Our biggest house project yet: A kitchen renovation

When we moved in to this house in April 2012 I set a goal to renovate the kitchen at the 5 year mark. And we did! So now you get to read all about it, see the before and after photos, and see how our 5 year dream finally came true.

First, I knew that I wanted to make the kitchen more open to the rest of the house and since that involved restructuring walls, we hired an Architect / Designer to create new plans for our kitchen. As you’ll see in the photos, the design included restructuring the pantry to open up the dining room opening, removing the drop ceiling, opening up the wall next to the stove, removing the wall between the living room and kitchen, and installing pocket doors in the laundry / half bath area. We are extremely pleased with the layout as the kitchen is now the focal point of the house. We highly recommend working with a designer if you’re doing more than just replacing what already exists.

As for the actual renovation process, it took much longer than initially planned. I’ve always heard that Texas houses have foundation problems and it seems the walls and floors in our house may suffered some of this fate as nothing in the house was level or square, leading to extra work throughout the process. The Austin permits also have certain construction requirements so we also had to upgrade the electrical service into our house. However, the biggest overrun in our budget wasn’t cabinets, or countertops, or electrical – it was our contractor’s labor. Lesson learned: Understand your contractor’s confidence in their estimate and what the process is to notify you if they are headed for an overrun. That’s the least fun part of the kitchen remodel… so let’s get to the fun stuff: the before and after photos! Oh, and I guess play the game of how many pets can you count in the photos.


In the original kitchen layout, the opening from the dining room into the kitchen was very narrow and if the fridge was open no one could get through.

Kitchen - Before-1

The kitchen suffered from the fate of many kitchens in our area – a drop ceiling! We previously removed the ugly fluorescent fixture and put in a new fixture. Last fall, we replaced all the windows in the kitchen and half bath and put in a back door with a window.Kitchen - Before-2

The house had the original oak builder cabinets, and ugly yellow tile countertops with brown grout.Kitchen - Before-3

The area of the kitchen next to the laundry room was meant to be a dinette, but we never used it for that so we had a random assortment of furniture in that space.Kitchen - Before-4

Looking back towards the dining room. The pantry is behind that ugly brown door at the end of the kitchen.Kitchen - Before-5

The kitchen sink was one of those sad, small stainless steel sinks with a tiny little faucet. The water also took forever to get hot, like minutes, because the hot water tank is at the opposite end of the house.Kitchen - Before-7

I love this large window so we made sure to frame it in the new kitchen.Kitchen - Before-8

Across from the large window is the opening into the living room, which used to be a doorway and an interior window with a narrow ledge. Kitchen - Before-9

In prep for the new kitchen, we bought a stacking washer and dryer set. The laundry room had ugly metal cabinets on the wall. The half bath is also accessed from the laundry room. Both had ugly brown doors that would hit each other when you would open them both. It was awesome. Kitchen - Before-10

Looking from the living room into the kitchen.Kitchen - Before-12

Kitchen Goals

Now that you’ve seen our old kitchen, you can probably imagine what we wanted out of our kitchen renovation. In case you can’t, here are the goals we set:

  • Replace all cabinets, countertops, and flooring
  • Widen the opening from the dining room into the kitchen
  • Open up the kitchen into the living room
  • Remove the drop ceiling
  • Install good lighting
  • Create a bar area for entertaining – with a beer fridge and wine cooler
  • Install a utility sink in the laundry room
  • Fix the door problem in the laundry & half bath
  • Match the aesthetic in the rest of the house


And now for the exciting part… what it all looks like now! If you can’t tell, I struggled a bit with the differing lights causing issues with my camera’s white balance, especially because some of the photos were taken at different times of day. Some of the photos are probably a bit too yellow – I’ll have to fix that one of these days.

First, the view from the dining room. The doorway was widened which meant that we had to swap the location of the wine rack and the glassware cabinet.

Kitchen - After-1

Goodbye to the drop ceiling! Look at those lovely LED can lights! You can sort of see the under cabinet lighting, LED strips, under each of the upper cabinets in the kitchen. We also ended up with a new fridge because the old one was damaged during demo. The cabinets above the fridge and the panel on its left side make the fridge look built in, and the cabinets have special vertical dividers for baking pan storage.

The pantry wall was squared off in place of the original diagonal wall and we had a custom barn door made to match the colors in our house.Kitchen - After-4

We selected cabinet colors that are light gray on the uppers and a dark grayish / brown color on the lowers. Both cabinet types have a dry brush finish.

Kitchen - After-26

Most of the backsplash tile is a 3″x6″ subway tile in seafoam green. I’m really happy with how that color brings out the bits of recycled glass in the countertops that have a faint green color to them. The countertops are GEOS recycled glass in White Birch by EOS. We put an accent tile behind the stove that you can see in the next photo. Our sink is a granite composite in dark gray with a kitchen faucet that I love made by Delta. We debated getting a faucet that you could tap on and off but ultimately decided against it out of fear of the cats turning it on when we weren’t home. Cats – the reason we can’t have nice things.

Kitchen - After-11

We got rid of our over the stove microwave and instead installed a nice stainless steel vent hood and put the microwave under the countertop. The countertop above the microwave overhangs the half wall a bit into the living room, making for a nice large space. In the old layout, the wall went to the edge of the counter so the cutout above that counter is new and gives a better view of the living room and TV. We’re happy with how the accent tile matches the subway tile and decided to have the tile installed vertically. We purchased the tile locally at the Tile Shop.Kitchen - After-6

I picked up a “build your own dividers” kit at the container store and organized the heck out of the utensil drawer. Which is good because without the organizers it felt like the drawer was way too full and sometimes wouldn’t close.Kitchen - After-8

And now for a glimpse into the pantry. I planned a shelf specifically for pet food containers since each cat gets a different type of food (I know, I know…). We also had outlets put in the pantry and now keep our toaster on a pantry shelf and use it in the pantry. The outlets forced our pantry shelves to be spaced out vertically quite a bit so I got inventive with some other pantry storage solutions from the Container Store. My new 2 step step-stool lives in the pantry as well and gets a ton of use.Kitchen - After-10

Here you can see one of the sets of floating shelves. They are Lack shelves from Ikea that I sanded, primed, and painted to match our upper cabinets. We had to cut them to size to fit in our space, which meant that we didn’t get to use as many support screws as we probably need. The shelves did not end up being very sturdy so I will be looking into a replacement solution.

Kitchen - After-13

The far end of the kitchen is the bar area! The set of drawers and cabinet next to the wine fridge are where we store our liquor bottles and random jars / other glassware that I use for storing infusions and such. We had the spacing between the pull out shelves of the liquor cabinet adjusted to fit a bottle of St. Germaine, so almost all liquor bottles will fit.Kitchen - After-14

Across from the wine fridge area is the butcher block bar top! The L shape gives us a convenient spot for a beer fridge and space to have 3 counter height stools for when we’re entertaining. It also makes a great place to sit and eat if you’d like to watch TV. Our contractor installed the butcher block, which is Walnut and purchased at Floor and Decor. I took care of the sanding and finishing – I used Howard Butcher Block Conditioner which is a combo of oil and wax. It has to be reapplied often but I love the natural look of the counter. I had the metal leg support manufactured by a local metal worker. We’d like to do something on the wall above the bar top, but have yet to figure out what that might be. We may still hang our little kitchen TV up there. The pendant lights give a nice rustic look that ties in well with the chandelier in the dining room.Kitchen - After-15

I really like the thin metal transition strip between the wood and tile floor, even if it took me forever to find it online. I eventually was able to place an order through Floor & Decor.

Kitchen - After-16

The space between the kitchen and living room is so much more open – we love it. I often sit at the bar top facing the living room while eating my breakfast or lunch. We sanded, stained, and sealed the beam using a dark gel stain by Minwax.

Kitchen - After-30

I’m also quite excited about the plant hanging rail above the large window. I love plants, and so do the cats, so hanging plants are a great way to keep them from eating my plants. The rail is a curtain rod that I picked up at Target that is designed to look like the heavy duty metal iron pipe and flanges. I used some leftover trim to anchor it firmly to studs.

Kitchen - After-28

I’m so happy with the laundry room – having a utility sink is the best ever. The stacking washer and dryer are a LG steam set that we picked up during the holiday sales last year. The counter overhangs so that we can stash a hamper underneath.

Kitchen - After-18

The utility sink is stainless steel with a commercial style faucet. I really like the combo, although the first time I was using the faucet not in its holder, the spring caused it to fly up and spray me in the face. In our old kitchen we stored all over our souvenir magnets on the side of the fridge. I didn’t want to stop the tradition so I ordered a frame to fit a 2′ x 3′ piece of sheet metal and made a magnet board for the laundry room. I also hung a collapsible drying rack which has been quite handy so far. Kitchen - After-19

We got the chance to get a price break on our countertop if we purchased more, so we decided to do the half bath, which was originally out of scope. I also used the same paint as on the floating shelves to paint the cabinet. Since the paint was peeling, I had to strip everything, prime and paint. Kitchen - After-22

One final look back towards the dining room.Kitchen - After-24

If you can’t tell, we’re quite happy with the end result and have had a great time entertaining family and friends in our new space.

Contractors, Suppliers, and Materials

Architect / Designer: Plumb Architecture. Denise did an amazing job taking our ideas and formulating a design that surpassed our expectations. She also consulted on colors with us to help us understand what palette would go best in our house.

Kitchen cabinets: Designed by UB Kitchens, Cabinets by Urban Effects. Although our cabinets had a number of issues arise during shipping, UB Kitchens provided phenomenal service making sure we were happy. The cabinets are beautiful, with both the darker lowers and the lighter uppers having a dry brush finish that has faint brush strokes.

Countertops: Geos Recycled Glass by Eos in White Birch. After a bad experience trying to order this from Home Depot, I ended up using Empire Countertops in Austin and definitely recommend them.

Backsplash Tile:



Cabinet pulls: Amerock Blackrock Satin Nickel in different sizes, including knobs for the bathroom


Floor tile: MSI Dimensions Graphite 12″ x 24″

Transition Strip: Schluter RENO-T Satin Nickel Anodized Aluminum 1in. 8ft. 2-1/2in. Transition

Plant rail: Drapery Pipe French Rod (curtain rod)

Stools: Ira 24″ counter stool

Wine Cooler: Frigidaire Gallery 46 Bottle Wine Chiller

Beer Fridge: GE 31 Bottle Wine / Beverage Cooler

Microwave: Frigidaire Gallery Countertop / Built in Microwave

Vent Hood: RA-14L30SS – (1) Windster RA-14L Series 30″ Vent Hood


Repainting our bedroom

Painting the master bedroom




I finally got around to picking colors for our master bedroom and bathroom so that we could continue updating the bottom half of our house. The master bedroom has the bathroom sink open to the bedroom and the tub and shower are in a room off to the side. I had three basic ideas to test out:

  • Teal accent wall behind the bed, teal bathroom walls with the rest of the walls light blue and white ceiling
  • Teal accent wall behind the bed, teal bathroom walls with the rest of the walls light gray and white ceiling
  • Gray walls in bedroom (same gray as in our living room), teal walls in the bathroom and light blue ceiling

I tested four dark colors in the bathroom, narrowed my options to two, and then tested them on the wall behind the bed. I settled on white ceilings, and selected Valspar Lyndhurst Duchess Blue for the dark color and Valspar Halcyon Blue for the light color. Despite its name, Halcyon Blue is more of a light gray color. In some light, it almost looks white. Even though I decided to stay with white ceilings, I’d still like to try painting a ceiling a non-white color in one of our rooms.

BedroomPaint-1 BedroomPaint-2


A great photo of the mess after we started moving the furniture around:


Testing the light colors on the wall and the ceiling:BedroomPaint-4


The after view – we finally hung some things on the walls!


BedroomPaint-6 BedroomPaint-7 BedroomPaint-9


We still have to replace all of the trim in the room and paint it white. You can see the ugly light beige colored trim in most of the photos. It’s peeling and it’s ugly and I can’t wait to get rid of it!

While I was hanging things on the walls, I took an unused picture frame, removed the glass, and glued in a piece of metal screen so that I can use it as an earring holder on the wall near the hooks that I hang my necklaces on.


Goodbye popcorn ceilings!

Guess what! We finally did it – had the rest of our downstairs popcorn ceilings removed! In the aftermath, we also painted the entryway and the living room to match the sitting and dining rooms, and replaced the hideous kitchen ceiling light. We paid a contractor to remove the popcorn ceiling texture, reapply a much lighter orange peel texture and then prime and paint. The square footage of these rooms was just too much for us to do on our own. And because the texture in the sitting room and dining room would no longer match the rest of the rooms, we also had them apply matching texture over what we had already done ourselves.

The process was a bit labor intensive, we had to move out of our house from Monday to Friday (originally it was supposed to be Thursday, but the primer didn’t dry in time due to humidity). Our pets had to move too, so Molly (our dog) stayed with us in a short term rental and the cats all went to a place that has a special cat boarding room. I think they hated it. The worst part was moving the majority of our furniture from the downstairs rooms into the garage so that the house would be ready for the contractors. We’re still working on unpacking…

Our new ceilings are SOOOO much better than the old popcorn texture. There are a few places that are less than perfect, but they aren’t really noticeable unless I show you, and I suppose the only way to have perfect ceilings is to have that texture applied to a brand new house.

The part that I was most unhappy with throughout this process was the clean up. I was under the impression that the house would be decently clean when they were done, but we had to clean the floors multiple times, wipe down doors, clean windows and we continue to find splatter on surfaces. When they came back on Saturday to finish some touch up, we had already cleaned on Friday and then they left a mess again… sigh. I know that’s the way these projects work sometimes but I hadn’t factored that into my plans.

On Sunday, while the furniture was still in the garage, we decided to paint the entryway and living rooms. It wasn’t something we planned to do immediately, but since we had the supplies, we decided to go for it. I’m glad we did, because it covers up the overspray from the ceiling paint, at least in those two rooms.

We also decided to remove the kitchen light fixture from our drop ceiling so they could texture the inside of the light cavity, and then we installed a new track light we picked up at Lowe’s. It’s so much nicer! Eventually, I’d like to renovate the whole kitchen and knock out the drop ceiling, but this will hold us over.

Before pictures:

Kitchen ceiling / light
Kitchen, viewed from dining room doorway

Bedroom ceiling & fan







Kitchen light – partially removed




After pictures

Kitchen ceiling & new light



Looking towards the entryway, you can see the painted walls and new ceiling texture



Looking into the living room



Our next house project is hopefully to get new wood floors where we have carpet downstairs and get all of those ugly, peeling baseboards replaced with nice white trim like in the front two rooms! I. can’t. wait.!


The renovation of our front rooms

The renovation of our front rooms

So this project was a long time in the making… like August 2013 until March of this year perhaps? Probably because we could only do it a bit at a time and I was hesitant to call it complete before I did things like hang curtains. Of course, it’s not 100% complete because I still have two or three minor decor tasks on my mind.

The two rooms we renovated are the ones in the very front of our house – the dining room and what we call the sitting room (we have a much larger living room in the back of the house). The entry way also got a bit of love, but not nearly enough as you’ll see in a bit.

This is the before view – dining room right after we moved in, before getting a new dining table:

Dining room, view from sitting room

The sitting room (I think I purposely cut off the ugly light fixture because of it’s ugliness, but check out that dining light fixture in the background)


And a view back towards the entry way. I think I was taking photos of the dog bed that I had just built.



The planning of my front room renovations was quite a while in the making. I started pinning ideas to my Pinterest board basically as soon as we decided to buy this house in 2012. My ideas were full of white trim and wainscoting, gray walls, and furniture that had both a rustic and modern look – metal combined with dark wood. I wanted the accent color to be teal. Oh, and to remove the hideous popcorn ceiling. I’m very happy with the end product. Taking such a long time to plan my ideas really drove my furniture, light fixture and decor purchases into a more cohesive style then I normally end up with.

With the before pictures out of the way, let’s dig into what we did. First up:


This part was a pain in the … you get my drift. I now know that having a professional do this task isn’t as cost prohibitive as I initially thought and am considering getting the remaining downstairs rooms taken care of. After reading a variety of posts we rounded up the supplies we needed: plastic sheeting, brown construction paper, a water sprayer, scraper… and got to work.

We removed the old light fixtures and then got to work prepping the room.

FrontRoomRenovation-1 FrontRoomRenovation-2 FrontRoomRenovation-3

After covering the entire room with plastic we laid dow the brown construction paper.



We then we got to work spraying the popcorn with water, waiting for it to soak in and then scraping it off. It was definitely a process to learn how long to let the water soak in. As we scraped some of the drywall paper came off which we patched after the ceiling dried.




After working on the first room, my shoulder had enough and my husband had to scrape the popcorn alone in the dining room while I took his photo through the plastic.




Someone was super excited to get rid of the dining room light fixture. In fact, after we first viewed this house when it was for sale, we walked out and I asked him what he thought, he said, “We’d get rid of that dining room light, right?” First thing he said. I really hadn’t even noticed it since lights are easy for me to buy and him to replace.

After the ceilings were patched and dry, we primed them and I went to work trying to apply a light texture to mask the imperfections left behind.


FrontRoomRenovation-7    FrontRoomRenovation-10  FrontRoomRenovation-9


I first tried applying a knock down texture that comes in a spray can. It was super messy and got all over me, and after it dried you could still see a lot of problems. After that, I bought a “sand” texture that you applied by mixing little silicon pellets in with the paint and then rolling it on. It worked much better than the knock down texture, but if the light hits the ceiling right you can still see imperfections. However, it’s a huge improvement over popcorn.

After the ceilings were done, I painted both rooms while my husband was enjoying a bachelor’s weekend. I painted them both Valspar Signature Marble Tile.


The second, and longest, stage in this project was installing new trim. To make the rooms feel fancier, I decided we needed crown molding and trim around the door openings. While it has the desired effect, it was a lot of work. Just to get enough trim we had to rent a truck to pick up the necessary trim pieces at Lowe’s.

We brought the trim inside for a few days before starting the project to let it acclimate. We purchased primed pieces since we were planning to paint it all white. We also replaced all the light switches and outlets with new white outlets and switches. The old ones were gross.

FrontRoomRenovation-11   FrontRoomRenovation-12


I read a tutorial about how to use a paint sprayer on new trim by installing the trim over plastic, spraying, and then removing the plastic from the rooster and the hen so we decided to try it. We started with the door openings and followed the way that the charming nest DIY’d their door casings. The nail gun that came with our craftsman evolv compressor crapped out almost immediately on this project so we had to buy a nicer one. We had the original one for so long without using it that there was no way to get it replaced.




The door casings were pretty easy to install. It was the crown moulding that almost did us in. Getting the angle and length just right was hard. We ended up buying a Kreg Crown Moulding Cutting Guide, which helped, cut certainly didn’t solve all of our problems. I think the biggest problem was that the corners were often not exactly 90 degrees. I was able to decently patch the corner gaps by shoving in some paper and covering it with caulk.




After all of the trim was installed (except the windowsills because we had decided to get new windows) it was time to use the paint sprayer. We had tried to cover everything we plastic, but the sprayer blew with much more force than we were imagining and we ended up having to remove some over spray from the floors. It was too difficult to adequately spray the door casings that led into the adjoining rooms so I ended up painting those by hand. I also had to touch up some of the parts that I sprayed because it was difficult to tell while spraying that I went too light in some areas. I wouldn’t use this method of painting trim with a sprayer after it was installed again. Removing the plastic was especially annoying. It definitely didn’t just pull right out and if you cut it close to the edge, then you had an issue when trying to caulk the gaps. Of course, after caulking we had to go back and touch up paint again… it was quite the process.




When pulling out the trim, we realized we had to do something about the windowsills. If we were going to remove the windowsills, shouldn’t we just get new windows? I was planning to get a new front door with a window, so we decided to bundle all of the work together. We ordered our new windows and door through Lowe’s. We’re very happy with the new windows. They are white with prairie trim, making them feel so much lighter then our old ones. They also fold in for easy cleaning. I want to be happy with the new door, but when I painted it, the paint peeled right off the trim around the window. I fought with Lowe’s and the door manufacturer and no one could really help me. I at least know how to fix the problem, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So I like the door itself, but am unhappy with the service I received.


FrontRoomRenovation-21   FrontRoomRenovation-20




After the windows were installed, we got to work on the windowsills. This time, we painted the trim in the garage before installing it. We also put trim around the windows.



And with the windows done, all of the major work was finished. I then finished decorating. Along the way, I made and bought a slew of new furniture for these two rooms:


Let’s start in the dining room with a view from the sitting room.



The cabinet with glass doors, with shelves above. I stained the cabinet and wood for shelves after we first moved in. This is where we keep lots of fancy glassware.


The wine rack and an old wooden bucket for storing magazines. I also have a wine fridge, which is why this looks so empty.



The dining room viewed from the kitchen. You can see the valances and the corner shelves I made.



Close up of the new windows, trim, and valances.



Sitting room viewed from the foyer. Yes, that’s a cat mat on the rocking chair protecting it from fur. I don’t think they’ve laid on it yet though.



View from the dining room.



Dog bed and window.



Although the foyer isn’t done, I did put in new light fixtures and a cabinet for the entry way so I thought I’d share.

FrontRoomAfter-2 FrontRoomAfter-1

That’s it for now! I have only a few tasks to complete for those rooms that I hope to get to soon. I’m also starting to plan the removal of the rest of our popcorn ceilings, but this time by a contractor. Stay tuned!









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Making a rustic industrial free-standing corner shelf set

Sometime soon I’m going to share the details of our sitting room and dining room renovation, but for now I’m going to share the set of corner shelves I built. I call them rustic industrial because I left the wood in it’s raw state and I used black metal pipes spray painted oil rubbed bronze as support for the shelves, in the same style as the rustic industrial dog bed I built for my favorite pup. I wanted a set of corner shelves more substantial then the set I had for many years, about 5 feet tall with 5 small shelves in a light oak color. After I sketched out my idea for the new shelves, it took me about a month to find enough time to finish the job.

I used 12″ wide pine boards. I cut 6 sections of one foot and two feet long each so that I could attach the sections together to make corner shelves. This isn’t where I actually cut the boards, but I did use that table saw. I just thought you might enjoy my dog photobombing my picture, like she always does.



In order to attach the metal pipe to the side of the shelf, I used a 1″ x 2″ pine board to support the shelf. To attach the support board to the shelf, I used a counter sink bit to drill through both boards.



Counter sink bits:



Close up of the countersunk screw. Before I stained the wood, I used wood filler to fill the hole.



After I attached the support board to all of the shelf pieces, it was time to attach the one foot and two foot boards together, but first I had to plan the supports for the bottom shelf so that all of the brackets would fit. I spray painted the hardware with oil rubbed bronze.




To attach the one foot and two foot sections together, I used wood glue and a clamp before putting the screws into the brackets.




After the shelves were assembled, I stained them with TimberSoy Walnut stain and then finished them with quick drying polyurethane. While being watched by my dog.




Attaching supports to the bottom shelf (6″ black metal pipes and floor flanges):




Try to ignore our very messy workbench in the background of this next picture. I assembled the shelf layer by layer, making sure that the shelves were level and that the brackets were attached in relatively the same place. it wasn’t the easiest task. The back corner was supported by threaded rods screwed into something called “ceiling flanges” that were all spray painted with oil rubbed bronze. I used some super glue to lock the threaded rods to the flanges so that they were all the same length. You can see the side supports which are 72″ black metal pipes spray painted oil rubbed bronze.



A close up of the bracket used in the back corner of the shelf for extra support:


After the shelves were assembled, I put them in the dining room corner. And then took many photos of them for you to enjoy and to see how they fit in with the other furniture. I haven’t full accessorized the shelves yet.

CornerShelf-14 CornerShelf-15 CornerShelf-16 CornerShelf-17


I took a photo of the dog bed next to the new curtains so you could compare them to the corner shelves and of course the dog chose to lay in her bed at that moment. She’s the best photo bomber 🙂



Sprucin’ up the back porch

The before picture of the porch.

The before picture of the porch.

We’ve got a really nice back porch at our new house and it even came with a pre-installed porch swing. The porch swing was nice but a bit drab so I decided to spruce it up a bit.

Close up of the drabness.

Close up of the drabness.

I found some yellow Valspar spray paint at Lowe’s that I felt was the perfect shade. At first I bought two cans of primer + paint in one. Once I removed the porch swing from the chains I decided it should be scrubbed because it seemed dirty.

Cleaning the swing.

Cleaning the swing.

I used a hose, a bucket and a scrub brush. I don’t know what was on that swing but it was more than just grime. It must have had some sort of coating on it at some point because it seemed fibrous. It was a pain and didn’t even come all of the way off. After the swing dried in the sun for a number of hours I began the spray paint. The cans of primer + paint were just absorbed by that thing and I was left with a vaguely yellowish swing. I then got two more cans of spray paint, also Valspar, but this time for outdoor projects. Once I used those up, I was satisfied that the swing was yellow enough. My husband isn’t sure about my color choice, but I like it. It even matches the fun outdoor pillows I picked up a few months back. The project wasn’t as quick as I imagined in my mind, but still well worth it.

See! So much better!

See! So much better!

Making a rustic industrial dog bed

What exactly is a rustic industrial dog bed? Heck if I know. I just know that the furniture theme for my sitting and dining rooms is metal + dark or reclaimed wood. The sitting room has a low window that our dog will lay in front of, on one of her pillow style beds, and stare at the outside world. I wanted to make a dog bed that fit in with the furniture in that part of the house and that wouldn’t get pushed around by the pets or the roomba. After seeing a tutorial on a keen life where they made a set of shelves from some metal plumbing pipe and wood, I knew I found the perfect materials for my dog bed. It only took me a few months to finally get all the stars to align so I could finish it, and I’ve yet to make a new cushion for it, but at least the old dog bed cushion fits reasonably well. A preview of the finished product with my dog model:

Molly looking really sad, laying on her new bed in front of the window.

Molly looking really sad, laying on her new bed in front of the window.

After I got the idea in my head, I picked up 6″ pine boards, an assortment of brackets, spray paint, and the metal pipe and fittings necessary to make a rectangular frame for the dog bed. After bringing home the metal pipe and fittings, my husband and I assembled the rectangular frame with short legs. Because the fittings all have to screw together, and we were trying to screw a rectangle of parts together, we were constantly tightening one corner while loosening another corner. Eventually we got all the fittings to loosely screw together with the plan to glue the joints later for a firmer hold. After creating the rectangle, I measured the inside of it to determine what size wood boards I needed.

After refreshing my memory on exactly how to use the table saw, I got to work cutting my pine boards to size.

After refreshing my memory on exactly how to use the table saw, I got to work cutting my pine boards to size.

Laying out the boards in to a rectangle.

Laying out the boards in to a rectangle.


Spray painting the brackets and screws.

I put all the screws and brackets in a shallow box and spray painted them from all angles with Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint. It took multiple coats to get all of the angles done so that no shiny silver metal was left showing.

After measuring the same length from the end of both boards, and using the brackets as a guide to mark my holes, I drilled pilot holes and then screwed in the screws.

After measuring the same length from the end of both boards, and using the brackets as a guide to mark my holes, I drilled pilot holes and then screwed in the screws.

For the corners I used L shaped brackets and for the tall sides I used flat brackets.

For the corners I used L shaped brackets and for the tall sides I used flat brackets.

After the sides were assembled, I attached the bottom with L shaped brackets that had 2 or 3 screws in a horizontal line on each side.

After the sides were assembled, I attached the bottom with L shaped brackets that had 2 or 3 screws in a horizontal line on each side.


A close up of the bracket varieties used.

A close up of the bracket varieties used.


The next step was to stain the wood.

The next step was to stain the wood.

I used Timbersoy wood stain, color walnut, from EcoProCrete that was left over from a previous project. The stain goes on thin, so I used a sponge applicator and applied multiple coats until it was as dark as I wanted. To seal the wood, I used Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil Wood Finish, also purchased for a different project. The oil is applied by rubbing it in with an old cloth. I used two coats for now. It gives the wood just a bit of sheen, which worked well for the look I was trying to create.

Leveling the legs.

Leveling the legs.

After that was done, I put the metal frame around the bed and used that as a guide to help make sure the short legs were straight before I glued everything in place. I used gorilla glue and a toothpick to try to force some glue into each joint. Gorilla glue expands as it dries so after I was done I had to use a box cutter to remove the excess glue from the top of the frame where it would easily be seen. It took me three tries to get all of the joints adequately glued. The next step was to spray paint the frame.

Spray painting the frame.

Spray painting the frame.

After adding the gaskets to the bottom of the metal frame, it was time to attach the frame to the wood box. I used some scrap wood to set the wood box on so that it would not be flush with the floor while I attached the brackets.

Getting the bed ready for final assembly.

Getting the bed ready for final assembly.

I used brackets that are meant to go with this pipe to attach it to the wood box. The only trouble was that the pipe doesn’t sit flush with the box because of the T and corner junctions. I improvised by using some large nuts and washers as standoffs for the brackets.

Spray painted brackets, with the washers and nuts used as standoffs to attach the wood bed to the metal frame.

Spray painted brackets, with the washers and nuts used as standoffs to attach the wood bed to the metal frame.

I also used brackets on the four short legs in case the glue didn’t completely hold in places. I used sticky rubber furniture pads on the bottom of the frame feet to keep the floor from getting scratched.

New dog bed, old dog cushion.

New dog bed, old dog cushion.

Finally, completion! A few photos of the sitting room so you can see how the new bed fits in:

A view from the foyer into the sitting and dining room.

A view from the foyer into the sitting and dining room.

The relatively new couch, coffee table, and side table with the ancient Ikea chair. Still need to replace that chair. Oh, and the dog.

The relatively new couch, coffee table, and side table with the ancient Ikea chair. Still need to replace that chair. Oh, and the dog.


Molly forced to be a model on her new bed.

Molly forced to be a model on her new bed.

What a rough life.

What a rough life.


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How our garden grows

We made it a priority this year to get raised garden beds installed in our new back yard. And by “we” I mean that I planted a few plants, raked a bit of dirt around, moved two wheel barrows of dirt and mulched said plants. Someone else did the heavy lifting.

My husband constructed us three 4′ x 8′ raised garden beds out of cedar planks. They are about 12″ tall. Cedar is supposed to resist decay better than other types of wood. He then dug out the existing grass, leveled the ground a bit, placed cardboard in the bottom and filled them with dirt. Well, I helped with the cardboard too. Do you see how much work I did here?

We planted:

  • Eight tomato varieties
  • Two basil varieties
  • Two chards (one red, one yellow)
  • Five pepper varieties (jalapeño, bell, serrano, etc)
  • Three mounds of cucumbers
  • A row of okra seeds
  • A row of beans from seed
  • Marigolds from seed, to hopefully help keep the bugs away
Constructed garden beds, lined with cardboard

Constructed garden beds, lined with cardboard

Do you see the two wheel barrows of dirt I moved? And how I raked some of the dirt around?

Do you see the two wheel barrows of dirt I moved? And how I raked some of the dirt around?

The first bed has eight tomato plants in it, all different varieties.

The first bed has eight tomato plants in it, all different varieties.

The second bed has two basil plants, two chard plants, and five pepper plants, all of different varieties.

The second bed has two basil plants, two chard plants, and five pepper plants, all of different varieties.

The third bed has some tiny little cucumber plants and we're hoping to soon see some okra and beans sprouting.

The third bed has some tiny little cucumber plants and we’re hoping to soon see some okra and beans sprouting.

One of the peppers is already blooming!

One of the peppers is already blooming!

Molly guards the raised beds. Hopefully she scares away the birds, although it's more likely that the birds will scare her.

Molly guards the raised beds. Hopefully she scares away the birds, although it’s more likely that the birds will scare her.

Little tiny figs started to grow as soon as the fig tree got leaves.

Little tiny figs started to grow as soon as the fig tree got leaves.

Just a few days ago the figs were much larger!

Just a few days ago the figs were much larger!



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Fixing our peeling bathroom cabinets


When we moved in to our new house last April, the trim, windowsills and bathroom cabinets had all been freshly painted. After just a few months, we realized that all of this fresh paint was peeling right off those surfaces. Ugh. The master bathroom cabinets were by far the worst offenders since we’ve been touching them every day. It finally got to the point where I needed to do something about it. After talking to the Home Depot paint department, I learned that the previous owners painted latex paint over oil-based paint, causing the surfaces to peel. The fix is to remove the peeling layer, use a primer that lets you switch from oil-based paint to latex paint, and then paint with latex paint.

The entire process took me a weekend and a few days to get all of the prep work and painting done. First, I used plastic drop cloth to seal off the inside of the cabinets so paint dust didn’t get in there.

Prepping the work area

Prepping the work area

Close up of the peeling paint.

Close up of the peeling paint.

To start the paint removal process I peeled off as much paint as I could. It was much easier to peel than it was to sand.

Then I sanded it as much as I could, wearing a dust mast to avoid breathing in the paint dust. On the narrow parts where I couldn’t really sand the paint, I used Soy Gel paint remover. You brush on the Soy Gel and let it sit for a while, the longer it sits, the more layers of paint it will take off. After it set for a while, I gently used a paint scraper to remove the gel.

Close up of part of the cabinets where I used Soy Gel, a paint scraper and sand paper to remove the paint.

Close up of part of the cabinets where I used Soy Gel, a paint scraper and sand paper to remove the paint.

Before moving onto the primer step, I made sure to get all of the remaining loose paint off using sand paper. I used a wet rag to wipe the cabinets down to remove the paint dust and let the surface dry for a few hours.

I used a gray tinted Kilz primer and then two coats of Behr plus self-priming semi gloss enamel in color graphic charcoal. Where I could, I used a small foam roller specifically made for cabinets to get a nice smooth paint finish. For the other areas I used a nice angled paint brush. You have to be careful to not get paint drips when using the brush.

The contrast in the bathroom is so much nicer than the completely cream colored original version.

Finished cabinets

Finished cabinets

Now, I just need to keep my fingers crossed that this new paint doesn’t start to peel…

Why hello sunlight!

When we decided to purchase our current house, I was disappointed that it lacks vaulted ceilings. Our realtor put the idea in my head to install a skylight to open up the ceiling. So that’s exactly what I just did. Not only does it make the ceiling feel more open, it makes our previously dark living room nice and light. Our covered back porch prevents the back windows from getting much light. Now we have plenty of light. Check out the before and after photos to see what a huge difference the skylight made. We had a 4′ x 4′ Velux skylight installed with a solar powered remote controlled light filtering shade. While we were having a hole cut in the roof, we also had a Velux sun tube installed in the laundry room which doesn’t have any windows. It’s awesome!  All work was done by Design Skylights and I must say that the end cost was very reasonable.

The before view looking towards the back of the house. The window and door look out to the covered porch. The room is lit with a flash so that you can actually see it. Bonus if you spot the hidden cat in this photo.

The after view, lit only by the light in the room due to the skylight and windows.

The light filtering shade will be very handy during the hot summer months. The shade is solar powered and operates using a remote control.

A view of the sun tube in the laundry room. The light is not on.

The outside view. The sun tube is the glass dome on the left.

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