Confession: despite being a color enthusiast, I’m new to the paint swatch business. I have never tested a color on the wall against others before because, frankly, I’m impatient. Once I start flirting with a color, I want to seal the deal and make it mine as quickly as possible. This approach is not fail safe, and while I’ve had my fair share of victories, I’ve also ended up repainting both the living room and the office after feeling like I was being punched in the face by repugnant pigments. With our bathroom renovation I wanted to exhibit a little class, a little reserve, and really take my time choosing the best color for the small, poorly lit space. Not a novel concept, but the experience has been a revelation.
Since the rest of the house looks like what you would get if you crossed a peacock with a rainbow, I decided to do something muted, cool and calming for the bathroom. After picking out four appealing bluishgreyish colors, I hesitantly went where all sensible renovators have gone before, straight to the heart of Swatchington, USA.
In their containers the colors seemed nearly identical, but once they were on the wall, I realized how truly crucial the old paint-and-wait method is to seeing a design notion through to reality. On a broader canvas, struck by different angles of light, the colors took on their own personalities, with some rising to the top of my must-have list while others were knocked out of the running completely.
The merit of this well-known and widely practiced technique is not rocket science, hell it’s not even 6th grade science, but this practice is something I will never skip over again.
And because I’ve spent my evenings collecting inspiring images to drive the direction of our bathroom, reno, I’ll subject you to the same. My pics for the best of blue/grey bathrooms below…
Lots of design-oriented DIY blogs (this one included) will have you believe that choosing to makeover/renovate/repair/assemble/disassemble a home improvement project yourself rather than enlist the help of the pros is the usually the only acceptable way to function. Successfully do/make something on your own and you will have a free pass to walk around with an entitled sense of superiority, like ordering a salad at a restaurant when everyone else gets the steak. Yes, do it yourself and you shall be handsomely rewarded. Not so, says I.
The pride I feel about my recent bathroom cabinet makeover is about on par with what I imagine it feels like to discover you’ve made the 7th grade C team in volleyball. (I say “imagine” because I definitely don’t know what it feels like to practice so hard to prove yourself to the volleyball coach at Calhoun Middle School that you throw up in the locker room trash can, subsequently “earn” a spot on the bench with the other athletically challenged girls and then, humiliated, quit and pretend like you never cared about volleyball in the first place and would rather, of course, focus on your dancing. No, I don’t know what that is like.) What I’m trying to say is, I wish I had just dropped the dollars to buy a cabinet with some actual gusto than try to refurbish a cabinet that would end up only being slightly better in quality than child’s macaroni art.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. I don’t really like our bathroom layout, as it is very small and boring. But then I saw a photo of similarly designed room and thought, Hey, I can do that.
I liked how it felt modern but also cozy with the wooden accent on the shelves. I knew, however, that I needed more storage than what shelves as dinky as those would provide. I wanted something with some girth, like the Akurum wall cabinet from IKEA.
I liked that it kept the wood accents, but didn’t shriek of woodsy charm. Because our bathroom is small I liked the idea of being able to see inside the cabinet, which may keep that omg-the-walls-are-closing-in-on-me feeling at bay. Yes Kelsey, this will do nicely. Flash to price tag: $207. Pfffftttt. Come on Ikea, be real. I can make a badass cabinet myself for half that. Well, yes and no. I didn’t think I would actually be making any cabinet, per se, but I know my way around the Restore and was sure I could modify something to resemble as much. That, I did do, and $15 got us a cream colored cabinet in decent shape that would fit the space over the toilet poifectly.
Alright, OK, good. I could do this. But what first? After removing the hardware I figured I should start this weekend renovation by removing the panels in the doors. I still wanted a cabinet with translucent doors, so that interior panel would have to go. I watched more Youtube videos than I would have ever hoped to on the subject of removing interior cabinet paneling. I’ll tell you, there are a lot of schools of thought on the best way to do this. Some people say you need a jigsaw, others say not. Honestly I can’t even remember what all of the methods were but they were all time intensive and required tools that we didn’t have, so I got creative. This is code for abandoning all reason and just going for it. I used Heath’s whatchawhosit tool (he says its a dremel but I am not fooled) to try and trace the paneling and create a perforated edge around the interior of the cabinet that I could then gently push outward.
This maybe would have worked if it weren’t for two things: one, this was also a timely process and the vibration of the whatchawhosit was making my hand feel very funny; I did not like this, and secondly, the heat generated from trying to cut through wood was creating a burning smell which I also did not like. So I decided to abandon all reason a second time and just go to town on the panel with a hammer. Believe it or not, this is not where my refurbishment experiment went astray. In fact, forget what everyone else tells you about removing panels from cabinet doors and just beat the crap out of it with a hammer. THIS ACTUALLY WORKS. And, bonus points, it’s also kind of cathartic.
Then I spent a a good 3-4 hours stripping, sanding and staining/painting the doors and cabinet base and then letting it all dry. So far, still on course.
When I woke up the next morning to check everything out, I was really disappointed to find that I hated how the stain looked with the wood grain of the cabinet doors. It was not modern and glamorous but instead the grain was very 1990s country kitchen. Nothing against a good country kitchen, (my teenage gal pals who remember the critical role Linda Tonn’s kitchen played during our formative years will vouch for it) but it’s not the look I was after. Expletive. I thought on it for a minute and then, in the interest of my impatience, decided to just paint the doors white to match the rest of the cabinet. I would find another way to bring in my beloved wood accents. This could have been a successful recovery tactic except that the paint didn’t take to the stain, and I had to strip, sand and paint the cabinets all over again. This is a bigger downer than pouring a bowl of cereal only to find you are out of milk. The worst. Not only was this taking FOREVER but my hands were sore from contact with the chemical in the stripping agent (I know, I know mom, I should wear gloves) and I was also all shaky from hours spent holding an electric sander. I was beginning to hate my bathroom, the Restore, IKEA, paint, stain, design blogs and DIY books, everything. How dare you give me confidence, world?
Once the paint dried, on DAY 3 (ideally, the cabinet would have been hanging from my wall like a prized elk’s head by the end of Day 2) we started the process of inserting the glass panels. We bought a large piece of glass ($20) from Home Depot and this glass cutting kit because, hell yeah, we are DIYers and no project is too difficult for us to master. Let me say, this glass cutting kit was a piece of shite. We followed directions to a T and it flat out didn’t work. The glass broke, the kit was crummy, we were out $32 and had bloody fingers. On trip two to Home Depot we got plastic instead (~$15), which was easier to cut than the glass and didn’t result in blood droplets on our driveway.
We successfully glued the plastic panels into the cabinets, but it just looked bad because, when you get down to the science of it all, cheap plastic does not equal glass in quality or shine. I decided to frost the clear inserts ($3) because I thought it would be a classy move and perhaps make up for the downgraded quality of the plastic, but in the end the doors didn’t beam of frosty elegance. Instead it was like someone sprayed cheap frost-in-a-can unevenly over a scratchy surface, because that is precisely what we did. Once we screwed in some modern handles ($6) and hung it up on the wall, I officially knew then what I suspected all along. This project was more disappointing than Star Wars Episode I, though admittedly a cheaper mistake to make.
It might be the most unimpressive, least dramatic transformation in Doodle House history. Not only did the cabinet makeover itself turn out pretty sub standard and arguably worse off than the original cabinet was, but it makes such an uninspired difference in the room it may as well be invisible.
Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).
But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.
Long and leggy
I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.
FACT: It took longer to prepare this post than it did to achieve my latest home update—painting and recovering a forgotten chair.
Many, many moons ago, when I was just a lass, good old mum picked up this little number from Denton’s own Downtown Mini Mall for a sweet $20.
That was more than 15 years ago, but we’ve gotten a lot of bang for our buck. I’ve modified this chair at least three times over the past few years as my style changed from juvenile bright, to bohemian cool, to modern eclectic. But ye old chair has endured each look with gusto. She’s taken on the challenge of being painted both cyan blue and dusty red, and her cushion has been covered in everything from kitchen placemats to old scarves—looking surprisingly appropriate with each passing style. Good job, chair. So why not take 15 minutes this weekend to update the familiar beauty once more? After all, it’s easy as 1…2…8.
No kidding, without factoring in the time it takes the paint to dry, this project was completed in 15 minutes. How’s that for instant gratification? And in addition to being crazy easy, it’s also cheap to pull off. I had the chair and the fabric (leftover from another project), so the only cost was the spray paint…bringing the cost to complete the project to a sweet $3.75. If only all projects could be that easy on the watch and the wallet.
What what?! It just came to my attention that The Doodle House was featured in Apartment Therapy‘s Room for Color contest! Unfortunately, I didn’t know my pad was featured until today, so I couldn’t get the word out to have folks vote for my “retro bright” color pallet before the contest voting closed, but it’s still pretty cool to be featured on such a prominent platform. I’m weirdly gratified by this.
I majored in journalism because, well, when I started college I wasn’t terrible at writing and I fit that cliche mold of an overly idealistic 19 year old who thought they could change the world. (Spoiler alert: I haven’t and I won’t.) Say what you will about the dying newspaper industry and the minuscule salary earned by reporters, but one of the cool things about being a journalism major is getting an excuse to take lots of photography and graphic design classes.
Oh…wait….I didn’t do that. Dumb.
I don’t really remember what my reasons were for not taking a photography class–a class COMPLETELY supported by my major and funded by my financial aid. I think it was something about the lab hours being too demanding and I was at the point in my young life where I had a hot new boyfriend (now husband) and was more interested in hanging out in his dark room (HEY-OH). I did manage to fit in one graphic design course, but because the teaching assistant was a big-time sarcastic bully, I skipped out on most of those labs too.
As a result, I graduated sans graphics and photography know-how. It was a true shame considering I would soon develop a mild obsession with design and photography, which I would satisfy by teaching myself. There is a lot I need to learn and I know I’m very rough around the edges—especially when compared to the high-calliber pros—but I feel comfortable with what I’ve accomplished on my own thus far.
A few recent examples.
Posters and Flyers
Brochures and Other Publications (Click the image to see the entire package.)
Even Billboards (Oh yeah, I never wrote about that time I had a billboard! Fun story for later.)
I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about all of the graphic design nuances. There are rules and techniques that I am sure I don’t follow—more out of ignorance than an act of rebellious independence—and hundreds of styles I’ve yet to explore. Truthfully, I really have only grazed the surface of possibilities, but that has me more excited than intimidated.
I write this not to pat myself on the back or beg applause from readers. But I’ll admit I’ve got ulterior motives for laying my art and my insecurities out on the table. I try not to talk about my professional life too much, but recently at work some design-oriented projects I really cared about were vendored out to The Pros. And it has shaken my creative confidence.
But here’s the thing, too often I downplay my abilities and sulk over the fact that I would probably never be a “real” graphic designer. But honestly, these days I’m less woeful about my reluctance to seize the opportunity to learn the right way in college, and more proud of what I have been able to figure out on my own. Teaching myself was an education in its own merit. I had to admit what I didn’t know, do my own research and ask for help when I needed it—sometimes even from my own journalism students, when I was teaching, which makes for quite the humbling experience. I established my own standard and had only myself to impress, and I think I’m finally coming around to believing I am an OK student. I’m not an artist savant and I don’t want to be. I’d rather find joy in making mistakes, learning from them at my own pace than creating art that I feel good about. I encourage others to embrace their interests whole heartedly and do the same. There’s no “real” way to learn to be expressive, no “right” way to be creative.
“Take your pleasure seriously.” — Charles Eames, designer
I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.