Monthly Archives: April 2012

Mirror Mirror


You may remember about a year ago, I publicly declared my love for sunburst mirrors (read more on that here).  After that post, I picked up this beauty at Garden Ridge for $49.99.

A few months later, I shockingly discovered that my mom had purchased the exact same mirror after reading that post and similarly thought her life was missing a sunburst mirror.  Good taste runs in the family, I suppose.

The mirror sat on our bedroom floor for a few weeks as I waited for us to buy the dresser it would hang above.  Well, I got tired of walking around a mirror and the constant paw tracks from our cat walking across it and gazing at herself (she’s the vainest cat I know), so I decided to just pick a spot, hang the mirror, and if I had to move it after the dresser was in, so be it.  P.S. we still have yet to find a dresser, nine months later, so we’re still good.

A new dilemma has arisen, however.

At first, I was convinced I wanted to introduce antique bronze into our room through the bay window’s chandelier and the mirror.  I was convinced that different finishes would help make the room feel cozier and have the “collected over time” look.  Yes, yes, I had been watching a lot of Dear Genevieve on HGTV when this idea popped in my head.  And while I adore Genevieve and want her to make over everything in my life, I just couldn’t buy in on the non-matching finishes.

Everything else in the room was either iron/oil rubbed bronze or brushed nickel.  I just couldn’t bring myself to accept a third finish.  The final verdict came in last week when I decided to spray paint the bay window chandelier from antique bronze to oil rubbed bronze (see that transformation here).

It looked great and further convinced me that the mirror had to change too.  I could either spray it oil rubbed bronze or go the silver route.  I decided to go with silver as that side of the room needed more of the color.  But not just any silver, I wanted something more antique-looking rather than contemporary.

Hm, now for the big question.  Could an antique silver look be achieved via spray paint?

The only guide I could find online was on eHow (read here) and it was for painting frames antique silver and it was a text-only guide, no pictures.  Frames were a close enough subject to my mirror but the no picture thing had me a little nervous.  How would this turn out??

Well, there was only one way to find out.  If I didn’t like it, I could always spray it back to a different solid color.  So, here are the steps I took to achieve the final look:

Supplies Needed:

  • Paintbrush (that can be tossed afterwards)
  • Rag (that can be tossed afterwards)
  • Cup of water filled halfway (that can be tossed afterwards)
  • Rustoleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish in Silver
  • Flat black spray paint.  The eHow guide recommended gray spray paint for for a more natural aged look and black paint for a more intentional/stylized antique look but the flat black paint I used turned out pretty light once applied and took a few coats to really show so I recommend using black.  I just don’t see gray paint showing up at all.

  1. Dust mirror to ensure surface is clean.
  2. Tape up the mirror part to ensure no paint hits it.                       
  3. Spray paint the mirror with the metallic silver spray paint.                                                                     We sprayed ours two coats with an hour of drying time between coats.  After the second coat, wait for the mirror (or whatever you’re spraying) to completely dry before the next step.  We waited an hour.                                                                                Look at all that fabulous silver grass!  Chris- watch out, you may wake up with a backyard of silver-coated grass one day.  Maybe not the greenest move but, man, what a look that would be!
  4. Fill a cup halfway with water then spray flat black spray paint into the cup for 10 seconds (this could get a little messy so I recommend wearing gloves).  Stir paint/water to mix it.  The liquid shouldn’t be too thick.   
  5. Dip paintbrush in paint/water mixture and apply to surface.  Paint evenly on surface.  I recommend splitting the total area you’re painting into sections as you will need to move quickly with the next step.  For example, I painted two rays on the sunburst mirror at a time then completed the next step before painting again.  
  6. Wait for the paint to dry for one minute then blot dry with a rag.  
  7. If the painted section still looks a little light, go back with paint then re-blot.  The first few sections I painted I had to go over two or three times to get the look I was going for.                                                      
  8. When you’re done painting/blotting, let the mirror dry.  I let mine dry for 4 hours before hanging it up.  The eHow guide recommended finishing with a gloss coat but I think the matte look I achieved after blotting was more authentic looking so I didn’t apply a final gloss coat.  If you want a shinier finish, however, I recommend the gloss coat step.                                                      

And there you have it!  From manufactured-looking bronze to unique, antique silver.  The mirror looks great and fits nicely into the overall look of our room.  The technique didn’t take that long and looks pretty genuine.  Look out house, I could be going on an antique-silver rampage soon!


Something has really been bugging me lately. It’s kept me up at night and is all I can think about during the day. I can’t live this lie anymore: I must disclose something and I want it to be known so there is no confusion, so no intentions are misconstrued, so that truth may prevail: when Julie says she or we spray painted something, what she really means is I spray painted it. I admit, she helps a lot when brushes are involved, but she’s never painted anything via propellant.

With that said, I was growing tired of faux oil-rubbed bronze finishes- the $7 cans of spray paint are easy to use and ergonomic, but unless you’re going for a nice splattered look they’re strictly a one-time-use can. So when Julie told me she wanted to try antique silver using a brush, I was intrigued- I’ve become something of a rattle-can expert, but I’ve yet to experiment with alternative finishes.

The first order of business was to spray the frame a basic silver. I chose Rustoleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish in silver because it was cheap, and I had used it in the past with great results- I repainted a handrail at work with it and apart from the fumes, my coworkers were none-the-wiser. Anyway, it laid a nice, even first coat (short bursts were key) and I decided a second coat would be necessary, even if we weren’t “antiquing” it. I strongly recommend wearing gloves, though; my fingers looked like the Tin Man’s after only a few seconds.

We let the paint dry overnight and then went back to attempt the antique look. Julie had found some tutorial online, but we found we had to make a few modifications. For starters, don’t spray the black paint into the water at full blast (just a tip). Second, use cheap flat black paint; the sprayed finish quality and sheen are irrelevant when you’re diluting it in water, so we bought the 99 cent variety- waste not! Finally, the tutorial said to wipe the surface after applying the black paint/water solution, but we found dabbing it gave it a more authentic look, while wiping made it look… well, wiped.

Generally, I’m not big on these kind of projects (and couldn’t care less about decorative mirrors) but this one turned out to be pretty interesting. There’s a certain art to hand-made faux finishes that interests me, and the results for this one drastically exceeded my expectations, as I fully expected Julie to give up and ask me to paint it bronze.

So, what do you think of the transformation?  Have we inspired you to go on an antique silver crusade as well?



Filed under Before & After, Master Bedroom

Chandy Candy


Chris may have thrown up a little when he read the title of this blog post, but, hey, it’s how I feel.  But, let me start at the beginning.

When we moved in, there was one light in the bedroom: the light on the ceiling fan.  We gradually added a table lamp bringing the grand total to two lights.  During the day, it wasn’t a problem since we have a bay window and a windowed-patio door that lit up the room but at night (especially when we were still rocking the dark tan wall color), the room looked like a dimly-lit cave.   Something had to be done.

And so began my three-month-long appeal to Chris to install a light by the bay window.  Did I mention that there was no electricity wired to that area?  But at this point, I have yet to provide Chris with a mission that he wasn’t able to accomplish so, hey, why not?

A few weeks later, voilah!  There was a light installed just over our bay window area.  Easy as pie (for me, at least).  Now I debated back-and-forth what kind of light I wanted to put in this area.  I settled on wanting something simple since there was already a main light (the ceiling fan) and two table lamps beside our bed.  I wanted the light to compliment these other three so you didn’t walk in and think, “what’s that doing there?”  I was inspired by these two images I found on Pinterest (where else) and decided my life needed a shadeless iron chandelier stat.

Source: So bummed that I can’t find the source to this image but here’s the link to it on Pinterest.

Source: Segreto

I found a few options in various retail stores, including these:

Source: Pottery Barn, Audrina Chandelier, $149

Source: Pottery Barn, Armonk 6-Arm Chandelier, $399

I also knew I was bound to change my mind a million times therefore it needed to be an inexpensive light (sorry Pottery Barn) so that it could be easily replaced if I found it wasn’t working out.  I did find this one at Lowe’s for only $69 that would’ve worked but challenged myself to find an even less expensive option.

Source: Lowe’s, Portfolio 6-Light New Century Black Chandelier, $69

So off to the architectural salvage store we went!  We have a place in town called Discount Home Warehouse that has become a new favorite of ours.   You never know what you’re going to find- old windows, shutters, iron fencing, doors, appliances, and, of course, light fixtures.  It’s a great place to find really unique pieces at a great price.

After a short detour through the giant letters (if only they had a W!!), we made our way to the lighting room.

With my head spinning (probably from looking up and circling the room over and over), I found a suitable candidate.  An old antique brass 5 arm chandelier for $30.  Perfection.

Now for the big debate.  I recently picked up this sunburst mirror for the bedroom wall which featured the same coloring as the chandy.

I was stuck.  Do I leave the color as-is or do I spray it another color?  If it was left as-is, it would match the sunburst mirror and antique brass was sort-of making a comeback.  Or I could spray it an oil-rubbed bronze color so it would match the ceiling fan and lamp color.  Hmm what to do what to do.  So, naturally, I couldn’t make up my mind and the chandelier went up as-is.  And there it stayed for a full year.  Behold the beauty of brass.

Finally, I decided I had had my fill of brass and it was time for a transformation.  This baby was going bronze.  We picked up another can of Rust-oleum’s oil rubbed bronze spray paint from Home Depot and it was go time.

For a guide to spray painting, check out this post.


When Julie told me she wanted a chandelier in the bay window area, I immediately cringed. At face value, it seemed simple enough and it was nothing new, but this time I had to think outside the box, literally- Julie wanted the chandelier mounted just a few feet from the outside wall, which meant the roof would be sloping sharply downward at that point.

If you’re not familiar with electrical work, mounting and wiring a light where one is not previously mounted or wired requires going up into the attic, which is always a pain. On top of that, I’d be working in a space where two roof angles come together, meaning I had only a few square feet to work with. Basically, I had to lay down and support myself on ceiling joists using my ribs. That’s exactly how I like to spend my weekends.

I got the ceiling box mounted without any major issues, but Julie wanted a switch on the wall right next to the light. This would have been a nice touch and seemed easy enough- all I had to do was run a wire down the wall to the switch and then another wire over the bedroom ceiling to tap into the power on the main switch- but I realized that there was no access to run a wire down the wall. Again, simple enough- I did it before, after all, and was no big deal- just bore through the wood and drop the wire through. The problem here, though, was the limited space and sharp angles created by the roof, not to mention the fact that the roofing nails were protruding through the roof’s plywood base (another reason I hate attics).

So I grabbed my 1″ boring bit and went to work. The angle at which I had to hold the drill made it difficult to get started, but eventually I started making a substantial dent in the wood. A little more than halfway into the 3″ of wood I was trying to bore through, the bit jammed and the torque of the drill jerked my hand violently upward… straight into a roofing nail.

I take pride in my ability to maintain my composure in some pretty extreme situations, but looking at a nail that literally went in the top of my finger and come out the bottom cause me to panic a little. Fortunately, though, Julie was able to remain calm (which is rare) and while all I could manage to say was “uh… uh… uh… uh…,” she instinctively grabbed paper towels and met me at the stairs to the attic. I also panicked that I’d certainly get tetanus and die, but my mom managed to find my immunization records, and I think I’ll live to renovate another room.

Once I stopped the bleeding, I refused to continue with the wall switch effort, to which Julie understood she had no choice but to agree with. I simply put another switch in by our bedroom door, so now all our lights are controlled at one location, which has turned out to be more convenient anyway. After getting everything wired together, I demanded a break from this project- it already tried to take my finger, what might be next?

So a few weeks ago, Julie convinced me it was time to continue the chandelier project. I took it down and disassembled it for paint, and spent two days trying to put it back together (these things are like puzzles, and I cannot understand why it seems like there’s always at least three missing bolts).  We still had exposed sockets so we bought some translucent socket sleeves at Lowe’s but I had to cut them down to size, and an exacto knife did the trick perfectly:

Lowe’s, Portfolio Socket Covers, $1.97 for a set of 2

Next, I had to paint them. Using what is quite possibly the most clever painting solution I’ve devised to date, I had all five fully painted in about a minute.

From translucent…

To oil-rubbed bronze…

I didn’t think I’d care much for it when Julie had the idea, but I honestly kind of like having the chandelier there. And it only cost me one finger.

And here are the results:

No turning back now!  What do you think of our new chandelier?  Would you have stayed with the antique brass color or would you have ventured into the oil-rubbed bronze territory with us?


Filed under Master Bedroom

Buy This Not That: Chairs and Tiles


If you’ve been following the blog… or maybe I should say if you’ve read more than one post, you may have figured out that I’m a bit of an upholstered chair addict.  Don’t worry, there are support groups out there for people like me (it’s called Pinterest… it seems that only furthers the addiction though).  Anyway, I’m beginning to find out just how expensive of an addiction this is.  There are a few ways to obtain a good ole upholstered chair:

  1. Find a great deal on an old upholstered chair on Craigslist (usually sporting awesome 80s fabric).  Say you find a deal as good as we did (more on that here), with a small fee for the initial purchase of the chair plus upholstery, you’re looking at about $350-400.
  2. Reupholster an old, hand-me-down chair (look at our awesome hand-me-down chair transformation here) and upholstery will still run you in the neighborhood of $300.
  3. Give up the custom look for a retail option.  This doesn’t sound as glamorous but you can usually find a better deal…
… or so I thought until I really started perusing through my usual home decor sites for a nice, tufted, upholstered linen chair.  Much to my horror, a custom look was beginning to seem the cheap route… which seemed wrong to equate custom and cheap in the same sentence.  Something had to be done.
I love a good deal and was determined to find less expensive but still great-looking, quality alternatives that wouldn’t induce me to eating Ramen noodles for the remainder of the year and thus this blog topic idea was created.  We wanted to bring to light the fact that for every croon-worthy, wallet-stealing home decor/household item out there, there were other, more affordable options just waiting to be snatched up.  Without further ado, I bring you our newest segment, “Buy This Not That.”

Break-the-Bank Options:

Topping the list at just over a grand is…

Crate and Barrel, $1099

Pottery Barn, starting at $999

Pottery Barn, starting at $899

Ballard Designs, $867

Kathy Kuo Home, $698

We-Will-Still-Be-Able-to-Send-Our-Kids-to-College Options:

Overstock, $336.59

Wayfair, $269

Overstock, $250.19

Target, $125.91

And finally Modern Furniture, $180 for a set of 2 so $90 each!  That’s an insane price!  You could buy TWELVE of these chairs for the same price of the one Crate and Barrel chair at the top of the list.  Insanity.

Ah, don’t you feel better?  But wait!  There’s more!  Get ready to have your mind BLOWN.

So, I have been lusting after this Restoration Hardware chair for some time now.  After browsing through my list of expensive chairs, the price on this one, $495, probably doesn’t seem that bad, right?  Well, just you wait.

Restoration Hardware, $495

Ready for a shocker of all shockers?  See below for the less expensive alternative I found to the above chair.

Grandin Road, $239

Well, hello there Restoration Hardware chair’s long-lost twin.  Why, yes, I did notice you were over $250 less expensive and looked EXACTLY THE SAME.  Eep- I better not yell or someone will notice and change the price.  I dare you to beat me in throwing this chair in my virtual shopping cart!

UPDATE: Unfortunately, it seems that the awesome chair I found from Grandin Road, seen above, has now sold out and is no longer available.  *Cue disappointing sound effect.  If I find another one, I’ll be sure to post it!  If you’ve found any awesome deals on tufted rounded club chairs, please share as well!


I like to think I had a reasonable upbringing- my parents worked hard to make sure we had a comfortable lifestyle, but they also liked to pretend we were flat broke. I hated living in a house in Texas that had no A/C on the second floor (which, of course, they fixed after I moved out), but I have to say that a working knowledge of penny-pinching and “alternative engineering” has come in handy more than once, though I admit I’m probably lucky to have two five-fingered hands.

One money-saving skill I picked up from my parents is the ability to always find a cheaper version of whatever Julie wants, which really saved the bank when we remodeled our master bathroom (more on that later). Julie wanted travertine, which is of course one of the most expensive materials available. Prices for real travertine can easily exceed $5/sq. ft., and the thought of over $1000 covering the walls of the place I scrub dirt off myself really didn’t appeal to me. On top of that, it’s also very difficult to care for- it’s extremely fragile, extremely porous, and extremely difficult to keep clean. Needless to say, it’s not the ideal choice in materials for a shower.

As luck would have it, though, I stumbled upon the solution while perusing the aisles at Floor & Decor- travertine-look ceramic tiles. For less than $3/sq. ft., they were perfect. They had the look of the high-end natural stone Julie wanted as well as the convenience (and price tag) I wanted. Ceramics are some of the most durable materials on Earth, and since we’re prone to a lot of carelessness, it’s really a must-have for all relevant applications in our house. They even had mimicked pores and imperfections cast in to complete the look.

What Julie Wants:

Daltile Travertine Baja Cream, Home Depot, $6.71/sq ft

 What Julie Gets:
Antique White Porcelain Tile, Floor & Decor, $2.19/sq ft


Filed under Buy This Not That

Make an Entrance


One of my biggest challenges upon moving from an apartment to a house was being the proud owner of a legit entry.  In our apartment days, our door opened directly into the kitchen/dining combo hence the months it took me to figure out what the heck to do with this space.  It’s not the largest of entries but looked cavernous and frankly not very welcoming in all of its emptiness.

Here’s a shot of the entry when we initially viewed the house, before purchasing it.  The entertainment value of screaming our names like 8 year olds to hear it echo back quickly passed as we realized this only made our house seem emptier… and thus sadder.

Hm, so what’s a girl to do?  Go shopping of course.  I didn’t want to break the bank on filling the entry so I jumped to what seems to be my go-to furniture source lately: Craigslist.  I lucked out on my first try.  Someone was selling a rustic wooden table that they found at the Round Top antique festival for $75 which had a rich walnut color to it.  Nothing piques my interest more than the words rustic, antique, under $100, and, of course, Round Top.  Bingo.  (Never heard of Round Top?  Never fear.  We happened to create three different guides to conquering the festival which can be read in part one, two, and three.)

I immediately dragged Chris out the door and into the car while he muttered something about “you know, this won’t fit in our car, right.”  Psh, minor details.  We pulled up to the seller’s house and not only discovered this table was quite the gem but also found that we were the second party to view the table.  The first viewer was discouraged by the wobble in one of the legs and turned it down.  I immediately assumed it was something Chris could fix, agreed on a price drop to $60, and only then remembered Chris’ comment about the table not fitting in our car.  As we pondered solutions, the sellers graciously offered to deliver it for us.  Yes please!

So, I had a piece of furniture but now needed to figure out how to fill it.  I assembled the following group of accessories to complete the look:

  • Brushed nickel lamp with white shade from Christmas Tree Shops for around $15
  • Iron crown from eBay seller Arbed Floral for $15.95
  • Glass milk bottle from Christmas Tree Shops for a whopping $2
  • A small sunburst mirror from Michael’s for $20
  • Candles and silver candle stands from Michael’s for about $20
  • White silk peony flowers from Michael’s for $5
  • Silver decorative frames from Garden Ridge for $10 each
  • White books from Half Price Books for $0.25 to $1 each… which sort of killed the inner-reader in me to think that I was purchasing books I would likely never read but just use to decorate.  I justified the purchase to myself knowing that at least these books (from the clearance section at a half price book store) would end up in a good home, rather than just going recycled and the guilty feelings passed.
We lightened the walls from the darker tan color to a lighter tan.  The paint color is called Raffia Cream by Behr.
Now, the entry is warm and inviting and I couldn’t ask for anything more.  Oh wait, there is that old pot light that needs to be replaced with something more glamorous… but more on that later.  Some time may be needed to convince Chris to convert a candle-burning chandelier into an electric one…
There’s not much I have a real opinion on, and the entryway into our house is really no exception. There’s no “grand foyer” per se, so as far as I was concerned the functionality of the entryway had met all expectations… or so I thought. And apparently I was wrong. Again.
According to Julie, our entryway was “blah” and needed “something.”  I wasn’t sure what the specifics would be, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t going to like it.
We started simply enough by painting the walls to match the other hallways in the house, and hung up some of our wedding pictures on the wall (because we love looking at ourselves).  I assumed we were done, but Julie announced that we needed a table. I couldn’t think of a single use for a table next to the front door, so I foolishly asked “what for?”
“Oh, Chris,” she replied, “it’s an entryway. We need an entryway table, silly!”
This may have been the worst argument in history, but I’ve learned to pick my battles, and I decided to let this one go.  I put a cap on how much we could spend on an “entryway table” and Julie embarked on a Craigslist search.  She eventually found one close by, but I insisted it wouldn’t fit in the car. “Nevermind that!” she says, “it’s perfect!”  So away we go to look at what we would soon discover is the wiggliest table ever made.  The sellers claimed it was an antique but I’m convinced it was someone’s wood shop project.  Anyway, Julie committed to buy it and then decided to worry about whether or not it would fit in the car, but, fortunately, the sellers were planning to have dinner at a restaurant down the street from us and were kind enough to deliver it.  Thanks!
The next order of business was to add a little rigidity to something that appeared to be constructed from rubber.  I flipped it upside down and determined the critical points of instability.  Apparently, our wood shop student disliked fasteners, so I ran a few drywall screws in the backs and undersides of a few joints and bingo- stability.
What happened next was something I wasn’t prepared for- Julie announced that she wanted to decorate with books.  This didn’t strike me as too odd, nor did the fact that she specifically wanted white books.  What shocked me was that we went to a second hand bookstore and asked for “books by the yard”… and they had them!  I don’t read much, but I understood books to be something for reading, not decoration.  What’s even weirder is that I think my mom reads them when she visits.
A few more frivolous decor items and we were done, except for the square recessed light I swapped out for a hanging light to be revealed later.  It was a small and confusing task, but at least our guests can feel welcome now!
And now for the after pictures!


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Filed under Entry