Category Archives: Decor

Lots to Do

The holidays are over, and nothing got done on the house since Nik and I were traveling for the two holiday weekends. I’m itching to get started on our projects again, so to tide me over till the weekend I made a to-do list for the year…or at least the first 9 months of the year. We’re getting married in October, and we’d love to invite our out-of-town family and friends over to see the house after our rehearsal dinner, so the goal is to have our downstairs mostly done for that gathering. Here’s a breakdown of what I ambitiously envision will happen month by month:


  1. Finish stairway column and trim (fill, sand, caulk, paint)
  2. Finish floor quarter-round trim (sand, caulk, paint)
  3. Install floor transition pieces
  4. Install and finish dining room chair rail (fill, sand, caulk, paint)
  5. Finish painting china cabinet
  6. Purchase kitchen appliances?


  1. Install stair banister
  2. Rip out downstairs bathroom vanity, install tile floor, paint walls
  3. Build our vegetable garden!


  1. Install downstairs bathroom vanity (need to raise the plumbing since the new sink is higher) and mirror
  2. Purchase unfinished kitchen cabinets for far wall of kitchen
  3. Purchase cabinet trim for top of cabinets
  4. Sand /paint base cabinets
  5. Plant garden


  1. Remove and sand/paint upper cabinets and new trim
  2. Paint kitchen
  3. Rehang upper cabinets a couple inches higher
  4. Rip out kitchen floors; lay new flooring
  5. Install quarter round trim, paint, fill, sand, caulk, paint


  1. Hire electrician to install microwave over stove/move outlet
  2. Paint/install crown molding downstairs (maybe just a couple rooms to start?)
  3. Refinish old fireplace mantle (we still need to find a cool one!)


  1. Catch up/continue with crown molding
  2. Build a kitchen island

July, August, and Beyond

  1. Master bath renovation: new tile floor, new vanity/mirror, rip out tub and relocate toilet?, add a linen closet where tub used to be, rip out shower and make a little larger/tile shower and install new glass door
  2. Build kitchen nook under the far wall of new cabinets, including a built-in storage bench and table.

So what do you think? It’s probably too ambitious, but there are projects we can hold off on if we get too backed up, like the crown molding. We had originally planned to replace the kitchen cabinets but we’re going to see how it goes painting the existing ones. We decided we’d like to spend more money redoing the master bathroom, plus our kitchen cabinets are actually in great condition (they’re just ugly). We’re hoping some top trim, new hardware, a new coat of paint, and new counter tops and floors will do the trick.

Happy New Year to everyone, and may you all be as productive (hopefully!) as us in 2016!

Dining Room Progress

We’ve recently switched gears and started focusing on our dining room. Since we still seem to be a ways away from ever deciding on a couch and how we want to lay out the living room, the dining room seemed like a place we could actually work on and have an end in sight.

What we’ve done in here so far is the floors and floor trim (still needs sanding and re-painting over the nail marks), painting the walls, and some curtains, first sheers then curtains on top:



A couple weeks ago we picked out mid-century dining chairs and a table to match the similar themed china cabinet we started working on last year, that has graduated to being inside since it just needs a few coats of paint to finish it:


Ordering chairs was a disaster: we tried ordering other ones we liked a little better, then they weren’t going to ship until March…yes, next year. So we changed the plan and got some from Amazon and the set of 4 came in last week:


The table came from Wayfair and arrived yesterday. It was so exciting – we almost had a complete room of furniture! Then we opened up the table box and realized nothing matches! The cabinet is a slightly darker walnut, the table is lighter walnut (but still matches decently with the cabinet), and the chairs are much darker. We thought of all the options – staining the cabinet darker, returning the table and getting the darker color (but return shipping was a third the price of the table!), and I think we’ve finally settled on stripping/sanding the chairs and re-staining them in a lighter color to hopefully match the walnut.

The whole reason for buying a new set when we are perfectly capable of refinishing things was that we were tired of not having furniture and we just wanted something ready-to-go so we can start living in our house instead of it being a perpetual construction zone. So this seems a little backwards that we now want to refinish the chairs, but I like all the pieces enough that I’m willing to go through the extra effort to make them match better.  So last night I dragged out the chemical stripper and tested a teeny spot on the underside of the chair. A lot of newer furniture is made out of some sort of fake type wood that doesn’t take up stain, so doing this test was critical:


The stain stripped beautifully and the wood sanded easily to raw wood!


Yay! So we tested out a variety of stains, from left to right: cherry, dark walnut, red chestnut, and polyshades (poly and stain in one) in American walnut. I don’t think any are a perfect match right now, we’ll have to do some mixing and matching when we tackle this project, but at least I know the wood takes up stain nicely which is a huge relief!


And finally, here’s the table, assembled by Nik:



It is definitely light considering it’s called “walnut stain” but we’ll live with it! Unfortunately there is a tiny chip in the glass (it never ends!) so we’ll have to get that replaced. I like how light and airy it looks, and it will allow people to actually see through to our cool china cabinet even if its on the opposite wall. We also have to pick out a rug that matches better, this one is just in there temporarily to protect the floor.

As for the actual room, we picked out some chair rail to start our wainscoting process. We’re doing very simple picture frame molding beneath the chair rail, similar to this:

This means we don’t have to disturb the baseboard that is already there which will save us some work. For our chair rail I picked out this trim, which I liked better than the curved trim above since it seemed a little more modern looking:

Dec 2015 022

It looked a little insubstantial though (only about 2.5″ wide), so we looked at the chair rail backer boards and they were $23/8 feet!! We needed ~30 feet for the whole room, so that would’ve been about $100 for chair rail backer…no way! So we improvised and found some thin trim pieces that had a slightly rounded edge and were only $5 something per 8 feet. They were thin though, so we needed twice many pieces so we could do one on each side of the chair rail like this:

Dec 2015 023

The cost for these makeshift trim pieces was much cheaper than the real backer, so I think it’s a perfect solution. Also, the lady at Lowe’s only rang up 8 feet of our 32 feet of chair rail that we bought (we didn’t notice until later, and I didn’t feel too bad based on how much we’ve bought at this store in the past few months…) so we got about $30 off this project anyway! Once we get the chair rail up, we’ll have to pick out the trim for the picture frame boxes, and get around the crown molding, but the room will look almost complete with the chair rail up so I’m just excited to get that done first!

Christmas Tree Skirt

Even though we’re not spending Christmas Day together this year, we felt it was about time to graduate to a real tree to celebrate the season. Previously I had a small fake tree, and a very tiny tree  skirt to go with it. We got our tree upright and lighted, and now we needed  new tree skirt to complete the look. IMG_2200[1]The tree skirts left at Target were expensive and ugly so we made a trip to the fabric store and picked out a few red-and-gold tone fabrics, and some 1/2″ batting to fill it with. I decided I wanted to make a hexagon shape with alternating triangles of each fabric.

Then came the challenge…how many PhD scientists does it take to figure out basic geometry? Apparently it takes 2, and it also takes about 30 minutes to remember what geometry formula to apply. I knew the diameter of the hexagon, so I knew the length of each side of each equilateral triangle, but I needed to figure out the height to measure and cut the fabric. I remember sitting in 10th grade honors geometry, struggling to imagine when I’d ever need the Pythagorean Theorem ever again…turns out, it came in handy for my tree skirt! A squared plus B squared = C squared, and with that I had my dimensions. IMG_0027I pinned all the adjoining triangle edges together (except for one) and pinned down the peak of each triangle to leave room for the trunk.


Then I sewed all the edges. I then cut out a solid piece as a backing, with a slit up to the middle, and a cut out area for the tree base as well. I pinned this to the sewed triangles inside out, and sewed all the way around, basically making a large letter C. I then turned it right side out, and cut some batting to shape and stuffed it in.

I still need to do the stitch up the final open side, but it looks nice enough for now to put under the tree! The fabric, batting, and thread cost about $20, which is cheaper than the ugly skirts at the store!

We also did a little decorating on our front porch, so I’ll leave you with this. Can’t believe Christmas is next week!


Pallet Closet Hangers

Last week I said I’d show you our closet project when it was done, and we (Nik, really) finally finished it up this weekend. The catastrophe that sparked this project was when one side of the shelving in our master bedroom closet fell off the walls:


As disastrous as it was, it made us realize that our closet is so much more functional with extra space on one side. Plus, my problem of piling half worn clothes on the floor outside of the closet has gotten worse and worse (like when you wear something that you can get away with wearing again before washing…exercise clothes, lounge-around-the-house clothes, etc…don’t judge me). So I needed a place to easily hang things (I know, it’s not hard to just put them on a hanger, but this is apparently beyond me).

We had some scrap pallet wood from when our flooring shipment came in. I checked the code printed on the pallet to make sure the wood wasn’t harmful. Some pallet wood contains bad chemicals like fungicides, so you can always look at the code printed on the wood and figure out what is in yours. You can see ours says HT (for heat treated, harmless), CN (from China, and the numbers refer to the particular warehouse in China), and DB (de-barked, also harmless). So, we were good to go!


I pried a few pieces off and sanded them down a bit, then Nik came in and cut pieces with the miter saw so we could create three 4′ long rows.


Then we tried out pretty much every stain color we had to see what we liked best. We ended up choosing classic gray. So we stained the pieces, and then I gave them 3 good coats of water-based poly, with a sanding between the 2nd and 3rd coats. I wanted them smooth so as not to snag my clothes.


Next, we had to figure out how to mount them to a wall, and attaching a couple pieces of backboard wood directly to the studs seemed to be the best option. And Nik got to use his fancy new stud finder that I just got him.


Next, we debated for approximately 2 hours about where we wanted to put screws into the stained pallet boards, since there were already some natural holes there, so did we want to use those, or did we like the natural holes showing and we should just make new screw holes…yes, these are the types of questions that some PhD scientists think about at night. We decided on new holes for the screws. This was the planned layout, with hooks:


And here’s the final product, installed in the closet:



We still need to fill the holes in the drywall from when the previous shelving ripped out…but all in all, I think it’s sleek and very functional. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be seeing much of it since I already have clothes heaped on all of the hangers =)

The cost of this project was about $20 or $25 for the 4 hangers, everything else (Screws, stain, poly, sandpaper, brushes) we already had on hand. We could’ve bought pre-made wall mount hangers at the store for about the same price and weeks less work (we didn’t actually work on it for weeks…but from start to finish we did procrastinate on finishing up this project for about a month). But I think making our own was more fun!

Homemade Placemats

My mom made some pretty place mats last year for their nice plates to go on their beautiful handmade wooden dining table in their lovely new home. I, on the other hand, live in a mediocre rental apartment, and the dining room is filled with my super-considerate roommate’s giant pool table (and in case you were wondering, it rarely gets used…can you sense my bitterness towards this table??). As a result my junky little 36″ round dining table is cramped in the corner of the living room, and is generally covered in all of our furniture redoing tools, so doesn’t get much action at dinner time. My plates are from Walmart and have seen better days. BUT, despite all this, I can still have nice place mats like my mom, so I set out to make my own! I made the dire mistake of asking Nik to come look at fabric with me, and for those of you who know Nik, he is quite opinionated about…well, pretty much everything except what I cook for dinner. About one long hour into our JoAnn’s Fabrics trip, we had it narrowed down to two totally different fabrics, and instead of sacrificing the strength of our relationship I decided I’d make two-sided place mats. Another mistake…Nik was very concerned the pattern would be visible from the other side when the mats are flat on the table, so he made me pick out some options for trim to hide the other side. Trim is nice, but you have to actually have good sewing machine skills to use it well, which I don’t have. So I ended up skipping the trim and just ironing the place mats as flat as I could so the contrasting pattern on the underside wasn’t visible. So I wasted some money buying trim that failed. Ok, enough writing, here’s a picture of the fabrics all cut out as evenly as possible:


Third mistake: I’m never buying geometric patterns again that need to be cut into perfect shapes. Nik likes even things (understatement), so I couldn’t just “wing it” with the diamond pattern…it had to be evenly spaced between top and bottom and side to side. It took quite a bit of measuring to make it all work with the length of fabric I purchased that of course was about 1/2″ too short to make this measuring process simple. I made them 18″ wide and 13.5″ tall and accounted for about a 1/2″ seam so the resulting place mat would be 17″ tall and 12.5″ wide. I lined up the two fabrics face to face and pinned:

IMG_1468Then put a 1/2″ seam around all edges, with a small gap for turning it right side out. Once right side out, I pushed all the corners out and ironed it flat. Here’s the finished mat:

IMG_1471      IMG_1470 IMG_1469I think they came out pretty nice, simple, and elegant! And you can’t see the contrasting pattern too much when its flat on a table. I’ve done 2 of the 6 I plan to make. I’d take a lovely “after” picture with full place settings with my pretty china plates set out on my nice dining table if I could (sigh…refer to first paragraph if you’re confused at why I can’t do this).  Some day I’ll have nice things!

I also have a bunch of the floral fabric left over, and some left over insulation stuff from when I attempted to make a pot holder a while ago. I’m going to make some pot-warmer table protectors (Nik informed me these items are actually called trivets?) to go with the floral side of the mats. All in all, 6 two-sided placemats and a couple of trivets cost about $20 to make, with several JoAnn’s coupons I used.

Botanical Print Decor and Upcoming Projects

A few months ago, Nik found some cool botanical prints from an 1800’s book that were up on Ebay, so he bid on them and got 3 for about $20, including shipping. IMG_1002 IMG_1001 IMG_0999 One is about carnivorous plants, one has pictures of plant diseases, and the last one has orchids. We bought several different frames to try these in, and finally settled on one that came with matting. I got the frames (50% off of course) at AC Moore, and they came out to about $10-12 each. The pictures didn’t quite fit in the matting, plus we wanted to see the worn book edges since it made them more interesting. I used photo corner holders, and they ended up like this: IMG_1123And then we hung them up at the bottom of our stairs. The whole project was about $55, and we love how they look! IMG_1137On another note…I convinced my friends who have gotten into furniture refinishing to do a joint project with us that was too large for us to move/store on our own. Its a mid-century china cabinet, and it has a fair bit of damage to surfaces/edges but it is mostly wood and veneer so hopefully the damage is something we can work with. Its about 5′ tall and 4′ wide and has some cool drawers, and glass panels covering the shelves (not pictured). The actual color is closer to the right picture that shows the cabinet fronts: IMG_1209          IMG_1206 Because of the damage, we’ll probably be doing a combination of paint and stain on this, and replacing the wood backing since it has an unrepairable hole in it. We only paid $50 for this, and mid century things are popular, so I think we’ll be able to get a lot for this piece once we fix it up! I don’t know if we’ll start working on this before the new year, because I’ve got some projects to finish up first – that weathered table we started on months ago will get finished up this weekend, as well as a surprise furniture piece I’m refinishing for my brother, and the crazy chair Nik has been hard at work on.

Weathered table and More

The past week or so has been spent painting and painting and painting the outside of that secretary. I’m halfway convinced that thing is made out of real living flesh, because as soon as you paint a coat of paint (mind you, this is good quality paint-and-primer-in-one paint that “should” cover in 1-2 coats) the red color of the wood starts bleeding through the paint and you’re back at square one. Nik thinks we’ve put on 4-5 coats of paint OVER the coat of primer, and we’re still seeing a red tinge. One more coat it is… Anyway, again here is what is looked like before and after primer:

IMG_1063     IMG_1066

And with a coat (or several) of paint:


We’re also painting the front desk cover and the cubby compartments white but I don’t have a picture of those. Oh, and I also skipped telling you that we learned about something new called underlayment. This is 5/16″ thin plywood that is what usually makes up the bottom of a drawer, and in the case of this secretary, the back panel. The very bottom drawer and the back of this piece were disintegrating and warped, so we popped out the old wood and got two pieces of underlayment cut to size at Home Depot. The whole 4’x8′ sheet was only $12. The drawer piece slid right into place, and the back piece will be nailed on simple as that. This was an unexpectedly easy fix for this old piece of furniture! So, we’re getting close, just another coat or two of paint and then touching up the stained part (after all that painting its impossible that none of it got outside the lines!). We’ll be using water-based poly to seal up the entire piece then we’ll attach the cubbies and the front panel. I think we’re going to try to clean up the old hardware and put those handles back on because they’re pretty unique but we’ll see how that goes. On another note, we’ve made some headway with a new project that Nik (literally) dug out of the large furniture dumpster in our neighborhood. He found a large circular pine table and 4 legs to go with it (no leaf unfortunately).

Here’s the before pictures:

table 1      table 2

And then he sanded it down (ignore the blue paint, we were testing out some exterior paint on it but we sanded that off too):


And we used the classic grey from the middle drawer in the secretary to stain this. We were going to use dark walnut and then I had the idea to use the classic grey and I love how it turned out!

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Apparently our deck is an almost identical color so I’m sorry that it looks like it is camouflaged with the ground…Now we’re priming and painting the table skirt (under the round top) and the legs a cream color.


The legs are plain and ugly, but hey, this table was free. Hopefully someone can overlook that and consider it a lovely weathered “country” table. And for one more thing to leave you with, I finally finished my pistachio shell art and I love how it came out! I never knew I could be so crafty (of course using the creativity and detailed guide of someone else).


Pistachios and New Projects

After my previous lengthy, descriptive post, I promised I’d make a post with updates on our ongoing and new projects. I’ll start off with a fun crafty project that is totally not furniture-related. Nik and I LOVE pistachios, and find ourselves going through a Sam’s Club-sized bag every month or two. On one of the blogs I read,, she posted about an idea to use up all the shells left over from pistachios.

I love this, and had all the tools to get started – tons of empty shells (which I rinsed a few times with water), glue gun, and downtime in the evenings when I like to do mindless things to relax. I’ll still need to figure out a frame or shadowbox to use, and get some dye to make them colored.


The first one I tried to make ended pretty terribly (its the one that’s laying on its side in the picture above because instead of making the petals on the same plane, each layer added height to the flower and it ended up more like a pine cone). I decided this was a stupid activity and was about to give up, but then Nik tried one with more success and renewed my motivation to keep going. Each one got easier to make, and now I probably have about 10 flowers of varying sizes. I’ll get some dye and a frame this weekend and finish this up.

Next, I posted about the ugly little side table we picked up from a yard sale a couple weeks ago:


Since then, we’ve strippped, stained, and sealed the top of this.


And then we primed the body – we’re trying to figure out which of these handles left over from other projects to use on the drawer – any preferences? I’m leaning towards the round ones…

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We were planning on going with cream paint that we were thinking of antiquing with stain, but then we got this awesome clearance color for 50 cents at home depot that I absolutely love. Unfortunately it didn’t have the color label on it, so it was probably a color match reject from someone else.


So now I’m debating antiquing over that color or just leaving it pretty as it is. I might do some practice antiquing on junk wood painted with the color, to see how I like it and that will help me make a decision.

Finally, we went to the flea market with some friends on Saturday, and we bought a new piece to work on that is a really really old secretary/dresser. This piece is in rough shape and will need a lot of sanding and cleaning up and possibly some repair to the back panel to get it in working condition.

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I’m clearly dedicated to this piece, because I battled these awful spiderwebs and eggs to get it onto my porch. Gross.


Nik’s idea for this piece (assuming the wood drawers actually yield decent quality wood when we strip them) is to do an ombre pattern with stain on the drawers, kind of like this dresser. I like the gray tones in that, so we’re going to check out the options for gray stains, which we’ve never tried before. Rustoleum and Minwax both make a variety of gray stains, so we’ll have to pick some out to try. The rest of the body might be painted, we’re not sure just yet.

That’s it for right now. I’m looking forward to a weekend with great weather so we can actually wrap up these projects in progress!