Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Home Renovation Tool You Need - Even Before You Get Started - SweetHome 3D

We bought a nearly century-old farmhouse "with potential". And if you're reading this, it's likely you've taken a similar leap. So, you shouldn't be surprised to read that our journey here at Rehoboth Farm has been seasoned with a steady stream of renovation projects. You might be in a very similar boat - facing "potential" and hunting for a paddle.  Well, Sweet Home 3D is our paddle and I'm eager to share why.

Potential is usually nothing but a fleeting hope - but, in rare cases it can be realized - only through the blood, sweat, and tears of someone with vision. We have chosen to chase that vision for our home with our whole hearts. The blessing in that is we have been able to take this lump of clay and form it in to a masterpiece...bit by bit.  The struggle is the bit by bit part (I know you hear me!).  It was a little discouraging to see the 2 year mark (Sep 2016) come and go with a drywall sander in my hand, but despite the feeling of endlessness - we REALLY have made some wonderful progress. And we surely have come a long way from Indoor Camping -praise the Lord!

I fully intended to showcase each project through it's completion here on the blog, but....that didn't happen (with reno projects, farm chores, and a new baby - time just got away from me).  So, now that the dust is settled (somewhat), I'm eager to share our story- namely the lessons learned (mostly the hard way), the tools used, the struggles endured, and the hope fulfilled so that you can be encouraged to start (or finish) your own renovation journey.

It always starts with an idea...just a simple thought, suggestion or dream. "Honey...I was thinking..." No harm in that, right? Nope - no progress in that either.   Whether our project idea is spurred by a dream, a changing family dynamic, a need to downsize, expand, repair, replace, or restore - we never get far unless that idea is turned in to a plan.   And I'm sure I don't need to tell you that our best shot at success is when that plan is clearly designed, carefully budgeted, and well thought-out.

So, before we swing a hammer...or even move a couch, we use: Sweet Home 3D.  It is an interior design program where you can build, create, design, and decorate your dream home on your PC. It uses a simple to understand, but highly precise set up for wall structure, floorplan layouts, and even décor.  In other words: It helps you plan BEFORE you build. Or, in our case, AS we build (lots of hiccups, budget restraints, and changes along the way).

There is a box version:

And a downloadable version:

This program has been INVALUABLE in helping us get through this renovation journey.  Any attempt to "improve" our home with scattered ideas and dreams would have been utterly hopeless without this program. I know there are other options out there, but for us this one was the simplest to learn, easiest to use, and I don't hesitate for a second in recommending it to anyone looking to start a home renovation project...or random people on the street (but, I do get some odd looks).

Here is what we LOVE about Sweet Home 3D and why:

1. Its designed for amateurs like us - so, it was a simple program to master. I even taught my mom to use it - 25 minutes later she was designing her dream home!

2. Getting an overhead look of the floorplan helped us design walkways, doorways, and closets for a more comfortable, logical flow (obviously not considered upon the original construction of this house).

3. Using real-life measurements allowed us to get a sense of what could work in each room, even before it was built. Very helpful with the placement and design of built-ins, air registers, light switches, and light fixtures!

4. We could create a design, fall in love with it, walk away, and come back with 10 better ideas without committing to construction before we were ready (the reason why we have a pile of documents saved on our computer titled "Finalplan4....Finalplan5....Finalplan14...).

5. It comes with a ton of colors, patterns, furniture pieces, and accessories to choose from. But, in some cases we uploaded free *extras* from this 3D warehouse to use in our home design.
6. We have been able to produce striking mock-ups, just a notch below those shown on our favorite shows like  Property Brothers.
                              **As a side note, I would highly recommend their new book,
 It has some really great advice on renovation plans, purchases, and projects.
We found it quite handy.

7. There is a great satisfaction in getting to see a process through from vision to completion. Here is an example of that:

*On the left is the kitchen we designed (after 4200 other layouts and color schemed had been toyed with) for my in-laws using Sweet Home 3D.
*On the right is the finished product we presented to them (hopefully I will get a post up about that very soon and link it here).

8. We could print a "blueprint" and overlay the electrical, plumbing, or HVAC schematic on our design to see how it worked together -priceless!

9. It has helped Mr. Steady and I work together, sharing ideas and dreams in a tangible, practical way. Getting thoughts out of our heads and into a workable sketch has opened up a time of collaboration and exchange that was more frustration than progress before we could both "SEE" what the other was saying. 

10. It's very affordable!  Some of the other design programs are wildly out of our budget.  I can see why they would be a good investment for a design/construction company who could profit greatly from their use. But, as a DIY homeowner, I am a lot more comfortable with $14.99.

I'm sure there are lots more reasons to love Sweet Home 3D. But, you don't have time to read about them - you have a renovation to do!  So, go get started - and find your own personal reasons to love this tool as you discover the process, create your dream plans, and chase your vision.

 A few notes:
I am not receiving anything from the Sweet Home 3D company for this review. I HONESTLY just love the program and want you to know it!
However, Rehoboth Farm is part of the Amazon Affiliate program. Our family business will receive a small commission if you choose to purchase this product through one of the links on this page. To learn more, please click here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why We Use Clark's Cutting Board Oil and Wax on our Products - An Honest Review

This post contains affiliate links.

When we started our Etsy Shop, it looked more like a mad dash to get up and running than the execution of a calculated business plan. We were very scattered in our approach and were more than surprised by our immediate success.  We sold some hand painted items, one of a kind pieces, and hand built do-dads and what-nots.  But, what really took off was our Picture Ledges!  We could hardly keep up with orders...partly because we had so many, and partly because of the lack of order and reason in our strategy (building ledges in the workshop, hauling them through the yard, up the dangerous staircase, around the mid-renovation projects, and in to the partially finished "office" for painting, packing and labeling. Then hauling the boxes back down the dangerous staircase, around the mid-renovation projects, and out to the truck for get the idea).

We will always be grateful for the quick success of the ledges, as they really catapulted our shop in to existence right from the get-go and gave our business direction. And they are still a big chunk of our sales. Besides, they're kind of awesome! We have them in every room in our house (well, we will once we FINISH every room in the house)!

 But, as it goes with Etsy - it wasn't long before 100 other shops popped up selling VERY similar picture ledges and we saw our sales dwindle.  It was in that lull that the Renaissance Man found an opportunity to work with wood in a more creative manner. He met a local man who runs a sawmill in west Tn. He mills native trees in to beautiful slabs or workable lumber. T. R. M. was mesmerized by the beauty in the unique grain patterns and live edge pieces he brought home.  He didn't have the heart to cut in to them and wondered how we could best showcase their natural appeal.  As we discussed our kitchen completion projects, the idea of a table runner came up - an elevated surface to display seasonal décor or a charcuterie board for my favorite food spread (I'm Italian!).  T. R. M. didn't hesitate. He disappeared in his workshop for a few hours and came back with a beautiful Cherry wood serving board. 

and another...
And a handful more I didn't get pictures of - but, trust me. They were stunning!
We knew our Etsy customers would love them as much as we did. Rustic, elegant, unique, and functional. They would be showstoppers at weddings, buffets, brunches, showers, and holidays. But, they were naked. Just bare, porous wood. They needed a durable, beautiful finish to protect them and make them shine. Until we found a way to do that, we would have to set them aside and keep building ledges.

Since I am responsible for finishing and packaging all of our products, I was in charge of finding a finish that I would be comfortable using.  That wasn't an easy process. I'm a little finicky about committing to something that will represent us and the quality of our business.  Not to mention, I didn't want to work with anything complicated.  I've got kids to homeschool, diapers to change, boxes to pack, and a farm to run.  I have no time for complicated finishes - and I'm sure you don't either.  So, here's what I was looking for:

1. Natural.  I can't stand working with chemicals. I aim for zero VOCs, non-toxic, and unscented EVERYTHING. From laundry detergent to paint. So, lacquers and varnishes were off the table from the start. But, even oils like Tung or Linseed (technically natural) could produce unwanted fumes....or spontaneously combust if not disposed of properly - too complicated!

2. Non-toxic. Something I could work with year round - in the house! I knew I would have to find whatever horizontal surface available to finish the boards - whether it be the dining table, top of the washing machine, or a stack of boxes in the garage.  I couldn't work with anything that needed ventilation or a prolonged drying time.

3. Food-safe. We intended to market our beautiful boards for food display, charcuterie spreads, and cupcake presentations.  We certainly didn't want to cut any corners that would compromise the safety of our products.

So, I set to hunting. I finally pinned down a company. A new company. A small company... with very few reviews (although the few they had, were consistently good).  The company was called Clark's.  They offered a butcher block oil and wax combo in two scents: Rosemary/Lavender and Orange-Lemon that promised to hydrate, condition, and seal my wood products and give them a healthy shine. YES!  After reading up on their product claims ( "all our products are formulated with FDA approved ingredients for direct and indirect contact with food.", "CLARK'S Cutting Board Oil is a food-safe, all-natural oil"...etc), I could clearly see that their oil/wax seemed to meet all my criteria.  So, I ordered the Clark's Finishing Kit to test it out.

The shipping was INCREDIBLY FAST.  I received an email the same day I ordered letting me know it had shipped, and received it two days later! Great for a business like ours. We need to be able count on our suppliers. I opened the box and found all the elements to the set, just as the picture promised.  I set up a test board and pulled up this video on YouTube to be sure I understood the application instructions clearly:

Seemed simple enough, so I went for it!
I grabbed a Cedar Wood Serving Board that T.R.M. had just sanded smooth and poured the oil across it.

The Oil was lightweight. The scent was bold (I chose the Orange-Lemon), but not overpowering or unpleasant. It brought out the color in the wood immediately.  Here is a photo of the bare wood (on the right) and the oiled wood (on the left):
I allowed the board to dry for 24 hours. It seemed fully hydrated to me, so I wiped it down and moved on to the wax application.  Just as simple. I used a paper towel, as the video suggested and applied a layer of wax. 
1 hour later, it was a picture of beauty. I poured water over it and watched it bead up. The wood grain glowed with natural warmth. It was sealed, food-safe, and gorgeous.  It was finally a board we could PROUDLY offer in our Etsy Shop
There was really no turning back at that point. I went through the bottle of oil in a day and half and we posted our new listings as soon as the wax was dry. Rustic Table Runners, Charcuterie boards, Serving Boards, and Display Boards... The sky is the limit now. Here are a few of my favorites:
We have been using Clark's Cutting Board Oil & Wax for months now and it is still a thrill to see the wood come alive with color during the application process.  I still haven't tired of the fresh citrus scent and I feel confident using it in my home, knowing it isn't harmful to my family.  I feel equally confident presenting the beautiful finished product to our customers, knowing the protection it offers. That confidence is why we use Clark's Cutting Board Oil & Wax to finish all of our wood products here at Rehoboth Farm.
A few notes:
A 16oz bottle of oil will finish about 4 to 6  boards (front and back) depending on the size. I had to start buying it by the gallon
The 10oz jar of wax has lasted considerably longer than the oil and I can usually seal about twice that many boards with one jar.
I am not receiving anything from the Clark's company for this review. I HONESTLY just love the stuff and want you to know it!
Rehoboth Farm is part of the Amazon Affiliate program. Our family business will receive a small commission if you choose to purchase this product through one of the links on this page.