Remember that cheer?  ” You can do it, you can do it, so let’s GO!”  

I’m here to tell you that its true, you CAN!

The other day I was on a website where people can leave comments about a residential project that had been posted – there were pictures and info about what products were used and all that.

 Aside from the snarky comments that safely-invisible people seem compelled to write, many of the queries had to do with how someone could duplicate some of those spiffy effects more inexpensively.  Although, in truth, the comments were more ‘what the heck, get real, how can anyone afford THAT!’

However, being the Pollyanna that I am, I would rather think that they were sincerely asking for help to do just such a thing!

 If you want to learn how to install tile, for instance, both Home Depot and Lowe’s provide step-by-step seminars in their stores.   Here is a link to the Projects page for Lowe’s  How-to’s on installing tile or vinyl flooring are available as is info on a Kitchen Make Over.  Read the comments from readers and you’ll learn from their mistakes and get tips to make the job easier.

 There are websites, too, with helpful info, videos and pictures.  One of them is  You can learn how to motorize roller shutters, make door hinges,  make modular furniture, build an outdoor BBQ, restore cabinets, change out your kitchen faucet or even, ta-da!, remodel your kitchen.

Pop-up spice rack, right in the countertop! by Troy Firgelli Automations

 There are hundreds of different how-to’s and creations on the site, like how to build a ‘cave’ to age cheese,  make paper flowers, decorate cakes, lots of crafts and up-cycling projects, replacing a motorcycle exhaust, how to be Tony Stark for Halloween and refurbishing vintage suitcases, just to name a few!

Jamo-G as Tony Stark Yeah, I know you wish you'd thought of it!


Here’s another helpful website:   She builds furniture, decorations, ornaments and has tutorials on hanging wallpaper and refinishing kitchen cabinets, step-by-step! 

saturday a.m. CentsationalGirl

Sunday p.m. CentsationalGirl


I love the magazine Real Simple.  It shows ways to be elegant in a less labor-intensive fashion, sort of Martha Stewart-lite.  Their website has info on home improvement and insights into which designer sites are the best, what improvements pay off in the long run and so on.

One of the most IMPORTANT things to know is:  Use the right tool for the job!  If you don’t have the right tool, borrow, rent or buy it!  Do NOT make do with something else cuz it can take you twice as long.  And you may end up having to start over or having to buy more of what you just ruined.  Honest.  I’m not kidding. 

Drill press kludge

Are you installing tile in the kitchen?  Use a tile saw!  And make sure you have new blades.  Using old blades takes longer and the cuts will be rough and choppy-looking and you’ll probably bust a lot of tiles needlessly.  Not to mention saving your temper!

 We rented a tile saw the first time Rick installed tile…by the time he was done with the installation, he could have purchased a new saw of his own.  Next time we borrowed a tile saw from a contractor buddy.  Better idea.  The next time Rick did tile work, he bought a tile saw. 

 Measure twice and cut once!  Go slow and steady, don’t try to finish before the sun sets.  Be realistic about your learning curve and the time it takes to do the job.  Count on 1.5 times however long you’re told it will take, maybe 3 times that long and you’ll make a bunch of trips to the hardware store for things you forgot…or broke…or misplaced 😉

You could even put in your own hardwood floor – if you’re using tongue-and-groove planks, then you’ll want to use a nail gun.  Or use the glue-in-place stuff.  If you don’t have a preference in the exact type of wood floor, then go to Lumber Liquidators.  They have great deals when they have, say, 300sf left over from another job and they want it out of their warehouse.

 Ask for advice, believe me, everyone loves to give advice.  How did they do it, what did they learn, what would they change about the process?  Learn where to spend the money and where you can save it.  There are lots of home improvement blogs and articles.  Spend a little time reading their comments and you’ll save yourself some time and money in the long run.

 Look for deals.  Internet shopping is fun!  There are discount/overstock stores around, too, so check out, and to search for them in your area.  One such store in town is called Bullnose Tile  They carry discontinued and overstock items and you can get terrific deals.  If you have an eye for high-end tile but don’t have the budget, then check out this type of store.  You can use also use high-end stuff for the pretty accents and details and buy less expensive, generic tile for the rest of the tile field.

Be careful, though.  Dal-Tile has a showroom with lovely tile, but they also sell to HomeDepot (or is it Lowe’s, I forget).  The HomeDepot tile doesn’t necessarily have the same quality standards or thickness as the showroom tile.  I don’t know if the tile is ‘seconds’ or not but we talked with one contractor who refused to use any tile from a warehouse store because the quality wasn’t there.  If you buy field tile from HomeDepot and accent tile from a showroom, then the tile edges might not match up – which might be OK, depending on the location of the accent, but be forewarned and check it out before you buy. 

 I wanted a higher-end look in the Butler Pantry so I did a lot of searching for something special.  I found special, all right!  $300 for a 2×3 panel of tile with palm trees, absolutely lovely.  However, our budget couldn’t handle that.  So I kept searching and found these great tiles with pictures of wine labels on them.  They have a TON of tile designs – modern, fruity, country, artsy, café-y, cutsey, scenic, biblical, animal, you name it.  And, for a small fee, they will send you a sample of the tile – say it’s a mural and you want to see a tile from the top left – they will mail it to you!  I think I paid less than $100 for them.  And, you know, everyone who saw those tiles remarked how cool they were! 

  There’s a great store in Capitola called Red Poppy.  No website, but they’re on Facebook as ‘Red Poppy Capitola’.   Every time I go there, I buy something and I was very bummed the last time I went and they were closed!  Darn it!  Anyway, we bought a lovely tile with a beach scene on it.  The tile was about $42 and had a felt-like backing with a nail-hanger-thingy so you could hang it on the wall.  Rick took the backing off and we framed it like so above our sink.  Cheaper than the similar tiles we’d seen in tile showrooms, yay!

Above our sink...the field tile is the color of sand, doesn't show up well here.

You might not be able to (or even want to) duplicate what you see in magazines or on TV, but you can make changes and improvements at some level!  Don’t be afraid.  Step out and you’ll discover just how capable you are!  😉