Snow day, o snow day

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Where art thou? You’ve promised your cascading glory upon us for six hours while we slumber this eve, unbeknownst to the juxtaposed marvel and havoc you leave in your path. I have five Louis chairs to reupholster and there’s no better time than when I’m tucked warmly within the house with the glint of ice crystals shining through the windows on a snow day/school’s out day.

I’m working on a ‘how to’ because these chairs are such an easy start even for a novice to upholstery work. Here are some before pictures as I’m starting.





Humble Pie

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Wow. I’m shocked. I woke up this morning to the sound of rain scattering evenly on the roof just knowing by the sound that the gray day would linger – chilly and not so noteworthy. I rolled over, checked the time on my phone, and skimmed email messages with one eye open – still before daylight broke. The top pins of 2013 from Pinterest was mixed in a list of inconsequential messages. I didn’t read it. Didn’t even open it. I was on the phone with my sister when I scrolled through the list of 609 top pins for the year and there – amidst the revels of creativity from people all over the world – my one pin – among 609 total – my one pin of 19 top home decor pins – pinners thought was worthy. I recognized the image of my faux built ins that flank either side of my living room walls as one of the early pins from my blog. ‘Wow’ I thought – of all of the things I see on Pinterest and celebrate the genius of fellow crafters – my idea was somebody’s motivation. I’m not famous – as my sister laughed and sarcastically said when I told her and forwarded her my personal email from Pinterest themselves – but to know that my idea is out there being shared and may entice someone- especially a mom – or sister – or daughter – to roll up the sleeves of their paint splattered work shirt, grab some tools, and hit the hardware store to construct with their own two hands makes me feel quite honored. Here’s to new beginnings, fresh starts, trying something new, looking ahead, new leaves, and all the best for new year 2014.

Here’s the original blog link for my project from

And the update with more information:


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It started with a drawing – and about ten minutes on Pinterest before I decided I had to have a french trumeau inspired mirror. My parents gave me a full length mirror with a thin white painted frame that I held onto knowing I’d do something with it. After my bathroom remodel I decided it was time. Pretty much everything that passed through the doors of my Turkish bath had to be over the top- this mirror was no exception.
I wanted all of my materials to be recycled/found/green/free. The main part of the mirror was an 18″ wide old door rescued for free during an architectural salvage extravaganza. The trim was all left over odds and ends that I swept cobwebs from to use on top and bottom and a gift contribution from my neighbor. The medallion was saved for a rainy day from a past project. The detailed frame is a recut antique frame that belonged to my grandfather. I broke it apart and recut the edges smaller to fit the size of the mirror.


The pieces looked like a mess scattered on my driveway last weekend, but little by little it took shape and I nail gunned all of the trim in place. I used Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Ironstone and Linen to bring out the trim and recoated the body in regular oops paint from the hardware store. It’s a little bit greener than I would have liked but I can always add some more milk paint to wash the green out some.
It will eventually be mounted in the wall equidistant between the ceiling and baseboards. I love the idea of reusing and repurposing and I’m always glad to be reminded of my grandfather by incorporating his things in what I use everyday. I think he’d be super happy to see my construction skills improving- I’ve learned a lot since he was last around.




It came out too green for my taste with the bathroom color scheme so I hit it with some of Miss Mustard Seed’s white wax and it is now exactly right.

Milk painted nightstand

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I held on to this nightstand that I worked on with my grandfather with the intention of refinishing it for my son’s room (above link). That was about six months ago and I’m pleased to announce that it’s finally finished.

Miss Mustard Seed released a new color – artissimo- to add to her line of milk paint. I fell in love with the color and decided to use it as my initiation into experimenting with milk paint. I’ve heard great things about milk paint and I thought the ultimate test would be to try it on a piece that I reprinted years ago using semi gloss paint. Yuck it looks horrible but when I first started refinishing furniture I thought it was a transformation. I told my daughter that I planned to use it because it was natural and seemed safer than standard paints and I love it when the reaction is such that makes me think I’m the most uncool parent. She said, “Mama, are you a hippie or something?” Why yes, I must be a hippie with the greatest re-re-finished nightstand.

My decision to use milk paint took me far off of my typical paint path. I usually opt for oops paints that are cast offs of other people to not only save the environment from excess trash and waste but they are also such economical choices for a quick fix. Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint was a splurge and after using it for the first time – I am sold. There are many vendors online who sometimes even offer free shipping.

It turned out that artissimo was back ordered so I was late to receive my order but it did show a few days later. I understand why it’s in high demand. I used the bonding agent with the color since I didn’t want too much of the ugly white showing through. I put on two coats if paint and after watching the online tutorials it goes on and behaves exactly as I expected. I didn’t worry about making smooth lines and I even let drips run. It dried quickly and I sanded it down all over. It is the quickest paint job I’ve done and I finished it off with Miss Mustard Seed’s antiquing wax. I wanted this piece to look like it came over on a boat for my son’s nautical motif.


Almost more than I could chew

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This is my biggest project tackled to date. My trusting sister in law let me refinish the cabinets at her rental property when I insisted they were too dark and made the kitchen look like a dismal room that was dropped in the middle of an otherwise cheerfully finished house. Shortly after starting the kitchen cabinet refinishing I was near tears thinking ‘What have I done?’ As I looked at a sea of 35 cabinet drawers and doors strewn across previously unmarked hardwood floors on top of plastic sheeting I thought there was no way that I could ever finish. I’m here to say I survived the project, and now after seven days the kitchen is complete and it turned out amazingly well.

The prep work and steps in between are key. Have a lot of plastic to spread. I was lucky in that I knew the counters would be changed so spillage wasn’t an issue. I also needed sandpaper, blue painter’s tape, steel wool, TSP cleaner, screwdrivers, scrapers, paint, rollers, a good brush (I’m partial to one old goodie that I always rely on), and a paint tray.

I started by taking apart the kitchen. All drawers came out and all doors were unscrewed. I created a map of the kitchen and lettered the cabinets using pieces of masking tape that correlated with my map. It seems easy enough to put the kitchen back together without a plan, but after getting up close and personal with every nook and cranny of a kitchen during seven days of truly blood, sweat, and tears labor – the last thing you want to do at the home stretch is play Cinderella and the slipper with openings and cabinet doors.

I also recommend cleaning the cabinet frames and drawers and doors with a good cleaner. I use TSP. Kitchens have so much traffic and oils that you don’t want your paint bubbling due to lack of preparation.

In selecting paint, I spoke to the guy at Benjamin Moore who suggested using their Advantage paint line. It’s an oil that acts like a latex offering soap water cleanup with a quicker drying time. I used the Advantage primer and paint in Spanish White satin finish.

I coated the frames, doors, and drawers with one layer of primer and waited a day before sanding everything down and applying my first layer of color. Since it’s summertime, I made sure to allow a full 24 hours between coats to ensure adequate drying time and left the air on. It takes extra time to sand between coats but I do highly recommend it. I used steel wool not with the intention if removing finish but just to prevent lint from goobering the surface and also to create a little bit of an uneven surface for each subsequent layer of paint to cling to.

To cover the dark finish I ended up using three coats of color. In hindsight, I probably could have applied two coats of primer and been fine with two coats of paint. The finish is very smooth and after I reassembled the kitchen I decided to sand the edges to give it an antiqued finish. I added new hardware and the Santa Cecelia Classico granite counters were installed. It makes the entire house brighter and the kitchen more welcoming.





Painted mirror

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I take ‘before’ pictures to document progress on my projects but this was a challenge to photograph. When I sent the picture to my sister to show her what I’d gotten she said “What? The knobby knees?” No, those were free unfortunately – the mirror!

I’m pretty much determined this summer that I can transform almost anything (with the exception of knobby knees). As a true test I bought this mirror to see what could be done with it. I saw it leaning against the thrift shop wall intermingled between different frames without a price. It’s extraordinarily heavy but I dragged it out and to my delightful surprise the lady said $14.95. SOLD!

I brought it home, washed it off – prints on the mirror and grime on the wood. My husband told me to get rid of it because I wouldn’t be able to do much with it but I was determined. He didn’t like the medallions on both ends so I removed one and filled the holes. I put one coat of paint on it that contained primer in it. I used a creamier shade for the main part and pure white for the trim.


I sanded the face and edges right after it was painted and I pulled off larger streaks of paint than I am used to but I went with it anyway. I used a soft cloth to apply a dark furniture wax all over it without buffing it off but letting it all dry.

As I mentioned it’s very heavy so I will have to get help to hang it later but thought I’d try for a better after shot:


Dream bigger

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There are some things that are worth redoing. When confronting a project, somehow I never worry about the ‘how’ it will get done but the ‘when.’ I agonize over what else will be sacrificed to enable me the time to work on my next idea. How high will the dishes pile in the sink, during one or two afternoon’s work, before they stretch onto the neighboring counter? How far will the debris from ‘said project’ be tracked in from the garage across the kitchen floor? Once the project is finished, how will my family look at it when they’ve eaten cold pizza every meal for a week to accommodate it? Not really, but I do fear being stretched too far when I start something big that I can’t fit one more thing in. Rusty old wood – rotten furniture be gone with a snap of my fingers and in its place a freshly painted set of neatly sanded and stained wood pieces to welcome deck visitors because I haven’t the time for you. This project taught me another lesson. It’s one I’ve learned but needed a refresher; I’m reminded about the time I kayaked out into the ocean (the same one I’m afraid of) in front of my kids, waiting on the shoreline. It required so much strength to fight and pass over the incoming waves and I went so far I thought I’d reached England – all so they’d see that because something is hard or you are fearful, doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Just looking at this project was daunting. Things I’d never done before: rust clean up and woodworking to this magnitude. My dad told me to use a chemical called Navel Jelly – which I was really embarrassed to ask the guy at Lowes for but he knew exactly what I was talking about. I took pictures of how the slats were joined and then disassembled the pieces and saved all of the brass carriage bolts in a Ziploc – trashing the tiny rusted screws to be replaced. I Naval Jellied the iron sides and wire brushed them down. Once the rust was gone I washed them thoroughly with the hose and some blue Dawn and left them in the sun to dry.

Once dry, I spray painted both sides with black Rustoleum spray paint. I waited a day between coats and covered it a second time. I took the wood measurements to a local mill yard and had the pieces cut to specifications. I searched for redwood but it’s too hard and costly to come by on this side of the country so I used cedar. After researching and talking to several master craftsmen it seemed that with proper care and maintenance I could expect the cedar to last for the next 40 years. That sounded good to me because the wood alone ended up costing around $650. It’s beautiful though – here it is drying after two coats of Cabot natural deck stain:

Compared to the old:

Here’s where I got to the sticky part. I am NOT a master craftsman. I like to think I’d play one on TV, or in my pretend mind, or even in my next life, but real woodworking and serious power tools aren’t my thing. I’ve always found a way to get by. Each wooden slat needed to be drilled and an additional countersink drill hole added to accommodate each carriage bolt. I didn’t have the tools for it but I’d figure plow ahead and I’d find the way. I don’t like asking for help and try at all costs to get things done on my own – by the time I do ask for help I’m one blink away from crying because I’m a hair over being overwhelmed. Usually that means calling my parents because separate and apart from his profession, my dad actually IS a master craftsman. My mom is the advisor and question asker – but a necessary part of all difficult projects. My parents came out for the day and my dad brought his drill press that I now know was the saving grace of the project. He cranked out each piece drilled with the right machine precision- uniformly and regular so my furniture wouldn’t be crooked and loose.

I put everything together to look at and the end was in sight. We pretty much worked that entire day. The question asker (mom) on the job said, “How would you have finished this if your dad didn’t have these tools and know what to do?” For a rare moment – I had no answer. I had no idea how it would’ve gotten finished if not for my dad – other than somehow I always find a way. I’m resourceful like that- repurposing, reusing, reworking things has – up to this point – exuded good karma enough that it all falls into place. From this project that seemed to stare at me winter after winter, rusting on the back deck, and plead to be redone each spring – to be enjoyed again – to finally be finished, I learned that even when you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew – keep eating – dream bigger – don’t be afraid that you can’t do what it is you set out to do. It’s like my trip in the kayak – I never would’ve thought I had the strength to beat the waves or the courage to do it alone – but I realized then that I find the way just like I did this time. Thank goodness for my dad and the question asker.