December 2010: Rental Rescue


 With Jack Frost nipping at your nose and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season upon us, the need for home as a comfortable, cozy escape is at the top of our wish list. We tend to focus a lot of our time, energy, and resources on communal spaces—those that are most seen and used by others, including our guests. While we don’t want our dinner parties to look like a picnic, with folks sitting on the floor to eat, it’s also important to give some love and attention to those more private spaces that others don’t see as often—you live there after the holiday party’s over, after all. For renters, especially those with roommates, the bedroom is a chance to create a space that is truly one’s own.

The bedroom is and should be a very personal space, the perfect place for relaxation, recuperation, movie watching, Sunday crossword puzzling, and well, you know …other things. If you’re like me, you’re more likely to invest in a great bed instead of a desk, because you’re just going to pull the laptop onto the bed and set up shop there anyway. From the choice of linens to the headboard, a bed can create a strong focal point and add visual impact to a dull room, even the simplest builder’s-grade rental. 

I was particularly inspired by my friend Laura’s homemade headboard project and how she brought charm and personality to her midtown home with a few easy steps. 


1. A reclaimed door. Similar to last month’s fireplace project, this is an opportunity to explore secondhand Charlottesville, and do one of my favorite things, shop locally. Laura found her door at the Habitat Store on Harris Street for a fraction of the price of a new door. Alternatively, consider using a reclaimed mantel, iron screen, or reclaimed gate/picket fence. 

2. Two support posts. Depending on the weight and size of your door, your selection will vary. Consider using 1x4s,  2x4s or reclaimed table legs. Laura was able to use sturdy railing spindles to support her project.


Your trusty electric screwdriver and accompanying wood screws. Optional: long bolts and nuts. 

Getting started: 

Begin by removing any unnecessary hardware from the door. Depending on the condition of the door/look you’re going for, you may consider sanding, stripping, or painting the door. Lay the door on its side longways. Line your support posts up, evenly spaced across the back of your headboard, about 3-4" from the top of the door. Using your wood screws and electric screwdriver, attach the support posts to the headboard. 

Stand the headboard up on the support posts. Depending on the placement of your bed and frame, you may be able to support the headboard between the bed and the wall. I recommend attaching the headboard to your bedframe using long bolts and nuts (most metal bed frames already have holes ready for attaching headboards). Without being attached to the wall, the headboard is ready for easy removal. 

To tie in the door theme, Laura hung photos of different doors from her travels around the world, adding more character and personality to her space. 

With a few local resources and a few quick steps, you can go from Head Bored to Headboard in a matter of minutes—just in time for those visions of sugarplums to come dancing this holiday season.—Ed Warwick


Shock and awe

This time of year always has me thinking of scary electrical situations. It’s all the Clark Griswold-inspired holiday displays, I suppose. In any case, this is a good opportunity to discuss the outlet tester. This tool, which typically costs under $10, tests both an electrical outlet’s functionality and its safety. 

Here’s how it works: Plug the device—which has a three-prong plug like a power cord on one end—into an outlet and it will light up to indicate whether the outlet is getting power and whether that power is properly wired with hot and neutral wires and grounded. A legend provided on the device will help you determine the meaning of the lighting pattern. Your tester mostly likely will list seven possible patterns. (1) means correct wiring, followed by six other possible wiring issues —(2) open ground; (3) reversed polarity; (4) open hot; (5) open neutral; (6) hot and ground reversed; and (7) hot on neutral with hot open. 

It’s a good thing to check all your outlets when you move into a new place, and before, say, stringing 10 million twinkling lights to your roof. If you’re doing any electrical work, such as replacing kitchen and bathroom outlets in an old home with new GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets, you’ll want an outlet tester around to ensure power is off before you start the work and that the circuit is working properly after you’ve done the work. Look for an outlet tester that includes a GFCI test function. For older homes or apartments with two-prong outlets, you can find an adapter to use the three-prong outlet tester.—Katherine Ludwig