Monthly Archives: March 2014

New Living Room paint & a Fireplace Makeover

Is it Monday already? I’m dragging this morning after a little too much of everything on a family trip to Sonoma Valley this weekend…

via Instagram

It’s only a three hour drive but it was my first time in wine country—and it was beautiful. On the way home we stopped at a Barnes and Noble where I grabbed a copy of the latest issue of Cottages & Bungalows…

Anyone remember this room?

I was honored to receive a four page spread about the sunroom in our Florida house! (Special thanks to my girl Shayna @ The Wood Grain Cottage for showing me a sneak peek of the article before I could get my hands on a copy!)

Now that the weekend is over, it’s back to reality—work and house projects. In between kitchen projects last week, we made time to spruce up the living room with a fresh paint job.

Here’s how it looked in the very beginning:

And then after moving in, still very beige:

I decided to keep things open and airy so I used the same barely there gray I chose for the top half of the studio walls—Valspar’s Montpelier Madison White.

We were going to tackle it ourselves, but this room has some seriously high ceilings—some of them directly over a staircase, and there was just no possible way we could do it. We found a local reputable painter (my parents use him all the time) and he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse so we went for it.

And now it’s like a whole new room.

Don’t mind the random tv placement—we need to figure out how to move the cable box to the fireplace, so it’s hanging out there for now.

The stair risers will be painted this week!

The paint was a huge improvement, but there was still a big eyesore…

This dingy red fireplace had to go.

My ultimate vision is stacked stone all the way up to the ceiling (maybe the same stone we used for our bar wall?) But this requires quite a bit of time/effort/money, none of which we’re willing or able to dedicate right now.

So we went with the easy temporary fix—paint.

First I had to clean it up a bit and address some of the issues… like this:

And this:

It wasn’t going to be perfect, but there were some obvious cracked/missing bricks that I thought could benefit from patching. I used “Presto Patch” which is a powder you mix with water and it forms a cement-like putty that dries and hardens rapidly.

It worked pretty well in areas like this:

The larger areas usually needed a few coats, so it took a little while to do the job. And it was a messy job.

I didn’t go over every spot as it would have taken all day—I don’t mind a little roughness. It’s just temporary, remember.

I also had to prepare the tile surface by scraping and scrubbing off this sticky tape all the way around it…

After a few hours of prep, it was time to paint!

To keep the grays consistent, I pulled another color from the studio (we used it on our plank walls)—Valspar’s Ocean Storm.

I didn’t know what to expect as this was our first time painting brick, but it was not fun.

It took a lot longer than expected. The flat surfaces of the bricks weren’t all that bad—just a couple passes with a roller brush. The grout was an entirely different story. It was difficult to get into every single nook and cranny.

We were up for a good part of the night just trying to get it covered. There are still a lot of small touch ups we need to make, but we’re happy to call this project Done (for now).

Much better, right?

For a $40 gallon of paint, you can’t beat it.

I haven’t decided when I’ll go ahead and pull the trigger on the stacked stone—we’re going to live with it like this for a little while and see how the other projects pan out. I can’t wait to build a nice chunky mantel for it!

For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that the red is gone and the living room feels a lot calmer.

I think this week we’ll be focusing on the stair railing—it’s an issue we’ve been putting off for a while now and it’s a safety hazard that needs to be addressed. Check back later to see how things are coming along!

Kitchen Chronicles: DIY floating rustic shelves

These last few days have flown by! With our housewarming party approaching in May, I’ve been tackling a handful of other projects. The kitchen is still our priority though, and our newest addition is one of my favorites…

Here’s how it all began.

This open wall between the two windows needed something, and I thought would make the perfect space for a couple smaller shelves:

Originally I bought two of these from Ikea because the length could be customized to fit…

But after we decided on a white backsplash, it was just too much white. I needed a more natural element, and wood was the answer.

I spotted a couple tutorials on Pinterest that got my attention, like Ana White’s floating shelves at YHL:

And these from Shanty 2 Chic:

Ultimately, I decided Shanty’s version was simpler (+ required less wood) so I used that as my inspiration. They were a bit too thick for what I wanted, so I substituted the top & side pieces of wood for 1/4″ plywood instead of 1″ boards.

Because I would be staining the wood instead of painting, I splurged on the cabinet grade plywood ($30 for a 4×8′ sheet) rather than the $15 cheap stuff.

I had Lowe’s cut it into three 32″ strips so I could transport it in my car…

via Instagram

I also bought a couple whitewood 1x2x8″pieces for the shelf supports, and a pint of wood stain.

After deciding I wanted my shelves to be 30″ wide and 9″ deep, I cut the 1×2’s to the appropriate size—30″ for the back piece and 8″ strips for the depth. I used four 8″ pieces for extra support since I was placing thin plywood on top instead of a thicker, more solid piece of wood.

Here’s what all of the cuts look like, and how they would fit together on the right.

I spaced them out evenly, made marks then drilled pilot holes into both pieces so the wood wouldn’t split…

Then I dabbed some wood glue onto the ends and secured them with 3″ wood screws. These might have been stronger using pocket screws from my Kreg Jig, but I thought they were strong enough for my purposes (plus they’d be hidden).

Here’s one finished support piece:

Next it was time to cut my plywood pieces. The top and bottoms would be identical, as would the sides, and then there’d be one front piece which would be slightly wider to hide the right and left edges of plywood. Here’s how it went down:

The edges splintered a bit when I ripped them down with the table saw, so I went with it and decided to make these “rustic.”

Time to get these babies up!

We were never going to find the studs, so we needed anchors that were long enough to go through both tile and drywall. I found these at Lowe’s ($3 for 2)…

They were way overkill, but were the only ones I found that were long enough and they didn’t break the bank so I picked up two packages (two for each shelf). I also had to drop $11 on a special 1/2″ carbide bit made for cutting through tile.

It put up real fight. It took Brad several minutes to get through each one. These bits get real hot and smoky so I had to constantly spray water as he was drilling to cool it down.

After going through two batteries for our drill they were finally in. Then we slipped the anchors in and were good to go (actually, two of them broke off inside of the wall so I had to run back to Lowe’s for more)…

Once that was done, we drilled holes into our support shelves and then secured it with the bolts that came with the anchors.

These shelves aren’t coming out of the wall. The wood would split in half before those bolts came out.

Finally, it was time to build our shelves!

I attached the top & bottom pieces with 1″ brad nails…

Now, I’m no Ana White—wood work is not my forte. My measurements did not end up perfectly and I was a little bummed. But then I remembered that in the world of rustic/farmhouse style, imperfections = character. And I remembered why I chose this style (or did it choose me because so many of my creations have been imperfect and I had no choice but to embrace it?) Either way… rustic for life.

Even still, I used wood filler to help conceal the most obvious seams and gaps.

But I also just went for it and banged it up a few times with sharp tools.

I wanted the color to be a neutral mix of gray-brown to tie into our wood floors, so I grabbed all three stains I had—Rustoleum in Driftwood, and Minwax in Dark Walnut and Ebony.

I played around with the mixture until I found a combination I liked…

Staining is always my favorite part. I could do it all day.

Once it was colored to my liking, I sanded down the edges to give it that extra distressed touch.

And finally, I sealed it with a few coats of Polycrylic I had leftover…

And now I have these beauties:

Sometimes I’ll walk in the kitchen and just stare. I heart them.

The second the polycrylic dried, I ran to storage and pulled out some of my favorite things to display. I’ve got to save something for the official “After” photos, but here’s a sneak peak I shared on instagram because I just couldn’t wait…

Tomorrow morning we’re road tripping to Sonoma for a weekend of wine tasting, but there’s some major changes happening in the living room. I’ll be back Monday to share!

Kitchen Chronicles: Stacked stone bar wall & DIY floating shelves

How about a brand new bar wall to start your week?

As a reminder, here’s what it looked like Friday:

Let me start by saying this project was not a happy one. The tile install itself wasn’t so bad—there were just a number of small setbacks and frustrations that made this drag on for over ten hours and wear our patience thin. Renovation has its ups and downs… this was definitely a low point.

Just need to keep it real once and a while and let you guys know that this DIY stuff is not all sunshine and rainbows 🙂

On that note, let’s start at the beginning!

I mentioned a bit in my subway tile post about wanting to use stone on the backsplash. That didn’t happen, but I knew I could at least incorporate it into the bar wall. I’ve always obsessed over stacked stone and now was my chance to use it.

I found these quartz ledgestones at Lowe’s for $4/ea:

via Instagram

We bought 80 pieces but ended up using only 62 of them (+ we had a 10% off coupon), for a total of around $240.

I also wanted to make the wall functional with shelving. On our Ikea trip, I bought a couple of these…

But the brackets ended up creating a problem. We couldn’t install the shelves on top of the stone because it was an uneven surface, and we couldn’t tile right over the brackets without notching them because they had a slight curve at the back. And you can’t really notch quartz stone anyway because they don’t break off easily like porcelain or ceramic tile.

So I had to come up with a plan B quick…. and that’s when I spotted these unused desks from the old studio…

They certainly weren’t the right depth, but the length was perfect, and they were lightweight. I could make them floating shelves!

First I patched and sanded the small holes where you attach the legs:

Then we ripped them down to 11″ on the table saw. They have this paper/cardboard filler inside of them that can be easily pushed down…

It makes the perfect pocket to insert a cleat.

For the cleats, we ripped down some spare 2×4’s to 1.75″ by 1″ to fit snugly inside the shelf opening. Here’s the cleat going into the shelf on the left:

Now that we had that part figured out, it was time to start tiling!

Originally we thought we would need a cement board backer, but I discovered that the manufacturer says it’s only necessary for walls 10′ tall or more. Whew! Drywall it is.

We used the same Type 1 mastic we had used for the backsplash tile (the guy at Lowe’s said it would be fine). We just made sure to use a lot more to get into all of the grooves and hold it (these tiles are heavy!) and we buttered the backs of each piece.

The pieces fit together quite nicely…

Here’s something else we had to deal with—this outlet. I really didn’t want it breaking up a wall of tile. In hindsight we should have rewired it to the side of the cabinet before we installed the bar but it was too late for that.

I have to give credit to my dad—he came up with pretty genius solution: hide it behind a removable piece of stone, James Bond style.

To do this, we first had to position a piece over it and trace it so we wouldn’t get mastic on that area.

Then we tiled around it as normal.

The secret stone was done last so we’ll come back to it—back to the rest of the wall.

We used the same wet tile saw from our backsplash and it worked great. It was a little trickier to maneuver since there wasn’t a flat surface to hold the tile down, so it was difficult to get straight cuts sometimes.

The two pieces on the left were notched from another tile to fit. The great thing about this stuff is that there are uneven gaps everywhere, so if you mess up a little, it’s no big deal!

Some of the gaps are bigger than others, naturally, and you end up with parts like this…

It all blends together when you step back, but I could always go back in and add some colored caulk.

After our second row was complete, it was time to start planning out our first shelf.

We marked the studs and drilled our first cleat into them using 4″ decking screws (making sure it was 100% level—this part is essential!)

Then we slipped the shelf over it and secured it from the top using screws every 8″ or so.

For those of you who want to try this at home, it’s worth nothing that this method won’t support a ton of weight. We’re only using this for lightweight items so it will suit our needs, but I wouldn’t use it as a bookshelf or anything.

After the shelf was up, we tiled around the bottom…

And up to the edge so we would have a level surface for the next row.

And the tiling continued…

3 rows later and it was time to install our second cleat. The first board we had was bowed a little too much (it was actually a 2×4″ we saved from our kitchen demo, so it was almost 50 years old and a little worn down), so we had to rip the shelf out and start over.

The second time around worked out though.

And it was about this time late on Saturday night that I started hating life and called it quits.

I should also take this moment to thank my husband for putting up with all of these projects I throw at him, especially lately. Renovation is not his passion or hobby, it’s mine, and he’d much rather be doing something else every weekend (and most nights). But he always agrees to help me and goes along with whatever new plan I throw at him (I think after three houses he’s finally trusting my vision!) So Brad, thank you, seriously, for everything <3

The next morning we came back (somewhat) refreshed, ready to finish the job. First we had to deal with a teeny angled slivered cut to fit under the second shelf…

Stone likes to do its own thing and will just break off sometimes if it wants. We had fun trying to piece this one back together. There were several slivery cuts on the top half. Each time something cracked or chipped off or was cut wrong it was another $4 down the drain (stressful!)

But we forged on and finally made it to the top…


Now to deal with this outlet…

Both the receptacle and plate cover had to be recessed so the stone would sit flush. Brad cut the drywall out around the edge to do this.

But that left us with a not very clean look, so we made a template using a jigsaw and a scrap piece of wood…

I painted it white and used mastic to adhere it to the wall, then cut my ledgestone into thirds, secured the two outside pieces around the outlet and caulked them in.

The center piece kept wanting to fall out, so we hot glued some velcro to the stone and the wood to keep it in place.

You can see it if you look closely, but that’s okay. Much better than a white square box!

I’m not sure if I’m going to do anything to hide the edges. They really don’t bother me at this point, but depending on what I do with the wall on the opposite side (the foyer) I may add a trim piece to cover it. Thoughts?

I love the warmth it brings to the room and that it breaks up all the gray. Once I get the jute rug in there, it should really tie it all together.

These shelves were begging to be accessorized, so of course as soon as I set down the camera I stocked it all up.

But you’ll have to wait until the final reveal to see what I did!

Can you believe Brad wanted to keep this originally?

This week I’ll attempt to build more floating shelves for the backsplash wall. Check back in a few days to see how that turns out…

Kitchen Chronicles: A DIY Subway Tile Backsplash, Part 2

On Monday I left off with a recap of how we installed our subway tile

A few hours after that post, we started on the grout. Here’s what we used:

I went with an unsanded grout to be safe (Mapei’s Warm Gray), because some of the seams were less than a 1/8″ (you’d normally use sanded grout on 1/8″ or larger seams, unless the tile is easily scratched like glass). I’m sure I would have been fine either way though.

I mixed the grout by eye, making sure it was peanut butter consistency…

It’s said to have a “working time” of around 25-30 minutes, so I mixed it in small batches. Then we just plopped it on and spreaded it into the seams, moving at different angles to make sure it was in there good.

Sidenote: grout floats with handles like these suck. Horrible design. Get the kind with the handles on the center.

It actually would have been somewhat enjoyable if my arm didn’t start to ache after a while. I like activities that involve small details.

Here’s the big wall, you can see the difference between the ungrouted tiles (top) and the grouted tiles below.

Brad followed behind me with a damp sponge (after letting the grout set for about 10 minutes) to scrub any excess off.

Here’s the same wall after the grout has been wiped down at the bottom:

We made sure not to grout where the tiles met the counter, in the corner, window sills, etc because I’ll be using color matched caulk for that.

The whole process took more than a couple hours (for ~65 sq ft for reference). It requires more time than you would think!

But again, worth it when you see the results of your hard work.

The one issue we had that I didn’t read about anyone else having was lots of “gunk” left behind after grouting…

I’m pretty sure it’s mastic residue that wasn’t wiped up, and the grout made it more visible. We tried to wipe it off as best as we could, but man… it’s hard to get all of it when your hands and everything around you is covered in it!

So I spent another couple hours just scrubbing with a damp brillo pad. Sometimes I had to scrape it off with a putty knife.

My forearm hurts just thinking about it.

Anyway, we’re now ready to seal the grout. As of today it has been 72 hours (the recommended waiting time) so we can get started tonight. I had read about people mixing a sealer additive in their grout (in place of water) to save the extra step of sealing afterwards, but I passed when I saw that it was $40 for a container… and now I’m totally regretting that decision. I’m ready to just be done with this tile already!

Here’s a shot of the quarter round installation:

All along the ceiling, too…

I used some leftover cabinet trim for the sides of the cabinets:

Yesterday I got everything caulked and painted, and this is where we’re at now:

Wowza, that’s
a lot of white.

After some caulk & sealing, this project will finally be over!

Meanwhile, we have a couple other things going down.

Our hinges finally arrived from Ikea, and now our bench seat has all its doors!

Yes, that’s foam you see sitting on top. A cushion DIY post will be in the near future.

I have to say, the gaps between the doors didn’t bother me quite as much after they were all on. But I still wanted to test it out. I cut a scrap piece of wood and taped it up there to get a rough visual:

What do you think? I think I like it slightly better than the empty gap, so I’m going to pick up some wood at Lowe’s tonight to fill them in (and probably a test pot of paint color matched to the doors).

In other bench news, we started on the back of the island seating!

We’re building this one the exact same way—except with 3 36″ cabinets instead of 4 30″ cabinets.

First I had to build the base.

I measured and cut my 2×4’s and laid them out…

Then screwed the pieces together…

Then we secured it to the back of the island.

Now I just need to finish painting the cabinets and set them on top. I primed them yesterday, but ran out of foam rollers so I couldn’t paint them.

We plan on getting these installed this weekend, along with tiling our bar wall (!) so I should have some pretty fun stuff coming up next week.

I also have a very important decision to make. I ordered swatches from for the kitchen, dining room and studio windows. I’d like them all to be the same since the rooms are open to each other.

I’ve narrowed it down to these 3…

I posed the question to instagram this morning and Tibet Oak seems to be the favorite so far.

At first I was set on Antigua Natural, after seeing similar styles in kitchens…


But I’m really drawn to the Tibet Oak. I think it would look lovely in the living room and contrast with the dark wood across from it in the kitchen.

But then I wonder if it’s too dark and heavy for the kitchen, with the dark beams and bar counter there already, and I wonder if something like Singapore Oak would work better? The medium brown shades will tie in with the jute rug that will be in there soon.

I have no idea! I’m trying to order these today so I’m counting on you guys to help me figure this out. WWYD?

Update: I just snapped this photo for a better visualization. After reading some comments in favor of the Singapore Oak, I’m leaning that way. It’s a very close match to the jute rug I’ll be using (which will take up most of the dining area)


Kitchen Chronicles: A DIY Subway Tile Backsplash, Part 1

Happy St Paddy’s Day! We celebrated this weekend with a new backsplash…

Well, almost. It’s not done yet, but the hardest part (hopefully) is over.
If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll remember that subway tile wasn’t my first choice. I wanted a natural stone look, and I found it at Lowe’s:
But after the cabinets went in, I was worried it was just too much gray. So I set my sights on something similar, but in white, like this…

Only problem is… this stuff isn’t cheap. We even made a trip to the city where we spent all day at 14 different tile shops, and everything similar was around $20/sf. Because we wanted to cover the entire back wall, we needed around 80 sf. $1600 for tile is not happening. Nor is $1000. I didn’t even want to spend $500. So it was back to the drawing board…

Classic white subway was always in the back of my mind as an option. Half of the kitchens I’ve been drooling over on Pinterest have it…


But that’s the thing, I didn’t want to look like every other kitchen. But then you realize that Pinterest =/= real life, and white subway tile probably won’t ever go out of style, and it’s a very economical option. So I went for it.

Instead of the individual standard 3×6 tiles, we opted for the smaller 2×4’s that come on a sheet—because I thought the smaller scale would add more interest, and they seemed easier to install.

We originally got bids for the labor (tile has always been something we’ve hired out because we’ve never trusted ourselves to do it right)—but the quotes all came back at over $1000, which we did not expect at all. I guess labor is cheaper in Florida? Anyway, with all that we’ve accomplished since owning this house, I was feeling confident and told Brad I thought we should go for it. My dad said he’d help out on the first day so that sealed the deal.

Here’s what we bought from Lowe’s to get the job done:

Tile (80 sf)
Type 1 Mastic (a 3.5 gallon bucket, and we used maybe 2/3 of it)
Grout (Mapei in Warm Gray)
Colored caulk to match the grout
Grout sealer
A 1/4″ notched trowel to spread the mastic
A grout float trowel
A sponge

Our family friend let us borrow his wet saw which was a huge lifesaver. We were concerned that we’d need a scoring knife or tile cutter for smaller cuts but it wasn’t necessary at all.

The total for the tile came in at $299 (we have two sheets leftover so we can return them for $7, woohoo) and it was about $110 for materials.

I spent some time researching (thanks everyone for the advice in my last post!) and here are a few helpful tutorials I found:


Armed and ready, we began our journey Saturday morning…

We got a system going—Brad and my dad cut the tiles while I spread the mastic and installed them.

I was so relieved after the first few tiles went in. We could actually do this!

I was also relieved we bought the smaller tiles on sheets. I think it would have taken forever to set them individually. These had built in spacers which was nice too.
The great thing about these tiles is that you can easily remove individual pieces to work around obstacles.
Whenever there was an obstacle, we’d remove the tiles that were in the way, make our cuts, and set them back in. Easy peasy.
My dad had this special crayon for marking tile. It was so useful because it was waterproof, but it wipes right off.
Once we got the hang of the saw, it was pretty easy.
The trick to get the smaller notched cuts? lift the tile up at an angle so the saw would cut all the way through the back without cutting too far forward.
It was a messy job, so I had a wet cloth nearby to wipe the extra mastic off each section as I went.

To make sure they properly adhered to the wall and were all level, I nudged each tile in with a rubber mallet.

If there was too much mastic, it would seep through the cracks so I swiped it up with a small screwdriver.

In less than an hour, our first wall was done!
Oh—it’s important you do a dry fit first to make sure you don’t end up with any slivers in obvious places. The wall above was an inch larger than our four rows of tile, so I opted to have the 1″ pieces on the left side (which is more inconspicuous) instead of the right.
My favorite part was actually the details. I liked working with individual pieces after they had been cut. It’s hard to get the mastic around smaller areas (especially when there’s already tile in place around it) so for these I’d “butter” the back of it and set them in place.
Also, around the narrower areas with less room to work, I used a smaller putty knife instead of the trowel to get into all of the nooks and crannies. Then I’d come back with a trowel to smooth it out.

We were so lucky here… the area above the sink fit four rows of tiles perfectly so we didn’t have to make any cuts.

But of course it evened out in other areas, like this one, where there were some small pieces against the window. We also had to leave a gap next to the door, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to open all the way (bad design).

Here’s the other side of the window:

When stacking sheets of tile vertically, it’s important to use your spacers! Even when they go in perfectly if you don’t think you need them—they tend to shift. Often times I would step back and find tiles from earlier that had moved and I had to go back and shove spacers in before the glue dried. Fortunately, mastic gives you a pretty generous window (~30 minutes) for making adjustments. But my advice is don’t skimp on the spacers, they’re good insurance.

At around 4pm on Saturday (after 5.5 hours), we called it a day.

The next morning we were setting up and realized we’d forgot to wipe the mastic off of our starting point, which meant we had to scrape it off so the wall was even and the next sheet of tile would be level.

Don’t forget to clean the mastic off first if you are going to take a long break!

On the second day I got smarter and wore latex gloves. SO much better than having mastic stuck all over your hands and having to scrub it off.

Really, the most difficult part of the whole job is just the physical energy it requires. Cutting and measuring is the easy part—spreading mastic for 5+ hours gets tiring. I’m still slightly sore.

But watching it all come together is oh so worth it.

Finally, we made our way underneath the window and back around to the end.

Actually, the end was the hardest part. Since we made a big loop around the window, the tiles had to meet back up at some point. Making sure the right side matched the left side so that they were perfectly interlocking when they lined back up was a challenge.

We actually didn’t even think about it until it was too late, so the gaps were a little larger than they should have been.

It’s important to note that tiling is an imperfect process. Even from the factory, some gaps were closer to 1/16″ and others were over 1/8″, so I wasn’t going for perfection here.

And when you look at the big picture it’s not really noticeable…

There will be pillows there which should help, and I also have a backup plan if it ends up bugging me (hint: white nail polish).

Walking into the kitchen is like a breath of fresh air now…

It really adds so much.

Oh, and we’ll be trimming out the top and the right edge where it meets the planks with quarter round.

This afternoon I’ll start grouting. The matching caulk was special order and won’t be here for 1-2 more weeks, but we have plenty more to do this week (like build the second bench seat and tile our bar wall!)

More to come in a few days…

Kitchen Chronicles: Building a Window Bench Seat

If you’ve been following along on instagram, you already know what we were up to this week…

Let’s get to it, shall we?

We started with this empty space under the dining area window, which I thought would be perfect for a nice cozy bench…

To make it serve a dual purpose by adding storage, I decided to go with these Akurum refridgerator cabinets:

Because they are standard cabinet depth (24″), they would also line up with our existing cabinets on the left to look like one long built-in wall.

I chose the same Applad white doors to match our new bar cabinets and keep them nice and clean looking without distracting from the rest of the room (and yes, I forgot to select “white” instead of “birch effect” for these cabinet boxes too, argh!)

I had 123″ of empty space to work with, so I went with four 30″ wide cabinets which only left 3″ of space to fill.

But first, we had to build the base. It was basically the same process we used to build our bar cabinets, except there was one small issue…

The 2×4’s weren’t tall enough to match up with the existing cabinet. Standard toe kick height is 4″, but 2×4 boards are just barely over 3.5″. With the bar it didn’t matter because it didn’t have to line up with another cabinet, but we had to elevate these 2×4’s somehow…

So we ripped down some boards to make shims.

Then we assembled the base upside down so we could screw the front 2×4 into the cross pieces first. We decided to place a cross piece wherever two cabinets would meet up for extra support.

You’ll also notice a chunk of board missing out of the back. Since we were covering over a vent, we needed a way to reroute the airflow. I picked up this narrow grille at Lowe’s (designed for toe kicks) and gave it a few coats of white spray paint:

After the first 2×4 was secured to the cross pieces, we flipped everything over to its final position and attached the front 2×4 so it was all one piece:

Then we secured the back 2×4 into the studs so it wouldn’t go anywhere.

To seal off the vent chamber so air wouldn’t leak out, we placed some trim pieces along the bottom and caulked it in really well. We also had to cut a hole in the back for the outlet:

Then it was time to get the cabinets in!

I had 3″ of extra space to work with, so I decided to divide it evenly between them (including the far left and right sides) which meant I had to make 0.6″ spacers. I used some scrap pieces of wood we had in the garage and ripped them down to size, then cut them to the height of the cabinet (15.25″):


Once they were in, we screwed through the sides of the cabinets (both left and right) and caulked them in:

Then we put a few screws through the cabinets to attach it to the 2×4″ against the back wall. This bench was solid.

The toe kick piece we bought fit like a glove, no ripping down needed!

The vent grille was a little shorter than the toe kick, so we slid a small piece in at the top so there wasn’t a hole (It doesn’t look very pretty, but it won’t be seen):

Once everything was in, it was time to prep and paint!

For the cabinets I used the same Zinsser shellac based primer (red can) that I used for the pantry and bar cabinets:

The only part that would be visible from the outside was the face frame, and I wanted a nice clean edge on the inside so I taped it off.

While working on that, I painted the toe kick and the rest of the trim that we’ve been dying to put in (tip: ALWAYS paint your toe kick/baseboard/crown molding before installing so you don’t have to tape it off later!)

Yay for baseboard:

We used a 90° corner piece over the planks and quarter round where the plank wall met the ceiling:

Ahhh… so much better.

The toe kick worked out nicely too:

All that’s left was the doors…

We finished the first three cabinets and realized we had a problem.

Apparently, someone in this house *coughBradcough* must have accidentally thrown away a box with half of our hinges in it. After a frantic search came up with nothing, I had to buy 8 more packages (16 hinges total, we still need to build another bench seat) for $60 from I was just relieved we were even able to order them online and get them shipped. They won’t be here for a week, so sadly this project will take a little longer to finish…

In addition to that setback, I can’t decide how I feel about the gaps in between the cabinets. I didn’t even really think about it when I was lining the spacers up with the cabinet base instead of the doors. Might have to move them forward.

What do you think?

As for adding hardware or not, I’m undecided. I’m leaning towards keeping it really simple, so it looks more just like one long panel instead of drawing attention to the fact that it’s cabinets by adding knobs. That was the original plan at least—we’ll see how it looks after we get the last doors on. And I ordered the foam so hopefully next week I can get started on the cushions.

One more update—we bought our backsplash!

After much debate (which I’ll cover in a future post) we went with this white subway tile from Lowe’s:

It’s a smaller version of standard 3×6″ tiles on a mesh backing. After getting a couple outrageous quotes for labor to install them, we may or may not have officially lost our minds because we’re going to tackle this ourselves. This weekend. Fellow DIY’ers, we need your help. Any suggestions/tips/advice you can give us, please, we’re all ears!
If there’s no update from me by Tuesday—send help because we’ve probably fallen into the black hole of tile.


Kitchen Chronicles: Building a Bar

Happy Monday! It’s after 8am here and just barely getting light outside—gotta love Daylight Savings. Longer days = more productivity!

Speaking of being productive… this weekend we built our bar!

I figured it would be one of those projects that dragged on all weekend and I’d be scrambling to put the finishing touches on right now, but nope… it was done by Saturday afternoon (thanks to my Dad’s help).

Let’s rewind a bit… here was the space we were working with:

When we bought the house there was a bar here, but clearly it had to go…

I still liked the idea of having one as we love to entertain, but something less gigantic and in your face.

We had a wine fridge at our last kitchen and really enjoyed it, so we decided to do that again. To fill up the rest of the space, I looked to Ikea for inexpensive cabinets. Luckily they come in a variety of sizes, so I was able to choose two of these Akurum cabinets that were the perfect width to fill the space and allow proper ventilation on the sides of the wine fridge.

When it came to door styles, I decided to go with the Applad white style shown above for a few reasons.

1) It was clean and simple—it wouldn’t compete with or try to match with the rest of the kitchen cabinets, but it is the same flat panel style as our drawer fronts.
2) I didn’t want to have to paint them, and the Applad white is a true white (not off white like some of the other door styles)
3). It was the most inexpensive option—just $200 total for an 18″ and 36″ wide!

But when the delivery came and I unpackaged the boxes… my heart sank. In my rush to get everything on my list during our big Ikea trip, I forgot to change the default “birch effect” to “white” when I added it to my shopping list. Ugh.

Fortunately, the doors were still white, but because you would see the side of one of the cabinets, I had to resort to painting.

I used the same white satin paint I’ve used everywhere in the kitchen (the plank walls, ceiling, and pantry)…

And to my surprise, they were actually pretty close to the doors. It wasn’t an exact match, but it was close enough for me to have hope that I wouldn’t have to paint the doors too.

Let me tell you, these cabinets were a breeze to assemble. Quite possibly the easiest Ikea assembly ever. I would absolutely not hesitate using them for a full kitchen remodel in the future.

Here they are roughly in place:

I had forgotten to paint the front of one edge before assembly… whoops!
And up went the doors:
Time to buy a wine fridge…

After researching and reading lots of reviews, we found 21 bottle capacity Edgestar on sale for $237 shipped:

I kid you not—I ordered it on Wednesday afternoon and it was plugged in and running by Thursday afternoon. Amazingly fast service.

Back to the plan—first, I had to build a toe kick to elevate the cabinets.

I used basic 2×4’s screwed together, and made the depth a standard ~4″ less than the cabinets (to match the rest of the kitchen)

After securing the base to the wall, we placed the cabinets back on top and secured them to each other and the studs along the wall.

Then we had to address this empty space around the fridge.

The gap still needed to be there for proper ventilation, but I decided I want it to look built in so I came up with a plan.

First, a 1×4″ screwed into the side of the cabinet:

Next, a painted 1×3″ nailed into it, flush with the cabinet (I spent a couple more dollars on the smooth and solid top choice wood vs the cheaper 1×4″ whitewood boards)

I repeated the process on the other side (I had to leave a bit of a gap because the wall wasn’t entirely level with the fridge, which I later filled in with caulk):

I got lucky—the 1×3’s fit right up next to the wine fridge perfectly so I didn’t need to rip them down at all.

For the top, I used a 1×2 secured to sides using pocket holes (my first project with my new Kreg Jig!)

Here’s how it looks on the outside:

Next it was time to cover the exposed 2×4″ toekick. I found these thin pieces of 8′ toekick in the cabinet aisle at Lowe’s:

I painted them white and nailed them up to the face of the 2×4″s:


On the side of the cabinets, we made sure the 2×4″ was inset 3/8″ from the cabinets so the toe kick could line up flush with the side:

Then it was time to move on to the counters.

I decided to go with 2×6″ boards instead of stone because I love the rustic touch wood adds, and of course it’s (by far) the most economical solution.

It took just five boards to cover the surface, and so we wouldn’t end up with 4 full boards and one sliver piece, my dad ripped down a couple inches off the width of two boards and alternated them between the three full pieces.

The wood was really rough, so we made sure to go over it well with our electric sander.

My dad also beveled the corners of the two ripped down pieces so they would match the full boards (he’s full of great ideas).

After they were sanded and trimmed, I stained them (the same color as our ceiling beams, Minwax’s Dark Walnut) and they were ready to go!

We had cut them all the same length, but after lining them up, we realized that the wall was at a slight angle so the boards didn’t line up at the opposite end:

Marking a straight line with a laser and trimming the edges off did the trick.

Then we attached them to the cabinets one by one using a nail gun (no liquid nails or wood glue).

To protect against stains and spills, I sealed the wood with three coats of poly:

I chose matte over a glossy sheen to keep it looking as natural and rustic as possible. It goes on a milky white and dries clear.

Looking sharp!

Finally, we installed the shelves and doors…

Then added hardware (the same knobs that we used in the rest of the kitchen):

Love, love, love the results.

And the slightly different whites? Hardly noticeable at all. Whew.

Safeway was having a big wine sale so we stocked up yesterday!

Once the window bench seating is in, we’ll be able to put up all the trim on the plank wall so it will look a bit more finished.

We picked out our stacked stone at Lowe’s yesterday, so we just have to coordinate with our tile guy to finish the wall above it! Can’t wait for that part…

Now that we have the toe kick/cabinet installing process down, we should be able to knock out this bench seat in the next few days:

If all goes well, I’ll have a post up for you Thursday with the results!


Kitchen Chronicles: Ikea Pax Pantry Reveal!

Ladies and gents, I present to you our finished Ikea Pax Pantry:


Let’s first back up to where we left off in my last post

The pantry was up, but with no hardware, crown molding, or insides.

First thing to do was crown molding. I had my dad come over to help, which was a good idea because this project came with more challenges than anticipated.

Obstacle #1:  Cutting a special shape out of the molding where it met up with the cabinets above the door. My dad knocked this one out of the park—a perfect fit.

Obstacle #2: Getting the crown to squeeze in above and be level with both cabinets. The crown height and gap between the cabinets was the same, so we had to sand down part of the crown where the fitment was a bit too tight. Then, we discovered the left wall stuck just a tad more than the cabinets so we were left with this gap:

Not only that, but the gap was quite a bit worse on the right side (walls, ceilings and floors are rarely ever perfectly square, so this was bound to happen….)

To help close the gap, we nailed up a small piece of wood (just on the right side where it was really bad:

I was able to caulk everything in to completely hide the gaps. What would we do without caulk?!

Obstacle #3: There was still a visible gap above the makeshift door on the right:

To fix this, I cut a scrap piece of wood and glued it on to the back of the crown.

There wouldn’t be any pressure on it (the door magnet was keeping the door from swinging back), so the glue will hold just fine. I caulked & painted and now it looks like part of the crown.

Just in time, our knobs arrived in the mail and we got those on last night (these are the same ones on our cabinet to tie them all in):

And now our pantry is finally complete and ready to enjoy!

I’m loving how built in and coordinated it looks next to the rest of the cabinets:

Ready to see the insides?

We went with affordable Pax shelves and Komplement wire baskets for organization:

The arrangement may change as time goes on, but for now there’s more than enough storage.

Let’s see what’s behind door #1, shall we?

The top shelves house our less frequently used dishware, baking supplies and canned foods.


To free up counter space, we decided to store our toaster here. Before putting the pantry up, Brad drilled a hole through the back and connected an extension cord to the outlet so it’s plugged in and fully functional:

We very rarely use it so this was the perfect place for us to keep it.

These pull out baskets are my favorite. So convenient, and just $15/ea! We use them to keep our vitamins/medications within easy reach, along with dry goods we use on a daily basis.

I arranged our small appliances on the bottom so they are within easy reach.

Let’s see what’s behind door #2…

Here we have more rarely used entertaining items, pasta/oats/starches, then cereal/condiments. We keep larger dry food storage and chips/snacks in the baskets, then our glass jars with miscellaneous goods/spices and paper towel storage on the bottom.

And of course, our mop and broom storage behind the door on the far right:

I just love walking into the kitchen every day now with this view greeting me…

Quite an improvement from a few months ago, right?

It’s the one completely finished little section of the kitchen. Speaking of “finished”… now that we’re definitely past the half way point, I owe you guys an updated “what’s left to-do list”! Here it is (not necessarily in this order):

1. Build the bar
This includes building a base for and installing our cabinets, installing a wine fridge, and DIYing a wood plank counter top. This should be completed this weekend.


2. Assemble & build the bench seat under the window
We hope to at least get started this weekend.

3. Assemble & build the bench seat on the back of the island
Same process as the window bench seat—plan to finish by the end of next week!

4. DIY bench seat cushions
I’ll be using plywood/foam/fabric, similar to how I made our headboard.

5. Buy & install backsplash
It’s already chosen (I think), and we’re hiring out the labor.

6. Buy & install stacked stone on bar wall
Hiring this one out too.

7. DIY floating shelves over the main counter and bar
Two shelves for each area—I found plans from Ana White and am anxious to give them a try.

8. Simplify the railing
We’re going to cut out the decorative spindles to keep it simple and less 70’s.

9. Buy & install window shades
Going with a simple bamboo style shade for both large windows.

10. Build a farmhouse dining table
My dad and I will tackle this project using Ana White’s plans.

11. Hang pendant lights over the dining table.
I bought two of these:

12. Accessorize
I’ll be adding a large jute rug, pillows, a DIY chalkboard, artwork, herbs/plants, and stocking the open shelves—this part is my favorite!

I’ve set a goal to finish everything by my birthday—April 25th (less than 7 weeks away, eek!). We have some friends coming from Florida to stay with us that weekend and it would be so nice to have everything done and be able to relax and enjoy it—without boxes and paint and dust in the way.

Better get started… be back in a few days with our new bar!

Kitchen Chronicles: An Ikea Pax Pantry, Part 1

The idea of creating a custom built-in pantry was the first thing that came to mind when I first laid eyes on this back wall in the kitchen:

It was an ideal setup—hidden storage that’s shallow so you don’t have to dig through to get to the back, and a small footprint to keep the kitchen nice and open.

You may remember me mentioning that I picked up a couple Pax wardrobes in my Ikea Trip post. They were perfect—just the right height for our ceiling, not too wide, and only 14″ deep.

For a built-in look, I had our subcontractor extend the wall to 14″ so it would line up with the pantry (he also filled in the pass through to the living room):

I chose the Bergsbo style doors…
because they mimicked the style of our cabinets…

Assembly was nice and straightforward—one of the easier Ikea pieces we’ve done.

Here’s the first one up!

And the second one:

At first wasn’t sure how I was going to space them out. I knew I’d have to add trim somewhere to hide the gaps, but when I pushed them to the left, I discovered the empty 6″ of space on the right would be perfect for storing our mop and brooms.

I’ll get to that in just a bit, but first, the doors had to come up:

It’s not obvious in this photo, but the doors were not a true white—of course. Ikea loves to drive us crazy by making every “white” piece of furniture a different shade, so you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that these doors are off white.

Here they are in their final position, secured to the wall (and to each other). Again, looks white enough, but it’s not. You can tell a little at the very bottom where the Pax wardrobe shows (the Pax frame is a truer white).


I was hoping it would be something I could live with, but I just couldn’t, so I decided to paint them.

I’ve painted cabinets before (remember our last kitchen makeover?) but this was different—we’re not talking wood here. This is foil coated fiberboard—a lot trickier. I needed a game plan.

I remembered Jenny’s Pax Wardrobe makeover and was so thankful to find she had written a post about it. If she could go from white to dark gray without a problem, surely I could transform my doors from off-white to white.

So I picked up my supplies, and thanks to Jenny’s post (along with other tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way), here’s how I painted these doors…

First of all—primer. To cover anything other than wood (ie most Ikea furniture), you’ll need shellac based primer. I picked up a gallon for $42 at Lowe’s and this stuff will last me a while.

Other supplies include deglosser (I had this on hand already—still not entirely convinced it’s necessary but more experienced people use it, so…), a fine sanding block (I used 150 grit, but 200 or 220 might even be better), painters tape, some sort of paint thinner/acetone for cleanup, a dense foam roller, and a good brush. If you’re filling seams or patching holes, you’ll want spackle and caulk (though I didn’t need it for these doors).

Alright, Step 1. We decided to paint the doors already hung to make it easier and save time. After taping off the hinges and thoroughly wiping down with deglosser and a clean microfiber cloth, we rolled on our first coat of primer.

You can see a bit more here where the white primer went on vs the off white door color.

To get into the grooves, I used a small brush…

but you’ll want to use the brush as sparingly as possible because you can see the brush marks left behind. The roller provides the smoothest finish.

This primer has the consistency of thick milk, and we used super thin coats. It becomes tacky in under a minute so you have to work fast. Put a quick coat up and move on.

The can says drying time is 15 minutes and you can reapply a second coat in 45—this is much quicker than the Zinsser Cover Stain we used last time, FYI. Which was great because it meant this project would take a weekend instead of a week.

After each coat, you’ll want to check for any rough patches and lightly sand. Because our coats were so thin, they were super smooth and most of it didn’t need to  be sanded at all.

The first coat took maybe 30-40 minutes, and since it felt dry to the touch I decided to start the second coat.  But then this happened in a few spots…

I wasn’t sure if it just needed more time to dry or what, so I left it alone for a while. I came back and sanded those areas down and it seemed to be fine after that. I think the key with this is to leave enough time between coats, and make sure they are thin.

The paint I used was the same white paint I used on all the plank walls—Valspar’s Signature line color matched to our trim (Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee), in satin.

Because the paint color was very close to the primer and it has great coverage, I used two thin coats  (no sanding once the latex paint goes on) and called it a day.

Ahhhh…. bright white.

Switching gears for a second here—during this this time our kitchen was in shambles…

We had a paint station set up in the dining area and decided to go ahead and take care of something that’s been bugging us for a while—this microwave cabinet:

It fit like a glove on the sides, but there was that big gap at the top. Solution? Build a shelf, of course.

I thought about using 1×2’s along the side as the supports (the same way I built our old pantry shelves), but Brad mentioned drilling small holes and using those little plastic shelf support inserts instead. That was a much better idea, so we picked up a few packs at Lowe’s.

After measuring the height we needed it to be and making our marks using a level, we drilled the holes using a drill bit that matched up with the insert size:

We went with 3 on each side for extra support.

For the shelf, we cut down a spare piece of particleboard we had—this wouldn’t be my first choice as it’s really dense/heavy and has a rough surface, but it was free and the microwave would be hiding it anyway.

A while back I grabbed every white paint swatch Lowe’s carried and brought them home to find the closest match to our cabinets. I found one that was almost identical and bought a $3 paint sample to take home.

To keep the microwave from sliding backwards, I cut a piece of spare wood to size and nailed it onto the back.

And to finish it off, I painted a piece of lattice and secured it to the front with a nail gun.

Now it really looks custom! And it makes the perfect storage cubby for my cutting board.

Okay, back to the pantry. Now that the wardrobes were in, it was time to address the sides.

For the left side, we ripped down a 1x6x8′ board to match the width of the wall and nailed it up:

The doors were sticking out before, so just that piece made it look so much more built in and finished.

Then came the tough part, the right side. We decided to use another 1″ piece to build a door so that we could use the empty space for storage.
We cut the board to size, but somewhere between the wall and the wardrobe, the gap was not even (you can see how it’s larger at the top, womp womp).
But then I had an idea…
We could frame out the edges with lattice strips, and attach the left piece at a slight angle to close the gap. Bonus: it would add some nice detail and tie in with the doors and kitchen cabinets. Disaster averted!
The best way to approach this would have been to use wood glue, clamp them together and let them cure for a day or so. We didn’t have that kind of time (or enough clamps) so we countersunk some screws instead.
Here’s how it looked at the top:
Uneven gap no more.
I cut smaller pieces for the top and bottom…
Then spackled, caulked and sanded….

And finally, painted:

To transform it into a door, I picked up a couple cheap-o hinges at Lowe’s and spray painted them black. Don’t mind the silver screws, I plan on painting them black as well..

There was no stud where we were attaching them to the wall, so we used walldogs (best invention ever, no idea how we ever lived without them).


To keep the door from swinging inwards and secured when it’s shut, I used this little magnet kit from Lowe’s:

The magnet attaches to the cabinet and then you screw a little plate onto the door—simple as that.

And we have a door!

It doesn’t swing open all the way, but it’s plenty to grab what you need.

The last thing we did this weekend was add some fresh baseboard.


This is how it looks now:

We still have to add crown molding and knobs, then assemble and organize the insides. I cannot wait for that part. Hardware is on the way and should be here in a few days, so as soon as everything is ready I’ll have a completed pantry post for you guys.

Tonight we’re getting started on assembling our bar, so that will be covered soon as well… things are really coming together now!

Before I go—one last very important matter of business. I’ve been working on a sequel to my Jenna Sue font forever now, and I’m thrilled to announce that Nella Sue is finally here!

As part of the Introduction Special, you can download it right now for just $5 (today only!) with the code NellaSue at checkout. You can also preview your custom text first.

This font was truly a labor of love, and I’m so thrilled with the way it turned out!

Thanks so much for your support! <3