When Katie Cleveland’s family bought their current home, it was definitely a fixer-upper, but it was on an acre, and “All my husband cared about was having enough land for a shop.”
So they built a 2,400 square foot workshop in the backyard (yes, it’s bigger than the house). “It was supposed to be my husband’s workshop,” Katie said, “but I’ve kind of taken over.”
That started because they needed to furnish the home on a single-income budget. When looking at furniture, Katie soon came to the conclusion that, if they purchased power tools instead of buying ready-made furniture, they could build the furniture they wanted for a fraction of the cost.
After building the first project, a console table for the entryway, she was even more convinced: the cost to build was around $60, while purchasing a new one in the same style would have cost $500.
“I read other DIY blogs, and over time I figured out how to use different tools and learned methods for building things,” Katie said, noting that her formal woodworking education was limited to a few classes in junior high.
Katie soon became the family’s main builder, due in part to her husband’s busy work schedule.
And, a few months after beginning to build her projects for their home, she started a blog, addicted2diy.com, to document her experiences. “I’d read other blogs, and I felt I could offer my experiences. I had been sharing my projects with my friends and family on Facebook and decided that starting a blog would be a fun next step,” she said.
“When I first started the blog, I thought I’d do a little bit of everything: woodworking and crafts and recipes.” She soon found, however, that she had less time to devote to all those areas and, “Over the past two years, I have moved my focus more toward furniture and DIY projects.” The other stuff, Katie said, is “not as much of a passion.”
So far, all of her projects published on her blog have been projects that reflect her needs for her own house. “I like to be solve a problem and relate to people,” she said. “For instance, I built a media console two years ago: up until then, we had our brand-new TV sitting on a folding table.”
She learns something on every project, Katie said, and wants to share those lessons with her readers, whether that’s mistakes she’s made, a new way to use a tool or a specific tool that meets a certain need. “Like when I had a tight space to drive screws into, I found an offset drill adpater that’s become a lifesaver.”
The first big tool purchase, Katie said, was a sliding miter saw. “We had a little one, but it couldn’t even cut a 4 x 4.” Katie also noted that, in the early days, “I used to text my husband before using the miter saw to let him know I’d be using it and text him afterward to let him know I was done.”
These days, she acquires some of her tools through blogging partnerships with brands like RIDGID, RYOBI and Rockler – as well as Craigslist purchases. “About two years ago, my husband found a JET dust collector and 36-inch belt sander on Craigslist, and drove two hours to get it. I couldn’t figure out why we’d need it, because we’d never needed one before, but now I use it for a lot of projects,” she said.
The most complex project she’s tackled, so far, was a Murphy bed she built last year in partnership with Rockler. She modified the plans and added a desk so that the room where the bed was placed could be used a guestroom and also double as her office workspace, and that project was one where she did the most things for the first time, Katie said: “Making my own molding, veneer banding for the edges … I figured out it wasn’t as intimidating as it looked.”
Taking the intimidation factor out of the projects she presents on her blog is one of Katie’s goals. A reader favorite, for instance, is a kitchen island with butcher block countertop that she built about three years ago. “People like the idea of doing it, to save money, to add their own dimensions. I tried to simplify the project as best I could.”
She also carries that attitude into the woods she chooses: “I try to make things as easy to acquire as possible,” Katie said. “Sometimes I’ll go to my local hardwood store if I want higher quality wood, but a lot of it I purchase from home improvement stores.”
As for her work on her own home, the guestroom/office containing the Murphy bed is done – that project also involved repainting and replacing flooring. And Katie still has to replace the flooring, but has finished the furniture for, her older, 10-year-old son’s room. The furniture set included a bed, nightstand, dresser and bookcase.
Now, she needs to start on her younger, almost 9-year-old son’s room. He’s the one, she said, who “likes to have a strong opinion about everything I build,” while the older likes to help assemble projects.
“My youngest is starting to come up with ideas, though,” Katie said. “The other night when I was putting him to bed, I saw a note on his nightstand that said, ‘Tell Mommy about the shoe cubby.’” He had an idea for a shoe cubby design, including color choices, that Katie says she will be building for his closet.
One of the projects that’s high on the list of her own favorites is a recent coffee table and side table set “because of the impact it’s made in my great room, which didn’t have a lot of furniture,” she said.
Katie’s work started off with little projects, she said, and has grown as she’s taught herself to do different types of projects. Now, “I’m building things to inspire other people, to take the intimidation factor out of it,” she said. “I try to make it user-friendly.”