a rusty toolbox.

Back when I sent a welcome email to Miss Mustard Seed, a.k.a. Marian Parsons, she offered to send me some of her products to try.  How totally awesome of her, right?  But I had to admit, I’d pretty much worked with most of them already.

However, I thought I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that her Tough Coat Sealer had been re-formulated to have more of a matte finish since the last time I’d used it.  So I asked her to please send me some of that.

So the other day when I was contemplating what product to use to seal the rusty toolbox I brought home from that garage sale I wondered if I could use the Tough Coat Sealer.

The toolbox isn’t terribly bad on the outside, but the inside was quite rusty.  It was rather greasy and dirty as well.

So I did a little google research.  I googled “using Miss Mustard Seed Tough Coat Sealer to seal rusty metal” and that search took me directly to this post from Miss Mustard herself where she conveniently addresses that question in the comment section.  She also mentions the reformulation of the Tough Coat Sealer in the post itself.

So, full steam ahead.

I first scrubbed the toolbox well with Dawn dishwashing soap and one of those 3M Scotch Brite scrubbies.  I tend to use dishwashing soap when I’m trying to cut grease.  I suppose that TSP substitute would work just as well, if not even better, but I haven’t tried that.

I wasn’t aiming for perfection here, just an easy clean up and coat of sealer that would allow me to store stuff in the toolbox without it getting all gross.

Once the toolbox was dry, I simply brushed on the Tough Coat Sealer.  I gave the inside bottom of the toolbox a 2nd coat just to be sure I was taking care of that rust, while every other surface only received one coat.  Here’s how the inside looks after …

Much improved, wouldn’t you say?

Although it’s cleaned up and the rust is sealed, I also added a paper liner just to make it a little prettier.  I used one of my favorite October Afternoon papers, and just laid it in place with no adhesive.  If it gets grungy over time I can easily replace it.

Here is how the toolbox looks on the outside with its coat of Tough Coat Sealer.

I did save the label.

I think I might use the toolbox to store my ribbons.

I don’t really know why I have such a fascination for rusty old toolboxes.

Something about them just appeals to me, especially when they are used for something unexpected, like vintage ribbon.

Looking at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics side by side you might be thinking that they don’t look all that different, but that actually was my goal.  I wanted to seal the rusty metal so it wouldn’t rub off on things or continue to deteriorate, but I also wanted to retain the rusty aged patina.

The Tough Coat Sealer did that perfectly.  It added a tiny amount of shine and it darkened up the color just slightly as well, but for the most part it didn’t change the look by much.

So the next time you need to seal some rusty old metal, consider reaching for the Tough Coat Sealer.

And speaking of Miss Mustard Seed, tomorrow is her workshop with Carver Junk Co.  I think they may still have some spaces left and tomorrow is supposed to be cool and stormy, so a perfect day for hanging out indoors and learning about milk paint.

I’ll be there and I’d love to see you there too!


a garage sale story.

I’ve mentioned before that my day job is at City Hall and it’s located in a fairly residential area.  That makes it somewhat convenient for lunchtime garage saling.

The other day I had to run a couple of boring errands at lunch, but I had about 30 minutes to spare so I followed some random garage sale signs.  It was a pretty fall day, cool but sunny, so I think a lot of people decided to throw together one last garage sale before the snow flies.

When I pulled up to the first sale I saw a little old lady sitting in a lawn chair all by herself.  I always see that as a good sign.  Little old ladies have the best stuff, usually at the lowest prices.

Not so this time.  This particular little old lady had easily over 100 jigsaw puzzles and that was about it.

  But tucked in among those puzzles was a gallon sized Ziploc bag with a set of ‘day of the week’ dishtowels.  Except they had only been stamped with the designs, the embroidery had never been done.  Clearly she had good intentions, but never finished the job.  The price?  $30!

What?!  Even if they were embroidered, $30 would be high for a garage sale price.  Especially a ‘little old lady’ garage sale price.

So, I walked away with nothing.

The next sale I found was being held in a garage that was chock full of mounted deer heads.  Literally, there were at least 20 of them on the wall.  In the garage.  They weren’t there as part of the sale, there was a very prominent sign that said “items on walls not for sale!”  Those things aren’t cheap, so it surprised me to see them displayed in the garage.  I mentioned something along those lines to the sale’s proprietor, a gentlemen probably around my age, and he said “you should see inside the house, that’s where all the best ones are.”

Oh my.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty seriously creeped out by stuffed dead animals of any kind.  But this is Minnesota.  There are many, many hunters here and it’s not at all unusual to see mounted trophies.  So I didn’t let that deter me because clearly this garage sale was being held by a Collector with a capital C (unlike me, a non-collector).

This person collected dolls, depression glass, chintzware tea pots, vintage wood working tools, figurines … and obviously, mounted deer heads.  An odd combination to be sure.  I asked the guy if this was his parent’s house.  Perhaps dad was a hunter and mom was the collector.  But he never really answered that question.

Had I come across this sale 15 years ago, I definitely would have nabbed the chintzware teapots.  I used to collect those too, but I got rid of all of mine except this one favorite.

Luckily for me … among all of the collectibles there were some vintage Christmas ornaments.

Unluckily for me, the ornaments were sorted into Ziploc bags (again with the Ziplocs!), fab vintage ornaments mixed with junky tacky ornaments.  And they were priced at $10 per bag, a little steep.  But then I did a little math in my head, each bag had around a dozen good ornaments mixed in with 4 or 5 bad ones.  So even though $10 felt high, it was less than $1 per ornament, so I grabbed two bags.

I ended up with a really nice assortment of ornaments, many of them shaped like bells or other shapes.

I was especially excited to realize I’d scored not just one, but two teapot shaped ornaments.

It’s amazing to me that those delicate little spouts and handles haven’t been broken.

I also grabbed this toolbox.  It’s pretty rusty, but I love the size and shape.  I want to try and save the design on the front, but we’ll see how that goes.

As I was checking out, the proprietor asked me if there was anything else I collected.

  ‘No, um, well, yes, to be honest, yes I collect a few things but I hate to admit it.’

I mentioned vintage wind up alarm clocks and he said “There are tons of clocks inside, do you want to come in and take a look.”

I glanced over at the 40 fake deer eyes staring at me from the walls of the garage, looked around and noticed that I was totally alone here.  I realized that this was the point in every horror movie where the audience wants to yell “noooo!  don’t go through that door!”  So I politely said “no thank you” and walked away with my bag of ornaments and my tool box.

Chances are probably good that I missed out on some great vintage stuff from inside the house.  Had I not been alone, it would have been a different story.  But you just never know.  After all, if I didn’t return from my lunch break how long would it take for my co-workers to start to wonder where I was?  And after that, how long before they guessed that maybe I stopped at some garage sales?  How many months before they find my body buried out behind that garage full of mounted deer heads?  I can just picture the ‘made for TV movie’ now, can’t you?




the gothic hanky drawers.

Are you wondering what I did with the hanky drawers that were on the gothic dresser?

Well, first of all I should mention that it was very easy to take them off the dresser.  There was a felt liner inside each one, so I pulled that out and could see that they were held in place by a couple of screws.  I simply unscrewed them and they came right off.

You might be wondering if that meant there were screw holes in the dresser top, and yes, there were … or more correctly there are.  I just left them.  They were small, and the wood top of the dresser had plenty of dings and other blemishes.  I like to embrace those rather than try to hide them.  Since I gave the dresser top a rustic waxed finish the dings just blend right in.

I keep referring to these as hanky ‘drawers’, but really in this case they are just a hinged box not technically a drawer.

Once I had them removed I realized they would make fun little keepsake boxes.

I started by painting them with some Homestead House milk paint in a color called Stone Fence.  This is one of my favorites.  It’s a pale, warm grey (you can see more of it on this foot board shelf).

I didn’t do much in the way of prep before painting.  I was OK with as much or as little chipping as fate would deliver.  I did wipe them down with some TSP substitute though.

After the second coat of paint was dry, I sanded rather haphazardly.  Again, I wasn’t feeling very picky about my results.  I wanted an aged, distressed look.

Next I added some Iron Orchid Designs transfers to the tops of the boxes.  Both are from their French Pots line and are intended to be used on clay pots, but I have found any number of other great uses for them!

This design is from French Pots I.

And this one is from French Pots III.

After applying the transfers, I sanded very lightly with some 220 grit sandpaper.  Next I wiped the boxes down and then added a top coat of The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat.

I lined the insides of the boxes with a page from an old Atlas.

You could keep a stash of old photos in one of these boxes.

Or maybe your old love letters.  I don’t know, does anyone write letters anymore?

Maybe you can just keep your vintage jewelry in it.

So many possibilities, what would you keep in yours?

the gothic chalkboard.

The minute I laid eyes on the Craigslist ad for the gothic dresser that I posted yesterday I knew I had to have it just for the mirror.  In fact, I was so excited to get my hands on it that I didn’t even take the time to get a proper ‘before’ photo, which is unfortunate.

Mr. Q went and picked it up in the afternoon while I was still at work, and the minute I got home from work I separated the mirror from its ‘harp’ and sent the harp home with Ken to cut a chalkboard back for it.

While Ken was working on that, I also made a chalkboard out of the framed mirror itself.  I shared that a while back.

Once I got the harp back from Ken, I went to work painting it.  I knew I wanted a warm white milk paint, which for me means either Homestead House Limestone or Miss Mustard Seed Linen.  Unfortunately, when I dug into my milk paint stash I discovered I was fresh out of Linen and I only had a small amount of Limestone left.  Maybe enough for just one coat on the harp.  I knew that I’d likely need at least 3 coats of paint to cover the dark wood with white.

So I decided to employ one of my favorite tricks.

Today’s Qtip:  If you know you don’t have enough paint left for multiple coats, start with a coat or two of another similar shade and just do your final coat in your chosen color.

In this case I mixed together the dregs of a couple of shades of white Homestead House milk paint, Raw Silk and Sturbridge White, and started with a coat of that on my piece.

I would have gone right into a second coat, but that’s when I discovered I had a bleeder.  The orange-ish stain was coming through and turning the paint a lovely shade of peachy orange right before my eyes.  If this has never happened to you, be aware that no amount of paint will ever solve this problem.  The stain will just continue to bleed through multiple coats of paint.  At this point, you have to seal the stain before continuing on.  Shellac works really well for that.

So once the paint was fully dry I got out a can of spray Shellac.  I keep this on hand for moments such as these.  If you have an entire piece of furniture with a bleed thru stain, it’s probably not cost effective to use spray Shellac, but when you have a smaller piece or just one or two spots of bleed-thru I find it’s convenient to just get out the spray.  And of course I only use the spray outdoors.

So, I sprayed the mirror quickly with a coat of Shellac.  Once dry, I added a second coat of my random mix of whites.  I could see that I’d solved my bleeding problem and I was getting good coverage with the 2nd coat of white.  So once that was dry, I mixed up the little bit of Limestone that I had left and added one last coat of that color.

My trick worked perfectly.  You can’t tell that I have a different shade of white under that Limestone.

The chalkboard itself is painted with Homestead House milk paint in Bayberry.  I find it makes the perfect green chalkboard.  To use milk paint for a chalkboard you simply mix the paint as usual (equal parts water and paint powder), paint two coats sanding lightly in between with 220 grit paper to keep your chalkboard smooth.  Also lightly sand the final coat.  Then season the chalkboard by rubbing white chalk all over it and ‘erasing’ it back off with a dry cloth.  Do not add any other sort of top coat over the paint.

After sanding the frame to distress the edges a bit, I added one last detail.  I used part of an Iron Orchid Designs transfer to add the year ‘1888’ to the top of the mirror.

I just love all of the detail on this frame including the little shelves on either side.

They make a great perch for a vintage camera, or an old family photo.

When I grabbed those two little books to put under that photo I took a moment to take a closer look at them.  The pretty little blue book was signed inside.

It was a gift from Great Aunt Nettie to my mother, which reminded me of a funny story.  Many years ago my sister and I were going through my mom’s family photo album.  It’s an ancient thing that has photos of our ancestors going back to the 1800’s.  One photo was labeled “Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner and her daughter Flossie.”

I thought about it for a minute and then I just burst out laughing.  Flossie Fleaner?!  Really?!

Poor Flossie.  That can’t have been easy to live with.  Then again, I’m sure Flossie was just a nickname, short for Florence or something like that.  Although Florence Fleaner isn’t much better, is it?

Anyway, I’m still deciding on the perfect spot in my house for this chalkboard.

Just for now it looks good hanging above my farmhouse table though.

the gothic dresser.

A while back I sent Mr. Q off to purchase this dresser via Craigslist mainly for its mirror harp, which I took off and am keeping because it’s amazing (you’ll see it tomorrow).  But even though I was mainly interested in the mirror, I also thought the dresser itself was pretty fab.  Here is the ‘before’ photo, which doesn’t include the mirror, but it does include the ‘hanky drawers’.

Hanky drawers are those two little drawers, or in this case hinged boxes, that are sitting on top of the dresser.

They were meant to store handkerchiefs back in the day when people actually had such things.  I generally remove hanky drawers.  Much like mirrors, they tend to limit the use of the dresser.  And without the mirror, they look kind of silly sitting there on top of the dresser.  I’ve already re-purposed them as well, and I’ll share those later this week too.

But for today, let’s just talk about the dresser itself.  I’m calling it the gothic dresser, although technically I don’t think this dresser is ornate enough to qualify as ‘gothic’.  It has a kind of gothic vibe though.  Do any of you know what this style might be called?

I love those tear drop drawer pulls.  Even though one had fallen off, it was included with the dresser so they were all there.  They were the reason I chose to paint the body of the dresser in Homestead House’s Coal Black milk paint.

Unfortunately, when I went to put the drawer pulls back on after painting I discovered that the one that wasn’t on when I purchased the dresser was damaged beyond use.  Argh.  That explains why it was just lying in the drawer!

Luckily I had just purchased some round black knobs with a matte finish from Hobby Lobby and I think they ended up working well with the tear drop pulls.

Rather than paint the entire dresser black, I stripped the top and waxed it with Miss Mustard Seed’s Antiquing Wax for contrast.

I have been getting a ton of mileage out of that MMS Antiquing Wax lately!

I had so much fun staging this dresser with some of my favorite black props like my vintage phone.

And the all black Big Ben from my non-collection of clocks.

Since I had some paint left over after painting the dresser itself, I painted the 2nd drop leaf from my green alligator table with it and then added a French stencil.

I have to say, I absolutely love how this one turned out.  You can be sure there will be more drop leaf signs in my future with this stencil on them.

By the way, I added a top coat of Miss Mustard Seed’s hemp oil on both the dresser and the drop leaf sign.

I’m so glad I went with the Coal Black on this piece despite the damaged drawer pull, I think it was the perfect choice with the contrast of the wood top.

Both the dresser and the sign are available for sale while they last.  If you are local, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.




sunbleached coffey.

You’re probably wondering about that weird title, but all will soon make sense to you.

Some of you may recognize the name Kent-Coffey, especially if you know your mid-century furniture designers.  I always thought Kent-Coffey pieces were expensive, high end, sleek, designer items.  On the contrary, a little bit of research has revealed that Kent-Coffey furniture was intended for the average consumer.  Much like Readers Digest books, it was mass produced and was priced affordably.

Not only that, but in addition to the sleeker, more modern designs, Kent-Coffey also made some French Provincial stuff.

Like this dresser from the Charmant line.

I picked this one up via Craigslist.  I had seen a photo of a similar piece online that had been refinished with white washed drawers and a pale grey painted body and I wanted to try the same look myself.  I wish I could remember where I saw it so that I could give proper credit, but I’ve searched and searched and can’t find it.  Suffice to say, this is a copied idea not one that I came up with on my own.

My first step was to strip all of the drawer fronts.  Once I had the finish removed I could see how beautiful the grain was.  After a good cleaning and sanding, instead of white washing them I chose to stain them with Varathane’s wood stain in Sunbleached, followed by a coat of Minwax Wipe on Poly.

I painted the body of the dresser in Fusion’s Bedford.

Bedford might just be my favorite of all the Fusion shades of grey (although I do also love Putty, which is just a little more pale).

I decided to keep the original hardware since it works so well with the whole French provincial look, but the drawer pulls really popped too much in their original brass color.  So I ‘white washed’ them using a Little Billy Goat Goat Stick in Cream.

For more info on Goat Sticks, check out {this post}.

Now the drawer pulls blend a little bit more with the overall sunbleached look of this dresser.

This is a bit different from my usual treatment for a French provincial piece (you can see others here, here and here).  What do you think of it?

Is it your cup of tea?  Or should I say Coffey?

This dresser is for sale. If you are local and in need of some Sunbleached Coffey, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.


You might have noticed that I never really quite revealed our entire master bedroom makeover in one complete post.  That’s because I was waiting for one last detail, the light fixture.

I waited, and waited, and waited.

I had ordered it online from Menards because I thought that since I drive right past my local Menards on my way home from work it would be incredibly convenient to just stop and pick it up when it came in.

Ha, famous last words.

It was put on back order, and then it was put on back order again, and then the store lost it and had to re-order it.  But then they found it and said I could pick it up.  Although it probably wasn’t worth the wait, and I could have found a dozen similar light fixtures elsewhere, it’s finally in place and I love it.

You might be remembering that we had a ceiling fan in this spot before, and quite a few of you recommended replacing it with another fan.  We really planned on taking that advice.  For a house without central a/c, ceiling fans are a plus.  We did buy a ceiling fan, but it met with an unfortunate accident.  During installation it fell from a great height, that being the top of the ladder, and was irreparably damaged.

We took that as a sign, and that’s when I ordered the schoolhouse light fixture.

So, after all of that, we now have a light instead of a fan, and I am calling this room done.

One other detail I didn’t really share with you yet is my choice of window treatment, or probably more accurately, lack of a window treatment.

For now I’ve opted to go with privacy film on the lower halves of the windows.  It was perfect for summer, but I’m not yet sure about winter.  It might be nice to have something ‘warmer’ on the windows for winter.

By the way, remember that cool vintage farm photo I picked up while garage saling a few weeks back?  It found a home here in our master bedroom.

It fits in perfectly.

OK, let’s recap the entire project, shall we?

The budget for this room was $1,500 and as is typical, I went way over budget.  I lost track of the spending somewhere around the $2,000 mark.  But considering that in the end we really made over all three of our upstairs rooms, that’s not so bad.  Here’s a reminder of what we accomplished.

The floors were refinished, resulting in a lovely pale natural color and a matte finish.  This was by far the largest expense of the entire project.  I’m including the total cost of all of the floors ($1,000) on our upper level in the final tally although obviously a chunk of that expense was for other rooms.

The walls in all three rooms were painted and we put in a ship lap feature wall.  The paint cost around $70 and the ship lap materials were $55.  I love my ship lap wall and totally recommend adding just one feature wall to add some fixer upper style to one of your rooms.  I have to note that this task was super simple for us because we didn’t have to cut around anything (like electrical outlets, windows or doors).

I added a pair of wall sconce reading lights from World Market at $120 for the pair.

I updated our existing nightstands with a couple of coats of milk paint.

I’m not counting this as a ‘cost’ for the project since I used milk paint that I already had on hand.

We purchased a new bed frame for $40 and an antique full size headboard that I painted black. I purchased the headboard as part of a set.  I sold the other pieces from the set at a profit, thus making the headboard ‘free’ and again I used milk paint that I already had on hand to paint it.  We also purchased new bedding at a cost of $650.  Gasp!  I know.  The second largest item in the budget.  Bedding is just so expensive, but that does include new pillows, a new feather bed, a new down alternative duvet, plus two duvet covers and pillow shams.  I also added a DIY bedskirt made from a drop cloth at a cost of $15.

I added a vintage cane back bench with a European grain sack cushion at the foot of the bed.  I paid $125 for the bench and another $69 for the grain sack.

I painted my existing clothes cupboard, again with milk paint I already had on hand.  I added two Iron Orchid Designs transfers.  These transfers came in a set of 3 for $10.  I purchased two sets so that I had two of the same design, but I still have 4 more left to use on other projects (and you’ll see a couple of them next week). 

 A lot of the miscellaneous decor I used came from other parts of the house, like my faux dress form Lula, so they didn’t add to the cost.

Or they were just things that I already had on hand, like the vintage advertisement hangers.

I debated adding an area rug to the room, but in the end the floors are so pretty that I hate to cover them up.  Also, this room really is rather large and for a rug to not look lost it needs to be a good sized rug.  Since I’d already blown the budget out of the water I decided we could live without a rug for the time being.

As requested, I’ve updated this post to include some ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparisons.







So, it’s official.  Mission Possible was indeed possible after all.  And this time it didn’t take me three years to finish.  It helped a lot that I took an entire week off at the day job to get a lot of things done including the ship lap wall, painting all three rooms, painting all of the bedroom furniture and having the floors done.  Phew!  It was an exhausting week, but in the end it was totally worth it.  Now that we have all of the final details in place, we can kick back and enjoy our new bedroom.