Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Bathroom Saga: Part 1


Chris and I love watching HGTV bathroom makeover shows for the sole reason of comparing our hideous master bath to the ones the shows always dub as the “worst bathroom they’ve ever seen.”  Sadly, ours usually wins.  Mostly because, the bathroom featured on the show is either ugly or it looks decent but nothing works.  Well, we managed to hit the jackpot with ours.  Not only is ours ugly enough to be a suitable throne for the ugliest dog of the year (like this champ from 2005… shudders)…

it also has it’s fair share of broken items… like the toilet.

And the shower.

And the tub.

Um, yeah, pretty much everything.  The toilet was cracked at the base, the tub first wouldn’t stop dripping and then when Chris fixed the leak (or thought he did), only cold water would come out (brr), and the shower turned into a smelly beast whenever the water was run for more than a minute… which prompted us to wonder if we needed a bathroom overhaul or a call into Ghostbusters to relinquish some poor, trapped, toxic creature.

Yes, even Jay Z would say our bathroom had 99 problems…

As if this wasn’t enough, it wasn’t too good looking on the eyes either.

Upon approaching the bathroom from our bedroom, it doesn’t look so bad.  Don’t be fooled.  Let’s keep going.

As much as I love feeling like a movie star when applying my make-up in the morning, the builder-grade brass Hollywood Lights weren’t exactly my thing.   Neither were the depressing dark blue walls (which is the same color our bedroom ceiling was when we moved in, more on that here) or the yellow/beige-ish shell sinks (some of you may recall what happened to our other shell sink, seen here).

Our bathroom was built in an L-shape so at the furthest sink from the bedroom door, you rounded a corner to access the smelly dungeon of doom shower and then the tub.

Sorry for the terrible pictures, these were taken pre-blog when I’d literally rather be anywhere else in the world than our bathroom so, needless to say, only quick snaps were taken.

I can’t even describe the feeling of claustrophobia you experienced in our shower.  There was an overhang above the shower door so you were fully encased.  No room for more than a spin, no storage, and you never quite felt clean afterwards.  Yuck.

And now for the tub which seemed like a spa retreat after viewing the shower’s condition.  Oh yeah, but it didn’t work… so we never actually tried it out.

A little yellow tile to coordinate with the yellow shell sink.  Yummy.

And now for the throne.

And we’ve turned around and are now fleeing exiting the bathroom.  On your left, just before the door, you’ll notice our closet.  It’s probably the only thing going for our bathroom… mostly because all my clothes actually fit and after living in a 600 square foot apartment, that was the best news in the world.

Confused yet?  It’s quite the maze of a room.  This layout should help put it in perspective.

Because of everything that didn’t work and how stressed this room made us, we refused to even use it, instead trekking all the way to the guest bathroom for daily showers.

We spent the first few months in the house being perplexed by how to fix it.  We knew we wanted to update everything but we needed to address the layout as well, which was quite the mess.  We wanted our bathroom to be more open and not feel so cramped at every turn.  We also had a very tight budget so knocking down walls and expanding weren’t really options on the table.

Something had to be done though.


I like puzzles. I like finding solutions to complex situations and constantly striving to come up with a better idea. Exercising my problem-solving abilities does for my brain what a good run does for my body, plus I usually get something accomplished in doing so. This bathroom, however, was not a puzzle I was interested in solving.

I also love the outdoors. Distance running, mountain biking, camping- you name it. When taking the “paths least traveled,” you’re likely to come across some really nasty bathrooms. I spent the night on a WWII aircraft carrier where the bathrooms were designed for high-seas and torpedo attacks. I once stayed in a village in the Dominican Republic where the toilet was a hole in the ground and the shower was a bucket of cold water. I even used the bathroom in my brother-in-law’s frat house where I didn’t wash my hands because I decided it would be worse to touch the sink. And all of these places were better than our master bathroom.

OK, so it wasn’t that bad- at the very least it was sanitary and the tap water wasn’t laced with dysentery- but it was the grossest bathroom I’d ever seen in a house that met modern American building standards. I made a list of things that needed to be fixed, assessed the repairs, and came to an unusual conclusion: a renovation would cost about the same as the repairs. Unfortunately, though, the type and extent of the repairs required something I loathe, something that brings shame to the generations of stubborn, penny-pinching men of my family: professionals.

“Just call someone” were fighting words in my parents’ house, so I definitely had some reservations. But, the shower smell was going to require jackhammering the foundation to repair bad pipe joints, and while I can’t picture someone using a jackhammer without thinking of Wile. E. Coyote and snickering, I decided that might be something to leave to the professionals. So I asked around and got some names.

The first guy we talked to seemed like he really knew his stuff, but he was definitely bent on upselling. His first idea was to basically rotate the layout 90* and reduce the size of the closet, which basically seemed like a great way to waste money, and also made steam come out of Julie’s ears (don’t touch her closet). His estimate was about three times what we were willing to spend and after convincing him that his 90* plan wasn’t worth the scrap paper he drew it on, we got the cost down to about twice what we were willing to spend. I also started mentioning that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do myself and I could almost hear him get annoyed with me, so he left and never called us back.

The second guy was actually recommended by our realtor and seemed much more accepting of the DIY/professional mix, but after coming over and taking some measurements, he apparently went on vacation and didn’t call us back with an estimate until the work had actually been started. Do contractors hate making money?

Anyway, third time’s a charm: we found a family friend of Julie’s that has a painting business, and he recommended some guys who were basically a loosely-associated group of skilled laborers rather than a contractor with sub-contractors, so they were very accepting of my DIY attitude (I gave them a list of what I wanted to do and they just estimated for the remaining work). They even let us buy our own materials.

Finally, I decide on a layout. We would tear down the shower and put the toilet where it was, and we’d eliminate the bathtub and instead build one large shower. We’d transform the linen closet into more of a large cabinet, and just get new counter tops and sinks. We wrote up a contract, bought a truckload of materials, and within a few days were were literally smashing that nasty bathroom to pieces.

To remind you, here’s the layout before:

And here’s our new proposed layout:

To be continued…



Filed under Bathroom, Renovation

Our Magic ($5) Lantern


I, along with probably every other female out there, am fascinated with lanterns.  Does it strike anyone else as funny that we’ve moved well beyond the time of needing lanterns for light and yet they’re popping up everywhere lately, but as decor instead of the means to see at night?

Sources (top left, clockwise): Z Gallerie, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn

As Chris will remind you (over and over and over….), I have no problem purchasing completely useless, non-purposeful, and non-functioning items for the mere reason that they look pretty.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

While I can usually get away with that, what I can’t get away from is spending a fortune on these “useless” items.  That said, the lanterns above range from $24-$41 for a small one to $99 to $119 for a large one.  Time to find an alternative.

On one of our many Habitat for Humanity ReStore trips, I found these guys (at $5 a pop) practically pleading me to take them home as my next project.


They were so dusty, I couldn’t even tell what color they were supposed to be until we got in the sun.  Turns out they were brass at one point and had rusted into the above state.  I originally planned to transform them and use one as a hanging pendant in our entry but it didn’t look quite right.  I took a second look and knew they’d be perfect to repurpose for the “lantern look.”

Chris worked some voodoo magic to disassemble the lanterns for spraying ease.  Then, they received a quick visit from my friend Mr. Oil Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint, found at any home improvement store. And, voilah, instantly transformed from gross, rusty light to chic lantern.


There are exactly three phrases in the English language that will literally paralyze me with fear: my dad asking if I did my Calculus homework, my mom yelling my first, middle, and last name, and Julie yelling “look what I found!” in a store. This fear manifested itself in the ReStore a few months ago when Julie rounded the corner with an armful of some of the most disgusting lanterns I’ve ever seen in my life. You couldn’t have paid me to take them home, but apparently Julie thought it should be the other way around. Great.

First of all, I should note that these weren’t actually “lanterns” in the classical sense, but rather cheap brass lighting fixtures found outside any 80s or 90s builder home. The term “dime-a-dozen” comes to mind, but Julie had already decided that these could somehow be magically transformed into something that looked like a real lantern. That store isn’t air-conditioned very well and I wanted to go home, so at the time $5 a piece seemed like a reasonable price to pay if it let me leave. I should have saved my $5.

After we get home, it was obvious they needed to be cleaned up. One thing I learned about most lights like this is that they’ve very easy to put together; more often than not, they’re basically held together by one long bolt that acts as a spindle, and everything else is pretty much pressed together. Anyway, I got everything pulled apart and cleaned all the glass panels fairly quickly:

Here’s what the larger lantern looks like completely disassembled:

Anyway, cleaning the metal was going to be a task all it’s own. The corrosion had built up and trapped so much dirt that it was like a cocoon of nastiness encasing the brass, so I filled a bucket with vinegar and let it soak overnight. The next day I had a surface that was at least clean enough to paint, so I hosed it off and partially reassembled it. Time to spray:

I left the old light bulb in there so paint wouldn’t get in the socket.

And reassembling everything (I only lost one bolt!):

Huzzah! New “lantern”. Note that the top is different: I originally put this one together with the intent that it would hang in our entryway, but Julie didn’t like it there so in the “after” pictures you can see the dome and hook I ultimately capped it off with.


As you can probably tell, the lanterns are playing musical chairs around the house until I find the perfect spot.


Filed under Easy DIY Projects

Buy This Not That: Rugs and Landscape Lights


I have a little massive obsession with geometric rugs right now.  My biggest problem is that I’ve now run out of rug-needing rooms so, for the moment, I’ll admire from afar.  And when Chris isn’t looking our attention turns to filling a room with a new rug, one of these beauties will be mine.

In the meantime, I thought I’d prove that a high-end looking rug didn’t need to break the bank.  Note: all rugs priced below are for the 8′ x 10′ version.


This one’s probably my favorite of the batch and while $599 isn’t a terrible price for an 8′ x 10′ rug, I found even better options.

Source: Shades of Light, $599

And here’s a very similar looking option at about $100 less but let’s not stop there!

Source: Rugs USA, $484.65


We have a winner!  A shocking $300 less than the high-end version, this next rug looks nearly identical!

Source: Overstock, $283.04


If blue’s not your thing and you want something more neutral, Shades of Light has a trellis-patterned rug for $629.

Source: Shades of Light, $629


If trellis and neutral are your thing but you’re having sticker shock at $629, I have a little secret to share.  Decor companies normally geared towards kids rooms (i.e. PB Teen and Land of Nod) usually offer some age-generic items, such as rugs.  The secret?  The prices are usually much lower for similar quality and style options.  Why, you may ask?  I don’t ask questions, I just accept this awesome fact.

This next option is pretty close to the above Shades of Light option for over $300 less.

Source: Land of Nod, $299


By now I’m sure you are well aware of my obsession with chevron designs.  From the curtains we made for our master bedroom (more on that here) to the chevron pillows I purchased from halfway across the world (more on that later!), I am a self-proclaimed addict.

Genevieve Gorder knows just how to feed this obsession with her line of rugs for Capel.  This next rug is magnificent and comes with an equally magnificent price tag of over a grand.

Source: Capel Rugs, $1,347.75

Anyone want to bet how quickly Chris would kick my butt out of the house if I came home with that one?  Hint: he probably wouldn’t even let me in the house.

This next option is much easier on the pocketbook, and I like the eclectic vibe of the uneven chevrons, but you know I can still beat it.

Source: Rugs USA, $509


You better sit down because you are about to be amazed by this next option.  Urban Outfitters is featuring a gorgeous gray chevron rug for less than $200.  Why oh why don’t I need a rug right now??

Source: Urban Outfitters, $199


Everyone needs a little bold stripe in their lives like this option from Ballard Designs but I know I can do better than $699.

Source: Ballard Designs, $699


This option from Shades of Light may not be the cheapest of the post, but it’s such a good looking rug that I’m willing to overlook that.

Source: Shades of Light, $378


And the rug of the hour, ladies and gents, is this graphic blue option from Antropologie, ringing in at $1198.  Yikes.

Source: Anthropologie, $1198 

Then there’s this option for just under a grand from Zinc Door.  Yes, yes, we’ll keep looking.

Source: Zinc Door, $926

How low can we go?  How about this one from Capel Rugs?  Nope, let’s keep going.

Source: Capel Rugs, $673

This one’s a little more on the neutral side but also on the less expensive side.  Now, humor me.  Let’s see if I can top this.

Source: West Elm, $499


Ding ding ding.  We have a winner, with a low of $231 and a very pretty blue, geometric pattern.

Source: Rugs USA, $231

Have you guys found any good deals on rugs lately?  Anything that makes you laugh at the high-end version and fist-pump over your victorious find?


As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m pretty cheap. In fact, the whole reason behind our DIY adventures is that I hate spending money and would rather do things myself for a fraction of the price I’d pay someone else. It doesn’t stop there, though; even within my money-saving DIY projects, I’m constantly looking for ways to save even more money, even if it’s just a few pennies. One of the best ways to cut costs is by purchasing a cheaper version of a particular product. Even better is when it’s a product that no one ever pays attention to and will therefore never notice the difference.

Enter my landscape lights: I like the tranquil look provided by landscape lighting that is often seen in high-end neighborhoods, and I really like a dimly-lit backyard… but let’s be honest, only people with butlers can afford to light the back yard, right? Well, I’m inclined to believe there’s some truth to that, but after a trip to one of our favorite bargain stores and about an hour’s worth of work I had the kind of backyard that reminds me of the gardens in a high-end Caribbean resort. Well, at night, anyway.

Before I unveil my findings, here’s what people who own more than one house would buy:

It’s called an “Ellipse Verde Low Voltage Path Light” made by a company called Hinkley and is available at Lamps Plus for $80 each. I installed nine lights, so I would have been looking at almost $800 after tax, and that doesn’t include the necessary wiring and control box.

Our low-end equivalent is this:

Low Voltage Verde Pro Walk Light” by Malibu, available at Home Depot.

At $22 each, I was now looking at about $215 after tax- again, not including the other items I’d need. This was a little easier to swallow, but I wasn’t ready to stop there. No, I was determined to do this for even cheaper. There was only one more option: the Re-store.

The local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store is one of our favorite places for home renovations for a variety of reason. For starters, everything is cheap, and not all of it is used. Professional renovators often donate items they remove but are still good, and often times a contractor will over-bid a job and donate the leftovers- everything from paint, tile, tools, faucets, and of course, landscape lighting. Everything is donated and it’s run entirely by volunteers, so 100% of the money we spend there goes directly to Habitat for Humanity. It’s win-win, right?

Anyway, this is where I stumbled upon our lights. As we were purchasing… I don’t know, something I can’t remember… we noticed that the front register was bordered by huge stacks of landscape lights, which was something that we had previously assumed we couldn’t afford. The best part? They were half of what Home Depot wanted for, literally, the exact same light. But wait, there’s more! We caught them during a “lighting sale”, where all lighting was 40% off. Oh, but our luck wasn’t up yet! We were also there on a day where everything was 20% off… so we ended up paying about $6 each. That’s less than $60 out-the-door!

So, we paid less than 10% of the high-end equivalent and got lights of the same height, shape, finish, wattage, and voltage, and honestly I like the simpler design a little better than the Lamps Plus option. After picking up a control box and some wiring, I was in it for less than $100.

Technically, these are path lights, but I like how they look in the flower beds- they have a unique finish that looks good on it’s own, but also blends in with larger plants:

I also like the low wattage (11w) which gives the opposite of a dimming effect.

Finally, they produce just the right amount of light to accent the plants and flowers, but are never glaring or overpowering. In fact, there’s no ambient lighting from them inside the house.

I think I may have found “the ultimate deal”: I bought a product I liked more than the high-end option and not only did I pay less than retail, I effectively traded a donation for a set of landscape lights. I added a high-end, relaxing look to my yard while supporting a great cause at a local level.

Let’s see you match that with a rug.


Filed under Backyard, Buy This Not That

CraigsList Crashes: Volume 2


It’s that time again!  Time to review all the weird stuff we stumble across on our never-ending CraigsList quest for hidden treasures!

I love the recent trend on CraigsList where people try to be sly about asking for free manual labor.

Example One.  Take this guy for example.  S/he obviously doesn’t want to mess with this GIANT cactus in his yard but instead of digging it out himself or hiring a yard crew to take care of it, he posts it on CraigsList as if a free cactus will win him the humanitarian of the year award.

Example Two. The owner who desperately needs to work on his/her descriptions.  “Fairly large” and “in good condition” aren’t exactly the words that come to mind when I take a look at the photos.  More like, “massive,” “leaning,” and “half dead.”

Example Three.  Free rocks!  Which sadly is exactly the thing I was searching for at the time… in our quest to build the best waterfall/fountain ever (we’re a long way off by the way).  Anyway, as desperate as this guy sounds, all I want to do is shoot him a note that says, “you know these are mostly pebbles, right?”  I may also add something along the lines of “P.S. invest in a ‘Grammar and Spelling for Dummies’ book.”

Example Four.  The beehive.  I’m pretty sure this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.  Here’s how I see this going down: a honey-crazed person comes to your house, chops down the beehive, gets stung a couple hundred times, sues for negligence, and boom… you’re suddenly wishing you had just chopped that thing down yourself… or just left it.  This guy’s too cheap for his own good.


I love perusing the “free” section of Craigslist because ever since eBay and “repurposing” became popular, something has to be exceptionally worthless to not have a buyer lurking out there somewhere. I mean, we even sold that nasty old faucet from our guest bathroom (more on that here). Below are some of my latest finds:

Sometimes I watch shows about hoarders and wonder where they even find all that junk. And then I read ads like this:

This guy is clearly in denial that his old TV needs to be put out of his misery. Look man, sometimes a piece of trash is just a piece of trash. Even if it looks like a TV. Besides, this is Texas- shouldn’t it read, “free target”?

A 50lb feed bag? Better save your $10… because you need therapy.

This one is the worst marketing ever. Free house? Please. You’ve got to make it exciting, or people won’t want it: “Free movie set! Film your action scene by driving a car through this house! Filming a horror movie? No problem! It’s already filled with gruesome murder weapons!”

Want more crazy?  Check out our CraigsList Crashes Volume 1 here.


Filed under CraigsList Crashes

Earning Our Stripes


Dear home decor companies,

Why oh why are your store shelves void of striped curtains?  Don’t you know your shoppers are pleading for you to add such items to your inventory?  There are thousands of households out there in desperate need of glamorously striped window decoration and you are letting them down.  Please address this issue.  Immediately.


Seriously though, I’m seeing striped curtains everywhere now but apparently the only way to add a little stripe to your drape is by either painting or sewing it on yourself.

So while the shopper in me was frustrated as can be, the DIYer in me was itching at the chance to make my own striped curtains.

I mean, look at these beautiful things!


Sources (left to right): Amanda Carol at Home, Bag Fashionista


Sources (left to right): Dear Lillie, Reckless Glamour

I found the perfect curtain candidate.  I had installed a set of white grommeted (extra long!) curtains in our ex-hoarders room (more on that later).  They needed an extra umph and that umph would be stripes!

I’m still amazed to see floor space in our ex-hoarders room.  These pictures were before we really jazzed up the room (more pictures of the full room to come later).

Now the question was what color.  I like the look of gray or salmon colored curtains so I tested a few samples on an old T-shirt to see how they looked.

For the salmon color, I can’t remember the name and it wasn’t printed on the label but the formula is FL 6, RL 115, TL 71 with a base of UL204.

Chris picked his usual choice, the darkest option (Cement Gray), so naturally my feminine instinct chose the exact opposite option, the lightest (Natural Gray).  The other two grays looked almost black when held up to the sunlight and the salmon was beginning to look a little pink.  That left our winner, Natural Gray.

I read on another blog that this process took them about 4 hours to complete so it took me awhile to finally suck it up and take on this project.  The competitor in me was convinced I could get it done faster though.  I was also convinced that I had to keep the “4 hour precedent” a secret from Chris or this project would never see the light of day.

Fortunately, Chris didn’t figure out the time commitment on this project until we were too far in.  Unfortunately, the blog was right.  It ended up taking about 4 hours.  Oh well, it looks great and, thus, was well worth it.


Julie and I occasionally (read: usually) fight over home decor. I rarely care about colors, patterns, etc., but Julie always wants my opinion, whether it exists or not.

One thing I really don’t care about is curtains. Julie spent my ability to pretend to care when we picked out curtains for our master bedroom, and I was able to “fake the funk” for the living room. So, by the time it came to picking out the sixth set of curtains for the house, I really, really, really didn’t care, and was not able to feign behavior to indicate otherwise. Naturally, this became a point of contention.

Now, it’s important to note that I actually did care about one thing: price. After spending what seemed like years in the curtain aisle at Target, I somehow convinced Julie that the cheapest set in her “maybe pile” would look best. Little did I know that she was merely setting me up for a new project.

So here’s what I thought was a victory: plain, simple curtains.

These were apparently too “blah” for the room, and we were now planning on  painting them. Like, with wall paint.

Step 1 was to iron them. Julie is terrible at ironing, but my mom had made my sister and I iron our clothes every day since we were six. So I do all the ironing in our house:

Next, we had to measure where our tape would go. We went with thick stripes spaced 10″ apart:

Once we had our lines measured out, we (carefully) laid painter’s tape. Keep in mind that every other stripe is unpainted, so your outer tape lines are what need to be 10″ apart. Also, we used the green tape, as it is quite a bit stickier than the blue or white varieties.

Next, we laid the curtains out on the tile floor.

Step 5: remove dirt, dust, and pests.

At this point, I decided it was time to change the spark plugs in my car, so Julie actually did some work this time, painting until she ran out and we had to make a Home Depot run (FYI: we used 3 cans of sample paint for this project but really could’ve used a fourth… so if you take this project on, do yourself a favor and just buy 4 sample sizes at the start).

<Insert Home Depot run for more paint.>

We ended up doing 2 full coats because it’s really difficult to get the paint even. Also, the grout lines of the tile showed up as thin spots and were a huge pain to paint over.

After letting everything dry, we pulled up the tape, fully expecting uneven stripes, bleeding lines, and thin spots, but we were pleasantly surprised.

We put the curtains back up only to realize that sunlight really highlights the thin spots, so we just pulled them straight in front of the window, turned off the lights, and touched up anywhere we saw sunlight coming through.

I’d say this project was a success because we saved tons of money, but until someone invents an affordable time machine I will never get those hours of curtain shopping back.


Voilah!  Striped curtains.  Take that manufactured curtains!


Filed under Bedroom, Easy DIY Projects

Kicked in the Brass


If you would’ve told me a year ago, even a week ago, that I would be refinishing brass instead of antiquing it or painting it oil rubbed bronze, I would’ve called you crazy.  I’m a child of the 80s and have thus seen way too much brass in my day so I never thought I’d be embracing it so soon.

Until I acquired this desk.

And painted it blue (more on that here).

Once it was painted, the hardware looked really out of place.  The modern look of the blue was screaming for some shiny hardware.  And who was I to tell it no?

So, I set off on a mission to turn the naturally-antiqued brass hardware into their former gleaming selves.

Attempt 1

I researched a few proven brass cleaning methods using everyday household items to save a trip to the store.

I found a method that only required a mix of salt and lemon juice.

Materials Needed:

1/4 cup salt

1/2 lemon


Toothbrush or old rag.  I used these set of Oxo cleaning brushes I had on-hand.

After measuring out the ingredients, the paste looked like this:

I dipped each of the handles in the paste, covered them, then scrubbed away.

Here’s how they turned out:

Yup.  It did nothing.  Onto the next option.

Attempt 2

I needed a stronger solution so I turned to an option that used vinegar.

Materials Needed:

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup vinegar (I used red wine vinegar because it’s what we had in the pantry, supposedly any type of vinegar would do)

1/4 cup flour


Toothbrush or old rag

Here’s how the paste turned out:

And it proceeded to stink up the whole house.  I’m still gagging from the memory of the aroma.  I got to work scrubbing again.

Aaand… here’s the after.  Some of the tarnish was coming off but it also seemed to be turning red in spots.  Hmm… not exactly the goal.

Chris was convinced that we just needed to let it sit in the vinegar longer, which brings me to our next try.

Attempt 3

Materials Needed:


2 ziploc bags

We poured in the remainder of the red wine vinegar.

Moved the hardware to a ziploc bag (double bagged).  And let the bag sit overnight.

The next day, we were greeted by hardware that had now turned a salmon color.  Oooh boy.

At this point, I was ready to give up and just spray paint them back to a shiny brass state.  Obviously, our attempts were only making it worse.  Before I gave up, I had one last card to play.

Attempt 4 (seriously)

I had heard Brasso worked pretty well.  Then again, I also read that the lemon juice/salt paste worked just as well so I didn’t have much hope in this alternative but what did I have to lose at this point?

I picked up a bottle of Brasso from Home Depot and set to work for a fourth time.

Unfortunately, my camera and I are feuding at the moment and it seems to have deleted all the pictures I took of the process.  It’s not too hard (and is also written on the back of the bottle).  Just squeeze some Brasso onto an old rag then wipe onto the brass object.  Give it a few good rubs then wipe clean with a clean, dry rag.  Be sure to wear gloves!  A step I completely overlooked… I can’t seem to find any serious damage on my hands but they definitely tingled afterwards.  Oops.

Presto.  It worked and quickly at that!  I was shocked.  Why oh why didn’t I try the Brasso first?  Live and learn I guess.

There were still a few stubborn salmon-colored spots so Chris took out his Dremel and polished it out.

Look at those things shine!

Remember, they looked like this just a few minutes prior (shudders):

They completed the look of the desk perfectly.  Third Fourth time’s the charm!

And it looks great on the desk!

To see our transformation of the desk, click here.

So, to recap the results:

Lemon/Salt Paste:

Vinegar/Salt/Flour Paste:

Vinegar Left Overnight:

Brasso and Dremmel Polishing:


I like to consider myself something of a metallurgy hobbyist- I’ve studied the properties of everything from your “everyday” metals such as steel and aluminum to the more exotic metals such as titanium. I can give materials-selection advice based on the requirements of strength properties, weight, and cost. I know all the best methods of adhesion (welding, brazing, soldering), corrosion protection, and care. The problem is that nobody uses brass anymore. At all. So no, I don’t know anything about brass.

When Julie came to me asking how to clean brass, I assumed I knew- vinegar is highly acidic and therefore an excellent cleaning solution. I don’t normally soak metals in anything, but the last time I soaked brass in vinegar, it came out with a really bright finish. What I failed to notice was the amount of tarnish on the brass- the first time, the brass was completely covered, and a good soak simply ate away at the buildup. This time, there was a limited amount of surface corrosion, and once the vinegar wore it away, it began eating into the metal itself. Oops.

Anyway, lesson learned- don’t waste your time with home remedies. I had to bust out my Dremel and polishing wheel to buff out a few pink spots, but ultimately we ended up with some nice, bright handles.

Also, I’m sticking to steel from now on.


Filed under Before & After, Easy DIY Projects, Office

Our Latest Campaign


While most Americans spent their Fourth of July swimming, grilling, watching fireworks, and relaxing, we took on our latest project.  We just wouldn’t feel like our normal, American selves otherwise!

Our office has been lacking storage for awhile.  I was a big fan of sawhorse tables a year ago and snatched one up on sale at IKEA.  I later realized it offered nothing in terms of storage and was not the best solution for housing our computer and its mess of cords.

Get ready to see the terrifying before shot of our office.  Ready?

What a mess.

Something had to be done and I knew it would all start with a new desk.

So, I’ve begun to feel a little political lately.  And, no, not because Washington’s gearing up for the next election, but because of my new furniture obsession: campaign desks.

There’s been a recent resurgence in these glories from the past.  I’ve seen a lot of these desks painted in bright colors, which is just the thing to juxtapose the shiny metal hardware, classic to this desk.

Sources from left to right: 1) Modernhaus, 2) Dayka Robinson Designs, 3) Centsational Girl

Yes, this would be the solution.  I descended upon CraigsList and soon found this beaut for $50.

I brought her home to Chris’ immediate disgust.  In his mind, I wasted $50 for someone else’s garbage.  He couldn’t see past the outdated wood, tarnished brass, and a bottom that wasn’t quite adhered all the way.

So, it wasn’t perfect but I knew it was just the diamond in the rough that our office needed.

Now the question was what color to paint it.  At first, I thought white.  Then black.  Then kelly green.

We ended up going with a gray-blue color, after Chris and I spent 30 minutes in the aisle of Home Depot debating green vs blue (he won that round).

We bought 2 cans of Rust-oleum’s Primer and 3 cans of Rust-oleum’s Satin Slate Blue spray paint and set to work.

We’ve walked through how to spray paint furniture before but thought we’d break it down into 8 easy steps for you all (note: steps 6-8 are simply to stress the necessity of several coats- we used three).

Materials Needed:

  • Sander
  • Sanding Block (to use in tight corners that the sander can’t reach)
  • Damp Rag
  • Vacuum or Shop Vac (optional but helpful to clean dust from tight spots after sanding)
  • Primer
  • Spray Paint
  • Mask (important to wear for spraying safety!)


Julie has come home with some pretty odd items in the past, but this was the first time she ever showed up with something that may have been better-off used as an anchor. After all, it weighed close to a full ton and had clearly already been submerged at least once. The worst part is that she was convinced $50 was a good deal, while I was convinced she had just wasted $50.

After arguing for awhile, I decided to just give up, which apparently included giving up my entire 4th of July, too. I was sentenced to a day of spray-painting, and I hate spray-painting.

The first order of business was to repair the wood. I very seriously think this desk may have been in a flood at some point, as the bottom trim has some pretty nasty water damage. The wood/particleboard was warped and half the trim was falling off, and it looked terrible.

First, I had to remove all the trim and sand/chisel the swollen wood off so that the trim could sit flush again.

Next, I had to reattach the trim. I used wood glue to ensure a nice, tight bond between the desk and the trim.

Finally, I drove a few finishing nails in and patched the holes.

After priming and painting one coat, I let the paint dry for a few hours. Before laying down another coat, I sanded out all the rough spots, drips, and bubbles:

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I eventually sprayed three coats, and now I can’t feel my right index finger. Since we don’t like to worry about furniture much, I brushed one coat of urethane on the top to waterproof it and to help keep wear and tear to a minimum.

This desk made me give up my day off, but it also allowed me to have a desk that I didn’t have to trip over to get to the patio. And Julie has another piece of furniture to put on Pinterest.

After (hers… if you couldn’t guess).

And every drawer deserves cute liner.  I’m not sure where all the awesome shelf paper has gone but there is definitely a slim market nowadays.  After being let down by Target and Container Store, I finally found the perfect option at Home Depot of all places.  It’s called Talisman Gray by Con-Tact Grip Prints.

I have to say, I’m pretty happy how the blue turned out, even though I was convinced I would only be happy with kelly green.  Just don’t tell Chris he was right.  I’ll never hear the end of it.

Stay tuned for our adventure into the world of polishing brass.  It was quite the disaster adventure.


Filed under Before & After, Office