Gettin’ Moody in the Family Room

I really don’t know what the end product of our family room will be when I’m finished remodeling, but below is a mood board that I put together with items that I love now.

I want the room to be in calm neutral colors with furniture that’s not too “fussy”  so that when we’re in there watching TV or just hanging out, we can just chill and not worry about messing up the family room.  With three kids and two dogs, I have to keep this in mind!  I added pieces that were on the inexpensive side (the couch) to balance out the ones that are more expensive (the green chair that I want to get 2 of).  The desk I am going to make per the instructions on Shanty 2 Chic.

Of course I want to get all the items NOW, but one step at a time right?  I still need to paint the walls first then on to the fun stuff!

Perfectly Painless Way to Pick Paint (say that 10 times!)

We are painting our living room and are in the middle of deciding what paint color to paint the walls and the brick fireplace.  Currently, the walls are a mustard color and the brick fireplace is, well, brick colored.

I want to paint the walls a smokey blue gray color and the fireplace either white or charcoal gray and after getting samples from Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, and Benjamin Moore, I think I’ve narrowed down my choices.  I’ve painted way too many rooms to count and have devised a pretty good method for picking paint that won’t drive a person crazy (well not too crazy anyway!).

The first thing I do before even going to the store to look at paint chips  is to get some inspiration from  It’s a blog where you can search for paint colors by color family (“blues” for example) and you can pull up real pictures posted of real rooms painted by real people, really.  If you are at a total loss on what color to choose, you can also pull up rooms by type (“living room” for example) to see what people are painting certain rooms.  The great thing about the site is that people are thoughtful enough to list the manufacturer and color so that you can test that color out in your room.  For example, this is my inspiration picture of the color I want that I found on the site:

Oyster Bay by Glidden

Oyster Bay by Glidden

Now, I know that colors look different in all kinds of lights and in different rooms, but the site gives a good jumping off point.  After looking at the suggestions, I always go with two colors to start out with- one in the lighter range of what I am looking for and another color in the darker range so that I can figure out the shade that I want to go with.  I paint BIG swatches of those two colors up on my wall both in a light area and in a dark area of my room.  I also try to put a little next to furniture and also next to my trim to see how the color combines with my furniture color and also how it looks against the trim.  It’s especially important to put the color next to your trim since the wall color and the trim have to look good together.  Also, if the trim is white, then the color against the white gives a good idea of the tones in the color.  You should be able to clearly see if the color is more green than blue or more yellow than brown when paired with white.

After narrowing down the shade, I then look at the two colors and decide if I need to adjust the tone.  For example, I may look at one color and immediately decide that it’s too blue so that color goes in the reject pile.  The remaining color may not be perfect, but it’s closer to what I want, so it stays and is the “winner” for that round.  I then evaluate that color and decide what needs to change to make it perfect (e.g. “it’s closer to what I want, but it’s still too green”) then I get another sample that has less green in it and I paint it next to the winner from the previous round.  I look at both, decide which one I like better then evaluate how THAT color could be better and the cycle continues until the color I’ve chosen is perfect.

I always have two colors to compare at the same time.  Any more than that, and it all starts to look like one big crayon box and it’s more difficult to compare the colors.  Also a note about the “reject” pile of paint samples:  I always keep the one(s) that I like but that don’t work in that particular room and stick them in my “maybe later” pile.  All the other “rejects,” I Freecycle so that someone else can have the benefit of my paint research and also so that paint samples don’t pile up in my garage.  If you don’t know what Freecycle is, go to to find out more.  But in a nutshell, it’s a site where you can post things that you want to get rid of for free and if someone wants it, they pick it up usually at your house.  It’s a great way to recycle the things that you don’t want that someone else may want/need.   You could also try the free section of Craigslist.

So, that is my fairly painless way to pick paint colors.  Although it’s worked for me over the years, I still always end up with a big reject pile…  But in the end, the color I paint is always the right color for the room.  When I find the perfect color for the living room, I’ll be sure to post it.

Laundry Room Shelf and Baskets

When moving into a house that needs a lot of work (like mine), I like to tackle the smallest room so that I get instant gratification.  That is why I made-over the laundry room first.  It is a teeny, tiny space.  I am lucky enough to have a laundry chute which makes it so easy for me to do laundry since the kids just chuck their clothes down the chute.  As a side note, it also makes a great intercom system since when the kids and I are on different floors, I just shout down (or up) the laundry chute when I need them to do something.  Who knew our house came with an intercom?  How fancy!  Anyway, the chute takes up a lot of room which makes our laundry room the tiniest one ever.

To make it feel bigger and more like a useable space, I added storage.  We used to only have one shelf, but that wasn’t holding enough of our junk household items, we I added another one above the old one.  The shelf was actually a pain in my rear to put up compared to how easy I though it was going to be, but aren’t most projects like that :).  That’s what makes them oh-s0-worthwhile in the end.

Okay, now for the how-to:  I measured the length of the wall and went to Home Depot to find a metal shelf that looked like the one we already had and that fit.  You can get metal shelves cut down to size at Home Depot but I was lucky enough to find one that fit out of the box.  To spare yourself another trip to Home Depot, get ALL the hardware at the same time.  That means get the brackets, which are in one package, and the fasteners, which are in another package.  Can you tell that I was mighty ticked when I got home and found that the brackets and fasteners were not in the same package!  So, get both packages and you won’t have to go back like I did.  You will also need a drill, a mallet or hammer, a level,  and a trusty side-kick.

First, decide where the shelf should go.  I wanted ours a few inches above our old one since we don’t have a lot of wall space to work with.  Then hold the shelf up to where you want it (this takes 2 people) and make sure it is level using… you guessed it, your level.  When you are satisfied that it’s level, mark where you will put your fasteners making sure to space them no more than 12″ apart.  Drill a hole at your marks and push/pound the fasteners with a hammer or mallet.  Nail in the nails gently that come with the fasteners.  Then gently push the back of the shelf into the clip part of the fastener.  Hold the fastener while you do this to give it more strength as you are pushing.  You may need to gently hammer the shelf into the clip just above where the clip and shelf meet.  Don’t pound or the fasteners will come out of the wall.  So now the fasteners are in.

After that, the brackets need to go up.  The brackets should go on the ends of the shelf a few inches from the wall.  Rest the top of the bracket into the shelf MAKING SURE THAT THE SHELF IS LEVEL FRONT TO BACK and mark where the end of the bracket falls on the wall.  Take off the bracket and drill a hole for that mark.  Push/hammer in the fastener and nail just like you did for the fasteners above.  The nail for the fastener moves so put the bracket in and push the nail into the fastener to secure the bracket.  Make sure that the shelf is resting on the top of the bracket.  The weight of the shelf will push the shelf to fit snugly into the bracket.  The more weight you put on the shelf (but don’t put too much or you’ll tear the shelf from the wall!) the more the shelf will push down on the bracket which is what you want.

After putting up the shelf, I now needed some storage baskets which I picked up at Target.  These baskets are the cloth kind that fold down into a square and are found in the storage section.  They actually go into cubbies that you can buy at Target but they work as free-standing baskets as well.  I then went to Staples to find these great stick-able labels made by Martha Stewart (or if not by her, at least by her empire of minions :)).  They are the kind that you can write on with chalk which makes them super useful for when I change my mind on what I want in my little basket.  So there you have it.  How to put up a metal shelf.

Here is the final product:

And another one:

Last one from the other side of the washer showing the little table I painted:

I still have a few more things that I’d like to do with the laundry room, but luckily more is crossed off my list then is left on it:

Paint the walls

Put up another shelf for more storage

Paint the little wood table

Put up some cute pics of the kids

Install a new light fixture

New flooring (that will be done when we replace the kitchen flooring)

A table top over the washer and dryer to protect the tops from scratching and to also give me a level place to fold laundry

For now, we are leaving the laundry room and moving on to the living room.  I’ve recently ordered some hardwood flooring to replace the carpet and need to paint the walls, paint the fireplace, paint the beams on the ceiling, buy new furniture, build a desk (from scratch!), etc… It’s going to be a big project!  More on that to come.

Happy Green Table

When we moved into our house, our postage stamp sized laundry room was painted a mustard color which made it feel even more cramped.  I hated doing laundry in there!  On a whim I decided to paint it.  When your laundry room is as small as mine, you can paint it on a whim!  I painted it a blue/green color and loved it!  It now feels beachy and almost like I want to do laundry (almost…).  I also installed a new light fixture to replace the “boob” light that was in there.  This one is glass and airy.  I had a wood table next to the washer that the kids drew on when they were younger that was an eyesore, so today I painted it a green color.

It took me all day to do it but it was such a nice day that I didn’t mind spending almost all day outside.  It’s pretty easy to paint furniture, especially small pieces like this one.  First I wiped the entire table down with a dry cloth then I sanded the top with 600 grit sandpaper.  I bought white spray-on primer by Valspar from Lowe’s and painted the entire table with it.  I had just enough with one can.

ImageAfter letting that dry for about an hour in the sun, I gave it a light sand with 600 grit sandpaper then painted the first coat of my colored paint.  I used an apple green color by Valspar.  I sprayed on two coats and sanded in between coats with 600 grit sandpaper.  After that dried, I sanded again then sprayed on a clear coat in satin sheen again by Valspar.  One final sanding after the clear coat dried for a couple hours and I was done!

One piece of advice though that didn’t hit me until I was almost done:  When spaying the paint, it’s best NOT to do it in the grass because it seems like every time I sprayed, bugs flew into the paint kamikaze style intent on plastering themselves permanently to my table.  If I could do it over, I would’ve moved the whole operation to the driveway.  Also, another note: Shake the spray paint first, spray a little into the air to get the globs of paint loose in the sprayer, then spray onto the furniture.

With all that, here’s the final product:

ImageAnother pic:


I was trying to tie in the green from the basket on the shelf and I think I actually did it!  I love the table even though my kids said that they preferred the writing on top because it reminds them of when they were little.  I say I have boxes full of drawings on paper and I didn’t need one on my laundry room table!  Next order of business for the laundry room is to paint my sock basket (on the table) white and to hang pictures of the kids when they were little with messy faces.  I’ll update when that’s done.

Banister (Part Duex)

I gathered a lot of old towels to cover the carpet on the steps and also used an old hand towel (perfect size) to apply the stain. I stained the banister in sections since you’re supposed to let the stain sit for just a few minutes before wiping it off again. After staining and letting the stain sit for about 15 minutes (being sure to stain the underside of the banister too), I then wiped the stain that did not absorb off the banister with a clean cloth. I let the stain sit overnight to fully dry even though the can said I could reapply in 4-6 hours. I wanted to make sure that the wood fully absorbed the stain.

The next day, I took a very fine grit piece of sandpaper (grit 600) and lightly sanded the entire banister to get rid of any imperfections. You have to be careful to have a light hand because you don’t want to sand off the stain. After the sanding, I wiped down the entire banister with a clean dry cloth. Then I repeated the same process for coat number one to include the fine sanding. The only thing I did differently though is that I let the stain sit for a little longer this time (more like for 20 minutes).

After letting the stain sit again overnight, I sanded with my 600 grit sandpaper, then applied a coat of semi-gloss poly (Minwax brand). I let that dry overnight then again, (that’s right!), I hit it with 600 grit sandpaper then applied my second coat of poly in the same way that I applied the first coat. The only difference is that I did not sand the second coat.

With the top of the balusters painted, it was time to paint the spindles. I chose Behr’s semi-gloss stock white paint. First I taped off the tops and bottoms of the spindles since I didn’t want white paint getting on my freshly stained banister. I gave each spindle a quick wipe down with mineral spirits then a dry cloth then painted the spindles with three coats of white paint, waiting in between coats for each coat to dry. There is really no trick to painting the spindles because if you’ve ever painted baseboards or trim you know it’s not hard! I was just careful to watch for drips. The best way to avoid drips is to paint thin coats which I did, so no drips for me.

After the spindles were painted, it was then time to sit back, admire the new banister, and be grateful that this project was checked off!



Last pic, promise:

This was definitely more of a project than I thought it would be but worth it in the end (even though my fingernails edges were brown for a week afterward!). Has anyone tackled a staining project like this? How did it turn out?

Finally! (and Banister Part I)

I wanted to start this blog when we first moved into our house over a year ago but settling into a new house + a new school + renovation projects galore with a blog to boot was too much!  So, here we are a year later and I’m finally on the ball.

Since moving in, we’ve done a lot but it never feels like enough since our house is a fixer-upper and there’s always a long list of projects to complete.  It’s funny how our house seemed a lot more “move in ready” when we bought it but after settling in and really looking around, I want to change almost everything!  On a budget though, you have to pick and choose what needs to go and what can wait.

One thing that definitely needed a quick update was the outdated banister in our foyer.  It screamed, “Put some M.C. Hammer pants on me and you’ve got a party!”  It was all 90s!  Image

Meet the offending banister 🙂

Because the bannister is one of the first things you see when you walk into our house, it needed an update.  So after doing a lot of researching, we decided to strip, stain, and poly the bannister.  First I gathered our materials:


And then I set out to work.  First the bannister needed to be stripped.  I chose an environmentally friendly stripper (that sounded weird :)) since I didn’t want a lot of nasty chemicals in the house and because it’s better for the environment.  I used Citristrip and it worked great.  The only problem that I had (and this was totally my boneheadedness) is that during the clean-up, I vacuumed some paint chips that still had stripper on them and the stripper melted the plastic in my vacuum hose such that the huge hole the stripper made is now covered with duct tape…  Won’t try vacuuming up stripper again!

Alright, so I taped everything off so that the stripper would not get on the carpet and I applied the stripper just as the bottle recommended.  One coat, let it sit, then wipe off.  I used a fairly hard bristled brush to work into the crevices of the balusters.  I then used another coat just to make sure all the shine was off the wood.  Image

If you leave any shine on the wood then the stain will not soak into the wood.  After I wiped down the banister a couple times with a little water then with mineral spirits, it was time for the stain.  I used Miniwax brand in “Ebony”.  It looked black on the sample, but when I applied it, it was a beautiful rich brown color.  Image