Deuce Cities Henhouse

A Bit of Spring

Add Spring to your home using grocery store bulb gardens and pretty little vessels
One of my new favorite things is growing mini bulb gardens indoors. Last fall and winter I grew paper white bulbs inside of these small, matte, pale coral “bowls” I picked up at CB2 last spring. I really enjoyed having these mini gardens for a good chunk of the winter as semi-permanent floral arrangements on our bed side tables. I was hungry to find bulbs to grow in these small pots this spring. I couldn’t resist when I saw a spring bulb arrangement wrapped in purple foil at the grocery store last week. For $12 bucks I snapped it up and brought it home. I quickly disassembled the garden and reassembled it in my tiny pots, placing them on our night stands. If all goes well, we’ll be enjoying yellow daffodils, purple hyacinth, blue muscari and colorful tulips for the next few weeks. You should probably try it too.
Add Spring to your home using grocery store bulb gardens and pretty little vessels
Add Spring to your home using grocery store bulb gardens and pretty little vessels

Add Spring to your home using grocery store bulb gardens and pretty little vessels
What bulbs grow in the summer/early fall seasons? Does that even exist?

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Adding a Record Stop to Basic Shelves

Adding a Record Stop to Basic Expedit Ikea Shelves
I’m dedicating this post to all the folks out there who use Expedit (or the newer Kallax) Ikea shelves to store their record collection. For us, these bookshelves have been terrific for our records, they fit the height of a record nearly perfectly and are able to hold a lot of records. We’ve had our shelving system for 5 years, and there has been no warping or sagging – this seems impossible but I think the geniuses at Ikea probably did some sort of math and calculated the perfect amount of spacing needed between the vertical slats to hold heavy records. The shelves were well worth the small amount of money we spent on them. However, I’m so sick of having to constantly pull the records forward so that they look organized on the shelves. There is no back to the Expedit shelving system, and the records are constantly getting pushed back to the wall making it hard to find records and most importantly it looks bad (that is always most important). Between us hastily putting records away and the kids playing in the music room, our records are constantly looking like a hot, hot mess (see below).

Adding a Record Stop to Basic Expedit Ikea Shelves
Gross, right? I know it might make me seem really anal (which is actually a fact, I am), but I can’t stand this, it seriously drives me nuts. I spent last Saturday morning putting the records away and organizing the shelf trying to achieve some sort relative calm, when it dawned on me that there was a really simple and easy solution to this problem. It’s what I’m calling “Record Stops” (patent pending) .

Adding a Record Stop to Basic Expedit Ikea Shelves
I had some leftover 1″x2″ boards in the garage – you could easily use furring strips or 2″x2″s as well. I quickly chopped 15 pieces of wood down to 13 316“. All of the pieces were snug and fit the width of each cube nicely. I stained the wood with three coats of a dark gel stain. I used Minwax “Rosewood” stain, and it matched pretty well to the Brown/Black (such a stupid color-way name) Ikea shelves. Being that the shelves are made of fiberboard, I figured screwing or nailing the stops wasn’t really going to be that practical – instead I opted to use Liquid Nails to glue each of the stops into place. Placement of the stops was really easy, I used a record as a measurement for depth and moved the stop into position – it wasn’t rocket science and precise measurments were not necessary. A few hours later, the glue had dried and the records were ready to go back on the shelf. I’ll never have to worry about panicking over the chaos of our record collection again. I know it’s such a little thing, but really it makes a big difference.

Adding a Record Stop to Basic Expedit Ikea Shelves

Adding a Record Stop to Basic Expedit Ikea Shelves
Much better.

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Bros. I’ve reopened the investigation into the history of my house and the people who lived here long before us. I’ve always been so curious of this, and I’ve never been able to find many answers. There is something incredibly amazing about the history of homes and the people who’ve lived their lives in them. I consider our home a member of our extended family, and I know that my family history will live on with it. Seriously, like woah. Too deep for a Friday morning?

Also, it’s our five year anniversary of living in this amazing place so I thought it would be the perfect time to do some investigating.

I just restarted my account so that I can learn more about the few names I have of people who might have lived in this house. When we moved in I found a few photos, a postcard and some scraps of paper down in the tool cabinet, but don’t have any names to go with them – they could have nothing to do with the history of the house for all I know.

I was able to dig up some old Minneapolis directory information from the early 1911′s and am on the hunt for a Ellis W. Drisko and his wife Elizabeth, the original owners of the house in 1910. Unfortunately the Drisko’s never had any children and leads are coming up dry. I found an old city map from 1923 with details of our block, but no photos. A while ago I did some sleuthing, digging through old census records but it didn’t go far. I also got in touch with the special collections department at the Hennepin County Library and they are going to help me look up a building permit index card and we’ll see what we can find from there. I’ve also devoured the local history section of the Minneapolis Public Library Website.

The crown jewel to this investigation would be a photo of this house from the early to mid 1900′s and to know more about the first family that lived here for nearly 30 years.

The Artifcats

Original Owners : Ellis W & Elizabeth M Drisko
Pay Stub with the Name ‘Otto Ross’
Two Family Photographs of the same group of people taken at ‘J.O. Anderson’ Amery, Wisconsin
A Photograph of a single man taken at ‘L. W. Lee studio’ at 28 Central Ave, Minneapolis
A note written in Swedish with the name Mr. B.G. Hager
A postcard of the ‘Range Swedish Lutheran Church’ – Range, WI sold by the ‘St. Paul Souvenir Co’.
A check from the year 1883

Are you an amateur genealogist? Have you found old photos of your house at a library or history center? Come on, don’t be stingy, give me some advice.

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5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Last July, my internet pal, Dana over at House*Tweaking sent me an e-mail asking for some tips on taking interior photographs. First of all let me say, I don’t think she be needing any tips, but because she asked I obliged and let her know a few of the simple rules I follow. She followed up thanking me for the info and encouraging me write a blog post, and I said “yeah, good idea, I should do that soon”. Well my friends, it’s March, you guys, M-A-R-C-H and I haven’t gotten around to writing about how I take interior photos. It just so happens that I am in project limbo as of late, and I finally have the time to put together a post outlining my five steps for successful interior photos.

A little back story: A long time, back in the ancient days of the early 2000′s, I got my BFA in photography. Back then people took photographs with a box that had a tiny hole on one end, and film on the other. The plastic film was covered in emulsion that only reacted to light and a certain mix of chemistry, weird right? Back then I took semi-artful portraits of folks using a 4×5 camera. Basically all this info is a long and drawn out way of me, trying to tell you, that I had been properly taught how to take a photo, how to print a photo, how to understand and produce artful ideas. However, I had barely trained in the ways of editing pics using photoshop, I had never composed an interior shot that didn’t have people in it and I had no idea what a camera with a digital light sensor was even good for. Although I know about digital photography now, I obviously don’t know all of the stuff and I’ve been learning as I go over the last ten years. I continue to learn new tricks all of the time.

What I learned in school was how to use my camera, how to meter and analyze light, how to push and pull film, and most importantly how to compose a photograph. Those sorts of things stick with ya. What I’ve learned a long the way is how to use my camera along with a bit of photoshop to make that well composed, well lit, well exposed bit of pixels. So I’m going to be separating this little “How-To” into two parts. The first of which I will be sharing with you today, focuses specifically on what to pay attention to while taking and composing the shot. The second part will focus on some of the go-to tools I use in photoshop to edit that image – that should be coming next week.

Today I’ll be using my living room to illustrate how following a few of these simple rules will really improve your photos. To start, the living room is set up as I normally would have it on any given day. In real life it’s usually clean, tidy, nice to look at, and all the furniture is laid out in a way where it relates to each other and promotes comfort and a nice flow of traffic. Although the room looks good IRL, that doesn’t mean it will photograph the same when it’s not set up to be all fancy for the camera.

Alright, hang on to your butts, here we go!

Camera Position

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
The first horizontally framed picture I’m sharing with you (on the top), is me taking the photo from a standing position. You can see that the visual focus becomes the top of the coffee table instead of the room itself. The vertical lines begin to skew inwards due to the perspective of shooting at a downwards angle. The photo on the bottom left is also taken from the same standing position, but the camera position is now vertical which makes it slightly more tolerable – let’s not stop there though. The photo of the bottom right is taken from a vertical distance of about 18″ lower, now the window becomes the primary visual focus of the frame, instead of the coffee table. The sofa brings your eye towards the center of the image and all of the vertical and horizontal lines in the room are plumb and square. When in doubt taking a photo from straight on is a really easy way to take a successful interior shot.

Please, guys – if you’re going to take interior photos and share them with the internet don’t do these two things.

1. Don’t take your photos from a standing position with out-of-plumb vertical and horizontal lines!
2. Don’t take them handheld, please use a tripod! Please!

Also, try flipping that camera vertically – I think it looks good on the internet when you do that, especially to us folks who like to read it on our phones and tablets and such business. I probably take two thirds of my photos using a vertical frame.

Use Natural Light

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
I used to think that to take a good interior photograph you needed to have all the lights in the whole damn place. There was a period of time where I was taking black and white portraits of people in interior spaces and the lighting didn’t matter (because the end result was B&W). I got kind of used to always leaving lamps and overhead lights on when shooting, even when I started taking photos of the interior of my house with my DSLR – it never looked good and I couldn’t figure out why. Here’s a good example of me doing just that for a House Tour I participated on Apartment Therapy back in 2010. I slaved over these photos trying to get them perfect, I can’t imagine how much better the results would’ve been if I just turned the lights off and used a tripod. I understand that it’s only natural to try and light a space, thus resulting in shorter exposure times, BUT this problem is easily solved with a tripod. I have a Manfrotto that has worked great for me for the last 15 years. Using a tripod allows you turn up the F-Stop, turn down the ISO, and take really long exposure photos – remember your subject isn’t moving. I’ve been known to take minute long photos – in fact, a long time ago I used to take photo inside of room-sized camera obsucuras, and the exposures sometimes were up to eight hours long. Using a long exposure with a tripod shouldn’t scare you away. Last winter when my pal Nicole and I shot my kitchen makeover it happened to be on the grayest morning in history, and we were really pushing those exposure times – most were a minute or more.

1. Make sure your only light source is pure day light. Turn of all of the lights and lamps. Even a light left on in the next room over can cause your camera to pick up a yellow cast.
2. To take the best photos wait for those over cast days. You won’t get better more even light, than a gray day can provide.

You can see in the two photos above the difference in lighting. In the photo on the left you can see a yellow cast on the white chair, ceiling and floor. In the image on the right you see natural white ceilings, photo frames and no yellow cast.

Compose & Style

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Alright, this one is pretty obvious, but composing and styling your photo is really one of the key steps to taking a good pic. I am always learning when it comes to this. I’m no stylist, but you can learn a lot from just looking through the frame on your camera before releasing the shutter. First, notice the image on the left, the table is off center – this is just the way we have the furniture arranged in the house. In real life it looks totally normal like this, but in this image it looks off center. The coffee table throws the entire image off balance, to see it better take your hand and cover the image on the right then do the same to the image on the left – see the difference? The window is in the center of the image, and it seems only natural for the coffee table to be in line with it, naturally I moved the coffee table. Next I moved the white chair, sidetable and footstool out from the corner so that it balanced the sofa.

Styling for me is all about showcasing the elements of the space. This means you can move everything around! The whole point of styling is to describe your space in the best possible light (punny). For instance, I took the sheepskin off the ottoman and set it on the coffee table to add texture and break up the surface. I then set the tray and a vase on top. I moved a plant with a lighter pot from behind the sofa to the top of the ottoman, now the plant stand out against the bright window. I grabbed another plant from the dining room and set it in the space next to the white chair to even out the composition. I made sure the curtains laid flat and even, and I moved the pillows and throw on the sofa so you can see them better in the frame of the image. I even went as far as to move the artwork on the wall so that it would feel more centered within the frame of the camera.

Use a Low ISO

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
There are two things on your DSLR camera settings that you need to pay attention to. The first being ISO. The tripod allows you to set your ISO as low as possible. Using a low ISO gives you a high quality image, a high ISO would result in more noise and grain. Using the tripod affords you exposure time, so set your ISO low. I usually shoot around an ISO of 100. As a comparison I took a photo with a really high ISO of 6400 (on the right), you can easily see all the noise that is created at this high ISO.

Depth of Field

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Now that you know to set your ISO set low, pay attention to your aperture. Aperture is the hole that lets light in through the lens, the smaller the hole the more in focus the image, the larger the shorter depth of field. A small hole is considered f22, a large hole with narrow depth of field would be anything below f5.6. On wide angle general shots I typically shoot around f22, this allows most of the photograph to be in focus. For vignettes such as the ones pictured on top, I shoot at a lower f-stop (f3.2) to achieve that beautiful martha-stewart-living sort of a pic. The bottom vignette was shot at f22 FYI. A note on vignettes: I try and use them as an opportunity to describe the main elements of the room in little sweet bites. For instance, in this pic I moved the pillows behind the flowers so that the viewer could get a feel for the color palette, patterns and textures used in the space.

Now that I have dropped some Scoops-photo-taking-knowledge on you, take some time to look at your pinterest boards, magazines etc. Find images that you are really drawn to and try and analyze how the image was created. Understand why you like it, look at the angles of the room, the point of view the images was taken from, look at the vertical lines and perspective and pay attention to how your eye flows through the image. What are you drawn to, what makes it interesting? The next time you take a photo of your space try and replicate some of things you’ve seen in these inspirational photos. Good luck guys, and feel free to throw your questions my way. I’ll try and help.

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Refinishing the Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Six years ago we bought a mid century 1958 Drexel dining room table from a seller on craigslist. I didn’t know how much I’d grow to love the table when we first purchased it, at the time it just fit the bill. It had good lines, minimal wear and most importantly was in our price range. It cost us a whopping $325 for the table and a set of 6 chairs which included 2 captains chairs. I love this table! It’s seen its fair share of battle though: LEGO building, board game playing, puzzle making, Christmas-meal eating, friend feasts partying, and beer & cocktail-drinking sort of battles. The table top has been badly scratched and water marked for over 2 years now – to the point of having to cover it up with a table cloth any time we have anyone over.

We keep saying we need to get that table refinished – who has time and money for that though? Not us. I couldn’t imagine taking it apart, packing it up, bringing it to a refinisher and paying mucho bucks to get it refinished. I also couldn’t imagine that I had any qualification to refinish it myself.

Somehow over the course of the last few months I’ve built up a lot of skillz and confidence and started feeling more and more sure that I could do this. My big reservation was the walnut veneer top – I didn’t want to do anything that would harm the veneer and make this project into an even bigger can of worms (this happens to me more than I would like to admit). After careful and close inspection I determined that the veneer was about an 1/8 of an inch thick – thick enough for a good sanding.

It just so happened that I was a band widow last weekend – so while the old husband guy was not around, I decided it might be the perfect time to tackle a project like this. I did baby steps, starting with test refinishing one of the leaves. When that seemed like it was turning out well, I jumped right in and started on the table top. I’m so glad I did, I can’t stop staring at it now! I actually wish I would’ve had the guts to tackle this sooner; it’s a hard life being ashamed of your dining room table.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 1:
Wash Table
Wash the table with a household cleaner. I used some Mrs. Meyers diluted in water and gave it a good scrub with a heavy duty scouring pad. Let it dry.
Step 2:
Use Acetone to Strip Finish
I had never used Acetone before, but discovered that people on the internetz recommend it for stripping finishes off of things that might have finishes on them such as this table. Never having worked with it before it took me a bit to get the hang of it. Work in small sections pouring the acetone on the table, give it about 30 seconds to soak in and lift the finish, the wipe of with medium grit steel wool. I followed this up by wiping the excess gunk off with a paper towel. Continue doing this as you move around the table. Tip – it stinks, so open up a window.
Step 3:
Now is when you start to see results. Sand the table starting with a 150 grit sandpaper – if that’s not strong enough for ya, step it up a notch and go for the 100, then move to the 150. Follow it up by giving it a once over with a 220 fine grit paper. I started off doing this by hand as I didn’t want to sand through the veneer but realized that my mouse sander was gentle enough to do the job.
Step 4:
Use Denatured Alcohol to Find Imperfections
The internet taught me that I could use denatured alcohol to get a preview of the natural finish. Wipe it on your table in the direction of the grain of the wood and then look closely to see if there are any major scratches that still need to be buffed out. The alcohol will evaporate within a minute or so, so look quickly. I found this step very helpful in achieving a perfect finish.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 5:
Apply Teak Oil
Now its time for the fun part, the part where you really get to see how beautiful your messed up furniture can be, plus it smells kind of good in a weird sort of way. Apply some teak oil to the surface allowing the wood to soak it up for about a half an hour, then wipe off the excess and repeat letting the oil sit on the surface for about 20 minutes. I did this 7 times because I really wanted a perfect finish.
Step 6:
The table was looking pretty great after the teak oil, if this was furniture that wasn’t going to be used all the time, I’d probably let it go at the teak oil but since this is our dining room table I opted to add a few coats of a satin poly. Here’s a few things I learned about poly – you need to mix it well and use a good brush. All polyurethane is natrually glossy, they add flattener to give it that dulled down satin finish and that stuff likes to sink to the bottom of the can. Use a stir stick (not to shake, shaking can cause bubbles) to stir in the flattener and do this often while applying the poly. I accidentally didn’t stir my poly enough and ended up with one shiny coat which I had to sand down and start over. Also, lightly hand sand between coats of poly with a 220 grit paper.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

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