Kitchen Revamp – Cabinet Painting

The day we moved in

The day we moved in

When we first saw this house the kitchen was a major selling point – it is huge, tons of counter and cabinet space, great layout and open to the rest of the living area. I could see myself cooking and entertaining here with ease…

Finished product

Finished product

Of course in my mind, I was seeing a much more beautiful version – but the bones and layout were perfect!

Before we started tiling

Before we started tiling – only the wall color, island lights and faucets had been updated

I would never have put so much knotty pine in my dream kitchen, the faucets and lighting were not my style, the paint was dreary,  the gold, stainless and wooden outlet covers were awful, the granite was jet black, the flooring was damaged, there was a fake red brick area for the ovens, the backsplash was a dark, busy slate with a weird pewter insert of vegetables above the sink that Just. Had. To. Go.

slate everywhere

slate everywhere

The overall impression was dark and heavy, despite all the light in the room – it had no contrast everything was tonally the same. However with all the things in the house that needed fixing, we only handled the most pressing.

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Old ugly faucet &  hard water stains on backsplash

We replaced the faucets and the island lighting as soon as we moved in and I switched out a few of the worst outlet covers since that was an easy fix – goodbye gold! We also tackled the damaged flooring, which I already wrote about here.

New island lights

New island lights

But that was it for a couple years. We lived with it –  it seemed like such a daunting task. Was I really going to pull out all these perfectly good cabinets? Seemed wasteful – I would be replacing them with identical cabinets in a different finish – the layout was already perfect…. Should I rip out all the granite and put in something lighter? That is an awful  lot of granite and do I really want to spend that much when I don’t love the cabinets… The backsplash would be easy – but until I decided what to do about the granite and the cabinets, I shouldn’t touch it. I wanted to rip out the fake red brick and replace with tile – but I was concerned about pulling out the ovens and getting all the edges to line up again since it butted right up to the ceiling molding and the pantry door…. I had a bad case of analysis paralysis!

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Brick staining in progress

Then my husband suggested painting the brick – at first I was “no, no, no” – I hate painted brick almost as much as the red brick! But then I thought what if we faux finished each individual brick to look a little more like a travertine subway tile…. My husband’s business is transforming concrete pool decks, driveways and patios, making them look like natural stone or tile so this wasn’t such a huge stretch.  I thought what the hell, lets try it and see if it makes the brick something I can live with. I gave him some color reference and a couple pictures of what I wanted and over a couple days, while I was at work, he made it beautiful!

Finished brick

Finished brick

I had been considering painting the cabinets for a while but again was put off by the effort and the fact that our kitchen would de dismantled for a long time so I thought I would hold off and pay someone else to do it  – but then we had to replace a couple air conditioning units this year and that pushed the project out a little further into the future. Eric encouraged me to just do it ourselves.

Test Area Before

Test Area Before

I had researched a couple different paints that simulated oil based cabinet paints hardwearing properties but were actually water based, so much easier clean up and faster drying times. Sherwin Williams was one of them  – more expensive but highly rated for this sort of job. Then Eric came across another one from Porter Paints called Breakthrough that is supposed to be extremely durable but in addition to that you don’t need to prime and it dries in 15 minutes between coats!!!

My glam designer fabric

My glam designer fabric

I picked out the three colors I wanted – from my fancy designer fabric that I mentioned before. A off white/linen for the cabinets called Garlic Clove, a soft, light green for the mile of bead board that backed the cabinets facing the living area called White Clover and a mid grey blue for the center island called Aqua Smoke. These are similar to the colors that I have used on the walls and they were reminiscent of some of my favorite painted kitchen inspiration pics from Houzz.

Point of no return

Point of no return

When I came home from work that night, Eric had picked up the paint already (he is such an enabler LOL) So of course I had to try it out and make sure the color was ok. He popped off a cabinet door and I painted the inside.

I looked up  “You realize this is the point of no return, right?”

“Let’s do it!”

And so began the next two weeks of long days, late nights and general kitchen destruction.

Garlic clove - not white

Garlic clove – not white

Basically the process was this:-

Test area in progress - stuff still in drawers

Test area in progress – stuff still in drawers

Pop off cabinet doors and drawer fronts, remove the hardware. We were lucky ours have hidden hinges so they didn’t need to be removed – we just took off the knobs. You can leave all your stuff in the cupboards Yay! Again, lucky for us the inside of most of our cabinets was already white so we only had to paint the doors and the outside facing edge of the boxes, toe kick etc. We only had one glass fronted cabinet that we had to paint the inside. Depending on how anal you want to be you could paint the insides of all of them but I don’t advise it – it is already a lot of work – why make it harder on yourself?

LABEL EACH DOOR – you need to know which one goes where when you are done. Trust me you will not remember. We used masking tape with numbers written them – one on the  door hinge, one on the inside of the corresponding cupboard or drawer

Clean the cabinets with something that removes gease and dirt we used TSP
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! If you have any food splashes or grease it will show up though the painted surface and believe me you do have dirty cabinets.

Then sand very lightly and wipe down one last time before painting. I painted the back of the cabinets first – laying out a long production line along the counters. You could do it in the garage or basement or even outside  – but here in Florida it is stupid hot right now and the paint would never dry properly in that humidity.

Production line with a few stubborn knobs

Production line with a few stubborn knobs

Three coats on the backs, waiting 15 minutes between coats  – if you time it right you can just paint continuously – by the time you finish the last cabinet door, the first one has already dried for 15 minutes. Then leave them for 30 minutes before flipping the over and putting three coats on the front and sides.

If you have ever painted doors before, you will already know that the brush is good for getting in the ridges around the panels but a foam roller is your best friend – the finish is much better –  no brushstrokes and streaks left behind. Multiple thin coats are better than heavier coats – you need to avoid drips at the best of times, but with paint that dries in 15 minutes you cannot have drips.

Final tile choice on right

Final tile choice on right

We started on the one area that had no backsplash but we knew that we needed to tackle the tile before going too far – don’t want to scratch up newly painted cabinets during demo. So after we finished the uppers and lowers on the test area and stood back to admire the overall effect, it was time to go tile shopping 🙂

I picked a sort of subway mosaic with some natural travertine stones, classic subway and lightly crackled, palest hint of green ceramic. I didn’t want something that would feel too dated and that ruled out a lot of the mosaic glass tile that has been so prevalent for so long – I think that look is past it’s prime now, but I also wanted something a little more contemporary than plain subway. I was really happy with this pick from Lowes – just the right modern, yet classic look I was aiming for, wasn’t terribly expensive and looked good with the stained brick and new cabinet color.

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Bead board hell – but love that color!

Over the course of the week, I had painted the bead board behind the bar height cabinets and was pretty happy with the color choice, the room was looking lighter and brighter by the day. Bead board is a bitch to paint – no getting around it. What worked best for me was to use a brush to get into each little crevice then go over the whole thing with the roller. However those little crevices hold the paint and once gravity takes effect, you get little drips pooling along the baseboard so you have to go back and touch that up as you go. Mind-numbing – just crank up the tunes and zone out!

Goodbye Holly Hobby outlet covers!!!

Goodbye Holly Hobby outlet covers!!! Hello crisp white ones

We spent the whole weekend on the backsplash – it turned it to be more work than we anticipated. Normally you can just chisel off the tile and then retile – however they had tiled directly onto drywall, not cement board and removing the tile took the wall down with it. Sigh…

Its' going down - I'm yelling timber....

Its’ going down – I’m yelling timber….

Friday night we demod the one long wall behind the sink, right down to the studs. Goodbye pewter plate and goodbye sanity! Then Sat morning we tackled the other counters, put up new cement board and tiled like a couple maniacs. It was an long and exhausting weekend but what a huge difference it made? Suddenly the whole kitchen was transformed

Good bye ugly pewter monstrosity

Good bye ugly pewter monstrosity

My sweet husband grouted all that tile on Monday, when I was working. During the week my guys prepped doors and cabinets and I came home and painted in the evenings. They also installed recycle cans and my awesome rev-a-shelf for my mixer. No more empty bottles and cans sitting on the counter top and I no longer have to break my back lifting that heavy mixer out when I need it LOL

Hidden recycling bins

Hidden recycling bins

Rev-a-shelf

Rev-a-shelf

Rev-a-shelf activate!

Rev-a-shelf activate!

Destruction everywhere

Destruction everywhere

Demo in progess

Demo in progress

ready for cement board

ready for cement board

By end of Sat we had finished all the cabinets – it took exactly two cans of Garlic Clove paint. I had decided to keep the old hardware, we just switched out any worn ones from the heavily used kitchen with unworn knobs from the laundry room and guest baths. Now with new light cabinets the dark oil rubbed bronze hardware and black granite looked crisp and awesome – like they were meant to be 🙂

Sunny helping with the cement board

Sunny helping with the cement board

Tile begins

Tile begins

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Tiling finished – look how nicely it goes with stained brick

tiling done

more tiling done

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Production line starting up again

tiling done

tile and paint done

more cabinets

yet more cabinets

Sunday, I caulked the backsplash and painted the last of the bead board that butted up to the tile, White Clover . Then we tackled the island – the bad news is it had lots of open alcoves and shelving that had to be painted both inside and out – the good news was the darker paint only took two coats to cover! I love, love the color – Aqua Smoke

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First coat on island – time to cover the yucky green

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Island done

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Island complete – this is a truer representation of the color

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Island cabinet production line

Yes it was a marathon effort over two weeks but I now have a brand new kitchen. I am shocked each morning when I get up and see it again. That black granite looks perfect now. The kitchen is light and bright, classic yet contemporary and wonder of wonders cost less than $800. Six hundred of that went on the tile, the rest was four cans of pricy, but so worth it, paint and a couple panels of cement board.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is definitely doable as a DIY project. I am so glad we took the plunge.

All Done!!

All Done!!

Complete

Complete

Exercise room in the making

Hey  - come break a sweat you lazy bum! The damn elliptical is talking to me now - I am out of rational excuses

Hey – come break a sweat you lazy bum! The damn elliptical is talking to me now – I am out of rational excuses

When we first saw the house there was a odd little room off of the master bedroom that we couldn’t even get into – the previous owners had used it for storage and we could barely open the door – the shades were all drawn and it was full of boxes.

Once we moved in, we weren’t sure what to do with it either –  it is all windows on two sides and overlooked the pool – I thought maybe a place to put my drawing desk? However in the meantime we ended up putting the dog crates in there and, with great effort and straining backs, our barely used elliptical.

Privacy film going up - no more sweaty faced encounters with the pool guy - that really doesn't sound the way I meant it LOL

Privacy film going up – no more sweaty faced encounters with the pool guy – that really doesn’t sound the way I meant it LOL

Fast forward a year and the room was still a mess – all the shades were drawn so no one could see into the messy storage room it was fast becoming – it looked uninviting both inside and out.

Finally I was tired of keeping the shades drawn and decided to get more of the bamboo privacy film I used in the master bedroom – at least from the outside it would look better.

Now the outside looks inviting instead of all the shades being drawn all the time

Now the outside looks inviting instead of all the shades being drawn all the time

Of course once I did that, it needed a coat of paint to brighten it up and although the dog crates remain in the corner since we need a place for them anyway, the whole room became a little more inviting – perhaps inviting enough to go in and use the elliptical occasionally?

Of course, with the privacy film you don’t have to worry about the pool guy or your houseguests coming to sit outside with morning coffee, only to come face to face with your most unattractive, red faced, sweaty self – another excuse to skip exercise bites the dust…

Boob light that dreams of being a chandelier LOL

Boob light that dreams of being a chandelier LOL

A trip to Costco and an impromptu purchase of a small, smart flat screen TV later – we have a light and bright, no longer an eyesore room, with the ability to watch some distracting shows to make the elliptical less of a chore. There is a little odd corner hallway that leads to it with a boob light (I always call them that – the most boring light fixtures ever but they are everywhere) I added a fun chandelier decal as a fake shadow for that sad little boob light who dreams of being something more fabulous LOL.

I am fast running out of excuses – Maybe we we’ll become the kind of people who exercise now… Or maybe we will hang clothes on it to dry LOL

Only time will tell 🙂

Israel Trip

Jerusalem - Old City next to new

Jerusalem – Old City next to new

I travel a lot for work and so don’t normally get too excited about it – in fact it gets pretty old most of the time. Every once in a while however,  I get a chance to go somewhere completely new to me and that gets rid of that blasé attitude in a hurry!

Jerusalem - Old City street

Jerusalem – Old City street

Last week I went to Israel – yes it was for work, but I was really looking forward to the trip – I love to experience the culture of new places and Israel has such a storied history.

Jerusalem - Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

Jerusalem – Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

I stayed in Tel Aviv, which is a lively modern city on the Mediterranean sea – sadly the hotel was not on the beach – next time LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background - fries clearly not authentic LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background – fries clearly not authentic LOL

I managed to get some sight seeing done in the evenings after work The team I was visiting took me out for a traditional hummus and falafel lunch on the first day Yum! A bit more hummus than I am used to eating in one sitting but it was really good.

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

That evening my traveling companion/co worker and I took a cab to Rothchild street to walk around and see some of the Bauhaus architecture that part of the city is famous for. This was a fun street to people watch on – lots of people out for a stroll, taking their dogs for a walk or sitting in cafes and restaurants. We ate at a lovely restaurant called Shulchan which is Hebrew for table. The food was absolutely delicious!

Bauhaus architecture

Bauhaus architecture

Monday night the Israeli team took us to dinner at Jaffa Port – Jaffa is an old fishing town that has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv – however it is a completely different vibe – old buildings with winding streets and stone plazas – I loved it and wished I had been able to spend the day strolling around and being a tourist. Again, we had a fantastic dinner at Kalamata with many shared courses sitting outside in the mild evening air.

Fruit shop near Rothchild St - it glowed against the other darker buildings

Fruit shop near Rothchild St – it glowed against the other darker buildings

Israeli food is a bit of a mix between a few different influences, Mediterranean, Arabic and of course Jewish. There are a lot of fresh vegetable dishes – I even ate beets for the first time in many years and actually liked them!!! I also was told to try a fantastic arabic dessert called kanafeh that has cheese , hair fine pasta (or perhaps pastry), pistachios and sweet syrup – it was as amazing as promised – I will have to see if it is possible to make it myself.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

The next night I took the design team out for dinner and they recommended Kitchen Market in Tel Aviv port – completely different. Much more modern boardwalk along the sea and a lovely little restaurant above a farmer’s market. We watched the sun set over the Mediterranean and again had a dinner with many courses and some amazing desserts!

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

We saw the minister of Justice –Tzipi Livni – strolling along with her husband which was quite a surprise for everyone – she has been instrumental in the recent, but sadly stalled, peace talks that Secretary of State Kerry has been involved in.

Kanufeh - best dessert of the trip!

Kanufeh – best dessert of the trip!

On our last day, a couple of the Israeli team drove us into Jerusalem for a bit of sightseeing before leaving the next morning. It is about an hour away but traffic before the upcoming Passover holiday made it slow going. We drove through some of the ultra orthodox areas on our way which was a little rundown.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

This is a topic of much debate and tension recently – my description of it is likely simplistic since I am no expert but the problem as I understand it, is this –  For religious reasons these families do not believe in working in the secular world and want to practice their life of prayer in peace without any interference. However the challenge is they have little income, the government apparently has to subsidize them and they do not participate in Israel’s draft, citing the same religious reasons. There is a new law that is being passed to say that they must participate in the draft like everyone else. As you can imagine this is causing heated debate. I can see both sides points – on the one hand wanting to live according to your own beliefs, but on the other hand not wanting to subsidize people who do not have to make the same contribution to society as you must.

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv Port

Once we arrived in the old city I was amazed to see so much history crammed into one relatively small place – this is the the most sacred place in a number of different religions and its often violent history makes it a truly fascinating place to be. It is a magnet for tourists and religious pilgrims from around the world. I could have spent a week there alone but I did my best to take advantage of the few hours that we had.

Farmer's Market Tel Aviv Port

Farmer’s Market Tel Aviv Port

We took the underground tour that brings you down to the original street level of the Western Wall – we are talking built in Herod’s time!!! I can’t begin to describe how it felt to be walking on 2000 year old stones and touching the 2000 year old wall. We saw the old cisterns that provided water for the temple and the city above and heard about the history of the holiest place on earth. I am no stranger to history – growing up in Ireland it is common to see castles built in 1100AD etc but we are talking built in 70 BC – anyway you look at it that is really freaking old LOL

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Once back out in the sunshine we visited the more visible part Western Wall – men and women are separated and traditionally you write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and roll it up and cram it into the crevices in the wall.

Jerusalem - Old City Market

Jerusalem – Old City Market

We wandered around the market where I picked up souvenirs and gifts – you need to be willing to haggle big time here – fortunately I had some no nonsense locals to help me out with this LOL.  I bought a beautiful necklace made from silver and 2000 year old Roman glass for myself. Not being religious, this was the perfect souvenir for me and I got it for less than half what he asked originally.  Mind you, this elaborate, theatrical haggling session involved flinging arms in the air and walking out of the store because the price was so terrible, only to be chased after by the shopkeeper begging us to come back for a new and special deal that was putting him in the poor house – this happened three times – I kid you not! I was having a hard time keeping a straight face and would never have done that on my own.

The Underground Tour

The Underground Tour

On a high after my complete bargain, I picked up some beautiful hand painted Armenian pottery, some intricate mother of pearl inlaid boxes, hand carved olive wood boxes and a few other trinkets to give to friends and family.

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod's time!

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod’s time!

We wandered around the streets and saw he Tower of David and a beautiful park with lighted fountain that the local kids where playing in, before having dinner at Eucalyptus in the Artist Colony. Again this was a tasting menu, comprised of approximately eleventy billion courses that went on for hours LOL. It was  all fantastic but I could barely manage the desserts at the end. We had Maqluba as one of the courses which is apparently a special dish that you have to circle your hand above 7 times and make a wish before turing it out on a plate – it is mostly rice and chicken and quite good. The chef came out to chat with us and it was a great evening.

Artist Colony

Artist Colony

Finally we headed back to the hotel and a 4am start for the 28 hours trip back to the US. Next time I go I will tack a few days on so I can spend more time wandering around and absorbing all the history and, of course, eating at many more restaurants 🙂

Tower of David

Tower of David

 

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

 

 

Guest bathrooms in need of a little love

Mirrors and Dandelions - really hard to get a good photo in a small space

Mirrors and Dandelions – really hard to get a good photo in a small space

We haven’t done much of anything to the bathrooms in the house yet – there has been so much else to do that we just ignored them for the most part.  Despite the fact that I will need to to a bigger overhaul – replacing counters, sink and faucets at some point I decided that a minor update would do for now and freshen it up for my first real houseguest (other than family) My best friend was coming to visit with her young son and I wanted it to be nice. So armed with the magic of paint, I went to town.

Like most of my projects it started out with a simple thing, that led to more simple things and then some not so simple things LOL

Sludge green walls and fake marble counter - but at leaf the towel ring looks good!

Sludge green walls and fake marble counter – but at least the towel ring looks good!

I started off by spray painting the towel rings and toilet roll holders with that oil rubbed bronze Rustoleum I mentioned before – they were functional but chrome and gold – eeww! In 15 minutes they looked much better and I will probably replace them down the line anyway when get around to ditching that awful fake marble sink and counter combo – blech!.

New prettier paint

New prettier paint

I painted the whole bathroom a nice shade of blue, that I had used elsewhere in the house – eradicating the sludge green from yet one more room – YAY!  It looked much better but wow the walls were kinda bare – I needed art.

I hit TJ Maxx one day and picked up a nice modern dandelion print and a set of three mirrors (of course I bought some other stuff too – but that is another project). I hung the three mirrors on one wall and the print in the toilet area.  Much better, but still not quite there…

The wall behind the door and the wall facing the toilet were blank and boring, but I didn’t want to do more prints and definitely no more mirrors – some views you just don’t need….

Single dandelion facing the toilet

Single dandelion facing the toilet

I found a nice dandelion decal on Amazon that I thought would look good with my print and ordered it in white to contrast with the blue walls. It came in a bunch of separate pieces so you could put it up whatever way you chose – I split it up and put one on the wall facing the toilet and two behind the door in the main bathroom. Then I placed all the individual seeds flying up and across the wall and around the corner. I am really happy with it and the bathroom is now ready for my friend to arrive – of course now I want to switch out the awful light fixtures too LOL

The print that inspired it

The print that inspired it

At the same time my teen was looking to make some extra money so he was tasked with painting his bathroom – he spray painted the toilet roll holder and painted the walls a nice green that we had leftover  (learning a valuable life lesson about how taking your time to do it right prevents tedious clean up and redo at the end LOL)

Then the light fixture looked so dingy and discolored that we decided to replace it – cue trip to Home Depot for a new one only to discover that the old one was not wired in the middle – there must have been a stud in the way??? Who knows but it was not going to work unless we wanted to do more major electrical rework – not in the cards!

Two dandelions behind the door

Two dandelions behind the door

So out came the trusty Rustoleum again and my teen spray painted the fixture while I canabalized the glass shades from another bathroom to replace the dingy chipped ones on his. This domino effect led to us replacing the canabalized light fixture with the one we had orignally bought for the teens bathroom. See what I mean about a simple project becoming more and more complex and the day goes on?

Of course the bathroom that got an unexpected new light fixture is going to have to be painted now too….and so it goes on….

Update – I replaced those tired light fixtures after all just before my guests arrived 🙂

Glam new light fixtures

Glam new light fixtures

Roman Blind Project

Final result - love it!  - My fingers hurt LOL

Final result – love it! – My fingers hurt LOL

Every time you move into a new house you have to consider what to do about the windows – unless you like the idea of living in a goldfish bowl you have to put up some sort of blinds or curtains for privacy –  both for you and your neighbors sake!

In our new house we don’t have neighbors right on top of us any more – one of the benefits of living on acreage but you still need some window treatments. Luckily the previous homeowner went with Roman shades, which I love – timeless style.

Original blinds - cream tone on tone jacquard - not my style

Original blinds – cream tone on tone jacquard – not my style

The dining room blinds can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the main living area. I had always planned to cover them up with a nice printed grey and white fabric to match the rest of the ling room decor but –  lets face it –  it was a daunting project. I knew it would take a lot of effort so I kept putting it off  However once the giant blank wall was banished, the cream blinds started to look dingy and really out of place.

new fabric or $20 curtain panel - Yum!

new fabric or $20 curtain panel – Yum!

I needed 95″ of fabric for each blind – there were 4 of them depending on the width of fabric I bought, I was looking at anywhere between 6 -12 yards. Most of the fabrics I liked where priced between $30 -60 a yard – Yikes!

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

Instead, I started looking at curtain panels and as luck would have it I found the perfect thing at Target for only $20 a panel. They were only 84 inches long and I really would have preferred 95 inches – but since I didn’t want to pay an extra $10 per panel and have to wait and order them online I figured that the hem allowance top and bottom would probably be close enough 🙂

Two panels cut each in half lengthwise was just enough to cover the four blinds. Forty bucks was so much better than closer to $500 at the fabric store!

My big plan was to use iron on fusing tape to make it quick and easy since I was never going to be able to get these blinds and the attached hardware through the sewing machine…. Yeah well best laid plans of mice and men etc

back of blinds - the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

back of blinds – the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

I took down the blinds and laid each one flat – if you can pop off the strings so much the better. I laid a line of fusing tape along each crease or pleat and all around the outside edge. After ironing the new fabric, I rolled it out carefully in place  on top of the old blind and fusing tape. I pinned on either end of each pleat to stop things shifting. Then I steam ironed like crazy 🙂

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Although the tape did a reasonable job I just didn’t trust the bond to hold around the edges and I didn’t want my new pretty fabric to peel off like banana skins after baking in the Florida sun so reluctantly I hand stitched each outer edge of the blinds – just to provide the extra strength and my own peace of mind. Of course that meant it took forever and swallowed my weekend whole. Oh well – if it’s worth doing, its worth doing right.

One done - looks much better

One done – looks much better

The final touch was using some scrap grey fabric to cover the little valances at the top of each blind. Despite achy crampy fingers after all that hand stitching, I am really pleased with the end result. A whole new look for those tired blinds for only $40

Once I recover from the hand sewing induced carpal tunnel, I will do the same to the blinds in my office 🙂

Dining room art challenge

The formal dining room in the new house was going to be an easy one – I already had furniture I liked and a great rug I bought when I was in India years ago.  I figured a lick of paint and we would be good to go – no problem. Of course like many of the projects around here it has been happening in stages

Before - Old light fixture and paint - I know its blurry - it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

Before – Old light fixture and paint – I know its blurry – it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

The first thing I had to get rid of when we first moved in was the old light fixture – not my style at all – I wanted something more modern and contemporary. The light fixture I fell in love with turned out to be Italian and $26k – never going to happen!

New Dining Room Light

New Dining Room Light

So I scoured the interwebs looking for something in my budget that captured the same feel and finally found it – on sale I might add – yay me! Buying it was the easy part – installing it not so much….

It took four of us to get the thing up –  two of us on ladders – every bubble had to be painstakingly screwed together and hung in place – after all the sweating and cursing – we all stood back and just loved it – so dramatic 🙂

Before shot

Before shot

Maybe a month later I tackled the walls I found a great wallpaper that was tone on tone black that I put up under the chair rail. Hey, its a formal dining room – needs some drama right? Then I painted the walls 3 shades of grey to pick out some of the architectural details in the arches and niche.

After - Niche or alcove - you say potato, I say potato...

After – Niche or alcove – you say potato, I say potato…

A touch more of the awesome wallpaper and a great fractal mirror from Pier 1 to set off my Thai Angel. I love her she is the first thing I bring into every new house I have bought in the past 15 years. I think she brings me luck 🙂

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

I found a great mirrored cabinet online and later an awesome round mirror to hang above it. The mirror arrived broken so the company refunded my money but I was able to have the broken glass replaced at a local store for only $20 – Score!

I love shiny things!

I love shiny things!

I love mercury glass – I have used a ton of it as a repeating element to dress up the built in bookshelves in the living room so I used it again here.

My blank Wall

My blank Wall

It was all coming together except for the big wall…. the big blank wall. Originally I had purchased a great 7ft tall leaning mirror from Z Gallerie that was going to anchor that wall. But I hadn’t taken into account the 14ft ceilings – it looked tiny and lost.  Like the scene in This is Spinal Tap when they design this big Stonehenge prop for their stage show but it was built according to the scale on a napkin sketch and when it arrived it was only up to their knees LOL I was similarly underwhelmed….

Dwarfed mirror looks sad :(

Dwarfed mirror looks sad 😦

So I moved it into the master bedroom where it looks much better  –  but that still  left me the problem of the giant wall. I couldn’t find a mirror big enough that didn’t cost eleventy billion dollars. I thought about buying glass and making my own frame – but how many leaning mirrors does one house need and how the hell would I move a piece of glass that size? That would be just asking for 7 years of bad luck LOL

So 8 months later, I was still staring at that blank wall when I decided it was way past time to figure it out. I toyed with the idea of several mirrors hung in a grid, maybe a giant painting – but to be honest painting in large scale does not come easy to me – I am too detail oriented – it would likely take me a year to finish a painting of that size and that blank wall could not wait that long.

Ruby Beach WA

Ruby Beach WA

Finally, I was browsing through my photos when I came upon a trip we took to Ruby Beach back in Washington. We had taken a drive out with Jon and the dogs –  I had forgotten about all the landscape photos I had taken trying to capture the mist rolling over the bluff. I chose one with a couple tiny fishermen out on a rock and converted it to black & white – everyone knows that a black & white photo is way more artsy LOL

My guys walking the dogs

My guys walking the dogs

I thought it would make a perfect triptych. So, I went online and found Canvas on Demand – they take your photo and print it on canvas in custom sizes. I needed 60 x 90 inches – which means each third of the triptych would be 60 x 30. I choose to have the edges gallery wrapped in black  – which I think is a crisp, contemporary detail and if you like them on Facebook they give you a 30% discount which saved me a ton of money!

Close up on the wall

Close up on the wall

I waited anxiously for a couple weeks to get the final product, hoping I would like it in real life as much as I liked the idea of it. Of course nothing goes smoothly – when it arrived it was split horizontally instead of vertically – Aaaaarrrrrghhhh! I called them right away and they fixed it but I had to wait again for another couple weeks – I hate waiting…

This weekend it arrived – split the right way and it was perfect 🙂 We used a laser level to make sure we got it all lined up right which was a huge time saver.

Empty wall banished

Empty wall banished – (binds are different too but thats another post LOL)

Being able to use your own photo, a memory of a happy day spent with my family and our dogs, a photo from the state we lived in for 18 years, the state my husband and I met and married in, seemed like a fitting thing to hang on the wall in our new home and new state of Florida.

It successfully fills that giant blank wall, is unique and personal to us and I finally get to put one of my gazillion photos to good use 🙂

Outdoor Living

Pillow Puppy approved

Final result – Pillow Puppy approved

One of the things I love about living in Florida is the ability to spend most of your time outside. Yes there are three months in the summer when you prefer the AC inside but the rest of the year is glorious. Now that we are in Oct it is time to open up all the windows and doors.

I love the idea of outdoor rooms and our new house has an awesome covered area that lends itself perfectly to that. No need to worry about running out and removing cushions every time it rains – who has time for that?

I had a vision in mind of what I wanted for out there – nice contemporary wicker furniture – the kind of seating I always love when I stay in hotels with great outdoor spaces. Of course that look normally comes with a hefty price tag….

I wanted something stylish, practical and not outrageously priced.  Lets face it even protected from the rain, this furniture needs to be outside 24/7/365 and with the high humidity in Florida real wicker will eventually get moldy and mildewy – gross!

Patio furniture at last

Patio furniture at last – a bit too much beige…

I found a great collection on Amazon that is a resin, wicker look alike on top of an aluminum frame so no rust or mold to worry about. It came in the nice dark finish I was looking for with weather resistant neutral cushions. Exactly the look I wanted at a fraction of the price and since I have Amazon Prime – free shipping 🙂 Awesome!

But – hold up – when we first moved in, the budget wasn’t going to stretch to outdoor furniture – so I had to put my master plan on hold for a while. Although, I did break down and buy an outdoor rug that was a great fit with my fancy designer fabric inside – it was just too good a match to pass up – but for the past 8 months we have had a nice rug out there and no furniture. The dogs liked to roll around on it so it didn’t go completely to waste LOL

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

The weather is changing, holidays and house guests will be upon us soon – time to pull the switch. My long awaited furniture arrived a couple weeks ago, just in time to start taking advantage of the cooler weather. I got a 6 person dining set and a couch and 2 armchairs – they look great and go nicely with the two plantation chairs that I have had for just about forever. They are they best chairs for sitting outside to watch the thunderstorms roll though with a cocktail in hand 🙂

I love it – its exactly what I had in mind – it is all really comfortable and sturdy and for such a great price – I never review stuff online but I had to rate this 5 stars on Amazon. It really looks like the expensive resort furniture that was the original inspiration. However all the natural colored cushions felt a bit bland – it needed a boost

My bargain lime green garden stool - perfect spot for a cold drink

My bargain lime green garden stool – perfect spot for a cold drink

I found a great lime green garden stool in HomeGoods for only $50 and discovered a website that has great prices on outdoor fabric. I picked out two or three prints that would coordinate with the rug and they shipped them out within a couple days.  All in all it cost less than $50 and I have some fabric to spare

It only took a couple hours on a sunny Saturday morning to recover all eight throw pillows and bring a little color into the mix – clearly the final result is Pillow Puppy approved

My outdoor oasis is complete. I officially need never leave the house again! Now where is my frothy cocktail?

That new car smell

My new "Denim Blue" Baby

My new “Denim Blue” Baby

Although my VW bug was 10 years old I wasn’t planning on getting rid of it just yet – didn’t want a car payment and I loved my car so why make a change???

Just last year I put all new tires and a battery into it but things changed quite quickly recently.  A couple weeks ago the back window cable snapped so I decided to take into the shop for repairs and a tune up. I figured I could invest in some fixes and drive it for years to come. That all came crashing down when slowly but surely the fixes started adding up and then the the words “new transmission” dropped and I realized we had probably reached the point of diminishing returns.

I was heartbroken – I loved that car!!!  The silver lining is that I found a great mechanic –  ethical enough to not let me sink a bunch of money into it (money I had already agreed to pay him) when he discovered the transmission problem that was likely going to bite me in the butt in a few months time.

Styling color matched dash and two tone seats

Styling color matched dash and two tone seats

Now that we live out in the country, my 5 minute commute is more like 45 – 60 minutes each way and I need a reliable care with good gas milage –  so we decided that after 10 years it was time I got a new car – yay! As it happened Volkswagen had one of those zero down, zero percent financing deals so it seemed like the stars were in alignment – the upshot being I got a shiny new Beetle and I am pleased as punch 🙂

I got the hard top this time since, in Florida, the convertible actually was not that useful – way too hot, afternoon thunderstorms, lots of birds, snakes and lizards wanting to camp out LOL. I picked the Denim Blue which I thought was a fun, contemporary color and as an accent in the interior it felt sporty and retro cool

I was not sure I was going to like the new flatter shape since I really love the iconic old bug but once I took a look in person I really liked it  –  the extra width and length make the interior space feel much roomier.  I have a decent sized trunk now, the back seat is still reasonable for a small car and my visibility is much improved over the soft top I used to have with its huge blind spots.

I love the styling of the interior – nice two tone leatherette bucket seats and the dash area has a lot of personality with the color matched accents and retro, leather wrapped steering wheel. Although it is, sadly, missing a bud vase, the new moment of delight is the ambient interior lighting around the speakers and along the doors – you can choose to have no light (if you are completely boring and vanilla is your favorite ice cream flavor) or have a white, blue or red glow – I went with blue.  It’s one of those touches that doesn’t make the car go any faster or improve the gas mileage, but puts a smile on my face 🙂 The retro handle detail on one of the interior compartments is another nice touch.

Official VW accessory to the rescue

Official VW accessory to the rescue

I didn’t trick it out with all the bells and whistles – not really my style for a car – but I am happy to have bluetooth – my iPhone is paired with it so I can have handsfree phone calls, the radio cuts out when the phone rings and it took no more than a minute to set up, I have a more updated radio that I can plug a midi cable into for streaming my music – not groundbreaking I know but remember my old car was 10 years old and still had a tape deck LOL.

easy to install peel and stick

easy to install peel and stick

The dashboard controls are nicely laid out and I like having the ability to display how many miles I have before empty – one of the few things on my husband’s car that I envied.

Normality has been restored :)

Normality has been restored 🙂

All in all the car rides super smooth, is much peppier than my old one, with great pick up and even better needs no maintenance. I think the daily commute is going to be more fun from now on and believe me I have already found a solution to the lack of bud vase problem thanks to Amazon – all is as it should be 🙂

My Glam Home Office

My Glam Office

My Glam Office

Since I am lucky enough to have the flexibility to work from home some of the time, having a dedicated space just for work has been really important to me. I used to work remotely when I lived in Seattle and having a room with a door helped get me in the right mindset. In the room means I am on the clock and working  – both for me and my family.

My old home office in Washington was not 100% dedicated – the exercise machine ended up in there and there was a futon so it also doubled (or tripled really) as a guest room. As a result  I never really personalized the space – it just had too many functions….

In our new house there was a room that had previously been used as a home school classroom  that I quickly realized would make the perfect home office for me. This time it would have no other function and I could make it exactly what I wanted 🙂

wallpaper close up

wallpaper close up

Before we even moved in I had seen the most amazing wallpaper in a photo on Houzz.com. It was shown in a dining room but it was the exact thing I wanted for an accent wall. I had to track it down though and I was sad to discover it was to the trade only – bah! Fortunately I had already found a source in LA that could order designer fabric so I asked them to get me the wallpaper too. (see my earlier post)

Happily they were able to order it – although they did ask me to check with my installer about how many rolls I needed…. Ummm, I didn’t have an installer…  I went online again and found a calculator here that lets you put in the details and pattern drop etc and spits out a number of rolls. I let them know “my installer” said I needed 4 rolls  – no need to let them know I was doing it myself LOL

Fortunately the wallpaper arrived a lot faster than the 4 months the fabric took so when it arrived I was excited to see how it would look. I had already bought myself a nice big glass topped desk for my mac and an awesome Acrylic desk lamp that makes me happy just looking at it – Designer Porn!

So one evening after dinner I decided to just get that wallpaper up -how hard could it be one big wall with no weird angles – easy right?

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

NO – it was a giant mistake – the ceilings are pretty high so the pieces of wallpaper were super long – the glue was practically drying on it before I could get up the damn ladder – I was too short to do it myself so I had to enlist both husband and teenager and it took hours  longer than I would ever have thought. Turns out “English Designer Wallpaper” is thin and fragile –  we had to add extra glue under the seams adding to the frantic air of tension. Everyone was grumpy and exhausted by the time it was done…. I had nightmares that I would get up in the morning and the whole lot would have rolled off the walls and onto the floor…..

The next morning, I was extremely relieved to see that nothing had peeled off and it looked great.  Lesson learned never start wallpapering anything after 7pm LOL

decal close up

decal close up

That weekend I started painting since that stylish new wallpaper made the cream walls look dingy. I picked a silver grey for the two side walls and a deep French grey for the opposite wall to set off a decal I had purchased before we moved in.

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

The 7 rules to understand design and designers was a favorite of mine for years and I had discovered that the artist had turned it into a wall decal. I had ordered from his website and it was shipped from France before we even moved in. I wanted to be able to see it from my desk so I put it on the opposite wall in the corner with a great bright blue retro chair. The iron stool next to it I found half price online but when it arrived it was more galvanized nail color rather than the silver the site promised – yuck!  I enlisted my teenager to spray it bright white for me to match my desk – gotta love Rustoleum.

fun with accessories

fun with accessories

I picked up a couple of credenzas online also that my fantastic teen helped me build that look good with the desk and I had fun buying accessories like the bookends and trunks and a visit to The Container Store got me a bunch or folders and boxes in that same bright blue accent color that is in the wallpaper.

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

Coco always slept in the corner while I worked so I bought a pretty matching dog bed for her which she refuses to use –  instead sleeping behind me in a new corner LOL. The other dogs are more than happy to take turns on the dog bed so it still gets used after all

boxes on boxes

boxes on boxes

The final touch took the longest – I needed a rug – all the hard surfaces meant I sounded like I was at the bottom of a well on conference calls. I saw a great peacock blue flat weave with an indigo repeating pattern online but with no source info. It took me forever to discover who made it – Madeleine Weinrib – longer still to find out how to order it LOL

Eventually I found them and discovered it was only one location in New York but the image they had of the rug online looked like a completely different color  – after exchanging emails they assured me the bright blue was truly the color so I went ahead and ordered it and waited anxiously for its’s arrival. Fortunately it was the perfect shade of blue and my glam office was pretty much complete.

I love working here – I feel creative! I might have to reassemble my old drawing desk that has been in storage since we moved. I am pretty sure my teenager could spray it white to match the rest of the furniture – now where did I put that Rustoleum?

Decorating Dilemma

bargain lamps from Costco with replacement drum shades

bargain lamps from Costco with replacement drum shades

Normally I am  pretty confident with my design choices for the home. I love to decorate and   all these years of making a living as a designer means I don’t face the paralysis that some people experience when picking a paint color or furniture choice. Its just paint, people – easy to change and cheap – be brave and go bold 🙂

I was excited about finally buying a home again even though it was a little tired – all those rooms needing a revamp would be so much fun!

However when we found our perfect place, I was faced with a dilemma. This perfect house had tons of 6 paneled doors, crown molding, wide baseboard trim and architectural detail –  absolutely beautiful – but all of it was natural wood…. all of it.

Now some people might think  – great, what’s the problem? But I know how all that wood, mixed with the wood flooring and the wood built-ins and wood cabinets can really limit your color choices – with white trim you can do anything you want. Additionally your interior can end up looking more rustic, country or lodge like which was not really my personal style. I like a more contemporary vibe.

New Island Pendants

New Island Pendants

So I was faced with the question – do I paint it all white before I move in? Now before any design purists start screaming, we are not talking about a historic home – my new house is only 10 years old. I cringe when people buy a beautiful old Craftsman or Victorian, then go in and spray gloss white everywhere. However, in this instance, it was a modern home and it wouldn’t be an actual crime to paint it.  I could have my crisp white woodwork and choose any color in the rainbow to paint the rooms – everyone gets what they want!

But, the more I agonized over it, the more I realized that I just couldn’t do it. I chose this house because I loved it – it is a modern interpretation of Craftsman style – all one level, flowing open floor plan, tall banks of windows and french doors to bring the outdoors in, lots of natural elements and a big rock fireplace. So I finally decided that I should just accept the challenge and use my design chops to create a balance between all that wood everywhere and my desire to have a lighter, brighter contemporary style.

just some of my inspiration board

just some of my inspiration board

With that I started pulling together a virtual moodboard for inspiration. There is a great site that was perfect for me Houzz – you can search through thousands of inspirational images for interior design and filter though different styles and room types etc. You can also save the things you like in your own ideabooks – I guess it is the equivalent of Pinterest for home design and decorating.

I printed some of the images out along with furniture options from favorite stores, added fabric and wall paper swatches and finally hit the paint store to relieve them of some of their paint chips. I was having a blast planning all this before we even moved in. My poor husband would listen patiently to all my rambling thoughts on the perfect paint or fabric –  the merits of one shape of chair vs another –  how I was going to break up the monotony of all that wood using color and texture etc.

Replacement light for eat in kitchen - love this it is like sculpture!

Replacement light for eat in kitchen – love this it is like sculpture!

I firmly believe that a well designed home doesn’t feel like a showroom – it has to feel like a place you can relax – you can curl up on the couch with your dogs and kids. Equally though it should not be too matchy, matchy – like you went to Rooms to Go and  just picked out a living room to be delivered – all the pieces part of the same set… How boring is that?

Your home should have personalty based on your personal style, your interests, family photos, mementos of trips taken, pieces that look like you collected them over time and each has some meaning.

The big day arrived and we finally moved in – the frenzy of unpacking and fixing all the things that were wrong with the place was completely chaotic – it truly was a three ring circus for about a month.

My glam designer fabric

My glam designer fabric

I had based my entire palette around a fabulous fabric that I fell in love with that would help tie in those contemporary colors that I wanted with the warm wood tones that filled the house. Of course it was designer and to the trade only sigh….

I often claim to my teenager that “I own the internets as Queen of All Search!” Proof positive when I found a place in LA that would order my designer fabric and sell to me at a discount  – Yay! I ordered my fabric and the most amazing wall paper for my home office (that project I will save for another post)  However it would be 4 months before I would get it! Arrgh!

Undeterred, I charged ahead with my plan. The previous owners had done what most people do when they have so much wood work – pretty much everything was painted either olive green, forest green, buttery yellow and sage. The whole house looked a little drab and dark – even more so because the previous owners’ kids had drawn on a lot of the walls with crayons or markers LOL.  Some fresh paint was absolutely in order.

wallpaper in built ins - love it!

wallpaper in the built ins – love it!

Painting was going to be such a huge project with the open floor plan that I had planned not to take it on right away but, when the wallpaper arrived that I planned to put inside the back wall of the built in shelves in the living room – (to help break up the monotony of the wood remember LOL) I thought –  this is just a small project and besides I just want to see how it looks…

Of course then I wallpapered the accent wall in the breakfast area to “tie the whole thing together” but then the old paint in there looked so dingy….. I swore I was only going to paint a small area that was particularly “artistic” but as soon as I did then the snowball effect happened…

If you have ever watched the movies Aliens where Sigourney Weaver wipes a dirty spot on Newt’s face then says “whoops look what I did – I went and made a clean spot I guess I will have to go ahead and do the whole thing”  Cue painting frenzy and severe sleep deprivation

wallaper up - now dingy paint must go

wallaper up – now dingy paint must go

All in all we painted most of the more public spaces in record time (in time for the housewarming party – gotta have a deadline) I trusted my instincts and went with some great blues, greens and grays for the most part all tied together by the inspiration fabric. Check out my last post to see how I incorporated that when it finally did arrive.

I splurged on some big ticket items like the leather couch that will be an anchor piece that we will have forever and my designer inspiration fabric –  but I love finding low cost alternatives and mixing the high and low – like accent chairs from Pier 1 and the table lamps that I saw that were $250 each – ouch! Costco had a pair for $49 that were almost identical in style. Granted I spent more on the replacement drum shades instead of the more traditional slanted ones they came with but $130 for the pair is better than $500 for the original ones so I still win LOL

We switched out several of the big light fixtures in the kitchen and dining areas and slowly but surely our home emerged from under all that neglect and artistic scribbles. This is a work in progress  – not much is really finished yet – accessories and styling are ongoing – but it will be fun putting our stamp on the place and we wont be wondering how to spend our weekends anytime soon 🙂

The bedrooms and bathrooms will have to wait for now –  we can only do so many projects at a time and we are building a palatial chicken coop at the moment LOL

Mind you, the master bedroom is starting to whisper to me…. those scribbles on the wall need some attention…