The fireplace...putting the plan in motion!

If you have been following along you know I am in the middle of a major overhaul in my den. Here I shared "Finding Inspiration," "Making a Plan" and "Putting It All Together."

My plan is pretty extensive....the fireplace, flooring, and paint....

One of the things you have to do when putting a plan in motion is know what you can afford to do immediately and what will have to wait. I know I can afford to reface my fireplace, replace my flooring and paint.

Knowing what you CAN do will determine the ORDER in which you do it.

I need to do my fireplace and paint before I do my floors! So.....

The first thing I did was remove the old black marble and paint the wood mantel and surround. 

I know I originally painted the surround with oil-based paint. I always paint trim with oil based but if you aren't sure, you can easily test paint with alcohol and a cotton ball. Just rub the paint with a cotton ball with alcohol on it. If the paint comes off it is latex...if not, oil based. This is important because if you are changing the type of paint, you need to prime with a good primer! 

Fortunately I didn't need to prime. I sanded the entire surround just enough to knock off the shine. I added a little Penetrol to my oil based paint and used a really good quality brush! Not a huge change but the paint lightened and freshened the surround up a bit!

When I removed the black marble, the sheetrock was intact. But honestly, I know the tile I am putting up is super heavy so I decided to replace the sheetrock with durrock. Durrock is a "concrete board" that is often used in wet areas. My sheetrock is 1/2" and durrock comes in 1/2"...perfect!!! 

Durrock is super easy to install...measure, mark and score the board with a utility knife and "snap" it just like you would cut sheetrock! 

I cut out the sheetrock above and below the fireplace, making sure the vertical cuts were on studs. This allowed me to fit the durrock without having "scab" in any brace blocking! (I did add a little insulation below the fireplace!)

I put a little construction mastic (Liquid Nail) on the framing boards and then screwed the durrock to the studs with screws. Again, I am looking for the "strength" factor of the durrock because the tile I am installing is HEAVY!

Even though the walls behind the fireplace are insulated, I used silicone caulk to fill and seal all the "gaps" between the durrock and sheetrock and around the fireplace!

Now the fun part...installing the new tile!

I ordered a random travertine cut face tile from

It is BEAUTIFUL but there was a little problem. When the tile arrived there were several broken pieces. Since it was a little pricey, I didn't order a lot of "waste" and I knew I might not have enough if I couldn't use several pieces!

I honestly don't think it was the fault of the packing or shipping. Travertine is a "soft" tile and has a lot of "character" in I think it is more susceptible to cracking than solid porcelain or ceramic tiles.

Regardless, I immediately emailed and explained the problem. In less than 2 hours they had responded and set up a replacement shipment. Now THAT is amazing customer service!!!!! 

Most wall tiles are installed with a premixed "mastic" but travertine wall tile is installed on walls with a special "no sag" thin set mortar you have to mix. You can buy it at any tile store.  Travertine, like porcelain, glass or ceramic tile, also cuts beautifully with a wet saw. I have one but if you don't and you want to DIY tile, you can rent a wet saw! 

My travertine is a "random cubic mosaic." The individual pieces of tile are fused together into sheets with a web backing and the sheets of tile fit together like a little puzzle! It is a "dry stack" tile which means there are no gaps between the pieces and no grout. 

I made a "layout plan" and worked that plan! 

I started at the top. I knew I might have to cut the entire horizontal edge of the tile and I didn't want to do that at the top because it is a "focal" point. And I don't have my floor tile yet so being the impatient person I am...well, I had to start at the top.

This tile is heavy so when I installed the top section I "braced" it with little boards, leveled and secured into the studs with sheetrock screws. I let the top section dry overnight before installing the side tile. 

To install, I spread the "no sag" mortar onto the wall with a 1/4" x 1/4" notched trowel....

...and then just pressed the tile in place! (By the way, I would recommend cutting and "dry fitting" your tile BEFORE applying the thin set. That way you know if the tile is going to "fit" before you get the adhesive all over it!!!)

The process is the same for porcelain, ceramic or glass tile...only you will probably use a premixed "wall mastic" and a smaller notched trowel (always use the mastic and trowel recommended by the manufacturer!) And again, since this is a "dry stack" tile and there are no grout joints, you don't have to use spacers to space the tile. If you are installing a tile that has "grout joints" you will want to get little rubber spacers so all your grout joints are equal!

I learned real quick that these sections of tile are indeed VERY heavy, so it is best to only do a few sections at a time, brace them and let the thinset set up before removing the bracing and applying the next few sections. 

I want the wall tile to sit snug on the floor tile so I will install the floor tile before I install the bottom wall pieces!  As you can see, I ran out of tile...again, because some of the pieces broke.

So when my floor tile comes in next week I will get that down and then I will finish the face.

I could have installed the floor tile first and then worked from bottom to top. But again, I was afraid I might have to cut the vertical width of the wall tile, and I didn't want to do that at the top. I THINK I have it measured out where I won't have to cut the bottom tiles...I should have 1" between the wall tile and floor tile...perfect for the 1" wide tiles.

Installing decorative tile (whether travertine, porcelain, ceramic or glass) is NOT hard. It is just a "puzzle" you have to put together...slow and steady! Using the proper tools to cut tile is important as well as using the proper mastic!

There are a million video tutorials for installing tile so don't be afraid to DIY tile installation. And as I have said before, a little decorative tile, whether on a back splash or around a fireplace can make a huge impact for very little money! 

My original plan was to paint the fireplace wall a pretty soft teal and add teal accents here and there. Truthfully, I love this wall color and now that the fireplace is "brightened" I am rethinking my plan.



What is the old saying..."The best laid plans..." Yeah, well, now I am rethinking some of my decisions (like the candlesticks I painted teal, only to repaint black! And I am not even going to show you the side table I painted teal...ick!)....and that is okay.

I know I still want new flooring and I am seriously thinking about getting those down before I make any decisions about paint colors. The flooring I picked out is a lot darker than what is there, so I may change my mind again! 


Putting it all together on paper! Your DIY plan-Part 2!

By now you should have gathered a file full of "inspiration" and measured and drawn your project/room!

Again, I am working on my den, so my "plan" is reworking an entire room...but the "rules" apply to any DIY project, large or small!

When designing a room, I wish I could tell you to pick a couch first...or use a rug to pull your colors from...or pick your wall color first, then pick everything else. 

I can't. Again, I think you need to do what YOU love and honestly, what you can afford. Maybe you are stuck with your couch at this moment. That is okay...pillows, throws and slip covers can mask a color or style that might not fit into the over all plan right at the moment. Maybe you have a treasured rug you want to can always pull colors from the rug and work from there. Everyone's needs and budget are different and sometimes the best thing you can do is work with what you have to keep.

That being said, I would like to point out that for 12 years I tried unsuccessfully to decorate WITH the ugly brass colored shower doors I had installed when I bought this house. That was a mistake. Sometimes you have to work "around" a decor ick rather than "with" other words, do what you LOVE...not what you think you have to do just because you can't change one element. 

Let's be brutally honest....few of us can afford to do a whole room project ALL at once, so sometimes we have to keep and work around a few elements that we just can't afford to change right now (maybe a piece of furniture or flooring.) Still doable. 

For example, let's say you have a brown couch...and you want light, bright and blue. Trust me, you can "mask" (and even enhance) the color of a couch with throws and pillows. An undesirable floor? Try a colorful rug or even a neutral outdoor rug (yes, you can put a rug over carpet!) Do a search on Pinterest and I would bet you will find your "undesirable" camouflaged by someone else's "craftiness." 

Remember too, if budgets are tight, you have to be willing to shop resale, garage sales, thrift stores and consignment shops....even your own home or the home of friends and family! You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and paint a table or reupholster a chair. Maybe sew a few throw pillows.

One important cardinal rule ...DO NOT put any element in a room you do not love just to "fill space." Empty space is better than having something that causes you to grit your teeth every time you look at it! Trust me...someday you will find the perfect piece....and you might miss it entirely if something is already cluttering up the space. 

So....let's put together the entire plan.

Again, you should have a file of inspiration and a drawing of your space with all your measurements and a detailed list of things you WANT to do! (Again, doesn't matter if it is a dresser or an entire room!)

Now we can actually start looking at style and colors.

Look at all your inspiration pictures...what are the common elements. What do you love about each picture? The color? The style? The hardware? The lighting?

Now is the time to take a hard look at each photo and draw out what you love. Ignore what you DON'T like and focus only on what you DO like. 

Can you incorporate that element or color in "your plan?" No, I can not turn my little 16x16 den into a gymnasium sized lounging room. But I can find the common elements in each of my inspiration pictures and incorporate those elements into my plan.

Maybe you have three pictures that all have different styles of furniture...but the COLOR scheme is similar in all of them. Maybe you have three entirely different dressers...but all have similar hardware. Maybe you have three rooms, all different, but they all have a furniture style you love. (mid century, classic, transitional) See a pattern emerging? 

This is where a "design board" may come in handy for some people. I know REAL designers use them because it helps customers visualize the space and all the elements. If you are one who desperately needs a visual, by all means, go for it.

Don't feel like you can't do this just because you don't know how to use Photoshop. Putting together a "design board" can be as simple as cutting out the elements you love in your "inspiration" photos and glueing them onto a piece of plan paper. It really is THAT simple. 

One thing I found helpful when I did my master bedroom was using Design Seeds to find color combos. 

The site doesn't give you sources for the color, but it gives you combinations that will work together. If you have trouble coordinating colors, it is a great resource for just that. Let's say you love blue, but don't know what other colors you can pull in with the blue....awesome site for just that! Or again, you have a brown couch, love "blue" and need other colors that will pull those colors together...they have it!

The Dreaded COST!!!!

Back to MY plan.

First thing on my list is the fireplace. I know it needs to be repainted the trim color I am now using and I want to get rid of the black marble surround. After looking at my "inspirations" I knew I wanted a "cut face" travertine. But I liked the "smooth" finish travertine vs. the "rough" cut.

So I found what I wanted online and ordered it....

Honestly, I didn't just order it from a picture online...I actually shopped around locally. The only thing I can't find online is a travertine I can use on the floor. I know what I want so when this tile comes in I will just have to take a piece to the local tile shops and find it (yes, that is harder than it sounds!)

Since I am removing the old marble in order to put up tile, I need to strengthen the wall backing by replacing the sheetrock with durrock (cement board). While I have the sheetrock off, I want to add a little insulation around the fireplace. Note, all these changes are on my I know exactly what I want to do and what materials I will need (fortunately I had both durrock and insulation so I didn't have to buy any!)

I pretty much know what all the elements will cost me because I can figure, in my head, what I need and how much I need and what I can do myself. And I know what the materials and labor will cost....on average.

If you don't have a clue, take your "paper plan" to a home improvement store and shop around. Let them figure out how much you need of all your "wants." Look at different elements and get an idea of what each element of our plan will cost!

Shop your local stores and look online. Read reviews. 

And next to every project on your list, write down what it is going to cost! ALL the materials and labor costs. Installing tile...don't forget the mastic. Painting...don't forget the rollers, brushes and pans. New flooring...can you DIY? much is the labor? And if you are installing new flooring, how much will it cost to remove and dispose of the existing floor. Do you have to replace trim...don't forget the cost of paint, caulk, and even simple things like nails and putty!

Sadly, this is where we start trimming! Don't take the things you can't afford off the list right now, but highlight the things you CAN afford to do right now, and mentally set the other items aside for a later date. 

My plan? The fireplace "update." New flooring...a must, and the reason I started all this. Paint the walls. Changes to some of the decor elements and additional seating.

And yes, I am going to have to wait on a few things, even though I am able to do all the labor myself. I know the fireplace tile is going to cost me around $300. And the new flooring around $900. Paint...around $100. So the new furniture will have to wait for now. As much as I would love a new couch and a couple of side chairs, it is just not in the budget at the moment. 

And that is okay...kinda. Well, not really, but I am doing what I need to do and the changes will be enough to tide me over for the time being.

Part of my plan for my master bedroom was to reupholster the two club chairs. That project will be time consuming and costly...and it is not on my "priority" list right now. So it can wait...someday I will do them, but not today...and that is okay. It is still in my "plan!" 

AGAIN, A TIP! Sometimes what is there clouds our mind. If you can, take EVERYTHING out of the room. Set aside the things you intend to keep and GET RID OF THE THINGS YOU DO NOT NEED OR NO LONGER WANT!  Seriously, put them on Craigslist or drop them at your local Salvation Army (And don't forget to get a is worth money on your taxes!) 

"Empty" the canvas. If you aren't going to use the pillows, rugs, furniture, etc...get it out of the space! Same with furniture makeovers...if you don't like the hardware that is on it, take it off! If you are going to paint a piece, but you don't know what color because you can't see past the orange stain, prime it white.

It is always easier to visualize new hardware and a different color if you start at "base neutral."

If you have dark walls and you can't imagine them "lighter and brighter" go ahead and prime the walls...take them back to "base neutral" and start from there.

Soooo...what is the secret to making a good plan?

Know what you love...and want....and need! And of course, what you can afford!

Find your inspiration.

Know what you have to work with by drawing a plan and making a detailed list.

Shop around, pick your materials and assign a cost for every project!

Decide what you can do NOW and what will have to wait!

And roll up your sleeves and get busy! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!

Over the next few weeks I will share a few of the DIY projects in this room...tile, flooring, painting. So stay tuned!


Making your plan for your DIY project....part 1!

Here I talked about "Finding Your Inspiration" for your DIY project! Hopefully you have a "mental image" of WHAT you THINK you want your space or piece to be in the end! And a "file" full of inspirational pictures! DO NOT move forward until you have collected your "inspirations." And again, they don't have to be pictures of EXACTLY what your space IS or want it to be...just contain "elements" that you love!

Making a "plan" is a two part process.

First you have to know exactly what "space" you are dealing with.

Then you will figure out what elements you can pull from your inspirations.

First, take measurements. If it is a piece of furniture, measure it and draw it out...make notes on the side about what you want to do with the piece.

If it is a room, measure it...length, width, and the height of the walls....and draw it out. Measure the windows and doors and draw those on your plan.

You don't have to use a high tech "CAD" program to draw your room. I have tried to use the free online programs that let you design a room...I found the "learning curve" to be frustrating! And honestly, not worth my time!

Simple graph paper (they have it at office supply stores), a ruler and a pencil will do. Try to draw your space to scale if possible! For example, if you are using graph paper, make 1 square equal 3-4."

Measure every single thing you can think of. Having too many measurements is more helpful than not having enough. I usually "rough" draw it on plain paper, then transfer it on graph paper, to scale.

I am not adding curtains or window dressings so I did not measure or draw the windows...and I am not changing out my lighting or paddle fan...but if you are, you need to make sure that is in your plan. 

Note my little orange tabs...that is furniture! If you draw the plan to scale, you can cut furniture to scale out of sticky notes (Post-Its) and arrange and rearrange without breaking your back! I measured the pieces I have that will be going back into the space and included a few "generic" chairs I want to add...maybe not right this minute, but eventually. You can find the "generic" sizes for chairs, tables, couches, etc. online. For example, I already have a side table that I intend to I measured it and placed it on my plan. However, if I needed a new table, I would have the exact size of the "space" available for a new table. 

This little "paper plan" will help you in several respects. First, if you don't know how to figure square footage for flooring or paint quantity, the salesman at your home improvement store will help you figure out how much you will need of any product...flooring, tile, paint, trim, etc. 

Second, it gives you a true picture of how much space you have to deal with when arranging furniture!

On this little plan make a detailed list of EVERYTHING you want to do in the space....including repairs that need to be made (fix windows, replace trim, repair holes in the wall, etc!) Even if you think or know you can't afford to do it right now, write it on the plan! Someday....

In my case, I want to paint the fireplace mantel, install a new tile surround, lay new flooring and new base trim and paint. I want to change up the accessories a bit and eventually add additional seating. 

If you know how to figure "square footage" or paint quantity, go ahead and put that figure next to each of the things you want to change. 

This list needs to be super detailed. Until you know EXACTLY what you need and want to do, you can't make a list of materials and assign a material and labor cost!

Right now, don't worry about colors or curtains or knick-knacks...we are just dealing with the "space."

Trust me, if you start throwing colors on the wall or buying furniture before these two steps, you will NOT be happy!

HINT: Sometimes it is hard to "visualize" changes to your space when there is stuff already there! If that is the case, empty out the room...take out the furniture, window dressings, rugs, knick-knacks, etc. Think of it this is hard to paint a picture on a canvas that already has a picture on it! Also, if you know you do not want that element in your new plan, GET RID OF IT!!! Sometimes we have a tendency to throw things back in a room just because we have donate it, sell it or trash it!

The actual "design" and making a budget comes get your tape measure out and stay tuned!

Once you have "made your plan" go here to see how we put it all together!

Finding inspiration for your DIY project....

One of my favorite blogs is It is a great "one stop shop" for anyone wanting to do a DIY project, whether it be decorate a room or paint a piece of furniture!

It is one of the few sites I have on my Facebook feed. Don't ask me how it got there...somehow I "follow" it so all the post and questions show up on my Facebook feed. 

Time and again, people ask "What color do I paint it, how do I lighten this room, how should I redecorate my room?" And I could answer almost every question with a simple answer...find your "inspiration" and "make a plan."

But that is easier said than done and that is exactly why people are asking complete strangers for help! Unfortunately, we all have different tastes and we all have different ideas of how we want a room to function or how we want a piece of furniture to everyone has a different opinion. And if you ask me, that just makes it that much harder to decided what to do!

Deciding what color to paint a piece of furniture or a wall or what fabric to use to reupholster a chair or how to arrange a room are ALL things I struggle with. It took my 13 years to figure out what to do with my master bath and 15 years to do my master bedroom

Now, I absolutely love those rooms! Love them! There are a few little things I still want to do...and I will in time. But I found my inspiration, made a plan and worked the plan.

And THAT is the key....find your inspiration, make a plan and work that plan. It doesn't matter if you are painting an old dresser or reupholstering a chair or remodeling an entire room! If you start making changes without knowing what you want the end result to be and a start to finish plan, you WILL be disappointed. 

Think of it this way...when you build a house, you start by finding a plan....well, first you have to figure out WHERE you want to build and how much you can spend, but after that, you have to find a plan. Before you pick colors, cabinets, have a "plan."  

It makes no difference if it is a big project or a little have to have a clear "vision" (the plan) and you have to work that plan. Yes, you may make a few changes along the way, but you still have to work the basic plan!

I am currently "itching" to change my den. I need new flooring and after 15 years it's time to do a few little updates. Truth be told, I still love this is my "fall" room.  Burnt oranges, black and golds....

I absolutely love this room, especially during the holidays.

But lately I have really found myself drawn to the lighter spaces..teals, whites, creams...and I have decided it is time for a change!

So, here is the process....and keep in mind, it doesn't matter whether you are making over an entire room or painting a dresser. Smaller scale, but same process!

1) Find your inspiration. By that, I mean find what you REALLY love. I do this by looking at pictures on the internet...blogs, Pinterest, magazine sites. I look at TONS of pictures...if ANYTHING in a picture "trips my trigger" I immediately put it in a "file." 

For me, it is a computer file...but if you aren't real computer "savvy" you can always keep a real "paper" file with magazine clippings and pictures printed from the internet. (I just started this process...when I get done, there will probably be over one hundred photos in this file!)

I may not like EVERYTHING about the space, but if there is one element I really like...the color, the style, the arrangement, the hardware.... I file it away.

I don't "dwell" on the picture...I don't nit-pick it. If I think "Oooh, that's kind of pretty" or "I really like that color/style/accent/whatever"...I file it. I ignore the "negatives" and see the "positives." If I like ONE little element in the photo, I file it! 

Here you can see some photos I used as inspiration for my master bath! No, I don't have a million dollar space...but I was able to go back and look at all the pictures that I liked and find common elements that I was able to incorporate into my design.

For example, I want to "lighten" my fireplace by replacing the black marble surround with light tile. Here are some of my inspirations (I am SO sorry but I don't have "links" to the sources...these are pictures I have been "plucking" off Pinterest and putting in my inspiration file!)


My fireplace has a completely different trim surround. I don't have a hearth and I know I want the wall to be an accent color. I like the color of the herringbone tile on the left, but I prefer the subway tile on the right. Both give me an idea of what my fireplace would look like with a lighter tile surround! They help me visualize the it is just a matter of going to the tile store and picking out the tile I want to use.

What about a simple piece of furniture? You see a picture of a dresser and you LOVE the hardware...not the color, not the style...just the hardware. File it! You see a dresser that is a completely different "style" than what you have, but you LOVE the color...file it!

If I see a picture of a room and I like the couch, but NOTHING else in the room, I file it. 

Here are a few pictures that are currently in my "inspiration file" for my den....

The couch....

A club chair I LOVE.....

Note I don't have a "geo" mirror and my mantel is too high for a mirror. But I have a wood finish round mirror on one wall and this gives me an idea of how it will look painted. This picture also has a light fireplace surround. The chairs are not "my style" and I don't want white wainscoting...but I "plucked" the photo because of the tile surround and the mirror! 

There are a few pieces in my den I will keep. I will take pictures of those items and put them in file. do you actually identify your "inspiration." Easy...after weeks or months or even years of "plucking", look at ALL your pictures and identify what element in each you love. Maybe you find yourself drawn to the same wall color...or the same style couch...or a specific cabinet hardware. There was something about each picture you loved. Find it....

Once you have found your "inspiration"...what you REALLY love in a space,... it is time to make a plan.

So the next post will be about "making a plan." Some people are able to "make a plan" on a fancy computer program or a "design board." And if you need that "visualization" that is great.

But first you need to create your space on paper by taking measurements and drawing it out.

So here is how you design a room...

1) Inspiration...covered that here so get busy "plucking" pictures. Again, don't dwell on EVERYTHING in the photo...if something in the photo grabs your attention, file it. 

2) Measure and draw your space. You don't have to be an architect to do me!

3) Make a detailed list of EVERYTHING you want to do in the space.

4) Assign a budget to EVERYTHING you want to do in the space...every dime!

5) Start eating this elephant, one bite at a time (basically, working the plan!) 

So stay tuned...I am going to cover each step of this process, one post at a time. While you are waiting, start "finding your inspiration" for the space or piece you want to change. Because until you know what you love, you can not move on to the next step!!!

"Guest" room makeover...

Okay, so it's not really a "guest" room. It is Mitchell's room....but he hasn't actually lived here for 9 years. And it hasn't gotten a full makeover since he went off to college. 

So many people can't wait for their babies to leave the nest so they can turn their rooms into hobby rooms or sewing rooms or perfectly styled guest rooms. Or maybe you want a "naked room." (You had to see the movie...Terry of my favorites!)

But I know the "babies" sometimes come home. My baby boys haven't yet established their "own" homes. So mama keeps all their "stuff" at her house and they still have a room to call their own.

It all started with this dresser!

Truth be told, it is a tad larger than I really wanted...but I couldn't resist. Mid century, walnut, gorgeous! (You have to check out the "before and after" to really appreciate it!) 

The wall color. Bought the paint without ever looking at a paint chip. Revere Pewter. THE color everyone raves about on Pinterest. I didn't have time to look at thousands of paint chips to find the "perfect" color so this time I took the advice of total strangers, called the paint store and ordered 2 gallons sight unseen. I love it! It really is the "perfect" greige.

I took down and boxed up most of the plaques, certificates, jerseys and pictures. Puttied the holes. Painted the walls. Swept up all the dust bunnies. The trim was in pretty good was painted when I put down the laminate 8 years ago and hasn't gotten much wear since. 

I got it all done and photographed and then Matt reminded me he wanted the comfy queen size bed. (See they DO come home!) I moved Mitchell's bed into Matt's room and Matt's full sized bed into Mitchell's room.

Simple right? Nope. That meant I had to move the furniture around in Matt's room to accommodate the larger bed. And the bedding for the full size bed wasn't "right" in Mitchell's room so I had to go buy new bedding....sheets, pillow cases, bed skirt. Fortunately I stick with plain white down comforters, using throws for color, so that was good! 

The only thing I want to add is a full size head board. Matt never wanted one...but I think it needs it! Do you know how many full sized head boards I have bought and sold over the years? This is where patience is important...I KNOW I will find the perfect bed...I just have to be patient!

I left a few of the "important" mementos. After all, it is still "his room." 

A smaller bed, declutter the walls, a simple dresser and a fresh coat of paint. The room looks larger and brighter!

No matter how old the kids get, they still need "their" room! But there is no harm in a room pulling "double duty."

Walnut MCM dresser makeover...Part 2!

You can see "Part 1" of this makeover here...a tutorial on stripping and oiling these amazing pieces!

Okay, I have to admit...EVERY time I work on one of these walnut pieces, two things happen...I fall madly in love with it and I am reminded of how much I LOVE walnut!

This little table is a prime example!

Solid walnut and an absolute true treasure! It certainly didn't LOOK like a treasure when I brought it home, but with a little time and effort, these pieces can become breathtaking additions to any home decor.

I know painted furniture is ALL the rage right now and I agree whole-heartedly that there is indeed a time and a place for painted furniture. My decorating motto...if you can ENHANCE the piece by painting it, go for it! 

Some people aren't real keen on stained furniture...and that is okay. But I believe every decor needs the warmth and beauty of a quality natural wood piece...whether it is a table or chair or whatever! Not every piece needs to be painted and no decor should have ONLY painted furniture. Of course, no decor should have ONLY stained furniture either...even I throw in painted pieces here and there...probably not enough for some people's taste, but I do like to "lighten and brighten" occasionally. I painted my bedroom furniture and my office desk and even the little side table in my den. But you may note one common element on all these pieces...I left a little bit of natural wood! (Wow, looking at these old posts I realize my photography skills have come a long way! Still a ways to go, but definitely better!) 

I decided to go with both paint and natural wood finish on this dresser. I like the way the painted "box" seems to frame the wood drawers! In my opinion, the results are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

So get ready for a BUNCH of pictures...because I am loving this piece!!!!

As I mention in the first post, the top had some pretty serious ink stains...

With a little "chemical" magic, gone!! When you find yourself faced with wood stains, hit the internet and search for a chemical solution. Trust me, sanding is NOT the answer, especially if you are working with veneer.

Can you even believe that this.....

...could become this. No stain...just a simple strip job and 4 coats of tung oil finish! Walnut in all it's natural glory! 

I put this dresser in my oldest son's room. He doesn't actually LIVE here, but he still has a lot of stuff here. His room serves as a guest room and a place to keep all his "stuff." The other kids call it the "museum"...trophies, jerseys, plaques, certificates..high school and college mementos covering pretty much every square inch of the wall space. was time. Time for a fresh coat of paint. Time to box up most of the "stuff." Just time. 

So later this week I will share his room makeover. 

Want to know a little secret? For the first time ever I didn't stress over paint chips trying to pick the perfect paint color. I chose a color that everyone has been raving about on Pinterest and decor blogs. I literally called the paint store and told them to mix up 2 gallons, sight unseen...and I LOVE it!

I can't wait to share!

I am sharing this project with Christine at as well as all my favorite Link Parties!

You can see the full room makeover here!

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.