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Home Improvement

Fixer Upper Inspired Board + Batten Shutters

Happy Friday!

The end of summer is approaching and I’m 200% ready for fall.  I was still enjoying the warm weather until Jeremy’s grandparents gifted us some mums.

Then suddenly, I was ready for sweaters, boots, bonfires, and cider.  Like right now.  Yes, I know it’s Labor Day weekend.  I’m a little ahead of schedule.

But before that cooler weather comes through, I wanted to get at least one more outdoor project finished.  This one was a biggie, as we replaced something that has been bothering me for YEARS: our shutters!


Not only is the purple color faded and dated, but yellow jackets have taken a liking to building their nests in the slat openings.  It got out of control this year, to the point where they were EVERYWHERE and it was difficult to even enjoy time outside with the baby.  So, they had to go.  Both of them.

I wanted shutters that were more proportional, as our current ones were too skinny/tall, and just didn’t look right on the windows.  I was really inspired by the shutters that Chip and Joanna put together at the “Overgrown Ranch” on Fixer Upper.

Source: HGTV

I priced out pre-made shutters, and the least expensive ones I could find for our nearly 6 foot tall windows were $80 EACH.  With 6 windows, we’re talking almost $2000.  No thank you!  So, after a little bit of research, we figured out that we could easily build these ourselves.

To measure for the correct size shutters, we followed this guide.

Our windows averaged around 42″, so we decided on 3 1×6 boards side by side.  Since 1×6 boards are actually 1×5.5, this gave us a 16.5″ width which was perfect.  We opted for rough sawn, untreated pine boards.  The rough cut is only on one side, so it isn’t visible, and we didn’t need the boards treated since they were going to be painted over.

We ended up replacing 12 aluminum shutters, all 14×72″.

24 1x6x12 rough cut pine boards (untreated)
Chop Saw
Nail Gun
1 1/2″ Finishing Nails (square or hex head)
3″ Deck Screws
2 cans of Interior/Exterior Liquid Nail
Primer: Benjamin Moore Interior/Exterior Primer (tinted gray)
Paint: Benjamin Moore Exterior in Onyx (Soft Gloss Finish)
Paint Brush
Paint Roller


1.  Boards:  18 of the 12′ boards were cut in half to make our 6′ tall boards.

2.  Battens:  6 of the 12′ boards were cut into 16.5″ lengths to make our battens.  If you prefer a narrower batten, buy 1x4x12 boards for this instead.

3.  Prime, then Paint*.  We gave all sides a good coat of primer, followed by two coats of paint.  I went with my favorite black paint:  Benjamin Moore Onyx, in soft gloss.  The glossier finish adds a nice sheen.

*This step will feel like it takes forever.  Be patient, throw on some late 90’s early 00’s jams, and just power through it.  We actually did this and alternated painting and dance-offs to NSYNC.

4.  Assemble!  Lay your three boards next to each other.  Place your battens where you’d like them.  I recommend placing them at least the width of one board (6″) from the end.

5.  Once you’ve decided on placement, put down a good amount of liquid nail down.  Place your batten on top, and press down to get a good bond.

6.  Then finish with your nail gun.  We did about 6 nails in each batten.

7.  Hang the shutters.  We used deck screws (2 at each end) to hold them in place.  Not only are they secure, but the end of deck screws are so much easier to drive in – and when you’re on an extension ladder working on the second floor shutters, you’ll be happy you used these.  Be sure to look for deck screws with a square or hex head.

That’s it!  7 steps.

Our cost was $170 for the wood and finishing nails, and $78 for the paint and primer – for a total of $248.  At $20.67 per shutter, we saved 87% of the cost doing this ourselves…over $1600!  Plus, they give a completely fresh look to the house.

I’ll call it a win!

What do you think?  Have you ever considered making your own shutters?

Home Improvement

Handrail DIY: Galvanized Pipe

Our old farmhouse was built around 1900 – when people were apparently very skinny (our stairway is only 33″ wide) and short.  The staircase is so narrow that it left us stumped for the last few years on how to add a handrail to bring it up to code, and more recently to make sure neither of us took a tumble with the baby.

Then I saw this photo on pinterest and was SO inspired:


Source: Houzz

Since we live in an older farmhouse, we like to use a combination of aged wood, tile/stone, and different metals in our decor.  It gives the home a rustic feel, and fits with the age and style of our house.  So a metal handrail felt like the perfect choice, and would also sit much closer to the wall than a traditional handrail.  We didn’t have a ton of room to work with here, so this was the perfect choice.  Not to mention, inexpensive!

Materials List:
3 Galvanized Floor Flanges (1″ Diameter)
2 60″ Galvanized Steel Pipes (1″ Diameter)
1 Tee Fitting (1″ Diameter)
2 90 degree Elbow Fitting (1″ Diameter)
3 Pipe Nipple Fitting (1″ Diameter)
2 cans of Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint

The first step is to measure where you want to hang your railing.  To follow our local building code, the rail needed to be mounted 34-38″ above the front edge of the stairs.  We decided on going right in the middle, at 36″.

First, we used some Goo Gone to remove any stickers on the pipes.  Next, it was time to assemble.  We did the attachments first.  Thread your tee fitting into a pipe nipple fitting, which then threads into the floor flange – this will be the middle.  For the two ends, thread your 90 degree elbow fitting into a pipe nipple fitting, then into a floor flange.

Second, screw in your galvanized pipes in between the fittings.  At this point you should take your assembled rail and dry fit it on the wall to make sure that all threads are equidistant from the wall.  We learned that the middle tee fitting needed a little more tightening during this step, so don’t skip it!  Use a pair of channel locks to tighten everything until it looks even.

Third, we wanted an oil-rubbed bronze finish for this handrail, so it was time to paint!  We used rustoleum oil rubbed bronze and did two coats.  It leaves such a nice finish!

This is Kyle.  He also helped on our Pottery Barn Bed project. Hi, Kyle!

Finally, we hung it!  This is a two person job as the entire railing assembled weighs over 20 lbs., so you’ll need some extra hands to stabilize while one person hangs it.  Since we live in an old house with non-standard stud spacing, the flanges didn’t match up exactly to a stud.  To work around this, we had to use drywall anchors at two of the three attachment points.  I was fortunate enough to have a load bearing wall at the bottom of my stairs which guaranteed a solid anchor point.  One end was held there while Kyle went up the stairs to hold the opposite end.

As it worked out, it was the perfect length! One end butted up against the window sill perfectly.  I’m not going to lie, installing a railing on plaster and lath walls took some finesse, but it was worth the effort.

Here is the finished product.  Rustic, eclectic, safe, and perfect for this little old farmhouse.

Smied Watermark



Home Improvement

Barnlight Electric Austin Sconce Knockoff Lights

We have lots of plans for revamping our house’s exterior, but it isn’t in the budget until next year.   These are the top priorities on our exterior makeover to-do list:

New house numbers : done!
– Paint Exterior
– Build New Shutters (our current ones are old beat-up aluminum shutters that wasps and yellowjackets love to build their nests in.)
– Gooseneck Exterior Lights
– New Screen Door
– Replace Roof over 3 season porch
– Replace 4 windows

New exterior lights have been high on this list for me, since they’re such an easy swap and make a huge impact.  I’ve been drooling over the Austin Sconce at Barnlight Electric, in black.  They’re so pretty, and goosenecks cast such a pretty light, without blinding the neighborhood like our current lanterns do.  Since this is not our forever home though, I couldn’t justify spending $120+ per fixture.  In comes a dupe project – I found these lookalike gooseneck lights on Amazon for $40/each.  Score!

dsc_1845I picked up 2 cans of Rustoleum interior/exterior paint in Flat Black, to give the lights the matte finish I wanted originally, and gave each light 3 coats.


dsc_2067Installation was easy-peasy, and this is the end result.  Love!

The problem now is having the self control to push back against the “might as well” syndrome that comes with improving one tiny aspect of an area.  Now that these adorable lights are up, I want to do ALL THE THINGS outside. 🙂  Oh well, this just means lots of blog posts to come next Spring and Summer!
Smied Watermark


Home Improvement

DIY Install: Pottery Barn Vintage Recessed Medicine Cabinet

vintage-recessed-medicine-cabinet-oWe’ve been trying to find some time to sit down and plan out the nursery, and decided to put most of our house projects on hold until it was finished.  Then one day, one of Jeremy’s super-generous coworkers said “Hey, I have this Pottery Barn medicine cabinet that I bought a few years ago and don’t have any use for now.  Do you want it?”

And I was like:

ad…and we totally forgot about the nursery.  Oops!  The End.

Really though, it was an amazing gift (thank you, Sharon!) as we’d been talking for over a year about how little storage space the guest bathroom has, and how a medicine cabinet would solve that problem.  We were going to hang on to it until after the baby was here, but after thinking it through it was decided that if we were going to cut holes in the walls and take on a big project like this, it would probably be best to do it before we have infant needs and nap times to compete with.  So with that, we jumped right in!

vintage-recessed-medicine-cabinet-oThis is the cabinet, in chrome finish.  Isn’t it pretty?  Originally, there was just a framed mirror hung on the wall.  It was a good size for the space, but obviously the lack of storage was an issue.


We took down the mirror, turned off the power to the bathroom, and cut a few exploratory holes in the wall.  This is a really important step, you need to take your time determining where plumbing and electrical are running before you go any further.  Just our luck, we found we had a water pipe running directly behind where the cabinet would have to sit.  This was not the best news.  And the hole in wall got progressively bigger as Jeremy kept saying “I just need to cut a little more out so I have room to work.”  At this point I was a little scared that we were about to tear our bathroom apart forever.


Thankfully, Jeremy had some plumbing knowledge from one of his jobs in high school, so he felt comfortable taking this on himself.  He ended up buying 4- 45 degree copper elbows, flux, and pipe sanding cloth.  We had a soldering gun and solder, too.  After shutting off the water, he was able to move the pipe back further into the wall, leaving plenty of clearance between the wall/pipe/medicine cabinet.  The real moment of truth was turning the water back on, and making sure the soldering job was solid.  It was!  I’m still SO impressed with what a great job he did, since any kind of plumbing or electrical is intimidating to me.

DSC_1741We’d already determined where the medicine cabinet would sit before we cut into the wall, so now we just had to frame it out.  Jeremy used 2×4’s cut to size, to frame out the cabinet insert.  By using the existing woodwork + 2 extra pieces to frame out the top and bottom, we were able to make the frame REALLY solid and stable.


To repair the gaping hole we’d left in the drywall, we went to Lowe’s to grab some more.  Pro tip: if you only have a small section to repair, ask them if they have any scrap drywall to sell.  These are full sheets that have small imperfections that make them unsellable as a whole – we were able to get a 4’x4′ piece cut from a scrap piece of green board (good for moisture-heavy rooms) for $1.  Can’t beat that!  We cut the drywall to match the existing space, and screwed it in.  Jeremy then cut the hole out for the cabinet insert, and put the cabinet in to make sure it fit.

DSC_1754We then taped and mudded the edges of the drywall, and filled in all of the screw holes.  After it dried it was given a good sanding to remove any rough edges or bumps, and this had to be repeated for a total of 5 coats.  We use pre-mixed joint compound, and have found that this kind is the easiest to work with – be prepared to be patient with the drying time.  It took almost a whole day for each coat to fully dry.  I also highly recommend a Magic Trowel for a really smooth finish!

After the final coat was dry it was sanded, primed (with trusty old Kilz), and painted (Benjamin Moore – Palladian Blue).  We then re-inserted the cabinet, screwed it in place, and put in the glass shelving.  Finally done, and looking like it was there the whole time!  We re-hung the lights upside down on accident, but decided to leave it for a while to see if we liked it.

DSC_2037I made a fun little sign out of some scrap wood for the floating shelf.

DSC_2034The project turned out to be a little more involved than we anticipated, but turned out so great.  The cabinet sits flush with the wall, which is perfect for the small space, and now we have storage!  Totally worth it.


I had to take a sappy photo because I realized seconds before I took this that we met 13 years ago today!  Now I guess we should probably get working on that nursery 🙂
Smied Watermark