why you shouldn’t let me have spray paint

If I had known about spray paint as a teenager I could have gotten into so much more DIY trouble. I’m more than happy to make up with it now, though! And tis the season to spray paint!

I don’t have my “spray paint studio” set up in the garage anymore, but I was able to make due with the use of cardboard protection on the lawn (because I really don’t need multi-colored grass). What was I spray painting? Well, this year we switched out my mom’s old, tired, plastic, terracotta colored planters for new, bright, and shiny ones. Most were in okay shape structurally (nothing a little hidden duct tape couldn’t fix) but they were ridiculously faded. Solution? I take them and see how well spray paint works on them!

one of the victims

one of the victims

I had never spray painted plastic before, but I figured it can’t be that hard, right? I prepped the pots by scrubbing them with Mrs. Meyers Surface Scrub and letting them dry in the sun for almost an hour. Then began the fun part: prime and paint!

the weapons of choice

the weapons of choice

I’ve become a devotee of all things Valpsar from Lowe’s after using it to paint our dining room, upstairs hall, and guest room, so I figured I’d give their spray paint a try. It was, as a plus, much cheaper than other products I had used in the past. Although some of their colors say that they’re fine to use directly on plastic, I decided to prime all the boxes with two to three coats anyway. I had a few different places that the boxes were going, so I chose two different colors: Tropical Oasis and Sumptuous Purple.

Tropical Oasis

Tropical Oasis

I could not be happier with the way the boxes turned out! I probably did three to four coats on each box. Both colors came out bright and cheerful. Two of the Tropical Oasis boxes sit in a very shady bed behind Hostas under our cherry tree, and one holds a plant on our driveway.

The Sumptuous Purple boxes came out equally brilliant. Because they’re going along the side of our lawn and sitting directly in the garden beds which are filled with ivy and can get quite soggy, I wanted to make sure they had plenty of drainage, but also weren’t too heavy. Solution?

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Pine cones! Doesn’t everyone have a tote full of pine cones just sitting in their garage? Well, this girl has TWO totes full. Over a year ago, I spent all fall picking up the myriads of pine cones that fall from our huge tree because we learned the hard way that if you leave them through the winter, they create horrible divots in the lawn. I can’t walk without tripping on a good day, so my personal mission became collecting them. I figured we’d use them in our fire pit, but they burn so quickly they’re not very helpful. Finally, though, they have a purpose!

Sumptuous Purple

Sumptuous Purple

I filled the bottom third with the pine cones and then added soil on top. I only planted Impatients in the boxes so they don’t have terribly deep roots to worry about. So far, they’re thriving! Now I just had to figure out what to do with the leftover spray paint… but NO WORRIES!

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sad chair is sad

We inherited five of these sad looking folding chairs when we moved into the house. They were covered in rust. The first summer we lived in the house, I had spray painted a few tiny clay pots a beautiful lime green, and with paint leftover, I had sanded all five chairs and intended to paint them the same. Only two of the chairs got painted, though, but no worries!

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Now we have two more folding chairs to add to our collection for when we entertain! I love how cheerful these chairs are now and can’t wait until we have our first summer BBQ to pull them out.

Today was certainly a dismal, rainy, gray day, but I’m so thrilled with all the things I’ve gotten done so far! Anyone need anything spray painted!?

The saga of the bathroom

A long, long time ago, in a land far  you may remember me mentioning that we had no second floor bathroom, which is our main bath. Other than that it’s a toilet in a closet in the basement, or the third floor bathroom. I’ve actually been embarrassed about the state of our house for a long time because of this project. Well I figured it was time for an update!

We still have no bathroom.

On December 31, 2013 the saga of this all began with a leak dripping into our center hall, AGAIN, just above the radiator by our front door. The leak was coming from our main bathroom just above. The ceiling was discolored and at the advice of a plumber who had come over when it had leaked previously and couldn’t find anything, we opened up the ceiling so we could see where the drip was coming from. No such luck. The leak happened after we showered, and was sporadic. We couldn’t replicate the issue no matter how many times we filled the tub, ran the shower, jumped in the shower…. nothing. It leaked when it wanted to leak.

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We went back and forth with the same plumber a few times, with him basically telling us he had no idea what the problem was. Fast forward to June 2014 when I was walking Abby and ran into one of our neighbors. We got to chatting and I told him about our issues (because all our houses are built very similarly) and he was like, “Oh, that’s your main stack. It’s gone bad. Call “Plumber X” down the street. He does this work all the time.”

A few weeks later, Plumber X came down and gave us an estimate and asked what our insurance company had said. Insurance? The Man and I had never thought of that, but we were lucky enough to get some compensation for the damage. Because the bad news? The stack is located in the front wall of our house. THE LIVING ROOM WALL and THE GUEST ROOM WALL. Plus the hole in the ceiling. Plus the rest of the pipes were corroded. Plus all the pipes are laid in the original wet bed. All said and done, we were going to need to gut EVERYTHING.

I liked our bathroom. Off white and sage green, a vanity we had updated, a cheap mirror and light fixtures that I had spray painted silver… Very simple, but in keeping with the house and it worked.

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before this all began

We began demo in late July, early August. So now, it’s been six months, and we have nothing. New pipes, a new stack, but nothing else. Why? Because apparently Plumber X doesn’t believe in finishing the job. After demo and re-piping finished in early September, he just never came back. Toilet was picked, tub was picked, fixtures picked, inspiration photos shared, a layout, insulation purchased, and I had the bathroom electrical rewired. But nothing.

I pestered, and in October he came back with his finishing guy so we could get a quote for dry wall in the bathroom, replacing an entire wall in our guest room (which Plumber X put an irreparable crack across doing demo), closing the wall up in the living room, relocating the linen closet, putting in a sliding door so we could have a full size vanity, and redoing the ceiling in the center hall. Measurements were taken, plans laid out, tile discussed. Never got the quote.

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This is the wall where our vanity and medicine chest and toilet should be.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving after more pestering, I told him I was having 11 people in my house for the holiday and at least needed the toilet and the old vanity hooked up. He promised it would be done and HE would do the wall repair in the living room so I could paint it because that’s where our Christmas tree goes. I also said I needed the estimate for the final work and he said no problem. Never showed, never returned calls and texted. Thanksgiving came and went.

Finally mid December, and he comes over again and says he has the estimate. What he had was a wrinkled copy of the original one, and he proceeded to tick off what he had done and make generalizations about the price of what was left. I told him I was going to have possibly 25 people over the day after New Years. I NEEDED A BATHROOM. Here are the dates we’d be home, here is what we wanted, and once again not a problem. And once again, never showed.

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The back of our linen closet where we should have a tub and shower head

The Man finally got involved a few weeks ago and once again Plumber X promised he’d stop by. Shock of all shocks, no show. He’d get the estimate, he was meeting with the guy. No estimate. Now most of you are probably reading this and thinking, “FIND SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY!” Easier said than done. This guy lives on our street, knows our house, knows what we want, and has no problem with us leaving Abby home while he works. Plus? Abby LOVES him. Do I really want to start over again with someone I don’t know and don’t trust to leave alone in my house? I don’t have endless vacation days.

Yesterday, The Man and I went to the Philadelphia Home Show. We had gotten the tickets through Groupon, mostly because I wanted to go see Jeff Devlin from DIY/HGTV “I Hate My Bath” (and a bunch of other shows I’ve drooled over). He gave an awesome talk on some basic “dos and don’ts” of renovating. The Man and I spent half the talk laughing because all of the “don’ts”? Yeah we had basically done them. But I have to say I did learn a lot (and scored his business card!!). The major point? We screwed up, we should have done this differently, and we should have given up on Plumber X a long time ago, even if he does live 5 houses away. And what did The Man learn? That his wife TOTALLY geeks out when she meets someone she admires.

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IT’S JEFF DEVLIN! And yes, I currently HATE my bath.

decisions, decisions …

I’m not quite ready to share pictures of the bathroom yet. You’re not missing anything, though, because all we have to look at right now are studs and some gorgeous 3/4″ ply sub floor! At the same time, though, we have a lot of decisions to make.

The toilet? Easy. The vanity? We’ll find one eventually. Already found a medicine cabinet we like and some potential light fixtures. No problem! The thing that I’m agonizing over? Paint colors.

I’m very lucky in that The Man is so laid back because so far, he’s trusted me on the paint colors. We both picked the color for the dining room, which we later decided to change but no big deal. And when it came to the bedroom, we tried a gazillion samples until finally I went to the store and picked one basically because of the name. What I’ve started to realize, though, is that I tend to gravitate towards very yellow based colors, but then they end up looking WAY too bright in our house because we’re lucky in that we have tons of natural light. So I’m overcompensating for no reason.

I’d like to say I’m picking one neutral color and painting all the rooms on the second floor the same way, but that’s not going to happen. I like the fact that each room has its own identity. The problem is, though, that I want everything to feel like it belongs together. We have to repaint the one guest room I finished (and never even shared pictures of), we never painted the other guest room in the first place, I think our bedroom color is too pale, we never painted the hallway and I need to pick one color that coordinates with the downstairs and upstairs, and my office IS A VERY BRIGHT YELLOW.

So now, I’m trying to pick all the colors at once. Of course, I started trolling Pinterest and have a whole board dedicated to the remodel. This is the inspiration bathroom from my Pinterest.

I love everything about it – the floor, the wainscoting, the color… but then I realized I’d have a yellow office, was planning on a yellow music room (off the living room) and our house is yellow. So apparently I secretly have a passion for the color.

Now, my dining room table looks like this.

IMG_20140917_151232_889While I know all the rooms aren’t going to get painted at once, I really want to have a plan so that if we have a free weekend, we can just go out, grab a gallon and get a room finished with all the agonizing decision making behind us. So wish me luck! If I keep stalling any longer I’m just going to play spin the bottle for the paint color.

stir crazy demo

I need to get myself a Harry Potter t-shirt that says “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and wear it on snow days. Because I go a little crazy. Cleaning, baking, crocheting, devouring shows on Netflix, and OH! DESTRUCTION!

The Man is at work on this fine, snowy day and if I were to email him right now it would probably go something like this:

“Dear Husband,

You know how I was asking what Dremel bits we own and you said I could go get a diamond bit at Home Depot for that little project I wanted to do of removing the tile toothbrush holder in the bathroom? Well…. I found a mallet and a screwdriver instead. Love you!  PS – Don’t come home early.”

Hehehehe….

So my mom got me a really pretty soap dispenser for our kitchen a year or so ago and I decided it would actually look really pretty in our main bathroom. So yesterday I brought it upstairs and the stupid tile toothbrush holder that is affixed to the wall was (keyword: was) totally too low for the dispenser to sit in a logical place and still be usable without being in the way.

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before

This morning, as I drank coffee, I googled “how to remove a ceramic toothbrush holder” and found a really helpful article on eHow Home. I asked the Man about the Dremel, and he said sure, we could buy a bit, it’s cheap, but not today because of that whole snow thing and he had to leave for work in less than 2 hours. Okay, not a problem.

So he goes to work, I reorganize my office and move my bookcases onto different walls (oh yeah, forgot to mention that! hehehehe…. that’s another post) and then I’m bored. I’m trying to quit smoking, so I need to keep myself really busy, so I decide screw the article, we’re gonna see what a mallet and a finely tipped screwdriver does. Yay! Great idea!

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totally sophisticated tools

For starters, you need safety equipment. So what I wore was a black Marine Corps hoodie, red/pink plaid flannel PJ pants from LL Bean, slippers, and my everyday glasses. You also need to assume you’re not going to be successful, so don’t bother taking pictures with your actual camera, just use your phone.

I closed the drain to the sink (I did read the article, just ignored a lot of it) and put a towel down so that any flying chunks wouldn’t damage the sink top. I then got the vacuum, closed the bathroom door, and began trying the utility knife. That did nothing to the grout, so I started working the screwdriver around the edge and pounding with the mallet very lightly.  The grout actually started coming away really easily. At only point, I got a whole CHUNK to come off and was really excited! So what did I do next? The next logical thing, of course.  I aimed with the mallet, turned my head, closed my eyes, and just SMASHED the holder.

About 3/4 of it came off and I jumped up and down like a 5 year old I was so excited. The whole process only took about 30 minutes. I vacuumed a lot in between so I could see where I was working. Of course, there was no tile behind the holder, so I was left with a bit of a hole.

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The DIYer in me took a step back and thought: “Hmmm…. I’m not going to replace this with another tile, but I don’t want a hole showing. So what do I have that I could artfully cover up the hole with?” TADA!!!!!!!!!!!

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It’s a frame I’ve had for FOREVER from Ikea, hung on a tiny little Command hook. I don’t think I’ll get rid of the tile soap dish, mostly because it’s convenient if you need to take off a pair of earrings or a ring before you shower, and it’s not in the way.

If you have a ceramic toothbrush holder you hate, my best advice is to be careful, go slowly, and just get rid of it. My mom has told me repeatedly, and in the mostly loving way possible, that sometimes I’m just a little bit too stupid to know when I shouldn’t try something, and I laugh every time knowing she is totally right. It may be a little change, but I couldn’t be happier. And I didn’t even break a finger or toe! Those slippers really are great for foot safety.

So what did you destroy this snow day? 🙂

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RIP, toothbrush holder

 

to pin or not to pin?

I have to admit that when Pinterest came out, I didn’t quite “get it”. I’ve been using an internet based service to bookmark and tag things I found interesting for years, so I wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about with pinning.

Slowly but surely, as more people joined the platform, I got it. The same thing that I was doing with pictures I had ripped out of magazines and catalogs was now digital. I could create visual boards of inspiration from hundreds of different sources without much effort whatsoever.

nature inspired color palette pin: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/25966135326144178/

Pinterest still gets some mixed reviews, and some hilarious ones where people try to recreate what they’ve seen done on a pin and it turns out fabulously wrong. I’ve heard of people having “pin envy” or “pin depression” because they think that being a DIY goddess happens overnight and feel like failures for not being creative.  My strategy? I typically only pin things that I could feasibly do/cook/buy. This means reading the descriptions and checking out the recipes before I even bother pinning it. If something sounds too complicated for my skillset I typically just pass over adding it to a board. 

I think the only problem that I’ve encountered with Pinterest is that I get very hungry when looking at all the amazing recipes! On the plus side, I’ve found some awesome ones and short cuts that have saved me time and money.  And if I ever run out of things to cook among my recipe books, I’ll always have a place to turn to for some amazing alternatives.

grilled cheese heaven with avocado: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/25966135326119530/

So if you’re new to Pinterest, feel free to check out what I’ve pinned! What are you swooning over on there?

picture perfect

Considering how hot it has been, it’s been hard to bring myself to cook. But we’ve been making simple meals that don’t require standing over the stove too much.  Regardless of what we’ve been making, though, we’ve certainly been enjoying eating in our newly redone dining room.

My family and friends have been bugging me for an update on how it all went, and the stubborn blogger in me was waiting to get the “perfect pictures” of the room when the light is just right and you can truly appreciate how gorgeous it turned out. Well, I’m not waiting for that perfect shot anymore. I want to show you all how it looks!

When we first looked at the house, we knew we had a challenge on our hands but I was thrilled that the dining room was so big.

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realtors picture

The only problem was the floor. And the wallpaper. And the light fixture. And the radiator cover. So okay everything other than the size was a problem. But particularly the wallpaper.

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UGH. WHY?!

A few days after we moved in, a couple friends were helping us unpack and somehow we ended up stripping the wallpaper and scrubbing the walls with TSP.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe light fixture didn’t bother us too much until we realized what it did when you turned it on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATextured ceiling + beveled glass fixture = AWESOME light patterns cast on the room. OR HIDEOUS.

I would have been content to leave the room as is except for one small problem. On one of the walls, the previous owners had let their kids scrawl their names, phone numbers, and some well wishes (“have a nice f*($#n day”), and we could not get it to scrub off. So, with a house warming bbq a few days away, we hastily picked a paint color and got to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATADA! We used Behr’s Happy Camper Green (which comes out really true to their website pics) and absolutely LOVED the paint color. Then we were able to find a new light fixture at Home Depot for $179 and it really changed the look of the room. The only problem was that once we redid the living room, we realized the green did NOT go with the rest of the first floor which were mostly gray undertone colors. But for almost two years we lived with it.

Gradually we added furniture in the room. And by new furniture I mean a child size chifferobe and chest with shelving that I rehabbed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the chifferobe and the dresser were made of pressed wood, but some heavy cleaning, light sanding, and half a dozen spray paint cans later, we had two very nice pieces.

P7030609This summer, with a week and change worth of vacation, I decided I was redoing and finally finishing off the dining room. First, I had a LOT of spackling to do, which we had neglected the first time around.

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The painting was easy. This time around we used Behr’s color Mountain Sage. I have to admit, though, that I had a gift card to Lowe’s so I decided to get the paint from there. With my color sample in hand, I got Valspar’s Ultra Interior Flat Enamel which is paint and primer in one, PLUS low VOC.  I was able to do two coats in the same day, a few hours apart, even though it was at least 80 degrees out and humid. I was ridiculously pleased with how thick the paint was, and as quickly and sloppily as I was working, it did not spatter at all. At $25 a gallon it was a bit more than some of the paint I’ve used, but WELL worth it in the long run.

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The only part of the room that was a pain was the wood work.  We have gorgeous dentil moulding around the ceiling and as our chair rail. The only problem? Dentil moulding was created as PUNISHMENT for people who have to paint it.  Now you all know that I’m psychotic and paint my woodwork in oil. What I learned the first time around doing the room was that you cannot paint the chair rail with a normal brush because it splatters and drips like crazy and you can’t get into the crevices. So this time?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, that is a paint brush that you would usually use for oil paint on canvas.  The chair rail took me at least two hours. See the X and hashes on the tape above? That’s how I kept my sanity and made sure I didn’t lose track of what dentil I was on. I COUNTED THEM. We have 382.

When all the tape was removed, it was time to dress the room. This definitely happened in stages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst I put everything back in and desperately wished there was a way to hide the hideous tile floor. So I turned to CraigsList. $70 later….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I found a rug JUST large enough to cover the center of the room. It fits almost perfectly inside the white border tiles. I cannot tell you  how happy this makes me. Even though it darkens the room a little bit, it has also worked to dampen the horrible echo we always had. And now some glamour shots for your viewing pleasure!

The metal radiator cover was scored about 6 months ago for $40. Add two cans of spray paint and you have a gorgeous piece.

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It is dressed with a Limoges Bird of Paradise condiment dish, a bird and container from Michaels, a Lenox vase we received for our wedding, and a silver candy dish (devoid of its usual supply of M&Ms).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Limoges dish (also known as the Eden pattern) was scored for $15 at an estate sale and matches china that I have.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd yes, the flowers are fake which I have people ask me all the time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur “hutch” is dressed with a handmade bowl we received for our wedding that is personalized, some R mugs, a bird I bought during a trip we took for our first anniversary, a whiskey set from friends, our cake topper, and a few other sentimental items. While the display is nice, the drawers were a huge plus in the room as they house most of our linens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe refinished chifferobe houses more linens and entertaining pieces like wine glasses and serving trays. The paint crackled when it was drying (as I refinished it last fall which was a mistake because of the cool, humid nights) so some time this summer it will go out piece by piece to get a finish coat.  The red bird is also from Michaels. Can you sense a theme here?

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The wall that was so horribly uneven is now smoothed out and has photos I took in Ireland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think one of the things that excited me the most about finishing the room was the harmony when you look from the dining room into the living room and see how the colors go together. (Please ignore the drop cloth on the floor in the living room!)  The fact that the rug goes with the valances my mom had treated me to when I had found the living room ones. They were purchased from Swags Galore and I would never buy valances without looking there first. Their prices are AMAZING.

Overall I’m just thrilled. The first few days, as I stumbled into the kitchen to get my coffee, I was overwhelmed by the difference that paint color can make. Before, when you walked into our dining room it said HI! I’M GREEN! and now it says Please come sit down and enjoy a savory meal.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing the dining room as much as I enjoy it. Every night as the gloaming approaches, I walk into my dining room and think this is why I do this. This was worth the wait. This is something good and safe and beautiful.

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and for my next trick…

Today officially marked the first day of my staycation and I couldn’t be more excited!!! Being an admission coordinator means that I’m pretty much “on” all the time. There are always questions, interviews, open houses, and applications waiting to be screened. So for the majority of the year, especially because the particular program I do admissions for just opened for the innaugural class, I was running around trying to figure out how to do my job, and pretty much neglecting any house projects I had wanted to do. But not now!

It’s our slow time so I’m on vacation until July 1! When I told some friends this, the first question they asked was “What’s the house project?” So without further ado…

TADA!

TADA!

I am finally doing the dining room! Now, some of you may ask “but… isn’t it done?” Well, my dear readers, the answer is… kinda. Within 48 hours of moving into the house a friend helped us strip the wallpaper in here. That taught us a few things. One, our walls are most definitely plaster. Two, holographic wallpaper from the 80s SUCKS. And three, if you allow your kids to write curses and their phone numbers on the plaster walls prior to hanging paper, the next owner will probably find it AND be unable to remove the writing, even with TSP. Solution? We painted right away.

We loved this color green when we first did the room. However, it later dawned on us that the base of this color is WAY too yellow for the rest of our house. In a lot of houses, it probably wouldn’t matter if one color strayed from the palette of the other rooms, but as we’re a center hall colonial, you can stand at our front door and see the hallway, living room, dining room, and upstairs hallway all at once.

I already primed all the woodwork, including the chair-rail-from-hell, so this room won’t take as long as a typical room in my house. I’m just hoping that I can get everything done in one week. And I can’t WAIT to share the results when we finish.

Wish me luck!