Tag Archives: charity

Thursday, October 17 2013

Teach an old door new tricks — Upcycle Challenge

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In high school, I chose musical theatre class over woodworking because I was afraid I’d lose a finger. It’s been 10 years but I’ve finally realized this was a huge mistake.

The Vancouver Home and Design Show has, for a second year, invited me to participate in the Ultimate Upcycle Challenge. This time, there’s a twist: ‘Unhinged’ as the competition is called, would see seven individuals transform an everyday door from the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore into something worthy of purchase at the home show’s silent auction (running Oct. 17-20 at BC Place).

Every DIYer has their comfort zone, and sawing wood is about as far out of mine as possible. Still, I wanted to push myself to try something new with this door challenge, and despite countless miscalculations/errors/accidents, I managed to execute my hanging shelf concept: something to help organize towels and toiletries in the bathroom, or scarves and belts in the bedroom.

My first foray into furniture design will be open for bids starting today at the home show, with all proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

If you’d rather do it yourself, than buy it yourself, the hardest part of this DIY is sawing straight with a handsaw. Lucky for you, I’ve found an absolutely foolproof way to get a straight line every time.


  • door
  • sandpaper
  • towel bar
  • shelf brackets
  • power drill
  • paint
  • handsaw
  • Rust-Oleum satin paint + primer, white

How to: Door-turned-wall-organizer

  1. First, saw the door in half. The secret to sawing in a straight line with a handsaw is a physical guide. I learned this the hard way and after my first crappy cut I used the bottom half of the door to guide me. I recommend getting wood long enough to span the door and weighting that down or using clamps. As you can see, I used art books, all of my art books!
  2. Draw a line where you’re going to cut. Mark your starting-point line with the handsaw by doing a few back strokes, moving the saw up towards you. Then start sawing, using the wood edge as a guide and using your free hand (in glove) to push lightly on the saw to minimize the bouncing (this is supposed to cut down on damage to the bottom cut). After that, saw off the bottom piece (below the blue line in the ‘Before’ photo), this will be your shelf.
  3. Fill holes, sand and wash your door to prep for primer and paint (primer optional).
  4. Paint the base colour (half Martha Stewart Craft Paint in Beach Glass and half Titanium white) on the top three-quarters of the door piece and then the shelf (don’t forget the sides). *Note: If you’re mixing your own paint, for heaven’s sake save some extra in containers in case you need to do touch-ups. Otherwise any extra paint you have to mix afterwards is unlikely to be the exact same colour. 
  5. Hardware: OUTSIDE (!) take Rust-Oleum and spray paint shelf brackets, screws and towel bar. Do a couple coats in short bursts and let dry before you go for another round. Tip: Use a coat hanger for the shelf brackets.
  6. Ombre the main piece with the Rust-Oleum white, spraying at the bottom and going past the three-quarter mark where the mint colour ends. Hold your arm straight as you sweep across with white to get that nice gradient, ombre effect.
  7. After all elements are dry, attach the shelf and then the towel bar using a power drill. You may have to touch up the paint on the brackets afterwards, for me paint got chipped off during the drilling portion.
  8. Mount shelf-towel-bar-upcycled-door thing on the wall and you’re done! Leaning optional.
Thursday, October 3 2013

Unhinged — DIY Upcycle Challenge with Habitat for Humanity


Once again, I’ve been invited to participate in what is essentially the DIY Olympics: the Upcycle Challenge for the Vancouver Home + Design Show (running Oct. 17-20).

This year, myself and eight competitors were tasked with finding a door from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, which we will transform into something worth auctioning off at the home show. I say worth auctioning off, because my biggest fear is that I will mangle the door and make it worth less than it was to begin with (approx. $5).

The doors (in their various forms) will be on display at the home show for a silent auction with all proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

My completed door (before photo seen above) is due MONDAY so I expect to make five more trips to the hardware store and ruin several more shirts between now and then.

Wish me luck!

Last year’s entry: a revamped vintage desk from the Sutton Place Hotel



Thursday, November 22 2012

Trial, error and Movember DIY


Not every DIY is a success. Its trial and error nature means that sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. These DIY experiences are still valuable because learning how not to do something is as important as learning how to do something.

I don’t know what about Movember screamed ‘shower curtain’ to me, but as soon as I had the idea, I knew it had to be done.

Unfortunately for my drawing hand, because of the pattern I chose, it had to be precise and there was no artistic Hail Mary that could save me if I wimped out halfway.

You cannot imagine the finger cramps, neck cramps, tears, back pain, lost sleep and despair that occurred during the 10-plus hours it took to trace, and the three late nights it took to colour-in this 6-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide monster in time for deadline.

However, the beauty of this Amazing Race-like ordeal is that I explored all the things not to do so that you can, dealing with a variety of variables, execute the shower curtain design of your dreams, instead of your nightmares.

Let’s talk pens

Paint pens are this awesome invention that produce an opaque paint effect on glass, metal, plastic, wood and more. They come in oil- or water-based colours and have the precision of a pen without the water, brushes and sloppiness of the real thing.

Unfortunately, each brand behaves differently. I found the Sharpie brand to flake off on a shower curtain, while the Craft Smart brand worked perfectly fine — until they ran out shortly after I had started. I went through eight of these before hitting the one-eighth mark.

If you are drawing something other than an intense pattern that will use up a ton of paint, you can go with paint pens. Alternatively, you can try duct tape pens (expensive) or a plain permanent marker (cheap). Tip: Buy pens from a place with a great return policy. *Editor’s note: After use, the second type of paint pen flaked off, therefor nulling any recommendation for paint pens. Don’t use them on this material!

It’s all about testing

This shower curtain was a heavy-duty 100% vinyl hotel-grade shower liner, so its texture was more like smooth plastic than weaved cloth, which meant I could use one fat Sharpie marker on the whole thing without it bleeding and ruining my design. I found this out by testing how the permanent marker wrote on the inside of the curtain at the bottom. It bled like crazy on my old shower curtain (100% polyester), but worked perfectly on this one. Save yourself the headache and go heavy-duty vinyl.


  • 100% vinyl shower curtain ($10 @ HomeSense)
  • permanent marker ($1.50) 
  • stencil (optional)
  • printer (optional)
  • pencil

[howot]How-to: Mo shower curtain

  1. Find a shower curtain or liner made from 100% vinyl.
  2. The curtain doesn’t have to be a light colour, but I traced my image and had to be able to see through it. With a stencil, this wouldn’t be an issue.
  3. You can freehand a design or trace a stencilled pattern or picture. I made a moustache pattern in InDesign and printed it out, but any pattern from the Internet, or proper stencil kit from a store will work.
  4. Trace your design out in pencil first.
  5. After rigorous testing, plain old permanent marker is best as long as you’re using a vinyl curtain that won’t let the pen bleed. So get a fat Sharpie in any colour and start filling in all your traced moustaches.
  6. Remember to take breaks.[/howto]

Tweet me @JuliaDilworth if you try this out!