Chalk Paint: Not My Jam

I’m usually happy with my DIY projects. They usually take longer than expected, but in the end, I have something nice that I’m mostly proud to show off. I might have dropped the ball with the chalk paint thing.

After reading about it, hearing about it, seeing videos about it, oohing and ahhing over before and after photos of it, I finally jumped in and tried my hand at chalk paint. I’m underwhelmed.

The tutorials showed how simple it would be to apply the paint (just brush back and forth, sometimes in circular motions, very quickly before it dries) and said that I could paint over any surface–even hardware–no primer required, so you can imagine my disappointment to find none of that to be the case for my project.

To be fair, I painted a smooth-surface particle board (or maybe MDF) black file cabinet white, but still. If the whole world is screaming “it’s so easy and it covers anything,” then I think it should be easy and cover anything. Amiright?

Valspar Chalky Finish Paint

Valspar dark antiquing wax and Waverly clear wax and brushes

Perhaps you really do need to use the Annie Sloan brand to get the best results. I didn’t listen, and I cheaped out and used Valspar, which is a good quality paint in normal paint world, but maybe chalk paint isn’t V’s thing. The bottom line is that I had to paint three coats to cover the black even before I could do the antiquing and the finish wax. They lost me at three coats.

Here it is before the antiquing (I should have left it right there)

Close-up of the antiquing finish

I then chose the wrong color wax for the antiquing look. I should have gone a shade lighter. And lastly, the clear finishing wax isn’t what I expected. I thought it would be a paste to really protect the finish, but it was the consistency of chocolate milk. I pushed it around with the brush, let it mostly dry, wiped with a rag as instructed, and repeated a few times, yet it didn’t feel like much of it “took.” Months later it still feels sticky and unprotected.

I really do like it better now than when it was black…it’s just not exactly what I had envisioned…and took a lot longer than expected. Imagine that!

The finished product looks fine, maybe even cute and not too shabby for a first try. If I were to do it over, I think I’d go back to my old ways of sanding, one coat of tinted primer, and one coat of paint and be done. But who knows, maybe I’ll get the hang of it and chalk paint every wood surface in my home 1950s aqua or dove gray like the rest of the world. But then again, maybe not.


5 Signs Your Kitchen Needs a Facelift, and a Few Easy Fixes

We all know that feeling of walking into a room and wanting to rearrange the furniture, accessorize, or do an about-face and march right back out. Well, I know that feeling–this blog wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have the urge to paint a room or swap out furniture every couple of months! But sometimes the need is real. Like when things aren’t functioning well, or when a room feels…depressed.

That describes the state of my kitchen when I bought my darling little home a year ago. While it was beloved to someone, we all have our own slice of style, and peachy walls with orange/salmon counter tops are not my [apricot] jam. Ha! And it’s more than color that seems amiss.

Dark cabinets, peachy walls, and salmon granite were in cahoots when I moved in. But I have a plan!

If you and your kitchen are indifferent at best, these five easy-to-fix items might be the key to renewing your zest for the mess[hall]–I can’t stop myself!

1. Wall color. Maybe you never liked the color, or you were into the color but your style has moved in another direction, or you love the color but it’s become a bit dull from years of kitchening.

You’re in luck! This is an easy-peasy fix. If you’re a woman or man after my own heart and are not afraid to throw down a drop cloth and roll out a wall, all that’s left is to choose a color. Even if you’ve never painted a room before, it’s fairly simple to try your hand at one wall, just to give it a go. If you’re nervous about cutting in (painting a steady stroke along the baseboard or ceiling), go ahead and use some blue tape to be sure you don’t get your Sherwin Williams Sea Salt or Benjamin Moore Seattle Mist all over your crisp white baseboards or ceiling.

If it’s been established that a painter you are not, hire one. Prices vary, and I recommend checking reviews and asking for recommendations.

Lastly, if you love the color you have, but it’s looking tired, give your walls an old fashioned washing. Yes, it’s not something only your grandmother did; people still wash their walls! Dust first, then use warm soapy water. It’s true because it’s on the internet right here.

2. Your Dinnerware is Hiding. Love your dinnerware but the only time you see it is beneath a pool of steak juice?

Install shelves to display your favorite pieces and enjoy them every day. If you have a large collection of dinnerware, rotate your display with the seasons…or whenever you choose.

You can also swap out a cabinet door with a glass door, or even better (imho), remove the doors from your upper cabinets entirely. That’s my plan, Stan. You’ll need to fill the holes where the hardware was attached with wood filler, and depending upon what material your cabinets are made from, you can lightly sand, prime, and paint. Your kitchen will become a whole new world!

The kitchen cabinets are high quality. They are also dark and hiding my pretty dinnerware and handmade pottery.

See what I mean? The plan is to remove the doors and paint the cabinet to showcase what’s inside.

3. Things are Broken/Don’t Work Properly. This is a sneaky one. When one little thing malfunctions, you might think it’s no big deal and you live with it. And then another little thing goes, and so on. Before you know it, you’re camp-site improvising every time you make a meal. One of my lower cabinet doors has come unhinged. Every time I close the cabinet door, I have to lift and push. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but once a little annoyance like that is fixed, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t corrected it years ago. So schedule some time to give all those little creaks, rattles, and loosey-goosies the attention they need.

4. Your Inspiration Photo and Your True Photo are a World Apart. Are your Pinterest boards filled with inspiration? Filled with rooms so beautiful they make your eyes hurt? They are so beautiful, in fact, that you never even attempt to replicate such perfection. Am I right? I’ve done this to myself plenty, but every now and then I get the courage to give it a whirl. Sometimes Pinterest’s “simple solution” turns to a big pile of poo, and I call those learning experiences. My point is, you’ll never know if you don’t try. Pinterest or bust! Pull out an inspiration photo and make it happen, or at least your version of it.

One of my many inspiration photos for the dine-in kitchen area. Yes, I just drooled a little…

And here’s real life. I’ve only begun to work on this little space, but painting the peachy walls to cream has already lifted my spirits! Much more work to be done, but I’m taking one task at a time.

5. The Room is Not Your Happy Place. Your home, whether it be owned or rented, is your home. It should spark delight and contentment. If you walk into a room and it does nothing positive for your mood, or worse, it brings you down, re-read each of the above. Something is amiss. Why not repair, paint, (always check with landlord first), clean, give general TLC, and enjoy your home rather than spend another minute wishing you lived somewhere else? It’s your home, and you should love it!

I have some great DIY ideas for my kitchen. Although the granite is not a color I would choose, it is high-quality, so I can’t justify removing it. I’m not going to cover the granite, but rather work with everything around it to tone it down. Give me a follow, and stay tuned!



Wall Mounted Coat Rack…for Scarves!

That’s right, a coat rack for scarves. I’ve been wanting something in the entry to catch my scarves, and maybe even my pocketbook, for at least a year. I would find something that was the right price but not the look I wanted, or cute as could be but a couple hundred dollars. For a piece of wood and some hooks! So, as you can imagine, I took matters into my own hands. Sort of.

I gleaned this little doo-dad from the haphazard shelves of At Home for less than $15. It was the wrong color, of course, but paint was sent to earth so we could all live harmonious lives, free from having the wrong color coat rack. For our scarves.

At Home Coat Rack
Vintage/Distressed coat rack on the shelves of At Home

The mirror under which this would be installed is white. The wall, pale gray. The trim, white. So black and ivory just wasn’t going to cut it. No worries–it took about 15 minutes to paint this thing, let it dry, and voila! It was installed just in time for a little soiree I hosted, and I love it! Decorative and functional. No better attributes than those in my small space.

At Home coat rack painted white
Painted white and coordinating with the mirror

At Home coat rack
Summer scarves add color to the entry

This could have easily been wallpapered or stenciled as well. When you feel like a shopping failure and can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, remember, you can always add your personal touch and make it your own. I like it. I like it a lot!


An Update for the Bedroom

You all got a sneak peek of the boudoir when I checked in about the rug, but there is so much more to see! My room was cute but a little frumpy. Missing something for sure. Part of that something was a bed. I had a bed frame, but no head board/foot board action going on. So this summer I purchased my very first brand new bed. Can you believe it? But before I get too far into this, let’s take a look at the before.

The no-headboard look left the bed frumpy. The dresser was crowding the bed; I like to see a little bit of wall.
And how about some color? Aside from the blue pillow, it’s all beige and yellow.

And here’s the after. Having a real bed makes everything look crisp. Losing the droopy bed skirt is a plus too. The dresser is now in the living room/entryway storing extra blankets and holding a little dish for my keys. I like the more open feel of the white side table. And the rug! It gives the punch of color this room desperately needed.

While the dresser is being used for extra blankets, the chest of drawers facing the bed is actually used for clothes, so it stayed.

I don’t know what is up with this chest looking cherry in the photos
because it’s not. It’s pretty close to the same color as the new bed.
You’ll have to take my word.

I hung a couple of coat racks for my handbags and hats which keeps the closet clutter somewhat under control, and I like the bags as decorative items because they’re girly and add great texture.

And lastly, the cedar chest that used to be black is now white. With most of the furniture being dark wood or white, I felt two finishes were enough. The black cedar chest wasn’t harmonizing, but it was a gift from my parents many years ago, so it stays forever. When I painted it black circa 2004, I updated the hardware to something ridiculously modern. Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic so I popped the original hardware back on after painting it white. It goes better with the antique-ish look of the side table. I like it!

And finally, one more gratuitous shot just because I’m so pleased!
This is the half-time show of the “One Room at a Time” adventure. I’ve done living room, dining room, and master bedroom. Remaining: master bath, half bath, and kitchen. Progress.

A Fresh and More Elegant Look for the Dining Room

When I moved back to the condo, the dining room was sporting the same pale gray, Manhattan Mist to be exact, as the living room and kitchen.  Not bad, but I thought I could do better.  The white wainscoting deserved more contrast on top.  Here’s what I had to start with:

Manhattan Mist was fine but didn’t do the white wainscoting justice.

The first step was to paint an almost black like I had before I moved out two years ago.  I love the black and white, and this little dining area is the perfect place to go bold for two reasons:

  1. The half walls are small enough to not overwhelm regardless of how bold you go.
  2. Because there are only two half walls, it takes just a couple of hours from start to finish.  If I don’t like it, repainting isn’t a big deal.
Valspar Muted Ebony from Lowe’s warmed the room a ton.

And then a few months ago I posted this pic.  A white shelf with white objects was a project I sincerely meant to start…but didn’t.  I lost interest for a while, but I came back, paintbrush in hand, and did it!  Well, a version of it…

The inspiration photo. The plan was to paint all of this white and hang on the black wall.

I returned the large shelf shown above and I can’t even tell you why.  There was a reason, but it was a few months ago and, unless it’s critical, my bean doesn’t retain info that long.  I painted the two frames and a smaller shelf and nothing more.  The circle wall hanging was too big for the smaller shelf, and I kind of forgot about the cross.  I’ll find a home for it in another room. Without further ado, here is what I actually did:

The painted white shelf and frames, plus a gravy boat and a platter.

And here’s how it all came together.  I really like it.  I hung the shelf a little too high, and that bugs me, but I’m going to live with it for a while to see if I can live with it.  Extra holes in the wall bug me too.  It’s been said before, but sometimes I exhaust me!

I like the black and white. It’s easy to pull off in
a small space with enough of each color to balance.

Since I don’t have anywhere else to put my desk, I have forgone a dining table and am using the desk as such. It’s an antique library table that my Mom gave to me, and I and my sister Vicki refinished, so I hold this close to my heart. I’ll always have this desk, and I don’t mind the double-duty of desk and dining to accommodate it. The chairs were a steal from Stein Mart at $60 each, and because they’re a mix of contemporary with traditional, they bridge the gap between the shaker style desk and the traditional wainscoting.

Do you have a piece of furniture or antique that holds special meaning to you? Tell me how you’ve incorporated it into your style. Like life, it’s all about balance!


One Room at a Time – Entry

A couple of months ago I painted my white entry door black.  I painted the inside because I live in a condo and HOA rules don’t allow me to paint the outside.  That was the beginning of giving the entry a face lift.  Since then I’ve been distracted by other projects (living room, organizing, wrote & submitted three articles in hopes to be a paid contributor to Apartment Therapy but didn’t get the gig – boo!) and just plain living life (seeing all the Oscar nominated films before the Oscars) and having fun (ran my first 5K!).  Surprised?  Didn’t think so.

Before I get too far off topic, back to the entry.  I was doing some thrift store shopping with a friend a few weeks back and happened upon this awesome mirror.

A steal at $20!
I was almost sold on this one until I found the other hiding behind it.
Love this table, but don’t have space for it.
I’d paint it peacock blue or a rich, buttery yellow.

I didn’t care for the dark wood, but knew I could do something to make this mirror look bright and cheery.  First it hung out in my car for about a week, and then it had a very special spot leaning against the wall for a couple more weeks.  Miss Mirror got her lucky break today when I had a snow day – office closed due to winter storm Pax – so out came the paint.

I checked the closet and found some leftover Skylight by Pantone.  I painted a curio cabinet that color in the master bedroom and loved it.  I did not love it against the gray wall in the living room.

SO, I dug in the closet a little further and pulled out some leftover white latex satin wall & trim.  My guess is it froze at some point because it had the consistency of cottage cheese.  Back to the closet again.  I pulled out a can with no label but magic marker that read “trim.”  It was from the builder when I bought my condo almost 9 years ago.  I painted, and it was good!

I did three coats to be sure the Skylight wasn’t showing through, and it turned out great.  I like that there are flaws and it doesn’t look brand new.

Imperfections are perfect!

Oh, I almost forgot, a couple of months ago I went table shopping on my lunch break and found this little cutie.  Because the entry is a tiny space, I need the table to be shallow.  Just somewhere to put my keys when I walk in.  This one fits the bill with a depth of only 10 1/4″.

Here it is all put together.  Looks great, doesn’t it?

Now I can check myself on my way out and toss my keys on my way in.
No excuses for bad hair days or lost keys. Ha!

It turned out to be a pretty darn productive snow day:

  • Walked a mile to pick up my car – that’s a whole other wintry story
  • Shoveled the walk with a dustpan
  • Made a pot of chili (a must-have on a snow day)
  • Painted the mirror which finally finished off the entry

Can I get an Amen?  What do you do on your snow days (if you get them)?  What would you do if you ever had one?


Redecorating: A Fresh Living Room

A few months ago I moved back to my little condo and pretty much had a blank slate to work with. And oh how I love to decorate. Much of my furniture and artwork were the same as when I left two years ago, but I got to change a few things and ended up with a whole new look.

First was the wall color. You’ll think I’ve lost my mind, but I had to change the gray walls to gray. You’re not surprised at all, are you? The existing gray had a blue undertone and I didn’t want that. I wanted more of a gray gray.

Here’s the first gray (Manhattan Mist – Behr)
Looks a little blue, doesn’t it?
Here you can really see the blue. Manhattan Mist on the
right and On the Rocks – Sherwin Williams on the left.

I had the luxury of painting before anything was moved. If you do your own painting like I do, you can appreciate what a job it is to move everything to the center of the room and work around it. An empty room is a ton easier. But after the painting was done, the movers came. And they left me with this. Yes, it’s what I asked them to do, but good grief what an overwhelming task to unpack.

There’s furniture somewhere under all those boxes!

Before the big reveal, here’s a look at what the living room looked like before I moved out.

The 2011 look.
The 2014 look.

I sold my sofa when I moved out in 2011, so first up was a little shopping. I found the style I like on Pinterest (the most glorious time drain ever), and set out to find a more affordable version. The sofa and giant ottoman are both from World Market and were floor model bargains. The photo doesn’t do the curtains justice, but the print is dogwood branches and birds – so pretty and feminine (Martha Stewart from JCP). The silver bubble lamp was a super consignment find at $20 – can you believe it? I splurged a little on the floor lamp on the right. It was $70 from HomeGoods. I’m all about symmetry, but even though the lamps are different from one another, I think they work because of their commonalities – color and finish.

I love books and have them in every room. They bring warmth, color, and a peek into your personality. I grouped some of my artwork together for an entirely different look. A few pillows for texture and more color, a pretty vase, and some favorite sentimental items and voila! I really like how it all came together.

A closer look at the curtains.
Baskets beneath the bench in the entry are filled with books.
More books and a pretty vase in a tray on the ottoman.
Wood boat was a thrift store find while vacationing with my Mom. Thrifting is
one of Mom’s favorite things, so this holds memories of a fun day with her.
And the super consignment bubble lamp!

At the end of the day, the more personalized the space, the more comfortable it feels. Hopefully that makes my guests feel just as cozy here as I do.  Welcome!


Kitchen Facelift – Intermission

A long while back, maybe even my first post, I talked about making more space in our not-so-functional kitchen. The result – we were mildly successful in making more space for us to walk around things. Not so good. I made a good effort way back when to re-purpose two of Ken’s existing shelving units from the living room into the kitchen to store mixing bowls, appliances and such. A console was thrown in the middle of everything to be a sort of workspace and also to hold some pots and pans below. The result was a cluttered, sort of functional kitchen.

Lots of stuff in a small space.
After living with it for awhile, we realize we have four basic problems in our kitchen:
  • Storage
  • Workspace
  •  Lighting
  • Overall appearance (do we like the way the kitchen looks?)
So far we’ve been working on two of these – appearance and storage. We’ve sort of been working on the lighting situation but we haven’t done anything with lighting yet. It’ll make sense in a minute.

The kitchen is at the back of our condo unit with no windows, and a bit too far from the living room window to get any light to speak of, making it dark and cave-like. So we first painted the medium oak colored cabinets a soft white. Cotton Whisper by Behr. It brightened things up a ton (thus, the lighting without the lighting). We still need some task lighting, but for now, the bright and cheery update will do. And since white is one of the hot trends in kitchens, it modernizes the room a touch as well. Appearances are everything…or something like that. So here’s our somewhat finished product. Looks nice, huh? I really like it!

So much brighter!
We added a magnetic knife strip and a $20
pack of removable decals for the backsplash. Groovy!
Storage has been an issue since I moved in. When it was just Ken, his few cabinets were sparsely used. All of his pots and pans lived in the oven. I felt like I was camping any time I would come over and cook for him! Worn pans, random pieces of flatware, some vintage stoneware – brown and orange or yellow, if I recall. Then came all of my kitchen stuff. It was like the scene from Downton Abbey when they went on holiday to Scotland and we watched trunk upon trunk loaded by the staff into the vehicles. I think I’m pretty average when it comes to the amount of shoes and clothing I own, but when we’re talking kitchen stuff – I’m definitely an overachiever. I don’t necessarily use it all; it’s just pretty 🙂
And so began the struggle to fit a battalion of cooking accoutrements into a half-pint kitchen.
 Fast forward to today (actually Thanksgiving 2012 is when we began this project), and voila! We have a lighter and brighter kitchen with the white cabinets. One shelving unit and the console were removed to allow for a more open atmosphere. This was important given the cave-like feel of the room.
Only one set of shelves and no console.

Also, now that we have our furry canine daughter, Phoebe, her crate lives in the kitchen so space had to be made for her too!

Phoebe’s corner of the kitchen – see her
Canine Good Citizen Certificate?
Such a Good Dog!

We replaced the hardware on the doors with brushed nickel, but when it came to the pulls on the drawers, we found that size pull was no longer available. Sooo, yours truly (on a good tip from a friend) went straight to Home Depot and bought a can of brushed nickel spray paint and we were able to reuse the same pulls. Big savings = happy me! While we’re on the topic of savings, let me break down the total project budget so far: white paint $7 (oops can); spray paint $7; brushed nickel hardware $20; decals $20; magnetic strip $25. Total $ spent = $79!

These pulls were bronze until Ken sprayed
them brushed nickel. Pretty cool!
The pots and pans were moved into a closet right around the corner from the kitchen. It’s like three steps and you’re there. I bought some hooks that go with pot racks and there you have it – the pots were all hung in the closet with care – and they’re actually more accessible than when they were stacked one on top of another in the kitchen.
Pots and pans within easy reach in the closet 🙂
So uncave-like!

What’s left to do:

  • Install under cabinet lighting to add some task lighting
  • Maybe install some above cabinet lighting just to brighten the space even more
  • Paint the walls a very pale gray
  • Purchase a rolling kitchen cart (much smaller than the console) and possibly two small stools so we have more workspace and an intimate dining space for dinners for two. Well, three because Phoebes likes to hang at our feet when we eat. Ok, truth be told, she likes to get in our face when we eat, but we’re working on that. We’ve had about a 25% success rate so far…I’m focusing on the word success in that sentence!
This kitchen cart is at Bed Bath & Beyond.
It may be what we need for extra work space and a
little casual eating space. Much smaller than the console.

All in all this has been a drawn-out project so far because neither of us enjoy painting, and painting the cabinets took 3 to 4 coats. We putzed around for months when motivated folks may have hammered it out in a long weekend, but that phase is complete now and we can move on to the next…when we’re up for it 😉


Bedroom Redo Phase I

After living in bland land for a few months I decided it was high time for at least a little color. When we combined households, the bedroom was the most obvious room where Ken and I had different decorating styles. I think we have five different wood finishes in the one room. I’m all for eclectic, but this is a little much! When we decided to list the condo, I tried my best to make everything neutral to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible, and to balance everything that was going on in the bedroom (I’m talking about colors and wood finishes!). We ended up with a study in beige and gray.

Ok, but blah.
Patio chair in the corner had the wrong colors.

I was inspired by a lamp I saw at Pier I and decided a little shot of teal might help our room. Since we already had silver based lamps, I thought I would cover a pair of white lampshades with teal fabric to copy the look and use our existing lamps. A few hours and lots of frustration later, I ended up with a couple of underwhelming lamps. I sometimes forget that I’m not the craft maven I think I am!

Inspiration lamp at Pier I (but not in the budget).

So Phase 1 of this little redo was to purchase some colorful pillows and accent pieces, new lamps, and also to reupholster the patio chair that resides in the corner of the room.

First, I reupholstered the patio chair in black & white.
Then I added some colorful pillows and draped a scarf over the chest.
The bed got a few colorful pillows too, and new bedside lamps.

This all helps, but remember it’s only the beginning. I plan to paint several of the pieces of furniture with a soft, old-timey white (the nightstands, cedar chest, one of the dressers, and book shelf. That will bring us to three wood finishes in the bedroom – woohoo! The color I have in mind I also saw at Pier I:

Once that’s all finished (all that furniture painting may take awhile), then we’ll take a look at what’s on the walls and maybe even bring in an area rug. It’s a huge room, and even though it screams for over-sized everything, we’re planning for our next home which will likely have smaller rooms. We’d love a 1920s bungalow or mid-century ranch, but the trade-off for all that charm, character and nostalgia typically is square footage. So, trying to make this home more comfortable, but keeping in mind what we’ll likely have next, is a balancing act. I’m sure it’ll all come together soon – it always does!

In the mean time, I painted a bedside table in our guest room. It started out looking like this:

Nightstand before
Green & wood on left, black file cabinet on right, wood desk far right.

A little dated (ok, a lot dated) and again, several finishes going on in the guest room, so I painted it black to match the file cabinet that serves as the other nightstand in that room. I changed out the hardware also to match the file cabinet.

Once again the kitchen is transformed into a workshop 🙂
Turned out nice!
The room looks finished now. Yay!

It’s nice to have one room finished 🙂 The other rooms are all livable works in progress, and we’ll get there. No rush…until I get a bee in my bonnet!