All About the Bass

After editing multiple of Sledge’s posts and being mentioned numerous times in each post…its come time to contribute myself to Sledgehammer with Style. As Sledge has told you, we moved into our new place in July and have been slowly working on each room in between our jobs and trips east to see family and friends. As Sledge has been focused on finding solutions for the incredible lack of counter space in the kitchen as well as focusing on planning out a solution for turning our 2nd bedroom into an office space for both of us (ok maybe it’s a little more for me), I have been focused on finding an affordable home speaker solution.

We are an Apple house first and foremost so we rely heavily on iTunes for our music needs, though Pandora is also frequently used and I subscribe to the Beats Music subscription service. So whether Sledge and I are looking to listen to the latest from Mumford & Sons or a Beats-curated “Best of the 90s Hip-Hop” playlist, we were focused on finding a quality speaker solution. For our previous apartments, we relied on using a Jambox by Jawbone or the bluetooth functionality of our Samsung soundbar in the living room.

Mini Jambox

Mini Jambox

For the most part, these solutions worked great, but as we moved into our more spacious apartment, we found ourselves wanting a solution for the office, kitchen and living room. Initially we relied on a Mini Jambox for the 2nd bedroom; this worked but like most people, we keep most of our music on phones so when we get calls the music stops and the Mini Jambox would turn into an awkward “experience” of using a speaker phone we never intended to while trying to disconnect the phone to take the call with greater ease.

Mini Jambox vs Sonos Play:1

Mini Jambox versus Sonos Play:1 speakers

The Mini Jambox did offer a high level of ease/convenience albeit at the expense of an optimal sound experience. The speaker is small, portable, includes a rechargeable battery, offers decent sound, connects via bluetooth, retails for only $130 and is easily controlled by your phone/tablet (iOS or Android). That’s a tough value proposition to beat.

Over the Christmas holidays last year, my brother was raving about (and showing off) his new Sonos sound system that he purchased for their 3 bedroom place in New York. Trouble was, the full system in all its glory (e.g., soundbar, subwoofer, two additional speakers for the bedrooms, etc.) can run $1,500+ depending on how you personalize it.

The major upside with Sonos is that it offers a full home music solution that allows you to play the same music throughout your home as well as isolate music to individual rooms. In doing some more research, I discovered the very well reviewed Sonos Play:1 speaker, priced at $199. In a recent trip to Best Buy (I was contemplating getting another Mini Jambox for the bedroom), I noticed an open-box Sonos Play:1 speaker on sale for $178 in the home theater section.

Sonos Play:1 Open Box from Best Buy

Sonos Play:1 Open Box from Best Buy

Given the modest price differential (vs. a Mini Jambox) and Best Buy noting on the box that the speaker had “No Damage,” I decided to give Sonos a try.

Sonos, as of September, gives you two options to setup a wireless speaker system. Via your home wi-fi network or through setting up a separate dedicated Sonos wireless network. I initially setup the speaker in our 2nd bedroom (aka “the office”) and was able to easily connect it to our home wi-fi network. I thought the office would prove to be an adequate test for the Play:1 speaker as we previously used a Mini Jambox here for our music needs and, with it being a decent sized room, would require a superior music solution. Similar to other consumer/tech site reviews, Sledge and I were admittedly very impressed with the performance of the Play:1.

Sonos Play:1 speaker in 2nd Bedroom

Sonos Play:1 speaker in 2nd Bedroom

The speaker is small enough to easily sit on top of the Ikea Expedit shelving unit we have our 32” TV on and fill the room with music.

Since our initial Play:1, we have purchased two more Play:1 speakers, also open box from Best Buy. We placed a white one in the kitchen, which we use a lot in the mornings and while Sledge or I cook in the evenings.

Sonos Play:1 Kitchen

White Sonos Play:1 in Kitchen

We placed the second speaker in the living room on a bookshelf (which allows it to serve as a much needed bookend), to offer us a modified “full home solution.”

Play:1 in Living Room

 

Play:1 on Living Room Bookshelf

The Sonos Controller App for iOS and Android works perfectly to allow us to play music from various music services like Pandora, Songza, Beats Music, as well as our iTunes Music on our iPhones and iPads. We have also elected to change the speaker setup: we now use the dedicated Sonos wireless network through connecting the Play:1 in the office directly into our wireless router.

Play:1 Dedicated Network

Overall, we have been pleased and highly recommend the Sonos Play:1 speaker to anyone looking for a home solution that offers a superior audio experience to the Mini Jambox or similar bluetooth speakers. There are tradeoffs, as the Play:1 is meant to be stationary and needs to be plugged into a wall outlet versus having a rechargeable battery, but we have been very happy with the overall performance of the speakers. In addition, through buying “open box” speakers at Best Buy we were able to outfit our place with 3 Play:1 speakers for less than $550 all-in.

Office Redesign

Last week I gave you a little preview of our office and today I’d thought I’d share the full plan and a little DIY!

For starters, gaining this space when we moved was a huge stress reliever.  Jefe works from home a fair amount so he needs a quiet space to take those 6am calls with his East Coast colleagues.  Our last place, although it boasted an open floor plan, left a lot to be desired if you needed your own, private space.  It made Jefe’s working from home and my keeping up with yoga near impossible because let’s be honest – I love him, but I’d rather he not stare when I’m going from downward dog into ANY other pose.

So – new room means new space to decorate.  As the space will primarily be for him despite my push to make it a craft room, I decided to focus the design around the few items he’s already got that he wants displayed… and I’d prefer they’re not sitting in our living room.  So thanks to shelves and shelves of bobbleheads and mini helmets, I’m aiming for an old world study with splashes of vintage sports paraphernalia.

The room is still a serious work in progress, but here’s where we stand:

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Current Office View #2

Current Office View #3

Current Office View #4

And where I hope to be:
Mood Board for our new office space - Nov 2014

Last weekend we picked up a Kallax at Ikea to replace that sad and lonely bookshelf along the wall with our diplomas.  It will give us space to finally set up our scanner, spread out our books (pulling a few from the full shelves in the living room) and accessorize a bit.  Hoping to have that built before Jefe gets home from a work trip on Friday!

While flea marketing a few weeks ago, Jefe also mentioned he’d be open to a new desk so I’ve got my eye on a few contenders; I’d still like something large enough that we each can have our own area, so I’m thinking an old dining table.  It will give a vintage feel while still providing a long, open workspace.

The rest of the mood board is fairly self-explanatory (and I’m getting a little wordy), so time for the promised DIY!

When we first moved and established this as the office, Jefe mentioned getting a dry erase board.  But why buy a boring, sterile looking thing from Office Depot when I can whip one up in a flash?  I saw this and knew it’d be a cinch….

Dry Erase Board

source

Famous last words.  I knew you could use dry erase markers on glass, so I immediately thought of just buying a huge frame with an edge we liked.  Then I’d slip some paper or fabric behind the glass to give it some added character.

Flash forward to his birthday, I got the genius idea to paint behind the glass with Benjamin Moore’s new Fenway Collection.  Nothing but Green Monster Green for my Jefe.  Well, apparently they don’t sell a New England baseball team inspired paint collection west of the Mississippi.  So after many phone calls to 20+ paint stores, I found one that called BMoore’s headquarters, got the color formula, and custom created it for me.  For those that would love to avoid this hassle, here’s the color formula:

Benjamin Moore Green Monster Color Formula

Benjamin Moore Green Monster

The rest was, in fact, fairly easy.  I picked up some matte board that had a bit of texture to it and just slapped a few even coats of the paint on it.  I could have painted directly on the back side of the glass, but wanted the option to be able to swap it out if Jefe ever got tired of the green.

Benjamin Moore Green Monster

Benjamin Moore Green Monster

Once dry, I slipped the matte board inside the frame and voila!  Instant, custom dry erase board.

Dry Erase Board Preview

I considered painting “Fenway Park” in white like it is on the scoreboard of the ACTUAL Green Monster, but second guessed myself.  Luckily, Jefe likes it better this way and we can always add it later if he changes his mind.

Green Monster

And for those still reading, I have some exciting news!  Jefe has taken it upon himself to prep a blog post for you guys!  Can’t wait to share it with you all in the coming weeks!

Sledge is Back… Again!

For those readers still sticking with me, thank you!  I know it’s been awhile; the day job has taken a bit out of me the last few months but the flip side is all of those hours came with a long-awaited promotion!

But I’ve missed all of you and my little design projects.  So there’s definitely going to be more to come in the next few weeks, especially with Christmas right around the corner!

For now though, here are a few little teasers:

Fall Dining TableAnother quick fall update to our dining area.  I saw that great footed bowl at Target a few months, but couldn’t bring myself to spend the $40 on it.  Flash forward to 2 weeks ago and it was $10.95 in the clearance section.  Bam!  New bowl for my gourds.  Jefe knew he couldn’t fight it.  Home decor on clearance is my Achilles heel.

 

Fall Flower ArrangementTrader Joe’s has been selling some knockout fall bouquets the last two months.  For $8 I can get two of them that are overflowing, pop them in my glass pitcher and I’ve got a beautiful, full fall arrangement.  The yellow candles are also from the Target clearance section for $1.99 for a set of 2.  I may have grabbed more than one pack…

I’ve got a fun DIY dry erase board coming your way that is perfect for any Boston Red Sox fan in your life (yes, that is Green Monster Green for those wondering).  Jefe got this as one of his birthday presents this year.  Instructions to follow (along with our plans for the very unfinished office).

Dry Erase Board Preview

 

And last but not least, a little preview to my first holiday project of the season:

West Elm Design Love Fest DIY Garland

Will have more for you guys next week!

 

 

Falling for FALL!

Autumn is my jam.  Nothing makes me happier than a crisp fall day mixed with cable-knit sweaters and hot apple cider.  But sub-80 degree temperatures is as close to fall that this Angeleno is gonna get.  We were blessed this weekend with highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s – I even had to grab a throw last night while reading!  Go ahead and roll your eyes East Coast readers – after the heat waves we’ve been experiencing, 60 degree temps feel down right frigid.  And I’m loving every minute of it.

With that in mind, I’ve been fully embracing this bit of fall we had this weekend.  I spruced up the place with a few pumpkins, some burnt orange mums and my favorite fall table runner.  I even splurged on a glass pumpkin candy dish at Target which is regularly $7.99, but was 20% off thanks to my favorite new app – Cartwheel.

Mini pumpkins!

Mums & fall runner

Pumpkin Candy Dish

 

I grabbed that Yankee candle too (Apple & Pumpkin Picking scent) as I needed a more fall “smell” in the apartment but it’s not my favorite.  I’ve tested countless pumpkin-sceneted candles in the last few weeks but have yet to find one I truly love that doesn’t give me a headache.  I’m open to any recommendations if you have found a good one!

Pumpkin Candy Dish & Candle

But the main purpose of today’s post is to actually share a recipe with you!  Anyone who has ever done Weight Watchers is probably very familiar with this one, but for those that aren’t, I wanted to share the world’s EASIEST pumpkin muffin recipe.  Now that a huge figurative weight has been lifted off me at work, I’ve decided it’s time to refocus on some literal weight and get my ass back in shape.

Now for the recipe.  You’ll need:

  • 1 box of spice cake mix (any brand will do)
  • 1 can of pure pumpkin
  • 1-2 egg whites (not necessary, but it gives the muffins a bit more of a cake-like texture and makes them a little less doughy)

Spice Cake mix

Canned Pumpkin & Egg Whites

Follow the directions on the cake mix box for cupcakes.  Most boxes recommend preheating your oven to 350.  While that’s preheating, mix together the pumpkin, cake mix and egg whites.  The batter will make anywhere from 12 to 18 muffins, depending on how large a muffin you want.  I err on the side of smaller muffins as I know I’ll be eating more than one no matter what size they are.

Next I scoop the batter in to the pan.  To make clean-up easier, I line the pan with cupcake liners.  It also will keep them from sticking together once they’re done as I just store them in a large ziploc.  For easiest portioning of the batter, I prefer to use my ice cream scoop.

Pop them in the oven.  I usually set the timer for 15 minutes, then check them with a toothpick (or knife if you don’t mind the gapping hole it will leave, which I don’t).  As I’m still learning the intricacies of my own oven, I popped them back in for another 4 minutes. Once they’re done, let them cool for a few minutes before devouring.  They’re not the prettiest things, but they sure are good.

Pumpkin Muffins!

For those of you counting points, if you divide the mix into 18 muffins, 1 muffin = 1 point.  But if you’re like me and eat 3 in one sitting, 3 muffins will set you back 4 points so just make sure you’re doing the math accurately.

As I’ve been making this recipe for years, I have altered it a few times.  Once I even slathered them with some WW friendly cream cheese icing and passed them off as pumpkin spice cupcakes for a pot luck.  No one knew they were eating half the calories of the real things.  So feel free to jazz them up however you see fit.  As I’m a total baking novice, I can’t advise on how they bake if you, say, throw in some raisins or nuts, but I’m sure they’re just as tasty.

My favorite way to eat them is for breakfast with a piping hot cup of coffee and my Steelers on TV.  It makes for a perfect Sunday!

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Beauty Rest Bedroom

So now that the kitchen is looking good (pending some artwork decisions), it’s time to move down the long hall to our master bedroom.  Our big challenge right now is furniture – although we’re fairly content with the quantity of storage our current dressers provide, they leave quite a bit to be desired in the quality and aesthetics arenas.  And now that I have my rich, wood-toned nightstand, we’re anxious to get the rest of our room up to snuff.

Here’s what it’s looking like these days (excuse all poor iPhone photos – its the first time I felt up to blogging in a while and i was motivated to get it DONE!):

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The first piece we’re focusing on is a new nightstand with storage for Jefe.  His side of the bed is currently rocking the matchy-matchy black Hemnes I purchased 7 years ago when I moved to LA.

Hemnes Nightstand

Since I got so lucky finding my nightstand at the Rose Bowl, we’ve been focusing our search at the flea market.  So far we’ve struck out twice there and once at the Long Beach Flea Market where we ventured for the first time last week.  Frustrated, I started branching out to the usual suspects to see what new pieces retailers like Pottery Barn, West Elm and World Market had to offer.

Pottery Barn has this great Branford Bedside Table in Mahogany that would be perfect, but at $529 ON SALE, it’s not really in the budget.

PB Branford Nightstand

The next option I found was from World Market – the Sara Double-Wide Nightstand in a beautiful shade of grey blue.  With a price of $119 and by adding some more sophisticated hardware, I could totally make this work.  Then I remembered it would be sitting in front of NAVY curtains, next to NAVY and white striped duvet, and I’m planning to lay down an INDIGO rug….. Just too much blue (I didn’t know there was such a thing!)  But the minute they sell this table in a wood tone, it’s MINE.

483546_SARA DOUBLE-WIDE NIGHTSTAND

Target had some interesting pieces including this more rustic accent table, but there was nothing I liked that was tall enough.  I really hate the low-sitting bed trend.

Threshold Mixed Material Side Table

For now, I’m just going to keep looking.  We live 1 block from the Melrose Trading Post and have yet to venture over, so I think that’s where I’ll be headed this Sunday to continue the hunt.

The other pieces we’re looking to replace are our 2 existing Hemnes dressers and eventually our Hemnes bed frame.  Out with the matching bedroom suit, hello perfectly-curated eclectic mix.  We’re definitely looking to go vintage on the dressers so we can get something of real quality which is so much more important for those types of larger pieces.  I’d love to just pick up an antique back in Pennsylvania next time I’m home, but the shipping alone would break any budget we set.

For the bed frame, I’ve had my eye on a variety of slightly curved, nailhead trimmed headboards and Crate & Barrel just released the bed of my dreams.  I was lusting after the similarly styled Colette, but it wouldn’t allow for a box spring and sat too low.  But the Curve Queen Bed in Napa Camel is absolute perfection. Now if I could just scrounge up enough change from the couch cushions to actually afford it….

Curve Bed in Napa Camel

 

To soften things up, I’m dying to lay down this indigo Empire Scroll Rug from Pottery Barn over our hardwood floor.

PB Empire Scroll Rug

In terms of accessories, I’m still toying with that, but I think we’re going to stick with black and white photos for artwork.  We already have two great pieces hung, but we really need something for over the bed.  As we’re in earthquake country, there is very little Jefe will let me hang over our heads, but he has agreed to a lightweight canvas of some sort.  I’d like to find an image one of us has taken and get it blown up and printed on canvas by Shutterfly.  Hats off to Brooklyn Limestone for turning me on to the plethora of new home decor options they offer!

Now that I’ve racked up the costs for this “little” redo, I think we’ll stick with our current bedding, which I think will fit in quite nicely. Here’s a quick recap of the plan:

Master Bedroom Revamp Mood Board

I can’t wait to get started!  Now excuse me while I go rob a bank.

 

Knob Job & Lighting the Kitchen Shadows

(This post is prefaced by apologies for the shotty photography.  One of these days I’ll learn to remember to take pictures during daylight hours on a tripod….)

Continuing on our kitchen adventure, there is one thing that has been just NAGGING at me since we moved in.  Its presence has offended me since I walked in the door.  The culprit:

The great gold offender

The world’s ugliest gold-plated cabinet knob

So on one of our many trips to Home Depot over the last few weeks, I knew I had to find a replacement IMMEDIATELY.  Lucky for me, I found a new brushed silver version that was sold in a 10 piece multi-pack.  This value pack was a lifesaver as we had 18 knobs to replace!

Once I knew they were within budget, I knew the little gold ones’ days were numbered. Why wouldn’t I switch them out for $45 and about 10 minutes worth of work?!  Now some of you may say that’s a LOT of cash for something so insignificant.  But I’ve swapped out knobs on dressers, kitchens, etc and they ALWAYS make a difference.  I’ve never regretted it and provided you save the offending originals, you can take your pretty knobs with you when you leave.  95% of knobs like this are all installed with a single, universally-sized screw which makes replacement a snap.

The great gold offenders - Part 2

Before (insert sad trombone here)

Lovely silver knobs

After (and the heaven’s just opened up and harps are playing my favorite tune)

Now on this same trip to Home Depot and thanks to the moving coupon we signed up for, I knew that I still had some cash left so I decided to fix another simple, but glaring problem in our kitchen.

We are the proud renters of an apartment with boob lights (yes, that’s plural).  We have a horrendous monstrosity that matched those gold knobs currently hanging in our kitchen.  His (or should I say hers?!) days are also coming to a close.

Boobilicious

But while I prep that DIY (thinking a little John & Sherry action here like I did 2 apartments ago for the same problem), I figured I’d fix the sheer lack of light it puts out.

Exhibit A:

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SHADOWS.

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How is a girl to chop an onion without chopping her finger which I have been known to do from time to time….

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Or wash dishes in the dark?!

So thanks to a bit of searching and the eagle eyes of Jefe, we found these little self-sticking, battery operated puck lights.  We needed something that wasn’t permanent and I preferred to not have to worry about finagling a cord.  I also didn’t want something super expensive on the off chance the adhesive wasn’t so easy to remove later on and they become a permanent part of the kitchen.

Now check out the beauty:

Let there be light

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Now that I see this picture, I think I need 1 more for the sink…

Based on the “lip” on the underside of our cabinets, it hides the puck lights perfectly and the light they cast looks like the nicer, permanently installed version.  And the best part – they’re LED without casting that ugly blue light which was a serious prerequisite of mine.

Puck it

In all honesty, these only get 4 stars in my book.  They have an auto shut-off feature after 30 minutes which in theory is great since it saves the battery… until you find yourself hands deep in raw hamburger making dinner and these suckers all decide to go off at once.  Overall though, I’m really pleased with our $12 finds.

Since I ended up using all 3 puck lights we purchased under the sink side of the room, I need to make one more trip to find another option for over the stove that puts out a bit more light and can be left on for much longer periods of time.

Dark sad stove

There a couple of alternatives Home Depot offered, but we wanted to test out our little puck lights first to see if they were even an option with how much light they put out.  Ultimately, we may have to resort to a wired situation here, which I don’t love, but I just feel like this area needs a whole lot more light so I can see what I’m cooking.  No one wants burnt bacon, now do they?!

And since I know it has been awhile and I have yet to show you the rest of the place since we moved in, here are a few teasers of what we have going on in the other rooms:

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Living Room

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Dining Room

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Office / Second Bedroom

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Master Bedroom

So thats the latest around Casa Sledge & Jefe.  Happy Friday!

The Island Archipelago

For those that have been following along on social media, you may have seen this little preview:

Instagram - Kitchen Islands

Jefe and I recently moved and although the pro’s of our new place greatly outweigh the con’s, there were definitely some concessions we made with the new apartment.  One of the top ones is the kitchen and its counterspace (or lack there of).  I have to admit that I was spoiled for 3 years when I had this at my disposal:

Swall Kitchen

And then we moved to our last place, where I thought our counter space was minute.

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But I had no idea how small it could be until we got to our new place:

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That’s it!  Those two slivers on either side of the sink are it.  The cart next to the stove is the previous tenant’s.  The saving grace, however, is that there is plenty of empty space under those two windows.  The previous tenant had that little cafe table there, but as we’ll be using our dining table through that doorway to the right for eating, I decided to add wall to wall counter space with a combination of a few islands.

Plan A) to use our existing Forhoja and pickup up a Norden that would almost span the entire space and then add the small Stenstorp to give us some counter surface next to the oven.  (No, this post was not sponsored by Ikea, but if they’re looking to throw something my way, this new apartment dweller wouldn’t be sorry….)

Forhoja

Norden

Small Stenstorp

The Burbank Ikea, however, had other ideas.  The two closest locations no longer carry the Norden and if we wanted it, we’d have to drive an hour plus OR have it shipped.  With it weighing in over 100 lbs, those shipping costs were not really in the budget.

Plan B) Sell our Forhoja, still purchase the small Stenstorp for next to the oven, and purchase 2 more standard Stenstorp islands.

Stenstorp

Although this option is slightly pricier than the initial plan A (which is why we didn’t go with it in the first place despite it being the more aesthetically pleasing), it will end up costing less than had we had the Norden shipped.  And all of it was in stock!

Fast forward a few days, I start assembling them and I read the directions that the butcher block tops need to be treated with Behandla mineral oil (note – it must be the food safe kind, not the stain) no less than 3 times a week for the first few months.  Nothing is ever easy.  As we didn’t know this upon purchase, I had to make a trip BACK to Ikea for the mineral oil.  Luckily, I actually was thinking ahead and chatted up an Ikea employee in the kitchen department.  She advised that you really only need to do one, REALLY great coat the first time, let it sit overnight and then every couple of months as needed.

Seeing as these islands were purchased to hold all of our smaller appliances such as our microwave and coffee maker, it was music to my ears that I wouldn’t have to move them 3+ times a week just to brush on some oil.

So for the last two weeks, the islands have been assembled, but the tops covered with tea towels until I was actually home long enough to tackle the job.

Finally last weekend I found enough time to hunker down and get it done.  First I had to empty the shelves I had already stocked to avoid coating everything in sawdust.

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(Apologies for all the lame iPhone photos – after spending the last few weeks packing and unpacking, the last thing I felt like doing was searching through piles of stuff for my camera and tripod.)

Per the Ikea employee’s suggestions, I started with a fine 220 sanding block on the surfaces as well as the smaller Stenstorp’s shelves.  I wiped any dust and splinters off the top.  As I had the time, I figured I’d crank out two coats in one night just for the added protection so I cracked open the Behandla and painted one coat over each island top with a foam brush.  Per the can’s instructions, I let sit for 15 minutes, wiped with a cloth, and then let the counters dry for 3 hours.

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This first application really helped me figure out the right consistency for how thick my coats should be.  After I let them dry, I decided to do the one heavy coat I was recommended.  I did another round of sanding and then painted on the oil nice and thick and let it sit overnight.  Come morning, I very gently used an even finer 320 sanding block to clean off the excess layer.

With each application, the tops have gotten slightly darker and smoother.  So just for added measure (and as we had no plans for Sunday morning), I did one final thin coat that morning.  I let it sit for 15 minutes, wiped with the cloth and let them dry for another 2-4 hours.

So far, I’m really pleased with the end result.  I don’t feel like I’ll need to oil them for a few months, but will keep an eye on them for now.

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We still have our Forhoja as we realized that it’s been nice to not cover up half of our new counters with a microwave.  In doing so we discovered that *technically* we have enough room for one more Stenstorp under the windows.

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It will mean 3 lined up end to end, giving us 93 continuous inches of counter space.  Although it’s not totally necessary, I feel like it’s what the space needs to not feel cramped and we’d sell the Forhoja to help offset our costs.

It’s admittedly a lot of islands for one space, but aesthetically they’re in line with our style and I know that should we need one or two in a future home, they will transition well.  They’re also some of the most popular kitchen carts sold by Ikea so I’m confident we could resell them on Craigslist should we find that we don’t need them in said future home.

So project #1 of the new apartment down.  Many more to go.