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Back to Reality

It’s been a while since I posted, but we made it successfully through our wedding and honeymoon! As fun as both of these were, I’m glad to be back with a much-reduced to-do list! With the time crunch on finishing our renovations and planning the wedding, I’ve forgotten how nice it is to do whatever you want to on a weekend or weeknight. While we’re still finishing up some minor projects in the kitchen and other places downstairs and working on a few fun new furniture projects as we feel like it, we’re not starting another large renovation until next year. I think we deserve a few months off =)

In the meantime, we don’t have our wedding pictures back yet so I’ll show some honeymoon pictures today. We went to Cozumel, which is a Mexican island off the coast of Cancun. I went there about 15 years ago with my family (8th grade I think!) to snorkel:


…but after researching many other islands in the Caribbean I came to the conclusion that Cozumel was still the best destination for snorkeling. And we feel pretty lucky that I chose it since Cozumel was so far west in the Caribbean it was untouched by Matthew.

We chose a resort called the Explorean that had daily excursions included in the all-inclusive package, which ranged from bike rides, snorkeling trips, an island Jeep tour to the far side of the island with sandy beaches, various eco park visits, ocean kayaking, and an off-shore boat ride/snorkeling trip. Our resort itself was set back in the jungle with an accessible shore line through a sister resort that we could also eat and drink at. The beach wasn’t really a beach, it was a rocky shore with stairs going down into the coral reef which was pretty cool.

The views were beautiful, as was the wildlife (crabs, iguanas, geckos, butterflies, birds). Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip:

This weekend we worked on getting the rest of our kitchen shelves stained and brackets mounted. We ran into one issue with the larger shelf that is going on the far side of the kitchen so we’re still dealing with that. Next up is getting our banister installed on the stairs which I’m hoping is a single weekend job. Happy Halloween!

Parental Supervision

This past weekend my parents came in to town to visit and supervise and help out with some projects. I didn’t have any big goals in mind, but I thought it would be nice to finish painting our trim work in the dining room, which my mom helped with, and finish adding the trim to the stairway area.

Here’s my mom painting in the dining room, which came out nicely.


And here’s my dad and Nik working on the stair trim:


Nik has been putting off this project because if things don’t fit together perfectly, he’s not happy. But in the end, I think they were able to get a pretty good fit on all the parts, and with some shims and caulk added I think it looks pretty good. They also got to test out our new air nailer putting it in.


And under the front edge, we added cove trim to hide the gap:


They filled the holes and on Sunday we created a dust bubble and my dad went to work sanding down the edges of the column that didn’t match perfectly with our mouse sander:


Everything looks pretty smooth now, so I think its about ready for paint! Once this step is done, we’ll be able to install the balusters and banister to complete this project. I don’t know if you all remember how this started back in August, but I think it’s come a long way:

My mom (in hopes that our garden will someday be approved) also brought us some seedlings…well, they’re not really seedlings anymore! We got 3 huge tomato plants (they’re leaning a little in this picture because it just poured), an eggplant, and 4 peppers.


I tried sprouting some plants too (tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, eggplants, peppers, vincas, and marigolds), but mine are a little behind hers to say the least:


For the garden application, we have made some slight progress. This week (7 weeks after our application was submitted) they said we can put a garden in our side yard, but it has to be in the ground, and it can’t have a fence. Or we can put a raised bed in our backyard, but if we want to fence that we have to put in a SEPARATE application to add the fence (even though our first application has the fence we would use already described. And I’m pretty sure I know how that application would go if I resubmitted it). Our yard is all clay, so I’m not sure a non-raised bed garden would work well, but we could try digging down and replacing the clay with dirt to be able to put it in the side yard. Our backyard is shaded and our HOA doesn’t allow us to cut down trees, so this was my concern about relocating the garden here. And in either location, we need a fence because we have rabbits and deer.

We have the option to “appeal” in a couple weeks, so I think we’d basically push for what we want – allowing the raised bed in the side yard, and the ability to add a very thin deer fence to this garden. Houses on our street have exactly these things, in the exact location on their property we’re trying to make ours, so we’re hoping this argument will work (although all these points were stated in our application and they have yet to sway their decision). But, if they won’t cave, I suppose putting the plants in the ground will have to do for this year, and we’ll have to make some sort of removable fence to try to protect them. Let’s hope our appeal goes better than this though!

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:

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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:

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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!

Mid-century Modern Small Dresser

This cute little dresser was purchased for $50. We originally wanted to stain the entire thing to maintain its mid-century glory, but the mark on the top left turned out to go deep into the wood so it couldn’t be sanded out.

IMG_0739 IMG_0740We re-thought our plans, and decided to paint the body and legs a sleek shiny white, and stain the drawers. The body was sealed with polycrylic. We decided to experiment with furniture wax for the first time, and bought some Minwax furniture paste. This was applied over the stained drawers with cheesecloth, then allowed to dry out, then buffed with 0000 grade fine steel wool and finally a buffing pad. The drawers came out beautiful. While furniture sealed with polyurethane feels hard and durable, and looks smooth, furniture sealed with wax feels soft and buttery and supple. Wax is relatively durable as well, but should be reapplied more frequently, depending on how often the piece is used. Waxed furniture also can’t withstand heated things being on them since wax softens even after it has cured on a piece of furniture.

The hardware on this dresser was very unique, so we spray painted it with a mixture of satin nickle spray paint over a layer of Rust-o-leum “Hammered” spray paint in copper. That stuff really does look like hammered metal, I have no idea how it works, but it came out great for the handles and the metal feet! We then sealed all the hardware with a few layers of spray on polyurethane to protect the spray paint. In the end, this piece sold for $105. 

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Bow Front Buffet Dresser

This beautiful old dresser was bought off craigslist for $50. Its a really solid piece of furniture, but the seller was getting rid of it because one drawer had a lot of veneer damage, and another drawer was missing a pull.

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We decided we could make this work by removing the drawer and making a nice shelf instead. We stripped and sanded the top, and then sanded the rest of the body and drawers. The top was stained dark walnut and sealed with polyurethane.

IMG_0219The body was primed and painted with a slate green-blue color. We also sanded out the inside of the drawer, removed part of the sliding mechanism, and painted it.

IMG_0215IMG_0216The hardware was cleaned up and put back on. To make it presentable, we bought some baskets from Michael’s for about $18. This piece sold for $150 to a family who wanted to use it as a TV console, with the empty shelf as a storage area for their DVD player and cable box.

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Andrew’s Side Table

We didn’t have much to work on, so we asked our roommate if we could redo his side table. He said sure. Here’s how it started:

IMG_0499Nik did this mostly by himself. He stripped it down and stained the top and the side panels with dark walnut stain.


Then he painted the legs with left over green and white paint. We replaced the hardware with a new knob as well. The piece was sealed with polyurethane and polycrylic. We never snapped a finished photo of this, so I’ll take one soon and add it to this post!

Waterfall Dresser

We bought this eclectic dresser from craigslist for $40. It was in decent shape, but had a lot of dings and scratches on it. We first stripped and sanded this down to the raw wood. In these pictures we’ve already sanded the drawers, but you can see how beat up it was on the top.

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Some of the veneer had chips in it, so Nik used some extra veneer we had to try to fill in the holes. We then used marker to make the new wood a little darker before staining to try to even out the color.

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After sanding, the entire piece was stained with special walnut. We sealed it all up with polyurethane. The old handles were ugly wooden things so we splurged on some cool acrylic crystal handles from Home Depot. These handles were a little wild, but they make the piece look sparkly and classy – it reminds me of the roaring 20’s!

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The entire piece and all its intricately carved details came out beautifully, and Louise decided to replace her blue dresser (see earlier post) with this one.

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