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


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 🙂



A quick & easy holiday gift – felt coasters

A very short post to show you one of the gifts I made for my family this Christmas – felt coasters. I came across a blog post about geometric coasters by Ciera Design on Pinterest that inspired me. However, cutting all of the individual hexagons she uses became overwhelming right away so I created my own larger designs.

I used my paper cutter to cut 4″ x  4″ squares out of a stiff felt fabric. I then created paper patterns that I traced with marker onto the softer contrasting felt pieces so that I could cut them out by hand. I used a fabric glue to glue down the contrasting pieces on the stiff coaster bottom.  Below you can see a sampling of the coasters I made. I created 6 sets in all. Still have to make myself a set!


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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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Hand stamped infinity scarf

Two infinity scarves.

Sometimes I’m not so sure where my time goes, but I do know that I finally have a craft project to share! Now that we’ve had like two whole fall days in Austin, I decided it was time for a new scarf. I’m pretty bad at wrapping traditional scarves around my neck and looking fashionable, so I decided to make an infinity scarf, which is a loop scarf that you can typically wear as a single long loop or short double loops if it’s cold. It’s hard to mess up wearing a loop. There are a number of tutorials about sewing an infinity scarf. I read quite a few and relied on this video from Craft Gemini to show me the step where you have to join the two ends to form a loop. It can be a bit confusing if you don’t take your time. More on that later. My Supplies:

  • 1.5 yards of knit fabric, pre-washed and ironed as much as possible
  • Hand carved stamps (stamp blocks carved with a speed ball cutter)
  • Fabric paint in a few colors
  • Standard sewing stuff – matching thread, sewing machine, etc.

First I decided on a design using tear drop shapes, sketched them on my stamp blocks and carved three separate stamps so that I could use them in a variety of patterns.

The three stamps I carved, tear drop shapes.

Then, I tested them out on some paper to make sure they stamped well.

Stamp test!

I cut my knit fabric in half, so that I had two pieces of fabric, 1.5 yards long by 24 inches wide. Because you fold the fabric in half length wise and sew, this gives a scarf about about 12 inches wide (minus seam allowances). I got a nice dark brownish/grayish knit fabric with a small weave.

Knit fabric

I then used my stamp set and fabric paint to hand stamp a design down the middle of both pieces of fabric.

Three fabric paints – linen, light green and light blue.

For one design I only used linen and green paints.

For the other design, I used all three colors.

If you do this, make sure to put something under the fabric as you stamp, the paint will seep through in some places. The next step was sewing. The first step to make an infinity scarf is to fold the fabric length wise, with the correct side of the fabric (in my case, the stamped side) touching. Then pin along the whole length of the fabric, but leave four inches on each side not sewn so that you can connect the loop in a later step.

Fabric pinned length wise. I measured in 4 inches from both ends and used a pin to mark the spot where I would start and stop sewing.

When it comes time to sew, make sure to backstitch a bit on both ends so that your seams are secure!

Annie the cat helps me sew. Or really just gets in the way.

Remember to start and stop sewing four inches from each edge and to backstitch to secure your seam.

After the fabric is sewn lengthwise, the tricky part begins. Definitely view the video I mentioned above if you are unsure about these steps. First, turn the fabric so that the correct side is facing out (the way it should be at the end). Notice the four inches that aren’t sewn on either side. Position the fabric so that the seams match and there are no twists in the fabric.

Fabric, turned so that the correct side is on the outside. Seam is lined up so that there are no twists in the scarf.

Next, you have to pin the ends of the fabric together, which is what feels a bit tricky. This is the part where you actually join your scarf into a loop. You start with matching corners and keep the correct side of the fabric facing in so that it touches the entire time you are pinning. Continue to pin around in a circle until you hit the other corners. The extra four inches you left on each side of the scarf is what allows you to do this – the rest of the fabric ends up being contained in those 8 inches after you are done pinning.

Pin the fabric, starting from matchin corners with the correct side of the fabric facing in and touching.

Pin around the entire circle until you come to the other corners. You’ll then see the main part of the scarf coming through the 8 inch opening. That part of the scarf has the correct side of the fabric facing out.

Then, you sew. Start at one corner and go to the other. Make sure to backstitch at both ends.

Sewing the two ends of the scarf together.

When you’re done, you’ll flip that section of the scarf so that the right side is facing out for the entire section. You’ll have an eight inch section left to hand sew to complete the scarf.

After sewing the ends together, you’re left with an 8 inch section to hand stitch.

Pin the opening closed using the same seam allowance you used on the rest of the scarf.

Pinned and ready to hand sew.

I used a slip stitch to close the seam, with help of a tutorial from Michelle patterns. Then, I positioned the scarf so that the seam was positioned in the back. Lastly, I wore the scarf around town. You can see the loop in the scarf on the left and the view of the scarf when it’s flattened out on the right. I’m quite happy with the finished product!

Make your own hand stamped infinity scarf - lauramakes.com

The finished scarves.

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Make your own sun screens

Every time I’ve walked into our new kitchen during the late afternoon / early evening with its west facing windows, I think to myself “it’s time to make sun screens.” Well, I finally got around to it so now the sun doesn’t blind us and we have improved energy efficiency, which is important in sunny and hot Texas. Because the built-in screens for our windows only cover the part of the window that opens, I had to create new screen frames for the windows, rather than just simply using the screen frame that was there. Converting existing screen frames into sun screens is much easier, something I’ve done before as well.

Ugh, the sun shines right through the kitchen window on the west side of the house!

To make a sun screen, first measure your windows and head to the store to get supplies. Lowes and Home Depot sell screen frame kits that basically have everything you need, except the screen material and the screen spline roller tool. Since I had some screen frame pieces left from our previous house, and I needed to create two frames, I bought my supplies separately. Here’s what you need:



  • Screen spline roller
  • Cutting utensils: scissors, box cutter
  • Drill, screw driver
  • Metal saw (ignore the saw in my picture below, apparently it’s a wood saw. Make sure you have a metal saw)

Supplies and tools all collected


General instructions:

Measure your window to determine what size to make the screen frame. Make sure it will cover the window, but leave room to hang the screen using your chosen method. Factoring in the screen corners, cut the metal frame pieces to size. My screen corners added 3/4″ to each side of my screen, so I had to subtract 1.5″ from each side of my screen frame so that it would be the appropriate size. After cutting four pieces, assemble them with the screen corners.

Assembled frame

Then, cut a piece of screen to fit over the frame, leaving at least an inch or more on each side. Lay the screen over the side of the frame that has the channel for the spline. The roller tool has one end that is narrow and another end that’s wider with a groove. The narrow side is used to push the screen down into the channel before forcing in the spline. This helps you make sure the screen doesn’t get ripples and is positioned correctly.

Use the roller to push the screen down into the frame before using the spline.

Next, use the other side of the roller to push down the spline into the channel, starting at one corner. This is where it helps to have the thinnest spline that will work for the frame.

Spline in the channel of one side of the frame.

I don’t worry about cutting the spline at each corner, I just make the turn and keep going. Make sure to hold the screen fairly taut while rolling in the spline, which can take some force. It helps to have two people for this part, especially if it’s the first time you’ve tried making a screen. Once you’re finished, use the box cutter to cut the excess screen off, close to the frame. Be careful that you don’t cut your new screen! I position the razor blade towards the frame to reduce those chances.

Screen, before trimming excess

To hang the screens, we drilled into the metal window frame at the top and the bottom and used the plastic screen clips:

Installed sun screen on the kitchen window.

And now we can finally leave the blinds open in the evening, without being blinded by the sun in the early evening!


This weekend I took care of another exciting house project – organizing our plastic container storage! The Container Store had just the thing, an elfa basket that be installed in a cabinet on a track so that you can pull it out of a cabinet for easy access. You can also easily lift out the basket to get at anything you have stashed in the very back of the cabinet.

Elfa drawer, installed in the cabinet. Yes, that shelf is kind of warped, but the basket frame still works as designed.

Elfa drawer, pulled out with plastic containers nicely organized.


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What to do with so many plants?

I have a thing for plants. This has led to me collecting many, many houseplants over the years. Since we’ve moved, the majority of them are happily hanging out on the back porch. They seem to really enjoy it back there, growing much larger leaves than they would inside. I have a number of pothos plants. I started with two and now have 7, not including ones I’ve given away. They are very easy to propagate, you just cut off a vine and stick it in water until roots grow and then plant it. When the vines get within chewing distance of our cats, I start to notice puncture marks in the leaves. I decided that a good way to keep the plants away from the cats would be to hang them up. Conveniently, I came across a tutorial on Pinterest from skinny laminx for making your own plant hangers out of rope, twine, string, etc.

I picked up some thin hemp rope at the craft store and followed the tutorial to create a hanger for one of my plants. I have plans to make more some time soon.

Close up view


Hanging next to a stone pillar on our porch

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Making ourselves feel at home

When we moved, we quickly missed the beer and wine glass storage we had added to our kitchen at the old house. Throughout our time there, we slowly installed shelves on the wall, corner shelves, and shelves above the sink. We used those shelves to store the fancy glassware we collected. Even with the additional cabinet space at the new house, we didn’t have enough room for all of the fancy glassware. Since beer and wine drinking are hobbies of ours, this was something we wanted to remedy right away.

Enter Craigslist, again. After a week or so of browsing the site, I found the perfect piece of furniture: unfinished, $60, fits in the convertible, and had glass doors. Luckily, the Minwax gel stain I used on the bathroom cabinets in the old house was the perfect color to match the wine rack we already owned.

Preparing the cabinet:

  • The cabinet had wax spilled on the top of it at some point so I did my best to remove it by first scraping it off with a razor blade and then using an iron and paper towels to try to absorb what was left.
  • There was a small hole in the top that I filled with wood filler.
  • I removed all hardware from the cabinet – glass, hinges, knobs, etc.
  • I sanded the entire cabinet with 100 grit sandpaper followed by 180 grit sandpaper and cleaned off the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

After that, it was on to the staining. I did one coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane. The wax spot on the top didn’t quite stain completely, but it’s not too noticeable. You can see it in the center of the photo below.

After assembling the cabinet again, it was time to move it inside. I also stained two pieces of pine to create wall shelves above the cabinet. I used brackets from Ikea that we had in the previous house.

After that it was just time to decorate! It was such a great feeling to finally finish unpacking the dining room.

The whole view of the dining room, taken from the sitting room.

Can’t wait to paint this room and replace that light fixture…. someday.

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Making furniture to hide those litter boxes

During the recent move to our new house, we struggled with where to put our cats’ litter boxes. At the old house we had three litter boxes for the three cats. We decided to try going down to two litter boxes in the new place. However, we weren’t excited about any potential litter box locations.

A few Google searches later and I knew there were a variety of furniture options I could purchase to hide litter boxes. I also knew that they were pricey, leading me to decide make my own. A few days of watching Craigslist and a trip to the Salvation Army later, I scored two solid wood furniture pieces that worked in our house and were big enough to conceal a litter box for about $90 total. I couldn’t even purchase an already made piece of furniture for twice that cost.  Once the furniture was home, we put in the litter boxes for a few weeks and left one of the cabinet doors open so that the cats would get used to the new digs. Probably only needed to do it for a few days, but we were still busy unpacking.

Furniture piece one: a cabinet that fit nicely by the front door and stairs.

After measuring where to put the cat sized hole –  few inches above the inside platform, centered, about 7 inches wide – I drew the lines for the hole, using a bucket to get the arch correct. I then covered the lines with masking tape and drew them again so that the wood would not splinter when we cut it.

My husband then took care of using the drill to start the hole and then the jigsaw to cut out the opening:

After finishing the whole, we removed the tape and sanded the edges.

As our cats don’t always hit their litter box target (weird, right?) We decided to line the inside of the furniture with heavy duty plastic drop cloth so that it can be cleaned / replaced as needed. I used a staple gun to hold the pieces in place. Update, 7/26/14: we’ve recently added pet pee pad lining behind the boxes in addition to the plastic for those times when the one cat misses the litter boxes. They do a pretty good job of absorbing liquid and locking in the odor.

As soon as we carried the cabinet inside and installed the clean litter box, our cat Carston make a beeline for the litter box. I couldn’t even get a photo first! It was good to know he wasn’t reluctant about trying it out. Here’s his exit:

The litter box inside, along with a litter mat to try to trap litter before the cats make it out the hole.

Now unsuspecting guests will never know what this piece of furniture is hiding by our front door. As a bonus, it’s an excellent place to store mail! Now I just need to repaint it once I settle on the colors for that part of the house and hang some art work above. Someday.

Furniture piece #2 is a rock solid low cabinet. It was obviously made by hand. It smelled strongly of patchouli when I got it home.

Following the same process, we cut a hole in the slide a few inches above the inner platform, lined it with plastic and swapped out the gold knobs for brushed nickel knobs left over from our bathroom renovation at the old house.

Here it is inside. It’s so roomy we could probably put two boxes inside.

It’s positioned just below the window that looks on to our back porch, a perfect kitty sitting spot. The exit faces our fireplace so it’s concealed from the rest of the living room. I plan to either strip and re-stain this cabinet darker or paint it to match our living room. I would like to get cushions to put on top so that it acts as a people sitting bench in addition to a kitty sitting bench. Again, someday.

Mojo and Carston say it’s perfect for gazing out the window:

The cats have been using their new litter box cabinets with the holes in the side for more than a week now. We’ve happily noticed a that these cabinets do a decent job of containing unpleasant odors and the cats are more than happy to use them. Hooray!

What kind of furniture finds have you repurposed for your pets?