Living, Dining, and Bringing the Farm to the Ranch

To me, one of the greatest joys of home ownership is sharing our space with loved ones. Specifically, I’m talking about dinner parties. What’s better than enjoying great food and conversation in the comfort of your own home? Especially for those of us – ahem… HUSBAND – who suffer from the chronic and incurable condition known as the “food coma.”

We love our adorable, comfortable home, and have also loved having the opportunity to get a little creative with how we use our space. The original dining room had great natural light and looked out over the back yard, but the dimensions were a wee too teeny for all the guests we envisioned hosting. Here is the listing picture:


Additionally, we had this big, beautiful, “formal” living room that we couldn’t really see ourselves using the way it was designed. Again… the listing picture. (I can’t believe how much furniture this room holds!!)


After pondering this too little / too much space quandary, my husband had the ingenious idea to reinvent and repurpose our space in the way we saw fit – and that meant turning the living room into a big-o formal dining room and the dining room into a sunroom. (It’s cozy enough, after all!) This of course gave me license to have a great big dining room table. WOO HOO!!!!! Happy dance. Let’s get to work!

I found a tutorial on Pinterest for a homemade farm table from the Domesticated Engineer. She provided a cut list and step by step instructions, which we printed and took to Home Depot to collect lumber and supplies. The nice man in the lumber department made all the cuts for us so it was easy to load up the car with all the pieces. We got them home and laid them out to see what the final size would be.


Turns out it will be about 7 feet long and 3 feet wide. (Don’t you love that I waited until after I bought and cut the lumber to really assess the final size?) Anyway, it’ll be long enough to fit 3 parsons chairs on each side and 1 on each end… just in case someday  we can afford that many chairs! 🙂  Here’s what it looks like all put together… thanks to my sweet, drill-wielding husband!


I gotta say, the sanding took FOREVER, even with an orbital sander. There are just so many pieces and you have to sand each one the same way, rounding off the planed edges just so. If you try it yourself, make sure you wear a dust mask! Once we got it all sanded and assembled… Adam’s work was done and it was my turn working to get it all finished. We picked a dark walnut stain… and word the wise… that stuff needs professional shaking! I had never stained anything before in my life, so when the can said to “shake before using” I figured a few cocktail-style over-the-shoulder moves would suffice. NOT! The first half was water and the last half was tar. Miraculously. it turned out OK in the end after about 4 coats. Next time I’ll have the paint folks at the hardware store put the can on the paint shaker for me. (That’s probably what it would have taken to mix it thoroughly.)

So here’s what it looks like after 3 bad coats of watered down stain and one really extra thick one:




Here’s what it looks like all finished and in its new home in the transitional dining room.



As in, WHERE to put it? I am amazed at how many little plastic containers we have accumulated over the years. And each size has its purpose – soup, chicken, sides, sandwiches, etc. I did manage to pare down our collection a little bit, but still wound up with a huge stack of unsightly plastic containers and NOWHERE to put them. Sadly, they lived in a chair in the dining room for several weeks once we unpacked everything and discovered there was no room for them in the inn the kitchen.

Well, remember this little guy? (Check out his whack-to-black makeover here!)


I must confess, part of the reason I picked him up was for the extra storage potential in the bottom shelves. They looked just the right size for a big ol’ basket to hold any numbers of things I wanted kept out of sight. Of all the reasons to buy a piece of furniture, tupperware storage has to be one of the silliest. But after discussing the matter with a couple of friends, I realized just how prevalent and maddening this particular storage problem is! With all the different shapes and sizes, plus the added challenge of finding exactly the right lid, it’s enough to warrant a few deep breathing exercises. Talk about first world problems!

So after several weeks I tracked down just the right size basket at Homegoods. I think I paid $14.99, which is about the going rate.


And behind the curtain, my big mess of tupperware containers!! Ta-da!


You wouldn’t believe what a difference this has made to have a dedicated place for those things – and especially that it’s hidden away and doesn’t have to look pretty. Because let’s face it, they are just going to get thrown in there any-which-way, forever and ever, amen.

Hooray for sneaky storage!!


Chic of the Week – Home Style

After moving in almost exactly 3 months ago, I’m amazed at both how much and how little we have gotten done! It turns out – and everyone told me as much – that the things I thought I would be focused on took a back seat to the things that actually DEMANDED our attention.

In 12 weeks we have managed to:
• Install a brand new and very color-coordinated roof
• Have a gas leak fixed and plumb our stove for gas (goodbye glass cooktop!)
• Install a new (amazing) gas range and over the range microwave
• Install a new dishwasher a few weeks later (despite having sworn two new appliances were enough) when we finally got over the sound, smell, and size of the old one
• Replace the original 1960s Sears garage door openers with newer, quieter ones that don’t make the whole house shake when they open
• Paint the kitchen cabinets and install cabinet and drawer pulls. What. A. Job!

So, with that in mind, decorating and furnishing has been the last thing on our minds.

But now that those biggies are out of the way, I’ve become recommitted to decorating little bits at a time. I mean REALLY little bits. It was major news when I bought pillows last week! (And I was super excited to find them in a 2 pack for $20 at TJ Maxx!)

They go perfectly with our red couch and give me some great color ideas for the rest of the room… Hello, blue! By the way, this photo looked much better on my iPhone screen. Sorry about that!


I also found this adorable x-side table and metal and glass lamp at goodwill. So snazzy!


I seem to have such great luck at Goodwill, but really it’s just a statistical probability that if I go to three different stores every weekend I’m pretty much going to find SOMEthing awesome. 🙂

Let’s hear it for baby steps!!

The Cutest Little China Cabinet Makeover

Greetings! I’m all done with my mini Goodwill china cabinet makeover and ready to give y’all the full scoop! There he was, all lonely and ready for a new home…


I unloaded this little guy from the 4runner all by myself, in HEELS no less! It doesn’t weigh a whole lot, but it’s tall – probably 6 feet or so – thus a little cumbersome to move solo. But I was able to slide it out of the back of the truck and onto a flattened cardboard moving box and scoot it slooooowly into the garage. It was a major victory for me, since usually my projects begin not when I purchase an item but when my sweet husband can get it moved to a proper construction zone for me. But I digress. 🙂

Phase One: Paint

Phase 1 was painting (and of course everything that goes with it!). Here’s what I did:

  1. Removed the shelves, door and light fixture. Luckily someone had already helped me by permanently removing the bottom door, so I just had to take off the top one. Thank you, previous owner!
  2. Lightly sanded all over the inside and outside with an orbital sander using a medium grit disc – about 100. (Sandpaper would have worked, but I’ll use all the extra help I can get!) In hindsight, this is the one thing I would have done slightly differently. Once I got it all painted, I realized how much the woodgrain showed through. If I had to do it over again, I would have sanded the surface completely smooth instead of just scratch coating it. That would have given the piece a more polished “factory paint” look.
  3. Applied about 3 coats of satin finish latex paint (Glidden Onyx Black) to the insides, outsides, and one side of each removable shelf using a high density foam roller (a MUST for smooth surfaces). I didn’t sand in between coats, though I’ve heard it’s advisable. Someday I’ll start following all the surface prep rules… maybe just not all of them at once.
  4. Let it dry overnight and the next day finished the other side of the shelves and the door. The glass came out of the door pretty easily by just unscrewing the plastic brackets that held in place.
  5. Once everything was very dry to the touch, I pull it all back together and got some help carrying it up to our “sunroom” – formerly known as the dining room (more about that later!).

After: Phase 1

Fresher! Neater! Darker!

Fresher! Neater! Darker!

It came out great – the surface was nice and even and the paint dried SUPER fast out in the garage. The hardest part was waiting for the paint to cure before loading the dishes in so I didn’t tear up the shelves! OK, I scuffed them up a tiny bit. But in my defense, all my dishes were inhabiting our only dining area so I was in a bonafide rush! And no, I couldn’t have just moved all the dishes elsewhere for a few days… that would be far to sensible!

So after waiting as long as I could stand, I started loading him up with our “white china,” as I’m calling it. The bottom is going to hold storage baskets… I think.


Phase 2: Paper

So this was a definite improvement over the original, but seemed a little too dark for my liking. Luckily I had this fun wrapping paper I got from the dollar aisle at Target about 6 months ago. Didn’t know at the time how perfect it would be… it even matches my new foyer light!


One hitch I did not expect was how curly the paper was when it came off the roll. It was hard to measure and cut when it kept rolling back up on itself… and I definitely couldn’t spray the glue on with it like that, so I ended up unrolling the whole thing and rolling it back up “backwards” to even out the curl. I left it that way for a couple days until I could pick back up on the project. See how these “little jobs” end up dragging on for weeks? 🙂

I cut the newly uncurlified paper to size and stuck it to the back of the cabinet with Krylon spray adhesive. I had to cut the panels just right so that the pattern would line up from one piece to the next.

Phase 2: After

I think it turned out pretty cute!


The paper pattern breaks up all the black and ties it in to my other decor. Not a bad piece for $22 at Goodwill!


If you’ve got the time and energy, I hope you’ll go out and beautify one thing in your environment this week. There’s nothing like a good before and after… especially when you get to appreciate it every day!

Happy painting and papering,


A long overdue house update! Plus a Goodwill makeover

Howdy, friends! So, I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. 😐 Things have gotten quite busy on the work front, and consequently my free time had dwindled. But no excuse — I have been taking on little mini projects around the house and have gotten a lot done!

Thanks to a generous Home Depot gift card we got for our housewarming, we were able to update our super sixties foyer light with something more modern. I love this trellis pattern!


Much better, no? I just love it and think it makes our entryway look brighter and fresher!

We also finally got some cabinet and drawer pulls put on in the kitchen. We picked oil rubbed bronze to break up all the whiteness of the cabinets. Don’t worry – full kitchen photo update is coming soon! Currently finishing the polycryllic coat and picking the wall color. 🙂 Also, that dishwasher is being replaced AS WE SPEAK with one that will actually fit a standard 12″ dinner plate!


We also ripped off the bandaid and unpacked all 20 of our remaining boxes that were mostly filled with china and stemware. The result was a big mess of dishes and with nowhere to put them!


They used to all fit in our cabinets but the new place is slightly storage challenged in the dish/kitchen department (great storage everywhere else, though!)

So I decided I needed a new cabinet to store my non-glass pieces like ice cream dishes, sugar and cream containers, and tea pots. Hello, Goodwill!

I found this little number for about $20. The bottom door is missing but I plan to get some big baskets and store our one bazillion tupperware containers in there.


All he needed was a good cleaning and a new finish. And since everything I’ve painted so far was white, I went with black! (Daring, I know!)

Here’s the before and after:


I’m going to give the paint a few more days to cure before I load him up! I’ll be sure to post the full story when I’m all done. 🙂


Yours belatedly

Kitchen Update: It’s coming together!

We finally got the doors put back up this week. Now I can finish painting them and leave them open to dry for a few more days. Once they’re dry to the touch, I can’t wait to get the pulls installed. I chose oil rubbed bronze to break up all the white and help pull in the dark wood countertops.

Here’s my inspiration… kind of going for the farm kitchen look.


I love the wood counters and white cabinets. And the beadboard – yes please!

And here’s what we have so far…


Even with the lights off, the kitchen is so much brighter now!


House Gets a New Hat!

House Gets a New Hat!

New roof – “Tweed Blend” 3-tab shingles from Tamko

What a relief to have a brand new roof over our heads. For as much as I hated the brown in the kitchen, I sure do love it against the brick tones of the outside of our house!

It looks warmer than before and pulls in the brown tones from the brick. What do you think?

Before - old (VERY old) gray roof

Before – old (VERY old) gray roof

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!