Category Archives: Idaho State Journal

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Loving Our Homes

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to stop and appreciate our homes for all of the warmth and security they give us.  As a designer who is always looking at images and plans for beautiful spaces, sometimes I get caught up in everything I want to do to change our home.

I have all these ideas to make it better and often focus more on the problems our home has than on all of its great attributes.  So, at least for today, I want to think about what makes our home special.

I like the idea of taking a minute to write down three things about your house that you are thankful for.  It could be that you are thankful for a kitchen that supports you in making food for your family.  A refrigerator that keeps your food cold and fresh, or a table where your family can all sit down and have a meal together.  I am grateful for the sliding doors leading out to our backyard and garage.  They allow me to see the kids playing outside, and they let in beautiful sunlight to warm the kitchen.

sliding door in sun

It might also help to focus on all of the areas you have already improved your home.  Instead of stressing about the horribly desolate laundry room, I can focus on the beautiful bathroom we just carefully remodeled.  The kitchen floors might still be ugly, but the cabinets and shelves are a huge improvement from when we moved in.  Taking before and after photos can help remind you of all the love and hard work you may have been pouring into your home.

Think about the connections you make with family and friends in your home. The games you play around the coffee table, the forts you build with sheets and sofa cushions, and the conversations with your friends and family around the dinner table.  If we appreciate and focus on the small joys, it helps us to see the beauty in all of our home’s imperfections.

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As I look around my home, I see a lot of messes.  But if I look at the meaning behind the messes, I can be thankful for many things.  The legos strewn all over the kid’s room means that my five-year-old daughter is building and creating, using fine-motor skills and her incredible imagination.    IMG_5548

The fort in the corner of the living room was a labor of love between my three-year-old son and his daddy.  

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The stack of bills on my desk means that we have heat and water, and a roof over our heads.  We are living life, and that is why there are a few messes.

If you like to take pictures, one way to appreciate our homes more is to carry your camera around and take photos of the little things that really matter.

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What makes you smile?  It could be the dog napping in the sun, your kids playing together, a good book waiting to be read or the chairs you lovingly painted to bring color into your home.  I think we would all be surprised at how many positive and wonderful things are happening in our imperfect homes!

 

Ready, Set, Organize!

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but January was all about organizing.  And for those of us who didn’t get it all done in January, February is about organizing, too. 🙂

It seems that with a new year, people get excited about putting their possessions in order, once and for all.  I am right there with you, getting sucked into all the ads for storage containers and articles about shelves and colorful baskets and tidy bins being the solution for corralling our possessions.  But before you go out and buy 50 new containers to stylishly store all your shoes, let’s talk about clutter.

Those of you who know me personally are probably laughing right now.  I know a lot about clutter, because I deal with it every day.  My little family has made huge progress in the clutter department over the last couple of years, but we are still working on the tendencies my husband and I (and our two kids) have to collect various items.  And to not put things back where they belong.  We all like to create, and surroundings sometimes get a bit crazy during the creative process.  

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But, the important lesson we have each learned is that it is much more fun to work on a project when we can easily find all of our materials and when our environment is uncluttered.  

Aspen and legos

There are so many reasons why we as humans tend to collect too much stuff.  In fact, I teach a whole class about clutter Monday, through ISU Workforce Training. My biggest personal reason is that I plan to use it or ‘I might need it’ someday.  So while I wait for that ‘someday,’ the stuff is cluttering up my workspace and causing me stress.  Before I purchase any ‘get organized quick’ storage system, I must first declutter.  I know from experience that getting rid of anything that is not bringing joy to my life is incredibly rewarding (this does not include my son at 3 in the morning).

closet organized

While our home is small compared to the average, we really have more than enough room for the four of us.  We hope to downsize even more in the future, so learning how to keep clutter at bay is essential.  My husband and I are really good at repurposing items, but we also tend to buy ahead for future projects.

Goal #1: Stop buying ahead!  If I am not ready to do the project right away, I should leave the materials at the store.  What do I think is going to happen?  That I will finally have the time to do the project and the roads will be closed so I can’t get to the store?

Goal #2: Set a deadline and plan for projects I already have materials for.  If I am still not inspired to do it, get rid of the stuff because it likely won’t ever get done.  Only after all the excess clutter is gone can I even start to think about goal #3.

Goal #3: Organize.  By this time, all that should be left are the things that we really use and actually like.  I don’t want to organize junk, I want to organize things I care about!  And guess what, by this time I will probably have discovered I don’t actually need any more storage containers.  Well, except maybe those cool glass jars with the copper lids I saw over at Ross.  I am sure I could find a good use for them. Someday.

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Chair before and after

Colorful Chair Makeover

Finished Chair

According to my patient husband, I am a hoarder of chairs.  Admittedly, we might have a few extras hanging around, but they all have so much potential!  In an effort to update a hand-me-down and create comfortable seating for our little guest room, I finally refinished one last week.  

When they replaced their conference chairs at my husband’s work, he brought home two of the old ones for me.  Even though he fusses a bit, he is actually an accomplice to my hoarding. I have been eyeing them for awhile, and finally the opportunity arose to use one in the guest room.

FullSizeRender (5)The chair before.

I had a yard of indoor/outdoor upholstery fabric I had purchased for some outdoor seat cushions, but hadn’t used yet.  Sorry outdoor cushions, you aren’t a priority right now.  It turned out to be the perfect amount for one chair, and it had all the colors I have been using in the room.  I also have an embarrassing number of sample paint pots.  I found a great blue in my stash, so I was all set.  I did purchase some quilt batting on sale over the holidays so I could plump up the softness in the chairs a bit.  There is plenty of batting left for several more chairs. Using materials I already had meant this chair refresh cost less than $5, but even if I would have had to buy it all again it would have been less than $20. I have a hundred projects (not kidding) in my head all the time, so I almost always wait for sales.  Waiting takes patience but it allows me to do some pretty fun things.

After gathering all the materials, the next step was to take the chair apart.  The seat was easy with just two screws holding it into the frame.  I had a harder time getting the back off, so I ended up starting to remove staples to see if I could figure it out.

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The back eventually required chipping out the wood plugs in the side of the chair to get to the screws, which were all stripped and mangled by whoever assembled the chair originally.  We had to break out a hacksaw for a couple of them, but finally got it all apart.  Then came the most time consuming part of it all: removing the remaining hundreds of staples holding the original upholstery on the chair.  I used a flat screwdriver and needle-nosed pliers for this job.  

Once the cushions were off the chair, I washed the chair with soapy water and then sanded it lightly.  I used two very thin coats of paint, allowing it to dry thoroughly each time.

Painted chair frame

While paint was drying, I removed more staples.  When the staples are all out, you can take the fabric off and use it for a pattern.  I made sure to label the back of the fabric and the back of the seat so I could put it back together correctly.  Pin the the old fabric to the new and cut out the shape.  My fabric had a direction to the print, so I made sure the pattern was facing the right direction before cutting.

I wrapped the seat and back cushion with a piece of batting and then it was time to staple on the fabric.  I started in the center of each side and then worked toward the edges.  When you get to the corners, fold the fabric like a present and staple away! Screw the seat and back onto the frame again and you have a unique and comfortable chair that works perfectly with your decor.  Here’s a side-by-side!  What do you think?

Chair before and after

Guest Room Accent Wall

Wooden accent wall

A few months back, I told you I was giving our guest room an update.

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Yikes! A scary catch-all room.

I scoured Pinterest for some inspiration on an accent wall that would be unique, warm and fun.  My attention was caught by the wide array of wood clad walls, and especially by the ones using reclaimed wood or recycled pallets.  After sifting through many images that were too dark and rustic for our personal taste and the style of our home, I came across this image that felt much more modern and industrial.  The photo showed a wall in a studio office where pallets were used and there were occasional swatches of color remaining from the edges of the pallets.

 As I began to search for wood pallets, I soon learned that they are neither easy to come by or inexpensive/free anymore!  After pricing pallets and deciding how many it would take, along with the excessive time it would take to disassemble them all, Jer talked me into a ‘browsing’ trip at Home Depot.

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I ended up being so glad I hadn’t pulled the trigger on the wood pallets.  We found a product called Tri-PLY, which is advertised as a Multipurpose Project Panel.  Tri-PLY is a 3/16in thick  panel that comes in 4 x 4 ft sheets, with a very thin wood grain veneer.  It is moisture resistant, which is an added bonus since we used it on a basement wall.  We loaded up our car with five panels and an idea. IMG_3022

Using our table saw, Jer and I ripped the panels into 4 inch widths.  After that, I took the more manageable pieces and cut them into ⅔ and ⅓ sections (32 inches and 16 inches).

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Following that somewhat tedious process, I hauled the newly fashioned ‘boards’ inside and began to nail them to the wall.  Since there is a window on the wall with a bed centered under it, I started attaching the boards under the window sill.  I used brown paneling nails to make them just slightly visible on the boards.  I attempted to alternate sizes and wood grain patterns and colors for interest.  I pounded nails for several hours while Jer took our kids to a movie.

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As you get to the edge of the wall, you most likely will not end up having a piece that fits exactly.  So, the saw skills get to come in handy again!  I held up each piece and marked it top and bottom with a pencil.  Then I numbered the piece and the wall so I remembered where it went.  I usually only took five or six at a time to cut, so things wouldn’t get too crazy.  I had to cut one or two of them twice, but I was overall very happy with the fit.

IMG_3030 Since the swatches of color on the wall was one of the major attractions of my inspiration photo, I decided to add some color to our wall also.  I used a combination of acrylic craft paint and some leftover wall paint.  I wanted a somewhat ‘worn’ look, so I watered down the paint before loosely brushing it on.  I sanded some areas where I thought it was too dark, and dry brushed others.  I tried to stop before it got too crazy looking, since my goal was modern cozy, not circus.

IMG_3028Overall, I am very pleased with the results.  The thin panels were very easy to work with, and the thin nails won’t leave huge marks when the wood is eventually removed.

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I would recommend this product for a light-use room, such as a guest room or office.  It might not hold up well in a kid’s room.  One thing I didn’t like about the panels was a sticker right on the front that was impossible to remove.  I ended up having plenty leftover, but I also used those sticker pieces for the edges and just cut off the sticker.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

There you have it! An accent wall inspired by wood pallets, but created for about a third of the price.  We reused some narrow IKEA shelves from the kitchen for floating nightstands and I purchased these fantastic eyeball sconces from Urban Outfitters.  The throw is from Lulu & Georgia, but it is temporarily out of stock, and quite a bit more expensive than when I bought it.

We are loving the look, and it feels so much more comfortable and welcoming.  Updates on the rest of the room coming soon!

Front Porch Update for Fall

With Halloween and Christmas being the two holidays most decorated for, we have been seeing black cats and bats popping up all over town.  Ironically, I am not one to do a lot of decorating for the seasons or holidays.  If I do, they tend to stay there for awhile past their celebratory time.  This year, for some reason Fall has me digging out a wreath for the front door and painting a doormat.  

A few years ago, I made my favorite Fall/Halloween wreath ever.  I spray painted a grapevine wreath bright orange, and bought several little rubber snakes to weave through the branches.  It still makes me smile, which means I still get to use it on the front door.  To update it a bit this year, I added some orange and black feathers from our craft closet.

Front door update: snake wreath, spider web door mat, magnetic letters

The snakes could be replaced with branches of leaves, mini pumpkins or even little turkeys for Thanksgiving. I love to decorate with grapevine wreaths.  They are so simple and inexpensive, and look great in their natural brown or spraypainted any color of the rainbow.

After seeing some fun painted doormats on Pinterest, I decided to make one of my own.  Since it seems we are going with a Halloween theme, I cut the mat into a half-circle shape and painted a spider’s web on the doormat with white craft paint.

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Since it felt a little small for our porch area, I moved the flower planters and pumpkins closer to the door for a more cozy feel.  After Halloween is over, I plan to repaint the larger doormat that was at the front door.  It is very faded and could use a spicy new paint job.  Even if it only lasts the season, it could be painted again in the spring, or exchanged for a new one at that time.

Our yellow door is metal, so I had the idea to use my kid’s magnetic alphabet pieces to spell out BOO. In the future, I will probably paint all of the magnets the same color so they stand out better against the door.  It is a fun and easy way to update a little message for your visitors.  For example, ‘Be Thankful’ for Thanksgiving, or even a simple ‘Hello’ for an everyday greeting.  The kids have been having fun rearranging them and adding some of the other letters from our fridge!

Arranging pumpkins, gourds, fall mums and other flowers around your front door also adds to the festive fall mood.  The succulents I planted in the spring are still looking really healthy, so I decided they were just perfect for fall, too!  We had a few pumpkins from the garden and some large rocks that fill in the space.

Indoors, we are taking advantage of the last flowers growing in our yard and gardens and filling up vases all over the house.

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We have a tree that has flowing branches with berries and they are also pretty in a small vase or jar.  Add a pumpkin spice candle or a simmering pot of homemade citrus and cinnamon potpourri and there is no question that fall is in the air.

 

Renovation Diary, Part 4: The Bathroom Reveal

Fifty-two days after the fateful peeling up of ‘just one’ vinyl tile on our bathroom floor, the bathroom renovation is complete.  Instead of feeling dated, grungy and pieced together, our bathroom now feels happy, spacious and clean.  Natural daylight floods the space and the bright colors are refreshing and uplifting.

Bright and Peaceful Bathroom Remodel, Black and White, Merona Tile, Ikea vanity, cb2 mirror

Details, details!  Who knew it would take over a month and a half to get a window in the bathroom and to finish caulking everything?  The most important parts of the bathroom–aka the toilet, sink and bathtub, were useable by the first week or two of September, but the missing window prevented the use of the shower for several more weeks.

Installing glass block in a shower

 Thankfully, the warm fall weather in Pocatello held out and my crazy plan to combine a regular window with glass blocks worked fantastically.  

Glass blocks and an awning window

Exposed cinder block, round mirror, Ikea vanity

Many aspects of our Do-It-Yourself bathroom renovation have been incredible learning experiences.  One of the more stressful lessons is that when you order tile shipped to your house, half of it may arrive smashed to pieces.  Luckily, I could take it right down to Home Depot for a refund and I quickly reordered the amount I needed.  It’s a good thing it was a pretty painless process, because next the glass block window I ordered arrived with about 12 chips in it.  I ended up just ordering loose glass blocks on the second go-round and Jer and I put them together ourselves.  We are much happier with the finished appearance and we were able to fill the window space perfectly with an awning window above the glass blocks.  I was pretty stubborn about wanting glass blocks in the bathroom, but with a large window on top that would open and vent.  Our awning window ended up being 32in x 16in, and the glass blocks were 32in x 24in below it.  I am really glad I stayed true to my vision, even when it seemed like such a hassle.

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Another eye-opener for us is that tub and shower fixtures are not all made the same.  Of course, we didn’t find this out until the end, when all of the tile was completely done.  We ended up coming in from the back side and cutting a large hole in our kitchen/dining room wall to replace the pressure balance valve.  What would have taken less than an hour while everything was out in the open ended up taking all day.  And now there is that little issue of the hole in the kitchen wall…

One of our favorite things about the bathroom is the statement tile on the floor.

Merola Tile Twenties Diamond

It completely fits our family’s style, but it will also work very well with other styles.  Simply changing the art and the color of the towels gives the bathroom a different vibe.

Bathroom Remodel: Black and White with a bit of color

 We also love the modern look of the vertically stacked white subway tile with the charcoal grout.  The tile fits well with the style and era of our home, but also has a fresh twist.  At the last minute, I decided to add black tile around the window, and I am so glad I did.

Target clock, DIY shelf

We no longer have to fear that the tub or toilet may fall through the floor unexpectedly.  Gone is the plexiglass nailed to the old shower window to prevent leaks into the wall.

Back of door hooks

 We know the amount of hard work and attention to detail that was put into every inch of the room.  There are a few details remaining, such as knobs for hanging towels and maybe a small cabinet for storage, but that’s all part of the fun.  

Wash cloths in a basket

Towel basket by tub

Can I just tell you how awesome it was to take that first shower in the new bathroom?!?

Renovation Diary, Part 3: Getting to Work

One day you are making a plan and tearing out your bathroom floor, and the next day you realize you have to put it all back together again.  Let me give you a heads up–it is a lot quicker and easier to tear old junk out of a bathroom than it is to put the new stuff in.

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Our first weekend started off very productively with demolition and putting in a new subfloor.  

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At the beginning of the week, I proactively added a waterproofing goop to the floor under the tub and we moved the tub back in from the yard.  On Tuesday evening, Jer was putting up cement board in the shower while I put the kids to bed.  All of the sudden, there was an extremely loud crash and a yell from the bathroom.  In the middle of a balancing act involving a drill, screws and heavy backerboard, the drill fell into the tub and chipped the finish.  Argh!

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After a night spend researching the pros and mostly cons of fixing a chip on the bottom of a bathtub, we decided to replace it while we still could.  Thankfully, there was one in stock and Jer picked it up on his lunch break.  He fortunately realized while still in the parking lot that the drain hole was on the wrong side!  After another painstaking tub wrangling, we had the chipped tub out and the new one in that evening.  Time gets sort of blurry after that.

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Even knowing how much prep work was involved, it still took way longer than I wanted it to.  Perhaps it was because I mostly worked on it after the kids were in bed or when my wonderful mom had a day off to help watch them.  When I got things to the point where I needed Jer’s help again, I worked on the detail things.  I painted the ceiling black.

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I got pretty good at mixing up small batches of thinset, but the cleanup was less than enjoyable.  After the shower walls were mostly tiled, I  had a day or two where I contemplated not tiling the lower walls in the rest of the bathroom.  I took a break and painted the ceiling again.  This time I used two coats of primer on it before painting it a light mint color.  I really think the black ceiling would have worked if the ceilings were taller, but it just didn’t feel right in this space.  Also, my mom got claustrophobic every time I even talked about it, so there was that. 😉

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After the shower and walls were tiled, I moved on to the floors.  Tiling the floors was incredibly rewarding and much easier than the walls.  Something to say for gravity working for you instead of against you.  

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After that came the grouting.  I wanted a very dark grout, but I worried because I knew my tile setting job wasn’t perfect and dark grout would accentuate the flaws. I was also overwhelmed at the thought of having to mix up yet another powder and water.  Thankfully, my dad talked me into exchanging the powder for a premixed grout that never has to be sealed.  It was considerably more expensive, but it likely saved my sanity.  Since it came in a little container with a lid, I could grab a half hour here and there to work when I had the time.  We are happy with the final result, and the contrast between the white tiles and the dark grout makes the whole space look more modern.

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Several weeks More than a month and a half after the fateful start, we are nearing the finish line.  True to form, even those little details at the end take way more time than you think they should.  You will notice that we are still missing a window in these photos.  It’s a very good thing it was summertime!

Next up…Renovation Diary, Part 4: Bathroom Reveal!!

 

Renovation Diary, Part 2: Inspiration and Research

When you are thinking about remodeling a bathroom or any other room in your home, one of the first things you should do is start gathering ideas.  My favorite way to gather ideas is to look in magazines or online for images that I love.  I tear magazine pages out and keep them in a binder, sometimes writing or circling what interested me about the image.  For online images, I use Pinterest to organize by topic or by room.  As an interior designer, I am constantly looking at and saving images, so when it was time to redo our bathroom I had a ton of ideas all ready to go.

After you gather a fair amount of images, it is important to look at them all together and see if any common theme becomes apparent.  With my images, it was obvious that high-contrast black and white was what I was drawn to.  One thing about bathrooms is that you can have a great neutral base and add a lot of personality with colorful accent pieces, towels and shower curtains.  My husband and I both enjoy a modern aesthetic with some color, texture and natural wood added to warm up the room.  Another bit of information we learned from the inspiration images was that I was going to have to learn how to tile!  I have always loved the look of subway tiles in a shower, and we decided to use them part way up the rest of the walls as well.

Once you have decided on your design direction, it is a good idea to put together an idea board (or have a designer help you with this step).  This is where you gather all of the different elements in the room and arrange them together to make sure they will compliment each other and support your vision.  I use Photoshop for this purpose, but there are several other programs that will allow you to arrange and resize images.  A large bulletin board or piece of posterboard will allow you to easily arrange magazine images. To help visualize what the finished outcome will be, consider hiring a designer to draw up the space with your selected furnishings, finishes and materials.

Bathroom Inspiration

1. Shower curtain, anthropologie.com.  This one is no longer made, so I will likely be making my own.  I also want it to be extra long, so that limits the options of remade shower curtains.

2. Vanity light, home depot.com.

3. Lockable cabinet, ikea.com.  We will likely get one for each family member, leaving the kid’s unlocked.  We have a little girl who loves to get into things.

4. Round mirror, cb2.com.  We are mixing in some warm wood tones to warm up all the black and white a bit.

5. Colorful towels.  I am contemplating different colors for each family member.   Does anyone else get bothered by sharing towels?  I really don’t like reaching for my towel to find it all wet already!

6. White subway tile with charcoal grout.  I am also placing the tiles vertically in a stacked pattern.  I figure since it is my first tiling job, I might as well make it as difficult as possible. ha.

7. Vanity, ikea.com.  We are actually using the Godmorgon vanity with the Rattviken sink.  We are using the Dalskar faucet.

8. Floor tile, home depot.com.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE this tile.  Home Depot has really got it going on in the tile department.  This particular tile has 3 or 4 different patterns you can make.

9. Hand painted knobs, etsy.com.  I will be painting my own.  We are choosing these rather than towel bars.  Our bathroom is pretty small and hooks just make more sense for us.  I might sew a loop on each of our towels to make them easier to put on hooks.

10. Asparagus fern.  They like damp environments with a fair amount of light.  I already have one, and think it might like living in the bathroom next.

11. Wood and metal shelf, westelm.com.  I will DIY a version of this also. I want a mix  of wood and black metal to tie in the vanity light and mirror.

When you are satisfied with your material choices, it is time to get them ordered.  Keep in mind that some things may not be in stock in the stores, and you will have to special order them.  This process can take awhile, especially if they happen to be broken when they arrive, like my floor tiles and glass block window were.  To speed up the whole process considerably just choose items that are already in stock.  Of course I didn’t do that, so we have spent a bit of time playing the waiting game.  Since my husband and I have been doing all of the work ourselves and aren’t trying to schedule contractors, it has all worked out (except for that crazy window!).

Here are some things we have learned in the ‘Inspiration and Research’ process:

1. Researching tools and materials can help you save a lot of money.  Instead of expensive artisan cement tiles, I was able to find a beautiful ceramic replica for a fraction of the price.

2. YouTube videos and tutorials can help a lot.  They can either show you how to do something, or help you decide when to hire a professional.

3. Think about using basic materials in new ways.  Even simple and timeless subway tiles can take on a unique look with a different arrangement or contrasting grout.

Next Up, Renovation Diary: Putting it All Back Together.

 

Things that take longer than you expect…

A LOT longer.

I have been wanting to strip the paint of the doors and drawers on our hallway ‘linen’ closet since we moved in.  They had a least 5 layers of paint, and it was really drippy and goopy, especially around the edges and the handles.  It was also starting to chip off, and I was mildly worried that some of the original coats might have been lead-based paint (I did test this, but couldn’t really get a clear reading–I just made sure the paint was gone before sanding).

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Since we have been having some nice sunny days, my little helpers and I took the project outside!  (I really don’t know what they were doing in this picture. Probably watching bugs).

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I have fond memories of stripping paint from an old piano with my mom when I was a teenager (eleven layers of paint!), I decided to give it a try on the doors and drawer fronts.  Instead of the highly toxic stuff we used 20 years ago, I used Citristrip, which is safer, biodegradable, has no harsh fumes and instead smells like an orange creamsicle.  It says it is safe to use indoors, but I am sort of really messy, so I went outside.  I laid all the pieces on a drop cloth and proceeded to paint on the orange gel.

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After waiting over an hour for the gel to work, I eagerly ran my putty knife through the goo, getting a satisfying layer of old paint on my knife.  That first run through is always the most fun.  IMG_3647

Then I just used my putty knife and scraped off all the rest of the paint!  Just kidding.  I scraped off the top layer of paint, leaving the next layer exposed.

You can see that the first layer didn’t bubble up like my future layers did.  I don’t know why…it did peel off in big sheets though.  I wonder if that top layer was just too thick? Or maybe I needed an even thicker coating of Citristrip?

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Then I repeated the process–three or four more times.  Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it, but it was a long and tedious journey over the course of several days.

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I tried to use a generous amount of gel, getting a nice thick layer on the paint.  I varied the waiting time from 30 minutes to 20 hours.  Even though they claim the gel will remain wet for 24 hours, it was super hot outside, so the gel was drying within an hour on one of the days I was working.  I am pretty sure it was much hotter than the recommended temperature on the bottle.  I did try misting it with water, which helped a little.  The closer I got to the wood, the easier the paint seemed to peel up, so that was a big plus in the project motivation category.

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After a nice sanding, the drawers looked good, so I decided to seal them with a natural stain.  I liked the look of the light wood, but it turns out that the doors were a different kind of wood, much more ‘red’ and grained.

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See the difference?  It became even more obvious after I applied the wood conditioner and natural stain.  So I tried to blend them a bit by adding some gray stain…

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…which made them look blotchy and dirty.  I am not a fan of the ‘already dirty’ look, and they still didn’t go well together so it was back to the drawing board.

Because I still was convinced I wanted to see some of the natural wood grain, I decided to try a paint ‘wash’ next.  I picked out a fun color because the hallway is a bit boring.  I put some water in a cup and mixed a bit of paint into it.

IMG_3731 I didn’t have a particular ratio, I just watered it down quite a bit.  I planned to do several coats, knowing the color would build up a bit with each layer.  This is after the first coat:

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And after the third coat:

 

 

 

 

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I loved how it built up without becoming thick, and you can still see the wood grain through it.

I chose to reuse the original large square pulls, since they reference the time period of the house and I liked the size.  Removing the paint from them was another test of my patience, but the gel actually took most of it off on the first try.

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After settling on the color for the doors, I sprayed the pulls gold, to give it a more modern look.

Painted Hall Doors

And we officially love it!!  The color brightens up the hall without being too crazy–for us, anyway! 😉  Now everything closes so much better, and actually stays closed.

If I haven’t completely dissuaded you by this point, I will tell you that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Just start with a small project, use a thick layer of the gel and don’t expect it to be completely finished in an hour.  Garage sales and thrift stores have a ton of furniture pieces just begging for a good ‘safer’ chemical peel.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

In the ever progressing journey of minimizing our possessions and decluttering our home, I have come across numerous books on the subject.  While most of them are inspiring and motivating, one in particular tops my list so far.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, will galvanize you into action.  There is a reason it has sold over 2 million copies and has been #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list: it really works.

BEFORE

BEFORE

 

AFTER

AFTER

The KonMari Method basically revolves around the simple question, “Does this (item) spark joy?”  Kondo recommends holding each item in your hand, and if it makes you happy–or sparks joy, keep it.  If not, get rid of it.  Just using this simple process has had amazing results in my decluttering campaign.  It feels incredibly freeing to let go of items that aren’t positively influencing my life.  The focus is more about deciding what to keep rather than what we ‘have to’ get rid of.

Along with deciding which items in your home bring you joy, Kondo requests that you follow a certain order when you discard.  She recommends you start with clothing, then move on to books, papers, miscellany and lastly mementos.  Rather than going room by room, she tells you ‘tidy’ by category.  So, for example, you take all of your clothing in the entire house and put it in a big pile.  Not only does this help you deal with it all at once, it also allows you to see the extent of your wardrobe and to easily weed out multiples.

Many people–only half-jokingly–say that if they got rid of every piece of clothing that didn’t bring them joy, they wouldn’t have anything left to wear.  I promise this is very unlikely to happen.  What you will probably notice instead is that you really only wear a small portion of the clothes that you have.  Why not give them some room in the closet and get rid of the guilt that you feel every time you look at that dress that doesn’t fit quite right– but that you paid way too much money for?!

Speaking of guilt (I know you have it, too), Kondo gives you a method for dealing with that.  Say you have that expensive, ill-fitting dress buried deep in your closet.   Instead of hanging on to it ‘just because,’ thank it for the joy it brought you when you bought it and donate it to someone who will love it.  This also works for gifts you are given that just aren’t your style.  Thank the item for the joy it gave you and the giftee, and then pass it on.  My mom and sister actually told me this several years ago when I was downsizing and being sentimental about some things they had given me.  They told me that they knew it had made me happy when I received it, and that is what mattered to them.  The gift was given for the moment, and I didn’t have to save it for posterity.  What a relief!

Aside from a few areas in the book where it is quite obvious that Kondo is a single woman with no husband or children (and their included paraphernalia) to work around, it is a simple method to follow.  I have moved on from clothing to books, and I am happy to report that our home and I are both breathing a little more freely.

Hand Painted Statement Wall

Many of my favorite home projects are the quick ones, where adding a simple detail makes a big impact.  It is fun to shake things up a bit and get a fresh perspective on different spaces in your home occasionally. For example, I still love the bright orange wall behind my office desk and shelves, even after living with them for over 3 years.  But, I was in the mood for a simple change that would update the space and add some personality.

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The rope mirror is still one of my favorite projects, but it takes up so much  space on the wall behind the desk.  It has a new home in the guest room (pictures coming soon on that recent makeover).

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The somewhat unlikely pairing of orange and gold has stood out to me lately.  I suppose if gold were on the color wheel, it would be closest to orange and yellow, making it a stand-in analogous color.  For those of you who haven’t studied the color wheel for awhile, analogous colors are the ones next to each other on the color wheel.  Pairing analagous colors typically leads to a more harmonious color palette.

color-wheel 

After looking at some examples of orange and gold wallpaper online, I decided I wanted a hand-drawn look.  I opted to paint the gold onto the wall freehand instead of using a stencil.  Since my wall space was only 2.5’ x 3’, I loosely drew the vertical lines with a pencil and angle ruler.  I didn’t measure the spacing because I wanted it varied, some wide and some narrow.

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Next, I used a jar of Martha Stewart Living Metallic Paint in Golden Pearl that I already had.  It is a really soft, frosty champagne gold color.  I took a medium art brush and painted the vertical lines.

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Then, I semi-randomly added circles to the lines, stepping back occasionally to make sure they were spaced okay.  After the paint was dry, I went back and touched up some areas where the orange was showing through.  All total, it probably took a little over an hour to complete the project.

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Rebecca Hermance Desk Accent Wall

A little post on the desk/office filing accessories coming soon!  I am trying to simplify, simplify, simplify!

There are many options if you are looking to add some color or personality to a small wall space.  Simply adding a splash of color is an easy place to start, but you don’t have to stop there!  Stencils, stamps, chalkboard paint, dry erase paint, murals, vinyl decals and paint markers are all relatively inexpensive solutions to a plain wall.  A small space is also a great place to showcase a bit of fun wallpaper.

Don’t be afraid to try something you love in your space.  If you end up not liking it, a bit of paint will easily change it right back the way it was.  Starting with a small accent wall is just the jumpstart you need to refresh and personalize your home

Kids Outdoor Activity Center

Inspired by a recent article in Family Fun Magazine and a desire to have easily accessible activities for my kids, I decided to make an outdoor activity center.

After rescuing a sturdy metal shelf from my donation pile, I decided against spray painting it for now.  I like the shiny black color, and if it starts showing signs of rust, I will clean it and use a primer and rust-resistant spray paint made for metal.

Ideally, you would place your ‘activity center’ under a covered area to protect it somewhat from the elements. For now, ours is in the little fort area because it is partially covered.  Because my cart is pretty small, I want to add wheels to the bottom to make it easy to roll into the garage when needed.

Next, I shopped my house and collected tubs and containers that won’t get ruined outdoors.  Plastic milk crates, plastic shoe boxes with lids, and metal nut or coffee cans with plastic lids were my top choices.  I also had a few plastic baskets from the dollar store for things that don’t need to be covered.  I spray painted the metal cans and the shoe box lids to make things more colorful.  Labels on everything help both kids and adults return items to their designated boxes.

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Family Fun Magazine suggested some supplies: sidewalk chalk, sand toys, bubble mix, washable paints, outdoor games and balls, kid’s gardening tools, flashlights and jump ropes.  I also added water beads, colored salt and metal trays for writing letters.  To keep things interesting, we will also have a rotating ‘nature’ box where they can collect things like rocks, leaves or whatever we happen to be observing that week.  A large plastic tub with a lid is great for storing outdoor pillows for reading, or towels and blankets for swimming and fort building.

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Add a tub of ice to keep water bottles cold, a small cooler for snacks and you have all the ingredients for several hours of outdoor fun.  Pop open a large umbrella for shade, and don’t forget the sunscreen!