Standing in line at the Home Depot, hand basket filled with paint thinner and sand paper, I realize that I may very well be insane, for I was gearing up to update an old, hand-made family dresser that I had previously– not once, but twice — tried to tackle. Would this third attempt at a creating a modern, fun and functional piece of home decor be my last? If history was any indicator, probably not.
On attempt one, an unfortunate lapse of judgement in the paint department resulted in a dresser that could have been dreamt up by the Harlem Globetrotters.
Exhausted, defeated, and in no hurry to continue my intimate relationship with the orbital sander and foam paint brush, I resolved to hastily fix the problem with fabric and a staple gun. Undoubtedly an improvement, but only a temporary fix to buy myself some time before once again taking up arms against the contrary cabinet.
What I had always been shooting for was something modern, grown up but still a little fun. The fabric fix was most certainly fun, but you have to acknowledge, it was also a tad alienating. So I went back to the drawing board to come up with a solution that would age gracefully as styles change, but still maintain a little “edge” so to speak. Something a la this…
The fabric would have to come off, as well as the multiple layers of blue and yellow paint. But that wasn’t the whole of it. I would also remove the trim around the base and add some hairpin legs to really drive home that updated modern feel. The only thing that would stay was the hardware. Finally, finally I think I nailed it.
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…
I don’t feel great about the nearly one month that has passed since my last post, especially since I have, in this blogger’s opinion, actually accomplished some pretty magnificent things… I made some cool bathroom art, learned to cook Pad Thai, and downloaded the new Beyonce album… you know, the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. But in all seriousness, I’m painfully aware that I’ve let the blog kind of fall by the wayside over the past couple of months. Because of the holidays, maybe? Or lack of inspiration? Busy schedule? I can’t pin down the precise reason, but dang if I’m not going to do better in ’14, starting now with the obligatory look back at the best and worst of our escapades in the past year.
Proudest Accomplishment: Kitchen Overhaul
In April, we put the finishing touches on our once beige and boring kitchen.
This project is/was the most time and energy intensive DIY renovation we’ve sunk our teeth into, but it has also been the most gratifying. It started before we officially moved in when I painted the walls a nearly day-glow shade of green called “Spritz of Lime” which just seemed an appropriate if not nauseating color choice for a kitchen. From there, we—to be read in one breath now—replaced the florescent lighting, striped and restained the cabinets and added new hardware, removed the wood paneling from the wall and added custom shelving, replaced the faucet and added water cut offs, demolished the countertops, replaced the countertops, and…gasp…retiled the backsplash. A project more than a year in the making, it felt indecently good to marvel at the successful culmination of a lot of hard work.
Biggest Transformation: Hardwoods in the Living Room
Thanks to a ridiculous sale on laminate flooring at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, what started as a routine Saturday errand resulted in Heath and I throwing caution to the wind and just doing it already—”it” being ripping out the carpet in our living room and replacing it with some sweet, sweet laminate wood flooring. Oooh. That is fresh.
Biggest headache: Rebuilding the chicken coop
After finding a possum in the chicken coop one evening, we knew we had to prioritize a task we had long been delaying—rebuilding the chicken coop, a project that literally stinks, is labor intensive and painful. We finished it in a day, and the coop is certainly in better shape now than it was before, but it didn’t go down, or rather up , smoothly. We endured cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites, sun burns and blows to our egos along the way, but at day’s end, a bigger, brighter, possum-free coup stood triumphantly in the dh backyard.
Riskiest project: The stencil wall
It was nearly a year ago exactly that I finished totally weirding out our living room by painting an accent wall with a scallop stencil. It was kind of a gamble as a floor-to-ceiling geometric pattern could potentially be overwhelming, but there is something hypnotic and appealing about the repetitive nature of geometric prints. Since geometric scribbles practically dominate all of my handouts of staff meeting agendas, I thought I should take the concept that had been gnawing away at my subconscious to heart and put that idea on the wall. A year later, I still get lost in the rhythm of the green scallops and love it as much as the day I started painting.
Biggest fail: the garden
2013 was not the year of the garden for House Doodle. Because of the heat and other various preoccupations, we slowly stopped tending to our veggies and other flora. Next we knew, a once lush and sustainable backyard paradise transformed to a desolate and pathetic excuse for a garden. As it turns out, plants don’t respond well to gross neglect. It is was not our finest hour.
Greatest discovery: Homebrew
At the recommendation of some dear friends, Heath picked up brewing beer at home as a new hobby, and boy have we enjoyed it. We cooked up our first batch in February, and by June we committed to going full throttle when we installed kegerator in our kitchen so we could enjoy draft homebrew at our leisure. Yes, we’ve officially crossed the beer snob threshold, and it’s delicious.
We saw triumphs and tribulations in our home projects this year, but 2013 was also a year of significant personal achievement, loss and transition: Heath conquered a mountain when he hiked 26 miles through the Weminuche Wilderness, we bid farewell to a beloved home from my childhood, my always bro/sometime roommate joined the navy, and I left my communications job with the school district. Good/bad/ugly/beautiful….2013 was peppered with experiences that will stick with us for awhile.
I sometimes forget that hallways are rooms too, and important ones at that. They carry us from one part of the house to another, acting as passageways to new attitudes. Think about it, you enter the hallway and instantly have to change your school of thought from “it’s time to cook” to “it’s time to sleep” or from “it’s time to study” to “its time to shower (or, you know, other things that happen in that room).” If you consider the mentality switch that occurs in hallways, you realize these literal and figurative passageways are kind of a big deal. So why oh why did it take me so long to give our hallway the attention it deserves? Despite being an area of the house we don’t spend much time in, hallways shouldn’t be an afterthought. When given some TLC, I figure they can become as beloved a space as any.
I really wanted to emulate one or all of these ideas into our hall space, which is long, narrow and boring beige.
But because our hallway has a very low ceiling (an air conditioning duct was put there after the house was originally built), I didn’t want to do anything that would close the space in and make our guests feel claustrophobic. And because there is no overhead light, just a little wall sconce midway through, I didn’t want anything that would need a lot of light passing through it to look good.
I briefly considered painting the doors instead of the hallway, which I think can give a really cool effect, like this photo from housetohome.
But that solution didn’t solve my boring beige dilemma. So I decided to do what I normally do…paint it turquoise! (Technically, the paint color is called Fiji, but hey, it’s close enough.)
I love, love, love how it turned out. I actually don’t dread walking through that part of our house anymore.
I’m also really loving how it looks as you glance through one room and get a peak at the new peacock-blue hallway that lays behind it. Check out how much better the hallway looks from the kitchen in these before and afters.
I also love how it makes our art and photos pop, something that was definitely lacking with the old beige.
Because it’s not a huge space, taping the walls, patching the holes and slapping up the coat of paint was done in just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. I still need to touch it up in a few places, but over all I’m really happy with our playful new corridor. Once we get some wood floors and change out the door hardware, this space is really going to shine.
Great news! I made good on my promise (to myself) to stencil an accent wall in my living room. (Bless Heath for going along willingly with my wacky, wacky ideas for designing the house.) I started the project Dec. 15 and finished about a week later, just before the fam came down for Christmas. What timing!
Thus far I’m really loving our dizzying scalloped wall. I’ve always been a fan of bright and bold patterns on my blankets and pillows, so an entire wall of a retro and repetitious pattern is right up my alley. Since it has been up, I find myself zoning out on the couch, getting lost in the sequence of scallops.
The stencil pattern was ordered from Cutting Edge Stencils and set me back about $40. I already had the paint and rollers, so the cost of the stencil and my time was all I ended up investing on the project. So, I’d say it’s worth it to give stenciling a shot if it’s a look you’re keen on, though, admittedly it’s not for everyone. Should you give it a go, I’d recommend the following:
- Keep a level handy. I eyeballed everything, which works OK with the guide of a stencil, but as I was finishing the project, I noticed a slight upward movement of the pattern as I went along. It’s not something that’s really visible when you’re just glancing at it, but during my long stare-down sessions with the wall, I can notice the slight slope of the pattern. It’s minimal, but were I to do it over, I’d definitely recruit the aid of a ruler.
- Start at the very edge of the wall and work your way over. When I got going, i didn’t exactly start at the very edge of the wall, leaving instead a small gap between where my pattern started and where the wall started. It ultimately affected the all-over, saturating effect of the pattern I was going for, and I had to go in with my individual stencil to fill in the gaps. Start the stencil so that parts of the pattern flow off the edge of the wall so you don’t have to go back and fill in the holes when it’s done.
- Keep a blow dryer handy. When stenciling, you don’t load up the roller with paint, so the wall itself drys fairly quickly. However, when you’re layering the plastic stencil with paint, it takes a little longer to dry. So moving the stencil pattern over the wall can result in wet splotches of paint where you don’t want it. I got in the habit of using a blow dryer on the stencil so I could move through the project more quickly.
- Use a small brush for touch ups. Careful as I may be, it seemed inevitable that there would be drips and smudges as I went along. A tiny paint brush was crucial to cleaning up the oops-ies.
The whole thing took a few days to complete, but I wasn’t the most committed of painters. I stopped to bake, attend holiday parties and watch Christmas clay-mation movies…leaving only a couple hours a day devoted to stenciling. Should you choose to get your stencil on, I’d say it’s a project that could easily be knocked out in a day if you were truly diligent.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll offer a peek at the good, bad and ugly of the project.
Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.
For many moons now, I’ve been flirting with the idea of wallpapering a surface of the house. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out which wall, much less nail down the sort of pattern I wanted to lose my wallpaper virginity to. Then I got scared off by all the reasons wallpaper naysayers give for not tackling the project. Primarily, it’s not easy to put up and it’s not easy to take down. And taking into consideration my tendency to obsessively rearrange furniture and redesign my living spaces, something as permanent as wallpaper probably wouldn’t be a good fit for little old me. Stenciling though, stenciling is genius. I can get behind stenciling.
For whatever reason, stenciling seems more manageable. I mean, it’s essentially painting, and your girl has painted her fair share of walls before. It also seems to be a cheaper alternative to ordering designer wallpaper. And, if I screw it up, which is likely, it’s much easier to fix or paint over than wallpaper. So stenciling it is!
The lime green wall below is the one I’ve singled out to be my stenciling guinea pig. In the picture, it’s home to a collection of friends’ photos, but I’ve since moved those to the hallway and the bare wall has been screaming for some quirky new treatment, STAT.
At first I was toying with the idea of using painter’s tape to create some kind of geometric wall art. Maybe something a-like-a-this….
Or even better, this…
Inevitably, all that searching for inspirational images led me to stenciling, and then all bets were off. Stenciling it would be. I found Cutting Edge Stencils and Royal Design Studio to have the best collection of stencils in the look I’m after. But settling on a pattern might be easier said than done with so many cool options to choose from.
I love the modern edginess of the chevron, but also the movement and flow of the peacock pattern. Our design style is a little modern and a little eclectic, so I think after much searching, I’ve decided on the same pattern I would have been likely to choose as a three-year-old…the mermaid.
I think it does a good job of combining what it is I like about the other two patterns. The mathematical repetition fits in nicely with our modern style, but the cloud-like arches soften it, for an effect that just feels good in all the right places.
The Internets have me believing that stenciling an accent wall is a DIY project that can be completed relatively quickly, and for someone with as little patience as me, “quick” is a word to be cherished as much as “cheap” or “easy” or “fun”. Of course, when I’ve actually started the stenciling process and am growing increasingly frustrated by the painstaking attention to detail it requires, I might be singing another tune. As it stands now though, stenciling and I have a date. If you’re looking for me this weekend, you’ll know where to find me.
Pink, to be accurate. A few weeks ago I picked up the molger shelving unit from Ikea as a low-cost way to handle an overflow of extra books and school supplies that were polluting the office. While the dimensions of the piece worked well for the space, the sex appeal of it did not.
Pretty bland and pretty blah. So of course my first instinct is to take a can of spray paint to it–just as I did with the filing cabinet to its left, the armoire to its right and the chair to it’s other left. Sometimes it seems I have only one or two solutions to making over furniture, and both of them are painting. But hey, if the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The final effect is a sublimely vivid, and maybe just a little on the primary color/elementary school classroom side, but I’ll take it over the original any day.