Category Archives: Makeover

Refinish Wood Chairs Without Power Tools

That’s right! We did indeed refinish our wood dining chairs without the help of power tools!

I know what you’re thinking.

No. We are not gluttons for punishment. Well, not in this case, anyway.

Have we lost our marbles? Possibly a few of them, but not from this project.

Refinishing the chairs was less of a big deal than I thought it was going to be. This is often the case with things I procrastinate on doing, by the way.

Since we only refinished the seats and left the legs and backs alone, the process didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Thank goodness – since we use these chairs every single day. 

As you can see, our dining table and chairs are not a matched set. I like to call them coordinating.

Over time, the chair seats became more and more orange-toned. This was especially evident after I refinished the dining table 2 years ago. (see above photo)

In addition to the orange color, the finish was starting to wear in places.

This didn’t surprise me at all. The chairs are AT LEAST 15 years old and have moved with us 6 or 7 times, so it was past time for a cosmetic refresh.

Here you can see just how orange the finish was compared to the wood’s natural color after I started sanding.

Normally, I’d use a power sander to tackle this project. I’ve used this one in the past.

However, as I may have mentioned one or a million times, we sold our power tools when we moved to Ireland. The plugs won’t work here! We have been hesitant to buy a bunch of new tools that require electricity because our visas have to be renewed each year. That leaves us feeling a bit unsettled. I don’t want to procure a bunch of stuff that I can only use here when our status still feels so temporary.

So we refinished the wood chairs the old-fashioned way – by hand! The process is so simple, even a kid can help.

To refinish your chairs by hand you are going to need sandpaper in varying grits, stain or a polycrylic protective finish and a paint brush. Also helpful: rags, vacuum or broom, sanding block and gloves.

Here are the steps we used to refinish the wood chairs:

Step 1: Use A LOT of Elbow Grease
Start by sanding the existing finish off each chair moving in the direction of the grain using the coarsest grit sandpaper you have.

Sandpaper grit is determined by a number. The lower the number the coarser the sandpaper. I started with the coarsest sandpaper I had, 60-grit, and worked up to 100-grit and then 220-grit.

Sandpaper is often sold in sheets approximately 9×11 inches in size that you’ll end up cutting down to the size you need. I was using leftover sandpaper that goes with an electric sander, which is why mine is red-colored and looks like a perfect square. No wasting around here!

If you don’t have a sanding block, you can wrap the sandpaper around any wood block. That’s what we did. This will help you get more surface area traction. For the nooks and crannies though, you’ll probably end up ditching the sanding block and just wrapping the sandpaper around your fingers. Wearing gloves can be helpful for this part to protect your fingers from any unwanted ‘exfoliation.’

Step 2:  Just Keep Sanding, Just Keep Sanding

However, the gloves need to come off in order for you to feel how smooth the wood is getting. We use a handheld broom or vacuum to remove the dust as we go to constantly assess if the wood is smooth enough to stop sanding. I may or may not say, “please let it be now” an awful lot during this process.

As the finish is removed, you can switch to a higher numbered sandpaper. Now you’re in the fine tuning process of removing any grooves left by the rougher sandpaper and just getting the wood as smooth as possible.

Remember, you’re going to be sitting on these chairs – you don’t want snags and rough bits!

Step 3: Apply Stain or Clear Coat

I decided the natural wood of the chairs was what I wanted to see, so I opted not to use a stain. Instead, I applied a water-based polycrylic clear protective finish to the chair seats.

The process is pretty much the same though. First, I used a damp rag to remove any dust from the chairs and let them dry. Then I applied two thin coats of the poly with a paint brush. Three might have been better, but I was living on the edge. The polycrylic may look milky in the can, but it dries clear.

I did do a quick buff with the 220-grit sandpaper between the coats of polycrylic taking care to wipe any additional dust off when I was finished. Again, just trying to make sure the seats were as smooth as possible.

I was careful to read the directions on the can of polycrylic to make sure I allowed for the proper amount of drying time between coats. My results always tend to be better when I follow the manufacturer’s instructions! Imagine that?

Step 4: Enjoy the Finished Result

Of course I waited until the darkest days of winter to try and get photos of the chairs, but as you can see, they are no longer orange-ish!

We’ve been using the refinished chairs for a couple of months now and they are holding up beautifully to the constant use of our family! This is important because kids spill things all. the. time.

As I was assessing this project, I realized that even if I had my electric sander, I would have sanded parts of the seats by hand due to the grooves for your tush.

Also, this was a team project. Handy Husband jumped in to help and it’s a good thing he did. He’s MUCH more of a perfectionist than I am, so I credit how well the chairs turned out to having his help with the sanding. Between the two of us, it took about 2 hours to sand down the seats of 4 chairs. Not too bad!

I maybe spent another hour, not including drying time, applying the polycrylic.

For 3 hours of time and less than 20 bucks, this was a project that was a no-brainer to tackle – even without power tools.

My chairs still don’t match my table perfectly. After all, they are made of different types of wood. The important thing is I’m so much happier with how they look now. I hope my experience encourages you to try refinishing your chairs – either by hand or with power tools – too.

P.S. If you want to read about how we refinished the dining room table, click here.

*affiliate links to Amazon used in this post

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DIY Geometric Mirror Using Children’s Blocks

A friend and I were discussing DIY fails the other day. Always a cheery topic.

The reality of my life is that some projects turn out and others…not so much.

She mentioned that IF I have flops, I don’t share them on the ol’ blog.

Well, duh! I don’t share pictures of the gravity-defying things my hair does when I wake up in the morning either. But maybe I should. It would certainly shock and awe.

I do try to share the foibles that inevitably come with most of my projects though.

Today I’m sharing a project FILLED with foibles. It’s cup runneth over with what NOT to do.

But if you stand about 10-feet back and squint one eye at the finished product, you might say, “Dang! That looks sweet!” If I’m being brutally honest, a lot of days, that’s good enough for me.

Here’s how the project started…

My daughter has had the same small mirror in her bedroom for practically her entire life. It’s not a good mirror. It has a cheap frame around it and the finish was made worse by me letting a 5-year-old “help” paint the mirror from pink to purple. If you haven’t let a 5-year-old help you paint yet, you’re smarter than me really missing out.

A combination of time, a few moves, cheap construction and a bad paint job made the mirror less than ideal.

This is, to me, what makes a mirror a good candidate for a DIY experiment. One of those crafty ideas you’re not sure will work, but if it did work I would be sure to humble brag about it it would be pretty amazing.

My crafty idea was to see if I could use these children’s geometric blocks to makeover the mirror. Pretty much every preschool classroom on the planet (I hardly ever exaggerate) has a set of these wooden pattern blocks.

My kids loved them so much at school that I bought a set for home use. The kiddos hardly ever used them at home, of course have outgrown the wood blocks, but they are really cool!

Just the wrong color for what I had in mind.

Here’s some more brutal honesty. When my DIY projects flop, it’s usually because I lack the attention-to-detail the project requires. Meticulous measuring? Not my thing. Fine precision? Not my thing. More than 3 steps? Not my thing.

If I had calculated the trajectory to the moon, you would have ended up on Jupiter instead. I would have said, “Ah, close enough! At least you made it to space! I was worried there for a second when you blasted off!”

But I digress.

I started out by playing around with the various shapes trying to see what might look interesting and what might actually fit on the mirror frame.

Then I drew a template and traced it onto the mirror frame. So far, so good.

But! There’s always a but.

It ended up being just a tad off.

If you are a perfectionist you might want to skip over this next part.

Instead of starting over and redrawing the template, I just fudged the blocks a little to make it work.

Classic me.

Adhering the blocks to the mirror frame was a bit tricky. They are slippery little suckers! It was hard to keep them in an exact position. That’s why I decided to use hot glue. Once I attached them, they weren’t going to move.

Hot glue has three downsides for this project

1. Once I attached the blocks, they were weren’t going to move. HA! It was good if I put the block down in the exact right position. It was bad if I didn’t. Please refer to the above list of why my projects flop for an indication of how well this part of the process went.

2. If anything happens to the mirror – Say it gets a hard jolt while falling off the temporary place you’ve hung it, some of the shapes can easily pop off. Yes, this happened to me! And it wasn’t immediately after hanging it. It was 20 minutes later after I’d done the victory dance. I just had to shake my head when I heard the crash.

3) The glob of hot glue raises the blocks up ever-so-slightly. It’s not noticeable until you go to paint the mirror and realize it doesn’t have a clean finish because a shape here and there is slightly higher than another one.

(I think the below picture is from before I glued everything down because it looks wonkier than the final version. Wonkier is a technical DIY term.)

After the blocks were glued onto the mirror frame, I taped off the mirror surface so I could spray paint the frame and finally finish this project!

In hindsight (and by hindsight I mean immediately after I started painting), I would have painted the frame and the blocks separately.

It was a pain to get the spray paint in all the nooks and crannies of this project. And if a block falls off, then you have an unpainted surface underneath and special care has to be made to replace the block in the exact same position.

It also made it difficult to sand any imperfections between paint coats. By imperfections I mean the dust particles or bugs that landed on the mirror. So. many. bugs.

By the way, when the blocks fell off, I had the opportunity (see how I made that a positive thing?) to reattach them with an all-purpose, heavy duty glue.

In small batches, this approach seemed to work well and those blocks are much more secure now. Lesson learned.

I’m laying it bare with how this project went because I want you to know that DIY projects (mine and I’m willing to bet most people’s) are not picture perfect processes. Things happen. Mistakes are made. This particular project had more hiccups than most. 

But! There’s always a but!

That’s how I learn. Fail. Try Again. Fail. Adjust. Readjust. Tweak. Improve.

It can be hard to go through that process in the public eye. No one wants to share how their freshly spray painted project got attacked by a swarm of gnats because they left it outside to dry! Twice. Okay, three times.

I have to laugh at myself and not take things too seriously. It’s not like I’m sending people into space.

The Internet needs to come with a warning sign similar to the one on car mirrors. “Projects on this website/blog/social media may appear way more glamorous than real life.”

Real life DIY can be messy, imperfect and an oddly-satisfying experience.

I’m not entirely displeased with how this geometric mirror makeover ultimately turned out. Especially if I squint and stand 10-feet back from it!

Most importantly, I learned from this experience and know how to do it better next time.

And there WILL be a next time.

After all, I have an entire bucket of blocks to use up!

Happy creating, everyone!


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Shovel Head Owl Art

It’s hard to find an appropriate title for “she took a rusty old shovel head and a bunch of random metal scraps and made something cool.” But that’s what happened.

As you might have guessed, this is a Junk Whisperer project. Who else do I know that would turn a shovel head into a funky, awesome piece of outdoor art? No one.

The Junk Whisperer had the vision for this shovel art project, but she used the mad welding skills of my uncle to make her vision come to life.

Interestingly enough, my uncle is quite the talented guy, as are many of my relatives.

He made my first car – a Plymouth Duster. Literally made it. To give you the overly simplified story, he welded two wrecked cars together to make one complete, unwrecked car and finished it off with a snazzy new paint job and interior.

Unfortunately, I wrecked it.


The Junk Whisperer hung her shovel art on one of the barns on the family farm.

That’s why the angle on some of these photos is a little funny and why I photographed them in their natural element – cobwebs and all. Let’s keep this real. It’s a farm after all!

I had to climb up the railings of the cattle chute and precariously lean over to get the photos against the red barn. I could have gotten out a ladder, but that seemed like…um… a lot of work. Besides, then I wouldn’t have a reason to tell you about a cattle chute.

A cattle chute is a paneled pathway where you lead cows when you need to load them into a trailer or give them medical treatment. Don’t you feel smarter now?

Ironically, when I was hanging off the cattle chute taking the photos, the Junk Whisperer noticed that one of the owls was missing the shiny bead for its eye. So being the perfectionist that she is, she got out the ladder so she could take the shovel head down and fix it.

Of course she did.

Other than the fact that I cannot relate in any way, shape or form to the Junk Whisperer’s perfectionistic streak, we get along great!

I’m not sure at what point in cleaning out an old storage shed (or three) that the Junk Whisperer decided to turn rusty shovels and random junky metal pieces into art, but it’s really cool. Especially if you like owls. And who doesn’t?

See what I did there? Yes, I crack myself up. All the time.

What I call “random junky metal pieces,” she calls “treasures.” It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? I love that.

Not everyone has access to a welder, so The Junk Whisperer and I had a lively conversation about whether or not you really needed a welder to make this project come to life. Pros and cons were debated. Spreadsheets were crafted. Chocolate was consumed. Well, I consumed chocolate.

Here’s what we theorized. If you were using a super strong epoxy or metal glue, you probably wouldn’t need to weld them on. However, welding the metal pieces to the shovel head makes them more permanent or perhaps weather resistant if you are displaying the art outside. So pick your poison.

Also, someone with a welder is probably going to have access to other tools in the event that you want to bend any of your metal pieces. Some of that occurred for this project.

The moral of this story is twofold. First, take a hard look at the materials most people would overlook. It could be the beginnings of your greatest project yet. And wouldn’t that just make you beam with happiness? Second, don’t be afraid to collaborate on your projects. To quote the famous saxophonist and composer Steve Lacy, “I think it is in collaboration that the nature of art is revealed.”

P.S. To see more Junk Whisperer projects, click here.

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Burl Wood Table

I grew up on a farm. Now, I can’t speak for all farms, but I can speak to my experience.

When you have a lot of barns and outbuildings on the family farm, it’s easy to put stuff in these buildings because you might need it someday. That’s not hoarding. That’s, uh, that’s being practical. Waste not, want not. That sort of thing.

I can also fix almost anything with baling twine, but that’s a farm story for another day.

When the Junk Whisperer (aka my stepmom) came into the picture, she started unearthing these long forgotten treasures while cleaning out the farm’s outbuildings.

Thanks to her hard work and ingenuity, I have the BEST table makeover to share with you today. It’s 90% the best because it’s a super high-end looking makeover and 10% the best because I didn’t have to do any of the work. Ha!

It all began with this lovely peach table the Junk Whisperer found somewhere on the back forty.


This table is a good reminder to not be distracted by the obnoxious or dated elements of a piece of furniture.

No, no, no.

You have to look past all of that. Check out the legs!

Admittedly, it can be tough to do when this is staring you in the face.

The table was perfectly awesome in its time, but that time has come and gone.

The Junk Whisperer removed the peachy, checkerboard top to make way for a new, living edge table top made from a wood burl.

What’s a wood burl?


It’s actually a growth on a tree that signifies the tree has undergone some type of stress caused by an injury or maybe a fungus. Usually the burls are underground and attached to the root system, but sometimes they grow on the tree trunk. When they do, they produce magnificent and highly valuable wood.

The photo above shows two slices of burl wood. The top slice has the bark attached. The bottom slice is what the burl looks like if you pick all of the bark off. Pretty amazing, right? Nature’s artwork is the absolute best.

Yes, the Junk Whisperer picked all of the bark off the burl to reveal that cool texture.

The burl, which was also found in one of the farm’s outbuildings, was cut into slices by a friend. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your outlook, the saw left some tool marks on the slices.

The Junk Whisperer did her best to sand the burl slice smooth.

After that, she sealed the slice with a few coats of a clear polyurethane and attached the burl to the table base with screws.

The poly brought out the warmth in the color of the wood slice.

I brought the table outside in a quest to find natural light, but here’s how it looks (before it was styled) in the house.


My initial thought was that it looks like a table that would cost several hundred dollars in a high-end furniture shop. That opinion hasn’t changed.

Yet, the Junk Whisperer made this table over for free (not counting the can of poly).

That table base sure looks different now with the burl wood top, doesn’t it?

The Junk Whisperer incorporates natural elements and tones into her decorating, so this table fits in perfectly. She was pretty happy with how it turned out. I was like, “WOAH! NO WAY! THAT LOOKS SO COOL! IF IT DISAPPEARS I DIDN’T TAKE IT!” I’m subtle like that.

Now the only question is what is she going to do with the other burl slice? Hmmm…

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Vintage Wood Gate

I found a wood gate recently. Actually, Handy Husband found it and said, “hey, you should do something with this.”

That sweet talker.


This gate is the real deal.

Kind of like me.

The gate has the weathered patina that can only come from years spent in the elements.

Kind of like…uh…wear sunscreen kids.

It got me thinking, what could I do with this gate?

Use it outside?

Use it inside?

I liked the idea of inside, but that moment of spontaneity struck when Handy Husband wasn’t home. My girl muscles are impressive, but I could still only lift one end of the gate. Getting it in the house without causing damage to persons or property was unlikely.

Instead, I decided to see what other people had done with wood gates.

Surprisingly, not a lot.

Most folks seem to like to tear the gates apart and make other things out of them. GAH!

Then I found this picture on the blog Funky Junk Interiors.

Christmas headboard-0115
That’s pretty cool, right?

Donna at Funk Junk Interiors didn’t stop there. She did this too.

That coat rack might be my spirit animal. I could even see it outside with beach towels. I get a little burst of happy in my veins when I’m contemplating all the possibilities for a found object. Anyone else?


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Dining Table Refinish

It’s confession time. I try not to become emotionally attached to inanimate objects. It’s silly in the grand scheme of things. I do know this, but still…I really, really love my dining room table.

It used to be the lunch table at one of my favorite jobs. Over time, one too many hot paper plates was set on the table and the finish started to wear off.

I bought the table and 4 chairs for $150. I was over-the-moon excited. The legs on the table alone were worth it. They make my heart go pitter-patter.

But I’m not emotionally attached or anything.


The good thing about the finish wearing off the tabletop is that I didn’t freak out too much about accidental marks left from over-zealous coloring or aggressive car racing or spilled glitter glue.

Okay, the glitter glue did cause a mild panic attack. Whoever invented that stuff obviously isn’t a parent.

Enough was enough. The table needed a refresh. It was long, long overdue.

I can procrastinate with the best of them.


I started by sanding down the table top.

Sadly, that was the only way to obliterate all glitter remnants.

It actually went pretty fast, which makes sense because the table’s finish was half gone anyway.

I used 60-grit, then 150-grit and finally 220-grit sandpaper.

I sanded enough to remove the finish, but I did not go out of my way to remove any of the “character” marks the table has acquired in a dozen years.


I hemmed and hawed about how to refinish the tabletop.

The legs were fine and I didn’t want to touch those, so I needed to match whatever finish was originally applied to the table. I’m fairly certain the table’s natural wood was originally coated in some sort of polyurethane, not wax or oil.

At least, I crossed my fingers and hoped that was the case because I’d soon find out!

I ended up using five coats of Minwax’s water-based Polycrylic in satin finish on the table. (Here’s a link on Amazon so you know what it looks like, but it’s going to be more expensive there than going to your local home improvement store.)

Three is the minimum number suggested on the can of polycrylic. I might have had a little paranoia going on about protecting my baby tabletop and I had enough for 5 coats, so that’s what happened.

I lightly sanded in between each coat with 220-grit sandpaper.

The trickiest part of the process was making sure I didn’t miss a spot when applying each coat. The first coat was easy to tell where I had applied the poly. After the second coat, not so much – unless I was looking at the table from the correct angle. Dang lighting problems!

Doesn’t the table look a million times better now?

Gone are the traces of marker and glitter! For now.

Not too shabby for a less than $20 makeover.
Aside from the fact that my refinished top is a little smoother and ever-so-slightly shinier, I’m pleasantly surprised with how well the refinished top blends with the table base.

Even though this was one of the easier projects I’ve done, I really did not want to do it over. This gal is not a glutton for punishment.

As a total aside, I find myself making an excuse to go to Trader Joe’s just so I can buy a $3.99 bouquet of flowers.

I hope I’m not the only one.

Has anyone else refinished a table on a wing and a prayer? Were you happy with how it turned out?

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Upcycled Tic Tac Toe

My son’s kindergarten homework for the week of Earth Day was to:

1) play outside
2) do a project that involves reusing or recycling

I was ALL on board with #1.

In the interest of full disclosure, I had every intention of ignoring #2. It’s kindergarten. It’s not even required in our state. I know, I know. Mother of the year.

Don’t worry. I have not sent my son down the path of underachievement…yet. We pulled the project off – even if it began accidentally. Here’s how it went down…

While the kids were outside playing, I decided that would be a good time to apply a coat of stain to a project I was working on.

My little helper has a 6th sense about projects. If I’m painting or staining, he always wants to help. I love it and I dread it. There are just some projects that do not need the expertise of a 5-year-old.

This isn’t my first parenting rodeo though. He wanted to stain something too. So while he went to find his “painting shorts” I went to find him something he could stain. It didn’t really matter what it was. His imagination is robust – anything would make him happy.

I happened to find a small rectangular piece of wood shoved in the corner of our storage room. It was dusty and covered in cobwebs. He loved it.


In the interest of reusing, I used a lid from a Simply Orange container and poured a little bit of stain in it. Then I let him go to town. He was actually pretty careful, but this wasn’t his first time staining. We always stain with paper shop towels instead of a brush and I definitely recommend wearing disposable gloves.

He was doing such a great job and enjoying it so much that we flipped the board over before it was fully dry and he stained the back too.

While we worked side-by-side we brainstormed things we could create out of his board. He had an idea to build a workbench using the board, some nails and a Sharpie. He definitely had the start of something there.

I suggested a game board. He and I love to play Tic Tac Toe. We’ve even played a few times while waiting for the pediatrician. Isn’t that what those paper sheets on the exam tables are for?


He wasn’t sold on the idea of a Tic Tac Toe game board until I told him he could paint the lines on the board…in gold paint.

He abandoned the Sharpie and nails idea and was ready to go.

He helped me measure lines with a ruler and lay down painter’s tape.

Then I let him paint the gold lines on the board.


This was his first experience creating straight lines using painter’s tape. He was a bit skeptical of how this process worked.

I see myself in him so often.

Soon it was time to peel the tape off. He was getting pumped up now.

As he carefully peeled the painter’s tape off the board, I’m pretty sure his world exploded. “I love magic lines, mama! Look at these magic lines.”

I love them too, buddy.


It took two nights to finish painting the lines on the board, so we started on the Xs and Os while we waited for the paint to dry.

This was an Earth Day project, so we had to use what we had on hand or upcycle something that would have been headed for the trash. We did both.

For one version we use pull tabs from soda cans and rubber gaskets.

For another version we used cut-up membership cards for the Xs and leftover pieces from a baby gate for the Os.

Our favorite version, however, was using perler beads to make the Xs and Os.

They turned out super adorable!
Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I did help my son layout the Xs and Os with the perler beads. This was partly because he was more interested in using the “dangerous” iron to melt the beads.

Someone might be an adrenaline junkie.

It was also because he thought the game pieces might look better like this:

Candles, swords and I’m not sure what the other pieces are.

Creative differences are normal during the DIY process.

The same creative differences also apply to teeth brushing and bed making.

I’m happy to say my son’s tic tac toe board was a big hit at school! He was able to share with the class how he made it and the kids were able to play the game during indoor recess. I’m so proud of him for all of his hard work. I have a feeling he’ll become quite handy, just like his daddy.

P.S. If you’ve barely made a dent in your perler bead collection, here’s another perler bead craft idea.

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Vintage-Inspired Storage Box

A long time and three states ago we bought a 10-ft. artificial Christmas tree. It was the display model.

Here’s a warning. Christmas tree display models do not come with a box. You’re going to have your very own National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation moment getting it home.

griswold-christmas-tree-carImage Source: A Pilgrim In Narnia

To give you something else to think about, once the Christmas tree is out of the box (literally) it never stores nicely again.

For the 49 weeks per year when we weren’t using the tree, we wrapped it in a tarp and shoved it under the stairs in our basement.

That didn’t look serial killer-ish or anything.

Eventually we finished our basement and the under-the-stairs tree storage was no longer practical. We couldn’t get rid of the tree though because according to Handy Husband’s calculations, we’d finally gotten our money’s worth out of the tree. Now that we’d broken even on that investment the tree was saving us money every year.

He really knows how to put the holly jolly in the holidays.

The tree was here to stay. Half the lights didn’t work and we could only use two-thirds of the tree since we didn’t have a two-story ceiling any longer, but hey, that Charlie Brown tree was giving us an excellent return on investment!

charlie-brown-768Image Source

Handy Husband, in a stroke of brilliance, built a wood storage chest to hold the tree. I know we had a good reason for going this direction instead of getting one of those Christmas tree bags. Maybe because we wanted to be able to store other things as well?

Most likely it was because we wanted the tree and its storage container to be stored out-of-sight in our barn. That meant our storage solution needed to be able to withstand rodents and moisture. When faced with a challenge, Handy Husband does not mess around. This sucker was built out of marine-grade, 3/4-inch plywood and ended up being heavier than both of us could easily lift.

It was perfect.


It was also ugly, but that didn’t matter because it was hidden in our barn.

Fast forward a few years and we moved to the suburbs of Atlanta. The Christmas tree coffin storage chest moved with us – mainly because we had movers to do the heavy lifting. This may shock you, but barns are hard to come by in the suburbs. I now had to look at the eyesore.

Apparently I have a high tolerance for eyesores because it took me a full year to give the storage box a makeover.

This was going to be a free makeover using supplies we already had on hand. Stain seemed like the easiest place to start. I didn’t have enough of any one stain to finish the job, but if I combined them all I would! This truly is a custom creation. One-of-a-kind. Not to be repeated.

I sure hope I don’t need to do any touch-ups.


After the stain had dried, I got to work stenciling on some character. I don’t have one of those fancy vinyl machines or stencils in every size and shape, so I had to go old school. I selected a font with a bit of vintage flair and printed out my letters on computer paper.

Then I cut out the letters and arranged them on the outside of the chest using tape. Once I had them placed to my liking I used a white pencil to mark the outline of the letters on the chest. A white pencil showed up better on the dark stain than a regular pencil.

Now all that was left to do was the most tedious part: hand-painting the letters on the chest. It took a couple of coats of leftover white house paint to fill the letters in to my liking.

Then I undid my work with a couple of passes over it with my Ridgid Palm Sander. I wanted the chest to look like it had a story many decades long instead of a few years long.


I probably could have done a bit more sanding, but honestly, it’s a little painful for me to undo all of that work.

From here on out, the storage box is going to have to age all on its own.


I’m happy with how the storage chest turned out. Why did I wait so long to spruce it up? The only other thing I would do to this chest is add vintage wheels. That would look awesome.

Now, who needs a large storage chest to store sports equipment, holiday decor, etc.? I can make you a killer deal on this one.

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IKEA Lamp Hack

On Monday I showed you pictures of my new headboard.

It took me a fair amount of time to work up the gumption to show you pictures of where I sleep. It’s a little creepy.

Point of clarification: You aren’t creepy, it’s the internet creeper that’s creepy. You are freaking amazing and I’m glad you are here.

Anyway, I’m slightly neurotic (I’m sure you couldn’t tell) and posting pictures of my bed meant I had to iron my pillowcases and the part of the flat sheet that would be visible. Oh, and the duvet cover. I’m pretty sure I cleaned my oven too. So, yeah. That was a pain in the butt.

Like I said, neurotic.

What I wanted to point out today are the wall sconces next to the bed.

They didn’t start out that way.

They started out as basic silver Arstid wall sconces from IKEA.

I needed bedside lamps that would not take up nightstand space and that could be plugged in instead of hardwired. The Arstid sconce fit the bill and was inexpensive. $14.99 each, if I recall correctly.

I wanted to switch the sconces up a little to match my decor and I got a great idea on how to do so from the Shine Your Light blog.

I removed the fabric covering on the lamp shade and gave the shade and the sconce a few coats of gold spray paint. Make sure you protect the electrical components of your lamp with painter’s tape.

When spraying a lamp shade, be extra thorough. If the shade is unevenly coated with paint you will be able to see those imperfections when the light is turned on. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Whether or not it bothers you is a different matter!

For those of you who question the quality of IKEA products. Let me assure you, they take their glue VERY seriously. I could not get all of the glue residue off the lamp shade. You can see the glue residue at the very bottom of the shade.

Shine Your Light blog covered up this imperfection with tape. I decided to cover it up with some bling. I do love shiny things.

I found these adhesive gems at Hobby Lobby. It took a bit of patience since the lamp shade is tapered, but I was able to cover up the glue marks to my satisfaction.

The faux gemstones definitely helped give the sconces a more finished look.

Now I just need to install cord covers to tidy up that area and finally finish the project. Details, details.

I may iron my sheets for you, but completely finishing a project before I talk about it? Let’s not get carried away.
By the way, there are NEVER flowers on my nightstand or a dish for my jewelry. In fact, this is my husband’s side of the bed. During the day there’s usually nothing on our nightstands. At night, there are charging phones and iPads on the nightstands. It’s not very photogenic, but it’s real life.


The reason we keep the surface of our nightstands clear has to do with our eyesight. Half blind people are prone to knocking everything off a nightstand when they are trying to turn off an alarm at o’dark hundred. You do not want to start your day with a glass of spilled water on an iPhone. Keeping breakable and water-filled items out of the danger zone makes for a slightly happier wake-up. Emphasis on the slightly.

P.S. If you buy IKEA lighting, make sure you buy their lightbulbs. Some of IKEA’s lamps require irregular sized lightbulbs that aren’t readily available everywhere.

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Barstool Make Under

Maybe you remember 137 years ago when I posted this photo?

It was more like 3 weeks ago, but who’s counting?

That was a chalk paint fail.

I was trying to make over these barstools, which I loved 8 years ago. What do I feel now? Definitely not love, but I don’t detest them. That would require too much energy.

The wood base was actually in good shape on all three of the stools. The faux leather tops, however, were looking like they’d been mauled by a pack of animals used by small children for the past 8 years.

The barstools had admirably served their purpose, but it was time for them to go. While I made up my mind about what new stools to get, I thought I would try my hand at making the stools over with a little chalk paint. Kindly reference the first photo in this post to see how that turned out.

Yes, yes. You said chalk paints are not all created equal. I’ll have to take your word for it because I’m never painting with chalk paint again. Ever. Until I forget this painful experience and decide to try it again. Coincidentally, that’s also how I ended up with two children.

Thankfully, I only attempted the chalk paint makeover on one of the three barstools, but the mistake still had to be sanded off. Last week I decided it was high time I crossed that chore off my list.

Here’s the part of the story where I’m not entirely sure if I actually did something cool or if I loathed this project so much that I just convinced myself it turned out cool so I could be done.

It could go either way.

That’s right…

I started ripping into the base of the barstools with 40-grit sand paper and it was just eating the finish off the stools in glorious fashion. Adios chalk paint. Sayonara to the cherry stain. It was really quite enjoyable.

That super rough sandpaper was making some seriously lovely gouges in the wood too.

I fully intended to sand these stools down to bare wood and smooth them out the correct way with finer and finer grit sandpaper.

Really, I did.

Then I stepped back and looked at my bar stools and decided they were freaking magnificent all beat up and kind of rustic looking. I was definitely digging their “made under” state.

Delusional on my part?

Don’t answer that.

I wanted a wipeable material to recover the tops of the stools, but I didn’t see anything online or in the fabric store that I was over-the-moon crazy about.

Instead, I found this duck cloth at Hobby Lobby that felt fresh and springy to me. I’m sure it will feel Christmasy after my 5-year-old wipes spaghetti sauce on it too.

I only spent $7 on the fabric though, so I figured for that little money, 10 minutes and a few staples later, it was totally worth the result.


That’s the story of how I “made under” my 3 barstools. Anyone else do a make under and were you happy with the results?

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