Making a Mantle

So after a long hiatus, I finally have a chance to post some of the living room projects that I’ve completed.  The mantle was the one that I liked doing the most.  After painting 24/7, it’s fun to do something different (even if it still involves a paint brush).  I wanted a custom mantle for our newly painted fireplace but didn’t want to shell out the cash since I knew it would be expensive, so I headed over to my local building reclamation shop to see if I could find some inspiration.  I like to go to Community Forklift ( in Edmonston, MD because it’s a huge warehouse chock full of recycled building materials.  There are thousands of doors, cabinets from full kitchens, tons of wood, antique elements, and many other finds.  What I was most interested in were slabs of wood since I knew I could fashion a mantle out of an interesting piece of wood.  So I found this beauty and like the nerd I am I was in love with it as soon as I saw it:


I like this piece because it was the right length and I loved the highly grained quality of the wood.  I wanted to highlight the grain and not hide it with two much “product” so I tried stain and also lacquer on a a sample piece with the following results:


The top (the tip of the wood) is a dark wood stain and the bottom is a clear lacquer.  I really liked the lacquer because I wanted something glossy that allowed the grain of the wood to pop and lacquer fit the bill perfectly.  I didn’t know that much about lacquer before I used it, so I don’t want to say that it was a crapshoot whether it would turn out the way I wanted, but it was :).  I painted about 8 coats of lacquer using a soft wide brush and allowed the coats to dry for at least 3 hours in between coats.  I wanted the piece to be GLOSSY and look wet so I just kept painting until I achieved that result.  But after all that painting I found that the bad thing about lacquer is that it REALLY smells, like the kind of smell that stays in your nose with you all day so use a fan to blow the fumes away from you and don’t paint in an enclosed area unless you like a major paint high and/or a killer headache!

So after three days of painting and then cutting it down to size, *ta da* the mantle now looks like this:




The underside:


Not to be too designer-geeky but, I liked keeping the mantle looking rustic against the modern white brick of the fireplace to add some textural interest giving the two elements a nice juxtaposition.   I kept the bark on the mantle to give it even more texture and it also made the mantle look more organic since the bark kind of curves a little making the mantle bow in the middle.  The  mantle also ties into the beams on the ceiling nicely.  This is definitely a project I recommend doing since it was cheap (it was $100 total to include the slab of wood, the lacquer, and the material to hold up the mantle) and it looks great!

Quick Halloween Garland

Two posts in one day?!?!? Hurricane Sandy has made it a “Why not!” Because of the hurricane, I also put together a quick Halloween garland for our fireplace. The mantle is still ugly white but at least now it’s got some bling!

It was super easy to put this garland together.  I just got some orange rick rack and black pom pom ribbon and stapled it onto our mantle.  I used heavy duty staples and only did that because I know that the mantle is on it’s way out.  Otherwise if the mantle were my “forever mantle” I would have used sticky tape or some other adhesive.  I then covered the staples with bats and black leaves that I had lying around to make the garland look more finished.

Here is a close up of the bats:

Don’t mind the skewed pics… I was experimenting!

Here are more  shots:

I got little glitter balls from Micheal’s and put them in the lanterns that I already had laying around.  I thought that they could work for Christmas too!

Is anyone else doing some last minute Halloween decorating or bracing for Hurricane Sandy?

White Fireplace + Gray Walls = Happiness!

We are finished painting the family room and if I do say so myself, it turned out great!  Here is a before shot:

As you can see, it’s quite BLAH in there.  And here is an after:

The after is much lighter and cooler and not as dated and drab as before.  The mantle is temporary as I got a huge piece of beautiful walnut that I’m going to stain and poly for the mantle.  More on that to come. But for now, I just painted the mantle white.  The color that I finally went with for the walls after much searching was “Revere Pewter” by Benjamin Moore.  I saw lots of examples of the paint color on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try and it was perfect for what I was looking for.  The mantle color is “Antique White” by Glidden since I didn’t want something too stark white.

The paint job took just one day and with ceilings as high as ours, we needed help and that’s where the troops came in.  A couple that we know has a house that needs some rehab, so I came up with this idea to “project swap.”  It works like this: I need a project done at my house so my friends come over to help with whatever I need help with, in this case it was painting the family room.  Next time the project is at their house and I think they are picking their bathroom to remodel, so I’ll go over to their house and help with that.  It works well because we both have spouses who don’t like to do house projects (my hubby) or who are willing to help but whose skills are more limited (my friend’s wife).  So this way, we knock out projects that have been on our “to-do” list while getting willing help since we both know that next time it’s our houses’ turn for a makeover.  It’s especially fun to do projects with friends when beer and good food is involved as it always is :).  Here are the troops at work:

We even let the kids get involved to an extent.  Here’s another “after” shot:

We also got a new fireplace insert since the one that we had was old, gold, and ugly!  I was going to rehab our old one by painting it black, but it was so old that there was not much protection from the cold air that comes in from the fireplace flue.  The insert that I got retailed for $1,700 but since I got last year’s model on clearance at my local fireplace shop, I paid only $400, SCORE!  It’s still more than I thought an insert would cost but after doing some searching, it’s actually a really reasonable price.  The fireplace screens that I liked which are those tri-fold deals that you put up against the fireplace were $250-$400 and provided NO protection from the cold air and screens are not nearly as well made and long lasting as an insert.  So even though I like the look of a screen, the practicality of an insert was best for us.  Plus the price on this insert was the deal-maker!

Hopefully in my next post the mantle will be done because right now, I’m loving the room but hating the mantle!

Short Post: Rug Deal!

I loved the green chevron rug that I posted on Sunday when I did the mood board for my family room but because I’m trying to fit my makeover within a budget, I thought it was too expensive (I don’t like to spend over $500 on ANY rug).  So, it was relegated to my wish list.  It was listed on for $763.20, almost $300 above my limit.

But, STOP THE PRESSES, I just found it on Joss and Main for $440.90, $60 under my budget!  It is the same exact rug so I feel like I just got a deal and I wanted to share!


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.