The Kitchen Refresh

The Mr. and I became first-time homeowners in June. Our very first project to tackle was the kitchen. We didn't want to go full-reno so we opted for a major "refresh" instead.

Let me start by saying I am NOT a professional. I am also not super into planning ahead. I am a free-spirited creative and I like to start things before fully understanding all the possible details. This post is more about sharing my real-world, total amateur, don't-really-know-what-I'm-doing experience and process. As a result, please view this as a show-and-tell project and not a strict how-to tutorial. Please feel free to learn from my mistakes and regrets. There are many fantastic tutorials out there so please reference those for your serious inquiries. Try both This Old House and One House Love to get started.

Now that we've cleared that up, here are a couple before shots. You can see how the ugly brown cabinets make the corner of the room feel like a black hole, trying to suck you in to its depths.

It's all so brown! (with previous owner's stuff)

The paint color debate in full-swing and cabinet doors coming down. 

We began by numbering all the doors and drawers before removing them. It turns out they were almost all unique to their location however not all kitchens are the same and this will save braincells when it's time for re-assembly. 

The next step was to remove all the shelf liner paper (super sticky and gross) and then clean the glue off the surface of the wood with Goof-Off. I have no idea what the pros do, but this worked for us. 

Next we hand-sanded all surfaces with sanding blocks. Not too rough a grit because you don't want to gouge the wood. I suppose a liquid de-glosser would have worked just as well to clean the surface of old stain and kitchen grease.

To say prepping and priming was tedious is an understatement. This alone was a two week process. 
Could it be done faster? Yes. Is it worth paying someone else to do? Let's just say I don't want to do it ever again.

We taped off everything we didn't want to get paint on and put plastic drop cloths over the granite counter and appliance tops. Then onto priming where we used a gallon and a quart worth of B-I-N Shellac Base Primer and Sealer Stain Killer based on our contractor's (popcorn ceiling removal) recommendation. I really wanted to make sure we covered that old dark stain as well as possible and to avoid any spots or stains leaking through the final paint layer later on.

After what felt like an eternity spent priming and then deciding what white to use, we moved onto final paint. We went with Valspar's "Pale Bloom" white in a high-gloss interior/exterior paint. I picked that particular color because it had a very slight warm yellow tone to it which worked best with the existing granite and back splash.

After the first coat of paint I realized that all the cracks and nail holes in the wood were showing up. Painting ceased and hole filling began. I used a 5.5 oz tube of DAP white latex, paintable window and door caulk. It worked like a charm with a damp finger to spread the bead and wet rag for clean-up. The rest of the painting went well. We paid special attention to the upper cabinet interiors that flank the sink since those were getting the glass door treatment.


With painting nearing the end it was time to settle on hardware. Our local hardware store is Lowe's and while I found a modern 3" handle shape that I liked, I couldn't find it there in the oil rubbed bronze finish. Thanks to a generous birthday gift from the best mother-in-law in the world, I ended up with exactly the handles and cup pulls that I wanted at 2/3 the price of the Lowe's hardware.

Testing some Lowe's handles out -- modern bar stainless versus "nautical" oil rubbed bronze.

With the base cabinets painted and hardware picked out we turned our focus to the doors and drawers. Arguable the most important part of the paint job since the fronts of these take up the most visible space of the kitchen. We painted the doors flat on the floor (with many a drop cloth to protect them) with a small foam roller. With a couple coats of primer and about 4 coats of paint they looked done. However, if I was to do it all over again I'd probably try to achieve a flatter surface texture, the foam roller gave the surface a little bit of an orange peel texture. It's not horrible by any means but it's not quite flat and "perfect, " if you know what I mean. I put glass panels into the the four upper doors that flank the sink to show off our white and blue dishes. You can read my how to here.

While looking at paint for the kitchen we settled on a lightly blue Valspar paint called Woodlawn Sterling Blue. The chip has a soft, antique blue cast to it and looked really good in the light of the space. BUT once the walls were painted the color looks waaayyyy more blue and less antique and silvery. Another takeaway lesson for you, get a small tester bottle of your chosen paint and paint a large piece of poster board and hang it on the walls of the space BEFORE you buy a full gallon. A little 2x4 inch swatch just wont give you the right impression of the color. I don't hate the result but it's not what I thought it'd be. Now I wonder what a warm and tasty mustard color would look like but the Mister isn't on board so I'm learning to love the blue for now.

So without further ado, I give you the final result with a less than professional camera phone photo at night!

One of these days I out to break out the good camera and style the crap out of this room and get a pin worthy photo of the kitchen. I'll be sure to update when that happens! Until then, here's your before and after. From dark and dingy to light and bright. (Just take my word for it.)

Affiliate notice: Some of the links in the post are affiliate links to products that I used for this project and would recommend to friends and family. If you make a purchase after using these links I will make a small profit which helps me to keep doing these fun projects and sharing my experiences. Thanks for reading and if you have questions, please feel free to ask!

Office Chair Make-over Quickie

 Nothing satisfies the DIY heart as quickly as changing the fabric of a chair. This office chair is no exception! In need of a comfy chair for my art table, I nabbed this office bad boy at my local GCF Store for the sale price of $5.99 plus tax. It has a nice "sit" to it and is slightly bouncy given the shape. The back is soft too and the right height. The chair's only negative was that scratchy, drab, office-blue upholstery.

I set off for a fabric pick-me-up at this awesome local fabric store called The Cloth Barn. It is a veritable fabric haven and I've found myself wandering the racks for many an hour. If you ever hear audible "Oohs" and "Awws" among the bolts, it's me. Coincidental, if I am ever reported missing, look for me there first. Anyway, there is a remnant room that is always good for a rummage and that's where I found a 3/4 yard piece of thick, upholstery weight, grey and yellow ikat. (I don't know about you, but I love a good ikat). It was a whopping $3 per yard.

Score! (Cody the dog is equally excited)

For that seamless look, this chair has a panel on the back that snaps in with four plastic plug thingies. Once I snapped those off the rest of dis-assembly was a cinch. Before recovering I didn't bother removing the existing fabric and just stapled my fabric over the top. The yardage wasn't quite big enough to center the main ikat element and leave enough fabric for all the necessary pieces so I opted for an off-center set up that allowed alignment between the top cushion and the bottom. I probably just lost all you OCD perfectionists out there but please bear with me to the end?

After a moment of hesitance I remembered this re-do was about quick frugality and one must not fret about the whole symmetry thing.

After many staples, the cushions were complete and I was on to the back panel with my fingers crossed that I had enough fabric left to cover it. BARELY. The panel is metal and the fabric had been stretched and anchored with metal hooks and my last scrap was not big enough. What to do, what to do?

Hot glue gun.

Tenuous moments and burned fingers later, the last bit of fabric somehow managed to cover the back panel. A quick assembly and BOOM. I have one snazzy work chair. Bye, bye drab office blues!

Ain't she a beaut?!
(See, the off centered pattern works just fine since both the top and bottom cushion are matched up. 
I told you it'd all work out!)

Project budget:  roughly $10.00
chair - $6ish
fabric - $3ish
staples and hot glue - $0 (already had these)

At home next to my messy art desk.

Note: I briefly considered spray painting the chair frame but the gray powder coating works well enough with the fabric and I worried about the potential of paint rubbing off into the carpet and making me a nasty mess. So I opted to leave it as is.

Put Junk in that Trunk!

Vintage style steamer trunks are all the rage right now in home decor and styling. If you have the moolah there are many great options for purchasing your own. If you have the patience to hunt you can score your own at flea markets, thrift shops, and online re-sale sites. If you have a DIY-thumb you can build your own. The opportunities are endless!

Let's start with the DIY. If you're not already familiar with Ana White and her awesome website you need to get familiar. Lucky for us, she just posted a plan to build your own wood trunk!

image by Shanty2Chic

I've also found a four part video tutorial for building a wood steamer-style trunk HERE.

Do you have already have a trunk that needs some love? Here are some blog posts about revamping old trunks that may inspire your own revamp project.
There are many more to be found around the web, so go forth and search for your perfect diy match!

What, you don't have a trunk yet? You'll need to fix that first. My go-to resources for finding treasure are , and eBay . I'm also a fan of local antique shops and malls, flea markets, garage sales and even the occasional classified ad in the newspaper. The hard part is finding what you want for a price you want to pay.

You don't like how antique shops smell? You're afraid of strangers from the internet? You have money to spend on the stuff you want? Okay, then, let's do some shopping!

a steamer on legs that'd work as a coffee table for $590.00 from

good for storage and budget friendly at $279.99 from World Market

detailed leather and very budget friendly this is $119.99 from

eBay links in this post are part of an affiliate program.

Before + After: Flat File Cabinet

There is nothing quite as motivating as moving half-way around the world when it comes to finishing projects. As our move date approached I realized that I'd be unable to take any of the wet supplies I'd purchased (paint, thinner, etc.) with me and that I risked losing any hardware not already attached to the furniture. Enter the flat file project.

I got the bug for a flat file cabinet after seeing these two images on Pinterest and the Illusorio Cabinet from Anthropologie.

 Without any luck on the local Craigslist or Bookoo I went to eBay UK and found this gem for only £12! All I had to do was borrow a truck and a friend and pick it up myself. The photos may be deceiving but this thing is a monster! It's probably four feet tall, nearly four feet wide and about three feet deep. It barely fit through the door way and was too awkward and heavy to move up the stairs so it lived in the dining room. It was homemade for an elementary school classroom out of pine and came with a thin layer of varnish and various glittery splotches of paste and paint. 

I started by sanding all of the exterior surfaces. I decided to stain it a warm dark brown that I found at B&Q (English equivalent of the Home Depot). I *think* I used the Colron Wood Dye in Indian Rosewood. For the knobs I searched all of the local hardware stores as well as antique shops but didn't find anything that caught my attention and came in a quantity of 16. Again, turning to eBay was the answer. There I found a listing for "16 vintage architectural salvage porcelain and brass knobs." They were only $9.99 plus shipping so I was sold. They didn't come with backer screws but another trip to the B&Q and I was set. The final detail I needed to complete my cabinets were the antiqued brass label holders to go down the middle of the drawers. After searching all over the web I (yes, again) found exactly what I wanted on eBay! I ordered "10 antique label holders" from the seller Craft-Inc. for $3.50 plus shipping. They arrived very quickly and were just what I wanted! One final trip to B&Q and I had the brass tacks to attach them. I love how it looks aged with the dings and dents and uneven stain. It's exactly the look I was going for!

All finished!

This project only cost me $56 from start to finish. Not bad considering the cost of purchasing something similar! I am absolutely smitten with the final result and cannot wait to see it in my future office/studio styled with all kinds of arty goodies.

(PS: those awesome black and white prints in the open drawer are from the Etsy shop of UK artist baggelboy. I'm a big fan of his "the end of time" series.)

All eBay links are part of an affiliate program.

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