Simple Mantel Make-Over

We recently repainted our living room and gave it a completely new look. Although I love the character of our home, that much oak can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially with its orangish tone. I would have no problem if the wood was stained a deeper colour, but unfortunately it is all that lighter orange colour. I used to dream of stripping the wood and re-staining it a nice deep brown, but over the years I have come to realize that idea is nothing short of crazy. We have too much wood and the job would be way too big, especially when you consider all of the work on the coffered ceilings alone! So I have given up on that idea ūüôĀ

However, ¬†when we were redoing the living room, I really felt the fireplace needed a lift! I tossed around the idea of painting it out white, but Tim didn’t like the idea and I wasn’t completely sold on ruining the original brick either. It is super low maintenance and not horrible. In the end, I convinced him to let me sand and stain the mantel. It wasn’t a big job (although we did have some difficulty getting the stain to take at first) and I thought the pay off was huge. The darker stain just made the fireplace look more unified and matched the dark brick much better than the original stain. I had also planned to remove the mirror from above, but surprisingly, it didn’t seem to bug me as much with the new stained mantel.

I must admit that I did put a bit more effort into “staging” the mantel as well. To do this, I actually did some research and came across some really good information. Among the best is the information I found on Kylie M. Interiors. She goes through a 4 step process and it really helped me to create a look that I finally feel I can live with. Here is a quick summary of her suggestions.

  1. Find the center of your mantel and choose a “key” piece to anchor your design
  2. Decide on a colour palette and be sure to consider incorporating different surface finishes and textures
  3. Choose to set up your mantel symmetrically (exactly the same on both sides) or balanced (use different items but create a balanced look at both ends by making sure they have the same “visual weight”)
  4. Create decorative triangles by setting up your items in such a way that “triangles” are created by using varying heights of objects.
Staged Mantel

I tried to create a balanced look using visual triangles made with groups of accessories I already had around the house.

Clearly, I am no designer, but Kylie really does a great job of explaining the steps to setting up a mantel and also provides some great links. By the time you read through her post and check out the various examples, you will be well on your way to creating a great look. When I started mine, I wasn’t really sure what I would end up with on the mantel, but in the end, I found everything I needed right here at home. It was just a matter a finding pieces I already had and then setting them up to create a look I was happy with. The only piece that was new was the metal “R”. I had picked that up several months ago on a clearance sale for $2 (regular $14 I think). I couldn’t resist it, even though I had no idea where I was going to put it. So it too was something I already had at home and I actually like the contrast of the white against the brick. Now that I know the look I am going for, it will be much easier to keep my eyes open and find the perfect pieces to really create the look I want. I think that I might like a larger “key” piece and may even incorporate a few smaller framed pictures, for a layered look. Overall I am pleased with how this turned out and have a better understanding of what I may need to purchase in the future. I am especially thrilled with the darker stain ~ a simple fix and yet seemed to make a huge difference (at least to me!)

Vintage Ashtray Upcylce

vintage ashtray

Here are a few shots of the original ashtray. It was quite tarnished and beat-up.

vintage ashtray

Beautiful marble inlay and lots of detailed work in the metal.

I was looking for a very small (12″ or smaller) side table to fit in the tiny space between my sofa and wall. The couch sits on an angle and there really isn’t much room, but I wanted a little spot to place a drink. Having no luck what so ever, I decided I needed to think outside the box. I started brainstorming possible bases for a tiny table and quickly thought of a vintage floor standing ashtray. I picked this oval topvintage ashtray up for $20 off of Kijiji and was confident it would be perfect. It was one of the easiest upcycing projects ever. I removed the screws that held the handle and twisted the ashtray from the base to dismantle it. ¬†This allowed me to remove the small marble piece near the base, clean the stand and then spray paint it all without having to tape off the marble. I chose a basic white spray paint and gave it one coat. For the top, I picked up an oval piece of wood with routered edges from Michael’s and used the 40% off coupon so it only cost me about $10.

I used a fine grain sand paper to ensure the wood had a smooth surface before applying two coats of paint. I recently bought the Benjamin Moore Advance furniture paint in my favourite colour ~ Simply White. The paint goes on and cleans up like latex, but dries like oil paint, so you don’t need to clear coat it. It also has a “flooding” element, so the coat looks nice and smooth. After painting the top, I wasn’t happy with the shade of white on the base of the ashtray stand, so decided to give it a quick top coat of the Simply White using a roller and it too dried beautifully.

To attach the top, I simply placed screws in the holes that previously held the handle in place and screwed on the new table top. I love the detail on the pedestal and base. One of my favourite upcylces! So cute and the perfect size for this space.

Surprise Living Room Make-Over

We had been in dire need of new living room furniture for well over a year. I was having a very hard time making decisions about what to buy. I loved the idea of a sectional and have always wanted one, but the reality is that our space is just not that workable. In addition to deciding on a style, I was also struggling with leather vs. fabric. We have always had leather and our family is very accustom to the easy care and wipe-ability of leather. Like a sectional, I have also always wanted white furniture. When making a big purchase you want to make sure you are getting it right and thus we shopped and browsed for months on end with no decisions being made. Finally, when our sofa was destined for the dump, we had to make some decisions.

The first conclusion Tim and I agreed on was that the living room/dining room swap that we made a few years ago was really not working for our family. The larger of the two rooms is located in the center of the house and just off the kitchen while the second smaller room is located just to the right of the front entrance. This room is quite lovely with French doors, a wall of windows and a fireplace. The trouble with it is that with so much going on, there really are not many options for room configuration and at times this is frustrating. We suspected that a sectional would never be an option in this space and so approximately two years ago, we moved our living room (fireplace room) to the larger room just off the kitchen. At first, we loved it. It allowed Tim and I to work in the kitchen and be more engaged with the kids if they were in the living room. Our home is far from open concept, but the close proximity seemed to help. However, over time, we realized that other sacrifices were being made. It seemed like our busy schedules, coupled with the dining room’s more remote location led to more and more meals taking place in front of the television. Setting the table seemed like a big job now that everything needed to be transported across the house. We also found that the “kitchen” noises often interfered with the television and the dishwasher was often not put on until bedtime. Finally, we found that the wood burning fireplace, one of our favourite features in our house, had sadly sat unused since we made the switch. Once we decided to move the rooms back, the other decisions were also easier to make. Using our old furniture and a measuring tape, we tried many variations of furniture arrangements and came to the conclusion that a sectional would never work in that space. Since we both had our hearts set on getting one, we decided to go with a chaise sofa and chair/ottoman combo instead. Although we felt this would work, we weren’t 100% convinced it would fit properly into the room. We decided to save ourselves a few thousand dollars and go with fabric, so that we could live with it for a few years before committing thousands of dollars more to a “leather” decision. It seemed like a good compromise. ¬†In the end we went with a darker almost charcoal gray even though I really wanted something light. Sometimes you have to consider not only your desires, but also the function of the furniture. We do not have a living room and family room or even a basement hangout for the kids. Needless to say our furniture gets lots of use. I can be pretty uptight and I knew that the change to fabric was already going to cause me some stress. The sofa covers are all washable, but the reality is that I think white or even something very light would become an ongoing battle to maintain. We opted for what we thought would work best for our family.

Feeling excited to set-up the new furniture, Tim and I unpacked and assembled our new Ikea sofa. (I never actually thought I would purchase a sofa from Ikea, but I was quite taken with the Ektorp series. I loved that there were several colour options, the style seemed both traditional and contemporary at the same time – if that’s even possible and surprisingly, it is super comfortable!) ¬†After the months of indecisiveness, I’m sure Tim almost blew a gasket, when he saw the look on my face once everything was set up and arranged in the room. Yep…you guessed it….I hated it. Not the sofa or the style, but rather how it looked in the room. Our new sofa looked more like a denim blue against the light green walls (Castleton Mist) than gray….Yikes! ¬†I could see it in Tim’s eyes “Oh no…here we go again!” Although he thought we should consider taking the covers back and swapping for a different colour choice, I was convinced the grey would be perfect once everything else in the room was changed! Yes, we would need to paint (wasn’t anticipating that) and the side tables don’t look right. Too bad the curtains will no longer match. Oh and that fireplace has always kind of bugged me! Ugh! I really was not planning a room make-over. Our plans included a new sofa/chair and coffee table. The end. I was prepared to refinish a coffee table because I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be able to find anything new that fit with the look I was going for, but that would have been a simple sand/paint job.

So, although there are a few things left to finish, I already love the space and am not even worrying about the few remaining projects….I’ll get to them eventually. So far, we’ve managed to paint the room, strip and stain the mantel, build a tiny side table from a vintage ashtray and sew new curtains. Believe or not, I found the perfect coffee table on Kijiji and someone else had already done the work – score! I still need to paint the cabinet that the TV is sitting on and want to shorten the little half-moon table by a few inches, but other than that we’re done.

The light gray walls (Benjamin Moore ~Stonington Grey)look fine with the oak trim (despite my reservations). Besides the limited wall space for setting up this room, it is also a difficult space because of the limited light. Although it boasts a wall of windows and two additional high windows on the fireplace wall, it is not a bright room. It is north facing and really only gets late afternoon sun. So in choosing a new colour, I not only had to consider a colour to coordinate with the furniture and strong oak presence in the room, but also the limited light. I must admit, I’ve never really paid any attention to LRV (light reflective value), but for this room I did my homework. There is nothing worse than picking a colour that you love on the swatch, but hate when you actually apply it to the walls in your space. Paint colours can look completely different depending on the lighting in your space. For this room, I chose a gray with an LRV of 59 which meant the colour would pretty much stay true to the swatch in my space. For more information on how to choose paints that will work well in your space, check out this article on Kylie M. Interiors. I found it really helpful.

As a side note – I have been a Benjamin Moore paint snob for many years now, but I decided to try Sherwin Williams Duration for this job. Their paint was 40% off and I had heard good things about it. I loved it! The application was beautiful and I even hesitated to do a second coat. My living room is about 17 and 12 and I did two coats with one gallon and the first coat was almost perfect even though it was covering green. Very impressed! (They can make colours from other companies, so I used a Benjamin Moore colour, but had it made with the Duration paint.)

Laundry Room Project Part 5: DIY Laundry Hamper

DIY Rolling Laundry HamperRight from the start, I had a vision for how this laundry room would come together. With the major components out of the way, the fun began. I envisioned the room having many contrasting elements of old versus new in a shabby chic sort of way. I love upcycling and really wanted to include many re-makes in this room. One of the simplest projects involved the custom wire laundry basket I made for the space.

I found this great tutorial on Apartment Therapy and was able to create an awesome industrial looking laundry hamper. The best part was that I actually had everything I needed on hand with the exception of the fabric.

Materials Needed:

  • Galvanized Square Mesh Fencing
  • Wood circle (about 15″)
  • 4 casters
  • sandpaper, stain and urethane (for the circle) – optional, depending on where you get your circle
  • wire cutters
  • staple gun (tutorial suggests screws, but I used my staple gun)
  • heavy string (for my version of the hamper)
  • binding ribbon ( another adaptation)
  • laundry bag to fit (I made mine)

wood circleWhen I began this project, I decided to start by checking out my stash and sure enough, I had a circle left over from the wooden Lazy Susan I bought for my homemade Rumoli Board last Christmas. I didn’t care about the hole in the middle as it would never be seen. It was the perfect size and would not have needed any sanding, stain or urethane if it weren’t for the fact that I wanted the wood to be a darker tone. It was a simple fix and I like the rustic look of the darker stain.

The casters were originally purchased for another project, but ended up not working so they had been sitting in one of my project bins and would be the perfect size for this hamper.

The wire was bought several years ago and used in lieu of glass/wood in the shaker style doors my husband made for an 80’s dresser that we converted in to a TV cabinet.

With everything I needed at my fingertips, I set to work and had this baby done in record time.

I followed the steps in the Apartment Therapy tutorial exactly. The description and pictures were spot on and easy to follow. I will say that working with the wire is a bit tricky. Mine was rolled up and it was not easy to get it to stay in place while I worked. In addition, the little ends are sharp and you need to be careful. Wearing gloves is probably a good idea, but I found them cumbersome and opted for the pain and discomfort.

When you wrap the wire around the circle, you need to make sure you leave enough wire to overlap. Once you have the sides overlapped, you need to fold the wire ends back over the wire from the other side to secure it. (Sounds complicated but the tutorial makes it easy to understand.) I was really struggling to secure the wires because the fencing just wouldn’t stay in place. In fact, it created so much tension that some of the wires were snapping when I tried to bend them. I was worried that I was not going to be able to secure them properly and I didn’t have enough extra wire (in the overlap) for other options. I ended up running string the length of the overlap. I intended to place the string there temporarily while I bent the wires, and then remove it when I had it all secure. However, I actually liked the look of the string through the wire and ended up re-stringing it in a more patterned look. So in the end, the string serves two purposes, it adds strength to structure and is a nice finishing detail.

I made a second adaptation to the original tutorial, when I added white binding ribbon to the top rim of the finished basket. Although I had trimmed the sharp wires off, I still felt that the fabric of my newly sewn laundry bag might catch on the wire ends. I was going to use hot glue to attach it, but ended up doing a simple stitch all the way around.

Laundry Bag Fabric

The fabric and the binding ribbon were the only things I had to purchase for this project, so the cost was minimal.

The bag was simple enough to make by tracing the base of the hamper and adding an extra inch or more to the edge of the circle to allow for seam allowances and ensure it was a generous fit. The circle becomes the base of the bag. When cutting the fabric for the bag itself, be sure to make it big enough that it fits over the top of the bin. You don’t want to make it too small and then learn that it won’t sit nicely over the top. (You can always “take it in” if it is too large, but too small is a problem.) I also added several extra inches at the top to create a very tall bag (maybe a foot or so beyond the top of the basket) because I wanted to see the printed fabric folded over the edge of the hamper and down a few inches inside the basket. ¬†I simply finished the top seam and folded it over to the desired finished height. I stitched a pocket for the string and then secured the folded over piece for a finished look.

Although I don’t really have a reason to roll my hamper around my tiny laundry room, the wheels work great and I love the finished look!

 

Teen Room Makeover: Cityscape Black and White Bedroom

Teen Bedroom Makeover City ThemeLast summer, Eden and I worked like horses to transform her bedroom from a little girl’s room into what she deemed to be more age appropriate. We sanded and primed over the old mural and painted most of the room white. We then added a bit of drama with a chalkboard wall and painted her nook red. Although the room was mostly completed last summer, Eden was living in the room during most of the final stages. As you can appreciate, it was difficult to ever find the room “photo ready” while being home to a 13 1/2 year old. Eden left for a one week school field trip last weekend and so it was my mission to give her room a very thorough cleaning, put away all of her clean laundry (in a much more efficient way with the vertical fold system) and finally take those post project photos. Although I didn’t do any purging (not my stuff to purge), I think she will be surprised and thrilled to come home to a very clean and organized room. As an extra surprise, I also added a bit of chalkboard art above the entry to the nook. Most of the other chalkboard work has been done by Eden and her friends.

Eden was very helpful throughout the process, but also very particular about what she wanted. I think the finished room looks great, but perhaps could still use a bit more art work.

This bedroom makeover was another huge project as covering the original mural took lots of work. The layers of paint created ridges that had to be sanded before we could even think of putting on a fresh coat of paint. In addition to painting the walls, there were many other small projects that led up to this transformation:

…and no doubt other little projects I can no longer recall. The total makeover was quite reasonable with paint being the most expensive item. I know we needed several gallons to complete the project. The bedding, storage boxes and a few throw cushions were purchased at Ikea. All of the pieces of furniture were items we already owned. Some were painted to fit with her new colour scheme and others were moved from other areas of the house. Eden really wanted the old book shelf from the landing and she made it look surprisingly good when she accessorized it. I thought the framed WiFi password art was a great idea for when her friends visit.

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Pantry Make-Over

I suppose calling this a pantry make-over might be a bit of a stretch, but living in an older home means that storage is always at a premium. We have two staircases leading to our basement ~ one from the kitchen and one from the back door. I know ~ weird. The stairwell off the kitchen had slowly become a dumping ground for items that might be found in the pantry of a newer home. We did have some insufficient wire shelving on the wall, but it held very little and thus it seemed that items would slowly collect on the floor along the wall as well as on a large shelf in the basement. There was no rhyme nor reason to how things were stored and therefore, we often missed buying things we needed and over bought things we didn’t need. It was one of those things that constantly drove me about our house.

On the first Saturday of spring break, I was taking laundry down to the basement when the solution suddenly came to me. For months (maybe years) I had been trying to figure out how to solve this ongoing storage problem. I had measured and searched the web and just couldn’t come up with what I thought was a viable solution. It’s funny how ideas come to you at the strangest times. Such was the case with this. It was literally something I had tossed around for sometime, but just couldn’t seem to figure out how to make it work. The stupid part was there really wasn’t anything to figure out. The answer was right in front of me, I just had to shift my thinking.

The best part was that I had everything I needed to make it happen immediately and so that’s exactly what I did. I came up from putting the load of clothes in and set to work on transforming the dog’s breakfast at the top of the stairs.

You may remember the sliding spice storage racks I made to fit between my wall and fridge. I used old book shelves that were being discarded because they weren’t stable enough to be safe. They worked perfectly in the space and made for great storage.

I had two more sections that I had considered for can storage, but the depth of the shelves was too shallow and wouldn’t work. Over the last few years, I measure and tested cans again and again hoping I could somehow use the shelves as a pantry, but I just couldn’t figure out a solution….until this day! It finally dawned on me that the peg board backs on the shelves simply slid inside a groove about a quarter of an inch inside the top and bottom shelves. All I had to do was remove the back and let the wall of the stairwell become the new back! This quarter of an inch was all I needed to fit the cans and other small pantry items. I set to work and it was literally as easy as removing the screws from the tops and sliding the backing out. I planned on sitting the shelves on the floor and then securing them with an L bracket or something for safety, but when Tim learned of my plan, he offered to mount them up off the floor. I can not believe how well they work and it was such an easy fix in the end. The stairwell is now free of clutter and works perfectly for our needs. Our basement isn’t finished and so we don’t have to worry about company going up and down the stairs. If and when we ever do finish the basement, we plan to make the back stairs the main entrance to the basement anyway. So happy!

Spare Room Make-Over: The Reveal

The room is done… at least for now! I am so excited about this space. I think it might be my favourite room in the house. It is so “clean” and bright, and the best part …. it’s all mine! I love how the afternoon sun saturates the entire room with natural light. It is roomy, clutter free and oh so pretty!

Although this was nothing more than a spare room make-over, it ended up being quite a big project. Before I could even start, we had to dismantle the old piano that I had hoped to one day upcycle. (I discovered that the amount of work involved was not worth the blood, sweat and tears it would take to transform it.) From there, we proceeded to empty the room and prep the walls for paint. We primed and painted the walls and gave the trim a fresh coat of paint. The most time consuming aspects of the project actually involved the major purge of my clothes and scrapbooking supplies. This accounted for at least 25 hours of sorting and organizing. It was a huge undertaking, but felt amazing when I finally accomplished my goal.

It seemed there were oodles of mini projects required in order to achieve the desired finished look. In addition to painting the walls and trim, we spray painted¬†my embellishment organizer, cut, stained and mounted the shelves, changed the door swing, reupholster the office chair, and painted and upholstered the bench top. The final touches included hanging the pictures and a new mirror and building and painting a bead board garbage container. We intend to install a barn door that will be used to close off the new main floor laundry (once we’ve moved it up from the basement). With future plans to add a sliding door, we also deemed it necessary to remove the old light switch (for the old scrapbooking room/new laundry room) from outside the room to inside the room. If we hadn’t done this, the switch would end up being covered by the sliding door. After an endless list of little projects, I think the room looks great!

To truly appreciate the transformation, I thought you might need a reminder of how the old room looked in its prior life as “family dumping ground”.

 

Here are a few shots of how my old scrapbooking room looked. Everything was miss matched, the space was cramped and it was always a mess because the storage was inadequate.

Spare Room Make-Over: So Simple

It always amazes me how paint can totally transform an object/space. One of the things I hated about this room was the ugly gold light switch plate. Before painting the room, we removed all of the plug and switch plates, but it wasn’t until I went to replace them that I realized how beautiful that very same plate would be with a simple coat of spray paint. It’s now one of my favourite details in the newly painted room.

 

Spare Room Make-over Continued: Office Chair

Slowly but surely, we got everything moved from the old scrapbooking room over to the newly painted spare room.  I had a hard time figuring out how I wanted the shelves put up and my indecisiveness definitely held up the process. I insisted on cutting, staining, urethaning and mounting one shelf at a time and this was a bit frustrating for Tim as he was helping me out with the shelves. I needed to see it all together to be able to assess what needed to go where, as I was determined to create a work space with minimal clutter. While Tim was working on the shelves, I decided to give the old office chair a facelift that was more in line with the new look of the room.

TidewaterFor the most part, the room is quite a subdued colour palette. All of the walls are painted tidewater (LOVE! LOVE! Love it!) and the trim was given a fresh coat of white paint. The armoire and bench are both white, and the antique desk is stained.

The old office chair was functional, but a drab grey colour that really didn’t work in the new space. I really wanted to update it with a printed fabric that would bring a hint of colour to the space. I was so excited when I found this material! I’m usually quite conservative and shy away from multi-coloured prints, but this splash of colour seemed fun and goes beautifully with the overall look of the room. It was pretty easy to re-cover (although the finished product isn’t as professional looking as some projects I’ve done). ¬†It really just involved the removal of some screws and staples, and then replacing the existing fabric with a staple gun. My favourite upgrade was actually not even planned, but once I began changing ¬†the upholstery, I discovered that the arms were not an integral part of the chair design and could be easily removed. This wasn’t so much about the look of the chair, but rather the function. The arms not only prevented the chair from being pushed all the way under the desk, but also meant I couldn’t slide the chair in as far as I would have liked when working. I can’t believe I never thought of removing the arms before. The chair now slides nicely under the desk drawer and is a more subtle piece¬†in the room. So pleased with this project!

Spare Room Make-over: Scrapbooking Storage Bench

When planning out the space, we decided that the spare room would become my dressing room as well as my new scrapbooking room. I already had a scrapbooking room located off the back of the spare room. I loved the room as it was banked with a wall of windows and offered great light. However, it wasn’t very functional and I found most of my projects were done in the evening and I rarely got to enjoy the windows anyway. After years of contemplation, I finally relented and we both decided that the benefits of main floor laundry far out weighed my reasons for keeping it as my scrapbooking room. So I needed to create a space that was visually appealing, functional and could be kept neat and tidy.

Once again, I decided that in order to make this really work, I had to go through the painstaking task of sorting through all of my scrapbooking and project supplies. Although I still had Marie Kondo fresh on my mind, it was impossible to follow the same steps I used for sorting my clothes only two days before. This job involved literally hundreds of small items that needed to be sorted, organized and in some cases tossed or donated. I literally went through every piece of paper and brad I had in my possession. Purging my clothes was a big job, but this was a monster. It took me two very long days to get through everything, but in the end, every item would have a proper home.

As I cleaned and sorted, I tried to think about how I was going organize everything neatly into the new space. The scrapbooking albums were a bit of a challenge to figure out. They are large and needed a shelf that would be about 14″ deep and approximately 3 feet long. They are very heavy and the books themselves are several different colours. I really wanted the colour scheme to be very neutral with white accessories. After pondering for a few days, I stumbled upon a bench seat that had been given to me by a colleague. She thought I might be able to use it for a project some day. Although the bench was rather plain and needed some work, it was sturdy. I was so excited when I tried an album and discovered that it held my whole collection perfectly. I decided to give it a fresh coat of white paint and upholster¬†the top to create a comfortable seat to use while dressing. Here is what the bench looked like before I started.

Upholstering the top what quite easy. I just removed it and added foam and padding from an old leather chair Tim had just dismantled. It was really just a matter of using a staple gun to secure the padding and fabric. I then added a piece of white material to give it more of a finished look when you lift the lid. The fabric was discounted and I managed to pick it up for around $7.  After adding the extra piece of wood along the front and upholstering the top, the bench boasts a whole new look. Simple, but lovely.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished bench. I am so glad I figured out how to make the albums accessible and yet out of site. The thought of having all of the different coloured albums up on a shelf was just not the look I was going for. Can’t wait until the whole room is pulled together. Just a few more projects and it will be done. ¬†Stay tuned for the next project I have to share from our spare room make-over.