Harper’s dresser makeover

I’ve been getting a lot of questions via email and some comments about Harper’s dresser and how I painted it. I decided to do my best to write up a more detailed tutorial about the dresser and it’s transformation.

how to paint a dresser

I knew I wanted a French Provincial style dresser. I finally found one via Craigslist at a vintage furniture store about half an hour away. It’s a fairly petite dresser (dimensions 19″ deep, 46″ wide, and 29″ high), so I had no problems fitting it in my rav4 with the middle seats folded down. The color I picked was Sweet Pea (Olympic ONE brand in satin finish from Lowe’s, which is acrylic paint with a built in primer). A quart of paint was more than enough.

It was the middle of winter, so I painted up in our loft (it’s open, so very well ventilated) with a fan and used an old comforter as a drop cloth. First, I took out all the drawers and removed the hardware. I put the hardware and screws in a ziplock baggie so I wouldn’t lose anything. The second thing I did was get a bowl of warm, soapy water (I just used dawn dish soap) and a rag, and wiped everything down. I just wanted to get all the grease off from years of finger prints, etc. Since this dresser already had a painted finish, I figured soapy water would be enough. If it had been a wood or shinier finish, I would suggest using a liquid deglosser to wipe it with instead. Then I turned the dresser upside down (since I wanted to paint the top last).

photo 4

Next I took my angled brush (this one is my all-time favorite) and painted all the crevices and areas I knew I wouldn’t be able to use a roller on (like the ornate feet, corners, etc). Right after that I used a small foam roller on all the flat surfaces. Tip: use the roller as much as possible for the smoothest finish.

It took about two coats of paint with the angled brush, etc, waiting about a day between coats. Then it took probably three coats on the flat parts with the roller. This is because the foam roller puts on very thin coats. After this I let it dry another day then turned the dresser right-side up and painted the top. I let it dry another day and put the hardware back on. Here’s the picture I took shortly after finishing the nursery:


It’s been over a year, and the paint job is holding up really well. I was afraid the top would scratch or chip with the changing pad and diaper caddy on top of it, but it’s still looking great! Here are a few pictures I just snapped with my iPhone to show you how it looks after a year of using it every day. The quality is not the greatest, and the lighting is artificial since we have the windows blacked-out, but it’s enough to give you an idea.


So for those of you looking for some answers about how I painted this dresser, I hope that helps! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any other questions. :)

Coffee table chalk paint makeover

I bought this Pottery Barn coffee table on Craigslist shortly after we moved into our house. While the table is sturdy and well built, the finish wasn’t in very good shape when I brought it home. Over the years it has taken more of a beating with a toddler who loves to bang it with a toy hammer and run his Hot Wheels all over it.

IMG_6793 IMG_6795

I came across this awesome tutorial from Dear Lillie on Pinterest. Ironically enough, it was for the exact same table, so I knew it would work. I followed the directions, making just a few small modifications.

1. We used Klean Strip stripper to remove the dark varnish from the top only. Just brush it on, wait about 30 minutes, and scrape it off. Like the tutorial, it took 2-3 applications to fully remove all the finish. The sides and drawers I left as-is, since I would be painting those.



2. After stripping the top, I sanded it down with a pad sander and 120 grit sandpaper.
3. In the tutorial they stained the top with a walnut stain, but we really liked the natural look of the wood, so I just brushed on two clear coats of polyurethane in a satin finish.

IMG_6885coffee table (1)

4. I used Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey on the bottom part of the table. It took two coats.  (the tutorial uses Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter, which also looked great). For this part I just used an angle 2″ Wooster brush – the same type I use for cutting in.

5. After the paint dried (which for chalk paint is only about an hour or less) I distressed the edges of the table and drawers with some 220 grit sandpaper. This part I did by hand.

coffee table (4)
6. I wiped off the dust from distressing, and applied a coat of Annie Sloan’s clear soft wax. For this part I use the waxine brush from Annie Sloan and buffed it with an old t-shirt.

This was my first foray into chalk painting, and I’m hooked. It requires pretty much no prep work (except dusting off the furniture before painting), sticks to any surface (wood, leather, metal, plastic, fabric, etc.) and the color options are so pretty. It’s a bit pricey, but that is offset by the fact that a little goes a loooong way.

coffee table (3)

I love the new look. When I walk into my living room now, I have a little moment. Kind of like that moment in “What not to wear” where the formerly unstylish person has their big reveal after hair and makeup. I wish I had a beautiful picture of it perfectly positioned in front of the throw-pillowed sofa and accessorized just so, but the truth is that it lives pushed in front of the fireplace for now (and is usually covered in toys) to allow more open space for the kids to play.

Chalk painting was so easy that I did a few more pieces. I painted a wood file cabinet that I got for free. I haven’t taken any pics of that yet because I am still figuring out where it will live in our house. I also painted our entryway console table Duck Egg Blue. I love how it turned out! (The basket below holds bibs)

IMG_6857IMG_7149I’m sure I will probably chalk paint some other things down the road, but between doing these pieces of furniture and the nursery, I’m pretty tired of painting for now. I announced to Blake that I will not paint anything else until spring. We’ll see if I can make it that long!

Painting our kitchen cabinets

At long last, operation sexy kitchen is underway. And it’s been a slooow, labor-intensive process. At no point have we really enjoyed any of the work involved, but we are motivated to make our kitchen look less builder-basic and more beautiful. Before I get too wordy about the whole process, here are the before and after shots.

This is the kitchen before we bought the house. It had blue walls and oak cabinets.


Then we painted the walls Behr’s Hazy Sage and painted the range hood black.

Kitchen: Progress

And here it is now after painting the cabinets Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White, spray painting the hinges ORB, and replacing the brass handles with new Lowe’s hardware.

suddenly inspired: how to paint oak kitchen cabinets

To launch this journey, we first removed all the hardware from the cabinets. This included hinges, baby proofing locks, and handles. We saved all the hardware we planned on using again in a plastic container, but we will be donating the brass handles to have a new life somewhere else.

removing old hardware

old brass hardware

hinges removed

Since we were replacing the cabinet door handles with knobs, we needed to fill in one hole on each door with wood filler. We applied a dab of Elmers Carpentry Wood Filler to the surface of the hole, then smushed it down with a putty knife, scraping it to smooth it out.

elmers wood filler

filling holes

After the wood filler had dried about half an hour, we then used 220 grit sand paper on a sanding block to smooth over the filled in holes. We then used an old t-shirt to wipe down the cabinet doors and frames {all surfaces that would be getting painted} with Klean Strip Sander Deglosser.


Next, we taped off the floors and inside the cabinet frames with tape. I like to cut in by hand with an angled brush, but any spot I couldn’t get to cleanly, I taped off. We also moved things that were in the way out of the cabinets, but we didn’t empty them all the way out since this would have made our kitchen impossible to get around in.

We then primed one side of the doors and all the cabinet frames with Zinsser oil-based primer. We used a high density small foam roller, and any place the roller couldn’t get to we used a 2″ angled brush. My favorite brand of brush for cutting in is the Wooster shortcut. It has a short, soft handle which makes it easy to control the strokes. It’s perfect for cutting in by hand, especially when painting walls. It’s also about $6, making it much less expensive than other brands of brushes. You can find it at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

brush and roller

If possible, set every door on top of something to give you easy access to painting the edges {think paint can, coffee can, shoe box, etc}.

cabinets on cans

This primer is rather thick and goopy, and dries fairly quickly. The key is to work as quickly as possible, and apply as thin and even a coat as possible. Don’t be discouraged if there is a paint glob or drip that dries before you can smooth it over. This can be sanded later. Also, it is acceptable to prime in the fetal position. At this point we had been working about 5 hours and I was exhausted and overwhelmed.

priming cabinet bases

After the primer dried {we waited a day, but the label says it will dry in an hour}I used my sanding block with 220 grit sand paper to very lightly sand any uneven surfaces on the cabinet doors or faces. Like I mentioned earlier, the primer is glue-like in consistency, so getting smooth coats was nearly impossible. The sanding was nice to even things out.

sanding cabinet

After sanding things down, we wiped the cabinets down with a damp rag to remove the dust.  We flipped the doors over and repeated the priming, sanding, and wiping. After that, it was *finally* time to start painting them! Now if you were concerned about having perfectly smooth cabinets without any wood grain texture showing through, you may want to apply a second {even a third} coat of primer, with a light sand in between coats. However, painted wood grain texture doesn’t bother us a bit, so we stuck with just one coat of primer. The paint we chose was Benjamin Moore Advance in Snowfall White. It was recommended due to it’s extended open time {takes longer to dry, so makes it easier to paint even coats} and good leveling {smooth without brush strokes}. I have to say that after painting the bathroom cabinets with Behr paint it has seemed to scratch off or get dings in it fairly easily. We have already had to touch up some spots. We are much more impressed with the durable finish of the Benjamin Moore Advance. We used the same type of high density small foam roller to apply paint to all the major surfaces of the cabinets, again using a 2″ brush for hard to reach angles {I used a new brush for this, just to make sure the bristles were in good shape}.

benjamin moore

We waited a full day between applying coats. The label recommended waiting at least 16 hours between coats. It took three thin coats of paint to give us the coverage we needed. We painted the cabinet frames and the back side of the cabinet doors first, then flipped the doors over and painted three coats on the front side. That’s nearly a week of painting cabinet doors. We did the drawers last, just because we ran out of space in our garage. Ugh.

Meanwhile, we also painted our brass hinges. Since we were replacing the brass handles with oil-rubbed bronze knobs and handles, we decided to spray paint the hinges to match. This saved us from buying 58 hinges. Fifty eight. Whew! I used the same method that we used when we painted our doorknobs and hinges previously. Basically, we rubbed the hinges with steel wool, deglossed, layed them on cardboard and sprayed thin, even coats of Rustoleum’s Universal Surfaces in oil-rubbed bronze. It took about three to four light coats, with a half hour drying time between coats. Once that had dried a full day, we sprayed on three thin layers of Deft semi-gloss clear coat, again waiting 30 minutes between coats. The hinges did need to be flipped over to get to all the surfaces with the spray paint.


brass hinges

orb hinges

After we were done painting everything, we waited a full 3 days to wait to apply hardware and rehang the doors and drawers. The hardware is from Lowe’s. This is what our kitchen looks like now:


The other night we rented The Amazing Spiderman, which as it turns out, was not at all amazing. As a result, I had time during the movie to make the EAT letters over the stove using mod podge, MDF letters, and scrapbook paper. It was a fun, easy, and inexpensive little project that added some much needed color to the space.

eat letters over kitchen stove

We have more work to do in the kitchen. In the near future we plan on updating the window treatments, making a drum shade for the pendant light in the breakfast nook, possibly repainting the table and chairs in the nook, hanging some art, and adding some crown molding to our cabinets. I’ve even thought about distressing or glazing the cabinets. Blake is itching to get rid of that unsightly fluorescent light box and install some recessed can lights. But for now, we are going to sit back and enjoy our white cabinets.

I heard a French saying on House Hunters International the other day, “petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid,” which means little by little the bird builds its nest. It’s a lesson in patience for life’s gradual processes, but in the case of our “nest” it is my new motto. Little by little!

Frame gallery in the entryway

Our entryway used to look like this: Entryway: in progress

It was ok, but the space was lacking personality. I didn’t like the rug, or the big blank wall adjacent to the door.

Now it looks like this {pardon the baby photobomb}:

small entryway coat rack hooks frame gallery console table chevron rug

We made some minor improvements, starting with a new rug. I found this chevron rug from Overstock. It’s an indoor-outdoor rug, so when it gets dirty we can just hose it down. Practical and cute.

chevron rug entryway chevron rug

We also changed up the mirror over the console table. I wanted something non-square to soften up all the squares and rectangles we have in our house. I nabbed this one from Target using my birthday money last month. threshold round wood mirror mirror We also DIY-ed a coat rack to give our guests a place to hang their coats. coat rack for small entryway I gathered some picture frames I had been slowly accumulating and made the space above the coat rack into a gallery wall. I hung everything up when Noah was napping one afternoon using the handy paint stirrer method. The thing I love the most about gallery walls is that they are easy to change up. You can swap out art or add/switch out frames as needed to suit your tastes. Also, they are a relatively inexpensive way to decorate a large wall space. Since pretty much all of the art in this gallery was printed at home or DIY-ed, the cost was only for the frames. I’m loving the mixed and matched look of this frame gallery. It’s more casual and less intentional than the other galleries we have in our home {see the nursery here and the living room here}. This welcome sign was a fun DIY craft I did with my sister-in-law, Melissa. We bought the chipboard welcome letters and used mod-podge, paint, distressing ink, and scrapbook paper to make it pretty. We ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it, but it was worth it! And after that Melissa became a mod-podge addict. The possiblities are endless. I actually used 3m command adhesive strips to hang this bad boy up. welcome sign This is my favorite piece of art. Real art, as it is a watercolor that my mom painted for me for my birthday. She is a talented artist in many different areas {pottery, painting, music} and I am excited to have this painting be the focal point of the collage. It was irregularly sized, about 9×12, and I didn’t want to cut off any of the picture with smaller 8×10 frame. I found this frame at Ikea and will probably have a mat cut for it later. mom watercolor This 4×4 wood frame hails from Target’s Threshold collection. I scooped it up a few months ago with a coupon. I printed a map of Manhattan, KS to frame in it. Blake and I both went to college there and since it’s where we met, fell in love, and got engaged,  it will always be a special place to us. manhattan map framed Here is another Target Threshold frame. The picture is of Blake and I in Lucerne, Switzerland on our backpacking trip to Europe in the summer of 2010. I had that photo in a different 4×4 frame, but decided it would look better in this white frame. However, I’ll probably replace it with a picture of Noah as soon as I get one printed. lucerne pic This is a 12×12 white frame from Target. I originally had it in Noah’s nursery, but decided to move it down here. I didn’t have any art for it, so I did a quick google search for “free printable art.” I found this cute heart here. It comes in different sizes and colors, but I printed the 8×10 in chalkboard. Since it wasn’t big enough to fill the frame, I cut it into an 8″ square, and layered it on top of some scrapbook paper to give it a matted effect. love heart Here is yet another Target frame. I found the bible verse art {Joshua 24:15} at The Flourishing Abode. It came in different colors, and there were a lot of other verses to choose from. I picked this one because I love the verse, and the color scheme complimented the rest of the gallery. The original download was larger than the size I needed, so I resized it in photoshop. as for me and my house pic

This frame was one we’ve had on hand for ages. I wanted to have something optometric up there, but couldn’t find anything online. I quickly whipped up this “See the good in all things” art in photoshop.see the good

This bird is a free printable from the website www.tagxedo.com. It’s a pretty cool site that allows you to make tons of different shapes using any words of your choice. You can customize the colors as well. I used this site to make a whale for Noah’s nursery. This was the last frame I had to fill, so I made this cute little bird. I’m not completely in love with it though, so I could see this changing in the future. The frame is a small Ikea Ribba frame that I had on hand. It was originally wood toned, but I painted it navy blue using Martha Stewart craft paint. I used the 3m command adhesive strips to hang this one up. tagxedo birdIt’s feeling a lot cheerier in the entryway now. There are a few more changes I would like to make that should be pretty easy. More to come!

Update with some FAQ’s:
To see how we built the coat rack see this post. I have heard that not all Lowes have the oil rubbed bronze hooks in stock, but they can also be found here on Amazon.
Also, the paint color is Behr’s Aged Beige from Home Depot in a flat finish.

entryway hooks gallery rug

Building a coat rack for the entryway

Our entryway needed a place to hang coats and bags. We have a coat closet, but the vacuum cleaner, brooms and mop live there, and they frown upon being displaced when we have guests coming over. Also, we’ve had a lot of guests come and forget their coats on the way out because they are hidden in the closet. Because the entryway is so narrow, a free-standing coat rack is out of the question.


We decided to make a built in coat rack to the wall adjacent to the door. It was big and empty and could use a little visual interest. We built it ourselves using a 1×6 board and some hooks. Blake cut the board to length {about 70″} using a miter saw and routed the edges with a simple chamfer edge. Then we primed it with Zinsser oil-based primer {left over from our bathroom cabinet makeover} and painted it with a few coats of Behr semi-gloss in Moon Rise {left over from painting our trim}. Then Blake hung the board on the wall with wood screws, making sure to anchor it into the studs and counter sinking the screws so they wouldn’t stick out.

finding studs

counter sunk screw

After the board was securely fastened to the wall, we filled in the screw holes with wood filler, let it dry, sanded it smooth, and did some touch up painting. The last step was to add the hooks. We went with six hooks in an oil rubbed bronze finish, evenly spaced. Six looked best – not too crowded but not to sparse. There is about 12 inches between each hook.

coat rack close up

Here is the finished product:

coat rack for small entryway

I also added a frame gallery on a whim. I’m addicted to frame galleries. This is the third one in my house, but there’s just no stopping me. The art is still a work in progress, but at least there is something to give visual interest now. I’ll be back with more details about the frames and art work.

Dining room table makeover

Back when we found our dining room table on Craigslist, we were just so excited to find an affordable pedestal table for our square dining room, we were willing to overlook some flaws.craigslist dining table

We were never fans of the table top, because of the grooves in it. They were just little valleys for crumbs to fall into.  The other thing we didn’t love about it was that it was 54″ {we had wanted at least 60″} and it was strangely orange…like Lindsay Lohan. The color wasn’t a big deal because we knew we could refinish it, but the size and grooviness {in this case, not a compliment} was something to be dealt with. In fact, it was so much an issue that I started searching for new dining room tables on Craigslist.

Then something serendipitous happened. I found a table with a 60″ wood top. Because it had an ugly metal base, it was listed at a mere $40. The top was the perfect size and grooveless-ness that we needed. So we decided to buy it! Then it sat in our garage all but forgotten for three months while we were busy with other things. Such is life.

At long last we decided to refinish both the new table top and the old table base to darker walnut color. After my previous table refinishing disaster mishap, involving the minwax polyshades, I was a bit leary. A friend had recommended I use General Finishes gel stain. She had done an oak desk in the java color and loved the results. I did some more research, and found tons of other bloggers raving about how easy it was to use.

Here’s what we used:

  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser
  • Gloves {rubber or latex}
  • General Finishes gel stain {we used Antique Walnut}
  • General Finishes Arm R Seal top coat {we used semi-gloss, but satin is great also}
  • Cotton rags
  • Foam brush

general finishes gel stain and top coat

First Blake removed the pedestal from the table top and transported everything to the garage. The table top was attached to the pedestal base with a square piece of wood. That square piece screwed into both the pedestal and the top. He removed this from the old top, and secured it to the new top.

Removing pedestal from table top

Securing pedestal attachment to new table top

Next up, we sanded the table down with 220 grit sand paper. We used a pad sander for the table top, but we did the base by hand. Then we wiped it down with deglosser and let it dry. We then applied the first coat of gel stain by rubbing it into the wood with a rag. I couldn’t believe how smooth and smudge free this stain was. It went on like a liquidy shoe polish, we just had to rub it around for a thin, even coat.

general finishes gel stain

The first coat didn’t make much of an impact. We waited a full 24 hours before applying the second coat. To get the desired shade, we ended up doing 3 coats on the pedestal base, 4 coats on the top, then three coats of semigloss clear coat {waiting a full day between all coats}. I let it sit in the garage an additional three days after the final coat of sealant to off-gas. As a result, our table sat in our garage nearly two weeks. Because Blake was away on business most of this time, I ended up scrambling to do much of it myself while Noah napped. It was an easy project though!

staining the table pedestal

We applied the clear coat with a foam brush. I wanted it to be a little glossy so I could wipe it off fairly easily. However, if I were doing a dresser or other piece of furniture, I would definitely go with a satin clear coat instead of semigloss. Some blogs recommend sanding with a fine grit between top coats, but I skipped that step {interpret: I was too lazy}.

Here is the re-finished table:

general finishes gel stain antique walnut

general finishes gel stain antique walnut

DSC_0913And here is the before image, to save you from scrolling:

craigslist dining table

Not bad right? The new 60″ table top feels huge compared to the old 54″ one. No more grooves, and no more orangey glow. Now to finally get some artwork up and perhaps find some new chairs.

Nursery progress: DIY striped curtain makeover

Noah’s nursery is making some slow but steady progress. I managed to give the ole white Ikea curtains a face-lift by sewing broad navy blue stripes on them. These Ikea curtains have been moving around a bit. I have two sets: one has always been in the gray guest bedroom (which is now in the process of becoming the nursery) and the other set that used to be in the dining room has been moved to the second taupe guest bedroom.

The plain white Lenda curtains from Ikea

After shopping around for nursery curtains, there wasn’t anything out there that really appealed to me, so I decided to make them myself. Then began the hunt for fabric. I couldn’t find any patterns that I liked for a reasonable price. JoAnn’s had some cute fabric in the interior design section that ran about $50 a yard ($35 after the 40% discount coupon). Since I needed 5 yards, this came out to more than I was willing to spend.

It was much cheaper to transform the curtains I already had. I toyed with the idea of doing a moroccan stencil pattern with fabric paint, but the stencils ran about $40. Instead I opted to go with navy blue stripes. All I had to buy was the navy blue fabric (about $3 a yard and I bought 3.25 yards) for just over $10.

I cut the fabric length in half, which left me with strips about 7-8 inches wider than the curtain width. I wanted the stripes to be about 12 inches wide, so I cut 14.5 inch sections out of the fabric (because it was about 44 inches wide, so I just cut it into thirds). Then I ironed the edges (fold, iron, fold iron…for each edge) and pinned them on curtains, leaving 12 inches from top and bottom edge as well as 12 inches between the fabric stripes. After sewing the stripes on, I was left with the excess fabric hanging over each side. I trimmed the extra fabric so it only stuck out a few inches on each side, folded the fabric under, then pinned ironed it to the back side of the curtain. It was labor intensive – several hours of measuring, cutting, ironing, pinning, and sewing. I had a lot of second thoughts about my DIY stripes throughout the process, especially when the sewing machine acted up on me a few times. Poor Blake tried to stay out of my way as I became an increasingly grumpy pregnant woman on a mission. Finally, after working on them most of the day, I completed them around 11pm.

Measuring fabric before cutting

Arranging stripes on curtain before pinning and sewing (after folding and ironing edges)

Finished nursery curtains

Back side of curtains

Not bad for $11, right? It was worth the effort – we both really like the way they turned out. We plan on getting some bamboo blinds, both pretty and functional, to keep the baby’s sleeping quarters nice and dark when we need it. We may even line the curtains with blackout fabric in addition to blinds just to make it extra dark.

As part of my nesting process, I’ve been in mad list-making mode. I’m already a list lover, but pregnancy has inspired me to put a special notebook in my nightstand just to contain all my lists. I couldn’t keep track of all there was to do if I didn’t have my handy dandy notebook. Plus there is nothing more satisfying than crossing an item off a to-do list, right?

Here’s a few of the biggies we’ve gotten done:

  • Registered for the hospital
  • Attended childbirth classes
  • Attended breastfeeding class
  • Filled out our birth plan (they gave us a blank one at our childbirth class)
  • Started cooking and freezing meals (we only have about 3 or 4 stashed away so far)
  • Interviewed and chose a pediatrician (I spoke to about three, and the final decision was not an easy task!)
  • Installed the car seat
  • Semi-packed the hospital bag (a few last minute toiletry items need to be added like glasses and face lotion)
  • Washed and put away all the baby clothes, blankets, towels, burp cloths, etc.
  • Set up a changing station and bassinet in our bedroom (where baby will sleep for at least a few months before we move him to nursery)
  • Figured out the baby monitor
  • Assembled and figured out the stroller
  • Ordered the rocking chair (a birthday gift from my sweet parents)

We still plenty of items yet to do, but the list is slowly shrinking:

  • Buy more cloth diapers
  • Cook and freeze more meals
  • Finish making nursery mobile
  • Hang nursery art
  • Pick up rocking chair
  • Buy rocking chair slipcover and ottoman
  • Finish sending out thank you cards
  • (and many more items pertaining to nursery decor)

Then I have many more ongoing lists. Like things to do post-partum, for example:

  • Eat sushi
  • Eat a big deli sandwich
  • Sleep on my back
  • Send out baby announcements
  • Etc, etc (the list goes on and on)

I’ve divided my trusty little notebook into different sections to categorize all the lists. It’s pure madness…and I love it.

Mantel Overhaul Part III: Our finished masterpiece!


Our fireplace area was desperately in need of a makeover.  When we first moved in, it looked like this:

Mantle when we bought the house

Then after having professionals knock down the awkward ledge (running the length of the wall just below the ceiling) and flush out the ginormous recessed shelves, painting the wall taupe, and replacing the gray tile with earth-toned tile, it looked like this:

In-progress: fireplace after re-tiling

It was looking better, but we were still in need of a mantel. Full-surround style mantels start around $470 at Home Depot, and one with more detail  costs $1,290! The decision to build one ourselves wasn’t difficult after seeing those prices. Our DIY mantel came in at just under $100 including all paint and materials.

But before I get carried away with the details, let me show you the finished product.

The finished mantel!

A close-up view of the molding

So here’s a little breakdown of how Blake built it. He did this project entirely by himself, which is beyond impressive. He used a few 3/4″ sheets of MDF, some pre-made crown molding (both large and small), and white paint. He cut the MDF into pieces with the dimensions he needed using either my dad’s table saw or his Skil saw, then used a Kreg jig to screw them together. He also used some wood glue, clamps, and a nail gun when necessary for extra adhesion. He added a little extra detail the vertical columns by using my dad’s router to cut grooves into the faces. I’ll let the pictures explain the rest.

Getting ready to be Bob Vila

Practice round with the router table - making grooves for the side columns

Finished column faces

Ripping a 2x4 with an angled blade to make french cleats to hang the mantle on the wall

French cleat

Testing the french cleats to make sure they securely fasten the mantel to the wall

An extra long cleat for the top piece

The half-finished mantel mounts to the wall securely

Adding the crown molding

Painting it white

And once again to save you from scrolling back to the top....The finished mantel!

Other small changes included painting the formerly brass fireplace screen black using high heat spray paint. We also finished installing baseboard around the finished mantel to complete the look. Oh, and my favorite feature? Blake put the fireplace on a switch hidden on one of the sides of the columns so you can turn it off and on with ease.

We’re pretty in love with it. I can’t wait to cozy up in front of the fire with hot cocoa on cold winter nights.

Our doors get love handled

I’m pleased to announce we have finished the upstairs door revitalization project! Before we started, our upstairs hallway looked like this:

But after removing the doors, painting them a crisper shade of white, and giving the brass hardware an upgrade, the hallway now looks like this:

Instead of buying all new doorknobs and hinges this time, we decided to give re-finishing the existing brass hardware a shot. It was a much more affordable solution. Even if the project went awry, we’d only be out about $20.

Of course, being the home improvement novices that we are, I did plenty of research beforehand to make sure that nobody nothing would be harmed in the process. I took inspiration from Young House Love (of course) here, and Pink Toes and Power Tools here and combined their instructions to make it work for us. Here’s how we did it:

1. After removing all your door hardware, gather your supplies. Here’s what we used:

  • Nitrile gloves
  • Super fine (grade 0000)  steel wool
  • Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser
  • Rustoleum Universal Surfaces Metallic Spray in Oil Rubbed Bronze (ORB)
  • Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Matte Clear
  • Old washcloth and cardboard box

Supplies: gloves, steel wool, de-glosser, and ORB paint

2. Sand the hardware with extra fine steel wool to make the surface a little rough and give the paint something to stick to. I found the extra-fine steel wool was enough to remove the glossy sheen without leaving any deep scratches on the surface.

3. Use a liquid de-glosser to remove any oils and debris. The bottle’s instructions said to use a coarse, lint free cloth. I used an old washcloth to wipe it on in a circular motion. Make sure you wear gloves for this step.

4. Allow liquid de-glosser to dry (the bottle says to wait 10 minutes, but we let them sit overnight.)

5. Poke the screws, knobs, and latches through cardboard box so they are in an upright position. This allows easy access to all surfaces while spraying. We just laid the hinges and latch plates on an old drop cloth to spray paint since they were relatively flat.

6. Spray paint with 3-4 thin (very thin – can’t emphasize this point enough) coats of Rustoleum Universal Surfaces metallic spray in ORB. Be sure to turn locks and hinges between coats to spray all surfaces evenly. We waited about 15-20 minutes between coats. Be sure you’re in a very well ventilated area, because this spray paint gives off strong fumes!
***Note: Some instructions suggest using a coat of primer prior to painting, which we skipped because the Rustoleum Universal Surfaces is both a paint and primer in one.

Hardware after just 1 coat of ORB

Hardware after 3 light coats of ORB

7. After the paint has completely dried (we waited about 24 hours), spray the hardware with 1-2 light coats of clear coat spray. We used Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Matte Clear.

8. Once the clear coat has completely dried (again, we waited about 24 hours), re-install the hardware and re-mount the doors in their frames.

It turned out pretty well. The only change I would make is to use a satin clear coat finish instead of matte (but matte was all Home Depot had). We like it so much that we decided to upgrade our front screen door knob in the same manner. Then we just have our master bath and closet door hardware to refinish and the whole house will be free of brass knobs.

In other news, we took a little time off last weekend to head to Steamboat and enjoy the fall foliage. It was nearly at peak. We love living in Colorado!