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Posts Tagged ‘Furniture’

Dollhouse furniture you might actually want to own

19 Sep

Rings in dollhouse sink

I cannot find it in myself to appreciate the appeal of lifelike dolls. My niece (as of age 4, at least) apparently disagrees, to judge by her fascination with the American Girls dolls and all other doll-based collectibles. Make eye contact and the dull, taxidermied eyes of a doll stare right into your soul. Can anyone back me up on this?

However, I’ve found that some doll-related paraphernalia  can serve amusing practical (or purely decorative) purposes. Even if dolls revolt you, their furniture is available for anyone to use. They may also entertain you if you, like Chandler Bing, enjoy holding small objects and feeling like a giant.

Here are my top-three uses for dollhouse furniture in a full-size house:

  • Sink for jewelry storage in bathroom or kitchen: If you wear expensive or sentimental rings (such as wedding or engagement rings), you might want to take them off before do soapy jobs like washing the dishes. In our house, a miniature sink atop our kitchen sill makes a fine repository for jewelry. Having a designated location helps rein in the fear of losing a valuable ring. The Wife knows I think engagement rings are overpriced bullshit, but I BOUGHT the damn ring, and I don’t want it dropping down the drain. For what it cost, I’m all for keeping it clean and safe. It’s all the better that the little sink-atop-a-sink amuses me, too.

Dollhouse rug as coaster

  • Dollhouse rugs as coasters or doilies: Dollhouse rugs are remarkably intricate, and yet you can get tiny rugs shipped from Turkey for $3 apiece. I have purchased most of mine through eBay and have never been disappointed. They’re excellent for sliding beneath decorative bowls, flower pots, or any household decor that might scratch your furniture. The colors and fine details on the rugs add a little extra to your knickknacks. Miniature rugs make great coasters, too.

Dollhouse bathroom

  • Miniature fixtures for decoration: I have surreptitiously added a miniature bathroom next to the rafters in a family cabin. Like the eyeball pillows, this is my way of injecting some hidden whimsy into my surroundings. Something about miniature bathroom fixtures is hilarious to me. I have seen them used well in flower pots and other garden settings where tiny elves might sneak by once in a while. My primary goal is to convince small children that elves really do live in the house and come out when they are sleeping (a story which sounds funny or terrifying depending on how cruel I feel).

One warning: dollhouse furniture is often impressively overpriced. Don’t worry, fellow cheapskates. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can occasionally find decent deals on eBay. Almost any piece of dollhouse furniture can be found for under $10 if you’re patient, which keeps the cost below the knickknacks at Pier One and the like. Of course, if you know of a good (or cheap) place to get dollhouse furniture, please let me know.

 

Eyeball pillows to make your life cushier and creepier

05 Jul

Eyeball pillows on chaiseI have been dying to do justice to the eyeball-pillow concept ever since my list of decorating tricks for Halloween. Judging by the Wife’s obvious discomfort in their presence, my eyeball pillows were having the intended effect, but they weren’t practical for actual use as pillows. I like to prop up my head with a few pillows at a time; the tiny eyeballs would only have worked after some severe head-shrinking on my part. Solution: I needed BIGGER eyeball pillows.

Pillows are easy to make, as you’ll see. I had plenty of white fabric from old t-shirts and gray fabric from hemming some Ikea curtains, so I decided to make reversible pillows: eyes on one side, plain fabric on the other. That way, I could appease the Wife occasionally by flipping them over and thereby keep them in the living room all year long rather than just during October. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Protect your electronics from heat damage by installing a cooling fan in your entertainment center

01 Jun

Entertainment center exhaust fanReach your hand behind your receiver or TV. Do you notice that it’s warmer back there? You’re feeling the residual heat given off by hard-working electronic devices. Unfortunately, high temperatures contribute to the failure of all kinds of small electronic components, from printed circuit boards to resistor, capacitors, and batteries. It’s a conundrum: audio and video electronics produce heat, and yet heat is seriously hazardous to their health. Between the receiver, two video-game consoles, and the TiVo, my entertainment center can get quite hot, especially during the summer. Since the TiVo (and, to a lesser extent, the consoles) is on at all times, it never really cools down inside the cabinet.

Computer designers tackled this problem long ago: most PCs include a rear exhaust fan and one or more open grills near floor level to admit fresh air so the computer does not overheat. Now that we’re putting PC-style devices in our living rooms, we need to treat the entertainment center like a giant PC case.

To keep my equipment cool, I installed an exhaust fan in the back of my entertainment center. Adding an exhaust fan that pushes air out of the case creates an effective negative pressure in the case and draws in new air from every open point. Of course, you need an inlet hole for air to enter the case for this process to work. Hot air rises, so you want an exhaust hole near the top to remove heated air and an inlet hole near the bottom of your container to draw in cooler air.

You spent a lot of money on this stuff! Make sure your equipment keeps working for as long as possible by keeping its critical parts cooled. All you need to do is cut a minor hole in the back of your entertainment center, find a suitable fan, and decide how to power it. I promise to make it simple. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Add removable shelving to your freezer

08 Feb

Crate with stackingEvery apartment I’ve rented has had a refrigerator with a freezer on top. Not one of those freezers has had enough shelves; often, they have no shelves at all. Shelves would have been incredibly helpful, but why should a landlord care about that?

If you’ve ever tried to stack meat in the freezer, you already know that frozen food is slippery and frustrating to organize. Even if you build a careful stack and can close your freezer door without knocking down your frigid Tower of Babel, you’re guaranteed to need the item on the bottom of the stack far too soon.

My solution? Find a plastic crate and add your own shelves to the freezer. Milk crates, file crates, or any kind of rigid plastic box can be used to make your freezer a bit more manageable.

My original plan was to saw the crate in half and stack the resulting trays to make multiple levels of shelving (see diagram). Instead, I have kept my crate intact and found that it’s plenty useful in its existing form. My ice-cube trays are up high, out of the way, and the sides of the crate help keep stacked food stable.

Empty crateFreezer shelves

Now, I’m not blind to the fact that this is just a plastic crate stuck sideways into the freezer. It isn’t a glamorous or particularly complicated idea. Still, it solves a real household problem neatly, and you can’t beat the price or the ease of installation. Like the magnetic towel bar, this is a solution that makes no permanent changes and does no damage (a bonus for apartment dwellers or anyone who rents). It’s utilitarian to look at, but it’s no uglier than the inside of the freezer to begin with.

 

Customized moving dolly for transporting wine

22 Dec

Wine dolly - assembledMy father uses the crawlspace beneath his house as a wine cellar. The problem with the crawlspace is the crawling part. Between the rough edges, the dust, and the low clearance, the crawlspace leaves every visitor filthy and sore from waddling around in a painful squat. To make delivering and retrieving wine a bit easier, my father kept a creeper (the sort of low, wheeled platform that mechanics use to roll themselves underneath cars) in the crawlspace. You could kneel on it and scoot around, and it made lugging cases of wine a lot simpler. It cracked in half years ago from heavy use, with the obvious demand for a replacement just ignored.

This year, I decided a new solution was in order. For Christmas, I put together this customized moving dolly to replace the broken creeper (I gave it to my father yesterday, so it’s safe to reveal now). The base with the wheels is a moving dolly, which you can find at a hardware store. This one is rated to 1,000 pounds and feels sturdy enough to last for decades. By itself, though, the dolly is not an effective transporter of wine. The opening in the middle is too wide for cases or bottles. The center of gravity is also a bit trickier, since the dolly has a higher ground clearance and can be flipped by leaning too heavily on the front or rear edge.

Wine dolly - two partsTo help with both issues, I built the rig inside the dolly out of familiar-looking scrap wood from Ikea. The slats are spaced close together to prevent wine bottles from slipping through and are bowed downward, preventing wine from rolling off. The additional weight in the middle of the dolly also reduces the chance of tipping it by accident. The rig itself is not nearly as strong as the dolly, of course, but it is completely removable. I made no changes to the original dolly, so you can lift the rig out and use the dolly to move furniture if desired.

You could borrow this concept for all kinds of mobile storage or transportation functions. The whole setup cost less than a creeper would have and yet is more versatile. A dolly can save your back a lot of agony when you’re moving heavy objects. Come to think of it, my cases of cider are just crying out for some wheels.

 

Aesthetic upgrade to Ikea Bekväm stool

12 Jul

Stool after finishingWe have a very simple Ikea step stool that we use to reach high shelves in the kitchen. I believe it’s an old single-step version of the Bekväm stool (the current model has two steps and costs a bit more than ours did). It came in unfinished pine, which was fine for utilitarian use but not all that handsome to look at.

It turned out to be very easy to give the stool a makeover without even taking it apart. I used a small butane torch to scorch the surface of the step, including the visible edges of the underside of the step. A little masking tape and spray paint later and we had a classy piece that wouldn’t gather so many grimy footprints. I applied three coats of spray finish to protect the wood and called it a day.  Why spend more time or effort on a $10 stool?

You could apply the same techniques to any kind of unfinished wood. This already matches all of my furniture — I like the contrast of a rich wood texture with flat black (a popular Ikea combo, too).

Burning the woodStool masked for paintingStool being paintedFinishing the stool

 
 

Converting a desk into a computer workstation

24 May

Older desks — mine included — make uncomfortable computer stations. With a few quick changes, though, many desks can turn into customized pieces that are much more comfortable to work on. All you need is a saw, a drill, and a few pieces from the hardware store.

I have an ancient institutional desk — the sort of thing you’d find in a low-rent office in 1965. It’s solid like a Ukraine bull, and it matches my décor, but it’s been awful to use as a computer station. The desktop is uncomfortably high for a keyboard or mouse, and I’d rather sit farther back from the screen, too. In the end, I turned the widest drawer into a keyboard tray and the topmost remaining drawer into a mouse surface (they’re at similar heights, which is much better ergonomics than the desk provided before).

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Wooden crate from Ikea parts

19 May

I went to the Ikea “As-Is” department in search of boards to turn into a crate for storing my terrifying (and growing) collection of cider bottles. I don’t know what I’d expected to find, but when I saw this bundle of nearly two dozen bed slats, I came up with a design for an open-sided structure that would be strong and lightweight. You could adapt the design for many kinds of scrap wood or for different sizes of boxes.

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