Kitchen Wall Decor

I know what you’re thinking… “Plates on a kitchen wall… isn’t that just TOO obvious?” Maybe, but it’s also “pretty and practical,” and that’s what this blog is all about! Plus, I like to think the random corbel in the middle adds a little something unexpected.

This morning I was getting ready for my husband’s birthday barbecue when I noticed a scratch (or more accurately, “gouge of suspicious origins”) in the kitchen wall. Who knows which piece of heavy construction equipment that’s been steadily trickling in and out of the house actually caused this damage. Not that it matters… but what DOES matter is that there are people coming over today and they will all be standing around with nothing to better to do than stare at this humongous scratch in my otherwise completely blank kitchen wall! Right!? OK so I get a little carried away sometimes… there is no way anyone would have noticed that mark with all the delicious food and yard games going on. But I decided a year is a long enough time to wait to decorate the kitchen wall and figured “there’s no time like the present!”

For the record, I think some people get the idea that I’m “effortlessly” creative, but sometimes it just feels compulsive. Like, I have to do it and I have to do it RIGHT NOW!

So, instead of, I don’t know, say, prepping food or doing anything else more pressing, I went and picked through my collection of mismatched dishes and got to work laying out an arrangement. And thank goodness I had a handful of little plate hangers, too!

First, I laid everything out on the ground to see how I wanted it all positioned. The wine bottle was a placeholder for the little shelf that I wanted to use but hadn’t yet tracked down.

I took this picture primarily to give myself a point of reference for how things needed to go on the wall. I ended up referring back a bunch of times. I hung the shelf first, right over top of the scratch, then hung all the other pieces around it. Even though I had laid it all out on the floor beforehand, Adam still had to do a bit of patient plate-holding in various positions while I stood back and assessed the layout to be sure it looked OK.


Pretty cute quick fix for a bare wall, don’t you think? I don’t know if it’s my “forever” kitchen decor, but for about 15 minutes of work I think it’s definitely a look that I can live with for a while.

Happy hanging!


Chevron Sewing Table Update

After a year in our first home, the kitchen remains a bit of a challenge. The biggest update so far was getting rid of the huge pub table that was built in to the counter top, which I removed and replaced with a window seat with lots o’ storage. That got us part-way towards my goal of designing an eat-in area for our super-tiny very cozy 60’s ranch kitchen. I knew I would need a small-ish pedestal style table to accommodate the window seat setup. I had been contemplating building one from scratch until…

Finally, y’all! I just found this amazing table at my favorite-of-all-favorites antique store… woo! (Better yet, I sent a courtesy a pic to the husband, and he loves it too!) Woo-hoo! laminate top table before Cute, right?! This table has a lot going for it (including a fully-operational foot pedal that Adam wants to rig into some sort of possibly dangerous, high-performance lazy susan) but let’s be honest… the top is kind of weird. It’s laminate, but not your average furniture-grade “trying to look like wood” laminate. It’s more like kitchen counter-style laminate, which is a weird look for anyone who’s not a kitchen counter. (And truly, kind of weird for them as well.) It’s almost like the top was repurposed from a restaurant table or something. Kind of sterile and, well… not-so-pretty.  I asked the lady at the checkout if she would consider selling me just the base… but she was much too smart for that. (I can only assume she didn’t want that weird top laying around, either!) And it’s a good thing, because original my plan was to go straight home and build a new table top from scratch using various wood scraps from the garage. But when she politely suggested I “find a way to dress it up” when I told her I wasn’t crazy about the top, I was all, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” 

I decided it’s just the right kind of quirky with its sewing table base and modestly-sized top. My sweet husband helped me get it into place in the kitchen and it fits just right! Of course, Murph Cat had to come investigate immediately. He is violently shaking his head in this pic, which is why he looks a little poltergeisty. laminate top table before in kitchen So instead of making a new wood plank top, I decided to work with the one I had by painting it. I started by sketching out a pattern. Try not to be intimidated by my super advanced drawing skills. table pattern sketch Impressive, right? Now you see why I am a graphic designer by trade.

Then, I prepped the surface by sanding it with a 180 grit disc on my orbital sander. I had to remove the top and ROLL that sucker outside. No joke, it probably weighs at least 80 pounds. sanding laminate top with orbital sander I also took the important step of snapping a safety-selfie. I ALWAYS wear a mask when sanding! safety maskOnce I had sanded off the finish, I applied 2 coats of Zinsser primer (not shown.) Then, the real fun began. Who knew this would require advanced geometry?! finding the center of the table top Clearly, you can see I had some trouble with my measurements and markings. For the record, it is SO hard to find the center of a circle! It occurred to me only afterwards that the proper solution would have been to trace the entire top onto a piece of paper, cut it out, and fold it in half twice. Oh, so NOW my brain decides to start working! But that’s OK… the trial and error method works, too. Once I had the table top divided into quadrants, I grabbed a 1×4 board (about 3 feet long) from the garage and cut one end into a 45 degree angle to use as a guide for the pattern. (Sorry, not shown, but you’ll get the idea.) painting faux wood planks on the table top Note the very professional paper plate paint palette. Clearly I take my work very seriously.

At last, the fun part! I took some greige (Behr Sculptor’s Clay) wall paint I had left over from painting our master bathroom and mixed it with varying amounts of black-brown acrylic art paint. I grabbed different shades of paint to create a wide range of gradients. I applied the paint with a 1″ sponge brush in long strokes to create a wood-grain type effect. The intent was never to look realistically like wooden planks… but just to give it that sort of feel. faux wood planks painted on table top At first I left the outlines partially white so I could fill with the darker brown later (thinking, “shadows suggesting gaps between the planks”), but I ended up going back in and spongeing over them after I saw that the color striations created enough definition of their own.

HOWEVER… that all changed when I came back the next day and realized that my Sharpie lines had “eaten” through the paint and surfaced back to the top like some sort of paint-resistant zombie ink. I had to paint over all the lines the next day after all. Mental note: NEVER use a Sharpie to draw paint lines. That stuff is weird-strong! sharpie line bleeding through paint and poly Luckily, the end result is still pretty sweet looking. I’ll show you both possible results… before and after the Sharpie debacle. finished plank table top without sharpie showing through finished plank table top with border linesNot gonna lie… I tend to think it looked better “before” when the pattern was more subtle and before the zombie Sharpie came back to haunt me. But what are you gonna do? I suppose the brown lines are better than the weird purply-blue ones that the Sharpie left behind/beneath/on-top-of-everything-important.

So at the end of the day, I still think it looks pretty good. I had to make some compromises due to poor material selection on my part, but that’s just the way it goes! I think it’s much better than where we started, anyway. And when the paint and poly fully cure in about 2 weeks, I will finally have my first official casual, comfortable meal in the kitchen!


Two days later and I am still having to go back and paint over some of the Sharpie lines in certain areas and then add another coat of poly. Apparently, this was a really blonde thing to do, because so far no one has had any sympathy for my plight and seems to think it’s ridiculously common knowledge that paint and Sharpie don’t mix. (“Lindsay, you’re telling me YOU didn’t know that? EVERYONE knows that!”) Well somehow I managed to survive 20+ years of crafting and painting without this ever becoming apparent to me… but I will certainly never forget! Truly, I can just feel myself getting smarter with every dumb mistake. 😀

Thanks for reading!



Kitchen Window Seat with Storage

This project has been on my mind literally since the day we first toured our home. (Can’t believe that’s been a year ago already!) We knew from the start that we would need to resolve the layout and storage issues in the kitchen. The previous owners’ solution was to construct a massive built-in pub table off the side of the countertop. It provided a ton of great storage space behind its hidden doors, but ate up entirely too much room in an already cramped space. After 9 months of contemplating its demise, we finally went for it.

Since I’m terrible at taking step by step pictures, I won’t attempt to make this in any way instructional. But it’s still fun to see the window seat’s progression from “looks like a toddler threw that together” to “kind of professional if you don’t look too close.” 😀  For instructional info, do what I did and Google “window seat DIY.” I watched tons of videos to see all the different elements that might be involved.

Before/After Pub Table

Here’s the “before” pictures (though not quite the best angles):


Listing picture from before we painted



Progress photo while in the middle of painting cabinets and adding pulls

It now occurs to me that I don’t have a SINGLE finished picture of the kitchen. Mental note… document final results!

Anyway, here’s what it looks like after disassembling the pub table. The window looks absolutely huge! The side of the cabinet will require some creative patch work.


Building the Window Seat

First we removed the baseboard, then built sort of a mini “wall” frame and anchored it to the tile floor along the joists with 3″ decking screws. We pre-drilled the holes so as not to crack the tile. That’s a ledger board screwed to the wall under the window for the top of the box to be mounted to.


After the frame was built and secured, we measured and cut the plywood for the front and the top edges around where the doors would go. The wall vent had to be extended to the front of the box using rectangular wall vent ducting and an elbow joint to lower it towards the floor a bit.


Adam built a plywood casing around the duct so it wouldn’t get squished when we loaded stuff into the cabinet.

I really took my time cutting the wood for the doors since they needed to be functional and also look fairly clean. It took 2-3 hours to measure, cut, and hang them by myself. They are 48″ and 30″ long.


As soon as the top was secured, Murphy laid claim to his new throne.


Trimming the Window Seat

After days and days of construction, I was so excited to do the finishing touches! Semigloss white paint and base cap molding boxes make it look almost professional. I also used cove molding to trim out the top along the wall and a piece of stop moulding to dress up the front edge of the doors. The baseboard was salvaged from the wall behind the window seat.



Pretty on the Inside

Once the outside was pretty, it was tempting just to throw my kitchen supplies inside and close it until Thanksgiving. But if you know me, you know I’m way too OCD for that. I just HAD to trim out the inside of the cabinet too. Really, I was thinking about resale. As a homebuyer, I wouldn’t want to open a shiny white cabinet and see this:

Yucky bare floor and torn up walls where we removed the baseboard. Not very clean!

Yucky bare floor and torn up walls where we removed the baseboard. Not very clean!

So I painted the bare wood, covered the walls with beadboard wallpaper, and stuck down some vinyl floor tiles. (I mean, I’m not totally insane… I wanted it to be clean and nice, but not so much that I was willing to use real wood and tile to do so!)


IMG_7820 IMG_7819 IMG_7818


Patching the Cabinet

I was even able to repair the side of the cabinet where the pub table came off. I spliced together some of the panels that made up the sides of the old pub table cabinet. They looked like Frankenstein at first….


Nothing a little putty and paint can’t fix! (OK, a lot. A LOT of putty and paint.)


A Pillow of Epic Proportions

Now I’m just working on finishing up the giant 7-foot pillow cushion. It’s hilariously huge. Someday I will make a high density foam seat cushion, but this will suffice for now!



Have you ever made a pillow bigger than yourself? It is a hilarious good time… I definitely recommend it. I might put it on my bucket list just to cross it off.

Happy window sitting,


Kitchen Cabinet Redo Part 3: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hopefully, it’s not a train! Forgive me for being a little-snake bitten, but this cabinet  project just seems to keep presenting new and unforeseen challenges. But, I’ve certainly learned a lot of things… like how European hinges work and how they are specifically adjusted to a certain cabinet and how if you mix them up you’ll never get your cabinets doors rehung properly without looking wonky. Ever. You know, things like that.

But I digress. We definitely turned a corner in the process once I got the trial and error situational research out of the way with the paint + primer mishap, followed by the sanding and stripping required to get that stuff off so I could start all over. Thanks for sticking around long enough for me to start digging out of the mess and finally making progress. And for those of you who are more interested in the solution than the problem, this one’s for you!

So once I realized I was dealing with a wax-coated finish on the cabinets (really, previous homeowners?!), I had no clue how to paint over it, short of stripping the whole kitchen back to bare wood. Luckily, the folks at the hardware store turned us on to Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer. Amazing stuff! It honestly seems like it would stick to anything. Maybe even a greased pig. All I know is that it stuck to my crazy wax-covered cabinets, and that’s all I really care to know for now.

I used the magical Zinsser primer to prep all of the cabinet doors and the outside faces of the cabinets themselves. Basically, anywhere “PHOs” had applied the wax finish. For the raw wood shelves and walls inside the cabinets, I went ahead and used the dreaded Valspar paint + primer that had caused me days of extra sweat and frustration. Two reasons: A) I had already paid for it, and B) I figured any paint should, at the very minimum, stick to unfinished, clean, sanded wood. (Valspar can thank me later for this undeserved shot at redemption.)

In order to paint my cabinet doors more quickly, I rigged up a system on my back porch using some decking wood, a couple of chairs, and some screw hooks.


I used decking wood that the husband had already unscrewed from the porch so he could inspect the drainage underneath. Don’t mind if I do! 

I attached the hooks to the top or bottom edge of each door (whichever would not be seen once they were hung). Top edge for top cabinets, bottom edge for bottom cabinets. You get the idea.


Sweet… now we can paint both sides in one sitting!

And thusly, I was able to knock out both sides of about 4 doors at a time. When I hung them back up (after fiddling with the bloody Eurohinges for what seemed like forever), I filled the little holes with a little bit of paint. As our good friend Homestarrunner once said, “None will be the wiser!”  😀

After all this progress, I’m off to enjoy a celebratory spritzer, southern style. (Try putting Sprite in your vino and tell me it’s not delicious!)  🙂

Is it me or does everything taste better out of a mason jar? Anyone?

Is it me or does everything taste better out of a mason jar? Cheers!

Kitchen Cabinet Redo Part 2: Sanding and Stripping – the CTRL+Z of Paint

So, after learning that the Valspar paint + primer product just was not working, I had to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately that meant stripping, scraping, sanding, and otherwise removing said paint + primer by any means possible.

Side note: as a graphic designer, I can throw a whole bunch of stuff together on the computer and quickly swap out colors and images, move things around, mess things up, and be protected by the all-powerful CTRL+Z… the “UNDO” button! Nothing gets lost, nothing gets ruined, and if I mess it up, this magical feature always keeps me two keys away from utter design destruction. On the downside, it probably helps reinforce my natural propensity to paint first, apologize later. Now that I have gone down the wrong path with my painting project, I have got to put in just as much time and effort to “CTRL+Z” what I’ve done so far. It’s almost an oddly gratifying concept. This paint disaster is making me a better, more punctilious painter. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Good thing I’m maintaining a positive attitude, because this was by far the worst part of the project… spending days and dollars undoing work that had already taken several days and several dollars, just to get back to where I started. But, I’ll chalk it up as a learning experience and a reminder never to skip the all-important step of SURFACE PREPARATION. And let’s be honest, in order to properly prepare a surface, you have to first understand WHAT your surface is. I was 0-2 on research and prep. (Did I mention I had no clue I was painting over WAX?)

Now, there are many ways to deal with unwanted paint layers, but my personal stash of paint removing implements included… an orbital sander. That’s it. I didn’t even have any sanding discs (or more likely, just couldn’t find them in our garage o’boxes ), so I needed to make another run to the hardware store. Meanwhile, a combination of frustration and incredulous fascination led me to explore just how much damage paint removal I could do with my fingernails…


nothing doing… this stuff comes RIGHT off!

Once I purchased the sanding pads, I could imagine what a dusty mess it was going to create. Step one was to block off the sanding area with plastic dropcloths so I could sand the paint + primer off the cabinets.


Sealed the kitchen off from the dining room


Sealed the painted kitchen area off from the non-painted area

Then, I was able to take the big boy orbital sander and rip the paint right off the cabinet faces. It was ugly. Be glad you missed it!


Once everything was sanded, I had to go in with the shop vac to remove the dust and paint flakes from inside the cabinets. What a MESS!

After taking the orbital sander to the painted cabinets, the resulting mess and debris clean-up was overwhelming, to say the least (even with my fancy drop cloth curtains there was dust EVERYWHERE). Again I trekked to the hardware store for advice. Their suggestion? Paint stripper, and lots of it. I was apprehensive, as I’d never used it before, but figured it would be easier than sanding. The downside… it’s super-caustic, so you need special masks, gloves, and throwaway brushes and receptacles to work with it.


Nothing like a litte highly toxic chemical solvent to make you feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂 No really, this stuff will make your brain melt, so I made sure to wear proper protection!

Over the course of a few hours, I was able to strip the paint + primer off of the cabinet doors and a few areas of the cabinets that I had not sanded. It worked really quickly and allowed my to easily scrape the paint off of the flat surfaces. The trouble was with the decorative panels carved into the doors. The paint combined with the stripping gel created a mushy concoction that wanted to badly to settle into all the grooves. I used a wire brush to try to get as much of it off as possible. Still, a close inspection will reveal a less than perfect surface on some of the doors. (You can kindly pretend not to notice if you see them in person.)  😀

After all this work CTRL+Z’ing my cabinets, I’d say that stripping and sanding are equally effective/unpleasant in my mind. They’re both a lot of trouble, both a little costly (anywhere from $20 to $30 for supplies), and both get the job done about 75%.

I’m tired, dirty, and covered in paint flakes and sandpaper scrapes, but I’m so very happy that this part of the job is OVER!

Kitchen Cabinet Redo Part 1: A Lesson in Product Selection and Surface Prep

So if you’re just joining us here at the LEO homestead, all you need to know is that the kitchen cabinets in our new old house are brown, inside and out, and we’re working hard to change that. Because life is easier when you aren’t worried about creepy crawlies camouflaging themselves against the insides of your cabinets. And, well,because I am slightly obsessed with white-painted anything.

If you know me, you know I tend to jump in feet first and figure things out along the way. (Working on improving my contingency planning skills, but for now it’s a lot of “live and learn”!)

So, given that my cabinets had some weird, dark, patchy faux finish, I sought out what seemed to be a super-product: Valspar ULTRA Paint + Primer. Extra coverage sounded like just the ticket for my brown on brown situation. Well friends, let me tell you… I was so very, VERY wrong!


A mere two days after closing on the house, I got all the cabinet doors pulled off and started slapping paint on carefully applying the first coat of paint + primer. We’re talking inside the cabinets, outside the cabinets, on the doors… pretty much everywhere possible. As I sat on the back porch admiring my freshly first-coat-painted cabinet doors, I looked closely and noticed that the finish was drying with a sort of orange peel texture. NO. BUENO.


Looks OK from a distance, right?       Just wait til you look a little closer…

orange rough-y-to-the-touch
Lumpy and bumpy… definitely not what we’re looking for in our shiny new white cabinets!

So, from past painting epic fails experience, I had a pretty good idea what was happening. The paint + primer was, understandably, very thick and dried fairly quickly (especially on the doors, which I was painting outside). That made for a bad combination. (For all you people way smarter than me non-painters out there, as paint dries, its surface smooths out and brush and roller strokes fade away before the final finish sets up. The thicker the paint, the less it’s able to smooth out. Also, the quicker it dries, the less time it has to smooth out.) All told, knew I needed a thinner paint and a longer drying time.

But wait, it gets worse! Not only was the finish funky, but the paint itself was NOT sticking. Not. Even. Close. A little scratch with my finger nail and it came right off, bringing the surrounding areas with it. Pull the dangling paint and you get a never ending stretchy string of latex, along with a heaping helping of frustration and disappointment. Here’s the kicker: at this point, I realized I was painting on top of… wait for it… WAX. Yes, the faux finish included a wax treatment for that nice “old world” look. No wonder nothing was sticking to the mystery surface that I thought was simply paint.


Trying to resist the urge to keep scraping and scratching at this peeling mess!

Alas, I had no choice but to accept  this temporary setback and go back to the drawing board while I look for a solution. These cabinets want so badly to be shiny white… and white they shall be!

Kitchen, Before

Kitchen, Before

First things first… let’s talk about the kitchen. First of all, the family who lived here before us did TONS of updates. Added cabinets, new finish, new floors, new layout, new sink and faucet… lots of updates. (Someday I’ll show you the original 1960s kitchen photos.)  Still, I can’t leave anything alone and I have a definite *thing* for white cabinets. The insides were raw wood, mostly original to the home, and very hard to wipe clean. The outsides were, well… distressed. Intentionally. The counters are wood, which in theory sounds fabulous but with the brown floors, brown walls, and brown cabinets… they just get lost. The plan – countless coats of semigloss white paint plus weeks upon weeks of manual labor. Sounds like a good deal! A few more “befores,” then we’ll  get started…

So much brown!

So much brown!

Scary and dark inside! Not to mention hard to clean…

The “nook,” as we’re calling it. A nice little setup to support our coffee habit, but also very brown.

So, you can see I have my work cut out for me. (I’ll leave the husband out of this for now… but I trust it will evolve into a definite “WE” situation before all is said and done.) Now… off to the first of many trips to the hardware store for paint supplies!