Lapa string lights

Patio Lighting

As is common in our neighbourhood, our house came with an outside lapa area with a built in braai (barbecue), and like most areas of this house it was functional but not very pretty. Well, semi-functional at least. The thatch was falling off and at some point it had been tiled with white indoor tiles, so it’s like a skating rink when even slightly damp. It also had a cold white fluorescent light, which lacked something in ambiance for warm summer evenings spent round the braai.

Last year when we were in Sweden on holiday I really loved the lighting that people had put up on their balconies. Our hotel was in the Hammarby area, and most of the buildings nearby seemed to consist of shops on the ground floor with apartments above. It just looked so pretty at night with many of the balconies decorated with fairy and icicle lights. This was my initial inspiration to create something pretty here at home. I considered icicle lights, but battled to find nice ones that weren’t twinkly or multicoloured, and were safe for outdoor use. It was a good thing that I couldn’t find what I wanted immediately as, upon reflection, I decided it might look too christmassy, plus the lapa roof is not too high, and would present problems, like having to walk through a curtain of hanging lights to get into the area.

My next bit of inspiration was these string lights:

 

Restoration Hardware Vintage Style String lights

 

I saw these online on Restoration Hardware’s site, and of course they are American. So where does one find something like this locally? Short answer, nowhere. I searched all over and was repeatedly offered multicoloured LED balls similar to these:

 

Multicolored LED string lights

 

Not quite what I had in mind… I was bemoaning my lack of success in finding lights that I liked, and the annoying fact that ordering lights off Amazon wouldn’t be a good idea due to the differences in electricity between here and the USA when I friend suggested making my own. Now I had wondered about this, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Anyway she suggested using illumination cable. Remember back in the 80’s everyone had those multicoloured lightbulbs hanging up in their garden/pool/bar area? Well this is the same stuff used to make those – it creates a string of sockets that accept a normal B22 (bayonet cap) lightbulb. I used this tutorial from EmmaJaneNation:

 

EJN-Make-your-own-bistro-lights

 

She explains fully how to do it, but basically you screw the quick fit lamp holders onto the cable. Really easy stuff, stick a plug on one end and seal up the other end with a screw-it or some electrical tape and you are done. You can buy all of this stuff at Builders or any other big hardware shop, but I got mine from a dedicated electrical supplier since Builders sells them in packets of five and I want a whole lot of them, 44 total in fact. I used 15w incandescent globes, which are now no longer available. A prettier but costlier option would have been to use some of those gorgeous carbon filament globes. I have stockpiled a few extra globes as I knew they were being discontinued but at some point in the future they will run out and I will have to make another plan. If you’re wondering about the electrical side of it, the cable can handle 25A of current, which is more than the average domestic plug circuit, so even if I (or some ignoramus) foolishly loaded this thing up with 100W globes the circuit would trip before the cable failed.

We then used standard cable clips to attach the cable to the beams of the lapa like so:

 

Illumination cable string lights

 

Even using 15W globes this thing is super bright, so we added a dimmer switch to make the level of brightness controllable. We also removed the original fluorescent light and put up this little chandelier style light. Even though it is outdoors it hangs right in the centre of the lapa, and so it would take some serious weather for it to ever get wet out there. I promise if there is ever a hurricane we will make sure it’s dry before switching it on.

 

Copper coloured chandelier

 

Finally, the finished product. I’m really happy with the way this turned out, so happy in fact, that I made all my friends come over for a braai in the freezing middle of winter because I was excited about it when we finished it (also, I am poor at planning, clearly this should have been done for summer!).

 

Lapa string lights

 

So much better than the grim fluorescent lighting that was out there before! The area is a work in progress though, it has been re-thatched but still needs to be re-tiled, as the tiles are slippery and a few are broken. Plus I want to build some kind of storage in the area under the braai so we can keep spare charcoal out there without the dog chewing and/or eating it (I wouldn’t put it past him!).

And because I couldn’t quite let go of the fairy light idea, I finally found some non-twinkly, warm white, outdoor safe, non-battery powered LED ones (what do you mean, picky?) from CPS Warehouse. I hung them around the railing on the front patio and am pretty pleased with how this looks too.

 

Patio fairy lights

 

The yard is still a disaster zone, and landscaping is not on the cards any time soon, but at least now at night, with the half dead and dog chewed plants hidden in the dark, and the pretty lighting decorating the entertainment areas it is looking quite good.

Collection of wood sanders

Some thoughts on sanders

Waaaay back when I was a student moving into my first place I had a need for a sturdy set of shelves on which to place my textbooks, files and assorted paraphernalia. Having already blown most of my meager budget on such frivolous items as a bed and desk, I decided to build a set myself. I had no tools to accomplish this goal, so the size of the shelves was determined by the pre-cut sizes of chipboard available at the hardware shop and I chose to nail them together, rather than buy a drill, bits and screws and complicated stuff like that. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, from friends, to co-workers, to the crusty old guy at the hardware shop, told me that they would fall apart. Ha! Guess what, they are still standing a decade later, possibly held together mainly by optimism and a blend of enamel and acrylic paint, but standing none the less, and still holding heavy books to boot!

Despite this early success, my next attempt (a bedside table this time) was a horrible failure and quickly relegated to the dump. Somewhere around this time I decided maybe a drill would be useful after all (it is!) and picked up one of those Ryobi box sets where you get a drill plus two other tools for slightly more than the price of the drill alone. Mine came with a jig-saw and this bad boy:

 

Ryobi sheet orbital sander
Ryobi one-third sheet orbital sander

 

I was quite excited to use it, the joys of hand sanding furniture having already paled, and foolishly decided to strip a small painted table that I had. The stripping (as anyone who has ever attempted such a thing will tell you) was a complete nightmare (I used Nitromors chemical stripper), but, at length I had an almost clean table ready to be beautifully finished and stained. I optimistically plunked this thing down and went for it, and was instantly sad. While it is quite powerful, and good for large areas, I find that the rectangular plate leaves lines on wood, almost as though the edge of the plate makes better contact than the central portion. On a soft wood like pine this means deep gouges and a not great finish. More hand sanding for me!

It was only after moving in here, and refinishing some furniture that we had hung onto through the various moves, that I felt the need to try the whole power sander route again. Since I was somewhat wary, after my previous experience, I didn’t want to spend much money, and got one of these little Black & Decker mouse sanders, introducing mouse 1.0:

 

Black and Decker Mouse Sander
Black and Decker Mouse Sander

 

After using it to finish off the flowerpot my first assessment was, “if this thing ever breaks I’m going straight out any buying a new one!” I used it for everything, doors, door-frames, windows etc… It’s small, lightweight, easy to use with one hand and easy to maneuver in tight or awkward spaces. It also comes with a detail attachment that makes it easy to get into really tight spots. I loved it so much that, ultimately, I loved it to death. I noticed that it became much noisier to use, my hand would start to ache after only a few minutes of use, and the base plate seemed wobbly. I had a quick google and found that this is a common issue, the plastic clips holding the base plate on melt and the whole thing comes loose. However, I did exactly as I said I would, and bought another one, especially since I felt that I had abused the first one. To avoid abusing mouse 2.0 I also got this guy:

 

Bosch Random Orbital Sander
Bosch Random Orbital Sander

 

Now we’re talking. I finally have a sander that makes smooth work of a tabletop. It’s a dream to use, has variable speeds and of all the sanders I own this is the only one where the little dust box container thing seems to actually work, and, well… contain dust. I love this thing, and pretty much use it for everything except details and edges. While it works fine on edges (like the side piece of a table top for example) the paper tends to catch and then fly off, after which it cannot be re-attached (I’m assuming the Velcro shears or shreds or something?).

Despite using the Bosch sander for all the heavy lifting mouse 2.0 didn’t fare nearly as well as mouse 1.0. It too, died a loose plate death shortly after I got it (and after only very light use). By this stage I had realised that the cheapies are actually false economy and went looking for a better mouse. I had seen a Bosch multi-sander at Builder’s but passed on it as it was about R1000 and had an odd plate that looked like it would only work with the Bosch brand sandpaper. When I went looking for it again I was surprised to find that Builder’s doesn’t seem to carry them anymore, but that was a good thing, because it meant I went to Mica instead and they had a whole range of mouse sanders. Enter mouse 3.0:

 

Bosch PSM Primo Mouse Sander
Bosch PSM Primo Mouse Sander

 

It’s small, lightweight and designed for one handed use like the B&D, and is almost half the price of the much larger Bosch multi-sander (which is also triangular shaped). As an added bonus it has the same size and shape base plate as the B&D, and can take generic sandpaper pads. I usually buy the Blacksmith brand ones for all my sanders, although I have seen a few others. They make sandpaper pads to fit most of the sanders you would find around, just check on the front of the package which sander it is for, as there are a couple of different hole patterns and if you get the wrong one the dust removal won’t work. Also, with the circular pads make sure the ones you are getting are 125mm for a sander, as they also come in 115mm for use with an angle grinder, and look identical on the packaging.

To sum up, if you are just starting out and want a little tool to help with sanding then I really recommend getting a little mouse. The B&D is a great price but isn’t hardy, you’re probably better off buying a better one if you can (the Mega Mica at Eastgate has a good selection). The Bosch orbital is awesome, and definitely the tool to have if you want to sand any large surfaces, I don’t really use the Ryobi orbital much anymore because I find the Bosch so much better and easier to use.

 

 

Header Photo - final

How it all began

Or, a master closet reveal, a salmon carpet and a flower pot.

So, why a blog?

A bit over a year ago, we were living in England, in a rented furnished flat that we couldn’t make any changes to. It was an OK place, but it wasn’t home, and I felt homesick and frustrated, and longed for a place of my own to personalise. The, um, décor in the flat left much to be desired too, and only fueled my desire to create my own space.

Exhibit A: the delightful salmon colored carpet as a tasteful backdrop to my (then) PC components

 

Salmon Coloured Carpet - UgleeHouse
Exhibit A: the salmon coloured carpet

 

Not only was the colour of this carpet an affront to my eyeballs, it was also stained and marked with mysterious burns (allegedly a previous tenant managed to set off the fire alarm for the whole building by smoking in there, I can believe it). I heartily wished that I could drag that ugly thing out and finish off what the previous tenant started in a fiery pile of blazing glory.

So I waited and dreamed, and whiled away my time, doing pointless things like playing the Sims for the sole purpose of building houses (be kind, my job didn’t allow me to get out much).

All that changed when my husband came across this master closet reveal via Lifehacker from My Love 2 Create.

 

Master Closet Makeover, MyLove2Create

 

He thought it was pretty cool (I think the words organised and tidy may have been mentioned) and showed it to me. I thought it was cool too, and, after clicking around a bit, discovered the realm of home/DIY blogs. It was like a whole new world was revealed to me, and I was instantly hooked. I spent the next few months obsessively reading blogs, bookmarking things and longing for a place of my own.

Cut to a few months later, we had moved back to SA, and, after a whirlwind search, had bought and moved into our current home. We certainly didn’t choose the place for its looks (hence the name of this blog). It hasn’t aged gracefully with its vibacrete front wall, and Spanish-style burglar bars that gives it a rather prison-like vibe from the street. Not much curb appeal there! But, it’s in a great neighbourhood, is structurally sound and a good size. We specifically looked for a home with a dated interior so that we could redecorate and renovate to create a home personal to us.

Which brings me to the flowerpot.

This rather small and unassuming creation was my first (little) home DIY project for this house. It was left here by the previous owner and is of rather cunning design as it covers the drain outside the back door. Initially it was covered in flaking brown paint, spiderwebs and sadness. I stripped it, sanded it (with the then new and much loved mouse 1.0, we’re on mouse 3.0 by now) and spray painted it a dark grey. Much better, no?

 

Resprayed Flowerpot - UgleeHouse
Exhibit B: the flowerpot

 

After finishing it I felt an inexplicable need to show pictures of it to anyone who would stand still long enough to look, a trend that has continued with all the bigger more ambitious projects that came after it. So, instead of driving my friends and co-workers into a fit of glazed eyed insanity, I figured I’d better just make a blog of my own to post this crap on.

So here we are.