Tag Archives: home improvement

Wood & Pipe Table

October 8, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sometimes you can find a solution to a problem just by taking a long walk. Dagmar and Jeff Benson, who live in a lakeside property at scenic Hawaiian Village, needed more table space for entertaining in their basement. Dagmar searched the usual places, but never found anything large enough for their needs.

Jeff spied a pile of long-abandoned boards near the dock while taking a stroll through his neighborhood. He suspected the boards would be the perfect material to construct the tables that Dagmar saw on Pinterest.

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“I think we can power wash this and clean it up and see how it looks,” he says.

The couple have four grown children and anticipate that their family will grow in size. “Living on a lake, we entertain a lot, so we wanted something that we could use for a buffet table for when we have parties,” Dagmar says.

They love hosting Huskers parties. “Jeff wanted to put a big red N right in the middle, but I nixed that idea right away,” she says.

The couple’s love of creating comes from spending a lot of time on computers for their professions.

“I work mostly with a computer and spreadsheets and numbers,” says Dagmar, a program control analyst. “What I like to do in my spare time is anything that has to do with design, art, and decorating.”

After power washing, they set the pieces of wood outside to dry in the sun. Next, Jeff cut them with a chainsaw so they measured four-and-a-half feet long. “We had a total of four pieces. Two for each table,” she says. Dagmar didn’t sand them much because she liked their natural color. She finished them with a coat of polyurethane.

Next, Jeff attached metal straps to the underside of the table to secure the wood pieces together. Their son, Chris, painted the ¾-inch, galvanized piping legs with two coats of flat black Rust-Oleum.

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“We just bought sections of those that fit together for the length we wanted,” Jeff says. The legs are made of an 18-inch section joined with a T-connector, and then a 10-inch section topped off with a ¾-inch floor flange that connects to the underneath of the table. The feet are covered with a ¾-inch cap that screws onto the piping. Dagmar estimates it took them 10 hours and $100 in materials for each table.

The tables are a perfect addition to an inviting basement that has been a work-in-progress for the couple since they moved in more than 10 years ago. “We did a stained concrete floor. We put in a spiral staircase. We had French doors put in,” Dagmar says. And so it continues.

 

 

Next DIY project on the agenda for the Bensons? They plan to use some of the leftover wood to build shelves for a hip, new bar area. Cheers to that!

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The Handyman Diaries

February 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this increasingly corporate world of ours, it is somehow comforting to know that the age-old tradition of the neighborly, “one man and a truck” model of handyman services has not yet completely gone the way of rotary dial phones, 8-track tapes, and Polaroid cameras. Jeff Toma of Accountable Construction is one such lone wolf, something of a folksy jack-of-all-trades when it comes to everything from quick fixes to remodels.

Being a Hero

“It’s not unusual to troubleshoot a problem over the phone,” Toma says. “I might get a ‘Hey, my microwave is dead’ call, and that can often be nothing more than an opportunity to explain to a homeowner how the reset button on an electrical outlet works. I’m happy to help whenever and however I can.”

 Digging Deeper

“Identifying and diagnosing more complicated problems takes time. I’ll charge a fee for that in some cases, but I just lump it in with the job total when the homeowner gives me the green light to proceed.”

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 Scheduling

“Being your own boss doesn’t mean that I have a calendar that is a wide-open, drop-everything thing in terms of availability. Thursday mornings, for example, are out. That’s when I have a standing appointment at Pat’s. She’s in her 70s. We drink coffee. We chat. She’s like family. Eventually I’ll get to work on her to-do list.”

Tipping

“The general rule about tipping is that you don’t tip the business owner himself; you tip his people. But I don’t have ‘people.’ I have bills. I’ll rarely turn down such a genuine offer of gratitude. It makes me feel kind of proud, especially after a tough or messy job.”

 The Power of Dreams

“This is going to sound crazy, but I sometimes come up with fixes in my dreams. I might go to bed bothered by some difficult or tricky problem that I just can’t quite work through, and the answer will come in a dream. Weird.”

Self-Awareness

“I don’t suffer from MAS (Male Answer Syndrome). I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. I don’t try to be somebody I’m not when it comes to my abilities.”

Appropriate Topics of Conversation

“Fishing. Any and all kinds of fishing. I got it bad. You don’t want to get me started.”

A Grain of Salt

October 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There was blue carpet everywhere.

It was hard to make out the precise shade of blue because any light that might have filtered into the tiny rooms of the house fought a losing battle with the home’s anachronistic velvet drapes.

Kristin and Michael DeKay didn’t care. They could see enough.

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“We walked in and I was just like, ‘Oh, man, we could open this wall up and it would be really nice,’” Kristin says. “I didn’t even look at the carpet. I was just like, one, I bet there’s wood floors underneath; two, we can paint everything. It was just a perfect 
little house.”

So perfect that the DeKays, who expected everything in the Morton Meadows neighborhood to be out of their reach, didn’t look at any other houses before making an offer and closing the deal in 2009. The price was right, and there was enough cash left over for renovations.

Out went piles of wood paneling, ceiling fans, and every square inch of that blue carpet, which had protected but concealed shining hardwood floors.

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For a couple like the DeKays, who frequently entertain, the 884 square feet that make up the main level of the smallish home on Poppleton Avenue could have been a problem.

So, too, went a pair of interior walls that chopped up the front half of the house, making way for a claw-legged Duncan Phyfe dining table.

“I know a lot of people these days don’t want a dining room; they want an eat-in kitchen or a bar or whatever,” says Kristin who, along with Mike, is a co-founder of the local brand strategy and design company, Grain & Mortar. “I want to have family dinners and a big long table.”

To accommodate guests, Michael and Kristin made big choices, one of which was to define the living room with a tailored sectional sofa that seats ten, more if you get downright cheek-to-cheek chummy.

Conversely, other items were scaled down, like the compact, yellow-and-white library cart that serves as a bar. Even there, an oversized recipe for an Old Fashioned pokes fun at the idea of “appropriate” scale.

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“Given this ugly little cart, it’s like oh, man, no one wants that,” Kristin says. “I thought about painting it but I like the scuffs.”

The cart also offers a shorthand look at Kristin’s point of view: sharply edited contents marshaled alongside whimsical decisions. In her living room, a $10 mail cubby with gouged paint plays home to glossy magazines and electronics, and holds a place of pride next to an aqua Ethan Allen wing chair.

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That high-low look has an avid following on sites like Pinterest and Design Sponge, where the DeKay home has been featured.

“Our style is best described as warm and eclectic, without fuss,” explains Mike. “We do our best to not keep things around that we don’t actually use. No one wants to live in a museum.”

Home Improvement or Not

June 20, 2013 by

If you have a handy person around, it’s good to point out that “I can fix that” only suggests that it’s possible. If and when it actually gets done is apparently on its own moon cycle.

It took me a few days years to convince my husband that re-siding the house wasn’t going to bode well for a weekend project. Eventually, a compromise ensued: Paint the trim ourselves and hire a professional to do the siding. I mean, it’s just painting the trim, right? How hard can that be? (Note to self: Never ever ask that question again.)

We even got the kids involved, working together and frolicking in our cost-saving family togetherness. We did a team huddle, I poured the paint, and that’s when I threw my back out. Wincing but still determined, I couldn’t lift anything. I could bend over, but getting back up wasn’t really an option. So I taped off the top half of the windows.

The kids were eerily eager to play with paint. My husband, Chris, told them to not get paint on the driveway. They must not have heard that part because there were blobs of paint strategically where only the kids had been. Sick of being nagged, the kids took refuge with video games.

Once half of all the windows on the lower level were taped, we headed up to the roof for the next round of windows. At some point in this process, Chris twisted his knee. Now, we had a back-injured grump and a fresh knee-twirked grump hoisted up on the angled roof with no comfort in sight. I kept looking over each shoulder trying to find the best way to sit down without rolling off the roof. That’s when Chris and I struck up a conversation that no doubt saved our marriage:

Chris: “Maybe we should hire someone to do this?”

Me: “How much does it cost to pay someone to do this?”

Chris: “Whatever it costs, we’ll find it in the budget.”

Me: “I love you so much right now.”

Chris: “Let’s get down and go take a nap.”

And that’s how you turn a simple weekend painting project into a 20-minute Clampett’s themed re-décor on its own moon cycle.

Sidenote: I’m on the mend with physical therapy for my back. Chris’ knee seems to have been a by-product of being, ahem, older, and the rain. We’re that old now. And our house looks better for it.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.