Oh, the difference a year makes…

So, this week marks the one-year anniversary of Operation Home! Crazy, right??!  In this time span, I’ve published 127 posts including this one. That’s 127 posts mostly containing craft/DIY projects that I/we’ve attempted, along with several decor posts and a few personal posts mixed in.  This past year has been so rewarding thanks to this little blog.  It’s been an outlet that I’ve been lucky and grateful to have, and it’s allowed me to meet some really cool people whom I would’ve never met otherwise.  Plus, I’ve learned a ton!!  Not only about blogging in general, but about DIY… I’ve taken on projects in the last year that I’d never tried before and might not have had the courage to do if it weren’t for Operation Home.  So, thanks little blog and all of you lovely readers who support it!  :)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on updating Our House page in the bar above.  It contains updated photos with links to the most pertinent projects within each space.   So, check that out if you’re bored (or just, ya know, if ya just like me.  Nopressure).  ;)

I haven’t really posted a ton about our backyard since the inception of this blog.  A few random posts here and there but not the full-monty, if you will.   So, I thought an updated tour could be fun since the foliage has changed quite a bit.  I mean, what could be more fun than watching plants grow? ;)

On that note, I’d like to take a moment to marvel upon the magic that is the Southern Wax Myrtle.   The most amazing shrub I’ve ever come into contact with.   Seriously, I’m about to justify this statement with pictures.   Just wait.  Wait for it.  Okaaaay.  Onward…

See, when we planted these guys in February of 2013, they looked something like this….


By September of 2013, they looked like this…


And now, one measly, piddly year later….

I know.  SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR.   They’ve flippin’ exploded!!!!   It only took a year and a half for them to begin providing privacy above the fence line.    That is, unless you count this from last September...


I was so excited about “all that privacy” provided by those two little branches.   Heehee!!!   I was such a kid.  Now, I’ll admit…. there is one little runt bush that hasn’t quite caught up with the others, but he’ll get there.  No doubt.

The wax myrtles were a generous housewarming gift from Mac and Pop when we moved into the house.   (Need a housewarming gift idea? Buy a shrub.  You won’t regret it.)  And they seriously MAKE the yard.   In these pictures, they almost look a little messy because it was so incredibly windy when I took these shots, but in person they’re lush and warm and bring such a cozy dynamic to the backyard.   Our goal was to allow them to grow larger and then trim them into a privacy hedge.   The plant beds that Joey created with moss boulders are still going strong and look amazing.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for this sad, sad live oak tree (seen in the back of this shot)…

It’s alive.  Just not looking great.  The brutal winter really took a toll on him.   Maybe one day he’ll come back and be happy again (Ihope).

The other side of the yard looked like this last year after we’d planted a few crepe myrtles along the fence as well as another live oak tree (…who did remarkably well in the frigid winter. Way to take one for the team, tree!)…


And now that side of the yard looks like this…

So, not a ton different, but definitely more filled in.  Sorry for the blurry pic.   It was far too windy for my lack-luster photography skills.

The rosemary beds looked like this before…


And now…

And that’s AFTER Joey gave them a significant haircut.   As for the porch…

We got a new umbrella, which makes the space so much more livable in the hot Texas heat.  It’s from World Market in case anybody’s wondering.  We need to get a better umbrella stand, since the umbrella is leaning quite a bit.  It’s much heavier than our last umbrella since the rod is made of wood.  It’s an aspect that I neglected to think about when deciding to re-use our old umbrella stand to save some cash.   Sometimes, ya just gotta spend the money, I guess.   I love the colors and simple pattern the umbrella adds to the yard.  Plus, it helps tie in all of the colors from the conversation area nicely and provides much-needed shade over our newly waterproofed table.  As an added bonus, it blocks out some of the surrounding roof lines from inside the house.  Score!

Speaking of the conversation area, the space looks much the same from when I added the herbs and flowers.  Shockingly, they’re still alive.  Although there’s a chance that a few of them loathe me for adopting them (*coughcough*parsley!).  They aren’t exactly thriving if ya know what I mean.

See???  You can see the one little runt shrub in the background of this shot.  That’s really just a living metaphor for me standing next to my friends and family.  I can totally relate.  Just keep swimming, my little vertically-challenged friend!  You actually have the option to keep growing, so run with it!

I apologize for the lighting in some of these shots.  Our schedules as of late basically forced me to take these pics around dinner time… Not only was it insanely windy, it was pretty harsh lighting.  I totally know better, but sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.  Here’s a shot from earlier in the summer to demonstrate the actual colors on our porch…


It blows my mind just how much the shrubs have grown even since then!


… the beverage fridge is the bomb. When we have people over we stock it with water, soda, beer, etc. it keeps guests from having to go in and out so much.  Of course, it doesn’t look like anything special as of now.   It *may* even be on the slightly fugly side.  Especially with the *meh* concrete.  But a few shelves above, maybe a little appliance paint? Or perhaps, a little wood facade… It could be a really cool little area.

In any case, I think we’ve (and by “we” I’m referring to Joey) done a pretty good job with the space so far, especially being that it started off here…


Joey’s really outdone himself with the landscaping, in my opinion.   And despite me and my olive thumb, the majority of the plantings have taken off beautifully.  I think it’ll be a really charming (and private) backyard once everything matures and blocks out the view of the surrounding neighbors.

Anyways, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Thanks for stopping by my humble little blog!  I totally love ya’ll for it and hope you continue to visit for ANOTHER year of blogging! :)


The Great Crate Challenge

Howdy, Folks!   I love blogging.  I have to say.  It’s fun, rewarding, therapeutic and a great way to meet some awesome people whom I would have never met otherwise.   A while back I agreed to team up with some amazing bloggers for a project challenge.   Basically, we all had to go buy crates from Michael’s and do something with them.  Thus, The Great Crate Challenge was born….


I thought about it for a while, and after some deliberation, decided to take my crates and make a bench for either our foyer or much-neglected front porch.

Before I began, I developed a highly technical plan…


Impressed? ;)

Then, I purchased my materials…

- 3 crates from Michael’s

- 1″ x 12″ x 12′ whitewood board (cut down to (2) 1″ x 10 1/4″ x 55″)

- Bolts, nuts, and washers to bolt the crates together

Other materials, which I already had…

- Wood screws

- Stain/paint

- Wood legs (which I found at Goodwill for practically pennies)…


I was cracking up as I left Goodwill that day because the cashier made such a stink that I’d found the legs before her.   Heehee!  Sorry, lady.  Finders keepers.   Anyhoo, I’d done some research prior to making my plan, and found that 17-18″ is a good height for a bench, thus these legs were too long.  So, Joey cut them down with the miter saw to 4 inch lengths.

Once I had all of my materials together, I did a dry run in the foyer so that I could figure out how I wanted to paint/stain the bench (Lucas helped).

We placed various stained items nearby and tried to visualize which finish would look best.  Lucas was no help in deciding.  He liked everything.   But somehow, I managed to convince my lovely cousin, Kristyn, to babysit AND brainstorm with me all in one day.   It was super helpful to bounce ideas off her and I came out deciding to stain the top, bottom and legs and red-wash the crates to give the bench kind of an industrial-old-schoolhouse feel.

I sanded all of my pieces to take off any splinters or harsh edges.  Then, I used Varathane’s Early American stain, applying 2 coats with dry time between to my whitewood pieces and legs.  Then, I treated the stained elements with several coats of Formby’s Tung Oil as discussed in this post.


For the crates, I decided to red-wash them so that the woodgrain would still show through.  I poured some of this paint…


…into a cup and diluted it with about equal parts water.  I simply painted it on and let it dry.  I experimented with wiping off the excess, but that caused the crates to take on a pinkish hue.  Not good.  Plus, the wood was so absorbent that simply painting it on didn’t leave any drips anyways, so I just applied the paint and called it a day.


Once the components had dried, it was assembly time.  Joey did most of it with some direction from me per my plan.   We started by attaching the legs to the bottom.  This was a bit of a different process for us because of the random Goodwill legs I’d found.  The screws on top were much too long for the standard brackets sold at home improvement stores.   Luckily, Joey figured out that the metal threading that held the feet in place on the bottoms of the legs (the part that he’d cut off) fit the screws perfectly.  So, he removed them…

He drilled holes in the bottom board where the legs would go and played around with the components to determine the most secure way to attach them.  Ultimately, he found that inserting the metal screw-catch thing (technical term) to the opposite side of the board allowed the legs to be attached more securely.   (Note: If you simply purchase legs from Lowe’s or Home Depot or whatever, you can purchase metal brackets right along with them to secure the legs, easy-peasy.)


You can see here how the metal threads are on the top side.  The screw catches the thread from the opposite direction holding the legs snugly to the board…


Next, he bolted the crates together using a clamp to keep everything flush and lined up…


Once the crates were bolted together, he screwed the crates to the bottom using wood screws….


…and repeated the process with the top…


Once we’d completed our new baby bench, I tried it in the foyer and then on the porch.  And the porch won out.  Big time. (HEADLINE: Porch Engages in Victory Dance While Foyer Weeps Rocking In Fetal Position)…





I absolutely love it!  It turned out better than I imagined.  I feel like the industrial schoolhouse vibe was totally achieved and it adds a nice punch of color to our porch.   Plus, crates + bricks are sexy.  Forhousestuff.  Just sayin’.  I still need to treat the bench with something more inclement-weather friendly now that it’s final placement is determined.  Honestly, I really thought this guy’d end up in the foyer so I wasn’t too worried about that in the painting/treating stages.  I’ll get that done soon to keep him looking healthy.  In the meantime, I will spend my free time sitting and staring at him with a goofy smile on my face.   Crate. Mission. Accomplished.

So, that’s my contribution to The Great Crate Challenge!   Now, check out the other awesome projects created by my fabulous bloggy friends….

Linked up at: I Heart Organizing

TDC Before and After

Sisterhood of the traveling plant

I’m definitely not a pack-rat.

I don’t easily form attachments to things.  Thus, I prefer to donate or Craigslist stuff I no longer need to simply get it out of the way. It’s cleansing to have a free and empty space (which is why No Man’s Land bothered me for so long).  But, that being said, I’m SO huge on keeping stuff that I love even if I don’t think I have a place for it.   You just never know when an idea will hit.  So, my rule is: If I absolutely love it, I keep it.   Nomatterwhat.

When we first moved into our house, I hung up this leaf print in our laundry/mudroom….


I’d purchased it for our last house from TJ Maxx about 5 years ago.  I remember seeing it in the store and it just grabbed me.  I’m not really sure why.  I think it was the boldness and simplicity of it.   It adorned our last home’s mudroom, so it only made sense for me to start if off there.   Don’t get me wrong… I liked it in the space, but decided to take it down when I made my DIY pear art.   The pear art just suited the space so much better in both style and size.   For a while my little print sat ignored in No Man’s Land, then when I redid our guest bath, I decided to give it another go…



Again, it’s not that I hated it here… I just realized after living with my new bathroom for a bit that I wanted to adapt a more monochromatic color scheme.  So, out went the leaf.   Next, I tried it in my craft closet


Again, I liked it, but was not completely married to it.  Then, the other day as I was passing through our foyer, I spotted this wall and had a Mighty Eureka! Moment….


I grabbed my leaf print and had it hung in a jiffy…


And I danced.   It was perfect here.  It’s funny how you can live somewhere for a year and a half and see the same wall every day, and then one day that light bulb moment hits out of nowhere.  I love it.  I feel like the print plays off the other natural elements in the space (the hemp rug and bamboo light fixture more specifically).  It warms up the space and makes it feel way more finished. THIS is what my little print deserves.   To enhance the space and be enhanced.

Here’s the view from a little farther back so you can get a feel for how the casual gallery wall plays into the feeling of the foyer…


and a little closer up…


 Finally my little friend has a home.  :)

So, do any of ya’ll have any traveling accessories?

TDC Before and After

Craft Table… Check!

I have to say… things have been pretty busy in the homestead as of late.   Stuff has been happening that I cant WAIT to tell you guys about… when it’s time.  But it’s not time yet.  All I can ask in the meantime is that you all do me a solid and send positive, happy thoughts our way.  Every little bit helps.  And we can definitely use it!

Project-wise, this last weekend was one of those weekends where I got a lot done, but nothing was completely finished/prettily staged in the end.   That being said, the mission to turn No Man’s Land into a room of function inches along.   I’d mentioned a while back that I had an old table in the garage that I’d wanted to paint for my craft space in our spare room.  I started working on it two weekends ago and finally finished stripping and painting it this weekend.

Here she is before I started…

This is a solid oak table that was sporting many, many coats of paint.  Observe….

So rather than just prime and paint, I knew this puppy needed to be stripped.   After recently learning how to use chemical stripper, I was totally up for the challenge.   I have to say, stripping paint was different for me than stripping varnish.   For one… although it was messy, it was less gloopy.   Also, I quickly learned that the process needs to be repeated multiple times depending on how many layers of paint are on there. I did nearly FOUR rounds with the stripper. FOUR.

My top layer of white came off with my first try to reveal another layer of white paint and a wee bit o’ black…

My second go around resulted int he remaining white being removed with a bit of black…

And just when I thought I was done, I peeled up all the black to reveal…

More black.

So, four rounds of stripper + scraping later, I had it as good as it was gonna get.  Picture this, but with only small patches of black left on top (This was before my 4th coat of stripper)…

Next, I had to sand to make the surface smooth.   Although I’d gotten most of the paint off with the stripper, the remaining paint was left in a pretty thick coat which would’ve shown through my paint job.   It didn’t need it to be completely perfect since I’d be painting the surface anyways, just smooth and seamless.  So, I hand-sanded the legs with 220 grit sandpaper and used my electric sander for the top and any flat planes. Once the table was sanded, I moved it inside.  And I’m kind of peeved at myself, because I SWEAR I took a picture of the final stripped product, but it’s nowhere to be found.  After 8 hours spent stripping this thing, I think I at least deserve to feast my eyes on an “after” shot. Sheesh. #littlestviolin

Anyhoo, after cleaning the table thoroughly with tack cloth, I painted it with three light and even coats of Valspar Signature Paint + Primer in Ebony Field, which is the same paint that I used on our back door.  I used a brush on the base and foam roller on top.   I sanded between coats…

(See that nice smooooooth surface with the pretty woodgrain showing through???   THAT’S a fully stripped table, people!  Way to blow my skirt up, table.  This picture makes me giddy.)

…Anyways, I cleaned the dust off with tack cloth to ensure the smoothest finish possible and was sure to allow adequate dry time between coats.   And here’s the final result…

Sorry about the crummy shot and lack of “after” pics, guys.   I’m telling ya, this weekend was so busy that I’m just lucky that I remembered to take one at all.  I still need to rearrange the room to accommodate the table and accessorize the space as a craft room, so I’ll post about that when it happens (with PLENTY of after shots ;) ).  But painting this table is definitely one small step forward that equates to one giant leap for me in terms of this space.   Now that the table is done, many other things can be done as well. Yay!

TDC Before and After

DIY Hanger Art Display

It all started with this blank wall in our hallway….


I’ve stared at this wall for a long time.

It stared at me back.

Never speaking up. Never offering helpful suggestions for how it would like to be dressed.

Way to contribute, wall.  Seriously.

Anyways, a while back, Mac (my mother-in-law) gave me these prints….


They’re Scott Alberts prints, purchased in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.   I’ve wanted to do something with them for a while. I just didn’t know what. Then, while looking back at my Pinterest boards, I saw this pin.  And something clicked.

So, I thought I’d take the basic idea of using hangers and display my art that way. I had a bunch of wire hangers that my mom had given me (NOMOREWIREHANGERS!!!! Sorry. Any mention of wire hangers evokes a Mommy Dearest reference in my head.). And a bunch of wooden clothespins. I experimented with them a bit and decided I liked it…



I used thumbtacks to play around with placement…



And decided to move forward by painting and staining my little art hangers since they were kind of blending into the background. I spray painted the hangers a glossy black….


And stained the clothespins the same Early American by Varathane stain I used on my mid-century table. I simply used another wire hanger (NMWH!!!), clipped on a few clothespins at a time, then dipped them in the stain….


I allowed them to drip for a few moments, then thoroughly wiped off the excess stain with a lint-free cloth. I was careful to remove as much stain from the metal hinges as possible….


Then, I simply reassembled everything (I left the cardboard backing behind the prints to prevent the clothespins from puckering them), replaced my thumbtacks in the wall with small nails and rehung my prints.  And then I snapped pics…

IMG_6895  IMG_6903




And Joey wondered why I was laying on the hallway floor with camera in tow…

It’s all in the name of love, my love…


Linked up at: Tatertots & Jello, I Heart Organizing

TDC Before and After

Easy, DIY Dipped Vases

Howdy, folks! I hope everybody is having a fantastic week so far. Last weekend, I got a little kick in the bootie out of nowhere to get some projects started. It’s funny how that happens. After refinishing my little mid-century table TWICE, you’d think I’d wanna take a break from refinishing.  But, alas, this is what I found myself doing for a large part of Sunday… After clearing out the garage and locating the old table that I’m wanting to bring into my craft room, I began stripping that sucker of the layers upon layers of paint it was sporting.  And it’s taking a while. So, while I’m getting ‘er done, I thought I’d refresh my creativity by focusing on a few smaller, fun, crafty-type projects to break up the monotony of scraping (and scraping).

This project is simple, easy and cheap. Ya know those glass cylinders that somehow end up accumulating outta nowhere?

Well, I’ve got a ton. Especially the smaller ones as we used them in the centerpieces at our wedding (*cough!sixyearsago*).

Well, I was on the hunt for a new centerpiece for our table and decided to jazz a few of them up for just this purpose. I wanted to do something simple and reversible.  I decided to use the navy enamel paint that I’d used on the walls in Lucas’s room since I already had it on hand (It’s a Clark & Kensington oops paint that I got on clearance).  After washing and drying the vases well, I simply dipped the top of the vases into the gallon of paint…

… And set them to dry.   After a few hours, I went to go check on them and…..

Wellllllllllll….. While I’d wanted to achieve a somewhat imperfect look, this was a little out of hand with the drips.  Yeah. Littlebit.  And you can see the little smudges where Lucas had tried to “help” me.  Poor guy.  He had the best of intentions.  Now, I really think this would be a terrific look for a Halloween centerpiece, especially if you used red or black paint.  I, however, did not want a spooky vibe (yet), so I decided to start over.

This right here is a major perk of using latex enamel paint on glass….

It peels off in one piece. So, if you mess up, no big. Or if you wanted to, say, throw a dinner party with a particular color scheme, you could dip the vases in your color of choice and then be able to reuse the vases again later for a different event or display.

The second time around, I simply dipped the glasses the same way as before, but I held them upside down for much longer and kind of shook off the excess paint with a spiral motion.  I also kept an eye on them as they dried and if I noticed too much of a drip happening, I’d simply turn them upside down for a few moments to redistribute the paint up higher. This was the perfect recipe for the neater, somewhat organic look I was going for…

At this point, I wanted to add a little bling. So, I busted out the gold craft paint and mixed a few different shades to create the color I was going for on a disposable plate…

Then, I dipped the rim of the vases in the gold paint….

Which left this….

I added some greenery clipped from the back yard, and…

And there you have it!   A super simple centerpiece on the cheap!  I love the simplicity of it, but that the little gold rims really add some fun interest.  And now I just wanna play and jazz up all of our glass cylinders! #createdamonster

So, what’s your favorite way to jazz up a boring vase?

Linked up at: Tatertots & Jello

TDC Before and After
TDC Before and After

Aaaaaaand Totallyyyy Redeemed myself….


Yes, that was a modified Dumb and Dumber quote.

Those who know me well, accept the fact that in the warm-weather months I speak fluent Dumb and Dumber (which seasonally transitions mid-November to fluent Elf). It just is.

Anyways, The-Table-Refinishing-That-Never-Ends is finally complete!. And I’m so excited about it that I’m going to ruin the suspense and start with a little “After” glimpse…


Table. You complete me. (I know… I’m a traitor.  That one was Jerry McGuire.  Seriously, only about 10% of the words I speak are original.)

Anyhoo, not gonna lie… I definitely burned off all of the cookie-calories I consumed while stress-eating over this thing throughout the dual-refinishing process, and it was worth EVERY SECOND. I’ve learned so stinkin’ much throughout this process, and finally have a result I’m satisfied with.

So, let’s start with a quick recap for any newbies. I purchased these drool-worthy mid-century tables for a steal at Goodwill.


The problem was that their finishes had seen better days.

Happily, I was able to salvage the original finish on the smallest table by using mayonnaise to remove water rings. That guy now lives in our tri-functional room….


I began work on the coffee table (which is still not finished), but ended up switching gears to the larger end table. I stripped the table with chemical stripper, then stained and finished the table with a water-based poly… which ended up being a HUGE mistake resulting in bubbles and brush strokes galore (and a pathetic-ugly-crying-Christina).

So, it was onto attempt número dos. After my cries for advice were answered by several sweet folks, I came to terms with the fact that I would have to re-strip the table. Check out the comments from my previous two posts for the specific advice given.

I will say that stripping the table went SO much quicker the second time around. My guess is that this is due to a combination of knowing what to expect and using a toothbrush to get the gunk out of all the smaller spaces and crevices (this was a fantastic tip (among many others) given by Beck with Beckwith’s Treasures and was a total time-saver compared with the techniques I used the first time). It worked fabulously well. I also noted that the water-based poly came off in much more solid pieces which made the job slightly less messy…


Once the table was fully stripped, I decided to use Formby’s Tung Oil.


This was a product recommended by several awesome folks (including Beck), so I figured I’d give it a go. After a short deliberation, I decided to apply the Tung Oil sans stain to bring out the natural tones of the wood… Problem??? I don’t think I properly prepped the top of the table… My fear of over-stripping the wood (being that this was my second go-around) had prevented me from removing all the film. With the first coat of Tung oil, the top looked mottled and ashy. NOT the look I was going for. And I realized that I should’ve stained the table first. I just really liked that look so much better. I didn’t take a picture of this part as my frustration got the best of me.  Thus, grabbing my camera slipped my mind.  But, take my advice… Do a good job stripping the first (‘er, second) time. You won’t regret it.

At this point, I went inside, ate another cookie, repeated the mantra “At least I only have to strip the top. At least I only have to strip the top…” then decided to risk sanding the top of the table. I say “risk” because of the thin veneer that I was so scared to sand through. I didn’t want to use the stripper again because my understanding was that tung oil penetrates the wood so I figured that if I wanted an evenly stained top, I’d need to sand.  I very, very carefully sanded with 220 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander. And I DID IT. I sanded just enough to allow the stain to evenly penetrate but before I went through the veneer.

Next, I applied a coat of Varathane’s Early American stain. As I’ve said in previous posts, my goal was to stay close to the original look of the table and I’ve found that this particular stain lends that perfect “mid-century” wood tone that the table had before…


The wood took the stain much more readily this go-around, which resulted in a slightly darker finish than before, but I’m okay with that. It looks rich and luscious while still boasting a mid-century flair. If the table were a person, he’d totally be swinging his flowing locks back and forth in slow motion as Hungry Eyes plays softly in the background.

That night (after about 8 hours of dry time for the stain), I took my labor of love inside. And while catching up on an episode of The Big Bang Theory, I applied the first coat of Formby’s. I simply rubbed in a thin layer with a lint-free cloth and let it dry. It looked somewhat uneven, but I’d read that this was often the case with the first few coats as the wood can sometimes absorb the oil at different rates.   The next day, I gently buffed with fine grit steel wool as recommended…


…cleaned with tack cloth, and applied a second coat.  I repeated this process again on the entire table, then two more times on just the top and drawer until I had an even finish all over. I still think the the base could use one last coat, just to add a tad of extra gloss, so I may still do that.  But I guess that’s the beauty of this stuff.   You can add layers to enhance as needed.  Applying the tung oil was a process because of the long dry time (12 hours between coats per the instructions), but really it was easy and quick to apply aside from that. And totally worth it.   I wish I had known about this stuff the first time around.

In any case, now my table is now glossy and done (please excuse the weird lighting in these pics… I think I chose an interesting time of day to shoot them)….



And check out the top!!  The damaged spot is a smidge darker than the rest of the top, but that’s the only difference. It feels smooth as can be….


Amazing to me, especially being that the top started off here….


Remember how I questioned whether I’d even be able to stain the table because the damage went so deeply into the wood??


The fact that I was able to salvage that inlaid detailing on the top makes me absolutely over the moon.

I was thinking of selling the table once I was finished, but after all the work I put in, this little guy feels like part of the family. I’m THAT attached. So, I’m gonna hang onto him and let him live in our totally mis-matched, not nearly decorated No Man’s Land for a while until I figure out a permanent space for him.


And I must name him.  For some reason he feels like an “Earl”.  Maybe we’ll just go with that.

I still need to finish the coffee table. So, there’s that. But I have to say that I feel so much more equipped to do that now. As hard as it was in the “during” part, DIY is an adventure yielding many rewards if ya stick through it. I mean, just check out all this knowledge I’ve acquired…

1.  How to strip wood properly (and the consequences if you don’t)

2. How much I hate water-based poly

3. How to apply tung oil and the differences in finish between the various topcoats

4.  My undying love for mid-century pieces and the lengths I will go to  to stay true to them (but I already knew that)

5. How many cookies it takes for me to survive refinishing a table twice within a short period of time (twelve).

Nice, right???   So, on that Hallmark note, I end this post.

What DIY adventures have y’all taken on where you nearly (but didn’t) throw in the towel?

Linked up at: Tatertots & Jello

TDC Before and After

Finished the table… NEED ADVICE!

Last we left, we had a naked table…


It turned out so nicely after I stripped it, that I decided to try staining it. When it came to choosing a color, this was easy for me… I decided to try and match the original stain. I’m kind of a purist when it comes to these things. I mean, ugly 80’s furniture… Change that stuff UP. But a vintage, mid-century American of Martinsville table? I’m gonna try to keep it close to the original if given the option. I have to. No choice. It’s part of my nature. I love pieces like this to no end so if I have the option, I’m going original all the way.

The color I chose was Varathane’s Early American, which is also the color I stained our media cabinet.

I simply waxed on, waxed off applied it then wiped off the excess immediately. I chose not to let the stain sit, because even though it was morning, the temperature was creeping up. Thus, leaving it on any longer would’ve caused the stain to dry and become hard to remove.  The speedy exposure ended up yielding the perfect color, though. So, happy accident. The color matched the original to a T. And I was ecstatic that the table took the stain so beautifully. Here’s the post-stain result…


It appears more orange in this picture than it is in real life.  Seriously, it’s a dead-ringer for the original color.   A few days later, I decided to apply the topcoat. Now, I’m going to foreshadow this post.  This morning (after I’d completed the table), I received this comment on my stripper post from Beck at Beckwith’s Treasures, who refinishes this type of furniture frequently…

“…PLEASE do not put poly on this furniture!!! Use an oil finish like formbys tung oil…SOOOO simple to apply…”

And I started continued kicking myself. I’d used poly. And I DEFINITELY regretted it.  When I tell ya’ll that I LOVE your advice and input, I mean it.   This comment contained such great advice… I just wish I would’ve held off on finishing the table so I could actually have used it.

But let me start from the beginning… Ya see, we’ve hit triple-digit weather here in Texas and if this year is like most others, it’ll probably stay this way for some time. It’s always funny to me when bloggers from the northern cold-weather areas talk about about how they can’t spray paint and stuff in the winter… For us, it’s the summer months that pose a problem. Totally the opposite, though equally annoying. Painting, finishing, staining, or spray painting outdoors in the summer months is virtually impossible because the paint gets all gummy and nasty. Seriously, those temperature guidelines on the can are no joke. Believe me. I’ve tried to challenge them.

So, with this in mind, I knew I had to apply the topcoat indoors.  I decided to try a water-based oil-modified polyurethane, since (at the time) I thought Poly was my only option…


I’d read that this particular version acts more like oil-based Poly but is water-based (ie: low odor, better for indoors when you can’t throw open a window without air-conditioning the neighborhood). I happened to have the satin finish on hand and thought that it might be nice to just have a mild sheen on the tables.

Now, to clarify, I’ve never used this product before. I bought it back when I white-washed our bathroom mirror, but never used it as it might have yellowed our white frame.

I read the can and followed the directions to a T: Clean dust off (I used tack cloth), apply a light coat with a high quality polyurethane brush, wait 2 hours.

The first coat made me very nervous. There were bubbles and brush marks in the finish and the area where that damage was turned a lighter tone than the rest of the top.

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Before this project, I’d always only used oil-based poly and had never noticed brush strokes with it. Plus, its slow dry time allowed most of the bubbles to pop before the finish hardened. Knowing this, I was REALLY doubting my decision with the water-based poly at this point. Bubbles plus brushmarks after all the time I’d already invested in this table. Ugh. Heartbreaking. Though in all fairness… when it came to brush marks, I’d never applied ANY poly against the grain of the wood before. And the differing directions of the table top’s inlay basically forced me to do so in some areas.

Once the 2 hours of wait time passed, I lightly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper (paying closer attention to the bubbled areas) and applied a second coat. This coat was better, but some bubbles and brush strokes remained. And the finish almost looked like dried glue to me. Plastic-y. Cloudy. I wasn’t sure if the water-based version was to blame or the fact that it was a satin finish instead of semi-gloss.

Now, the heart was really sinking. To make matters worse, the top felt rough to the touch from the bubbles. So, I sanded again between coats, and added a third coat as the directions stated (hoping against hope that the third coat would be the magic cure-all). I used a foam brush this time to help eliminate brush strokes.

The third coat just made it worse.  There are still brush strokes and bubbles. At this point I was ready to bust out the ugly-cry.

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The finish remains rough, plastic-y to the touch. I’m SO disappointed after all the time I invested. I’m sure this product works great with the right project. THIS was not the right project. And I feel like, by not doing proper research before top coating I’ve ruined the integrity of the piece.

And now I’m not sure what to do…. Strip the table again and try oil?  The problem is that I really can’t sand the top much without risking going through the veneer.  Part of the advice in the aforementioned comment was to use acetone + laquer thinner to remove the finish.   Would this prevent the need for sanding?   I know that this is DIY. Things don’t go perfectly all the time. And it’s a learning experience. I mean, I learned how to use chemical stripper, and am now much more familiar with the differences in poly. Valuable knowledge acquired.  Am I gonna give up on this table? No way. I mean, honestly, it looks okay (if you squint).  Just not nearly as great as this gorgeous piece deserves.

I could still paint it, but this goes against every instinct I have since I now know how beautiful the wood is.

So, what are your thoughts? Any suggestions?  If you know anyone who can offer advice on this, I’d really appreciate it if ya’ll would share my post with them.   Thanks, guys!


Linked up at: Tatertots & Jello

TDC Before and After

I stripped! *furniture*

Remember my Goodwill mid-century tables that I discussed in this post?  Well, progress has been made (cue applause).


After my sad cry for help as to what to do with these small furniture gods, I took the generous advice given and purchased an orbital sander.   We literally just chose a mid-range sander at Lowe’s and ran with it.

I started with the coffee table… Now, as I’d expressed before, I was very, VERY nervous about sanding through the thin wood veneer on top, so I used 220 grit sandpaper and sanded very slowly…

It took a good hour or so, but (wait for it) I succeeded in getting down to the bare wood without destroying the veneer (joy)

Once I’d finished, I examined my work closely and broke into celebratory dance, respirator and all (it was a fist-pumping-Hammer-dance-combo).  And our neighbor saw me.  I panicked and nearly blurted out something about “table dancing!”, but fortunately, my brain caught up in time to stop that little nugget of awesomesauce from escaping.  Instead, I went with the always-smooth, ever-popular “Um… Hi. (awkward pause) …How’s it goin’?”

Right.  Way to get down with my socially-awkward bad self.  Welcome to my life.

Anyways, my original plan was to use Polyshades because I never-in-a-million-years thought that I’d actually get down to bare wood that could be stained with REAL STAIN.  But I did.  So, it was on.

Next, I proceeded to hand-sand the base of the table.  Which took FOR-ever. I literally got one of the short sides done and decided that I’d go the chemical stripper route .

I’d never used chemical stripper before, so it was a little scary for me.  I was wholly afraid I’d do it wrong and be scarred for life.   But, then I did it anyways.

This is the stripper I went with (it claims to be low odor = Bonus)…


I decided that since I’d already partially sanded the coffee table, I’d start with chemically stripping the end table because I wanted to see the difference between using the stripper and sanding.  I also wanted to be sure that I was making the right decision by switching methods mid-job on the coffee table.  As a reminder, here’s how the end table looked when I bought it (um, forgot to take a shot of the whole thing (mybad), but here’s the top)…


The main issue was this part of the finish…


I hoped that stripping the table would allow me to be able to refinish it with stain (fingers crossed!).  The damage seemed to go deep into the wood, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off, but figured it was worth a shot (…I told you… I’m a pathetic sappy when it comes to vintage finds #gottadoit).

I started by brushing on the stripper…


I waited about 2 hours (the directions said you could scrape in as little as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours).

And I scraped…


And scraped and scraped, but found that scraping the rounded areas and details was somewhat difficult.


And although the directions stated that the stripper remains wet for up to 24 hours, my guess is that these statements were not made in the Texas heat.   Granted, I chose to do this during the polar vortex when it was 85 degrees (In July!  In Texas??!), under the shade of the garage.   But the areas facing the driveway still became gummy and difficult to scrape in that time frame.

So, I switched to the second method recommended on the bottle.  Abrasive pad plus mineral spirits…



This did the job, but took quite a bit of time and elbow grease.  And murdered a few innocent bystanders…


And these were the heavy-duty gloves, folks!  TIP: Buy more gloves than you think you need.

I used toothpicks for the little grooves…


And then (ahem!) a few days later, I gave the table one last scrub down with the mineral spirits.

There were areas where the stripper dried in the crevices…

But I found that simply wiping on a little more stripper was enough to moisten the residue…

…so that it could be scraped out using a very small, pointy screwdriver.

The top of the table looked pretty good at this point, but felt wavy to the touch where that large damaged area was. So, I took the orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper to it.

I got the top pretty smooth, but not perfect since I was afraid of sanding through the wood veneer.

I lightly hand-sanded the base of the table with more 220 grit in areas where I felt there was still residue. And then went over it again with mineral spirits.   By this point, I had pretty much come to terms with the fact that stripping furniture is a time-consuming task no matter how you slice it.   It’s definitely doable, though.  And I was happy to see that I’d likely be able to stain the table after all my hard work. With that said…

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re bashful I implore you to avert your eyes….  I give you naked furniture…

(applause! applause!) 

I will say that the damaged spot is still mildly detectable (although it’s hard to see in the pictures)…

The texture is different from the rest of the top and the wood is slightly darker, but all-in-all it’s a vast improvement.   I’m just curious if it’ll absorb the stain differently than the rest of the top.   I guess I’ll just have to do it to find out.

I still have to finish stripping the coffee table, but decided to fully finish this little end table first to be sure it comes out well once stained.  Since I want the two tables to match, if staining the end table doesn’t work out, I’ll paint it, thus there’s no point in wasting time stripping the coffee table if this is the case.  So, I’ll update ya’ll once that’s done.

So anyways, that’s my story… Have ya’ll ever stripped furniture?  Any stories to tell??  Tips??


Linked up at: Houseologie, Brepurposed, Anything & Everything, Home Stories A to Z, Lines Across, Sugar Bee Crafts, Home Coming, Tatertots & Jello

The DIY Dreamer
TDC Before and After

How to escape decorating paralysis (Aka: our mudroom is prettier now)

Making decor decisions can be a daunting task, even for the most DIY-driven. I hope that by now, most of my readers know that deciding on decor is not an overnight thing for me. I mean, I’m definitely no expert.   Decorating in my world happens little by little, one project driving the next decision, and so on and so forth.  When it comes to making decisions like these and learning about home decor, it’s been exceedingly helpful for me to observe other peoples’ thought processes.  What drives them and how they look at things.  The small steps they take to turn blankness into beauty.  So, I thought that instead of doing a normal before/after type of post like I normally would, it may be fun to break down my laundry/mudroom progress in a more detailed way.  How I’ve been making those decisions.  Step by step. To the end(ish).   Just on the off-chance that this might help someone else to break out of that decorating paralysis.

So, let’s start with how we left the laundry/mudroom.  Last we spoke about it, I had just cleaned and organized the space…


Though, I was thrilled to have the space clean, I wasn’t a fan of the multitude of brown tones in the baskets, thus, I wanted to change up the decor. My one challenge was that I needed to use what I already had. No new purchases. I had to make do with the current basket situation.

Honestly, I stared at this space A LOT. Indecisive. Unsure of how to proceed. I’d walk in.  Stare.  And walk out none the wiser.  After weeks of this, I finally reached a point where I said “Okay, Christina. JUST DO SOMETHING.”.

Even though I hadn’t figured out everything I wanted to do, one thing I DID know was that the basket on the middle shelf needed to change.  He was the odd man out on the brown-tone spectrum. The baskets on the bottom shelf coordinated with each other as did the ones on the top.  So, out with the middle-man.

I decided to use my DIY pear art as inspiration and painted the basket with the same green paint as the pears (it’s an oops paint which I purchased on clearance).  Which left this….

Loved the pop of color.   And decided that I was on the right track, though the scale of the baskets on the bottom shelf felt off, so I swapped them.  Then, I decided to add some functional art.  That bottom shelf was just screaming for some variety and a nice, simple frame seemed appealing to me.

I’d been eyeing those laundry symbol cheat sheets on Pinterest for some time, and thought that a nice, framed version would be just the ticket.  I dug through my stash of misfit frames and came up with this guy….

Obviously… he was brown.  Ugh.  More brown.  Thus, he needed to be painted, but I was unsure what color to paint him.  While I marinated on that, I chose to add some green to the lower left basket.  So, I added stripes…

Hmmm… Okay, okay…  It was okay.  I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I wasn’t completely offended either.   So, I decided to sit on that while I tackled the frame.   I still had no clue what color to paint it, but figured that I’d never gone wrong with white before. And if I hated white, it would simply act as primer for my next color. Win-win.  So, white it was.  I printed out this printable on plain ole’ computer paper…

…set it on the shelf, and moved the white vase to the other side of the middle basket to help balance out the lighter tones throughout the space…

Loved the art, but not the placement.  So, I hung it on the wall..

Much better.   But now, I felt that lightness was lacking on the striped basket. So, I painted the trim and handles white…


Just. No.

Upon placing it back on the shelf, I realized that I’d inadvertently transformed my basket into a Kardashian. He was trying just a bit too hard to get attention.  So, I did what any decent person would do.  I apologized to my basket and painted the white trim green.  Then, I flipped it around to the non-stripey side and added a faux sage plant in a galvanized bucket…

Better.  Much better.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

At this point, I felt I was making some progress, but that lower basket on the right was still bugging me with its brownness.   So, I busted out some leftover fabric from my Target-inspired bench.


I only had scraps.

But, have no fear… this was a job for (insert announcer voice) Iron-On Hem Tape…

I simply ironed a nice finished edge on the bottom and any sides that would be visible…

And used the hem tape to connect the scraps…

…to basically form a loop of fabric.

…Which would then be inserted into my basket to create a nice, patterned top border.   Essentially, I’d created a dickey for my basket.  Howard Wolowitz would be proud.

I simply folded the finished edge of my fabric over the top of my basket and secured the inner corners with straight pins…

Which left this…


If you had a longer strip of fabric, you would only need to bond the fabric in one place to form a loop.   Super easy.

Here’s where the laundry/mudroom stands now…

And just so you don’t have to scroll back up, here’s a little before and after…


It’s so much brighter and MUCH less brown.  Woo-hoo!   Lucas LOVES it.  He walked in there and exclaimed “Did you do this ALL BY YOURSELF??!!”  and “Is so prerry!!”.   Love that kid.

So, seriously, if you’re ever cursed with the dreaded decorating paralysis, my motto is: JUST DO SOMETHING.

What something, you ask? Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning…

1. Start with a clean slate. I didn’t include this step this time because I’d already done it previously, but clear the area of all things. Then start fresh in putting things back. You never know what ideas may come once you have a blank space to work with.

2.  Collect ANY item you may want to use and set them all in one place.  Basically, shop out of your stuff.   Having everything at arms reach might inspire ideas that you may not have had otherwise.

3. Move stuff around. Play. Experiment. Utilize different placements to see what speaks to you. This not only applies to shelves, but to rooms. Time and time again, I’ve been at an utter loss for what to do with a space, then I simply rearrange some furniture and suddenly, IT’S ON. And I know exactly what to do. In fact, I had this exact issue with both our living room and Lucas’s room. You can read about both of those struggles and the end results here and here.

4. Paint things.  You can always paint them back later if you don’t like them. It’s a simple and free/cheap way to reuse stuff you already have, but make them shine in a whole new way. Another take on this concept is adding ribbon, fabric, or otherwise embellishing items to make them better suit a space.

Basically, the point is to just do something to get the ball rolling until you reach a point where you like what you see.   You never know what little tweak might trigger the inspiration to start flowing.

And, I’ll be honest… these shelves still aren’t exactly where I want them.  I’d like to do something with those top baskets, as well.  Or possibly change them out for something that seems a little lighter visually. I’m still tossing that around. In fact, I’ll probably be noodling with these shelves for quite a bit until I reach my own little happy place.   But, at least now I’m WAY closer than I was when I started.   And that’s something in itself.  Progress… such a sweet, sweet word.  Even if there were a few hiccups along the way (*coughcough*stripedbasket!).   But, hey, that’s the beauty of paint (and Craigslist… people will buy anything. Heehee!).

So, how do you overcome decorating paralysis? Any decor noodling going on in your neck of the woods?



Linked up at: Houseologie, Brepurposed, Anything & Everything, Home Stories A to Z, Lines Across, Sugar Bee Crafts, Home Coming, Tatertots & Jello, I Heart Organizing

The DIY Dreamer
TDC Before and After