2018 was a landmark year for Dunn DIY: We got a brand new beautiful studio, hosted a seminar at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival (for one of our most popular projects of all time, our strawberry planter), and were even featured on a live KING 5 News segment (equal parts terrifying and exhilarating). 2018 was a big year of internal and external validation, and upon reflecting on it, I realized that there was so much growth and so many new milestones because we were finally starting to get into a groove with the everyday stuff.
That idea—being in a groove, where the creativity flows and the projects come together—is what I think about when I think about 2019. A ton of work goes into designing and creating these projects and then sharing them with you all, and while the time and effort that goes into these projects hasn’t changed, the way I feel about the process has. It no longer feels overwhelmingly hard or scary or messy—it feels like waking up in the morning. Some days are more challenging than others, but in general it's a part of my life that I take in stride. Now when I run into bumps in the road (because there are definitely still bumps), it's not upsetting or overwhelming in the way the used to be. I recognize that it's a part of the creative process, and it's often the time when I learn the most and come up with the best ideas. I feel settled, and that feels good.
For various reasons, these projects are an embodiment of my year: lots of creative (and aesthetically pleasing) problem-solving, research, happy accidents, and payoffs of persistence.
How to Make a DIY Mid-Century Litter Box
This project hit the sweet spot for Dunn DIY: it’s completely unique, practical, space-saving, and looks professional but doesn’t require too much skill. And I came up with the idea myself. This type of hidden litter box was impossible to find online—aside from a few aesthetically questionable SkyMall options—so this is a unique solution to an extremely common problem.
Growing up, my cat was mostly outdoors, so we didn’t have a litter box. But when she was a kitten, we had one that we kept in the deepest, darkest corner of our basement, as far away from us as possible. I hated walking near it because it smelled bad and there was always litter everywhere (which really isn’t fun when you’re walking barefoot). I wanted to solve all these problems at once: the smell, the mess, and the ugliness of every litter box cover ever invented. This is my favorite kind of project—one that lets me simultaneously figure out how to solve a problem and create something beautiful. The other great thing about this project was that the idea I envisioned in my mind translated perfectly when I built it. It was so satisfying, and I absolutely loved it!
Cedar Bathroom Makeover Series
This was a very satisfying series to do because it once again allowed me to solve a problem while adding beauty to a space and thinking up unique ways to create things. Between the four projects in the series (storage tower, shower caddy, bath mat, and bath tray), we created a theme for the entire bathroom.
I especially loved the shower caddy because the idea hit me while I was doing some spring cleaning in my own shower. I had a wire hanger on my shower head, but I hated how it looked and it was always falling off—I took it down, and the shower looked so much cleaner with it gone. I suddenly had the idea of doing the old college approach and storing everything in a portable shower caddy so I could easily take it in and out of the shower. I use this all the time, and it lives in the cupboard on a rubber drying mat when it’s not in the shower. It’s a practical solution that takes only a little more effort, but it brings me so much joy when I use it because it’s so cute!
How to Make a DIY Mason Bee Beehive
This project was so much fun to research. I learned from our bat house project that if you’re going to do something like this, you need to understand the animal you’re dealing with and how to cater to its needs. I knew going into this that it would require time and research, so I did a bunch of internet searching and stumbled across a master beekeeper who lives in western Washington and has been housing mason bees for seven years. Since she was knowledgeable, trustworthy, and in the right area, I knew her advice would be applicable. That’s part of what was fun about this project—because mason bees are native to this area, almost all of the resources I found were local. I even found a place in Woodinville where you can buy and and even sell your mason bees. It was so rewarding to be able to work locally while also helping the environment.
In contrast to the bat box, this project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Bats are high maintenance, so the requirements for building a bat box are hyper-specific—you need to build it to specific dimensions, paint it a particular color, and make it a certain shape. It was very limiting. The requirements for mason bees, on the other hand, are much more flexible, so you can make your beehive whatever fun shape or color you like—the bees won’t mind.
How to Make DIY Wooden Napkin Rings
This project developed out of my experience with past projects at Dunn DIY. I got the idea from the dunk tank I built last summer, when I drilled a hole with a hole saw and accidentally used the wrong size—the hole was too small, so I needed to widen it. You can’t drill a bigger hole without the center stabilization of the wood because it has nothing to anchor it, and it would take super human strength to hold the drill in place. I ended up clamping a piece of wood on top and drilling through it to make the hole bigger. I wound up with a ring of wood leftover, which I thought was cool and something you don’t see every day in woodworking—I put it in my scrap pile and forgot about it. This year, I came across a tutorial for making a ceramic napkin ring. I suddenly thought back to that mistake and knew I could turn the ring into something intentional. This experience of experimenting, making mistakes, and solving problems taught me a lot about the DIY process. When I picked up materials at Dunn Lumber, I mentioned what I was working on to the saleswoman, and she suggested painting the inside of the napkin rings red. It was a great idea that made the project even better!
How to Make a DIY Patio Cooler Stand
This is one of those projects that took many different forms over the years and almost happened on five different occasions. But this year, we finally made it happen for Father’s Day. We originally talked about doing a cooler stand similar to this using one of those big coolers, but then the idea morphed into a picnic basket with a cooler attached. The final result is the perfect size and has just the right amount of space for storing things. And it’s a small enough cooler that it doesn’t drain at the bottom, which meant we didn’t need to add drainage components to the wood stand—you can just take it out of the stand and dump it.
I knew this project was going to be somewhat complex—it involves building something around an existing structure, so it has to be fairly exact. I continually ran into problems where I thought I had nailed the design or fit, but then it wasn’t quite right. With most projects, I can assess the different components before I start building, but this one had a lot of components I couldn’t figure out until I had a physical thing built in front of me. It was a figure-it-out-as-you-go project—and thankfully it turned out well in the end. Hopefully, I made all of the mistakes for you and gave you enough structure so you can figure it out as you go without running into too many “oh wait” moments.
One of my favorite elements of this project is an aesthetic thing. I’ve never liked the look of using two-by-fours as legs (I think the rectangular shape looks clunky), but for some reason I used them and solved the aesthetic problem by cutting them at an angle and tapering them down at the bottom. It made the project look very intentional and like a professional piece of furniture.