Showing age … and hiding it: Making over my grandma’s buffet

Yesterday, I did something I never thought I would do: I proposed that my hairdresser give me bangs to hide my forehead wrinkles.  Yep.  Years of raising my eyebrows dramatically and making ridiculous faces has resulted in some fine lines that seem determined to become a permanent part of the landscape of my face.

It’s like my parents used to say: If you keep doing that, your face is going to stay that way.  I thought it was hyperbole.  Wrong.

If you’re wondering, luckily I have a sweet and smart hairdresser who simultaneously dissuaded me from bangs while actually making me feel good about having a few fine lines.

Speaking of showing age, I recently inherited a buffet from my nearly 99-year-old grandma.  Grandma doesn’t look a day over 85, but this buffet – which she bought second-hand in the 1950s — had seen better days.  My dad was just about to haul it off to Goodwill when he thought he should ask if my sister or I wanted it.  Silly dad.  Clearly he doesn’t read my blog.  My sister turned it down (Your lost, Marts!), but of course I wanted it.

So, here she is: my grandma’s buffet.  It used to hold her fancy silverware and a few other odds and ends.


As you can see, she was in good structural shape but — like me  — was starting to show her age a little with a few tiny fine lines.


Sometimes, I can look at a piece of furniture and know what it wants to be when it grows up, but this piece was a bit enigmatic.  Was she formal or informal?  Country or traditional?  Finally, I decided that all the crisp lines meant that it might lend itself to an Midcentury modern redo.


I sanded the whole piece with progressively fine sandpaper (100, 150, 22o) to even out some of the years of wear.


I stripped and stained the drawers and doors.  Stripping 80 year old varnish was about as much fun as a root canal, but it had to be done!  After staining, I sealed the drawers with Annie Sloan’s dark wax, pushing the wax into some of the wrinkles and cracks in the wood to achieve a slightly rustic look.  I also modernized the drawers and doors with new streamlined hardware.


I used Valspar’s Furniture Paint tinted to the whitest white they had.  I hadn’t used this paint before, and I have mixed feelings about it now.  It’s advertised as leaving no brush strokes, and I’ll say that it definitely has fewer brush strokes than other paints. However, it took 4 coats of paint to achieve full coverage.  It does have a pretty glossy finish, though, which is exactly what I wanted.


What a transformation, right?  Who knew that under all those scratches and tired stain this beauty existed?side-view


Just for fun, let’s review:


My takeaway from this project?  Some things just get better with age.  I guess the bangs will have to wait.




What my Preschool Teacher Said about me and how it relates to A Laundry Room Makeover

A few months ago, I came across my preschool report card in a box of mementos in a closet at my parents’ house.  I couldn’t help smiling inwardly as I read about the precocious child my teacher described until I got to this (I’m paraphrasing):

Katrina struggles more than her peers in the area of perseverance.  When faced with a repetitive task, she often quits before the job is done.

I was shocked. This might be the most insightful observation anyone has ever made about me.  Yes! I realized in that moment, I do hate repetitive tasks!  I do quit early when faced with them!

What does this have to do with laundry?  It is the ultimate repetitive task! Sort. Wash. Dry.  Fold. Dirty again!  Aside from the sense of satisfaction my Type A part feels when a mountain of laundry is reduced to a molehill, it is — perhaps — my least favorite chore.

This room didn’t make it any better:


This room has no windows, so there’s no natural light available.  It’s also sorely lacking in smart storage!  Yes, I get that there are cabinets and shelves, but I hadn’t gotten around to corralling anything in baskets.  Organization was nonexistent.


Don’t let that empty coat rack fool you: it had about 20 jackets, bags, and hats hanging on it about 2 minutes before I took this picture.

This makeover contains two “firsts” for our home.  For once, I didn’t paint the trim in this room because it was actually stained.  I like the northwest-y, rustic look of stained pine. Do you ever feel paralyzed when selecting paint?  Me too!  However, I decided to mix my own paint for this room from a bunch of left-over paint, and I LOVE the color.  Maybe I have a future in paint design… Would that be a repetitive career?  Probably.

Anyway, here’s how it all turned out:


Can you believe what a difference paint and a mirror make in the room’s brightness?


The dog food and lost sock bucket are now corralled in a metal tray!


Isn’t that dog food tin cute?  My sister-in-law found it at a thrift store and gave it to me for Christmas.  (You can read about our Goodwill Christmas tradition here.)


Inexpensive baskets from Marshalls now hold the cleaning rags, toilet paper, and all the other random objects that used to litter the floor, shelves, and counter.


I have a weird obsession with birds.  If my preschool teacher was to analyze that fact, she would probably point out that birds don’t have repetitive lives.  At any rate, I love that bird print from Ikea!

Now, I have to be honest about our hat-coat-bag storage problem.  This picture might lead you to believe that I have either given up hoarding outerwear or that I have completely organized them.  Neither is true.  Chris built a drop station for shoes, coats, bags, sporting equipment, etc. in the garage, which is right through that door.  So, basically the mess has just moved elsewhere.  At least it’s out of my way!

I could lie and say that this room makes laundry fun, but it doesn’t.  But, at least I have a pretty place to sort, wash, and fold!  Plus, as my pastor reminded the congregation on Sunday, doing laundry means you have clothes to wear and a machine to wash them in. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing again, but that was the point.)  It’s all in your perspective.

At present, there is a load of towels sitting in the dryer.  They’ve been there for almost a week. Guess I’m still working on that perseverance thing.







How to Make a Sunburst Ball

How to make a Sunburst Ball

Like most crafters, I’m loathe to buy something when I can make it.

A few weeks ago, my sisters-in-law and I saw this cute little gold sunburst at Hobby Lobby.  We considered buying several of them as decorations for my sister-in-law’s wedding, but at $13.99, they seemed a bit extravagant.

We looked longingly at them as we begrudgingly walked away.

Hobby Lobby Ball

That is, until I realized I could make it them, using mostly things I already owned!

You can too!

Here’s what you need: 

1.8″ Floral Foam Ball

8-10 Kebab Sticks

Hot glue gun



Here’s how to create them: 

Cut the kebab sticks into 4″ pieces.

Cut the sticks into 4 inch pieces

You will need about 25-30 4″ sticks.

You will need about 30 sticks

Working one by one, put a dab of hot glue on the end of a 4″ stick and push it into the Styrofoam ball.

Put a tiny glue dot on each stick and poke it into the styrafoam.

As you poke the sticks into the ball (Insert junior-highish joke here!), work on opposite sides as much as possible.  This will help you get a balanced look.

Keep working, doing your best to insert the sticks on opposite sides..jpg

I used Valspar Brilliant-Metal Effects to spray paint the sunburst ball when it was finished.  I’ve yet to find a gold spray paint that I wholeheartedly love, but this one is the best I have used.

Spray Paint

Because there are so many surfaces, the sunbursts take quite a bit of spray paint.  If you’re making more than one, I suggest painting en masse so that overspray will paint the other sunbursts.

Spray paint the sunbursts.

I’ve made 6 sunbursts now for a total of about $12 in supplies — so much better than $13.99 for one!

Sunburst ball

Make this sunburst ball with typical household supplies!

Tada!  This is such an easy craft that it doesn’t even feel like a craft.  It’s modern and glamorous, making a great statement decor piece.  I can’t wait to see how my sister-in-law uses them in her wedding decor!

Happy crafting!



The porch that built me

Some of my most formative moments unfolded on my parents’ porch.

As a girl, a perfect summer day was not complete without a long, lazy afternoon curled up in the white wicker rocking chair as I read away the hours.  Nancy Drew took me on adventures.  The Babysitters Club inspired an entrepreneurial spirit.  As a teenager, I slogged through the newspaper until — after months of reading and building background knowledge — I could finally talk somewhat intelligently about current events.

When we got the referral to adopt my youngest sister on a cold December day, my middle sister and I stampeded out to the porch barefoot, screaming the news at the top of our lungs to the neighbors (the closest of whom lived a quarter mile away), “We’re going to get a sister!”

I shared secrets with my best friend and broke up with at least one sort-of boyfriend sitting on the front porch steps.  It has seen flirting and tears.

Two weeks before Chris’ and my wedding, my dad (or maybe it was my mom…) decided that, with all the family coming into town for the big day, the porch’s cracked paint simply had to go.  I volunteered to take care of the job, but after days of scraping peeling gray paint for hours on end, I called in the reinforcements.  What started out as a solo project became a family affair with plenty of teasing and laughter that I treasured when Chris and I moved away.

Yes, a porch is a special place.  It’s a place to get comfortable.  To sit.  To relax.  To watch as the neighborhood moseys along. To simply be.

This spring has been unseasonably warm in the PNW, so I’ve already taken it upon myself to spruce up our porch.  The exterior of our house has a farmhouse style, so I wanted the front porch to have a laid-back, rural feel to it.


The “planter” on the ground is actually an old chicken feeder.  I wish I knew where the base was, but alas, it has disappeared. It would have made for excellent drainage.

Very Close Up

I found this metal drawer at a local barn sale.  It still has a paper hand-written label for “Hex Bolts” on the front of it!  I made the pillow out of a table cloth.  Yes, I was channeling my inner Maria VonTrapp.  Wait.  Those were curtains.  Whatever. I actually used these pillows inside before my interior decor became a bit more neutral.  Outdoors suits them!

Close Up

It’s not my parents’ porch, but I suspect it will be the origin of many more extraordinary moments in the years to come.


A roadside find gets a makeover

Before and After

Free is my favorite price, so I love a good roadside find!  One day in February, I spotted this fireplace outside of a shop in our neighborhood that makes set pieces and costumes.

Fireplace Before

Doesn’t it look like it was used in Cinderella?  Now that I think about it, the fireplace is kind of like Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother — in bad need of a makeover!

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take it on, so I let it sit outside the shop for a few days, getting really wet and moldy, but it just kept calling to me!    Being the excellent sport Chris is, he helped me lug it home.

It looked a bit too rustic for me, so I peeled the stone facade off, which was surprisingly easy.

Fireplace - Still Tall

This height screamed “set piece!” to me, so Chris helped me cut it down to a more reasonable size.  We cut the hearth down too because the shorter size made it look disproportionate.

I decided to use reclaimed wood from pallets I salvaged on the fireplace surround.

Wood completed.jpg

I really liked the mantle from the previous incarnation of the fireplace, but it looked really strange with the new height and it stuck out too far into the room.  Consequently, Chris and I decided to make a new mantle with crown molding.

Partially Painted

I insisted on doing all woodwork for the facade by myself (I’m trying to become more self-sufficient as a builder!), so it’s not perfect, but hey — it’s a free rustic fireplace!

Here’s how it turned out:

After - Straight Angle

After - Angled

I’m definitely not going to pretend that this was a quick and easy project.  It was pretty labor-intensive, but it was a good learning experience for me, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!

Time to rescue more junk (sorry, Chris)!


Craft Room Makeover

Main Image

A dedicated craft room was a must-have when we bought our house, and I was so excited to move into my new craft room that when we moved in, I inadvertently called dibs on the smallest bedroom with the smallest closet.  Not surprisingly, I outgrew it at lightning speed!

Unfortunately, the other bedroom available looked like this:



Before I peeled them off, there were even little animal stickers on the hills. Freaking adorable if you’re five, but not exactly my style.

Like in every other room in our house, I painted the trim.  I was feeling a little lazy, however, about the prospect of painting the rest of the room.  I wanted to design my new craft room around a favorite painting (P.S. Kroyer’s Summer Evening on the Skagen Southern Beach with Anna Archer and Marie Kroyer).  The painting has dreamy blues, creams, and tans, so I painted the green parts of wall color of the “sky” and left the tan ceiling.

It’s incredible what a difference paint can make!

Craft Table.jpg

Because storage is always at a premium in a craft room, I made a rare splurge and bought 4 bookshelves at Ikea.  My original plan was to make them look built-in by installing center panels and crown molding, but I ran out of steam — for now!  That can be a summer project.

Wide Angle Craft Room

The craft table used to be our dining table before I found our current table on Craigslist. I refinished a small desk to use as a writing area.

Better After

I enjoy sewing, and I have my grandmother’s 1980s-era Bernina.  It’s extremely heavy, and I don’t have so much space that I want it out at all times, so I bought a rolling kitchen cart to hold the sewing machine.  It can be wheeled into the closet when not in use!

Rolling Cart

Below is one of the major reasons I moved into this room: the big closet!  In the corner, you can see a hint of the painting that inspired the room’s design.  The painting feature the painter’s wife walking on the beach in Skagen, Denmark with friend (and fellow artist), Anna Archer.  My parents had a small print of it when I was little, and I was totally mesmerized by the women’s beautiful dresses and the way their heads bow together, as if they are sharing a secret or a good joke.

Make a garland out of photos

There’s still a little bit left to do.  I’m planning on replacing the boob light, and I’m on the hunt for a rug, but I’m happily moved into the new space!



Beyond the Gallery Wall: Ideas for Displaying Photos

Beyond the gallery wall -- Ideas for displaying photos

My friend, Jen, recently asked me about some of the best ways to display photos if you’re not a huge gallery wall fan.  She’s definitely on to something: family photos can pose a bit of a decorating challenge.  You want to display the pictures of your loved ones, but many people fall into the trap of lining up a bunch of framed photos on a buffet in rows like students in a class photo.

Like this…


It looks cluttered, and — if you’re honest with yourself — how often do you actually look at each of those photos?

Here are some fresh ways to display your treasured pictures.

Display photos in groups.

Group photos in small groups.jpg

When you put pictures in long rows, it’s hard for the eye to decide where to rest.  Instead, cluster photos in small groups of 3 or 4.  Hang them or place them close together.  This way, the eye reads the whole display as a cohesive group, rather than a confusing assortment of individuals.

Display pictures on a picture rail.

Photo Rail

This is a great strategy for people who like to change out their pictures often because you don’t have to put nail holes in your wall.  Ikea sells a very inexpensive picture rail, but you can also easily make one out of a couple of trim boards.  I’ve even seen one made out of a gutter.  (The one in my picture is from Ikea).

When I put photos on a picture rail, I follow a couple of basic design principles:

First, the furthest left and right pictures should feature people who are either looking the camera face-on or who are facing inward.  If the picture of the person on the right is looking right, everything looks unbalanced — at least to me. (This tip actually comes from my high school journalism adviser, who taught me that photos on a page need to face inward.  Thanks, Mr. Ypma, I was listening!)

Secondly, it usually looks best if you vary the height of the frames.  I’m sure there is a design theory reason for that, but I don’t know what the reason is; for me, it’s instinct.

Finally, I like it if the pictures or the frames to relate to each other in some way.  Black and white frames tend to look good together and a pop of gold can also add a bit of spice to that palate.  Similarly, I have found that black and white photos are best displayed with other black and white photos and full-color photos are best displayed with other color photos.  It helps the display look cohesive.

Decoupage photos onto a piece of furniture.

When my mom commissioned me to make this bench a few years ago, I was very skeptical.  You want me to glue our faces onto a chair…that people will sit on?  No way.  But, because I love my mom, I did it anyway.  You know what?  It turned out pretty cool!

Decoupage photos onto a piece of furniture

Decoupage photos onto a piece of furniture2

Basically, I took photo copies of old photos (thin paper is easier to decoupage) and used a mixture of about two parts water/one part glue to attach them to the bench using a paint brush.  I brushed the glue/water mixture over the top of the bench, waited for it to dry, and finished off the whole project with a couple of coats of varnish.


Think outside the living room.

Think outside the norm.jpg

Take your pictures out of the living room or hallway.  A well-placed photo can be the perfect accent in a kitchen or even in a bathroom.  One of my favorite of our wedding photos is displayed on our bathroom counter.

Make photos into a garland.

Make a garland out of photos

When you have a large group of prints, it can be fun to make them into a garland.  Just hang up a piece of twine and attach photos using clothespins.  I especially like doing this with Christmas cards and pictures.  It’s quick, simple, and cute!

Well, Jen, I hope I answered your question!  Thank you for the idea for a blog post!




Modernizing a French Provincial Desk

One day, a couple of summers ago, I sent Chris to Goodwill to find a life vest that we could take kayaking.  He came back with this:


This is not a life vest.  If you tried to use it as a life vest, you would sink.  Somehow, though, I wasn’t mad.  Chris clearly knows me well!

This desk has been my sewing table and my writing table.  I am in the process of redoing my craft room (I’ll show it soon, but I’m finishing a couple details), and the off-white shade of the desk doesn’t really “go.”  I also wanted to simplify the style a little bit, as it’s a bit ornate for my taste.

So, because I have never met a piece of furniture I didn’t want to paint, I got out my trusty paintbrush this week and got to work! Seriously, I’ve been on a huge painting spree.  Huge.

I took off the handles and used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey to paint the whole shebang.


I spray-painted the handles in Krylon’s Oil Rubbed Bronze.  On the top of the desk, I used the same general technique I used on our dining table to create a mottled white-and-gray look. Like with our dining room table, I used flat varnish to protect the finish.

After Tabletop Finish

I wanted to keep some of the French Provincial detailing, so I distressed the gray very, very lightly on the ridges to reveal a bit of the off-white underneath.

Here’s how it turned out:

Better After



Here’s a close-up of the finish:

Desk Close Up

This is going to be an inspiring spot to write! I’ll show the rest of the craft room soon!   It’s almost done.


Making over a blah 1980s bookshelf

When we lived in the shack at the lake (its House Hunters alias), space was at a premium, so we filled just about every nook of the house with shelves we found at Goodwill and salvaged from the side of the road.

Among the shelf collection was this very unassuming, boring shelf which served as our pantry for a year:Bookshelf Before

Sorry for the terrible picture.  I didn’t realize it was fuzzy until I started editing it, but by then, it was too late: the bookshelf had gone from caterpillar to butterfly!

After serving faithfully as a lowly pantry, this little shelf deserved a makeover.  It had done so much for others; it was time for it to have a little time for itself.

My first issue with it was that it lacked serious drama.  I hate drama in real life, but I love me some furniture drama!  I found little legs at Lowes for under $3, drilled a pilot hole, and attached the legs.


Tada!  Instant drama!  Then, I gave the whole shelf a quick coat of Paris Grey Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  I always paint furniture upside down; it makes reaching awkward places, like the back of legs, less cumbersome.

Bookshelf Gray paint

I painted one full coat and a very lazy half-coat.  Annie Sloan paint dries so fast that I could finished both coats within 45 minutes.  Because I like a textured finish, I distressed the paint just a tiny bit using 220 grit paper.

I have little experience with dark wax, but I wanted to give it a shot to give the piece an antiqued look.  I’ll be honest: it’s more difficult to work with than clear wax.  I brushed it on lightly with a paint brush (see below) and then buffed it into the wood.


The key to dark wax is to put it on pretty lightly and to buff in small sections.  If it goes on too thickly, it is difficult to spread it out somewhat evenly.  I wasn’t going for a totally even look, but I also didn’t want big streaks.

Close Up

This is how the finish turned out after wax and distressing. It has a textured, slightly worn look.

Bookshelf After

Boring 1980s bookshelf no more!

Bookshelf After2

PS – If you look closely, you’ll see really sloppy paint on the wall.  Taping off the wall when I painted the baseboards didn’t seem like a good use of my time since the whole wall will get painted soon.  Until then, it will remain apologetically messy!

Isn’t it amazing what legs and a little paint can do?  This makeover took less than 2 hours from start to finish.

Time to find more junk to paint!