Archive | What I Learned RSS feed for this section

Reader Re-Do: Dresser Makeover or “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle?”

12 Nov

I have mentioned Brittany in the blog before, as she is one of the readers who sends me interesting mail from time to time.  I even did an inspiration board for her a while back.  Brittany said she was also inspired by Maeve’s dresser re-do and gave it a go herself.  The lovely Brittany below.  (And she’s married and a mother of Bayley, so don’t get any ideas.)

Which brings me to a slightly panicky email I received from her sharing the results and asking my opinion, which I of course love giving wholeheartedly.

I need your opinion on something. I’ve been pulling my hair out after I found an awesome MCM dresser on Craigslist and decided to refinish it. So, I refinished it and then realized it was way too orange. It’s hard to tell in the pics but it looked like a carrot. So, after much debate, I decided to get a good rest and then start all over. Well, I screwed up and sanded too far into the veneer. So, my only option was to go buy new walnut veneer or just paint the whole thing, which I did not want to do. I googled for a while and found some pretty cool before and after’s, so I thought I’d meet in the middle and paint half and veneer the other half. I picked the green from the Orla Kiely pear canister and stained the new veneer a dark walnut. I feel like I’ve ruined a good thing, now that I’m finally finished. I am one to NOT paint over perfectly good wood, but in this case, there was no way I was re-veneering the whole beast of a dresser. And plus, veneering is HARD and stinky.  I would love a second opinion. I know you did something similar recently with your daughter’s low boy dresser and I LOVE the results. But I am not sure what I think about mine. Maybe I have been staring at it too long?

Suffice it to say, I can see the carrot and understand the dilemma.  I asked her to share more about her experience with veneer, as this is something I have never been brave enough to attempt.

 It’s not too spendy, I went to Windsor Plywood and bought a 2×8 sheet of black walnut veneer that came to around $36. Cheap, considering I ruined the original veneer, which I can’t believe I did. But I was not going to just paint the whole dresser. It would’ve been a crime. So, I thought up re-veneering.

I traced out the dresser drawers on the back side of the veneer and then cut out the shapes with a really sharp pair of scissors. I cut it a tiny bit bigger than the size of the drawers so I could have some wiggle room when veneering. I painted a thin coat of contact cement onto the drawer fronts and then another thin, even coat onto the back of the veneer. It’s MESSY because the contact cement is drippy. So don’t do it in your bedroom like I did. Also make sure the room is well ventilated, or you’re going to faint from the fumes. Let the contact cement dry for about 15 minutes, until it looks like a satin finish and is tacky to the touch. I would suggest two people doing the laying of the veneer on the drawer fronts, because it must lay down properly, or it’s ruined. Once the veneer touches the drawer fronts, the contact cement automatically glues to itself, and the bond is strong, so make sure you have it exactly how you want it to lay. Have a rolling pin on hand and roll the veneer with force, to make sure there are no bubbles under the veneer. You can cut out any rough edges with one of those really sharp hobby knives that look like a surgical tool. And then sand on the edges to make sure they are even.

Then sand the veneer lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to prepare it for the stain you will use. It’s really not as hard as it sounds and is a cost effective way to keep wood grain in your piece instead of painting the whole thing. The green color I used is called “Olive tree” from Benjamin Moore. It is the closest match to the Orla Pears as I could find. The paint I used was water based, but I decided to use Minwax oil based wipe on poly in Satin, to get a really nice, hard and smooth finish. It gave the green color an even more mustardy look, which makes it look even more vintage. It definitely toned it down, which I like.

When I told Brittany I really liked it and thought it looked lovely in her Orla inspired bedroom, her response was…

Yay! So glad to hear you like it! I was staring at it going, “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle???”

I love the walnut and olive together.  I think it turned out to be a gorgeous piece.  What do you think?  Have you had any experience with ‘re-veneering’ something?


Master Bedroom Redux Part 1

5 Nov

For me, the bedroom is my sanctuary.  I don’t have a room of my own in this house, as I have bemoaned in other posts.  The girls have their bedrooms. Brett has his man cave.  So for me, the bedroom is the closest to my own little private world that I have.

The idea of what I want my bedroom to look and feel like has been rolling about in my head for months.  The first decision I landed on  was gray.  I wanted a gray bedroom because I find it to be soothing and enveloping color.  Then I decided I wanted gray with yellow accents.  The search for the perfect duvet ended at West Elm.  So did the search for the perfect curtains.  Not the ones I thought I would want; something even better.

Linen Cotton Duvet Cover + Shams - Slate

Queen Anne's Lace Printed Panel

I tried these out with a yellow pillow and my favorite pop art painting. My bedroom isn’t really my bedroom until that painting and my Buddha wall hanging grace the walls.   At first, I liked the idea.  Still needed more to flesh out, but the right direction.

But, how fickle is woman?  Especially me.  Ans especially under the spell of something gorgeous and orange.  And because I was on a West Elm tear, I couldn’t resist these lamps.

Mia Table Lamp - Paprika

Okay.  Plan B.  Not yellow.  Orange.  Put it all together.  Nice.  But.  There is still the matter of wallpaper.  I won’t hang pop art or Buddha until the wallpaper is down and the walls are a lovely shade of gray.  Ugh.

Thus began the tedious process of wallpaper removal.  And you all know how much I love doing THAT.  In fairness, I did painfully little of it.  Brett, a steamer and a scraper spent the better part of two days and only conquered one wall.  We are lucky to have a very large bedroom.  Unlucky however in that it means a ridiculous amount of wallpaper to remove.  The wall stayed blank with no paper and lots of glue for a few weeks.  The next step was to use TSP to remove the glue.  Feeling badly that I hadn’t helped with the removal of the paper, I offered to do the TSP.  Brett has a major aversion to this job and avoid it until I volunteered.  Now I know why.  Excuse my language, but that job is a total bitch.  I spent a Saturday with TSP and a scrub brush and multiple towels removing copious amounts of sticky gooey glue.

And I hate to admit it.  But it beat us.  It beat us down good.  We surrendered to the wall paper.  Over dinner one night, we had the conversation that started with ‘What if…’  As in, what if we painted over the rest?  What if we broke the cardinal wallpaper rule and just painted over it?  Writing that makes me a little nervous even now.

I mean, we’re rebels, right?  I think I was recently described as upscale bohemian nonconformist.  I am modern woman, carefree and unencumbered by convention.  (I am starting to feel like a maxi-pad commercial.  Or one for Virginia Slims.)  Plus, we’d flirted with this before and painted over impossible to remove wall-paper backing.  Successfully. 

So the more wine we drank, the more we decided this was a clever idea.  Plus, to be honest, the state of the wall behind the wallpaper we removed wasn’t all that great.  That’s one of the biggest issues with removing wallpaper and carpet.  You  never know what you’re going to get.  (Oh wait, that’s a box of chocolates.)  I did my research.  Some people paint over wallpaper successfully and live to tell about it.  In fact, the DIY network even has a video tutorial on how to do it.

You know how much I love leaving you in suspense.  We did it.  And tomorrow, I’ll share the results!

Stuck in the Middle With You

23 Jan

So this is what I hate about home projects: the middle part. There is the flurry of excitement in the planning phase, the determination of supply gathering, the hopefulness of the first step in the process. And then there is the dreaded middle. That space where you sit equidistant from the beginning and the end. That endless road ahead of you when it feels like you are a long way into the process and a long way from the finish line. (Brace yourself for some melodrama here.)

And that’s were we are with the kitchen. In the middle. The never-ending cabinet painting process is over. Today, literally in the middle of a single project, painting the kitchen I wanted to throw in the towel. It seems everything…and I mean everything…takes longer than I expect. I thought we’d knock this out in a few hours. Well, given the holes in the wall we needed to patch, the second coat we need to do on the cutting in and whatever else got in the way, we are about four hours in and not finished.  We are at this place where the house looks like a mess, the painting project is almost finished but I know that we still have the backsplash and the floor and it feels like this goes on and on and on. (Yes, I am a 40 year old having a total tantrum right now. Better to read about it than to see it!)

As we are getting started. Backwards cap on means we are getting down to business. (No, not THAT kind of business time!)

We removed some old phone jacks and had to patch the walls. Learning to do this was new for me.  You buy these wall patches at your hardware store (Home Depot $3.97) and attach them over the hole. Then you take some mud (yes, it’s called mud) and cover the patch with it, smoothing it out. You let it dry for two hours and sand it flat with fine grit sandpaper (maybe like 200). Then guess what? You do it again. Mud. Dry for two more hours. Sand. (Yeah, so that’s four hours waiting for these patches to dry.) We painted around them, but right now they are still drying and we are still far from the finish line.

The other thing that sucks (as long as we are on the topic of what sucks) is texture on your walls because now whatever we patched won’t match. Also texture on your walls makes for an awful time trying to cut in a straight line anywhere. Do not texture your walls, people.

And now, everything in the kitchen and house is just a mess. And as I was painting and thinking of throwing in th towel, I found myself asking that question I always ask when I am in this position: If I had all the money in the world, would I be doing this? Because I know, there are people who really love doing this kind of work. But, you know what? I don’t. I don’t love the work. I do love the sense of accomplishment and ownership I get from the completed project, but then the project actually has to be completed. I love looking at the finished product and know that we did that. And I know that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and I need to pace myself. And of course, one feels just the tiniest bit virtuous about not having hired someone and paid more than necessary. Okay, maybe I really do like it?

Nah. Not really. Not today, anyway.

(Do you get the DIY blues? Tell me how you deal with it.  Give a girl some advice!)

The Devil Made Wallpaper

16 Jan

**Apologies in advance for the poor photos.  I took these with my phone because I can’t find the camera and Maeve and her wonderful photo skills are not at home.

Mid-way through today’s project (which is still incomplete), Brett turns to me and says ‘You should call your post about this The Devil Made Wallpaper.’ And he’s right.  I will never ever ever wallpaper another wall in this house because un-doing it is a nightmare.

Today’s project was removing the wallpaper glue from Hailey and Hannah’s room. When I was working on the bathroom, I had tested it a while ago to see what it would take. The vinyl wallpaper itself came down super easily, courtesy of Maeve, who I think won a championship medal in wall-paper stripping. However, it left behind a mustardy glue that I knew needed to come down too.

We mixed up some TSP and water, put it in spray bottles and put gloves on everyone and got to work.

And I am glad we did because beneath what looks like just glue was this spider-webby grossness that I have never seen before. Has anyone seen this before because I never have?

All in all, we scrubbed and scrubbed and didn’t make as much progress as we had hoped.  We sprayed the TSP mixture on and scrubbed in circles.  The webby stuff came off in wet clump and the glue was muddy and sticky.  Then we wiped the cleaned wall with a wet rag. It was definitely high labor intensive and after an hour your arms are not feeling super strong nor do you get all that far.  After an hour of four people scrubbing (okay, two little people gave up after half an hour), we got maybe 25% of the room done.  Our goal is to finish over the long weekend and start painting next week.

What I Learned: Painting Kitchen Cabinets

4 Jan

As I promised yesterday, I want to share with you dear readers what I learned from this kitchen cabinet painting process in the hopes that your kitchen cabinet painting adventures will be less, if only slightly, painful.

As a reminder, we went from this:


To this…just painting the cabinets:

Someone asked me if I liked the Rustoleum product the other day and my answer is…yeah, maybe. It was a good intro for me into the realm of cabinet painting and I liked that it was simpler than other cabinet painting advice. (After just following John and Sherry, I am kind of glad I didn’t do it quite as painstakingly.) At the end of the day, I think you have to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Am I doing it as a permanent cabinet solution for the very long unforeseen future? Or am I doing this as a temporary stop-gap until I have $10k to buy the kitchen cabinets of my dreams?

If the former is your answer, do it John and Sherry’s way. If it’s the latter, do it mine and Rustoleum’s way. Let’s be honest. These cabinets are so not mid-century modern. Not even if you drink wine and squint. They are more country kitchen cabinets in really rough shape. The other thing we have to be honest about is that I don’t have $10k. So this was the right solution for now. And by now, I mean for the next few years. I don’t anticipate we will be able to do a total kitchen overhaul in the next five years and since I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen (barefoot and chained to the stove), I wanted it to look as nice as possible as inexpensively as possible. And I think we did that.

Did I need to use the Rustoleum product? Probably not. Here’s what I would do if I were to do it again. Brandy’s Five-Year Cabinet Transformation Plan:

  • You don’t have to buy the kit.  I love things that come in a kit, but the elements are things you could probably get yourself individually.  For me, kits seem so very…efficient.
  • Use 409 to clean the cabinets.  (Trust me on this one, environmentally friendly cleanser will not be your friend here.)
  • Buy a lot of scouring sponges (the green ones that kind of look like matted hair) and liquid sander. In the kit, they call this ‘deglosser’ but it’s really just plain liquid sander.
  • Use an eggshell paint if you .  The ‘bond’ coat they provide is so dry and matte that it almost seems dusty. I would prefer a little more sheen.
  • I would NOT put the doors on the floor, but would create a work table for them even if it means only doing a few at a time. You will hate them less and love your back more.
  • Raise the doors up on 2x4s so that the paint doesn’t seep between the door and the drop cloth creating something like a dried sludge on the inside of the door. (Imperfect is good, right?)
  • Use Minwax polyacrylic, like we used on the bathroom counter, instead of the Rustoleum ‘protective top coat’. It accomplishes the same thing and is frankly just as difficult to work with.
  • Consider a lighter color for the paint. I love our espresso color. I wouldn’t change it. However, using any kind of sealing top coat over a dark color is tricky. The stuff spreads on in this milky white, which dries clear if it’s painted on thinly enough. However, if you have cabinets that have a lot of bevels and corners like ours, the top coat pools a bit and ends up looking like some kind of gunk. If you paint it too thin, you have an uneven finish that looks glossy in some places and dry in others. The top coat was the hardest part honestly. It would have been much easier with a lighter color.
  • Buy new hardware or add hardware if you don’t have it. The details make a huge difference. (If you don’t have hardware but want to add it as we did, there is a guide you can buy at Home Depot for $3.99 that makes it SO much easier.)
  • Don’t have a dog. What can I say, but there is dog hair painted in there somewhere. It was unavoidable. No matter how hard I tried. If you have a garage or workspace, use it.
  • Have a Brett and an Ida. Taking down cabinet doors, making schematics of the placement, putting them back up. I couldn’t have done this without them.

The finances broke down like this:

  • Two Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Kits:  $158
  • 42 cabinet pulls at $1.79 each:  $75
  • Brushes: $12
  • Guide to drill holes for the hardware: $3.99
  • Total:  $248

Ummm…okay. I will stop complaining now. $248 versus $10k. Even when you add in the days of my life that I lost working on this project, it’s a good deal. I’ll take it.

So what’s next for the kitchen? Backsplash and flooring. I am thinking either mini-white subway tiles or circular penny tiles.  I had cork in mind for the floor but now I am thinking that might be too dark.  Painting the walls, of course, is the next easiest thing to accomplish and the color has been a great debate around here.  Anyone want to guess?

And finally, all this kitchen work will end up giving me the perfect place to display a perfect Christmas gift from Maeve: a wine cork corkboard. It’s so lovely, I don’t think I can use it as a corkboard.  I just want to hang it as a lovely decorative art piece in the kitchen, memorializing how much wine we drink how much we appreciate fine wines. (And it would mimic the circles in the penny tile wall.)

%d bloggers like this: