The Big Art Project

One of the projects I have on my list is to create a large set of pictures featuring CD covers.  The collection of pictures can be swapped out for others to create different moods and maintain a fresh feel.  This project isn’t exactly cheap, just because of its scale.  The CD covers I plan to use are from the MCA Master Series.

The first expense is the frames.  I can’t exactly buy serious photo frames in the quantity I am working with, so I purchased MDF and acrylic poster frames from a business display store.  40 frames cost me almost $300.  The packaging of these frames was ridiculous.  I received two large boxes and a smaller box.  Inside each of the larger boxes was two of the smaller boxes, giving me five smaller boxes in total.  In each of these smaller boxes were two even smaller boxes.  Now 10 smaller boxes in total.  Each of these 10 boxes had four frames in them, giving 40 total frames.  Insane.

The next expense is the photo mats.  The frames are 15”x15” and have a small mat in them with an 11.5”x11.5” opening.  I was planning on printing my CD covers on 8.5”x11” paper, so that means they won’t fit in a 11.5” square opening.  To solve that issue, I bought mats that were 12”x12” and had an 7.5” opening.  Those numbers weren’t exactly arbitrary, they were based on the availability and convenience of 25 packs of those mats.  50 mats cost about $90.

Then, there’s the paper.  It’s standard size paper, but it’s awesome paper.  I found 50 sheets of 230gsm fine art paper for $25.  I don’t know much about it, and maybe someday I’ll use something different, something with a texture.  But this paper is nice, thick cotton and shows well.

Finally, the printer.  I chose a 6-color photo inkjet printer and fortunately got one in wide-format (so I can do 11”x17” in the future).  The quality seems pretty good, for as much as I am able to discern.  I’m not using a magnifying glass to inspect the print quality and I don’t expect anyone viewing these on the wall will do so either.  So with all the components now in my possession, it was time to start.

My very first test was printing the CD cover at its natural size, 4.5”.  The quality was good, so I mounted the paper on the mat, then mounted that mat in the frame’s mat.  The result was a little underwhelming.


The next attempt was filling the mat’s opening, so I printed one at 7”.  The result was a little overwhelming.


Then, I tried to find balance with something in between: 6”.


I thought it was balanced, but the GF made an excellent point that there were too many borders.  The outer mat, the inner mat, then the border around the CD cover.  Considering that for a bit, I could see the layout put more focus on the layers and kind of gave a tunneling effect.  So it was decided to fill the inner mat with the CD cover, printing it at 7.5”.  Even though that’s bigger than the 7” version that I thought was too large, eliminating the inner border somehow doesn’t make you question the size.


A/C Issues

Over the last couple months, my A/C unit has cost me almost $1000.  To be fair, I haven’t had to bite the bullet and drop $7000 on a whole new system, but that time is probably coming soon.  I’m hoping to get through the killer summer months.

A couple months ago, I mentioned how I was going to clean the A/C unit while it was down.  What happens is that the thermal switch in the compressor overheats and shuts the compressor down.  This shutdown signal isn’t sent back to the thermostat, so the thermostat thinks things are still running just fine.  The blower keeps blowing and the thermostat says the system is cooling and the fan is running.  To reset this condition, I have to pull the thermostat off the wall and replace it, which then makes it read the current status of the compressor and starts everything back up again.

Well, after multiple resets, I had to call the repair company.  I felt a bit foolish afterwards because the problem was just a bad cooling fan motor.  Like, I’m so oblivious that I couldn’t troubleshoot that the cooling fan on the compressor wasn’t turning.  That part was replaced for a little over $300 and I was back in business.

Last weekend, the house went up to 84 degrees again.  I instructed the GF how to reset the thermostat until I got home.  When I did get home, things were a little better but not much.  That’s when I noticed the strange noise, like ocean waves.  It was the blower in the attic ramping up and shutting off, over and over again.  So this time, the compressor was running fine, the thermostat was saying everything was fine, but the blower was unable to supply enough cold air to the house to lower the temperature.

I put the house into emergency cooling mode.  I closed all the blinds and pulled the curtains in all the rooms, closed the doors to all the rooms, closed off the vents and return in the game room, and turned on a window A/C unit on the lanai.  I redirected the cool air into the house with a desk fan.  You may think that’s funny, but the window A/C unit was able to keep the main part of my house (and sometimes the open master bedroom) at 78 degrees.  And it did it for four days straight.  That A/C unit hasn’t been run in years and stepped up to the task of cooling a whole house on a moment’s notice.  Bravo, Kenmore.

I called the A/C tech in on Saturday and he identified that the blower motor needed changed, but he didn’t have one.  It was a variable speed motor and they are specific to the exact make and model of A/C unit.  They are also really expensive.  So, repair was put off until Monday.  On Monday, the repair company tried to contact the manufacturer for pricing and availability to no response.  So at the end of the day it was decided to swap out the motor with a single-speed version.  Monday night, I did a lot of research on variable speed motors and learned they have some significant benefits with regard to humidity control.  But, since the whole system is in its final days, running a single-speed blower will do for now.

The tech came out Tuesday afternoon and quickly swapped out the motor.  Looks like something I could have done myself, but, let the pros handle that mess.  $600 for the motor and installation, and I was back in the cool life.  The window A/C unit earned itself a nice long vacation, too.

Referencing my electric company’s usage graph, you can kind of see what happened on Saturday the 15th.  The A/C compressor was running non-stop because the thermostat said to.  Midday on Sunday the 16th, I was worried about burning the compressor out, so I shut off the central air and just left the window A/C unit on.  The 17th, the house was only cooled by the window A/C.  Midday on the 18th, the central air was restored.


Laundry Room Storage

I had been stressing for a long time about installing cabinets in the laundry room.  They are expensive and even more so with the modern style that I wanted.  Every week I would do laundry and have to juggle the baskets, cleaning rags, detergent, and dryer sheets, all of which sat on top of the washer and dryer.  I also folded clothes on top of the dryer, so even more juggling.

While watching an excellent video series called The Weekender, Monica, the host, suggested installing cube dividers on the wall in a laundry room.  It was just what I needed.

While you can get cube dividers just about everywhere, I was sort of fixed on Ikea’s Kallax line, with their big thick frames.  However, Ikea specifically says you cannot install a 2×4 Kallax on the wall.  To read between the lines, they say you can’t mount it on the wall using the stock mounting hardware.

Monica from The Weekender wasn’t using a Kallax, but she did mount the storage unit to the wall with reinforced L brackets, which is what I did as well.  About $30 for four heavy-duty brackets (500 lbs load each) and lag bolts, plus $65 for the Kallax and it was a go.  I originally expected to spend about $500 on cabinets.


First, I used a stud finder and marked the edges of all the studs in the wall.  I would need to screw into the studs with the weight I’m working with (2×4 Kallax is about 75 lbs).  I measured where on the wall I wanted to mount the unit vertically, then marked a straight line for the brackets using a straight edge and level.  Then I marked the screw holes while holding a bracket at the straight line and between the stud edges, also using a level to ensure it was completely vertical.

Lag bolts are thick, so pilot holes need to be drilled to prevent cracking.  When I drilled the pilot holes, I was concerned that I wasn’t getting any wood chips back out.  I test mounted a bracket with one screw and put some pressure on the bracket.  It ripped right out of the wall.  So I made the assumption my lag bolts were WAY too short.  I purchased 1.5” and I probably should have purchased 2.5” or 3”.

After getting longer screws, I drove one in to see when I would hit the stud.  It never happened.  Huh?  I grabbed the stud finder and ran it over the holes I had made.  The stud was not there; it was about 2 inches to the right, which did not line up with the stud edges I marked about 6 inches above.  What a bunch of shit.

So I drilled new holes where the stud really was and got wood in the drill bit.  Then I patched up the old holes and left them to dry for the night.


The Kallax is just short of 58” wide, which means mounting four brackets on four studs gives 48” of brackets for support.  The unit also has some standard mounting brackets for the top, which provide not much more than tip-prevention.  Those will be well-suited for the top of the unit.


With some help from my neighbor, I got it hoisted up and mounted


Next will be baskets and doors.

Master Bath Changes Everywhere

A bunch of updates in the house this week, which also means money was spent.  But there wasn’t any way around it and it had to happen some time.

Painting (finally)

This is something that took a stupid long time.  The room was taped off for a long time, then it was primered for a long time.  Finally, the paint has gone on and the tape has come off.  The color is a light grey, lighter than the shade in the master bedroom.  It blends fine with everything from the green/turquoise vanity top to the terrible pink shower tile.

Installing the vanity light

The light for the vanity, an LED beast, finally got installed. To be honest, it’s too much light.  Maybe I say that because I’ve had to work without any light for so long, but it is very illuminating.


Updating the fixtures

I had my eyes on some Moen fixtures, which aren’t cheap, but are very nice.  One of the requirements was no visible screws – that’s something that exists in the guest bath fixtures and generally annoys me.  The styling is quite modern, and while it doesn’t mirror any of the lines of the cabinet pulls, they should be able to stand alone.  I may update the faucets at some point to complement the style.


Updating the switches and outlets

The Adorne switches and outlets items are all in.  I chose to use the plastic wall plates since the master bath is not generally a public-accessible room.  One new element in this install is a timer switch, which I have hooked up to the exhaust fan.  I’m always leery about running the fan because a) it’s loud, and b) if I only run it while I’m in the shower, that’s not enough time.  But if I leave it run when I’m done with the shower, I won’t be able to turn it off for hours and hours.  So, the timer switch will let me run the fan for 60 minutes after I’m done.

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Upgrading the toilet

This room still has the original toilet when I bought the house, which may be the original toilet when the house was built.  It’s time to move on.  Its replacement is a modern-tech design, with what is called a “rimless” bowl.  This appealed to me because the last months of the old toilet seemed to exhibit a problem with mold building in the openings of the bowl rim.

Art and Greenery

One bullet item on my list was to artify my house.  Overall, my walls have been quite bare.  I’ve owned a couple of nice original art pieces for decades and they were the primary design element for the master bedroom.  One other piece I purchased, I spent a rather large sum on to get professionally framed and that piece now hangs in my office.  I also happened across two large original pieces by the same artist at two different furniture stores and bought them both, providing consistency to my living and dining areas.

I had two other pieces of art I wanted to frame and utilize somewhere.  One was in a gold frame and was wrapped in plastic and the other was just loose in a tube.  My first plan was to repurpose the gold frame, so I released the painting from the frame, which was a sticky mess.  Then I spray painted the frame black.  Then I began to look into cutting the glass for the frame, a task which would also need to be done for the second painting.


Along the way, the GF and I spotted some poster frames at an art store that would let me mount the paintings in a floating fashion.  The painting would be sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic with a clear border where a mat would normally be.  Now, I understand that is not what you would want to do with fine art, since the contact of the glass with the art could be nothing but detrimental.  However, these aren’t exactly “fine art”.  They’re nice, numbered reproductions, but they’re not originals.

Seeing the paintings in the floating frames, I don’t have any regrets on the decision to use them.  And I returned all my framing tools, so I don’t have to worry about learning a new skill now.  Where I had originally budgeted $200 for framing of one of the paintings, I ended up framing both for $60.


A step closer to reality is my massive project of CD cover printing.  I’ve ordered 40 – 15” black frames.  That’s one piece.  I also need to buy fine art paper, a photo printer, and photo mats.  There’s a slight concern about how the matting will work, so hopefully it works out for the best.


On another topic, plants!  When purging the house of the previous occupant’s junk, I saved a couple of neat planters which had given me an immediate image of how to populate them.  I picked up a small cluster of succulents and potting soil.  I broke the cluster of plants up and divided them into the planters.  I’ve never had plants of my own, and the house has been plant-free for many, many years.  So this is bold, new territory for me.