Life is is busy, and sometimes we just need a quick win — like hanging a giant tapestry, or hanging a smaller tapestry (apparently we’re both suckers for easy tapestry projects). But as satisfying as those can be, nothing beats the feeling of really stretching and trying something new and challenging. Many of our absolute favorite projects are the ones that in the moment (or thousands of moments) we were working on them, we were frustrated, intimidated, confused, overwhelmed, unsure, and flying by the seat of our pants. Today we wanted to share a few of the projects that really stretched our patience, knowledge, and confidence, which made success that much sweeter.
The biggest DIY challenge that I have overcome so far was also one of the ugliest: dealing with this huge hole in the wall in our garage:
This was part of my ill-advised garage makeover endeavor (more on that below) and I was totally stumped, but still resolute to deal with this on my own rather than pay a ton of money to a professional. After a brief conversation with the contractor who did our renovation to be sure this wasn’t a structural issue for the house, I headed to Home Depot where I was essentially told that this project was way out of my league.
But you know how we feel about that sort of advice, so I came up with my own plan, and ended up bricking it in…
… and then coating it with a layer of cement to level with the rest of the wall.
These were totally new skills for me, and while the “after” photos aren’t gorgeous, I am really proud that I was able to resolve this strange issue on my own. Take that, smug men of home improvement stores!
Another project that really pushed me with new skills was when my mom and I took on the flowers for a family friend’s wedding.
It was pretty far outside of the normal content that I share on the blog – mostly because it was pretty far outside of my skillset! I think that is what made it so much fun.
I’m also going to be sharing another “strech project” – pocket holes! circular saw! – next week!
My proudest DIY is hands down the coffee table I built last summer:
Every single element of this project was new terrain for me, from cutting and drilling steel to turning plywood into a sleek table top, troubleshooting a frustrating structural issue, and fixing stupid mistakes.
It took a lot of patience and many steps spread over a few weeks, but the result was a piece of furniture I’m incredibly proud of, use every day, and am still loving a year later. Isn’t that what DIY is all about?
A more recent project I’m especially proud of is the custom cushion I created for the new built-in bench in the dining room:
I do pretty basic sewing projects like curtains and throw pillows, but the idea of sewing a removable cover for a 12′ cushion was daunting — daunting enough that I considered having one custom made. But I took the risk and tried it myself, and I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out. Every time I sit on it I enjoy it even more knowing I did it myself.
And we finally got the Murphy seal of approval on the bench, which as we all know is a huge win.
He does not curl up just anywhere. He’s highly selective.
The Inevitable Disasters
Of course, not every stretch is a success. Frankly, we believe that if you aren’t failing sometimes, that means you aren’t taking risks and challenging yourself — and it wouldn’t be Plaster & Disaster if we didn’t reflect on what some of those failures have been.
First up, Naomi’s garage of doom, and the harrowing tale of how she decided to makeover her garage without any good idea of how big of a project it really was. It started in a really bad spot:
While she made some progress, like patching a bazillion holes, furniture makeovers for the space, and even building a fake beam, she was conquered by a leaking cement floor and the overwhelming amount of work that needed to be done. Winter came and it was too cold to keep working on it, and then she was too
discouraged busy with other things to start again. The project still sits undone.
And not to be left out, Sage submits for your viewing pleasure the time she tried to install Marmoleum floors:
After a lot of frustration with the fact that the whole freaking internet of DIYers reports being able to install this product on their own, Sage finally admitted defeat and hired a professional to do the job.
We are capable people who like challenges, so it can be hard to admit when we bit off more than we can chew or need help. But that’s the reality of DIY sometimes, and there can’t be any triumphant successes without the occasional catastrophe. Or so we tell ourselves.
At the end of the day, our greatest hope with this blog is that it encourages others to go out and learn something new, fire up power tools that scare them, create, and bounce back from failure. What projects make you proudest?