A Do-Over on the Fireplace

A couple years ago, I redid my fireplace and everything seemed okay. Fast forward to most recently when I realized the faux beam was actually coming off the wall.

I had to do something before it caused an accident so I started to research on an entire surround piece and over the weekend, finally put it up.

First I had to take down the old piece. I did save the reclaimed wood to be used in future projects.


Once it was up, I was going to leave it until the morning but the two toned thing was driving me crazy so I primed it. (Only, I didn’t use real primer, I used some ceiling paint since it was super-duper flat.)

The next morning I painted it a smoky navy color (Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore).


Paint was still drying when I took this picture but it is done and looks pretty cool. I wanted the unexpected pop of color to make it less traditional.

Techie House – Take Two

So last week I blogged about how I installed the Wink Hub to the house and how it was a pretty easy system to set up. I must have jinxed myself because that very night, my system went offline for a few hours (even though my internet connection was working fine). Once it was working again, it just wasn’t the same—the lights I had set up on a schedule no longer came on and when I tried to fix it, it wouldn’t work.

I ended up getting the Samsung Smartthings Hub. Originally, this was my top choice but it wasn’t available when I was ordering (and I was under a time constraint). IMG_5982

This seems to be a much better product, but it isn’t necessarily a plug and play item which was how the Wink had appeared to be. Unlike the other product where I was able to pick the hub close to the switch to have it connect, this new product required a thought process (more on that below).

All my smart products I’ve bought used Z Wave technology (language? protocol?) and were both Wink and Smartthings compatible. They were all available at the two big box stores so that was how I ended up with this small network of things.


This hub itself had to be tethered to my router so I couldn’t move it around like the other one. This led to me initially only connecting two items but my other ones weren’t working. It was also probably due to the fact that they had been connected to the Wink hub prior and needed to be reset.

I tried to connect more items by using a 25′ Cat 5 cable to get the hub closer to the switches but it was to no avail and actually packed it up with the intent to return it back to Amazon. (I also tried to get the Wink going back again but absolutely NOTHING worked this time around so it got returned today.)

I decided to do some research because I knew not everybody had Cat-5 wired throughout their homes so there had to be some solution out there. As it turned out, there was. The technology I chose (Z Wave) can be visualized as a “mesh” type of coverage. If I pictured where I had my connections (one on one side of the house and the other was across the way), there were obvious bare spots here I didn’t have coverage. The further I moved away from the hub without some sort of switch or outlet (to repeat or extend the signal), the less effective it was.

It was also recommended that I start connecting the closest items to the hub first and then the farther ones later, which made sense. It wasn’t just for this controller; it was for Z Wave items. (even with another product like a new Wink or Vera Edge–which I had also considered), it was best to do the same thing. I bought a switch for a ceiling fan and then one plug in switch for my laptop which helped to expand the coverage. I’m still down to 2 light switches but I’m hopeful that I can get them to connect.


The Beginning of a Techie House

The idea started back in 2014 when I attempted to install a programmable outlet switch for my front lights. I was unsuccessful with a couple different products.

Fast forward to just this past holiday season. I was in San Diego and was coming home. I sent a message to my cat sitter to leave the light on throughout the day but she had already left the house by the time I she noticed the message.

I began to look into the idea of automating the house. I figured that if I couldn’t control my outside lights, I could do the next best thing and control the indoor ones without a stand alone timer.

I did quite a bit of research and ended up installing a Wink Hub in the week between Christmas and New Years. One of the qualities I looked for was whether or not it would be compatible with my Nest thermostat and smoke detectors. This one was and the bonus was it wasn’t all that expensive.




I started with a light control and an outlet before adding a light switch. On a whim, I decided to add the switch to control the front lights and figured if it didn’t work, I would use it for another part of the house, like the kitchen lights. To be honest, my expectations were pretty low that it would work but I just had to try.



I was surprised when I flipped the circuit breaker on that I saw the blue light. Even more pleased when it actually connected to the Wink and I was able to control the lighting from my phone!

Since then, I added one more to the backyard. It wasn’t by choice. I replaced the existing light because I thought it had gone bad. Once the light was up, I still couldn’t switch it so it was back to getting a light switch that could accomodate LEDs. (I figured that was probably the reason for it not working.)

The only thing I saw that was not a dimmer type switch was a smart switch so I installed it and now it too, could be controlled remotely.

I don’t know what else I’ll end up doing… maybe adding some security features or something. For now, it is enough.

IMG_3824 IMG_5896



Goals for 2016

I can’t believe the year is almost over. I had wanted to finish the wood flooring in my master closet and then the guest room but that won’t happen this year.

My goals for the upcoming year are as follows:

  • Repaint guest room
  • Finish flooring
  • Convert pull chain light in master closet to an actual switch light (need an electrician)
  • Repaint/revamp foyer area
  • Replace rest of windows (not DIY but $$ and therefore needs to be planned)
  • Temporary or permanent solution for flooring in corridors

If time/budget permits:

  • Design master closet for optimum space
  • Plan outdoor space (front and back), xeriscape as much as possible—maybe leaving a small patch of grass under tree.

I think those are pretty reasonable goals for the upcoming new year. 🙂

Litter Box Enclosure

Over a week ago, I adopted another kitten, Mousse. With the new addition, it meant that I needed a new litter box set up in addition to the existing one. 

For over a week, I just had a tray in the living room. Not a great visual, but I wanted to make sure the little one would be able to integrate into the household first. As Floyd and Puck began to warm up to Mousse, I began to do some research.

Years ago, I found an idea online where a toy box was used to enclose the litter tray. It seemed pretty simple so I ordered one online and then assembled it.


Since I didn’t have a jigsaw, I ended up just cutting the side piece to give a walkway for the cats. I lined it with a rug I had in the house and added the tray. I moved it from the original spot I took the photo. So now they have an extra spot to do their thing and it won’t be too much of an eyesore. 

Tanker Desk – aka Lola Update

It had been over a year since I got the tanker desk and I did start working on a few pieces. Unfortunately, the project was just too big and too time consuming for me.

In order for this to have been successful, I seriously needed body shop equipment to take out the rust and the dings on this thing. Then when it came time to paint, a simple coat of spray primer and Rustoleum paint wasn’t going to cut it. I was quoted about $500 for powder coating which was one option. The other was to take it to get it painted but the shop never got back to me.


It wasn’t an easy decision to give up on the project because I had already put some time and effort in disassembling. I had even started working on a couple of the drawers. As much as I wanted to continue, I also had to realize how big the desk was for my office and once it was reassembled, it wasn’t going to be moved.


It’s now out in the curb. Sadly, this desk is most likely going to end up as scrap but there is always an off chance that someone will drive by, see it, and decide they want to make this into their pet project.


Playing Musical Lights

Light #1

One of the things I realized, after getting the new front door, entry area needed to be kicked up a couple notches. Painting was one of the ideas (but that will probably happen later in the year).

The other idea was to get a new fixture. The original idea was a Sputnik/atomic style light similar to the picture below but instead of it being a semi-flush or chandelier, it would have been a flush mounted fixture.


While doing research, I realized that something completely vintage was pretty pricey and would require wiring to be updated. Then I looked for a new version and was going to have one ordered but then it occurred to me that because it was going to be an entryway/foyer light, I wouldn’t get much use out if it.

So I began to rethink the idea and decided to order a chandelier for the dining room instead.

The before picture (this was an old one – probably a few months after I had moved in):

And the after:


Right before I got the fixture and the 16 light bulbs, I changed out the dimmer switch. I hadn’t realized when I installed the switch a few years ago, that there were different ones for LED/CFLs and Incandescent/halogens.

Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the CORRECT one for the bulbs I was using. I ordered 2W filament LED bulbs and right on the box, it showed which dimmer switch it was compatible with. (The first clue was also how the flights flashed on and off—much like an alert—when I tried to brighten them.) It was also about three times as expensive because it was for low voltage bulbs.

Once I got that in, I moved the previous dimmer into the office.

So now, it is in a more prominent space and I use it every day.

Light #2:

Once I got the Sputnik chandelier up, I debated whether or not to move that fixture over to the entryway. It would require that I shorten the chain considerably which I had the tools. I wasn’t sure if it would look right as a semi-flush but was willing to try.

The previous light that I had installed not too long ago:


The after:


One thing I might end up adding later on is some sort of decorative piece before I attach the canopy. The size barely covered the junction box up there. That was a pretty simple install except I had to look for the instruction manual on this one because the wiring isn’t a simple black wire and then a white wire. This one had a ridged wire coating while the other was smooth.

Light #3

The hallway to the bedrooms had a CFL fixture which I wasn’t crazy about. Plus, it was only one light so it didn’t always seem like it was enough.

The before (this was the same style as the entry light before I made the changes):

IMG_3751 IMG_3752

Continuing with my own brand of repurposing, I used the light previous entry way light. This was probably the quickest install of the three. It was done in less than an hour. The fixture as well as the LED lights really made a big difference.