MCM Dresser makeover Part 1...a tutorial!

I mentioned here my awesome MCM dresser find! Unfortunately the temperatures have been below freezing and Friday night we had a little snow storm roll in! 

Winter "BLAHS!!!!" For some it is that "depression" caused by the short days and over cast skies. For me, it is the result of being forced to sit and look at something I want desperately to begin working on!

So in spite of the freezing temperatures and mounting snow, I decided to dig into my newest treasure. My plan was to strip and oil the top and drawer fronts and paint the cabinet a soft off-white (similar to these little side tables).

I turned on the little electric heaters in the garage (which worked fine until my daughter turned on the blow dryer in my bathroom!), put on my heavy wool socks and Ugg boots, put on a pair of gloves, slipped my rubber gloves over my gloves....and went to work. 

First, let me share with you what I call "a treasure." Some may look at this and think "Seriously? A treasure?" Yes people...that is why this blog is called "Beckwith's Treasures"...not "Beckwith's Stuff That is Totally Awesome Without Lifting a Finger."  Treasures would imply that one has to search for it, recognize what it is even when it is a mess and then put in the time and effort to make it shine!

This little "treasure" is a mid-century Dixie walnut dresser made in Sweden. Yes, for those of us who drool over mid-century furniture, this is a treasure! (If you want an idea of just how obsessed I am with "mid-century" just use the "search" function on the left sidebar)

I wanted to see how well the top would clean I stripped one little's like "taking a peek." 

Like a lot of old veneer furniture, there was some chipping on both the top (see the corner!) and the drawer fronts. Fortunately, it was relatively minor. Minor enough to "ignore" as long as the veneer is otherwise "stable."

The top had two ink stains that had penetrated the raw wood. Even after stripping with the acetone/lacquer thinner mixture I use to strip old finishes, there were still some little ink stains. This piece is a prime example of why you DON"T sand would have risk damaging the thin walnut veneer. I went online and looked for a "chemical" solution..."how to remove ink stains from raw wood." I tried hairspray, baking soda and even alcohol as suggested. Little by little I was able to get rid of MOST of the ink stain...not all, but enough that (as my very wise father use to say) "You will never notice it on a passing train!" 

When you are refinishing old furniture sometimes you just have to embrace the imperfections. The only way I could completely mask the veneer chips and the ink stain and a few VERY small water rings would be to paint the entire piece...and I didn't want to do that! My whatever you have to do to ENHANCE the piece while embracing it's history. No sense in slathering the entire piece with paint just because of a few minor imperfections!

The first thing I did was strip the drawer fronts and the top. I used a mixture of 1/2 acetone and 1/2 lacquer thinner to remove the old finish. I scrubbed the drawer fronts and top with the mixture and steel wool and then I wiped it down with shop rags with a little bit of the mixture on it. You will go through a LOT of old rags during this process...always keep them handy.

After ALL the old finish was removed I "washed" it with mineral spirits. And remember, the color it is while wet with the mineral spirits is pretty much the color it will be with a clear oil finish.

It is obvious from the pictures that the finish was in pretty bad shape and HAD to be removed. Sometimes the finish appears intact, but has a "muddy" look to it. This picture is an example of what I mean by "muddy"...

The top drawer finish has been stripped...the bottom has not. See how the bottom drawer looks "muddy?" After stripping the old finish, you can really see the beauty of the natural wood color and the wood grain! Old finish does gets "muddy" looking. And over time it gets dinged and scratched, so removing it is worth the effort and not really that difficult if you use the acetone/lacquer thinner mixture, steel wool and LOTS of old rags. 

You can also see a little veneer chipping along the edges of these drawers. No biggy. Again, embrace the imperfections! I did use a little craft brush and some mahogany stain to touch up the chips and make them a tad less noticeable...again, "passing train." 

After I stripped all the drawer fronts I applied 4 coats of tung oil finish. In case you missed the first thousand times I posted about using tung oil finish...1) it is the BEST, 2) it is super easy to apply, 3) it is super durable and 4) it is super easy to "touch up."

I usually apply 3-4 coats of tung oil finish, rubbing with 0000 steel wool and tack cloth between coats after they have dried well. I can not stress enough how important it is to USE TACK CLOTH!!! You will NOT get all the "crumbs" and debris off without it and your finish will look and feel "grainy" or "rough." If you will rub with steel wool between each coat (don't be afraid to really work all the rough spots, even if it seems to "change" the color) and wipe it down with a tack cloth, you will have a smooth, professional both the touch and the eye! And remember ALWAYS rub or sand WITH the grain!

I did not apply a stain...this is the "natural" color of oiled walnut. Since I tend to be drawn to "warm" colors, I LOVE it!

After looking at the pictures of the dresser, I decided I wanted to oil the legs and "skirt" rather than paint them. So this morning I again put on my arctic gear and went into the garage to strip them. 

My plan now is to tape off the top and the legs and paint the cabinet off-white, first applying a primer and then sand and tack before applying the paint. I will do this before I apply oil to the top and legs. Painters tape is pretty good about not pulling off fresh paint or finishes, but I don't want to risk it!  

This is where the weather is stopping me in my tracks. I can bring the pieces into the house to oil them, but I can't spray paint in the house and there is no way for me to warm up my garage enough to again, it will sit and wait for a warmer day. 

So stay tuned for PART II....hopefully that will be next week when the temps hit a balmy 60 degrees for one day...before another winter front rolls in. 


Light fixture makeover....

It feels like it has been MONTHS since we had warm weather that would allow me to get out and project.  I was beginning to feel the "winter funk" creep in this week so I took a little time to dig around a few of my favorite thrift stores and flea markets.

I scored HUGE on a walnut mid century dresser. I can't wait to start working on it but with temps below freezing there is no way I can strip and refinish. So it will sit...for now. Along with an old chair I picked up at Salvation Army. Perfect for a little chalk paint and new upholstery...when the weather cooperates!

An old light fixture instantly caught my eye at one of my favorite "junk stores" and it was only $5.99 AND it had a BLUE tag so it was 50% off. Seriously, three bucks for a light fixture!

Some of you may be thinking I paid too!!!

As many times as I have professed my love for "mid-century" I am still drawn to some pieces that are "different." I love milk glass and the globes on this fixture have that "look" about them. I've never been really thrilled with the overhead light fixture in my kitchen and I thought this one would be kind of nifty...with a little tweek here and there of course.

I don't need a great deal of overhead lighting in the kitchen since my awesome SIL Joel installed the under counter lighting (seriously, you have to have under counter lighting...A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.)

But again, the temps aren't cooperating...there is NO WAY I can paint. Unless....

That's right....I built a little heated tent with a sheet and cardboard. Just big enough for the light fixture! The little heaters won't come close to heating up the entire garage when it is bitter cold outside, but they do a fine job of heating this little space!

Yea!!! I get to do something creative!! (I could do a sewing project...but again, that is more torture than creative!)

While the little tented area warmed up, I brought the primer and paint into the house to warm up...not a good idea to paint with cold paint.

First, I had to "dismantle" the fixture and clean it up. The globes went in the dishwasher and I wiped the rest down with a damp rag. Then I taped off the sockets and threads so they wouldn't get painted. I also did not want to paint the little white ceramic doo-dads so I took those off as well.  When I did, the wood part of the fixture came off...hum...makes it easy to paint them a really funky, bright color (nah, let's just do boring white!)

I sprayed the metal parts of the fixture with metal primer and the wood with Kilz.

After that dried well, I gave it a quick hit with steel wool and tack cloth, just to get rid of any "crumbs." I painted the metal with brush nickel spray paint and the wood with satin white paint.

Then I reassembled the fixture and hung it in my kitchen! (I will skip the part about handling it before the paint was cured and having to "repaint" it...TWICE! I will skip the part about having to change out the bracket screws, stripping them and then having to hunt for screws the right size. I will skip the part about dropping the wire nuts and crawling around on the floor trying to find might think all DIY projects go smoothly...HA!)

I can easily add a little pop of color to this fixture in the future just by painting the wood part...and it will be easy to do. I can just remove the little ceramic doo-dads and slip the wood off...I won't even have to take down the fixture!

This isn't the first time I have painted a light fixture. Here I show you how easy it is to change the look of a fixture or paddle fan with a little bit of spray paint! Spray paint comes in a variety of awesome designer colors and "metal finishes", silver, brushed nickel, bronze, etc! 

Installing a new light fixture is NOT a hard thing to you can see just how easy it can be!

I think the light fixture is nice. Since I have high ceilings I know I could go with a much larger fixture, but for now I kind of like this one. Again, I don't need a whole lot of overhead lighting. It is definitely different which is something I always look for. 

Which brings me to a battle that is currently raging in my brain.

I am not buying the house I shared here. I had intended to buy it whether mine sold or not and rent it until mine sold. After a thorough inspection and getting bids for the "have to" repairs, that's not happening. I am a bit bummed...I really want a smaller house with a smaller yard. And to be honest, I was looking forward to really digging into a project like that. 

But since it is was not "meant to be" I am now swinging my attention to a few little things I think I MIGHT want to do in this paint my kitchen cabinets...hence the "raging battle." 

I am not in favor of making HUGE changes just for the sake of making changes...or for the sake of "following the fads." I predicted burlap and chevron would fall out of favor in short order...and sure enough it is. But changing out a few pillows here and there or painting over a chevron wall are relatively simple. If this "white cabinet" thing is indeed a "fad" that will soon pass, I would be kind of screwed on the cabinet deal.

If painting will "enhance" your space, go for it. But I am not yet convinced that painting these cabinets will actually "enhance" the space.

I know I want to eventually change out the big hulking refrigerator for a counter depth stainless steel...which means I need a new stainless range...and dishwasher...and microwave...and maybe new flooring....

Truth is, I really like the cabinet color. And the appliances all work just fine. And the flooring is okay. I think I am just craving a major change and a back breaking project. Silly me.

See what happens when I get in a "winter funk." 



Archiving old family photos....

I am a photo hoarder. And not just digital photos. I print every single picture I take, label them and put them in photo albums. 

For some, that process is overwhelming! But I have lived long enough to know that every "great format" for photo storage is soon eclipsed by something "better" and the next thing you know your photo storage is obsolete. Slides, negatives, floppy disks, CDs, jump drives, I-whatever, the "cloud." All ways we have stored our photos over the years.

Like many, I have all my digital family photos on my computer and a backup drive. But I take it a step further....I print them all AND I copy them onto two CDs. Each CD is labeled (with a Sharpie) and I put one in a CD case that goes in a labeled box (you know so we can look at them, but we never do!)....

...and the other goes into my fire proof lock box. I divide photos by "person" and those go in the individual's albums and CDs. Group pictures are put onto a "family" CD and in the "family" album. Someday all my kids will be able to take their individual CDs and photo albums...and then they can fight over the "family" photos. 

If the house burns or blows away and all my printed photos are destroyed, I will still have the CDs in my lock box. If my computer crashes, I still have my backup, the CDs and my printed photos. Unless an atomic bomb drops on my house, I think I will still have some form of my cherished family photos!!!

BD...Before Digital. I have negatives. Boxes of negatives. My goal SOMEDAY is to buy one of those nifty machines that lets you convert your negatives to digital. Then if all my BD photos are destroyed I will have digital backups. (Seriously, I don't have an apocalyptic bunker...I'm just an "archive freak.")

"Back in the old days" it seems we only took a few pictures of people and events. When I went through my childhood pictures, I found only a handful of pictures taken on holidays and during special events. The cost of the film, development and printing was a bit pricey before digital photos and storage. 

One hundred years ago, the only photos a family may have had were portraits that were taken during special occasions! Believe it or not, owning a camera was a luxury. 

Now everything is "digital" AND phones... and you can take 400 pictures at Christmas and it doesn't cost much....unless you are like me and actually print all 400 pictures. Seriously, I print all 400, label, divide and put them in albums. 

Years ago I inherited several boxes of old family photos, letters and back to the early 1900s. It was all from both my parent's families and I was determined to "divide and conquer" into a system that would work to preserve it all.

Let me say upfront...this was NOT a weekend took me months to do this. Also, I chose this method of archiving the numerous photos I had because they were all different sizes. 

First I divided everything by "family" mom's and my dad's. Then I had to divide by grandparent's and great-grandparent's...and even a few great-greats...almost like a photo family tree. After I got everything divided into piles, I tried to arrange the photos chronologically. At times that was difficult to do since many of the photos were not dated or labeled in any way. (People, take time to identify and date your THINK you will remember who, when and where, but trust me you won't...and who will when you are gone?!)

It was good that I had my mom around to help because she was able to tell me who many of the people where and give me a general idea of when the photos might have been taken! I also emailed many photos to my uncle so he could help me identify people and places and years! Between the two of them I was able to identify and date almost every picture! 

I never actually wrote that information ON the original photo, but rather used "sticky" notes until the photos were transferred onto acid free paper! Then I wrote the information on the page so that some day others would be able to easily identify the person and year the photo was taken!

Some did have the original handwritten information on the back so I used my color printer to scan the backs onto acid free paper, printed and cut it out and then attached it with the photo so that others could see what was on the back without having to dislodge the photo. It was amazing to actually see (and preserve) the hand writing of my ancestors!

I know my Great-Grandmother Furr-Tucker was born in I know this photo was taken in 1910...but I probably should write that on the page for future generations!

ALWAYS store photos on acid free paper. You can buy it in bulk at your local office supply store. MAKE SURE it specifically says it is ACID FREE or is specifically for archiving! This is important! 

Also, if you choose to use photo albums, always make sure the pockets or sleeves are "acid free" or "archival safe." And PLEASE, PLEASE take all the photos you put in to those "magnetic" albums out immediately..they will destroy your pictures over time!

I attached some of the photos onto the acid free paper with just a tiny piece of double sided acid free tape and some with the little acid free "corners" you can pick up at the craft store! 

After attaching the photos and writing what information I had about the picture on the paper, I scanned every single page. Yes...EVERY SINGLE PAGE! The great thing about this was I was able to make CDs for family members. Now everyone in the family has high resolution digital copies of every single picture and the information about the photo! And again, if by some disaster the original photos and albums are destroyed, we have digital copies of it all.

I slipped each page into acid free clear pockets. Again, you can find these at your local office supply store! 

Then I put all of them into "family" albums and labeled the albums .... dad's family in the blue's in the burgundy. 

The last albums are photos of my mom and dad together...from the time of their marriage, throughout their lives together, until my father's death. Years ago I "scrapbooked" my personal childhood photos (again, we didn't take many back then) so I already had my personal photos properly stored! 

For years my mother was active in the local theater. I put together an album of all her plays. Play bills, photos, scripts, etc. 

I was able to purchase "accordion" style acid free clear pockets for things like newspaper clippings, old maps, letters, brochures, certificates, etc...anything I did not want to actually "attach" to paper or was just too bulky. I just slipped them into a clear pocket and they stored easily in the binders without damaging the original item! 

I actually found a box of old slides of my mother when she was younger. Slides can be printed and the quality of the photos are AMAZING!!! True treasures! If you have a box of old slides, take them to a photography store and have them printed! It allows you to enjoy the picture without having to find (good luck) an old slide projector! Same with the old 8 mm can have that transferred onto a DVD. I found an old 8 mm reel of my parents at my baby shower and a few minutes of me as a of my parents and me 50+ years ago...incredible! 

It is important to properly archive old family photos and momentos. I found that much of the stuff just thrown into boxes had begun to discolor and degrade. Storing them on acid free paper in acid free pockets in a climate controlled area (like a closet or pantry, NOT the attic) should preserve them for decades! 

I also scanned every one of my grandmother's old handwritten recipe cards and I have them on my computer. SOMEDAY I hope to print and share my grandmother's handwritten recipe cards...someday!

Years ago, people actually hand wrote wrote down the information they wanted to share with others, put it in an envelope and actually MAILED it. No emails, no texts, no twits, no Facebook PMs...just old fashion snail mail. It is a lost art...and as a result we are losing the written history of our families.

I found hundreds of letters my grandmother, great-grandmother and others had written to each other dating from the 1940s into the 1980s! (I suspect that is because long distance calling was no longer as expensive) I spent HOURS at Office Depot copying all the letters and envelopes. Copying the envelope with the letter is important because it may be the only way to date the letter.

Then I organized the letters chronologically and put the copies into binders. I stored the original letters in an acid free box. It was amazing to read what my Great Grandmother wrote about the shooting of JFK in Dallas...where they lived at the time. My Grandmother's accounting of her life while raising my uncles in Germany during the 60s. And the letters she sent back to the states when the family toured Europe during the 50s, just a decade after my Grandfather served there during World War II. Amazing history of my was better reading than any novel!

It always makes me sad to see old family photos and letters at flea markets, auctions and antique stores...historical family documents that should have been preserved by the family. While they are nifty "vintage" photos and letters for you to decorate and craft with, they are someone's sad no one in their family bothered to preserve them!

Old family photos are great for decorating and craft projects. But with today's technology there is no reason to destroy an old family photo or letter by slathering it with can make an exact photo copy by scanning the photo or letter and then preserve the original! 

The technology we have today opens a whole world for decorating and crafting....but it is important to use it to preserve our family history as well! 


Finally a little auction action...

...but little to write home about.

The weather was beautiful yesterday but there were no onsite auctions so Brian and I headed to an auction house. 

The auction offered several "moving" and "estate" collections, but after a couple of hours we decided our time would be better off spent enjoying the beautiful day. The weather forecast for the next few days is predicting bitter cold, snow and sleet so we definitely wanted to be out enjoying the "pre-spring" temperatures rather than cooped up inside bidding on what few things sparked my interest...and honestly, with the prices things were selling for and the sheer magnitude of the uninteresting items to be sold, I was a tad bored.

I did pick up a few little things. Two old Boy Scout "backpacks"I thought my son-in-law might find interesting and an old scale....

This is the second set of old scales I have purchased...they seem to be all the rage right now! The first set I picked up were antique  Penn Scales and they didn't last long in my booth!

I love the look of these "vintage" treasures on my counters but I just can't seem to bring myself to "clutter" what little counter space I have with items I don't use...even if it is nifty looking! 

Now if they were scales that belonged to one of my grandmothers, that is another story. Even though I don't use wood cutting boards, the one behind the scales belonged to my it stays. 

Usually I will let "froo-froos" hang out for a bit and then eventually I will take it to one of my booths to sell! 

For now I have listed the scales on my Etsy can see them here!

That's the "circle of decor life" around here.

Simple before and afters....

Today I want to share a few super simple little projects that prove you can take the ugliest little piece of furniture and with a few waves of a magic spray paint wand, turn it into something you can proudly use in your home!

These aren't "hard" projects. Most require minimal repairs, a good coat of primer, (my favorite is Kilz) a little sanding and spray paint.

Lowe's (and most home improvement stores) now carry spray paints in awesome designer colors! Teals, reds, pinks, purples, greens....just about any color to compliment or jazz up your decor!

Here I shared how just a little bit of spray paint changed the entire look and feel of the bedroom furniture I had grown weary of (nice way of saying I REALLY disliked it!)  I actually kind of like it now and am not tempted daily by the desire to run out and spend thousands on new furniture! 

But honestly, that was a pretty sizable project. You don't have to do anything THAT big to make a huge impact on a room. Just painting a few little pieces here and there can change how you feel about a room. As I have said many times, before you sell it in a garage sale for pennies or haul it to the curb, give it a coat of paint. Who may just find that you like it again! Or if you see something cheap at a garage sale or thrift store, don't turn your nose up at it just because it is the wrong color...color can be changed!

This piece was one my neighbor gave me. Her son had tried to sell it in a garage sale and had no takers! Part of the reason may have been that it was "broken." The little bottom shelf was cracked! A little glue and clamping, a coat of Kilz, sand, tack and spray paint. Good as new...actually, better if you ask me!

On these inexpensive little pieces, I usually just spray paint the existing hardware. Why spend money on new hardware when you can spray paint what is there for next to nothing. Just stick the hardware in a piece of styrofoam, hit it with a little bit of metal primer, then spray paint it! I painted this one with brushed nickel paint. They have gold, silver, bronze...just about any metal color you could want.

I found this ugly little "pressed board" table in one of my apartments. It was missing a drawer, so I added a shelf on the bottom and again...primer, sand, tack and spray paint! Sooooo simple!

I didn't like the wood knob. I had a little knob in my hardware stash so I gave it a coat of black paint...super simple!

This is my bedside table. Again, painting the bed and high boy was a bit of a chore...but just updating the bedside tables can make a huge impact in a bedroom!

I removed the little scrolly doodads on the sides and used wood filler to putty the holes. I went a step further on this table and gel stained the top and painted the base. I HIGHLY recommend using General Finishes gel stain if you want a little contrast on a piece. Again, the hardware wasn't cutting it for me and I didn't want to spend the money on I painted the existing hardware and it changed the entire look of the piece! 

Using gel stain is super simple. I use the process featured on "Monica Wants It" on pieces I don't want to strip and it works every time...regardless of what I am staining. Monica used it on oak builder grade cabinets but I have found it works on just about anything! But trust me...follow the process to a T and do not try it with any other gel stain...order the General Finishes Gel Stain on Amazon...other gel stain products just don't work as well! 

If you don't like the color of a piece of furniture, PAINT IT! Again, you may still not like it, but you won't get any more or less for it at a garage's worth a shot!


Tips and tricks for the DIYer....

On this page, I talk in detail about the tools you definitely want in your DIY arsenal.

Again, if you are an avid DIYer (or want to become one!) these are tools you will want. Ask for them for Christmas, Mother's Day and birthday gifts, invest in them a little at a time as the need arises, and watch for them to go on sale...usually around the holidays and Father's Day (like men are the only ones who need them...geez!)

Throughout the blog, I give detailed instructions on all types of DIY projects...from painting furniture to caulking bath tubs! Just use the search function to find posts that address any questions you might have!  Or shoot me an email!

Today I want to share just a few "tips and tricks" I have learned and developed over the years of "projecting." This is by no means a complete list....and most I have shared on here from time to time. But I thought it would be a good time to compile a list of simple little suggestions that can make your DIYing projects a little bit easier.

In no particular order....

1) Cutting foam. For years I used a razor knife, serrated knife and scissors to cut foam. Then I read a "tip" somewhere about using an electric bread knife....

I happened to stumble across one at a garage sale or $1, so I decided to give it a shot.

CUTS THROUGH FOAM LIKE IT IS BUTTER! Seriously, I don't know how I did anything before I added this to my arsenal of tools. I use it to cut foam for cushions and reupholstery projects and it cuts the foam straight and without those "layer lines." I just mark the foam with a sharpie and then cut right through the entire thickness...I use it on regular foam and memory foam!

You can find these knives for pennies at thrift stores and garage sales...GET ONE! For $1, it pays for itself the first time you need it!

2) Speaking of foam....several little "tips." First, I make my own sponge applicators for applying wipe on finishes (oils or poly) and stains by using scrap foam and cheap socks I buy at garage sales and thrift stores!

You can read here how I collect all kinds of things from thrift stores and garage sales to use while bowls, old measuring tools, towels for shop rags, etc. The pennies and dollars saved add up real quick when you project!

And another "tip" on foam. Foam can be REAL expensive if you buy it "by the piece" at craft and sewing stores. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy one of those "memory foam" mattress covers clearance priced from Overstock or Amazon. Use your bread knife to cut it to the size you need for the project you are working on...then roll it up, tie it off with a rope or or even an old sock and save it for the next project!! If you are reupholstering several pieces or making several seat cushions, it might be worth it! Do the math!

3) Painting hardware! Cabinet and dresser hardware can get pretty expensive if you have to replace it. The best source (i.e. the cheapest) I have found for replacements is But if you don't have the money to buy new hardware or knobs you can paint them!!! Or if you just want the screws that will show to match whatever you are painting, paint them to match!

If you are painting hardware, start by reinserting the screw into the hardware, paint the underside first, then flip it over and stick the screw into a piece of styrofoam. I use old styrofoam lids and styrofoam from shipping packages...

If you are painting screw heads, just stick the screws into the styrofoam!

I always prime mine first with a good metal dries quickly and then you can spray it with your spray paint or use a "craft" paint brush to paint them. Most home improvement stores carry "metallic" colored paints...brushed nickel, gold, silver, etc. 

After I paint the hardware the color I want it, I spray them with a light coat of poly so they will hold up well to use!

Did you know you can paint interior door knobs? Mine were an ugly bright brass. I removed them, stuck them in styrofoam, hit them with a coat of primer and then spray painted them black. They look AMAZING with my interior doors I painted black! And SOOOO much cheaper than replacing all the door knobs!

4) Paint additives. As I have said many times, the trick to getting a great paint finish is the "prep." Stripping, sanding, priming...whatever the piece needs. And of course, using quality brushes or proper spray paint techniques. But ANY time you are going to roll or brush latex paint or oil-based paint you need to add an additive...Floetrol for latex paints and Penetrol for oil-based paints. They help the paint "level" while drying and eliminates brush strokes and roller marks. 

5) Paint cans. I always save leftover paint for touch up. The best way to make sure your paint stays usable is to 1) store it indoors, away from extreme heat and cold AND 2) make sure you seal the lid properly. That is tough to do when you have paint gunked up in the rim. So as soon as you open a can of paint (regardless of the size) take a small nail and hammer and punch little holes, about every 2-3", around the inside of the rim....

This allows any paint that gets in the rim from pouring or wiping your brush to flow back into the can. Then you can just wipe out the rim with a paper towel before resealing it! 

Speaking of paint cans, make sure you write on the lid what the paint is room walls, master bath trim, etc. If you store it in a closet with the lid well sealed, it will last for YEARS and make touch up a breeze! I just touched up the walls we painted 8 years ago and you can't even tell where I touched up! 

6) Which brings me to an important reminder about paint. Make sure you save the leftover for touchups. You can save it in the original can as long as the lid is air tight, which it should be if you use the above tip. If you have just a little bit of paint leftover, pour it in a glass jar with a tight lid or store it in a clean quart size can! STORE IT IN THE HOUSE! In the back of a closet or cabinet and labeled. Just make sure you don't put it someplace that has extreme hot and a storage building or garage.

Clearly mark the container so you know what room it goes to. I repainted my living room, kitchen and den 8 years ago. I stored the leftover paint in the cubby in my laundry room. Last week I opened the can, gave the paint a good stirring and used a 4" foam roller to touch up all the walls. You can't even tell!  

Both oil based and latex will store for years if you keep it out of extreme temperatures and seal the container. Oil based paint may form a thick hard layer...just scope it out with a stick and stir it REAL well...good as new! I have been able to touchup my trim for YEARS with the same can of leftover oil-based paint! 

I keep a can of leftover paint in all my rooms...touch up is a breeze regardless of how long it has been since I last painted

7) Floral Foam. A huge expense. Here I share with you how to use spray insulation foam to fill urns and flower pots for seasonal arrangements!

8) Finding inspiration. Here I share how I found inspiration for my master bathroom.

So many times we zero in on a picture on Pinterest or another blog and think "Wow, I want my room/dresser/desk to look JUST like that." But unless you have a room/dresser/desk just like that or have the same exact resources for the elements, yours may never look "just like that" and you will inevitably be disappointed!

So take your time...collect pictures that "strike your fancy." Even if it isn't a space "just like yours" put the picture in a file (either a paper file or computer file). Do this over a period of time and then go back and look at them. Find the common element in each...what is it about that space or item that you love? 

Chances are, you don't love EVERYTHING, but maybe just a few of the elements....the color, the style, the hardware, the lighting. Regardless of how many "inspiration" pictures you have gathered, there will be something in each you can incorporate into your project.

Don't take a picture of a million dollar master suite and tell the clerk at the home improvement store (or your husband) that you want THAT suite in your 3 bedroom ranch house. Probably isn't going to happen. But you can take the elements of ALL your "inspiration" rooms and incorporate it into your space. 

9) Make lists. Large or small project! Seriously. Sit down and make a list of EVERYTHING you want to do in your room. Or if you have a lot of little "honey-do" projects you want completed throughout your house, write them down!

Seriously overwhelming huh? 

Now, prioritize. You can do this by room or by project, depending on what you want accomplished.

You may not be able to completely redecorate your master bedroom, but maybe you can start by completing a few smaller projects in that room and throughout the house. 

If your plan is to completely redecorate a room, it is important that you collect your inspiration as I suggested, make a detailed list of each project you want to complete, assign a realistic cost (keeping in mind that you may have HIRE someone to do some of the work!), and then write down each project in the order in which you intend to complete the task.

If you need to declutter and clean the space, write it down. If you need to make little repairs here and there (walls, missing trim, etc) write it down! 

This is called "making a plan." Just like building a have to have a plan and you have to know exactly what needs to be done and the order in which each task has to be completed...and for most of us, we have to have a realistic budget. WRITE IT DOWN AND FOLLOW THE PLAN!! The entire plan...from start to finish! 

As you go, mark off the completed tasks...this is what I call "eating an elephant one bite at a time!"

10) Which brings me to my last "tips for the day." Declutter and clean! Seriously, GET RID OF STUFF! Clutter and filth are the number one reason why people struggle with home DIY projects. You want your space to look like a picture on a blog or Pinterest...but let me ask you, when was the last time you saw a picture of a space you loved that was filled with clutter or just plan dirty! You don't. 

These are just a few helpful tips! Every project is different and as I have shared what I do, I try to give you little tips here and there that will make your DIY project a little easier and a little more affordable. 

I am always amazed at what people think they CAN'T do. I like to think that we in the "blogisphere" inspire others to take on a I CAN DO THAT attitude! 

Antique side table...before and after!

Today is one of those days when I had to dig around in my photo files to find a project I have not shared.

I had hoped to share more about my home buying and selling process, but since I am in the "frustrating" phase and not yet "on the other side," it is probably not a good time.

I did meet with the Realtors yesterday and we did a walk through of my house. They gave me great tips on staging the house...most I knew I needed to do but it was nice to have confirmation. I have been completing small tasks that I have put off for some time...paint touch up here and there, tile repairs, caulking, etc....but there are always those big things that need to be done. Removing furniture, decluttering MORE, etc. Very helpful! The big hangup right now is the inspection on the place I want to buy! I will go into more detail on that later!

For now, a super simple little project. An old table I bought at an auction months ago. It is one of the projects that languished in my garage for months, only because I knew I had to construct a new top and I just wasn't in the "mood."

As you can see, the top was a total bust so I knew it had to be replaced! The sides and fronts were veneer as well, and they were in pretty rough shape and the original finish had "crackled!" I decided to embrace it other words, I did minimal structural repairs and then applied a "chalk paint" treatment to the base, distressed it, and applied a clear coat.

Two years ago, I bought some solid oak tongue and groove planking at an auction. I have had it stored in one of the storage buildings at the apartments and I have used it occasionally for signs and such. I decided to use it to build a top for this little table.

I cut four pieces the width I needed for the table top, cut and sanded the "tongue" off the front edge, then glued all the pieces together and clamped it. I let it dry overnight.

Originally I just glued and clamped the top to the base...but that did not work! I didn't want to put nail holes in the top so I pre-drilled little holes in each corner, counter-sunk screws, and then glued little oak plugs into the holes. 

I stained the top with brown mahogany gel stain and then sealed it with spray on poly. 

I think it would make a great little bedside table or side table in a living room...maybe even a tv has the perfect space for electronics.

Simple...again, don't overlook those ratty little pieces you see at garage sales and thrift stores! With just a little bit of effort and imagination, you can turn them into a beautiful and useful piece! 


This has been a week of "letting go." Of special pieces of furniture, a home I love and a beloved pet. What an emotional roller coaster!

Easiest first....I constantly harp on keeping your home free of clutter. But I am notorious for hanging onto things that were my kids.

It doesn't bother me too terribly much because they each still have their "own" room in my house where their walls are adorned with framed jerseys, flight maps, pictures and diplomas...and their closets are packed with shoes and clothes I know they will never wear again. I have an entire attic full of carefully boxed and labeled childhood "momentos." Specifically every trophy, jersey, letter jacket, report card, certificate, award, newspaper clippings...anything and everything that represents their childhoods is stored in my attic.

One thing I could NOT get in the attic is this little "house shelf" I built and painted for Katie when she was a baby. 

I built this cabinet and a little table and "tuffets" for her first Christmas. The table and tuffets are long gone but this little shelf was in her room until she was old enough to put her foot down and demand I remove it. I think it was after the "teal, purple and blue" phase and before the  "fail whale/chalk wall." 

Since I had no place to put it, it has languished in the garage for years. Brian has begged me to sell it to free up space, but I just could not bring myself to part with it. I wanted it to go to another little girl and I NEVER want it sold in a garage sale for $25.

Wednesday a beautiful little girl came to claim it. She immediately did what Katie did when she was little...curled right up in the cabinet and shut the door. I found Katie sleeping in there on more than one occasion.

Almost made me cry.

So next week the precious little "house shelf" will go to another little girl's room. I told her parents I never wanted it sold...when their daughter is old enough to put her foot down and demand it be taken away, I wanted it given to another little girl or returned to me.

Then...I made an offer on a house and (after weeks of back and forth...its a repo...what a nightmare!) it was accepted. I will go into much more detail in the future, but suffice it to say, I have a MAJOR project on my hands AND I have to get my house ready to sell. Wow...I honestly never thought I would say that about this house!

Don't judge just yet...I know, the colors are all wrong, the landscaping is all wrong, the "lack of architectural style" is all wrong...and don't even get me started on the inside. But I think it has "good bones" and a lot of potential.

Give me time, and all the equity in this house, and I know it will eventually be a great house.

Again, I will share more details later! There are some tremendous upsides to this house...or at least it's "potential." There will be LOTS of projects to share and I am sure the buying and selling process will give me a lot to talk about in the next few months. 

Lastly, (and the most heart wrenching).... I had to make the decision to have my precious Molly kitty put to sleep. 

She was a week older than Katie...and we have had her since Katie was a newborn. Seventeen plus years. It ripped my heart out to let her go. She was a beautiful, loving, precious kitty!

If you have never had to have a precious pet put to sleep, you are so fortunate. It is a gut-wrenching experience and one I now dread even more since I have a house full of much loved critters that I know I will have to part with someday.

I won't go into gory details, but I dropped her off at Dr. Mark Davis' office Thursday morning. When he called me later that morning (a wonderful, kind friend who happens to be our vet!) he told me what was going on and what our options were. The decision on how to proceed was too much so I asked him what HE would do if she were HIS cat. Considering her age and other health issues, the prognosis was not good...but it ultimately was still my decision. It is a decision one should NEVER have to make. If we dare to even think about it, we all hope our precious pets will just die peacefully in their little beds after a long and happy life. We are not always so fortunate.

I went back up to his office, wrapped her in a towel and spent time holding and petting her. And crying. She knew something was wrong...she always does....if I was ever sick or upset, she knew. She took her little paw and started stroking my face. That made it even worse. There was a moment when I thought I would just walk out the door with her and take her home. But I knew that would not be best for her. 

Sometimes letting go means putting aside your own pain and fear and thinking of what is best for someone else. 

We have three other cats. And two dogs. 

But I don't think I will every have another kitty as special as Molly. 

Naturally, I am crying just relating this story. When I am sad I try to think of something funny or happy to keep from "going there."

Years ago my mother had to have her siamese cat put to sleep. I had to explain the process to the boys (then 5 and 4). The "doctor" had to put Amy "to sleep" because she was sick and that meant she had died and we would no longer get to see her. A few weeks later Mitchell developed a rash and my mother looked at it and said I should probably take him to the doctor. He began crying hysterically and refusing to go to the doctor. When I was finally able to get him to calm down enough to understand him, he said through gasps and hysterical tears "I DON'T WANT TO BE PUT TO SLEEP!"

Tough week...letting go can seem unimaginable...whether it is a person, pet, house or a silly piece of furniture! But in the end you have to focus on the positive and keep moving forward! Think of all the wonderful things you miss when you are consumed by and mired down in sadness and grief. 

Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened! 

Ugly laminate dresser before and after...

Like old maple furniture, they are a dime a dozen...old "laminate" furniture. The pieces aren't constructed near as sturdy as the old maple furniture (Here, here and here are a few maple pieces I have featured) but if you have a "boring" old laminate dresser sitting around or if you stumble across one at a thrift store or garage sale for next to nothing, it takes little time and effort to bring them back to life! 

Like most of these pieces, the top and sides (basically the "box") were all laminate. The drawer fronts were wood veneer.

What is the difference you ask? Basically, laminate is a "plastic" type material over particle board...then a "grain" is printed on to give it a "wood look." Veneer is generally constructed of a real wood top layer glued onto a wood base. It is pretty easy to tell the difference...if it looks and feels like "plastic" it is probably a laminate...if it looks and feels like real wood (but it is not a solid piece of wood) it is probably a veneer.

The biggest difference for me when redoing one of these pieces is I always prime and paint the laminate...usually spray paint. I use a chalk paint treatment on the veneer because I can "distress" it and the "real" wood grain will peek through. 

On this little dresser, both the laminate and veneer were in pretty good shape. Sometimes you will see "chipping" on either the veneer or the laminate. Both are relatively easy to repair. First, scrape away any loose pieces. Apply wood filler with a putty knife and then sand it smooth after it dries. 

Since we are in the heart of "Razorback country" I decided to give it a black and red treatment. I thought it would look cute in a boy's room or maybe in someone's "man cave" as a tv console. 

Again, super simple transformation. I removed all the drawers and then removed the hardware. Replacing hardware can get real expensive, real fast so I decided to give these little pulls a makeover as well. After I removed the pulls from the drawers, I put the screws back in them and stuck them in some old styrofoam (here is a picture example). I primed them with a metal primer and then I sprayed them with the same spray paint I used on the box. 

I sprayed the "box" with Kilz, sanded, tacked and then gave it two coats of red spray paint. I painted the drawers with homemade black chalk paint (two coats) and then distressed them a bit. I sealed all the pieces, including the hardware, with clear spray on poly. 

If you have an old dresser like this and need inspiration for color or styling, check out Pinterest. There are sooo many inspiration pieces. Some even remove a few of the drawers and add a shelf in the space so it can be used as an entertainment center for a tv and video equipment. I have done that with an old maple dresser and it turned out super cute and perfect for a living room.

I had the chest that matched this dresser...I painted the "box" off-white and the drawer fronts a pretty tealy blue. I redid it months ago and it is long gone! This poor little guy has languished in my garage for months and was one of the many projects I managed to get completed this week during our little warm spell...along with cleaning out the pond (AGAIN!) and washing exterior windows!

Good thing I got a lot done the last few days because today it feels more like winter again. 

School desk makeovers...

The temps FINALLY warmed a bit and I was able to get out in the garage and get a few projects done! It is impossible to paint outside, or even in the garage, when it is bitter cold! Yes, I need a heated shop, but since I don't have one I am at the mercy of Mother Nature!

One "project in the waiting" were 5 old school desks I bought at an auction several months ago. I have "repurposed" several old school desks over the years (these oak desks and this cute little metal desk) and it is always one of my favorite projects. Every time I fix up one of these little desks I wish I had done them for my own kids but they are still fun projects because I know some special kid, somewhere, is going to get an awesome little desk!

When I bought these desks I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them...paint the metal legs bright colors and chalkboard paint on the tops! 

The first thing I did was give them a good scrubbing. They had been used as plant stands so they were pretty dirty. I scraped off all the gunk and sanded the most glaring scratches and rust.

Rust on metal is common on older metal pieces and it is important to get as much of it off as you can and then use a good metal primer before painting. I usually scrub the pieces with vinegar water (1/2 and 1/2) and steel wool, then prime with a metal primer specifically for rust. ..I use Rust-oleum automotive primer!

I used this process on these outdoor chairs and this old metal typewriter table and both have held up beautifully!

I primed the laminate tops with Kilz. After all the metal primer and Kilz dried well, I sanded them with 0000 steel wool and then wiped them down with a tack cloth to get rid of all the dust!

I sprayed the legs and underside of each desk with spray paint. I usually use Valspar "paint and primer" spray seems to hold up well and comes in wonderful "designer colors." Keep in mind, even though it SAYS it is a "paint and primer in one" I always prime the pieces me "old school" but I just think it is best to prime first before you paint! Besides, the primary coat will highlight anything that needs to be sanded or patched before the final coat of paint!

I applied chalkboard paint to the tops of each desk with a 4" sponge roller...three coats! 

TIP! The trick to a flawless paint finish (other than chalk paint!) is first and foremost the prep! Paint WILL NOT cover up scratches and rough spots. So make sure you sand, tack and prime well before you apply paint.

The trick to spray paint is to apply light coats and allow it to dry well between coats. Spray paint dries fairly quickly so I usually apply additional coats after about 1 hour...too hot or too cold and you will see your "spray lines!"

The trick to getting a good finish when applying paint with a sponge roller on flat surfaces is to apply your paint with the roller, then run the roller in the same direction on the final pass. Think of it like running your hand on velvet...if you run it in different directions, the nap of the fabric will look different...same with paint!

If I am brushing or rolling on latex paint I add Floetrol...oil based paint Penetrol. The additives allow the paints to "level" while drying and will eliminate MOST paint and roller lines. I don't add an additive to chalkboard paint so it is important to run the roller in the same direction on the final pass!

And PRESTO...super precious little makeover! 

These little desk are super simple to makeover and since spray paint comes in a multitude of designer colors, you are sure to find a color that will coordinate with any decor!