it’s less expensive and easier to execute, especially for a DIY’er. When you’re tiling a shower floor, you have to get the right slope for the drain if you don’t want to experience leaks down the road. If that doesn’t scare you from attempting it, consider a pre-molded base that’s ready to have the tile applied to it, like those from Tile Redi.

I love the look of thin, rectangular marble tiles, but they were too expensive for my budget. To cut costs, I bought 12 x 12 marble tiles at Home Depot for $3.99 a square foot and cut them down to 3 x 12. Home Depot sells by the individual tile, so I was able to buy a bunch of boxes and sort through them, picking ones I thought looked good together and returning the rest. I sanded one tile down with an orbital sander and 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper to see if I preferred a honed look, but I ended up preferring the polished look.

If you’re considering using marble tile in a bathroom, make sure to research all the pros and cons. It’s also a good idea to seal polished marble before and after grouting to avoid a cloudy finish on the tile when you wipe off the grout.

Curtains in bathrooms are not my thing, so we purchased a pre-made clear glass door enclosure from Overstock. (I got it for $750 with a coupon, it’s now listed at $944.99 – timing is everything!) It obviously set me back more than a rod and curtain would have, but it was cheaper because we installed it ourselves.

I do not miss that border at all.
I do not miss that border one tiny bit.

The finishing touch – a wood shower grate to hide most of the inexpensive white shower floor. You can buy pre-made grates out of teak, but that can get costly – somewhere between $150 to $200. We made one from clear cedar and stained it to match the vanity, then sealed it with an outdoor use poly. It has rubber feet and can be removed for cleaning, and we used decking screws so they wouldn’t rust. We paid about $40 for the wood, so you do the math.

Since this shower isn’t used constantly, our homemade grate has held up well, and overall, the project has added to our basement’s versatility. I can send houseguests down there to shower and feel good doing it!

– Sarah B.

shower-grate
We made our shower grate out of cedar and stained it to match the vanity.

Introducing Sarah Saves

Sarah B.

After months of searching, I’ve hired a design assistant, and boy, is she a keeper!

Sarah B. studied graphic design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and received her B.A. in multimedia and web design from the Illinois Institute of Art. She and her husband, Kevin, have lived in Bellevue for almost 10 years. The couple bought their first “fixer upper” seven years ago and is steadily tackling projects one at a time.

One of the things I love about Sarah is that she’s a DIYer in every sense of the word (or acronym), so much so she considers it a hobby. She and Kevin have amassed so much DIY knowledge from their personal experiences that I wanted to share it here.

So, without further ado, welcome to the first edition of Sarah Saves. Each month, Sarah will be recapping one of her DIY projects, including how to save money and still get the design aesthetic you want.

Elevating My Entryway
by Sarah B.

I was never happy with my entryway. The solid banister and stained wood made it feel small and dark. I also hated the open railing, which allowed you to see the feet of my living room furniture the minute you walked through the door. The floor was covered in small mosaic tile, which is hard to clean, and the only storage was a small coat closet at the top of the stairs.

Being DIYers and penny pinchers, Kevin and I managed to improve its look and function on a realistic budget. Here’s what we did.

 The Door

The old door was wood, which wasn’t good for security or energy efficiency. I also wasn’t a fan of how it looked, especially its three tiny and oddly placed frosted windows. Since our split entry has a Craftsman/Mid Century Modern exterior look, I decided to go with a Craftsman-style door for more light.

I found a fiberglass slab door at Lowe’s for $259, but I didn’t like the busy design of its glass window pane. I really wanted a plain glass pane. We could have custom ordered the same door with a plain glass pane from Lowe’s for $700 (too expensive). I noticed the window was removable, so we bought the cheaper door, and I contacted Rainbow Glass in Papillion to see if I could have a plain glass replacement made. We brought the “busy” glass pane over, and they said they could make a pane with the same thermal insulating tempered glass for $60. Sold!

They put all the glass in a metal frame and had it all ready to slide right into the door. It worked out perfectly! We also added new door trim – a mixture of baseboard and decorative trim – then painted it all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Floor

We removed the small, hard to clean mosaic tile and replaced it with Indian Autumn Slate tile, which we purchased from Ceramic Tileworks Center in Omaha (I think it was around three bucks a square foot). We also purchased a natural stone sealant so the tile would stay lighter.

Ceramic Tileworks Center is a great tile shop – not only does it carry a lot in stock at fair prices, it’s also DIY friendly. It carries all the professional grade tools and quality grout, thinset and sealants you need to do the job yourself. Their employees are friendly, knowledgeable and ready to offer any advice or support you may need. Whenever we have a tiling question, we always call them!

DIY Tiling Tip: If you don’t plan on doing much tiling, you can rent a large wetsaw (it will make the job go much faster, especially with larger sized tile) at tool rental places or big box home improvement stores like Home Depot or Menards. If you plan on tiling until your knees hurt, the large wetsaw from Harbor Freight is fantastic if you add a good blade to it. It also seems to be less expensive than ones sold at other home improvement stores. If you can use one of their 20% off coupons, the price is even better!

The Wall with Railing and Storage

entry-storage-railing2To help create privacy between the entryway and living room and resolve the issue of seeing the legs of my living room furniture when you walked through my home’s front door, we replaced the open spindle railing with a railing that was more half wall. I also thought this would be a good place to add much-needed storage. My solution? Find a couple of cabinets with open shelving that offered spacial depth.

I went to one of our Habitat Restore locations and found two taller wood cabinets in good condition for $80. We sanded, primed and painted them, then added new, flat hardware so nothing would catch on them. Then we built a simple bookshelf to go between the cabinets. When we anchored the cabinets and bookshelf to the floor and wall, we did so in a way that allowed the bookshelf and one of the cabinets to be removable (in case we ever need more space to move other large items through the front door).

The cabinets are great for storing mail, shoes, backpacks, purses, winter hats, gloves, scarfs – you name it! To help visually tie the cabinets to the wall space behind them, we added painted wood pine planking to both the wall and back of the bookshelf. We purchased the planking from Menards when the store was having a sale, so we bought one pack for $14 and got the second one free!

The Banister

banisterI wanted my tiny entryway to feel a bit larger, so I thought a more open railing with a newel post might do the trick. The existing wood banister was pretty easy to remove, so we removed all but the bottom section. Instead of buying a pre-made newel for $100 or more, we made our own. That way, I could design its look and make sure it would fit the large base that was still on the stairs.

For $50, we bought a 4×4 post, anchored it, then added premium wood boards and trim pieces around it to finish it. Then we sanded, wood filled and painted it all white. We purchased the balusters from Menards for about $4 each.

The Stairs

stairs_cabinetsThe old stairs were carpeted, which we didn’t want since we added oak hardwood floors on the main level. When we removed the carpet, we found old construction-grade pine stairs that weren’t in good enough condition to stain. We bought oak Retro Treads for $28 each from Lowe’s. They fit over the existing wood stairs like a cap, so we cut them down to size, added stain/poly and glued them into place. We used nice wood for the risers, then painted and secured them into place as well. We purchased the oak handrails from Menards (they were on clearance for $60) and stained them to match the stairs.

Wood Top

I wanted the new cabinets and bookshelf to have a finished look. The problem – we couldn’t find a board wide enough that wasn’t too expensive or looked like butcher block. Our solution? We purchased three long oak boards from Menards during one of the store’s 11% off sales and joined them together using a jig, wood glue and wood filler. Then we sanded, stained and sealed it. I took my time to find three boards that looked like they went together.

Now I love walking through my front door. It was totally worth the time and effort!

entryway