The end of 2018 marks the end of five years of Dunn DIY. It feels simultaneously like I started this yesterday and like I’ve been doing this forever—in a good way. The beginning of Dunn DIY started with me having picked up a drill maybe twice in my life and thinking What am I doing? The beginning of this year started with me pretty much furnishing my entire apartment. I built a bed frame, two nightstands, a kitchen table, a pegboard storage solution, and about a gazillion other things. 2018 has felt like a landmark year in terms of how far I’ve come, and when I sit down in my own home (and lay down in my own bed), I can look around and see everything I’ve built with my own two hands.

It’s also been a landmark year for a number of other reasons: we have a brand new studio that’s somehow even better than the studio we got in 2017, we hosted a seminar at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, and we were even featured on a live KING 5 News segment (terrifying, but so much fun). It’s been a year to remember for all those reasons and dozens more: each and every one of the projects we completed this year. It was tough, but I finally narrowed down my list of projects to these five. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

How to Make a Bed Frame

This is the first project I’ve done where I copied someone else’s furniture design. I saw a bed frame I liked at Crate and Barrel, balked at the cost, and figured I could make my own—so I did, for a fraction of the original's price. You don’t always get to pull something off like that, so it’s always fun when you do. It took me a lot of time to figure out all of the details of this project (I think I drove back-and-forth to Dunn Lumber like 12 times because of everything I hadn’t thought through the first time...or the second or third), but once I figured it out, everything fit together perfectly and it was totally worth it.

It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve built in both size and use (it has to support two grown adults, a mattress, and bedding), which meant it had to be sturdy. I also really wanted it to be attractive, but ran into a bit of a challenge: the wood I chose for its hardiness and size happened to be fire-retardant, which meant it was coated in a not-so-attractive protective layer. I spent hours sanding off the coating to turn a piece of wood that’s not meant to be pretty (or meant to be a bed) into something attractive, which was a big victory. I also used a Kreg jig, which continues to be one of the most satisfying tools to use—not being able to see the screws is one of the easiest ways to make a piece of furniture look professional. This bed and I have been through a lot together—like the time we moved and had to take it completely apart, carry it down a ladder from our lofted bedroom, and reassemble it in our new apartment. Including it on this year’s roundup was a no-brainer.

diy bed frame

How to Make a Hammock and Hammock Stand

Much like the bed, the hammock stand was a bigger project than just about anything I’d done before. This time, the challenge wasn’t necessarily the size, but the physics—something I considered greatly when I was designing the project, which made it that much more upsetting when the project failed to work like it should have (in my mind, at least). 

This project took me back to the early days of DIY, where I’d sit down and walk through all the details of each project with my dad. The advice he gave me for this one was great, I just failed to talk to him about the one detail that mattered: the detail that made everything fall apart any time anyone tried to sit in the hammock. It took two or three tries to get a final design that didn’t cave in on itself, which wound up being a valuable learning experience. As I’ve become more and more comfortable with complex DIY projects, I’m more comfortable with shortcuts. This was one of those projects where you just couldn’t take any shortcuts—which made it so rewarding when I finally figured out how to make it work the long way. Plus, the hammock itself was fun to make—I discovered that fabric dries quicker than rope, and I loved seeing my newly honed weaving skills create something both beautiful and functional.

diy hammock and hammock stand

How to Make a Slip and Slide

I’m sensing a theme here: projects I thought were going to be easy to design that were, in fact, not. The nice thing about the slip-and-slide was that while it took me awhile to figure out exactly how to put this one together, it wound up being super easy to actually make. I love figuring out projects that are challenging for me to design but easy for other people to follow. This project was fun for that reason, but also because it made up for the severe lack of slip-and-slides in my childhood. The highlight of this one was definitely hooking up the hose to a hot-water spigot so we could still enjoy the slip-and-slide on a drizzly Seattle summer day.

diy slip and slide

How to Make a DIY Outdoor Chess Set

The chess set was so much fun! I felt like I was really able to use the knowledge and skill I’ve developed over the past five years and channel it creatively in ways I’ve never done before—like figuring out how to use a circular saw to make grooves for the rook. Plus, there was the strategizing that had to be done to figure out how to fold up the chess board so it’d be easy to store and lug around. The idea for that challenge specifically came to me in the middle of the night and played out just how I wanted it to—don’t you love it when that happens? 

This was also the project on which I discovered my absolute favorite DIY hack: using hot glue for laying down flooring for just about everything. It makes everything so much easier. This project was one that gave me an opportunity to finesse my craft and get out of my comfort zone, but what’s really great about it is that it’s so easy to scale for skill levels. I get excited about projects that are accessible to lots of people, and this is definitely one of them. If only I liked playing chess…

diy outdoor chess set

How to Make a Wooden Advent Calendar

I don’t know what it is about miniature things that always brings me so much joy, but I just can’t help it: tiny things are so cute, and this tiny advent calendar is no exception. I really enjoyed taking this project to the next level, adding details, and pushing my patience. Something I’ve noticed about other advent calendars is that they’re often painted straight red—the chimney, Santa, everything is blanketed in one shade. This one is far more realistic, which makes it look a lot more sophisticated—the bricks are multiple shades of red (I can’t get over them—they look just like real ones), the wood is stained. It just feels professional. I’m glad I spent hours meticulously painting this thing, because it’s going to be a staple in my home for the next 50 years.

diy wooden advent calendar

Each of these projects stood out to me because they either challenged my knowledge and skill or they allowed me to tap into a new level of creativity. I had so much fun (and grew exponentially!) in 2018, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come in 2019. Cheers, DIYers!