Ravenclaw Common Room

I found out at an early age that I’m allergic to white walls. Everywhere I live or work ends up plastered with T-shirts, posters, flags, toys, projects, tapestries— whatever it takes to make it feel more like home. 

When I moved to a new city, I knew I’d be living completely by myself for the first time in my life. I’ve been lucky in the past, in that all my other cohabitants have enjoyed (or at least tolerated) the eclectic nonsense that went up on the walls. Starting fresh though, I wanted a decor that was unique, thematic and at least a little classy. I always wished I could have grown up at Hogwarts, so I settled on trying to make my apartment feel as close to the Ravenclaw Common Room as possible. In this post you’ll find the DIY details I managed to document while taking on one of the biggest customization projects of my life. 

I knew setting out that this was going to be a lot more time consuming and expensive than just  thumb tacking a few items to the drywall, so I started by taking a look at the space as it was, planning out the major components and budgeting the supplies.

    

I spent a lot of lunch breaks at work sketching or making lists.

I even went so far as to make a Gantt chart on smartsheet.com to try and have it finished as soon as possible (This was actually helpful because I tend to get side-tracked easily by other projects in progress).

 

As you can see, I had a lot of ideas, but it boiled down to a few important components:

Click to jump to:

Wallpaper

Light Fixtures

Pillars 

Mirror and Bust

Fireplace

Molding, Crests, and other details


  Skills: Making Do

This SKILL post is all about improvising and throwing something together out of whatever you have at your disposal. Many times I find myself in need of a prop for a costume or a part for a project, but don’t have the time or money to spend on making or buying a high quality version. This is one of my favorite kind of challenges. At times like this, hot glue, cheap plastic goods and spray paint will be your best friends.

But just like drawing, Making on the fly is a skill that involves studying a subject, breaking it down to its constituent parts and working from the abstract to bring things into greater and greater resolution, until they are recognizable. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a few examples of times I kludged some crap together and ended up with a passable version of what I needed. 

Continue reading “Skills: Making Do”


  Dumbledore’s Owl Podium 

During my dorm years in college I organized an annual Harry Potter Trivia Night. It worked just like Jeopardy! At any given point there were four representatives from each house at the front tables. They would choose a topic and difficulty, I would read the question and any house could buzz in to answer. 

The game itself was quite a undertaking, but I also spent weeks on decoration and planning so that the experience was much more immersive. I MCed the whole event from beside the screen, navigating the complex powerpoint over a projector to bounce between the hourglass-scoreboard, category boards and the questions. I didn’t want to just sit behind a computer screen like some kind of Muggle, so I crafted myself a symbol of authority, dignity and wisdom to stand before me. I made a replica of Dumbledore’s owl podium.  

Continue reading “Dumbledore’s Podium”


  VSauce-in-the-Box and Brain Candy Live!

 

I’ve been a huge fan of both Mythbusters and the YouTube channel, VSauce, pretty much since they started, so when I saw the announcement for the Brain Candy Live Tour, I bought VIP tickets within an hour. The tickets come with a chance to ask questions and get photos with Adam Savage and Michael Stevens, the respective hosts. I started to think about what I’d like to ask them and realized that more than anything I wish there was a way to thank them for the years of entertainment, education, and inspiration. 

Making stuff is part of how I’ve always let people know that I appreciate them. From canning my and my roomate’s laughter, to making a talking “Drinking Out of Cups” action figure, I always find myself making personalized gifts for all my friends; so why not my role models?

For Adam, I made a shirt that says Savage AF, because who doesn’t wish they were as cool as Adam? See more about that in my post on Custom T-Shirts.

Michael’s gift is a little bit more complicated. I originally designed a shirt featuring Michael crouching in front of a camera, because it’s obvious he must do this about a dozen times to make a VSauce video. 

Continue reading “VSauce-in-the-Box and Brain Candy Live!”


Custom T-Shirts

Ever come up with a quote or a graphic that you thought was just begging to be put on a t-shirt? Or want to make your team or group seem official without spending a few hundred on shirts? Making novelty shirts for your friends or putting a logo on some wearable merch can be really fun and satisfying, but there is a reason shops/services charge so much to make custom shirts: it can be really time consuming and it’s easy to make mistakes that will ruin a shirt, bumping up the cost of production that you may have been trying to keep low. So, if you’re in a hurry or need absolute perfection, I might recommend going to professionals for at least part of the process. As with anything though, a little research, practice and the right supplies can get you exactly the results you’re after. Continue reading “Custom T-shirts”


 Piñata Tutorial

Nothing livens up a party like violence and candy. All the better when it’s impeccably thematic. Paper mâché and cardboard are cheap and easy to work with. Master a few basic skills and you can make any kind of piñata you want. 

 

Let’s examine the Pokémon piñata and the Mustang as an examples here, just because I took a lot of pictures in the process. 

When making a piñata you have to consider more than just the way it looks. It has to:

1) have a sturdy anchor to hang/pull it from 

2) be able to take just the right amount of punishment, so everyone gets a whack at it.

Continue reading “Piñatas”


  MTG Card Case 

Over one summer, a lot of my friends started playing Magic: the Gathering. It’s a good way to pass a few hours, make some new friends, or piss off the friends you already have when you make them kill their own creatures or throw their whole deck into the graveyard. 

On of my buddies spent hours putting decks together and started buying into the competitive play at the local bookstore on Friday nights. All the coolest nerds had custom play mats or fancy dice. I wasn’t that into MTG, but I was into making custom stuff, so I decided to make my friend a case that he could show off at Friday Night Magic. 

When I was in middle school my parents were friends with a woman who had spent years doing custom leather work for a living. She was really generous with her time and supplies, meaning I still have a huge box in my closet that’s full of hides, hole-punches, stamps, etc. 

I want the finished product to look clean but also very Medieval and ominous. The first thing I decide after a few quick sketches is that I will need some hardware. I go ahead and order a cool latch and some spikes

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R2D2 Bike Helmet

I love riding my bike. When I moved to a big city I knew there would be plenty of great places to go for a spin, so I bought a familiar model roadbike but didn’t want to ride it in an unfamiliar place —where there was more traffic than I’m used to— until I had a helmet. My uncle solves that right away by giving me an old motorcycle helmet.

It’s incredibly big and awkward looking, which also describes my head to begin with, so it I feel kind of like the Mushroom People from Mario Kart while wearing it. I realize how dome-shaped it is and immediately know what needed to be done.

Before starting a project, I like to do a little research to see if someone has made something similar before. In some cases it’s a good thing because it will provide inspiration or instruction, while in other cases it may just make it not feel worth the trouble. If I want to appreciate the process of making something, I’ll assemble a model or a Lego set. When I make a project from scratch I want to end up with something unique that cant just be bought. 

Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first person to think of doing this. Someone named Jenn made a pretty good version a few years back and blogged about it. Hers was just a paint job though and I already know I want mine to have all the bells and whistles. Speaking of bells, the bike accessory company Bell makes an R2D2 bike helmet, but only in todler sizes. While this version is a little more 3D, it has holes in it and just isn’t as cool as it could be.  Continue reading “R2D2 Bike Helmet”


Crash Bandicoot Ski Mask and Costume

This project started out as an idea for a Halloween costume, but after thinking back to the ice-levels of that classic 90’s game, I realized that if it’s designed properly it could be a great way to look cool and stay warm on the slopes.

Just like with the Elfie Hat, this project will be wearable, so to help me get a better idea of how best to design and build it, I make a quick list of a few aspects.

 

Continue reading “Crash Bandicoot Ski Mask and Costume”


Torchy’s Tacos Dancing Devil

I’m at the dollar store stocking up on foam-core and a few other random items, when a little solar-powered dancing Valentine’s devil catches my eye. Having been to Torchy’s Tacos on many occasions in the few month’s I’ve lived here, I find the resemblance between this tchotchke and the local taco chain’s mascot to be pretty uncanny. With other projects on my plate I start considering how much time it would take to complete the conversion and have my own teeter-tottering, taco-wielding Torchy.  Continue reading “Torchy’s Tacos Dancing Devil”