Over the River…

I spent this past Saturday at my Grandma Joyce’s house painting over what some would consider the most egregious abomination in home decor in human history.  “Katie,” you say, “aren’t you being a bit dramatic?”  Take a look at this.


That’s a dark teal and mustard stencil over a green and cream faux finish.  My poor, sweet grandma has had to live with this IN HER BEDROOM for the last 11 years.  We were at her house in March for her birthday and I’d had enough with the faux finishing that permeates her house.  I asked her how she felt about her bedroom and she told me with no hesitation that she hated it.  I told her for Mother’s Day, we would paint her bedroom.



The “artist” left no wall untouched by some form of this stencil. Why, Person, why?  We went around and sanded the edges of the stencil so they wouldn’t be visible after we painted over them.



One more close up shot for good measure.


I drafted my sister Becca and one of my younger brothers, Spencer.  Here he is stirring paint with his big, muscly arms. He is such a good boy.  The wall with the window got a darker shade of paint for an accent wall – Grandma’s idea.  🙂


Look at that accent wall!  What a difference even one wall made. Like humans with eyes live here.


I thought it would be cute to paint a little secret message for Grandma with the first coat on the rest of the walls.


My siblings did too.  Here is Becca’s contribution.


And Spencer’s… He has been trained from birth to be a staunch Bears fan. He used the answer the phone with this little mantra beginning at just 3 years old.


Here it is after 2 coats on every wall and all the furniture back in place. My grandma was so thrilled and she called her sister just to tell her about it.  She chose the colors from a deck and I think she did a great job.  They really complement the gorgeous quilt she has on her bed. The pictures don’t do this room any justice.



The bedroom color pairs nicely with the bathroom paint (the only other space with paint that she likes).  Through the bathroom is the laundry room with a faux finish all its own.  Maybe someday soon we will tackle another space for Grandma Joyce. Until then, know that a little bit of ugly in the world was painted over.

Did you do any projects over the weekend?  Have you ever seen anything as ugly as that faux finish/stencil combination?


Staining Plywood Subfloors

You might recall that my sister and I recently ripped up the carpet on our first floor.   When my friends left that Thursday night (May 1st), we had torn up all the nails and crap.  We had very dirty plywood subflooring.  At that point, I was starting to get the, “Am I in over my head?” feeling.  The best thing to do when that happens to just keep pushing on and pretend you know what you are doing and hope it turns out ok.

Under the Carpet

So that’s what I did.  What you see above is what we discovered under the carpeting.  Globs of spackle and copious pet stains. Yay! I spent my Friday night and entire day Saturday sanding the floors with my handy dandy palm sander to smooth out and hopefully remove a lot of that.  Real quick, if you are planning on trying this, rent a floor sander. So much saved time.  We also hung some old sheets that Alex’s grandma left in the house to try to block the dust from spreading everywhere.  Guess what?  Painter’s tape doesn’t hold up sheets.  We ended up just covering the electronics with them and hoping for the best.  We are professionals!

Trying to Contain the Dust


One great tool in reducing the dust was this little buddy of mine.  Apparently there are little adapters that let you connect various dust making tools to your shop vac to reduce the layer of dust your life will inevitably be covered in. We didn’t have to buy one.  This is only a 5 gallon shop vac so it’s little hose fit right into my Ryobi sander. It was a huge help and I highly recommend it.

Shop Vac

Here are the floors post-sanding and I think they don’t look too bad.  In person, it was incredibly rustic still, so we decided to press on with the project as planned.

Sanded Subfloor Pug

Saturday night, at about 9:30, I broke out the wood filler and a plastic spoon because that’s what I had and started doing that.  For about 30 minutes.  After a full day on my hands and knees sanding, my patience was gone. 
Wood Filler

I got about this far before calling it a day.  The next morning, basically distraught, I woke up my sister and told her if I didn’t get out of the house for a little I would die.  I went to the grocery store. What a relief that was.

Dining Room Drying Wood Filler

I came home and she had finished doing the wood filler like an angel.  We hung out for about an hour to wait for the wood filler to dry.  It turned a whiter shade of the strange orange beige color it is when wet.

Wood Filler Sanded

After she had sanded the filler, I vacuumed the whole floor thoroughly with our shop vac.  We did not want anything getting in the way our our stain adhesion.

Shop Vac and Sanded Wood Filler

We also wiped the floor down with this Minwax Pre-Stain.  It’s supposed to make sure your stain ends up even and not blotchy.  Why not?  It was really fumey.  Like paint thinner kind of.  We had to open all the windows.  Also, the instructions said to put your stain down within 2 hours of the pre-stain for best results.  We did this for half the floor and I didn’t notice a big difference.  That also could be because we used such a dark stain.

Minwax Pre-stain

Her she is all pre-stained and ready to go.

Sanded with Pre-Stain

I rolled on the stain because ain’t nobody got time to brush it on.  We were actually on our way to my sister’s early birthday party and time was of the essence.  I started staining when we should have been in the car. Oops.  This is as far as I got that day.  The next night just before bed, Becca (my sister) finished up the rest of the floors so they would be dry when we woke up. The stain we used was Minwax PolyShades in Espresso.

Halfway Stained


Some good news:  Our house’s token pee smell is gone as far as we can tell.  Regular guests have hopefully been answering us honestly.  Violet, darling that she is, has reduced her accidents and I’m altogether very happy.  The dark color gives me a good idea of what our real flooring will look like one day when we can afford it. Here are our finished for now floors.

Finished Floors

Somehow our couch ended up way further back than it used to be.  Also, the tv is currently showing my sister’s most recent obsession – Korean culture.  왜?

Finished Floors 2

This shot shoes how the floors look in person.  I think we’ll end up doing another coat of stain + poly in a few weeks.

Finished Floors 3


So that is that.  I am so relieved the carpet is gone.  I can breathe a little easier and tread a lot louder.  Have you tried anything that people gave you the raised eyebrow for?

Removing 30 Year Old Carpet

Yesterday afternoon, as my workday was winding down, I was browsing Pinterest.  Sometimes while I browse, a spark of inspiration hits and I search around for similar ideas.  So, as it often does, inspiration struck and I decided to find out exactly what I could do about the disgusting carpet that covers the floors in most of my home.  I have seen a few people laying plywood down and staining it like you would hardwoods.  Why put plywood down over plywood? So I searched for “stained plywood subfloors” and saw that there are quite a few people out there who have tried it, but none ever put together a clear, concise, and well documented tutorial of it.  So maybe I will. Later.

The whole reason I was browsing Pinterest was because I could not stand the carpet on the first floor for another day.  There is just nothing you can do about decades of poorly trained pets and hoarders.  The carpet could not be helped by any amount of shampooing (despite the denial I had closeted myself in the last 2 years).  When my sister came in to pick me up from work, I ran the idea of staining the subfloors past her.  She was in.

We went home, changed, and moved out all the furniture.  We went from this:


To this:




The dogs had no idea what to do.  Where did all our comfy couches go?  I left to go to the hardware store for supplies, and my sister got to ripping up the carpet.  An hour later, I came home to find all the carpet rolled up in the garage.  Our house has never looked better. Amiright?




Under the carpet we found a little set of instructions (which you can see in the background of the photo above) for the carpet from when it was originally installed – in 1984.  Officially making our carpet 30 years old. That is older than I am. That is too old for carpet. So. Disgusting.  I called my bfff, Liz, and her husband, Bryan, to see if they wanted to sacrifice their Thursday night to come and rip up staples with me.  They agreed. It took 4 of us about 2 hours to rip up all the tack strips, staples, and nails.  Note to everyone considering this project: wear safety gloves and work in a well ventilated area. This is a rusty nails and dust kind of job.

Once everything had been pulled up,  we swept as much as we could.  So much dust and dirt under those carpets. For reals, they just aren’t sanitary.  As you can probably see, there was also a ton of staining. The line of dark stains just behind the trashcan are thanks to this adorable pup:


Those stains line up with the back of the couch, her favorite indoor pee spot.  To get rid of the stains and accompanying odor, I poured some of this all over the stains, let it sit for a few minutes and dabbed it up with some paper towels.  In the morning it had all dried and the stains were much lighter.  Hopefully after some sanding, they’ll be gone.  If not, I got a really dark stain to go over the floors.

OUT! PetCare Oxy-Fast Stain & Odor Remover 32 oz


I know this might sound insane, but the carpet could not stay any longer and I do not have the budget to put down new flooring right now.   We have guests coming to stay with us next week right before we go on a trip, so this needs to get done this weekend.  Wish me luck!

Have you ever started a project impulsively?


If You Give a Girl a Paintbrush

About a week ago, I emptied out my front hall closet with the full intention of making it beautiful and functional.  Then I let it sit for a week.  I told Alex that I was going to finish it over the weekend and when Sunday came my sister and I made the sojourn to Home Depot for supplies.  We stopped by his work to say hi and ask him if he needed anything from Target (we were having a bit of a shopping spree).   He didn’t want anything so we headed out on our way.  Leaving him with the false assumption that the closet was all we would be doing.

When we made it home, she grabbed a paint brush and I grabbed a roll of painter’s tape.  I began working in the closet and she began working in the kitchen.  The full details of the closet’s transformation can be found here.  I took breaks throughout my project to put roller to the kitchen walls.  Go big or go home, right?



The closet is a breath of fresh air.  It also pushed me to get my room and closet upstairs more organized. It was relatively quick and made a huge impact on the living area.  However, what I’m most excited about is what happened in the kitchen.  After painting the cabinets,  all I could think about what getting rid of the terrible yellow I had painted the walls when we first moved in. It was a mistake.  When the cabinets were brown, it was too terrible, but after they were painted white the walls looked unintentionally yellow. It was a gross look and it had to go.  My sister did a great job.  She really did most of the work and for that I’ll always be grateful.  We went with Bedford Gray by Martha Stewart, if you were wondering.  I’m in love with it.



The kitchen still has a long way to go. I need to change out the outlets for white ones,  repair the soffet above the stove (water damage), install a backsplash, find drawer pulls, put down new tile, and do something about the brick above the fire place.  I used to worry about what to do with the countertops, but with the freshly painted cabinets and walls, I actually love them!

So that’s the story about how one small closet project became painting the closet and the entire kitchen as well.  Have you ever started a project that snowballed into something bigger?  Any big projects last weekend?


UPDATE:  I showed Alex’s dad/our landlord the painted kitchen and he asked if we got new counters.  Haha! That’s how much the new color (and probably the freshly painted cabinets) made an impact.


I think I might understand why mothers will go through the pain of childbirth once and choose to do it again.  After painting my kitchen cabinets, I feel like I can relate.  Because those two things are extremely similar and definitely equal amounts of pain. I feel like a survivor. These were my kitchen cabinets. I don’t have anything against wood or brown cabinetry, actually I like it a lot.  My cabinets, however, were is pretty bad shape.


Around every knob, there was a worn away patch were you could see that these were not in fact made of wood at all.  They were also very dark in a house that tends to be rather dark.  In a townhouse, we don’t have many windows.  The kitchen is the room that gets the most light and it still looked dreary thanks to these cabinets.


I decided to do something about it. I got my handy dandy (brand new) toolbox and got to work.  I just received this toolbox from my dad and step-mom for Christmas. It included this screwdriver, and it was a godsend for this project!  Removing all the hardware would have been the biggest chore without it.


First, I removed all the doors. Let’s not judge the content of my cabinets, ok friends? I’m 24. I do what I want. We sanded everything down with a sanding block and medium grit sandpaper.  After sanding, we wiped down all the surfaces with a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar to get any residual grease and dust off.


Alex was incredibly helpful while I slaved away removing hinges and knobs.


After two coats of primer, things were looking life changing. Every ten seconds I would yell at my sister, “Are you dying right now?  This is the greatest day of my life. I can’t believe this is happening!”   She was instrumental in helping me get this done. It’s definitely a multi-person project. One of us would go around and edge and get in the nooks and crannies of the doors with a 1″ angled brush and the other would cover all the smooth areas with a trim roller for an even finish.


Here they are after 2 coats of primer and at least 2 coats of paint. We used Behr’s Clear Moon and we love it.  I used the original hinges and the knobs I talked about in this post.  They are both an antiqued nickel finish.  I haven’t gotten drawer pulls yet because finding pulls that are 3 1/2 inches center to center AND in a similar finish is pretty difficult. Lowes and Home Depot both carry 1 drawer pull in that size in the store and neither suited our kitchen.



Can we talk about how I’m really in love with the lines of the cabinets?  They aren’t something you see all over the place and I like how architectural they are.  I’ve been waiting 2 1/2 years to do this project and now that it’s done it is like a breath of fresh air.  It was totally worth the 4 coats and the sanding and having a pulled apart kitchen for 2 weeks. We had to do most of this stuff after work and the doors had to be done in groups of 5-7.


Hello Beautiful.


Hopefully we can get the walls painted a more palatable color (pun intended) sometime soon.  For now I’m going to relish how lovely the cabinets are.