Monthly Archives: May 2012

Our Baby’s One Today!


Earlier this week, we realized that today is the blog’s first birthday.  My, how time flies!

We then wondered how one goes about celebrating a blog birthday.  I mean I’ll take any excuse there is to bake a cake but that doesn’t really fit the virtual theme of the blog.

Chris thought we should revisit our favorite projects from the past year.  Not bad, but then I had the problem of selecting one.  I’m 100% more excited about my future project list than I am our past accomplishments and with Chris, vice versa.  When we’ve finished a project, he tends to take a step back, admire our work, and relish in its completion.  With me, it’s a little different.  I take a step back, admire our work, then start narrowing down my future projects list to the next contender, and usually want to start on it immediately.

Thus, we concluded that Chris would focus on his favorite 3 past projects and I would divulge my favorite 3 future projects.  Besides, settling on a blog topic that would (finally) be uniform wouldn’t be our style anyway.

So here we go…

Julie’s Top 3 FUTURE Projects:

1. Doors.

While this may not sound that glamorous, I am OBSESSED with the notion that our doors will one day all be upgraded from the current flat panel, yellowing doors from the 70s to freshly painted white, two panel doors.  Not to mention, a change from the odd, old brass door knobs to new satin nickel ones.

We have already started the process of replacing doors (more on that here).  We’re currently 3 for 13… so yeah, we have a ways to go.  Obviously, this is a more long-term goal but still, the day the last door is replaced is the day I throw the largest celebration the world has ever seen… for a door.

For the doors, we’re going from this (excuse Chris’ creepy head):

To this:

Source: Home Depot, Steves and Sons

And for the door knobs, we’re going from this:

To this:

Source: Home Depot, Kwikset

2. Headboard

I’ve been wanting to build an upholstered headboard for the guest bedroom for quite some time now.  It’s really the only thing that needs to happen before we reveal the room on the blog (patience young grasshopper).  The hold-up has been finding the perfect fabric.

A few weeks ago, as I was wandering around West Elm, I found it.  THE fabric.  Here it is on an ottoman.  The fabric’s called Rosette in platinum.

It spoke to me.  It said, “Julie, if you don’t buy up three yards of me right now, you’re an idiot.”  Done.  I rushed to find a sales associate to ring me up.  Little did I know, my heart was about to be severed in half.  She said the two little words that sent shockwaves through my shop-a-holic self: “Sold. Out.”


Her only words of encouragement were, “well, we still have it in Blue Stone” (seen below).

A word of advice to all sales associates: a different available color does not immediately rectify everything.  *Sigh.

So then I contacted West Elm to see if they would be restocking inventory in the platinum color.


So then I asked if they could supply the manufacturer’s name so I could order directly through them.


So, now I’m back at square one.

3. Wood Floors

I have been yearning for the day that my new wood floors will enter into my life.  It’s not only a cosmetic change, it’s a necessary change.  And here’s why:

Reason One.  Our kitchen floors are NASTY.  Not because they’re not clean.  We sweep, we swiffer, we scrub, but to no avail. What we originally thought was tile (later we discovered it to be linoleum) was once a bright white color… in the 70s.  Over time, the color has yellowed and the years of constant foot traffic have worn down the surface to be a breeding ground for permanent stains.

Reason Two.  We currently have six different floors in our house.  Red brick-patterned tile in the office and powder room, white(ish) linoleum in the laundry room and kitchen, oak laminate in the dining room, 18″ beige tile in the living room, hallway, and guest bathroom, gray twist carpet in the bedrooms, and a wood-look tile in the master bathroom.  Yup, six.  And that seems like a lot for a three bedroom house.  If we at least laid down wood in the kitchen and dining room that would slim the list down to five (I would probably use the same wood-look tile from the master bathroom in the laundry room so the linoleum would be completely gone).  So, still a lot of floor options but, hey, it’s still one less.

Reason Three.


Right image: Mayflower Sundance Handscraped Hardwood from Lumber Liquidators

Left image: Virginia Mill Works Engineered Potomac Plank Handscraped Hardwood from Lumber Liquidators.

Enough said.

So, Chris, what’s up first?


For the record, I never thought the linoleum in the kitchen was tile. Ever.

Anyway, I was shocked to find out the blog was only a year old… maybe because I’ve been doing these projects for so much longer (you didn’t think it was written in real-time, did you?).  So, I’ve decided to recap my favorite projects thus far.

Chris’ Top 3 PAST Projects:

1) Half-bath

Honestly, this project wasn’t really a big deal, but it was the first project we did, besides painting a few rooms. What’s more is that we did it together, on a really low budget. It was a fun, productive way to spend time together and the payoff was HUGE (the old bathroom was hideous, in case you don’t remember, read about that transformation here). We were elated with a feeling of accomplishment, and we eagerly showed it off to everyone who entered our home.

This project turned out to be a double-edged sword, though, as it resulted in Julie being bitten by what us car guys call “the mod bug.”  Effortlessly transforming a powder room had betrayed my handyman skills, and Julie’s eyes were filled with renovation greed.  I was doomed to a weekend life of labor.





2) Master bedroom

I’ve cheated a little bit with this one, as it’s really an ongoing project. But it’s probably one of the most important ones- it’s the last room I see before I go to sleep, and the first one I see when I wake up. It’s quiet, relaxing, and private. It’s also constantly changing- painting, repainting, curtains, chairs, lights, etc. It’s also the site of the project where I PUT A NAIL THROUGH MY FINGER (read the gruesome tale here).

Normally, I hate Julie’s habitual indecision, but I have to admit that I don’t mind too much here. We’ve created a really great piece of the house that’s just for us, and I really enjoy spending time there, even if half of it has been painting.


Attempt One.


3) Front door

This may be our (read: my) latest project, but it’s probably one of the ones I’m most proud of because it took a considerable amount of skill… and a sickening amount of mind-numbing labor.  Staining and finishing wood is something of a dying art, and I’ve been dabbling in it for a few years.  I think I finally managed to find the right combination of chemicals, methods, and personal touch to get the results I’ve been looking for (read the full story here).

I also felt like Hercules after mounting a solid wood door by myself.  Twice.




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Filed under Site Housekeeping

Shut the Front Door


You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to use that title, although it’s, perhaps, a line that’s a little overused now (to the point that I heard a spin-off line in which a woman exclaimed, “close the front door!”).  Hm, not quite the same effect.

Moving on… our front door was in sad shape.  The stain had worn down to nearly the raw wood and the rough North Texas weather had started taking its toll on it.  In my excitement over starting the project, I failed to take before pictures but managed to scrounge up this picture from Halloween.

So, although the spider and it’s enormous web are probably the most exciting thing you’ve laid eyes on lately, the door is not.  I imagined if the door was alive, it would sigh a lot and look downtrodden like Eeyore, not exactly what we were going for in terms of curb appeal.

See the resemblance?  We needed to inject this baby with some happy pills-  that’s right, it was time to get our stain on.

So while Chris will walk through the steps of refacing a stained door in his post, I would like to take this chance to exclaim to the world how awesome my husband is!  If this outburst of affection seems random, it is.  This is me STILL groveling my way out of making him stain the door Dark Walnut then proceeding to hate the color and make him refinish it in a different stain.  Oops.

I continue to remind Chris that with a first house comes first-time projects comes trial and error.  Well, it’s not my fault that this house has been a full series of trial and errors… mostly when it comes down to selecting a color.  Chris jokes that the entire house has been repainted twice and I’m starting on the third round.  Which is NOT true.  The living room, guest bedrooms, kitchen, and dining room have all only been painted ONCE (although I may want to repaint 3 of those 5 rooms already).  Hey, live and learn, right?

Round One.  We used Minwax Dark Walnut stain from Home Depot which we used on a pair of shelves we built in our bathroom.  It looks amazing in the bathroom- a rich, dark walnut color that really compliments the rest of the bathroom.

On the front door, however, it was WAY too dark.  It lost all of its rich walnut color and instead looked like an uneven coat of black.  And while I am obsessed with black-painted doors right now, it wasn’t the look I was going for.  See?

Needless to say, a redo was in store.  I let Chris have some time to recover from the first round before we started on the second round.  What I originally thought was going to be 2 weeks became 2 months.  Finally, I couldn’t take the agony of an ugly front door any longer.  The time had come.

Round Two.  This time we used Minwax Early American stain from Home Depot.

Don’t be fooled by the picture of the stain on Home Depot’s website.  The stain has more red in it than the picture shows.  The results are fantastic!  Our sad, depressed door went from sad Eeyore to an even more sad black hole, to a beautiful, rich, welcoming entrance.  The color really compliments our oil-rubbed bronze door handle as well.

Isn’t she a beaut?  Now it’s time to do the inside!

Oh, but first I’ll let Chris have his turn to whine about detail each step of the process.


I absolutely love Texas, but I have to admit that the summers really are the worst.  I grew up in South Texas where it’s hot and humid, and now I live in North Texas where it’s hot and dry… and it’s affected the way I think. For example, I took a few courses in materials science in college and when we discussed the various properties, all I could think was “yeah, but how does it stand up to the Texas heat?” It’s a climate that influences every decision you make- what kind of car you buy, what color clothes you wear, even which direction your house faces- which also why you learn how to refinish a front door.

If you’re smart, enjoy the outdoors, and live in Texas, you’ll make sure your backyard is shaded in the afternoon, which means your front door gets the worst of the summer sun. I refinished my parents’ front door a few years ago, but the door was only a few years old and really just needed a fresh coat of urethane; maybe half a day later, I had it back on the hinges looking as good as new. My door, however, was another story: it had been neglected for decades, and it looked like 100 miles of bad road. Something needed to be done but this being Texas, I’d only have a small window in which to do it.

Ah, springtime in Texas: the most beautiful time in the most beautiful place (most of you probably consider this time of year to be late winter). Also, the time when you’d better get all of your outdoor projects out of the way, because in 2 months you’ll be stuck inside until Thanksgiving. I had an excellent Saturday planned: hit the trails on my mountain bike with a friend for a few hours, recover with a few beers, and then back home to begin my summer lawn prep (if you want a green lawn in the summer here, you better start no later than March). Well, I was half right: I was greeted by Julie who announced that I was “just in time to help with the front door,” which meant that she had the camera ready to take pictures of me redoing the door by myself.

I got to work removing all the hardware. I got the handle and deadbolts off and popped the pins out of the hinges. Once I had the door free, I set it down (outer side facing upward) on two sawhorses. I got a chemical stripper that I brushed on to pull the old varnish off. Using a paint scraper, I worked my way down through the varnish and lightly sanded the wood to get a smooth finish. Since Julie and I decided we liked a dark walnut stain, there was no need to go any further. I applied the new stain as evenly as possibly and it was dark. Like, black. At this point, I was running out of daylight and hesitantly applied one coat of urethane to prevent further deterioration of the wood, knowing I’d just have to strip it off later. What a waste of time!

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was running out of nice weather. I decided it was time to re-refinish the front door, but this time I was going to do it right. I got up early (for a Saturday, anyway), set the door up, popped in my headphones, and fired up the sander. Again.


The first order of business was to strip off the varnish using Jasco Premium Paint and Epoxy Remover from Home Depot. Surprisingly, this is pretty easy. I applied a chemical stripper that brushes on as a gel (or non-Newtonian fluid, if you prefer). I let it sit for a few minutes before using a paint scraper to turn the old varnish into little piles of goop that I sucked up with a shop-vac before smoothing it over with a sander.

Some tight corners required a sanding block.

Now, let me show you where the two projects differ:

The first time I applied the stain, I didn’t want to go too dark. I tried brushing it on and wiping it off, but this turned out really uneven because it relies on a uniform amount of stain and soak time before wiping in order to be even, and it’s really difficult. So now it was uneven… and still too dark.

After the stain.

After the varnish.


After removing the varnish again, I had to strip off the old stain. I didn’t have to do this the first time around since we were going with a darker stain (and the wood was so faded, anyway), and I didn’t want to do it this time around… because it’s a LOT of work. I started sanding with 60-grit sandpaper, and when I wore that out I moved up to 80-grit, then 120, then 150… and finally 220. About three hours later, I had clean wood with no “dark walnut” junk on it. And my head was rattling from that stupid sander.

This time I decided to use wood conditioner (Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner from Home Depot), which supposedly makes the stain go on more evenly or something. Given how terrible the last round looked, I was willing to spend a few bucks and give it a whirl. It definitely came out more even, but I also used a slightly different method of applying the stain itself.

Finally, it was time for the new stain. I was a little nervous at this point because I really didn’t want to do this again, but I also didn’t want a door that looked like it was refinished by a rookie. I decided to stain one section of wood at a time, hoping that the joints would hide any unevenness. I also decided that this was a naturally lighter stain, so letting it soak longer would give it a really rich color. Not wiping it off at all would allow for a more even finish.

After the stain.

Applying the varnish.

The finished product.

After letting everything dry and doing a few touch-ups, I was finally satisfied with the finish. There are a few places where different types of wood were used and therefore absorbed the stain differently, but there’s really nothing I could do about that, so I’m not too worried.

Two coats of satin urethane later, I was hanging it back up and reinstalling the hardware. We had one brass deadbolt, but some faux oil rubbed bronze spray paint solved that dilemma. And the finished product:

The best part of this project is that Julie can’t saturate it with pictures of the cat. Right?


It seems our little Chloe the cat is becoming quite the celeb.  Did you spot her cameo in one of the above shots? If you missed her, never fear, you know I took a dozen close-ups of her supervising us from the window.


Filed under Before & After, Front Yard

Two Chairs in a Pod


You may recall our previous transformation of Chris’ great grandfather’s chair from its old, worn state to the fresh, bold face lift we gave it.  To be fair, the chair hadn’t been retouched since it was first purchased decades ago (we think it was the 60s) so it needed some serious  lovin’.  What a difference a little fabric can make!  Read about the metamorphosis here.

Well, we not only lucked out with this chair once, but twice.  It had a matching, slightly-smaller sibling that soon made the long journey from Chris’ relatives place in Tennessee to Texas.  We welcomed it with open arms… arms covered in fabric that is.  It was in better condition than the white chair, but needed some updating as well.  Take a look.

This chair was about to go from fabulously pink (Chris’ favorite) to my favorite blue/tan pattern from Calico Corners called Lisbon Linen in indigo (ah, such a beaut!).

I painted the legs black on this chair as well using Rust-oleum’s Semi-Gloss black paint from Home Depot.

Then off to the upholsterer it went.  A week later, our two chairs were reunited and our cat couldn’t be happier with another place for her daily nap.

Another day, another upholstered chair.  I would say my upholstery obsession has died down since but we all know that’s not true in the slightest.

The chairs seemed so empty by themselves and I knew throw pillows were just the solution.  In my pillow search, I fell in love with these pillows from Ethan Allen (his here and hers here).

But at $109 each, I was not about to sprint to the store to buy these.  Instead, I decided to create my own.  I wanted the burlap look but not the burlap feel so I found some soft cotton fabric that had the burlap look, similar to this one at Joann‘s that was only about $7 per yard (about $5.60 with my Joann’s coupon).

I then got to work sewing a pillow form to fit over a 12″ pillow insert.  And by “I got to work,” I mean, I enlisted my in-laws to help me since the minute my hand touches a sewing machine, all hell seems to break loose.

After the pillow form was done, I stenciled out block letters for the “His” and “Hers” copy on the pillows then used black fabric paint to fill it in.  It doesn’t have that “worn” copy look that the Ethan Allen pillows have but I’m hoping after a few washes, it may get there.  And hey, for the $10 investment in paint and fabric (I already had the pillow forms from old throw pillows), it still beats the $218 price tag for the alternative option.


My wife has become completely obsessed with chairs, and I have no idea why. She’s apparently convinced that there is some sort of urgent seating shortage in our house, and action must be taken immediately. The relationship between me and my great-grandfather’s chair has been discussed previously, but when Julie found out it was actually part of a “his and hers” set, she leapt at the opportunity to claim it without considering how we’d get it back from Tennessee, but fortunately my mom was willing to drag it to Texas for us (thanks, Mom!).  Julie even bought the fabric about six months before we even saw the chair.

Anyway, I’m not sure it was in our house for a full 24 hours before we had our upholsterer pick it up (who, by the way, also wondered we we have so many chairs). When we got it back and placed it next to the other one… oh, no… it was a totally different shade. We initially assumed that the first chair had been faded in the summer by our skylight, but we later realized it was just two different color batches, so we put a table between them and, well, whatever.

In addition to Julie’s chair obsession, she’s also obsessed with putting stuff on the chairs. This time, she decided she wanted pillows with price tags even the Pentagon would question. When she showed them to me, it was pretty obvious that there was really nothing special about them except the outrageous price, and my inner DIYer was convinced I could make something just as good myself. I may have been slightly mistaken.

I had previously borrowed my parents’ sewing machine for something I can’t remember, but I had never really tried it out. I had never set up a sewing machine before, and admittedly had no clue what I was doing. I looked at the instruction manual, which turned out to be the biggest waste of paper since the Carter Administration. I consider myself much more technically-inclined than most people, and I also feel that I have the ability to make sense of even the worst explanations, but these instructions were completely beyond me. What’s even worse is that this same machine is probably a breeze for every little-old-lady that’s ever tried to use one. Great.

As luck would have it, though, my parents came up for a visit only a few weeks later. I enlisted my dad’s help and showed him the pile of broken thread and bent needles, and he just popped open the machine, told me I had something set up wrong (duh), called me an amateur, rewired it or something, and within minutes had it whirring away making pillows. Thanks, Dad!

I really like both these chairs, even though no one really sits in them (I won’t mention the cat’s frequent use of them because unlike Julie, I’m not obsessed with that animal’s every move). If nothing else, they at least give some definition to this huge, awkwardly-spaced living room.

Now, see our results.


C’mon… how cute is she?  How could you not be obsessed with her?


Filed under Before & After, Living Room