Reimagined Entranceway

Before: Old sheet rock sagged away from the ceiling, making for a decidedly undramatic entrance.
We "broke ground" about a month ago on a project that would revamp Better Farm's entranceway and give guests a strong first impression.

At the start, we were up against old sheetrock, visible lines, exposed electrical wiring, inadequate insulation, inefficient storage, and a boring color scheme:
Visible sheet rock lines, electric installed outside the wall, boring light fixture, and plain white walls and ceiling? No thanks.

There were a few elements worth saving: one, the "better be" tag former artist-in-residence Erica Hauser painted a couple of years ago over the entranceway:

And two, a chimney section we discovered when we started taking down the old sheetrock:

Three, the stunning custom staircase Gary Stephenson built back in 2011:

Local contractor North Country YDIY got started reinsulating, replacing sheetrock, and reclaiming old barn wood across the street to use as trim throughout the space.

Here are some photos of the process:

Nate Serafine, a painter and contractor out of Rochester with property and a camp in Rossie (Paintinate), came by to teach me how to mud and tape the sheet rock so it would appear literally seamless.
Though the idea was to simplify and clean up the space, there were certain embellishments added as well. I knew I wanted a bold chandelier to put in the center of the foyer, and found a beautiful one at Lowe's:

I'd thought a lot about putting a bold wallpaper in the immediate entranceway to offset the muted walls throughout the front hall; but when I found this amazing woodblock on Etsy, I had a change of heart:
Giant paisley stamp from DelhiDaze on Etsy.
Paint colors: Benjamin Moore's Sandy Hook Gray and Sherwin Williams' Wild Wild West.

On the ceiling, I decided to install some faux tin in a bronze color to create a formal entranceway. I thought the copper would contrast nicely with the barnwood trim gleaned from this property.

Creating a small alcove in the long hall allowed for visual highlights like the wooden carving and copper backsplash.

All the elements started coming together in a beautiful way:



To finish off the space, we added a holy water font from an old church as a key holder and an antique shelf found at another construction site that I screwed hooks onto for a coatrack:


Here's a side-by-side comparison:

This spring a project will be to make a bench with hinged lid for shoe storage in the front hall. Photos to come on that! If you've got a DIY home project you'd like to share, email us at info@betterfarm.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Reimagined Entryway

Under construction: Better Farm's entranceway is getting a facelift.
We're re-imagining Better Farm's foyer. Our goals? To make the space significantly more energy efficient, organized, and lovely. The farm's entryway has gone through a few incarnations since 2009, with this final project bringing the foyer and front hall to completion.

Our timeline so far:
  • 2009 project to clean up foyer and take a bunch of storage to the dump
  • 2010 project to rip up carpeting on stairs, organize storage, and give a fresh coat of paint
  • 2011 project to rebuild the entire staircase and railing
 Here's a list of the problems we still faced:
  • Front door leaks a lot of warm air through unsealed gaps along its bottom edge
  • Without a storm door, we can't allow for cross-ventilation in the summer or get a great seal around the doorway
  • Outdated insulation in the entranceway means lots of air leaks and energy loss of up to 15 percent in that room alone
  • Sheetrock hung decades ago on the ceiling was the wrong thickness and wasn't strapped; therefore, it's sagging
  • All tape lines on sheetrock in the front hall are visible
  • Cobbed electrical meant mismatched light switches, electrical lines outside the sheetrock, and visible covered wiring
  • The foyer's storage solutions are imperfect. Boots, sneakers, and jackets need a better landing spot.
And—my favorite part—the brainstorming process. Here are some pictures we're working with as inspiration:

Overall look:
     

Storage solutions:
  
Draft barrier:
Lighting:


 

Wallpaper for contrast wall in entranceway:



Thanks to North Country YDIY for taking on this remodeling project.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Barn Door Baby Gate

Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs 2

Baby gates have a tendency to be eyesores in otherwise beautiful homes. So we loved this idea, gleaned from the folks at Remodelaholic, for a gorgeous barn-door baby gate that's perfect for farmhouses or new homes with a little country charm.

Difficulty: Medium 
From Remodelaholic

List of Tools:

  • table saw (for ripping cap to 2 1/4”, you could use a 1×3 if you don’t have a table saw)
  • miter saw (for cutting the lumber to length and the angles)
  • drill
  • utility knife (for shaving edges of pine boards)
  • framing square
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • sander block
  • sand paper
  • 4” foam brush
  • old rag

Important Notes:

  • This gate was designed for a 35 1/4” opening.  The width of the opening where the gate is needed will determine the width of the gate.  Generally you want your gate to be 1/2” to 3/4” less wide than the door opening. This will allow it to swing freely and give room for hinges.
  • I used pine boards with lots of character for a good rustic look. But you can use any material you like
  • After all the pieces were cut the length, I used a utility knife to shave off the factory edge on all corners.  By doing this it will give the wood a more hand carved look.  After shaving off the edge use a sanding block to soften the edges from any slivers.
  • All pine wood used is 3/4” thick.
  • All dimensions are finished dimensions .
  • All screws in this gate were drilled in through the back stiles.  This made it look better on the side with the cross x to not show any screws.
  • For additional support, wood glue can be applied in-between all the wood joints where screws are used.
  • The angles listed on the cut list are for quick reference only and are approximate.  You will need to make proper measurements to ensure the proper angles especially if your gate is not the exact same size.

List of Materials:

    • (2) 1x6x96 pine boards (actual width is 5 1/2”)
    • (6) 1x4x96 pine lumbers (actual width is 3 1/2”)
    • (1 box) 1 1/4” drywall screws (I decided to use screws, because it pulled the two pieces together nice and tight.)
    • Wood glue
    • Wood stain of your choice (I used Minwax water based staina nd had it mixed to a gray color)
    • Extra Heavy Gate Hinge
  • Gate latch (the gate latch that I used requires a hole drilled in the door frame.)
  • Handel (pull)

Cut List:

  • (1) Cap - 35” x 2 1/4” x 3/4”
  • (2) Short Cross Braces  -~14 13/16” x 5 1/2” x 3/4”
  • (1) Full Cross Brace – 33 5/8” x 5 1/2” x 3/4”
  • (2) Front Stiles – ~24 3/16” x 5 1/2” x 3/4”
  • (10) Back Stiles – 35” x 3 1/2” x 3/4”
  • (2) Front Rails – 35” x 3 1/2” x 3/4”

Exploded Assembly View



Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Cut the front bottom rail to length on the miter saw.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 1
2. Cut the front top rail to the same length on the miter saw.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 2
3. Cut a back stile to length on the miter saw. Use a framing square to square up the corners. Drill in one screw on each corner to attach the back stile to the front rails.  Before assembling any of the pieces, shave off the factory edge for a more rustic look.
4. Cut a second back stile to length on the miter saw. Use a framing square to square up the corners. Screw in one screw on each corner to attach the back stile to the front rails.  Be sure that the back stiles are aligned with the front rails at 35” apart from outside edge to outside edge.  After all four screws are in place, check the frame that is is square.  Do this by using your tape measure and measuring from one corner to another on a diagonal (see image below).  If the two measurements are the same, drill in an additional screw by the first one, to lock the frame into square position.  If they are not the same make small adjustments by pushing or pulling the the opposite corners together or apart.
5. Cut front stiles to length.  Now that you know your exact spacing for the stiles between the front rails you can cut them to the right length.  Now screw the stiles in place through the back stiles.
6. Cut the full cross brace to length.  The opening for the cross brace has now been determined and can now be measured.  Place the board under the frame at an angle.  Overlap the ends lightly to provide part of the board to be cut off.  Take a pencil and mark where the frame crosses over the cross brace.   Be sure the make the piece on the wood that will be discarded.  The angles are listed below but it might be slightly different.   That is why you should just trace the angle from the frame.  Cut the length and shave of the edges.  Sand and get ready for assembly.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 6
7. Cut the short cross braces.  Follow the same instructions as above, but this time mark along the full cross brace where the short cross braces will stop.  Cut to length, shave off the corners and sand.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 7
8. Cut (8 more) back stiles.  Screw the stiles in place one at a time.  As you screw in the back stiles make sure that you are on top of the front boards: the front stiles, rails and cross braces.  This is so the screws hold the pieces in front.
9. Cut the cap.  Screw or nail on the cap.  I used brad nails and clue so they wouldn’t show.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 9
10.Now that everything is assembled and sanded, all you need to to is stain it.  After you stain it you can brush a layer of clear varnish to protect the stain finish.
DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs STEP 10

 

 

Final Baby Gate For Stairs

DIY Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs final

 Exploded Assembly View

Barn Door Baby Gate for Stairs 2
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

The yellow bricks of Chittenango, N.Y. Image from My Vintage Soul.
I was fortunate enough two years ago to receive golden bricks that once formed a road actually danced and trod upon by just about every cast member from the Wizard of Oz except Dorothy herself. This gift was the result of a string of events involving the town of Chittenango (where Frank L. Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was born and raised), harsh North Country winters, and two dear friends of mine, Walter and Sunny.

You can read the full story by clicking here.

So what's a girl to do with 50 pounds of bricks with such an illustrious history? Find a place to inlay them, of course. Enter Better Farm's Art Barn, which in its former incarnation housed animals and utilized a gutter in the floor that nowadays has simply laid empty in such a way as to create a bit of a hazard for the inattentive wanderer in our gallery space.

It's a perfect trough to lay in some gold bricks; so that's what we did. All it took was a few bags of concrete mix, a little water, and some elbow grease.




Now, all visitors to our gallery space can walk on the same golden bricks the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and oodles of Munchkins have danced, walked, and skipped on. A little magic, right here in Redwood.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Gallery Ceiling Will be Picture-Perfect

This photo from the New York Times is of a ceiling created out of discarded picture frames by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion. The image became our inspiration for the gallery ceiling in Better Farm's Art Barn.
Thanks to donations from Focal Point Custom Framing and Fort Drum, Better Farm's Art Barn is about to have a gallery ceiling fittingly made entirely out of upcycled picture frames. It's a lesson in upcycling, but more than that we like to think of it as a very literal intersection between art and sustainability. In return for keeping hundreds of old picture frames out of burn pits or landfills, we get to use them to create a thing of beauty—and a thought-provoking thing at that.

The gallery space in Better Farm's Art Barn.

Since I moved to Better Farm in 2009, the Art Barn overhaul has been one of our biggest and ongoing projects. We've cleared out years' worth of hay from the second story, added bank after bank of windows, rented dumpsters to haul out all the old and broken stuff that had been piled up over the course of decades, added track lighting and gallery walls, and turned the whole space into a studio and art and performance gallery. In the fall of 2011 we added recycled soy sprayfoam insulation on the first level, and in the spring of 2012 added a second-story deck overlooking a natural amphitheater (to check out the unreal sound quality for yourself, be sure to visit us at this year's betterArts/Better Farm Open House & Fundraiser.

I've been kicking around a bunch of ideas for the ceiling on the first floor of the Art Barn, which betterArts uses as its gallery space:
I considered using old barn wood, then wondered about using some old siding we have in the wood shed. Many people suggested sheet-rocking it, or zipping down some slab wood to use. Then, Fort Drum donated a bunch of old, broken picture frames to us. I recalled an article in the New York Times about Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion, a man who builds recycled houses—which is to say, he takes building materials destined for the dump and builds homes with them for next-to-nothing.

In one of the images from that article (see above), he took picture frame corners to create a zig-zag pattern across the ceiling of a house. This was the perfect solution for our Art Barn ceiling! I set about finding a frame shop locally that might be willing to donate more frames to betterArts to use in the non-profit's gallery space.

Tracy Spencer from Focal Point Custom Framing in Watertown was extremely gracious and said that while the company seldom has broken frames, they do have some small frames with defects and discarded moulding. I met with Tracy Saturday morning and picked up the bounty—we're hoping to continue working with Focal Point in the future to get the project completed (many frame pieces are required!). Tracy also through in some beautiful suede matboard that we can use for arts & crafts projects in the community.

Here's Focal Point's display wall, also indicative of what our ceiling will look like:

 My car, stuffed to the gills:

Back at the Farm, I got the Ryobi chop saw out and ready to make 45-degree cuts on the frames:

Then began the extremely tedious process of piecing all the frames together:

We will get chopping this week and should be able to get a quarter to a full half of the ceiling completed before the open house in May. Stay tuned for updates!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Whet Your Pallet

This pallet adirondack chair was featured on Green Upgrader.

Building with pallets is a great starter upcycling venture. They're made of solid hard wood, they're readily available (just track down some friends who work construction), and they're oft-abandoned after they serve their purpose. Here are just a few wonderful ideas we tracked down online over the last few months.

For compost bins:

...For tables...

...For shelving...

...For storage...
 ...For seating (or sleeping!)...

...For outside bars:

...For work-room stairs...

...For bringing in-house forts to a whole new level...
 ...for plants...


...for storage...

Got a great upcycling idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Masterful Bath

Editor's note: This blog will cover the general outline of a bathroom renovation. Stay tuned to future blogs that will get into specifics for things like reviving claw tubs, installing sinks, updating toilets, and detailing with barn wood.

This fall and winter were spent with a downstairs bathroom renovation that split the old bath off the kitchen in two, moved the laundry area to another part of the first floor, and gave the master bedroom a master bath.

The concept was easy: provide Better Farm's present-and-future-directors with a small master suite, consolidate the downstairs bath, make a cohesive laundry area close to dry racks and clothesline... and do it all in a (mostly) sustainable way featuring reused/reclaimed materials, communal/DIY labor, and continue our mission to expand the space here without sacrificing our ideals.

First step was to take the existing first-floor bathroom and divide it in two. This wasn't so difficult, since the room was already obviously sectioned into a laundry area and bath/sink/shower area. We moved the existing door over about three feet and built a wall between the laundry and bath areas:

Moving the downstairs bath entranceway in order to put half that original bath in the master bedroom.
Next, we took the existing bedroom wall:
The master bedroom wall destined to disappear.
...brought it forward a few feet, and added a doorway:
New wall with doorway.
New walls and eco-friendly insulation were put in, walls and wiring were put in, and leftover flooring from our upstairs bathroom project was added.

Next up was to seek out fixtures and appliances. I scored a claw-footed tub off Craigslist from a dilapidated duplex in Watertown. With the help of some friendly volunteers, we got that tub out of the house, sanded down, and repainted:
Claw tub gets a makeover.
Freshly sanded and painted
For the toilet, we're reusing the existing toilet that was in Steve's bedroom originally. The sink was a hand-me-down from a neighbor (only needed a good scrubbing and two new handles):
Glam shot: vintage sink with designer dog.
We also added a small, built-in shelf utilizing old barn wood cut out of the Art Barn when we added new windows:


We trimmed out an old beam I opted to leave exposed with more old barn wood, and I found a great, old lamp at an antiques shop in New Jersey. An afternoon was spent reappropriating old barn doors into a sliding-track, barn-style bathroom door (tracks and pulley wheels are antiques, bought locally). Deer antlers from my friend Sunny, a Buddhist figurine and peacock feathers from the library, an old vase my pops brought back from Mexico, and various knicknacks (and jewelry) completed the look.

 And, at long last...
View from the master bedroom.
Inside the bathroom.


Fixtures from Elizabethan Classics.





Got a great design idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.

DIY Wainscot Paneling

With a recent renovation project that added a bathroom and reinvented another, a doorway in the kitchen was moved. That left a wall only half-covered with tongue and groove wainscot panels:
Using discarded tongue and groove from the bathroom project and some other pieces we refined to make our top and bottom edges, we were able to create our own custom wainscot panels for free.

Here's a simple step-by-step guide if you'd like to give this a go—it's a great way to dress up any room.

Wainscot Paneling

Materials
  • Basic hand tools
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Pneumatic finish nail gun to complete this project
  • Table saw
Step-By-Step Instructions
1. Allow your wood to acclimate. Stack the wood in your room about a week before you start installing it so it has time to adjust to the humidity level in your home.

2. Prep your space. We removed the existing panels so that all our boards would be uniform. Protect tile, wood and vinyl floors with two layers of heavy paper or cardboard taped down. Cover carpeted floors with canvas dropcloths.
 3. Install the baseboard. A radial arm saw or sliding miter saw works best for cutting baseboard, but you can make perfect cuts with a circular saw, too. Install a sharp blade and clamp a square to the board as a saw guide. A giant speed square also makes a great saw guide. For a great-looking job, arrange the boards for the best color and grain match before you make the final cuts, especially on boards that must be spliced to cover a long wall. If your floors are unusually wavy or out of level, trim the bottom of the boards to fit the contour of the floor. They don't have to fit perfectly. Base shoe molding will cover gaps up to 3/8 in. Arrange baseboard around the room so the grain pattern and color of adjoining pieces match as closely as possible. Rough-cut the boards a few inches longer than needed. Then cut the boards to exact length and nail them to each stud with two 2-1/2 in. nails.
4. Glue and nail the paneling. Figure out approximately how many full-length tongue-and-groove boards you'll need and cut them to your desired height. Don't assume the boards have a perfectly square mill-cut end. First trim one end square, then cut it to length. Use a level to make sure the first board is plumb before you glue and nail it. You may have to plane a bit from the top or bottom of the groove side to fit a board against out-of-plumb door or window trim. Apply glue to the back of each piece of wood, then drive nails into the drywall hold the boards firmly until the glue dries. If you run across a board that's bowed or crooked, save it for a spot where there's a stud mark so you can bend it straight and nail it to solid wood. In this situation, or at corners or other tight spots, it's OK to nail through the face of the board. Fill the nail holes with matching putty after the first coat of finish. Don't worry if the tops of the boards don't line up perfectly; you'll cover them later with the cap and shelf. Add new pieces of wainscot by pushing the grooved edge onto the tongue of piece already applied.



5. Notch around any electrical outlets. Notch the boards to fit around electrical boxes. Don't forget to make a small notch for the outlet screws—it's hard to do after the paneling is in place. The electrical code requires that electrical boxes be flush with wood paneling. You could move the boxes out, but this would be a big job. Instead, buy box extensions, available at hardware stores and home centers, and install them before you reinstall the switches and receptacles.
6. Space boards for an even corner fit. Measure from the corner to the edge of the board, excluding the tongue, to determine the width of the last board. Measure every 12 inches along the corner and mark these dimensions on the final board. Connect the marks to create a cutting line.
7. Install your wainscot chair rail. The Wainscot chair rail is applied by nailing on 16” centers. Nail into studs whenever possible for strength.

 8. Prime and paint. Remember to tape off your lines!


Got a great DIY idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Tile Backsplash


When the kitchen cabinets were built at Better Farm in the 1980s, the sink backsplash was constructed out of some kind of composite board. Over time, water damaged the faux wood and rotted; creating a gross-looking backsplash that was also a health risk because of mildew and mold.

Using discarded tiles from another project, some trim boards we found in the wood shed, a little grout, caulk, and double-sided tile tape, we were able to create a tile backsplash for less than $30 that reinvented our kitchen space.
We started by taking measurements and determined we'd be covering a six-inch wide, eight-foot-long area.

Next, we removed the old backsplash and sprayed bleach onto the mold we found:



Then we screwed on leftover pieces of cement board from another project to use as our base and laid out the tiles we'd be using:

Then it was time to lay the tile. Here's Greg applying Simple Mat, a double-sided tape you mount your tiles on (truly the simplest way we're aware of for laying wall tiles):

Then it was just a matter of mounting the tiles:


Mixing up some grout:
Applying the grout over the tiles:
Then, we let the grout set before wiping the tiles clean and replacing our trim pieces:
We found an old piece of oak to use as top trim:
We used a vinyl edge for the bottom of the backsplash and set it with finishing nails and caulk. This should give us a totally water-tight seal and prevent future mildew and mold issues. The white trim can also be painted:


Got a DIY tutorial you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Campy Bath Goes Glam (and Green!)





We were passed-due for a big overhaul and update on Better Farm's downstairs bathroom; but with the space being structurally sound, it was low on the priorities list. Three years since our start, and with a renovation project bearing down to create a master suite on the first floor, the opportunity arrived to shrink the downstairs bathroom, make a more sensible laundry area closer to the clothesline, and update some outdone interior design. More blogs to come about those other projects—for today, we'll focus on that downstairs bathroom and how we set about getting it glammed up in a functional way that's ready for all the high-traffic Better Farm brings.

What we did:
  • Removed the laundry area entirely to create a master bath off the bedroom downstairs, thereby shrinking the existing bathroom to a more manageable, realistic size
  • Moved the entrance door from the kitchen to the bath, spurring a refrigerator move and island addition
  • Took a standing three-part shutter system that hid an open shelving area in the bathroom, shrunk it to two panels, and used hinges to affix the shutters to the wall
  • Updated old lighting fixtures, made them more energy-efficient
  • Used discarded tongue-and-groove pine flooring to outdo the old linoleum floor (also helped with heating efficiency)
  • Added color to the old, campy walls
  • Brought in bright, insulated curtains
  • Removed clutter
The bathroom in 2009:




...and the bathroom in 2010...


...and the bathroom's metamorphosis in the last few weeks...







...and the final results!





Donated chalkboard, gold frame, vase. Upcycled baking dish used as soap holder. Magazine rack taken off back of church pews in kitchen. Painting is of old Grandma Caldwell!
Found sign, reused hooks

Lovable hand-me-downs: shower curtain, window drape, and floor rugs were all passed down to us.

Got a great design idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.

Many thanks to the following people for their time, energy, donations, and work on this project:

Adam McBath
Jackson Pittman
Greg Basralian
Jaci Collins
Joel Zimmer
Nicole Caldwell
David Garlock
Kristen Caldwell
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Upcycling 101: Island altar

An old church altar becomes a kitchen island.
It was way back in 2009 when we scored two 12-foot church pews from Calcium Community Church and made them the centerpiece of our dining alcove. It was about a year later when we updated the alcove and gave the space a truly spiritual overhaul:
  
Since then, I've been eyeing a church altar (origins unknown) that was collecting dust for years out in the Art Barn. We'd cleaned it up and used it as a buffet for gallery openings; but in my heart of hearts I knew it was destined to join the church pews in the kitchen. In a recent burst of renovations that added a new bathroom, shrunk another, and moved doors and refrigerators around (stay tuned for those before and after photos!), it was time.

So, first things first. A group of us went out to the Art Barn to assess the situation and start the process of cleaning the old altar up. Here's Jaci removing some old, mismatched and cobbed-together cabinetry:

Next, Greg used a small sander to get the paint off the top of the altar. Then it came time to move it (note that new farm truck Jackson's sitting on!):
 To replace the old cabinets, we're upcycling the lower front board from our driveway piano and affixing it with pivot hinges. Here's Adam demonstrating what that will look like:



Eventually I'll have a kitchen sink installed in the center of the island. But for now, it's a great work station and spot for casual conversation while cooking is underway. Bring on the soul food.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Skeletons From the (Water) Closet

Our new, bare-bones bathroom design
There are few things worse in interior design than a dim, outdated bathroom. Of the three we have at Better Farm, the older bathroom upstairs fit that description perfectly; with a toilet that only occasionally flushed, a dark design, and peeling flooring.

Let's take a closer look at where we started from.
In 2010, the walls were a hodge-podge of repairs, hippie cob, and outdated appliances: the cumulative efforts of 40 years' worth of people needing different things from the space.



The door to the bathroom,  along with all the other doors on the second floor, wasn't properly hung, didn't fit the door frame, and didn't exactly work with the existing hardware.


The linoleum on the floor was cracked and peeling from all sides, especially the doorway:

Something had to be done! I've learned in the last year to love white-on-white, and wanted to experiment with that upstairs. Check out some of these beautiful images I found:



Then Kristie Hayes-Beaulieu, one of our betterArts residents this summer, gave us one of her beautiful x-ray images from her gallery show in July. I decided to make the whole bathroom design work around this image, which lent itself nicely to the white decor. Luckily we also have amassed a large collection of skulls and bones from various adventures, feathers, and a few other oddities that when showcased together made the room a stark, skeletal exploration of the body (and a few branches and trees thrown in for good measure). Green initiatives employed:
  • Keeping our low-flow shower head that we installed last year
  • No-VOCs, eco-friendly Olympia paint (white eggshell)
  • Upcycling our interior design—saves us money, keeps items out of landfills (the only purchased items came from Craigslist, including the sink)
We were also able to secure free tongue-and-groove flooring that was someone else's excess, and caught a break on a bunch of perfectly good doors. With all these components in place, here's what we came up with:
Reclaimed shelving from Craiglist, cigar boxes, muskrat skeleton, and an unidentified animal skull adorn one section of the bathroom.
A sink and vanity off Craigslist, donated curtains, and upcycled mirror create a compelling white-on-white decor.
Found branches in a tall vase, old chair from inside the house, and donated hooks create a nice contrast to all the white.
A horse skull, found by Han Solo.
A row of x-ray images captures the eye.
From left to right: human torso, deer head, human ankle, dog head, human head, goldfish, human hand, chicken skull. All images were found online and printed at the farm.
Antique bottles add an apothecary vibe to the room.
Many thanks to the following volunteers for their help: Greg Basralian, Adam McBath, Elyna Grapstein, and Kevin Carr. Thanks to Kristen Caldwell for the shower and window curtains.

Got a great DIY design idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Southwestern Inspiration

While traveling to Austin, Texas, this week for work, I was lucky enough to spend some time in a small cabin at an organic farm just outside the city's limits. Utilizing a basic and lovely open layout, the entire structure was adorned with small, Southwestern details that gave it this cowgirl a whole bunch of great ideas for Better Farm. Here are some key elements I loved:


Tin backsplash in kitchen
Barn door-style room divider
Southwestern tiles used as main design instead of accents
Post-and-beam-style ceilings along with a very nice fan

A southwestern-style frame on the mirror and decorative bowl sink make this bathroom stand out.

Another view of the kitchen. Note the poured and dyed concrete flooring throughout the first level.
Trees, flowers, and birds as the curtains
Wooden walls painted dark with horizontal stripes
The farm itself lent some other great ideas, as well:
Outdoor seating area, campfire circle, and metal fire pit (and a none-too-shabby view!)

Animal fencing utilizing cut wood standing on end against a single metal pole and barbed wire.
Got an inspiring decor you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.