Category Archives: Before & After

A Thing of Beauty

After anxiously waiting for the paint to finish curing, I rushed home after work yesterday to load up my new office shelves with pretty and functional necessities. Let me just tell you, it’s everything I’d hoped and dreamed it would be.

The top shelf is all shop inventory, including some new stuff I got this weekend and haven’t even listed yet. On the middle shelf I’ve got more stuff for the shop plus my fabric stash (I’m still using this method to neatly fold and stack my fabric). And the bottom shelf, which is admittedly more about function than form, houses everything I need close at hand when I’m working at my desk, plus a couple of vessels full of corks divided up into ready-to-ship quantities and maybe a pretty thing or two to keep my spirits up. Beneath that are the rolls of brown and white paper I use for wrapping gifts. I don’t really need them so close at hand, but this is a much better storage solution than standing them up in a corner like I always have. Plus I like the looks of ‘em.

Because I wanted to get everything up on the shelves in time to snap a few pictures before the sun went down, I obviously didn’t spend days or even hours tweaking the arrangement to be just right. I just sorta threw it all up there and tried to make it look pretty as I went, and I’m pretty happy with the result. Most of what you see on the shelves is shop inventory so it will likely get constantly rearranged anyway as items sell and new stuff comes in. I’m kind of excited about the idea of a perpetually changing display.

This is the best my desk has looked, like, ever. On the left, my trusty printer (I dare not brag of its age lest I jinx it) and a vintage clock I got from the thrift store. On the right, a thrifted wooden tray used to corral necessities (notepad, tape measure, camera and cord, etc.), plus an ink pen, mouse (with a sheet of paper as a mousepad), and a thrift store lamp. I thought it was so cheesy that my mom insisted on getting an extra special fancy pen for the guest book at our wedding (I thought the guest book was also unnecessary, actually), but it is so handy right there next to the computer. I always know I can reach over and grab it to jot down a quick note and it doesn’t seem to walk off on its own the way regular pens do. I keep the extra cord for the mouse just kind of tucked behind the computer, which is where the USB cable for the printer also hangs out when not in use.

Here’s a view of the whole operation from a little further back.

Can you believe how different it looks from this pic I snapped of the same corner back in January?

It seemed like it took forever to get this whole office area organized, but it was so worth it. The new setup makes it so easy to do everything from shop-tending to blogging to bill paying to actual work for my real job all in one spot. Everything is here and it makes me happy.

To see how I tackled this project from the beginning, take a look back at my previous posts to read all about painting the room, hanging the pegboard (oy), painting the pegboard a deep peacock green, debating about the slight slope to the shelves, and finally painting them a crisp white this weekend.

Easy Update: Paint a Vintage Frame

This vintage floral print spoke to me from the shelves of a suburban Goodwill.

I loved the pretty pinks and greens, but felt like the frame just wasn’t doing it any favors. The lines were good, but the dark wood finish was sucking the life outta those flowers. Something had to be done. I had no idea what I would do with it and in fact could have easily convinced myself that I didn’t need it at all, but it was too pretty to pass up so it came home with me.

I hemmed and hawed about what to do with it for a day or two, then day before yesterday I noticed the vintage print with the yellow frame in my downstairs bath and was inspired!

I decided to spruce up the frame using some of the leftover paint I mixed up for my mustard yellow coffee table. It was about 7pm when this inspiration struck and I couldn’t bring myself to wait until the next day, so the painting progress pictures are taken in my kitchen at night (definitely the worst lighting in my house).

I disassembled the frame and gave all the wood and hardware three coats of mustard yellow. I could have left it after one coat (pictured below) for a more shabby, distressed look, but I really wanted a little more modern finish to contrast with the faded tones in the print so I kept going to get really nice and even coverage.

Here it is after three coats + half a day of drying time. I love it.

It’s living for now on the mantle in my front room, but I don’t think it’s going to stay there.

In fact, as much as I love this happy little print, I can’t think of anyplace in my house that would be the perfect home for it, so I decided to go ahead and list it in my shop. I like to let shop inventory pretty up my house while I still have it, though, so I probably will scope out a nice cat-proof location for it to live until it goes on to its forever home.

This is such an easy and quick way to update an outdated frame (available in droves at thrift stores everywhere). I especially like the idea of using a really modern color, like a punchy pink or turquoise, to contrast with a more classic shape or whatever’s inside the frame. It’s a good project for testing out your skills in mixing paint colors, too, since you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a pretty frame to experiment with. And of course you can always switch out the print that came with it for something more modern, or even a photograph (just put a sheet of white cardstock behind the image to mimic the look of a mat). The possibilities for experimentation are endless and the cost to get started extremely low, so if you’ve got a blank wall or shelf that could use a little pick-me-up consider heading out to your local thrift store to rescue a well-constructed frame from the shelves of despair.

Family Room Plans (revised)

The room at the front of our house is almost completely empty. We sold, donated, or trashed everything we could. There are just a few more items remaining that either missed the first trip to Goodwill or need to go live somewhere else in the house.

Here’s how it looked a few months ago, filled with junk:

And here are the pics I snapped yesterday (right after a craigslist buyer picked up the futon bed):

The only thing this room is filled with now is potential.

It’s such a strange space. It’s not technically considered a bedroom, because it doesn’t have a closet (although we do refer to it as such when we say that we live in a four-bedroom house). It’s also got a door to the front porch that we never use. It was operable when we first moved in, but the last time Nick and I tried to open it we couldn’t. We may try again when it’s not so humid, but I’d really rather just treat it as a window. The exterior door and the fireplace help the room feel more like a living space, but the door to the living room is very bedroom-like, with a lock and everything. Then there’s the weird way that the fireplace wall is split and the way that the ceiling is staggered to accommodate the air conditioning ductwork (several of our downstairs rooms have that going on, as the house wasn’t built with air conditioning).

This room is also huge-17.5′x11′. We just didn’t know what to do with that much space, so I let it become that embarrassing room where stuff you don’t need or want is piled high and unfinished projects go to die. I never got around to making a curtain for the door to the porch, so anyone who comes over can see my mess through the window before even setting foot in the house. Not exactly the first impression I’d like to make.

When I started rethinking this room in early summer, my idea was to convert it to a casual living space slash office slash playroom for future kiddos. You can see all the plans in the original post, but to summarize, I wanted to get a sectional sofa with a sleeper bed, a big plush rug, and a TV console with plenty of storage, then bring in my already owned desk and shelving.

If you look closely at the pictures that I took of the room yesterday, you can see some green painter’s tape on the floor. That’s how I marked out the dimensions of a sectional sofa. Let me just tell you, I’m glad I didn’t order a new sofa before double-checking! My original measurements were completely wrong and my sectional dreams have been crushed. I came to terms with the fact that I am apparently completely unskilled in the use of graph paper and went to to try again.

Here’s what I’m working with. The bare bones of the room.

And here’s the original layout I had in mind (revised to include the sewing desk I just got the other day).

Yeah, that was totally not going to work. The TV looked all jammed in the corner, and the giant sofa totally dominated the room. Part of the appeal of having a sectional was so several people could comfortable gather to watch movies or LSU games or whatever, but the people sitting nearest the TV would have to turn completely to the side just to see, and they’d probably be blocking the view of everyone else with their giant heads. No bueno.

So, it was back to the drawing board. I stood looking around the room for a while, then went and started moving things around on floorplanner. Here’s what I came up with:

I love it. The work area is clustered on the far side of the room and the living area is near the fireplace, which seems a more fitting arrangement. And the only things I’ll need to buy are a sofa, a rug, and a TV. Not that that’s anything to scoff at-I’ll be saving my home decor dollars for months-but the $300 I made selling off all my clutter sure takes the sting out of it. And no worries, I’ve got some ideas for keeping it thrifty. 

I’ve got some work to do while I save up for those big ticket items, namely:

  • paint the walls (or hire someone, maybe just to do the cutting in)
  • insulate the windows
  • insulate the fireplace
  • paint the small desk I picked up at Goodwill to house my sewing machine

I’m soooooo excited to get started. First on my to-do list: get rid of the rest of the crap in there. Most of it is Nick’s. I’ll admit, though, that I do need to clean out what we call “the long closet” to make room for some of the things that must stay. Old houses are funny-we don’t have a garage, shed, or basement, or access to storage in our attic, but we do have a twelve foot long closet running between our dining room and bathroom. It’s gotten a little out of hand in recent months and it’s about time I whipped it into shape.

A Little Front Door Upgrade

I take back everything I’ve ever said about spray paint, which, in case you didn’t know, is that I hate it. Turns out I only hate using spray paint on furniture. For smaller stuff it’s awesome. But let’s back up a bit. I spent a whole week back in May working on my front porch (click to read about how I added a mailbox, painted the door, added plants, brought in art, and stripped the original hardware). This is what the area surrounding the door looked like when I was done.

And here’s the state of things four months later:

The ferns are still alive, everything’s covered in a thin layer of dirt, and I added a little chair I got for $5 at the thrift store.

I had big plans to replace the caning on this chair, but after doing some research I decided it would be more difficult than I’d thought. So I used some gardening books I picked up at an estate sale to cover up the hole and set it out here on the porch. It’s right in front of the only electrical outlet, so it makes a perfect spot to set a small radio or table fan (if I had either of those things). You can see up close how sad the seat really would be without those books.

But back to the door. Back in May I polished the original brass hardware to a lovely pinkish-golden hue, but it’s since darkened to a more reasonable antiqued tone (which I actually find delightful).

But that yellow brass deadbolt is sticking out like a rival fan at an LSU football game. Makes me wanna yell tiger bait.

Enter, the DIY standby I love to hate…spray paint.

Rustoleum metallic spray paint in antique bronze. Only six bucks at Lowe’s and perfect for this project. Would you believe that I bought this can of spray paint back in mid-August and only just now got around to using it this past weekend? It took me a while to work up the courage to trust spray paint with my heart after being burned so many, many times.

I started by taping around the edges of the deadbolt.

Then got a little paranoid and covered the surrounded 12-18 inches with sales fliers.

I had such a hard time getting the papers to stay up there! My tape just wasn’t sticking well at all. Maybe it was the Louisiana humidity? Protecting the door was may more work than the actual spray painting itself, which was waaaaaay easier than I thought. All I did was follow the directions. Shake for a full minute, spray lightly from a foot or so away, repeat. Maybe it’s because the area I was painting was so small, or maybe it’s because I was really careful to follow the directions precisely this time, but after three quick coats I had this:

I was so excited! I mean, that perfectly even finish isn’t fooling anybody right next to the authentic antique brass knob and lockplate, but at least it doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me, I’m new-ish and awkward!” I was so excited about it I decided to shake out the rug, sweep the floor, and generally clean up the porch a bit.

So, consider my position on spray paint revised. It’s incredibly helpful for the small stuff. For anything bigger than my hand I still prefer a paintbrush. I’ve got pretty much an entire can of antique brass spray paint leftover. What do you think I should spray next? Thrift store tchotchkes? Every other little bit of shiny yellow brass I can find? My cat?

ps…it’s worth mentioning that I stuck a spare key in the deadbolt to keep it from gobbing up the lock mechanism, but after the first coat I noticed that the key blocked the paint from going on evenly, so after that I took it out and stuck it in between coats. It’s been almost a week and the lock works just fine. 

Basket 2.0-make use of what you have

Nick has had this little woven basket since his days of living in the frat house. I’m guessing he swiped it from his mama to store his dirty socks. I hope she didn’t want it back because I’m kind of in love with it now.

It’s really convenient for keeping in the laundry room. The colors weren’t really working for me, but I didn’t want to part with it, especially since it was a perfect fit on my new laundry room shelves.

I started by removing the liner. Even though a fabric liner is awesome for easy cleaning (just pull it out and toss it in the wash), the gingham was looking a little worse for wear and kinda clashing with my blue walls.

Even without the liner, I still didn’t like the color of the basket, so I decided to stain it. I had no idea how the material would take to stain so I was kind of taking a risk, but I figured what the heck, I like to live on the edge. I used some Minwax Dark Walnut stain that I already had.

Please forgive the blurry picture of my staining process. My right hand was covered in stain and I was struggling to hold the camera steady in my left. Working in small sections, I used a staining sponge to coat the surface of the basket with stain, squeezing the sponge so that stain ran into all the nooks and crannies of the woven surface, then came back with the same sponge and wiped up the excess. I applied one coat of stain to the whole surface, inside and out. Stain dries really quick, so I was able to do the whole thing in one sitting. Unfortunately, anything stained stays stinky for a few days so I had to wait a while before actually being able to bring it inside.

When Mrs. Basket finally did return to the laundry room it was a glorious reunion. She finally feels at home!

Can you believe it’s the same basket? Look how suave and 2011 she is now.

I feel really proud for working with what I already had instead of going out (or clicking over to Amazon) and buying something new. Baskets can get pricey if you start buying them left and right, and sometimes I struggle to find the size, shape, and color that I’m looking for. I’ve experimented with painting thrifted baskets before and was never thrilled with the result, but I’m totally stoked to know now that staining is a realistic option for giving something that’s still in good shape an updated look.

Have you found any simple tricks for updating something you already had?

Transform an Ugly Sofa with a Dropcloth Slipcover

One extra discotastic but oh-so-comfy sofa


One big ol’ canvas dropcloth


Equals not so ugly anymore

It’s pretty awesome. Just like a nice linen, the dropcloth gets softer every time it’s washed. To arrange it on the sofa, I find the seam that runs all the way down the middle lengthwise and fold the whole thing in half so that the two ends of the seam meet. Then, I plop it on the sofa so that the seam is lined up with the back of the cushions and the folded edge is about in the center of the sofa.

Then I take off the back cushions and unfold the dropcloth, tucking the seam way down behind the seat cushions.

I put the back cushions back on and toss the cover over the back, tucking the excess material on the floor under the sofa and arranging the folds over the arms so that the sides are pretty well covered.

Sometimes I think about trimming some of the excess fabric on the front and back (and maybe adding it to the sides, which are a little skimpy), but I wash this thing all the time and I’d hate for it to shrink even a little and look all high-watery. Besides, it’s so easy to just tuck the fabric underneath since the whole operation sits up on some awesome 80′s caster wheels. I got this sofa from craigslist for $60 and the dropcloth was about $30, so even though it’s not exactly high design this is a great alternative to reupholstery and a budget-friendly way to take a piece of secondhand furniture from “used and abused” to “ready for a new life.” If you’ve got the sewing skills to fashion a tailored slipcover more power to you, but this girl is not good at spatial reasoning so a loose-fit slipcover it is.

Even Apartment Therapy is into the look:

Photo credit David Benrud | Image via Apartment Therapy

The room above features Pottery Barn’s Dropcloth Twill Slipcover, which retails for $99 in the sofa size. My dropcloth is significantly larger (which was important since this sofa is long enough for all 6’4″ of my husband to stretch out on for a nap). Now, I love me some Pottery Barn, but I’m pretty proud to have gotten my slipcover and my sofa for less than their slipcover alone. I do like the way theirs falls so nicely around the edges, though. It’s pictures like this that make me want to hem mine. What do y’all think? Should I hem it to nicely graze the floor and risk awkward shrinkage, or keep on truckin’ tuckin’?

Paint it Black

After posting about my failed attempt to stain the paned mirror last week, I gave it some deep consideration and decided to paint it black. My first time ever using black paint. I might become an addict. Maybe black will be the new blue.


Pathetic staining:

Painted black:

Love it. I used black acrylic craft paint mixed with a little water. The finish is a little rough and uneven, which is okay with me because the other frame it’s hung with is also like that. p.s. that giant empty frame was snagged on clearance at Hobby Lobby a few years ago. It was a custom frame that they built to the wrong size. Woulda been $150 bucks for the person who ordered it but I got it for $29.

This is what the whole operation looked like with the old mirror (which now lives with my sister).

And this is what it looks like now that I’ve hung the new mirror:

It’s a subtle change, but I’m happy with it. I think the new mirror is a little bit more proportional to the larger frame and the finish is a better fit for the space. Looking at the picture above, I do kind of miss the old mirror. It was a good mirror, and I liked the scalloped edges, but the reddish tones just weren’t quite right for me and I thought the uneven surface would be difficult to paint.

It makes sense that I would like to paint stuff black, since I love using black picture frames and am totally down with black furniture (like the coffee table you see here and the floating shelves and dining table on the other side of the room). I don’t know why it took me this long to try it out.

See that little green dish on the coffee table? It’s my new favorite thing. 99 cents at Goodwill. Love that place. Green colored glass and silver are two of my favorite things and both are abundantly available at thrift stores everywhere. I was made for Goodwill. And Goodwill was made for me.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Shelf

A few months ago Nick and I were walking in our neighborhood and happened upon a neighbor who had put a pile of old, cypress tongue and groove floorboards on the curb, free to anyone interested. I picked the sturdiest looking one and figured I’d find something cool to do with it. Nick thought I was crazy, but dutifully carried it for the rest of our walk.

Months later, I was still waiting for inspiration to strike when I saw this…

Industrial Chic Reclaimed Wood Shelves |

The lovely Ana White, always inspirational, has outdone herself this time with an idea so simple even I can do it.

Since my board is only about three inches wide, I decided to use 2″ corner brackets. A pack of four (with screws included) cost me $4.68 at Home Depot. I’ve been lamenting my lack of a studfinder for ages so I picked one of those up as well for about $15.

Here’s the area where my new shelf was destined to live. I’ve been wanting to replace the small white shelf with something a little more proportional to the wall for months. The five foot long floorboard is perfect.

I marked the location of studs in my wall using my new studfinder and a pencil (p.s. studfinder is not as easy to use as I expected). Next, I sanded any rough or splintered spots on the old board and wiped it down, then used painters tape to mark where the brackets should be attached. I wanted the board to be centered on the wall and for the brackets to be equally distanced from the center, so I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to put both brackets into studs. I settled for just one, and based the spacing of my brackets on that measurement.

I held the brackets up against my board and marked where the screws should go, then pre-drilled the holes at an angle (it seemed like the right thing to do so I could attach a bracket on both top and bottom without the screws running into each other.

So far, everything was going great. I was feeling like a DIY goddess.

I marked where the screws needed to go on the wall, pre-drilled my holes, and hung my new awesome shelf up to admire…

Uh-oh, spaghettio.

Oh snap I majorly miscalculated on that one. Can you see what’s wrong? The bottom brackets are like an inch away from the wall. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty annoyed. I walked away for a few minutes and when I came back, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. I just removed the bottom brackets from the board and screwed them in flush with the wall. I decided not to drill them into the board again for fear that I’d split the wood with so many holes so close together. So the board merely rests on the two bottom brackets and is attached with screws to the two top brackets. Note to self not to put any heavy books up there.

I styled it with the same items as the old shelf, only more spread out, and added an 11×14 canvas that I’m planning to adorn somehow, as well as an adorable silver pear I got at Z Gallerie last weekend ($6!)

I can. not. wait. to reupholster those wing chairs.

This was all done right after work on Friday, so I spent the rest of the weekend admiring it and figuring out what to do with that canvas. Can you believe that I went to two estate sales and a flea market on Saturday and didn’t buy a thing? I was shocked. I had some pretty specific things that I was looking for and didn’t find them and didn’t see anything else that absolutely had to come home with me. That’s pretty much unheard of for me because I have a hard time walking away from anything I even moderately love. I think I must be getting picky in my old age.

Painted Dresser

A few years ago I bought a matching armoire, chest of drawers, and nightstand for $150 from craigslist. The seller said they were from the 1920′s and had been in his family’s camp forever (which I’m sure is underwater right about now).

—Actually, let me take a side note right here to say that we are really feeling grateful that we aren’t underwater ourselves. We live very near the Mississippi River and were so nervous about it that we cancelled plans to go to an out of town wedding this weekend. Thanks to the opening of the Morganza Spillway it looks like Baton Rouge will be fine, but our hearts go out to those in the Atchafalaya Basin whose sacrifice kept us dry.—

I painted the nightstand using leftover paint from the dining room dresser (see that project here, and a whole post dedicated to this little nightstand here).

I first painted the armoire an awful, awful lilac. I was going for gray with lavender undertones but it went terribly awry. I painted over it with this bold aqua.

I thought it still looked a little “blah,” so I added a piece of lace I’d picked up at the thrift store for flair.

Just enough old-lady-ish-ness to make me smile.

Well, both of those projects were completed long before I started blogging, but until this weekend I still hadn’t gotten around to painting the matching chest of drawers. I call it Nick’s dresser since it’s on his side of the room, but I’ve actually taken over two of the drawers to house my sizeable sweater and cardigan collection, so I guess it’s really “ours.”

I think it’s awesome that you can make guesses about the items that have sat on top based on the discoloration.

I mixed the color for the armoire myself using paint I had on hand, but didn’t have enough left to paint the dresser, so I poured what I did have left over into a mason jar and painted a dab of it onto the lid, then brought the jar to Lowe’s and had it color matched to a quart of interior flat. I also had it matched to a quart of exterior flat, which is what I used to paint the front door, but for some reason it looks much darker there! Just to be sure I wouldn’t end up with a similar situation here, I painted a swatch of the matched paint over an inconspicuous spot on the armoire. It was such a close match that I couldn’t even spot the difference after it had dried, so the darker shade on the front door must have something to do with the light, or maybe the exterior vs. interior formula.

About six months ago, I bought a desk from Ikea that came in a big, flat box. I’ve held onto that piece of cardboard ever since because it’s purrrfect for sliding under whatever I’m painting.

This is what we looked like after removing the hardware and brushing on one extremely thin coat.

And after coat two…

Around this time I decided to break for a peanut butter sandwich and some Nate Berkus on the DVR (he had Carson Kressley on there-so funny and awesome). I came back a bit later and added a quick third coat to the top and front (the areas likely to get the most wear) and touched up only the thin spots on the sides (I love the flexibility afforded by flat paint to never worry about lap marks). I replaced the hardware once it was dry, pushed it back into place, and put all Nick’s clutter-collecting accoutrements back on top (read about that system here).

It’s pretty much impossible to capture both pieces together in the same shot, but they sit directly across from each other and having them painted the same hue really adds a sense of symmetry to the room. Someday soon I am going to do a post that shows more of our bedroom because I’m really proud of the way I’ve layered colors and textures in there so far. But of course, it’s still a work in progress. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Painted the armoire

Reupholstered the hope chest

Brought in new bedding

And painted the chest of drawers

And here’s what I’ve still got left to do:

  • new bedding
  • lamp repair
  • painting a dresser
  • hanging artwork
  • a DIY throw pillow or two

And while this isn’t all that exciting, I also need to SEW MORE CURTAINS!!! I got the most important ones covered up, but there are still a few naked windows in our bedroom and I find myself feeling compelled to crawl along the floor rather than walk past them in an indecent state of dress. One of these days I’m sure I’ll get tired of the inconvenience and sew the 10 panels needed to cover the remaining windows and regain my dignity, but until then I’ll just keep muttering to myself in shame.

I Dream of Linen

Our new bedding arrived a day early and I was able to snap a few pics yesterday before the sun went down.

It’s everything I’d hoped it would be. The linen is so soft to the touch and isn’t too stuffy, and the light oatmeal color lends a much airier look than the old brown duvet. I’m loving the color and feel of the blue satin pillowcases, as well. I also think the awesome lines of our four-poster bed “pop” a little bit more with the lighter backdrop.



The two photos of the new bedding above were taken at about 6pm with the lights turned off. Can you believe what great light there is in our room? I love it.

I was so excited to go to bed last night, especially since I’ve got a cold and slept horribly the night before. No amount of soft bedding can cure my stuffy nose, but it sure can make waking up every hour less miserable. I tell you, it was downright delightful.

Next, I’d like to whip up a throw pillow for flair. I’ve got some ideas floating around my head but haven’t come up with a definitive plan just yet. I also need to rewire the two bedside lamps that belonged to my grandmother (they’re technically my sister’s, they’re just living with me for a while). You can see I have one on the left side of the bed with the shade all awry. I’ll be remedying that, as well.

I’m almost done fixing up all my mismatched chairs and am so freakin’ happy with the results. I’m hoping to share them tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, I’ll be wishing I could take off of work to spend the day curled up in linen and nursing myself back to health.