Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)


maintaining your home


LOS ANGELES, Judy Kameon + Erik Otsea, Landscape Designer + Outdoor Furniture Designer, son, Ian


Judy Kameon + Erik Otsea

Landscape Designer + Outdoor Furniture Designer

son, Ian

Your home shouldn’t just be beautiful; it should be in good working order, too.

Maintaining that ideal state is a never-ending process involving work, patience, creativity, and, often, a good sense of humor.

The easiest way to take care of your home is to get to know it. As soon as you move in, locate the water main, listen to the sound the toilet makes when it flushes, take note of your average heating bill. The better you understand the ins and outs of your place—quirks and all—the faster you’ll recognize when something is wrong and take action.

And since repairs are inevitable, it pays—or, we should say, saves—to know how to fix the little things. A leaky faucet or running toilet could cost hundreds if you hire a repairman. But in most cases, you can fix it yourself in twenty minutes. Brush up on your handyman skills (or learn some, if they’re nonexistent) and get your tool kit up to speed with our quick and easy guide to the most common household problems—and the tools you need to fix them.

the basics

1. Spackle An interior/exterior vinyl filler that covers most holes and cracks in the wall. For wood surfaces, use epoxy filler instead.

2. Laser Level Turns leveling, marking, and hanging pictures or shelves into a one-person job.

3. Multihead Screwdriver The functionality of ten screwdrivers in one space-saving package.

4. Voltage Tester Safely and easily identifies “hot” wires before doing electrical work.

5. Utility Knife A retractable blade and safety lock are key.

6. Assorted Hardware Build a kit of nuts, bolts, washers, anchors, and nails in various sizes.

7. Metal Tape Measure It should be at least one inch wide, so it doesn’t bend when extended.

8. Painter’s and Duct Tape Duct tape for tougher, utilitarian jobs (repairing tarps or bicycle seats). Painter’s tape for paint jobs (of course!), but also good for impromptu labeling of items around the house.

9. WD-40 Handy for so many things: loosening rusty hinges, repelling roaches, getting gum out of hair …

10. 18V (or higher) Cordless Drill and Bits Splurge on a model with a lithium-ion battery; it’s lighter and will last longer.

11. Steel-head Hammer A leather or rubber handle is more comfortable for longer use.

12. Locking Pliers or Vise Grips They work in lieu of a clamp and are great for loosening stubborn screws.

13. Wrench Look for one that includes a ratcheting feature; you won’t have to remove and refit the wrench after every single turn.

14. Needle-nose Pliers Opt for a pair with a built-in wire cutter to save time.

15. Putty Knife A coated steel head makes for easy cleanup.

fix it yourself

Squeaky Door

quiet squeaky door hinges

Spray WD-40 directly onto the hinges, slowly swinging the door back and forth to work the liquid into the grooves. The squeaking should stop instantly. If that doesn’t work, try lifting the door pins 2 to 3 inches out of the hinges. Rub a little 3-In-One oil directly onto the pin with a damp rag. Let dry (about five minutes); then slide the pins back into place.

hide minor(ish) scratches on stained wood surfaces

For shallow scratches, mix equal parts olive oil and lemon juice in a cup. Pour onto a microfiber cloth, and rub in the direction of the scratch until the mark disappears. If the scratch goes deeper than the finish, naturally dye the scratched area with used, still-damp coffee grounds—place a thin layer over the scratch, let it sit for fifteen minutes, and wipe clean. Then rub the skin of a raw almond, walnut, or Brazil nut (pick the closest color match to your wood stain) along the mark. This should fill and mask the scratch.

silence creaking wood floors

As a temporary solution, sprinkle talcum powder over the noisy bit of flooring. Using a paintbrush, work the powder into the cracks. Wipe up any leftover powder from the surface area—and enjoy the silence.

fill a crack in your drywall

Using Spackle and a putty knife, fill the crack completely. Don’t worry about getting this area flush with the rest of the wall just yet. Blast the spot with a hair dryer set to low for fifteen minutes. Once dry, sand with a piece of fine-grit sandpaper until smooth and level. Cover the area with primer, and then paint.

Leaky Faucet

stop a dripping faucet

A dirty aerator (the little mesh piece in the faucet head) is usually to blame. The fix is simple: First, block the drain with a kitchen towel, so you don’t lose any parts. Unscrew the tip of the faucet with your fingers. If it’s too tight, use a wrench to carefully loosen it. Remove all the components, taking note of the order in which they belong. Wash each piece with warm, soapy water, and reassemble the parts in order. No more drips!

speed up a slow-moving drain

Dealing with daily clogs? Pour one cup of baking soda, then one cup of vinegar, down your drain. Let it work its magic for two to three hours; then turn the warm water on for two minutes to flush the pipes. Repeat if necessary. This works for hair in the bathtub as well as food in the kitchen sink.

Patched Furniture

hide cat-scratched upholstery

First of all, don’t get too grumpy with your furry friend. Look at the rips as an opportunity to personalize your furniture. Sew a collection of vintage patches (or even contrasting fabric) over the tattered upholstery. If you need to, sew a couple of small patches together in order to cover more surface area—layering only ups the cool factor.

Level Toilet

level a rocking toilet

Before doing anything drastic, try tightening the bolts around the base. If it’s still shaky, grab some plastic shims from your local hardware store and slip them into the gap between the bottom of your toilet and the floor.

fix a cupboard door that won’t stay shut

There’s no need to replace a cabinet door that keeps swinging open. In the short term, buy some heavy-duty magnets; attach one side to the inside of the door, the other side to the cabinet. And, as easy as that, your cupboard will stay securely shut for the foreseeable future.

get a sliding door back on track

If your sliding door is constantly coming off its track, it’s probably because the track is either bent or flattened from wear. Reshape it, and it’ll be good as new. Find a piece of lumber that’s just thick enough to fit into the center slot of your tracks. (You want minimal space between the wood and the track.) Make sure the wood is secure; then use a mallet to pound the outside of the track guides back into shape.

5 easy design updates you’ve (probably) never thought of …



1Love the look of tile but can’t afford it? Stencil your favorite pattern on finished plywood to use as flooring.


2Forget expensive slipcovers. Have one made from a vintage wool blanket to save on fabric costs.


3Replicate the look of traditional wall molding with painter’s tape! Simply tape the desired pattern on your wall, paint (a dark color works best), and remove the tape.


4Get the lo-fi, cozy look of mismatched sofa cushions (or hide worn spots) with a colorful pillowcase. Just slip one over the cushion, and pin excess fabric if necessary. It’s cheaper than upholstery—and so much easier.


5Have specific over-the-desk storage needs but can’t fork over the cash for something custom? Prop an antique metal bed frame against the wall, and add shelves, file holders, and clips as needed.