Thursday, July 31, 2014

Old Nightstand Rehab

Remember this nightstand from the flea market in May? I picked it up for $18, and it had seen better days.

While I have some large objections (which is a whole other blog post that I've avoided writing because, well, I'd probably offend some people) to the recent trend in painting old furniture, I was looking in the direction of doing that just that, because of the top:

My mother, however, who is a bit of a magician with the furniture refinishing, took a look at it, ran her hand over it a few times, and said "let me take that home with me for awhile." 

It came back looking like this: 

And the top of it looked so much better:

The Art Deco lines are even more beautiful now that it's seen a little love. I'm grateful to my mom that she was able to rescue this for me. (Note: I also know that I've photographed this in front of a vintage buffet that is, indeed, painted. I'm conflicted on the painting furniture issue. Can you tell?)

I am looking for two nightstands that are small in scale. When my bed moves to the alcove in my bedroom, I'll need smaller scale furniture, and this one will do the trick. I'm still on the search for the second one. I'm not married to the idea of matchy-matchy for nightstands, so anything could happen, just like with this flea market find.

We've got a bunch of little projects going all over the place right now. It's pretty much what August looks like every year, I've noticed. More soon!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lots of Bubbly Vintage Tile Love

These are so awesome it's hard not squee when I look at them. They are aggressively colorful with red, yellow, green, blue, and purple glass, white-glazed dimensional "bubbles," and a background that is gray with an overspray of gold crackle glaze.

Shut the front door, they've got everything.

The other thing they've got is my heart strings, because they came from my aunt's house. My aunt married in 1960, and she and my uncle built a little brick ranch home on a farm in Missouri. I've always called it "pink and pepper," though I don't really know the real name for the brick style.

This is the only photo I could find of the place as I remember it as a child; but perhaps it's just as well, because the foreground explains everything about the heartstrings part. I spent a great deal of my childhood running around that farm, barefoot, sweaty, dirty, picking green beans and cherries and sweet corn, and generally getting into trouble with pack of equally grubby cousins. I think the photo above is from 1976 or 1977, and shows (from left) my sister Dyan, my cousins Thea and Leah, me (with my glasses slipping down my nose, as always) and my cousin Anya, playing with (and hopefully not torturing too badly) a toad.

What I don't have is a picture of the bathroom in that house in all its former glory. Salmon pink field tile, blonde wood cabinetry, and these accent tiles. It was marvelous. One of my earliest memories as a child is sitting in the bathtub at my aunt's house, running my fingers over the smooth glass bubbles, enchanted by the color and the glamor. My own bathroom at home was very plain, and these were just too much for my child-like desires to bear. I was going to have something just as fabulous when I grew up.

While my aunt and uncle still live in the same house, about 10 years ago the bathroom got remodeled. Mid-century enthusiasts can be dismayed if they want, but the lady of the house had grown tired of salmon pink and 40 years of wear on a bathroom is more than enough. I was sorry to see the tiles go, but I understood.

A few weeks ago, my mom was helping my aunt clean her basement, and found these, eight of them, in a storage box. They'd been salvaged. They both remembered how much I loved them as a little girl, and my aunt gave them to me.

I have to admit, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. My long range plans for the downstairs bathroom has always been an aqua and black tile bath. I know I am not interested in a salmon pink tile bath, but I do like the way these tiles look with a dove gray:

That's a paint chip of Woodsmoke by Eddie Bauer Home. And again, there are only eight of them. My wheels are turning. Perhaps a framed wall hanging instead? I do not know for sure, only that I'm deeply happy to have something from my childhood back in my life like this. It's the best kind of serendipity.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Blog Post in Which We Talk About (and actually) Paint

Last weekend, as I approached Sunday mid-afternoon, I had paint cans out, sticky brushes, wet surfaces, ladders in multiple places, piles of tools, piles of dirt, and piles of mulch. Inside, I had a fairly revolting bathroom, a disaster of a kitchen, and no clean laundry for work the next day.

It was pretty glorious. It was the first time in months and months that I'd been able to actually get some paint on this house. And while I am really surprised I ended up at work on Monday wearing a bra and shoes (and all the other appropriate items) and with no caulk still stuck to my legs, it was worth working up to the last minute.

When last we left the exterior projects, we were here:

I'd decided that even though it didn't show progress from the street side, where everyone drives by, it was worth having the patio area painted, where we spend all our time. The window facing the camera is my oldest son's bedroom window, which faces west. The window on the far right is the kitchen eat-in window, which faces north.

I like how the green color makes the brick foundation a feature instead of a detraction. I've still got a ways to go to fill this space, but the right things will come in the right time.

A "from the very beginning" before of the area:

To a wider angle shot, showing the screen porch on the west/back of the house, still with the mauve/beige paint. There are some problems with the exterior siding of the porch, and we're trying to decide what to do before we jump in to the next painting project. 

While I was waiting for caulk to dry, I also did a quick spray paint job on a large rusty metal enamel tray I found in my garage. I wanted something to protect my new patio table from flower pots, and I did not want to buy something.

With leftover spray paint (in orange, and spatters from an almost empty bronze can) it went from rusty and knock-your-eye out yellow to:

It is a good foundation for my island of misfit flower pots. Even though it's already past midsummer I'll probably find something to put in them.

I also got started scraping some windows (far less glamorous, but necessary nonetheless). And I mentioned dirt and mulch piles too. We had a little bit of a landscape project going on as well. I'll get to that in a separate post.....

Right after I get my laundry done, and my bathroom clean.

How's your summer project list? Making progress?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fast Vintage Kitchen Cart Rehab

We've been up to two things, mainly, around here in the last two weeks.

1. Rain. No additional explanation necessary.

2. Rock. This kind:

My second oldest, Noah, is involved in a summer School of Rock program every year, and it's been a blast. He's the one in the center of the above photo.

So, while waiting for it to stop raining (again) and between rehearsals and practice, I tackled a small project, this kitchen cart, which was lurking around the basement storage room when we moved in:

It was rust on the tops of the shelves, and spider egg cases under the shelves. Ick.

I was really more in the mood initially for a vintage bar cart for the screen porch, but they are another item that have gotten trendy, and therefore expensive. Also, for a screen porch I wanted something a little more sturdy and little less precious. It needed to take the extremes of temperature and a little abuse. Enter the rusty kitchen cart.

In fifteen minute intervals here and there over the last couple of weeks, I dismantled, cleaned, and sanded the cart:

I had a can of spray paint that looked like the old matte gold color of many mid-century metal decor items, but ran out before I got it all done, only to find that they had discontinued that color. You know, AFTER I'd started the project. Forehead slap.

The closest color I found was more dark bronze, which wasn't what I was going for, exactly, but it was close enough, and I was not wanting this to be a production of hunting down the precise color. I wanted it to be done, not another project waiting indefinitely. And, as my brother-in-law likes to say, "It ain't goin' to the fair."

But as I was putting on a second coat, I realized that spraying the darker color around the edges of the shelves and letting the overspray shade into the center, I had a more realistically vintage looking effect than just one solid color would have been anyway:

Happy accidents. Let's hear it for those!

I put it in the corner near the door of the screen porch, which had looked like this before:

And here's the after:

To protect the top I added a vintage tray:

The tiki fork and spoon are in rough shape. They were $1 items from a box of estate auction junk at a flea market. I cleaned them and sanded them a little, but they need restaining and a little additional work. However, I just decided to hang them to get them up off the floor and out of the way, and I have a feeling they'll probably hang there awhile before I get back to them. So for now, we're just going to say they have "patina." Alright? okay. 

While exterior painting remains the goal (c'mon Mother Nature!), this project is getting me a little closer to making the screen porch a place I actually want to spend time in. 

That's a good thing, even if it isn't on the official schedule.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Big List Review

I made the big list of everything that I needed to do to the house ages ago, back in 2012, and have barely referred to it since. Because it makes me hyperventilate. And then drink. It isn't good for my health.

But lately, while I'm hanging out waiting for the work week to become the weekend, waiting for the free time to get going on more progress, I was wondering how things have gone since I introduced it.

I'm not going to go in the original order, and I'm not going to comment on the whole thing, but I thought I'd hit some highlights.

Some things have hardly any progress at all, but that's because they're mostly done, like my oldest son's bedroom:

You can read the original posts for this room here and here. But there are still items on the list. They just aren't super-big priorities.

Second Bedroom, first floor 

Hang blinds
Hang curtains
Paint trim
Hang art, decorative items
Organize first closet
Organize second closet
Repair and update electrical

Other rooms got just one big thing, like my 14-year-old's music studio closet:

You can read about that adventure here. Again, there are still items on the list, especially painting trim, to do in this room. But again, not pressing when there are so many things with bigger impact needing attention elsewhere.

First Bedroom, first floor 

Hang curtains
Hang blinds
Paint trim
Organize music studio in first closet
Organize storage in second closet
Update/repair electrical outlets
Hang art, decorative items

The biggest number of indoor changes happened, oddly enough, in my living room, a room I've been nearly completely ignoring since we moved in, but only because I knocked off a bunch of smaller tasks, like removing carpet staples and finding a decorative item for over the fireplace:

Living Room 

Remove old carpet and pad 
Remove carpet staples
Paint ceiling and walls
Paint trim
Install and paint new quarter-round molding
Update electrical outlets with GFCI
Move wicker chair to screen porch/find replacement
Find rug
Finish lampshade on small lamp
Finish (or remove?) small alcoves on fireplace wall
Make/hang curtains
Find/edit/hang artowork for walls
Mirror Sconces for above fireplace  Clock instead

But the place where the progress was most satisfying happened in my bedroom, where I'm still working on having a grown-up lady space. 

You can read about the last round of work here. And I've begun some other items, like installing baseboard molding and trim, but can't cross it off the list yet.

First Bedroom, second floor (master)

Remove carpet/pad
Remove vinyl paneling
Remove drywall on South wall
Sand floor
Sheath drywall in entire room
Replace drywall on South wall
Update/repair electrical
Plaster/sand in alcove
Paint ceiling/walls in alcove
Paint floor in alcove
Stencil floor in alcove 
Install baseboard molding/trim in alcove
Plaster/sand in room
Paint ceiling/walls in room
Paint floor in room
Stencil floor in room
Install baseboard molding/trim in room
Paint trim
Select/hang art
Make/hang curtains
Organize/paint closet
Replace ceiling light

The place where I've made far and away the most improvements has been outdoor property improvements. I guess it figures, since I'd rather garden than anything else:

Outdoor property

Remove unwanted plants and shrubs
Rebuild/replace driveway retaining wall
Edge front perennial bed with permanent stone edging
Landscape front perennial bed
Edge front foundation bed with permanent stone edging
Landscape front foundation with shrubs, tree, and perennials
Remove front yard tree
Develop replacement landscape bed for tree
Develop landscape plan for back yard
Trim cedar tree in back yard
Decorate/furnish patio
    refurbish donated table purchased new one
    find patio dining chairs
    plant containers
    Paint outdoor rug
    other decorative elements
Build fence on back property line
Plan/build vegetable garden
Plan/build perennial beds along garage foundation, back property line

Short term: 
Replace deck railing with something better
stain deck

Long term: 
Demolish deck
Install brick patio/stoop with wrought iron railing

In total, I've crossed 31 items off my Big List since August 2012. Not bad. It's been slower than I thought, but better than I remember. The rest of the list follows after this parting photo, of the lilies from about a week ago, though the air was so humid the image isn't sharp. They weren't here three years ago either, which is a good reminder that wonderful things take time. Onward!


Tile floor
Paint trim
Paint interior front door
Find area rug
Hang art
Organize coat closet

Dining Room

Remove carpet
Remove carpet staples
Remove vinyl wallpaper
Paint built-ins and trim
Find additional dining chairs
Sell hutch/find more period appropriate one
Find/hang suitable blinds
Make/hang curtains
Rearrange dishes/art in built-ins
Find/edit/hang artwork on walls
Find/repair/doorbell operations


Replace appliances except dishwasher
Refinish cabinets
Replace countertops
Clean cabinet hardware
Replace flooring with new
Make/hang curtains
Replace ceiling fan with period lighting
Replace doorwall
Replace window in eat-in
Replace dishwasher
Find/arrange/hang art and items
Reorganize pantry

First Floor Bathroom 

Short Term: 
Remove carpet
Install temporary vinyl tile
Install new molding
Replace light fixture over vanity
Replace wall mirror
Replace toilet dispenser
Replace countertop
Replace sink/faucet
Replace shower curtain bar
Make/hang curtain
Replace cabinet hardware
Find/hang/arrange art

Long term: 
Reglaze porcelain on tub
Tile shower and floor area
Install shower door
Install tile floor

Front Room 

Remove carpet and pad
Revive/wax VCT flooring
Make/hang curtains
Repair/replace TV nook wall
Repair/revive wood paneling
Replace light fixture with vintage
Select/hang art work
Find bench/coat-hook arrangmenet
Find vintage file cabinet credenza for printer

First Floor Hallway 

Remove carpet/pad
Paint floor/replace floor/tile floor?
Paint trim
Carpet runner
Organize hall closet
Organize hall linen closet

Second bedroom, second floor 

Remove carpet/pad
Remove plywood paneling
Remove built-in bed/drawers
Repair plaster
Prime/paint ceiling and walls
Hang curtains
Find nightstands
Find lamps for nightstands
Paint trim

Upstairs bathroom

Short term: 
Switch out cracked and leaky toilet
Switch out vanity fixtures
Remove carpet
Prime/paint old floor
Prime/paint old vanity
Find open shelf system for toiletries
Find vintage laundry hamper
Repair/sand/prime walls
Towel bars
Arrange/hang decorative items
Replace old medicine cabinet

Long term: 
Replace vanity with pedestal sink
Install mosaic tile flooring

Basement lounge/study 

Demolish old wood paneling
Demolish old ceiling tiles
Asbestos testing
Revive old VCT flooring
Update/repair electrical
Make curtains
Find credenza for TV console
Find/arrange/hang decorative items
End tables
Coffe table
Find computer table

Basement laundry room 

New energy efficient washer/dryer
Countertop over new w/d for folding
repair missing vinyl floor tiles
Clean and paint cupboards

Basement Darkroom

Short term: 
Clean out junk
Bleach walls
Moisture barrier paint

Long term: 
Full shower bath?

Craft/work room 

Clean out junk
Bleach walls
Moisture barrier paint
Paint floor
Organize tools and craft area
Make/hang curtains
Task lighting
Hang storage shelves
Repair/update electrical/lighting


Paint exterior
Inspect fireplace and chimney
Replace attic fan
New roofing/insulation/attic ventilations
New basement casement windows
New storm windows, whole house
Selected windows, replacement
Replace hot water heater


Clean garage attic
Paint garage
Roof garage/properly ventilate
Plan/organize/ potting shed
Organize garage storage.
Replace side entry door and lock

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Blog Post in Which We Talk About (but don't actually) Paint

Where do you keep your paint brushes when they're not in action? Mine are usually here, on the window ledge above the kitchen sink. Because that's where I clean them. With a house that's constantly got something going on, it's handy, if not really pretty. I can grab them the second I've got a few minutes to party with paint.

But the weather here in the Midwest has been so hellishly rainy that there's been no breaks long enough to get dry enough for the scraping and caulking, let alone the painting.

I posted recently about using a rainy day to paint the screen porch instead of the exterior siding.

That three hours hugely improved a space that majorly frustrated me. So I can't say it was wasted time, even though it felt like it while the raindrops fell.

A little later I managed to start the protected area on the northwest corner of the house, surrounding the patio:

But the weather soon put a stop to that as well. 

It was at about that time my Dad showed up. Regular readers will remember he was the hero of my last summer, and you can read about it here

Two weekends ago he came to my house to once again put on his work gloves, pick up a wire brush, and get busy with siding. I have to give him credit for still being willing after last summer, which was brutally hot. That's great dad material, right there. 

The weather, however, had other ideas. Or perhaps I should say it had the same old idea: rain. RAIN. Rain. 

We didn't get a single linear inch of siding scraped. Or a single drop of paint on anything. 

Fortunately (or not so fortunately) there are about 11 billion things on my to-do list here, so we took care of some of those. 

The large spruce tree that is shown in this "before I owned it" photo of the house was having problems when I moved in, and by the time it got through our incredibly harsh winter of 2014, most branches on the bottom half of the tree had no needles except for the very tips, and the situation was getting worse with every passing week. 

Dad helped me get it down in just a few minutes with a chainsaw, and about the only hour of rain-free skies we had that weekend: 

This is the post-clean-up shot, but before I'd had a chance to remove the weeds that had gotten out of control under the tree. Now I need a fully finished and beautiful front foundation landscape bed!

Dad also limbed up the cedar by the patio, fixed my power mower (my new reel mower is doing just fine, but I wanted to have the option of the power mower instead of a piece of non-functional equipment taking up space in my garage.), and removed old aluminum storm windows from the front of my house.

It was a huge help getting other things crossed off my list. I made him a pie. We drank a lot of coffee. We talked for hours. Those things all helped too, just for different, and more important reasons than a big fat to-do list.

I'm going to get back to the painting the first dry spell we have here. I've got the northwest corner waiting for me, as well as where I left off in November:

In the meantime, the windowsill can hold the brushes. That way I know exactly where they are.