Sunday, May 21, 2017

Before-After: Dresser Transformation

I don't know what to call it.  A console? A buffet?   A sideboard? In its former life, before I transformed it, it was a large dresser.  I guess it still is, but with a new look and purpose.

Its been about a year since I dragged this big beast home.  I nearly broke my back trying to get it into the house.  Literally.  As I tried to lift it, I heard an ominous cracking sound in my lower back.  Oh, no, bad idea, I thought.  Here come more visits to the orthopedic doctor (who will barley spend 2 minutes with me), and then on to the physical therapist....

Anyway, I managed to drag it and push it into our front hall with the help of those wonderful little furniture moving disks and pads (those things with either plastic or felted surfaces for easily moving big, heavy furniture around on carpeting and hard-surface floors).  

And then I collapsed on the couch with a heating pad and some ibuprofen, leaving Big Beast for another day. 

I'd been half-heartedly looking for something to put at the far end of our living room for the past few years.  My ideal find would be a sort of console or buffet with lots of character and drawers.  Some old piece with high potential as a fixer-upper. However, thanks to the Cabin Project (click here for more on that), this particular project resided somewhere near the bottom of my list of priorities for a long time.

Before Beast, I had a small side table (really, it's a small desk) at this location as a sort of placeholder until something better came along.  It was too small and dinky for the space, and had hardly any storage, but it at least provided some kind of focal point at the end of this room. 

Christmas decorations figure prominently at this end of the living room  every December since our Christmas tree always goes in the corner at this end of the living room.  A bigger piece of furniture would only mean more Yuletide joy at this end of the room.

About a year and a half ago I finally got tired of Small Desk's underwhelming performance in the living room and got serious about finding a suitably large buffet or console with a lot of storage. I did all the things everyone does when looking for a furniture project: I scoured local antique malls and consignment shops, visited many garage sales, and spent hours scrolling through Craigslist. Hours and hours.  You have to spend a lot of time sifting through some pretty ugly and uninspiring stuff before finding anything worthwhile on Craigslist. Patience and doggedness is key.

After several months of tedious searching, I finally found something that ticked all the boxes.
  • Right size (length x height x width)
  • Right amount of detail without being over-the-top fancy or formal
  • Lots of storage, including drawers that opened easily
  • Quality workmanship
  • Close to my home
  • Right price     

The dark, shiny finish didn't bother me at all, since I planned to transform it with paint.  This guy also had the big, chunky presence I felt was necessary to anchor the far end of our rather long and narrow living room.  And I just loved the feet; they had the right amount of curvy flourishes without being too feminine.  

It is certainly well made-- remember my cracking back? Heavy furniture is well made furniture, they say. Plus all the drawers have dove-tail joints, another sign of quality craftsmanship.

The transformation consisted of:
  • Sanding
  • Staining the top
  • Painting the sides and drawers
  • Spray painting the drawer hardware
  • 'Aging' the entire piece (read more sanding)

Materials and tools that I used:
  • Annie Sloan Pure White chalk paint and clear wax
  • Minwax Dark Walnut wood stain
  • Rust-Oleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint
  • Palm sander
  • Coarse, medium, and fine grit sandpaper (80, 180, and 280 grit)
  • Lots of elbow grease

I started off by sanding, sanding, and yet more sanding with both a palm sander and by hand to dull down and scuff up that very shiny, dark cherry finish.  All those nooks and crannies, the fluted corner, and the feet look wonderful when painted but are a huge pain to sand, since all those finicky little details must be sanded by hand. 

The top was extra shiny; in fact, when I first saw it, I thought it had a glass top. I didn't remove all of the stain from the sides and drawers, just enough to prepare the surface to take the paint, but I removed it completely from the top, since I planned on staining the top.

Staining the top with Minwax Dark Walnut.  I wanted to keep Big Beast on the rustic side of things and decided a natural wood finish on the top would offset all that white paint very nicely.

Dark Walnut was too dark and new looking, however, so I got out the sander and roughed it up to give it a distressed, aged look.  While I used a very coarse, 80 grit sandpaper to remove the original stain, I used a medium, 120 grit sandpaper to knock back the Dark Walnut for a distressed appearance. 

I finished it with a fine grit (220) sandpaper to give it a satiny-smooth surface and used a matte polyurethane to give it some protection, with no shine. 

Much better, yes?  This is more in line with the chippy, aged result I was after.

I painted it with Annie Sloan Pure White chalk paint.  I know the product info says that you don't need to do any prep prior to painting, but as I found out with this Ikea bookcase upcycle project, this isn't exactly true.  With slick, high gloss finishes, you really do need to rough it up a bit if you want the paint to stick (thus I sanded this thing until my hands were ready to fall off, as noted above).

I also removed all the hardware and spray painted each piece with Rust-oleum oil rubbed bronze spray paint.  Instant vintage character; no more brash, brassy finish.  This is a great way to re-use the drawer pulls that come with an old piece of furniture.  If you like the basic hardware, but don't care for the for the finish, just spray with metallic spray paint in the color and finish of your choice.

Last step: aging and 'rusticating' the piece with yet more sanding.  I knocked off some of the paint from the edges of the drawers and other strategic areas by hand and with the sander; I used medium and fine grit sandpaper for this step. 

A little bit of sanding highlights the edges and decorative details very nicely, especially important for furniture that is painted white.  

Did I mention it has great storage?  More roomy drawers hide behind those doors.

Early spring...with some lovely faux tulips.

Key take-aways here:
  • Get someone to help move large pieces of furniture
  • Some sanding will be necessary if the original finish is high gloss (even with chalk paint)
  • Spray painting original hardware is a great way to save some money (if you like the drawer pulls that came with the piece)


Near future posts will include another long-standing project: the horse wall-art piece...

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Inspire Me Monday at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Sweet Inspiration at The Boondocks Blog
Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Bouquet of Talent at Life on Lakeshore Drive
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
Five Star Frou-Frou at a Tray of Bliss
Share It One More Time at Everyday Home Blog

Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Passed the Final Inspection!

Over the past several months I've been mulling over how to start blogging again after having completely fallen off the blogging wagon last summer.

So... I'll just start by saying that we passed our final inspection!  Last September.  However, our joy at finally reaching this huge milestone was completely overshadowed by the fact that both my husband and I each lost someone dear to us last year. 

Last year was a horrible year filled with illness in both our families, loss, my own health DDC and everything else went dark last fall when my mom passed away...

One of the last times I spoke with my mom was when I gave her a virtual tour of the cabin via my phone a few days before the final inspection.

I had so hoped to show her the finished  (even furnished) cabin in person.   

In a way, this post is just another virtual tour for my mom, because I know that somewhere she is looking on, laughing and commiserating with me over all the things, big and little, that my husband and I sweated bullets over, agonized over, cried over, fought over...All those little unique, custom ideas that we (mostly me) thought were so fabulous that gave my husband fits during installation.  The bathroom vanity sink that kept (and still does) leaking...the uncooperative sheets of corrugated metal destined for the shower...the galvanized metal tub-as-kitchen sink ...building the custom tile shower pan...converting the gas stove to propane...

So, mom, here it is...we still have a few little details to take care of, and some not so little (the deck) as well.  But we finally made it to the finish line.  I sure wish you were here to see it in person...


I took all these photos with my phone, so the quality isn't the greatest.  I was too exhausted at the time to drag out my camera, the tripod, etc. and make the effort to get nice photos.

Both my husband and I aren't talking about it, but we both know that the leaking bathroom sink has to be fixed.  But fix it we will, because I love the way this looks. 

I suspect that the base is too thick for the hardware and that we should have installed the vessel sink directly onto the original table top, or removed the original top and installed the new one (and put the sink on that).  I think my husband took this apart and re-assembled it a couple times, at least, in an effort to fix the leak.  In the end he stuffed a bunch of paper towels underneath and prayed the inspector wouldn't catch it.

By some miracle, the inspector didn't look at the sink at all and missed the fact that it leaks.

Installing the corrugated metal sheets as shower walls was definitely a seat-of-our-pants enterprise.  I found lots of examples of showers finished with corrugated metal on the Internet (mostly Pinterest) but neither my husband or I could ever find any posts or videos that explained how to do it.

I'm happy with the way it looks (it will look even better once I get a shower curtain up), but I'm a little nervous about keeping it clean...

I'm pretty thrilled with our mini pantry. My husband scoffed at the idea of having so much storage, but I've seen how he shops at the grocery store, so I know better... Plus, in our California home, we presently have every small kitchen appliance known to mankind, and I have no reason to expect things to be different at the cabin.

The bi-fold doors are perfect for this small, constrained space.

Still need a few finishing touches in the kitchen: cabinet hardware, more open shelves at the far end, perhaps some kind of rustic corbel under the counter overhang by the door. But it is a fully functioning kitchen (-ette) at this point.

I was so worried that the inspector would ding us for not finishing this corner between the pantry and the closet.  He didn't even look at it. Something else that still needs to be done however.

We installed the kitchen sink and its base first (making sure it was centered under the window) and then placed the cabinets and counter top afterward.  Installing the kitchen faucet and butcher block counter around the tub/sink was harder than we ever dreamt.   But my husband figured it out. And so far, it doesn't leak.

There is R2-D2 (a.k.a. the big shop vacuum) lurking in the background, slyly waiting for the next opportunity to break more toes (I kicked it in a fit of irritation over paint colors a few years ago). 

I love the light and the views in this room.

Yes, I know the switch plates are notched into the door casings.  Thanks to an initial design boo-boo, we lost a few inches all around when we had to switch from 2x4 framing to 2x6 framing during construction to accommodate insulation that had the code-compliant R-factor. That meant that the extra wide door casings that I had originally included in the design now overlapped the switch plates.  And we didn't catch this until after the electrician had roughed in the electrical. The other solution would have been to use narrow, dinky door and window casings.  

I hate narrow, dinky casings.  I had specifically designed the cabin to have beefy, rustic looking casings that would nicely offset all that white-painted tongue-and-groove panelling.  

So we have switch plates notched into the door casings.  I'm calling it quirky.

So, there it is.  Finally a livable cabin.  Next on the list is the few finishing touches, the deck (click here for my ideas on that), and, most importantly, furnishing it (click here and here for a look at some of the things that I plan on using in the cabin). 

Here is a sneak peek of two other projects that languished for a long time before I finally finished them.  More on this to come...


This post is dedicated to my mom, because, I owe, among many other things, my decorating style, my love of old vintage things and antiques with character, and my approach to creating a home to her and the home I grew up in.  

In loving memory.

I need also to thank my wonderful husband.  He did all the finish work inside himself and did an amazing job.

Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Bouquet of Talent at Life on Lakeshore Drive
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
The Inspiration Board Creative Party at Carolyn's Homework
Five Star Frou-Frou at a Tray of Bliss

I was featured at...

Amaze Me Monday #213 at Dwellings
Wow US Wednesdays #325 at Savvy Southern Style

Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's Time For Berry Shortcake

It's happened again. Summer has just rushed by and I'm already seeing back-to-school commercials on TV (and starting to dread impending back-to-school traffic on my daily commute).

But it's still blazing hot outside and the calendar does still say August... which means summer hasn't departed yet... which means easy fruit desserts are on my mind often.

A quick detour on the state of my mind with respect to dessert: I'm a total sugar addict and can't get through the day without thinking about eating and making some kind of yummy, decadent dessert. I know, you'd never know it by looking at my In The Kitchen page, which is sadly underpopulated. But I'm trying to watch what I eat and writing a lot of posts about desserts and dessert recipes means making (and eating) a lot of desserts. So, not so many dessert posts so far. How do food bloggers (especially those focused on desserts) do what they do and not gain a zillion pounds?

Anyway, back onto the topic of easy, summer desserts...and what is easier to throw together than berry shortcake?

All it takes is...

1. A quick and easy sweet biscuit
2. Berries of your choice with a little sugar
3. Sweetened and whipped cream.

I used strawberries and raspberries here. I would have used blackberries as well, for the extra bit of contrasting tartness and color, but the grocery store was out.

Since fruit desserts tend to get better if they sit at least 12 hours, I think it's a good idea to macerate the berries with sugar the day before. This allow flavors to meld and intensify, and if needed, you can add a little more sugar to taste the next day before you assemble the dessert and eat it.

I like to whip the cream until just the soft peak stage... that it droops and drips very nicely around the berries and shortcake.

A yummy, crumbly shortcake adds just enough sweetness to complement the berries without competing with them.


Here is the recipe...


2 pints strawberries (hulled and sliced)
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (or more, if needed)


2/3 cup (1 1/4 stick) ice-cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (plus extra for brushing)
1/2 cup buttermilk
turbinado sugar for dusting

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Make the berry topping:

1. Combine the strawberries and sugar and toss gently. Let the berries sit for about 30 minutes until they release some of their juice and very gently stir in the other berries (be extra careful with the raspberries, which tend to fall apart easily). As I mention above, it's a good idea to prepare the berries one day in advance, since the flavor improves with age. Of course you can use whatever combination of berries you prefer (including blueberries). After the berry mixture has sat for at least 12 hours, you can adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar if needed. How much will depend on how sweet you like it, and how sweet and flavorful the berries were to begin with. 

Make the shortcake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of two cookie sheets (or butter and flour each sheet)

2. Sift together the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the 2/3 cup of butter. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, mix together until the mixture is crumbly (up to 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the 1/2 cup of cream and 1/2 cup of butter milk, beating on low speed until the liquid is incorporated and the mixture is soft and thick (and not too wet).

3. Use a 4-oz ice-cream scoop to form each shortcake. Pack the mixture so that it is even with the top of the scoop and release onto the prepared cookie sheet. Each shortcake should be about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Brush the heavy whipping cream onto the tops of the shortcakes and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

4. Bake the shortcakes until a light golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the shortcakes from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheets set on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer the shortcakes to the wire racks and allow to cool completely before assembling the berry shortcake desserts.

Make the sweetened whipping cream:

1. Place the 2 cups of heavy whipping cream in a chilled bowl and beat with an electric beater, starting on the low setting and gradually increasing the speed.

2. When the cream starts to thicken, gradually add the powdered sugar until the cream is sweet enough for your liking. Add the vanilla, Beat until the mixture just reaches the soft peak stage. Chill the whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the berry shortcakes.


1. Cut the shortcakes in half.

2. Placing the bottom half in a bowl, top with the berry mixture and a dollop of whipped cream

3, Place the top half of the shortcake on the berry/cream mixture, top with another scoop of berries and another spoonful of whipped cream

The shortcakes can be stored at room temperature for a couple days in a plastic storage bag. The berry mixture and whipped cream should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Thanks for visiting!


Most likely linking to the following this week....

That DIY Party at DIY Showoff

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch

Five Star Frou-Frou at a Tray of Bliss


I was featured at:

Amaze Me Monday #176 at Dwellings The Heart of Your Home

Best of the Weekend at Hello Little Home and Little Miss Celebration

Bouquet of Talent #207 at Life on Lakeshore Drive

Life on Lakeshore Drive