Before and After: Coffee Table

I love Before and Afters so much, don’t you??

This is the coffee table on my porch in my last post. I bought it at an occasional store, and it was the right size and shape, just not the right colors for me.


Here’s the frame before I had spray painted it that charcoal color:

032So I used an electric sander on the top to get rid of most of the paint. I didn’t use a paint stripper because I wanted kind of a mottled, weathered look, so I wanted to encourage an uneven color. And because paint stripper scares me.

047Then I used a water-and-paint mixture to “blue-wash” it. And there we go!

048I’ve got another Before and After coming up soon!




Backyard Update and Planning

I’ve posted about spiffing up my backyard before, so I just thought I’d give a little update on my progress, and what I’d like to do with it in the future. I’ve been meaning to show a before and after of my back porch too, so here we go!

Here’s what the porch looked like when I bought the house:020 (2)Let me explain what you’re seeing here. A previous owner apparently wanted a three-season porch, and must have found a great deal on sliding glass doors, so instead of installing glass paneling, they just installed four sliding glass doors to wall in the porch. 3 problems with this:

1. It looked like a cheap approximation of something else. Because that’s what it was.

2. The doors were probably on sale for a reason: they were dirty ON THE INSIDE OF THE PANES. Glass doors (or at least these ones) have two panes with a little bit of space in between them. Like a glass and air sandwich. I don’t know how, but these doors appeared to have dirt, dust, or just a general fogginess between the panes, making them look forever dirty with no way to get them clean.

3. While it was nice for insulation in the winter, the glass turned the porch into an oven, which (combined with the dirty glass) is not what you want when you’d like to enjoy a nice summer day on the porch.

So my dad and I ripped those suckers out of there, and I added some reed curtains, an outdoor rug, and some furniture and plants:

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Attachment-1 (3)(The coffee table is a little re-fashion that I’ll show in an upcoming post.)

And here’s the yard before:

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Backyard Before #1And now, after adding some plants (hydrangeas, lilacs, a cherry tree, etc.), cleaning it up a bit, and moving things around a little:

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Attachment-1 - CopyI like it for now, but my long-term goal for my back (and front) yard is to replace almost all of the grass with plants and other landscaping. You guys, I hate mowing!!! And it’s just pointless. Why do we all have these useless grass plots that we have to constantly cut back (and if you’re not me, you also water and fertilize)? Why not fill our land with plants, flowers, gardens, etc. that we can use for something?

I’ve been envying this woman’s backyard for a while (I also love her blog):

rosielittlethingsbackyardBut she lives in the pacific northwest, so there are things about her yard that wouldn’t work well in mine (she gets no temperature extremes, less direct sun, more rain, etc.). I just really like how it looks casually coordinated, with different areas for different activities (eating, lounging, chatting, playing), it all blends in really well with nature (neutral colors, natural materials), and I especially like that it’s sheltered from neighbors and direct sun.

Anyway, for now, I’ll just be focusing on landscaping. If you have any suggestions for good, low maintenance plants and ground cover that would look nice and grow well in Minnesota, let me know!


Before and After: Office Refresh!

When I started my new job last year, I had been placed in a shared office attached to a busy classroom. But it’s hard to do something as sensitive and confidential as counseling in a busy, public area, so as soon as an office became available, I elbowed my way in there asap!

It had been considered an ugly, tiny, closet of an office, but I saw a lot of potential. Plus! The left wall had already been painted in “my” color. Serendipity!

IMG_445382121First things first, I shoved that desk to the wall. I can’t stand putting a desk between myself and my students. I may as well just stand over them with my arms crossed.

IMG_445472089Then I got rid of any unneeded (or unliked) furniture, replaced it with furniture that better suited my tastes and needs, and jazzed it up with some wall decor. (There’s a lot of wall in this office.)

IMG_465252354 (1)Got the chairs on sale at Target this fall. The rug had been rolled up in my basement for years. The map poster is from

IMG_465248022I got this cute mid-century-style bookshelf off of craigslist, and the chalkboard is from Home Goods (my heaven).

IMG_465247952I love it. Some co-workers are surprised when they see that I put so much time, energy, and money into designing my office, but I’ve always done this anywhere I’ve worked. I figure if you’re going to spend most of your waking life in one place, you might as well love the way it makes you feel. It’s worth it!

Office Before and After

Desk Reveal!

Ok y’all! Thanks so much for your input. I got a comment from PearlGirl90, who said that it seemed like I wanted blue the most, which made me realize that that was true. It’s just paint, so if (when) I get sick of it, I can easily repaint it.

For now, I like it a lot.



IMG_4410861821. The “stool” is actually a side table, so it’s not really the right height or sturdiness for sitting. I just put it there because the desk needed a chair, and it looked okay. But now I kind of like it. I might replace it with some other chair (see below), but we’ll see. As I said, I will probably never actually sit at the desk.

2. My walls look white in pictures, but they’re actually light blue. If that matters at all to you.

3. I think a stencil or gold accents might look nice, but for now I just wanted to keep it pretty simple. I didn’t even spray paint the hardware. I normally hate brass, but I liked it as it was. Just quiet and unassuming.

4. Yes, I do have a lot of markers.

The chair below is another piece of furniture from my grandparents’ house (the last one I have I think?), so I might fix it up (reupolster? eep!) at some point, and possibly replace the table-stool with it.

IMG_441083117She’s not much to look at now, but she’s got a lot of potential.

Office Furniture Redo!

At my new job, I share an office with another person, so I kind of have an office, but it’s more of a corner. And instead of a desk, I have a table, so in addition to sprucing up my office in general, I needed to add some storage space to my corner.

So I spiffed up these two tables:

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I gave them a coat of paint, spray painted the hardware gold, and did a little stencil on top (which was way harder than it should have been).

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Not my favorite re-do, but I think it’ll be good enough for my office.

And I’ll post a before and after of my office too, once that’s all done. Yay!

Kitchen Redo!!!!

You guys!!! Here is the big reveal of that project I’ve been hinting at.

I redid my kitchen!!

I’ve been wanting to do this since I bought the house 5 years ago, and finally this spring I decided to just bite the bullet and DO it already.

I call it a kitchen “redo” because it’s not big enough for a renovation, but it’s bigger than just redecorating. My kitchen was old and dingy and dark, and I wanted it to look new, clean, and bright. I also wanted to make changes that would be a good investment for resale (basically, keep things neutral, nothing too wacky). I don’t have any current plans to sell my house ever in my life, but I know that it may happen someday, so I always consider resale whenever I make a change.

Here is what my kitchen looked like before:

Photo (25)Old, dingy, ugly, and brown brown brown!

Photo (32)Isn’t that floor gorgeous? The best part about it was that it was stick n’ peel tiles, and the edges of each tile were sticky from the glue, so they would just cling to every speck of dust/strand of hair/food crumb. Impossible to clean. It was greeeaaat.

Also, bonus! I was hoping there would be hardwood underneath the vinyl tiles, but noooope, just even UGLIER vinyl tiles:

Photo (31) - CopySo! My first step in the process was to decide what I wanted.

As inspiration, I pinned about a billion pins on Pinterest of kitchens that look like this:

inspiration#1So, basically, I was planning on doing white upper cabinets, bluish gray lower cabinets, gray counter top, subway tile back splash, and wood floors. It’s been done a billion times (as evidenced by the magnitude of inspiration photos I found), but I just wanted something fairly simple and classic.

First things first, I painted the cabinets. Here’s a picture I took because I was too terrified to actually start. This open paint can is the beginning of this whole odyssey. Can you feel the fear in my hands as I take the picture??

Photo (29)After about a hundred coats of paint (for reals, like ten coats on the outside of the cabinet doors, 5 coats on the inside, etc.), it was back splash time.

This is how pretty the back splash was before:

Photo (26) - CopyIt was like a pinky-tan-ish flesh color with a quaint little leaf pattern. Beautiful. (Oh, and it’s the same material as the counter top.)

And here’s the first back splash panel I put up (again, TERRIFIED!!!):

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(It looks like there’s no mortar on the wall because there isn’t! I used adhesive pads called SimpleMat made for back splashes, and they worked like a dream!)

And here’s another “I’m too terrified to get started” photo:Photo (31)Yep, I painted my counter top. Rustoleum counter top coating review below.

Last, I got hardwood installed for the floor. I looked into many options, and hardwood was just the wisest choice. Due to the layout of my house, there is hardwood on either side of the kitchen floor, so matching that wood makes my house look bigger and has a better flow.

Photo (37)So here’s the big reveal!!!!

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Photo (38)I’m glad it’s done, and while it was a pain in the ass to do, I’m glad that I did it. I learned a lot, and used tools and materials I’ve never used before (tile cutter, electric sander, wall putty, grout, etc.).

Kitchen Before and After

Below are further details on what I did. Stop reading now unless you have some sort of weird obsession with me, or if you’re re-doing your kitchen or something.

1. I did an Ikea hack!

I had heard that you shouldn’t put your oven right up against your fridge because it makes your fridge work harder. So I moved them apart, but then I didn’t want to just have this little gap between them collecting foodstuffs and being difficult to clean. So I decided to use the space for storage. Pshyeah, easier said than done. The space between the appliances was 7 inches ideally, 9 inches at the most (moving the oven over further would have narrowed accessibility to the doorway). Ever tried finding a 7″ wide 37″ tall 24″ long shelf? Good luck! But I found one!!! Kinda. I was wandering around Ikea (after trying many other stores and google searches), coming to the conclusion that of course this doesn’t exist; why would it? And then I saw it and I heard angels singing.

Ikea’s “Molger” shelf.

It’s intended to be used over a toilet. It was the perfect size (7 inches wide!!!!), it was just too tall. But I’ve got a saw! And a dad who can help me! So we sawed off some parts and made this:

Can you imagine a skinnier shelf?
Can you imagine a skinnier shelf?

2. Another Ikea solution. So here’s the thing: I’m short. The cabinets above my oven are too high for me, and there’s really no other place to put pots and pans, so I just kept them on the top of the stove. Which works, but isn’t ideal of course. So I got myself a rack from Ikea, and my dad did a little problem solving (screwing things into my crazy plaster walls kind of doesn’t work, so we had to attach it to the cabinet), and voila!!

Photo (40)3. Rustoleum Counter Top Coating

Okay, here are my thoughts, in case you’re interested in possibly using this product.


It is a good, cheap, relatively easy, temporary solution for an ugly counter top. It is fairly easy to apply, and fairly good at smoothing itself out. I would recommend it, but I would give some advice and some disclaimers. Total project time: 1.5 hours (including prep and clean-up)

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a) It smells. If you look at any reviews for it, you’ll see this. Yes, it smells. Like nail polish (I actually think it might just BE nail polish). I had all the windows open, fans going, wore a mask, and breathed through my nose when I used it. It stung my eyes a little as I applied it.

b) It is not acrylic paint. It is HARD to clean up when (not if) you get it somewhere you don’t want it. You will have to throw away your tools after you use them because they will be impossible to clean (unless you use some special cleaner maybe..? Nail polish remover…?).

c) It is not perfect, and neither are you. You will have splotches and little areas that aren’t totally smooth. But it’ll be good enough.

d) It scratches easily when it’s new.

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a) The instructions on the can are okay, but just do this: apply painter’s tape first, then sand your surface (it doesn’t tell you to do this, but do it), wipe it clean, let it dry. This took about 30 minutes.

b) Like I said, open all windows, have fans running, and wear a mask. I’d also recommend wearing gloves (I didn’t. It comes off eventually, but not easily. I used nail polish remover.). Do this project when you can leave the house for a little while afterward. It will smell strongly (I didn’t get a headache or anything, but it’s unpleasant) for a few hours after, and the next couple of days it will just smell like you just painted a room (not too bad), and then by the third day, the smell was completely gone.

c) Have a wet rag/paper towel on hand. When (WHEN) you drip on something, you will want to clean it up immediately. If you wipe it right away, you’ll be fine, just don’t let it dry.

d) Like the instructions say, you’ll use a roller (and a small, soft brush for smaller areas). The actual painting part goes quickly because the stuff dries quickly. So once you’re ready to start, just roll roll roll!! Actual painting time for me (including getting into small, tough areas) was about 30 minutes.

e) The instructions say to let it cure for 3 days. Don’t believe their lies. Let it cure for a week (or longer if possible!). It’s dry to the touch basically the next day, but it’s very delicate. Don’t put anything on it for a week, and then start using it verrry carefully for a while after that, then slowly you can start treating it more normally. The woman at Home Depot said that eventually it should be treated with as much care as a marble counter top (she meant that you need to treat it like….kiiiind of carefully. But uh, lady, I’m painting my counter, you think I know anything about marble..?).