Project Presentable (aka Get Your House Unfunkafied)!

Since moving into our house about two years ago, I tried to be organized about the home projects I tackled by taking it one room at a time.  But then I looked around and saw that, yeah, one room is exactly the way I wanted it but the rest of the house was either really outdated or in some instances kind of gross (we live in an old, well loved house where most of the rooms hadn’t been remodeled in 20+ years).


So, I’m trying something new and calling it “Project Presentable” (formerly known as “Project Unfunkafy!”).  It goes like this: If I were to invite someone over, would this room be presentable?  If the answer is “yes”, great, move on to the next room.  If the answer is “no” then make a list of the things that need to be done just to make it presentable and tackle only those projects and no more.  The rationale is that I want to use my time and budget to get my house looking decent first before I go nuts and make it perfect.


In my house, some of the rooms made the “presentable” cut, and some didn’t.  Here are some of the rooms I would cringe if someone walked into them in the state they’re in:



 This is the kids’ bathroom that also doubles as the guest bathroom and it’s dingy and dark and just plain nasty!  Everything is beige except for the grout which is a beautiful shade of “gross.”



This beautiful bathroom is our powder room.  It follows the same decor as the kids’ bathroom: beige and outdated.


 Our kitchen.  The cabinets are outdated and old and the floor is linoleum.  At least the countertops are granite (small miracles…).


So, after the walk-through, my husband and I decided to tackle the yucky parts in each room to at least get them up to snuff.  It would be nice to focus on one room and get it perfect (I’d love a brand new kitchen!), but then that leaves no time let alone money in the budget to handle even the little things that annoy me in the other parts of the house.   So house projects from now on will focus on inexpensive fixes to make the house look nice, but not perfect.


For example, I really want to tackle the kids’ bathroom because my sister is coming at the end of the month and this is the bathroom she’ll use and I want it to be presentable.  Normally I would go hog wild and rip out just about everything.  Here’s my old list:


Rip out the floors and install new ones

Demolish the outdated vanity and replace it with something with much more storage and much prettier

Replace all fixtures to include the faucet and shower head

Paint the walls and ceiling

Replace the toilet with something more water efficient and without a hairline crack at the bottom of the commode

Replace the light bar above the mirror

Re-tile the shower surround

Replace the huge, outdated, frameless mirror

Get a new shower curtain and accessories

Replace all outlets and light switches


Estimated Cost:  about $2,500


But, under Project Presentable, I’m not going nuts like that because it will take too long and will put too much of a crimp into my budget that I could use to make another room presentable.  So here’s my new list:


Paint (such a cheap, dramatic fix)

Scrub the crap out of the grout on the floor and in the shower

Buy some inexpensive baskets for bathroom storage under the vanity

Paint the old vanity

New shower curtain and accessories

Replace the outlets and light switch


Estimated Cost:  about $175


It’s so much cheaper to do it this way and then the bathroom is not perfect but it’s PRESENTABLE.  That’s the goal!  Make one room presentable then move on the next and do the same.  If anyone tackles their house projects differently, I’d love to hear it.

Wrinkles and Ravens

As a child I loved “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle and I must have read the book 20 times.  It was my favorite book and I would read it under my covers with a flashlight until late into the night .  Reading that book is one of my fondest childhood memories because it triggered my love of books.  So, when I saw the following pin on pinterest, I knew I wanted to celebrate my favorite book by ripping out the pages (gulp), punching heart holes in those ripped pages, and slapping the whole thing into a frame to add to our collage in the family room!  So here’s my pinterest inspiration:

pinterest book project

My Pinterest Inspiration

And here’s my version (with directions):


I started by gathering my supplies: the book, a heart hole punch, double stick tape, dimensional foam tape, colored paper (I used blue), scissors, poster paper, and a frame (I used an empty one that I had hanging in the collage in the family room).

I started by cutting the poster board to the size of the frame insert.  I used the piece of paper that comes with the frame as a template.


Then I ripped a few pages out of the book which I had to admit made my stomach lurch because I’ve never defamed a book before, especially my favorite childhood book!  But, I got through it and  started punching:


I tried to punch out a few pages at once to save some time.  I punched out random phrases for some of the hearts and I punched out chapter titles and the title of the book for some of the hearts.  I wanted the hearts to be in a staggered pattern with one row of hearts upright and the next upside down so for the upside down hearts, I made sure that the words were still upright by punching the hearts out on upside down pages.  Then I started spacing out the hearts.


For the initial arrangement, I made sure to pay attention to spacing but I wasn’t super concerned about how straight each heart was.


After I got the spacing right, I used a pencil to straighten each individual heart before sticking them on with tape.  It worked great because the eraser was able to lightly grab and straighten each piece of paper.


I used double stick tape to adhere the hearts except for the titles which I used foam dimensional tape so that the piece wouldn’t look so flat.  And the grand finale is:


See how some of the hearts pop out?  I put it on the wall of our collage:


Some of the other new additions are:



DSC_0031From a local artist

DSC_0032A temporary piece.  It’s a postcard I got from Etsy.

DSC_0034Also from a local artist.  It’s of downtown Baltimore…

And speaking of Baltimore… GO RAVENS CHAMPIONS!!!  I’m not normally big into football but the rest of my family is and I couldn’t help but get swept up in their excitement yesterday as the Ravens won the Superbowl.  My kids were ecstatic!


Here they are drinking grape RAVENS juice to celebrate.  The tall kid in the middle is Sergio, a family friend.  Trajan is on the left, Sofia is on the right, and Tuscan is crouched in the middle.  GO RAVENS!

A Boring Old Post About Replacing Outlets…

This post is boring…  Seriously, replacing outlets is not exciting, but if you’ve ever wanted to save some cash by doing it yourself and not hiring an electrician then read on!


I don’t know why, but looking at cream/almond outlets in a room offends the eye.  It dates a room like nobody’s business and it’s so easy to replace them with nice, clean white outlets.


You can also make your house more energy-efficient by putting outlet insulation on the inside of the covers.  If you’ve ever taken off a cover on an outlet inside the house but on an exterior wall and put your hand over the outlet in the winter, you’ve felt the draft.  I recently got an energy audit on my house and the auditor said that installing outlet insulation is a cheap way to keep out cold air.


So here’s how to do it:


1.  Gather a few tools: a Phillips screwdriver, a normal sized flat head screwdriver, and (importantly) a little flat head screwdriver.  Go to your favorite hardware store and buy new outlets, outlet covers, and insulation for outlets (see pic below).  If possible, dismantle the outlet (see steps 3 and 4) so that you can bring it to the store to get the same exact style.





Outlet insulation

2.  Turn off the electricity to the outlet you’re working on.  What I do is plug in a hair dryer so that I can hear when the electricity is for sure turned off when I flip the breaker.  You can also use a lamp to do the same thing (that’s what I did this time).




Before flipping the breaker


After flipping the breaker

3.  Unscrew the cover to the outlet.



4.  Unscrew the two screws holding in the outlet.



5.  Pull out the outlet.




6.  Dismantle the wires going into the outlet.  They are typically found in little holes on the sides of the outlet or they are wrapped around a big screw on the side of the outlet.  If they are located in holes, then there is normally a small slit next to the hole that you need to stick a very small flat head screwdriver into to “release” the wire from the hole.  This is tricky because you need to push the screwdriver in as you are pulling the wire out.  If you have trouble with this, get someone to push the screwdriver or pull on the wire.  If the wire is wrapped around a screw, just take a flat head screw driver and loosen the screw and the wire should just pop right off.





7.  Loosen the screw at the bottom of the outlet to release the neutral wire (the copper colored wire).



8.  As you dismantle the wires be sure to bend them to where they go into the outlet.  As you can see from the below picture, I bent the wires to the same sides of where they were in the old outlet so that I know where they go in the new outlet.





In this picture, I’m working with four wires and I bend them in the same way that they were found in the old outlet:



9.  The old outlet should now be completely free of all the wires.  Take the new outlet and either shove the wires in the holes the same way they were in the old one, or, if the wires were folded around the screw, then take the wires (they should be bent into hooks) and hook them onto the screws in the same way as the old one.


In my case, the wires were too big to go into the holes of the outlets I bought, so I had to bend the wires into hooks to hook onto the screw on the sides of the outlet.



You can bend the wires by wrapping the wire around a screwdriver.  It’s a pain in the rear because the wires are thick, but I think it’s the easiest way to do it.

Then I hooked the wires onto the loosened screws on the side of the outlet then tightened the screws to that they had a good grip on the wires.  Be sure to also hook up the neutral wire on the bottom of the outlet.



10. Shove the entire receptacle back into the hole and, using the screws that came with the new outlet, screw in the outlet on the top and bottom to fit into the outlet box (the plastic box around the outlet).  Now, this is important… sometimes the new screws that came with the new outlet are not long enough so in that case, use the old screws.  You won’t see them anyway.  Make sure that the outlet is sticking out from the wall a little, otherwise when you put the cover on, the outlet will either stick out too much or be too recessed.  You can adjust this by either loosening or tightening the screws on the top and bottom of the outlet.  You can also straighten from side to side by adjusting the same screws.






11.   If the receptacle is on an outside wall (i.e. on a wall inside your house but the other side of the wall is outside) then take the insulation and push that onto the receptacle.




9.  Screw the outlet cover on then test your outlet.  It should work!!!



Notes:  When you pick out the new outlets, be sure to get outlets with big holes to push the wires into since just shoving the wires in the holes instead of around the screws is the easiest way to do it.  Sometimes outlet holes are too small for your wires so that you have to use the screw method, but bending those thick wires to fit around the screws are a pain in the rear, so be sure to really look hard for outlets with big holes.

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

Every once in a while, I hit up thrift stores to see if I can find any “diamonds in the rough” that I can paint/clean/polish/repurpose to fit in my house.  Shopping in thrift stores is unpredictable because sometimes I get lucky and find a few things in one trip, and sometimes I can’t find anything good for months.  The payoff though is finding something that you would pay a lot for but, hotdog!, it’s sitting right in front of you for $9.99.  My favorite spot is good ole’ Salvation Army.  I’m lucky because the one where I live is huge and has generous furniture and home goods sections.  Honestly, most things are beaters that are beyond “salvation”, but there are some things that could be great if shown a little love.

Lately I haven’t struck gold, but when I went today, I did find some great things:




I like these chairs because the styling is good and the chairs were HEAVY, which means that they were made with good solid wood.  They could easily be painted any color you want or re-stained.




I thought this mirror would look nice painted a funky color (maybe coral or yellow) and hung above a dresser in a little girl’s room.  It would also look nice as a bathroom mirror if it was painted white or black.




I’ve decided (today) to start a milk glass collection after seeing this cute little plate.  And you can’t beat the price, $3.  After I hang it in my kitchen, I’ll be sure to post pictures.




I saw this and immediately thought of Oscar the Grouch!  It is a little Oscar the Grouch trashcan. 🙂 Honestly I didn’t know exactly what it was for, but I thought it would be great as a compost collector for beside the kitchen sink.


So that wraps up my trip to Salvation Army.  The only thing I got was the little milk glass plate but I love it!

Craigslist Find

Finding items on Craigslist for far below retail can be exciting and an affordable way to furnish a home.  I hate paying retail for something that I know I can get at a discount and also I like the idea of reusing something that would otherwise be considered “trash.”

I had a nook in my family room where I wanted to put a desk but the desks that I found online were just too big, so I thought I’d head over to Ana White’s site to find some plans to make my own desk.  Of course I found what I was looking for but with the holidays, I put off the project.  At the same time, I did my regular check on Craigslist to find out what was out there and came across the PERFECT desk for $75 (much cheaper than even building a desk).  So, I grabbed my husband and we checked it out.  It was just the right size but had a few scratches on the chair that came with it, so the seller knocked the price down to $50 which was great!

Here is the nook before the desk (and before the installation of the  baseboards):


And here it is with the desk:


The desk opens up which we don’t use that often since we use a laptop which just sits on top of the desk.  But here’s a shot with the desk opened up:


I added a 3×5 area rug that I picked up from Target to help with scuffing the new floors.  I think it goes well enough with our “Y” rug but I’m still on the hunt for something that goes better.


I’m happy with my find since I got a desk AND a chair for $50 and didn’t have to break out all my tools and spend a couple hours making a desk.   The size and look are perfect as well as the price.  Score!

For ideas on how to find the best deals on Craigslist, YHL has a great post.  I’d also add that everyone has their quirks on what they won’t buy (used mattresses!) and will buy on Craigslist and I personally don’t buy upholstered furniture on Craigslist since I have kids and dogs and I know how gross upholstered furniture can get.  Besides, I am a major germ freak which definitely plays into that!  That being said, I know lots of people who do buy used couches and chairs from Craigslist and that are super-happy about their find.  It just depends on you!  Happy Craigslisting!

Hand Scraped Floors

Our family room is coming along and a big piece of that was replacing the yucky carpet that was in the house when we moved in.  Here is a before picture:


We decided to replace the carpet with hardwood which was a hard decision because my husband likes carpet since it’s soft for lying down on and wrestling our kids to the ground, but I like hardwood because it’s easier to clean and also looks nicer.  In the end, we went with hardwood but only if I promised to get a soft area rug for the wrestling matches (which I was going to do anyway ;)).  Initially I thought about getting bamboo since it’s super durable and also comes from a renewable source but after learning that we could never refinish them since they are made from strands of bamboo that would splinter if refinished, we chose traditional hardwood instead.  I liked the idea of getting hardwood floors that are hand-scraped because it already has some imperfections in them so when my kids or dogs (or me) scratches the floors, I’m hoping that they will be more hidden.  I also wanted a darker hardwood at first, but a lot of people told me that darker hardwoods show more dirt and dust so I went with a medium tone.  At our old house we had 3 inch width strips of hardwood which I didn’t like at all since they look dated so I also wanted something wider.  I also knew that I didn’t want anything with orange or red undertones.  So after researching a lot, I came up with a medium tone, hand scraped hardwood with large planks and no red or orange undertones.

Unfortunately this is the biggest picture I could find, but the link to the product is here.


I only had a small sample to look at when we picked the floors and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a lot of color variation when the floors were actually laid.  This is what it looks like in the family room:


I LOVE these floors!  See how there are dark pieces mixed in with lighter pieces?  Here’s a better pic to see the contrast in the area near the fireplace:


Here are a few more pics:



I while back I bought a green and white rug that I thought would look great in the family room, but unfortunately, it was an epic FAIL.  The price was right but I guess you get what you pay for because it was scratchy and too thin and all the corners turned up which was a huge tripping hazard so I returned that puppy and bought the above rug from West Elm.  It is perfect!  It’s soft and the gray and tan/beige geometric pattern is exactly right for our family room.  I want to keep the family room fairly neutral so this rug works perfectly.  The only drawback is that it sheds like crazy and fills up my vacuum bag after a couple vacuums.  I know that will taper off soon but in the meantime, we are walking around with rug fuzz on our clothes (even with vacuuming everyday).  But, the shedding is worth it!  I also got a great deal on it (20% off) and although it was expensive to begin with ($850) the 20% off made the price reasonable.  Here is a close up the rug:


Hanging a Collage

Happy New Year!  We painted our family room a while back and after sitting back and admiring the paint job, I knew I needed to cover it up…  Well at least some of it up with art or pictures.  The area really in need of some bling was the wall space above the couch.  Our ceilings are vaulted and the wall behind the couch is like 15 feet high so I needed something to fill the space.


I thought about wall art but honestly, I didn’t want to pony up the cash for something large which is what I needed.  The next best thing to art is a wall collage.  I also liked the idea of a collage because our family room is fairly informal and I wanted something laid back and also meaningful and reflective of our crazy family.

If you’re going to have a collage, then there has to be some kind of theme uniting the pieces otherwise the collage turns out very eclectic which is fine if you’re going for that look.  To unite my collage, I chose to use the same type of frame: white with clean lines.  No crown moulding type frames, just frames with straight lines.  Over the next couple weeks, I gathered coupons from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby (because I hate paying full price for frames I know I can get discounted) and gathered my collection.  I chose all sizes of frames with the only constraint is that I needed one big enough to hang the awesome scratch-off map I got from Urban Outfitters.

After getting a whole bunch of frames, I tried different arrangements on the floor to see what would work, then texted them to my sister to get a second opinion.  Here’s one arrangement that I tried that I ended up NOT liking but it’s an example of how I arranged things on the floor:


It was just too busy for me.  So I tried a dozen other arrangements and finally came up with one I liked.  Then I cut out templates of the frames from leftover wrapping paper.  You could also use newspaper but if the frames are large, you have to tape the newspaper together and that’s a pain in the rear.  You don’t have to do that with wrapping paper.  I also marked on the template where the hanger was on the frame.  Then it was time to tape the frames to the wall and hammer in the nails where I marked the hangers on the templates.    All this took about 15 minutes.  Then I hung the actual frames and took a long time straightening and getting the spacing right.

To keep the frames straight, I used 3M hanging strips which worked great.  They not only keep the frames from tilting and moving but it’s another layer of hanging power which is necessary because if one of the frames falls and we’re sitting on the couch, that will leave a mark!  So here is the final product:




I prefer to not have the collage width be wider than the couch so I kept the collage fairly narrow.  We hope to get a big sectional soon and at that point I’ll add on to the collage to make it wider.

I still have to fill in some of the frames with either art or pictures of the family and I want each and every piece to be special to us and not just something I slapped up so I’m taking my time to fill all the frames.  Some of my favorite frames are the scratch off map mentioned above:


The picture that my eight year old son drew of my father in law who recently died is especially meaningful to us.  Every time I look at the drawing it reminds me of him and what a  great, funny person he was.


I also really like the map of Maryland that we got off of Etsy with Columbia marked since that’s where we live.


I love how it turned out and can’t wait to fill in more of the frames and to also add to the collage.  Overall it was a fairly pricy project only because even with the coupons, the frames ended up being about $10 – $20 a piece but it is still a lot cheaper (and more meaningful) than large wall art.