the botanical cupboard.

I’ve been painting furniture for a very long time.  Since the early 90’s in fact, when Rachel Ashwell made painted furniture a hot commodity.  This was way before I knew about things like chalk paint or milk paint.  Back then I painted everything with plain old latex, including my black cupboard which has been used in a couple of different spots in my house, most recently on the front porch.

It made a great display piece for my vintage camera non-collection.

But then last winter I restyled my living room and I moved a bunch of my cameras into the shelves in there which left the black cupboard mostly empty.

That had me feeling all Marie-Kondo-ish.  You know, discard everything that doesn’t spark joy.  And I thought, gosh, maybe I’ll just touch up the paint and sell this cupboard because it no longer brings me joy.

Then Prima Marketing sent me those samples of their new Summer 2019 release transfers including this one called Beautiful Botanist.

Now let me preface this next part by saying I’ve never particularly been a fan of the idea of using a transfer inside a cupboard with glass doors.  I’ve always thought that doing so makes the cupboard less useful.  After all, the purpose of the glass doors is to allow you to display something inside on the shelves.  And putting stuff on the shelves pretty much blocks whatever is behind it, right?

But, as you know, my motto is never say never.  Just when I’m convinced that I’m right about something like this I generally manage to prove myself wrong.

So I decided to try this transfer at the back of the black cupboard to give it a little more personality before selling it.

First things first, I repainted the inside of the cupboard.  The shade of grey that I used the last time I painted it had a bit too much green in it.  I’m afraid I can’t really tell you what the color is that I replaced it with, it’s a custom mix of chalk paint that I had left over from a previous project.  I felt like this color would work well with the transfer.

Applying the transfer was just a bit complicated because the shelves in this cupboard are not removable.  The transfer comes in 3 pieces though, and I used it that way here.  I had to trim just a little bit off the middle piece and several inches off the bottom piece.  But because of those shelves, you really can’t tell that any of the design is missing.

Application was further complicated by the fact that the back of the cupboard is not flat.

I solved that problem by using a razor blade to slice the transfer vertically on either side of each raised section (like I did with the picnic basket I shared a while back).

The application of this transfer would have been a lot easier if I’d had Prima’s new Transfer Tool.

I didn’t get the package with the tool in it until after I’d already finished this cupboard though.  I have used it since I got it though and it’s pretty slick.

Once I had the transfer in place, I was contemplating what to use to stage the photos of the cupboard.  I wanted something that would work with the botanical theme of the transfer, and then I remembered my clay pots.  Perfect!

I also added a few old books, a rusty garden ornament and an old wooden radio.

As I was playing around with stuff, I was loving the way it looked more and more.

In fact, dare I say it?  It was even starting to spark a little joy.

And then I noticed the piece de resistance … did you already notice it?

Yep, there it is.  Our name.  Just like it was meant to be.

So, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m going to keep this cupboard on my front porch after all.

I added a couple of vintage suitcases to the lower shelves, and they fit perfectly.

I ended up having to take the glass out of the doors to get some good photos without glare, and I think I love it even more this way.

As for whether or not it’s worthwhile to put a transfer in the back of a cupboard, I’ll let you judge for yourself.

But personally, I am loving it so much that now I have to keep this one.

Thank you to Prima Marketing for sharing this new transfer with me.  If you’re wondering where to buy this transfer or the transfer tool, check out Prima’s ‘where to buy‘ page.

living room tweaking.

My magic wand decorating project is almost done, I just have to finish up the piano room walls which has turned into a bigger project than originally intended.  So that one might be a while.

But in the meantime, I’m tweaking some details in the living room.  For example, I finally added something to the chalkboard that hangs over the sofa.  Here it is blank …

and if you’re interested, you can find the original post on how I made that chalkboard here.

As much as I love chalkboards, I have to admit that I’m not very good about changing up what’s drawn on them regularly.  I want to be, but somehow I always find myself looking at a chalkboard that still says “Let it Snow” at the end of August and thinking “well, I might as well leave it now, it’s going to be winter again soon.”  Is anyone else like that?

I also don’t have the patience to draw a design on a chalkboard free-hand.  So instead I fake it either by tracing something, or by using stencils to help get the outline and then filling things in by hand.

So I dug through all of my stencils and came upon a combination for this chalkboard that I thought would work.

And on the plus side, it’s not seasonal, so I can leave it this way for a while.

Once I had the stencils laid out, I used sharpened chalk to fill them in.

I use an old lip pencil sharpener to sharpen regular old white chalk.  Keeping a nice sharp point on the chalk allows me to get a good outline using the stencil.

After I pull away the stencil I go back and connect lines, fill things in, or add a few more embellishments.

I added a couple of my favorite old black & white family photos to one of the shelves too.

So now the chalkboard looks a bit more finished.

Another tweak was to add this cute little chair to the corner of the room.

I mainly use this chair as a prop in furniture photos, but I put it in this spot to get it out of my way one day and ended up rather liking it there.

Finally, I did decide that the brass reading lamp I chose didn’t work in the room.

As much as I like the way it looks, it’s really a reading lamp and we need a lamp in this spot that lights up the entire room.

For now I’ve put my old chrome lamp back in that spot, but I swapped out the shade for this fabulous Light Reading shade.  If you’re from around here, and you want your own amazing lamp shade, it looks like Light Reading will be at Junk Bonanza again this spring, so be sure to look for them there.

This lamp shade looks positively amazing with my dark grey walls, but the chrome is out of place.  I plan to try spray painting the chrome gold as soon as it’s warm enough outside to spray paint.

In the meantime, we’ll just use it ‘as is’.

In other news, I found a little time this past weekend to paint a piece of furniture and I’ll be sharing it here on Wednesday so be sure to stay tuned!

ebony and ivory.

I finally got around to painting my baby grand piano this past weekend and all I can say is, ‘what was I so worried about’?

Somehow I had built this up to be a HUGE project in my mind.  Obviously I should have known better.  I mean, come on, I’ve painted a few larger pieces of furniture in my day.  The Welsh cupboard in my dining room for example.

By comparison, the piano was so. easy.

As a reminder, here is how the piano looked originally.

Not super awful, but definitely not great.  And up close the finish on this thing was totally shot …

The arrows are pointing towards areas where the veneer has chipped away.

Before we move on, I have to explain something.  I don’t actually play the piano.  Well, I did take some lessons when I was a kid and I can now play ‘chopsticks’ fairly well.  But many years ago a former co-worker of mine was moving and needed to find a new home for her baby grand piano.  I had the brilliant idea that I would find the time to take lessons one day.  Ha.  Yeah, that never happened.

However, as it turns out, this is one incredibly handy piece of furniture.  It’s got a nice large work surface at exactly the right height for me while standing.  It’s perfect for folding laundry, wrapping presents, scrapbooking, painting small items and it also makes a great buffet/bar during parties.

I honestly can’t think of any other piece of furniture that I could put in this same spot that would be as functional for me while still looking appropriate in the room.  But it was starting to look a bit rough, so as part of my magic wand decorating plan, it was scheduled for a makeover.

I started by sanding it down which took about 10 minutes.  The finish was so dry on this thing that it didn’t take much work to rough it up.  I mostly wanted to make sure to sand down the paint drips that were on it because those can come back to haunt you if you just paint over them.  Next I vacuumed away the dust with my shop vac and then wiped it all down with a damp rag.

Next I pulled out some Dixie Belle paint in Midnight Sky.  You guys know how much I love their other black, Caviar, well this one is just a tad lighter.  That probably sounds odd to call a black color ‘lighter’, but it is just not quite as deep and rich as the Caviar.  It’s also a bit warmer with less of a blue undertone.

I watered down the paint just a tad.  I find that the Dixie Belle paint is pretty thick.  You can use it straight out of the jar if you want a more textured look, but if you want a smoother finish you can water it down which has the added benefit of making it go further.  I only used about 2/3 of the 16 oz jar to paint this piano.  That’s also partially because for the most part I got away with just one coat of paint.  There were only a couple of spots that needed a touch up with a second coat.

A couple of you suggested a strategy for moving forward on this project.  Start with painting the outside of the piano first, then tackle the inside bits at another time.  So I mostly did that, except that I opened the cover that goes over the keys and painted inside there.  I figure that’s the most likely spot to get opened up on occasion.

So I taped off the keys and painted that area.  I also took this opportunity to re-glue some of the ivories that had come unglued.

Just out of curiosity I did some google research on ivory piano keys.  Prior to 1930 almost all pianos had ivory keys, and mine are indeed ivory (check out this article to learn more about that).

Anyway, I used my E6000 glue to re-attach all of the loose ivories.  Then I added a stencil to the top of the piano.

I had so many ideas swirling around in my head about what to do with this piano.  I thought about painting it white and adding a transfer, but then it would compete with the Specimens Cupboard which is in the same room.

I also thought about wrapping some sort of stencil all the way around the sides of the piano.  But stenciling those curves would have been challenging, plus I felt like it wouldn’t be all that noticeable since you really can only see one side of the piano unless you happen to be squishing yourself between the piano and the wall or window.  So not a lot of bang for my buck.

Ultimately I tend to prefer a ‘less is more’ kind of style so I went with this simple ‘European grain sack’ stencil from Maison de Stencils.

Once the stencil paint was dry, I sanded the entire piece lightly with 220 grit paper to smooth out the paint.  I gave the edges a little extra pressure to add a distressed look.

After vacuuming away the dust, I then finished the piano with Fusion’s clear wax.  You might be wondering why I chose to wax such a large piece, and especially one that is probably going to see a lot of abuse.  There are definitely more durable top coats that I could have chosen.  But in my experience wax and/or hemp oil are the easiest finishes to ‘fix’ down the road.  If I get a ring from a sweaty glass, a scratch, or a drip of random paint here and there, all I have to do is sand it down lightly to smooth it out and then add a little wax to just that spot.  So in the long run I think I’ll be better off with wax.

One last thing, I had originally planned on keeping the chair I have ‘as is’.

I don’t want to go all ‘matchy-matchy’ with it and paint it black, but I’m not totally loving it with the piano.  I’ll probably keep an eye out for another option down the road.

By the way, I have to say I found it rather challenging to photograph a black piano in a room flooded with light reflecting off our latest snow fall.

Here’s the view out those windows.

Yep, lots of white to reflect the light.

OK, so if you are keeping track of the magic wand decorating project, here’s where I’m at …

    1.  repaint the insides of the bookshelves in the living room – check!
    2.  repaint the living room walls – check!
    3.  replace the living room furniture – check!
    4.  paint the baby grand piano – check!
    5.  replace the ceiling fan over the piano – check!
    6. repaint the piano room walls

That last item on the list, repaint the piano room walls is the last item on my original to-do list.  But I’m having so much success I’ve decided to go just a bit further with that last item plus add one more.  I’m adding ‘repaint the piano room built shelves beneath the windows’ because they really need it.  As for the walls, I have a plan and I have my handyman Ken’s commitment to help me with it, so you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we do.

In the meantime, if you have been thinking about painting a piano or some other larger piece but haven’t had the nerve to make the leap, I say go for it!  It’s definitely not as hard as it looks.

a winter wonderland.

Good news!  The q is for quandie IT department (ie. Mr. Q) came through with flying colors.  When I got home from the day job on Friday he had a new computer all set up and ready to go for me.

I’m up and running with no need for a stiff drink.  I took a quick hour or two on Saturday morning to give all of my functions a test drive.  Since we basically woke up to a winter wonderland here in the Twin Cities with another 5″ or so of fresh snow, it was a great opportunity to take some photos and then run through my entire blogging process from start to finish (when it doesn’t involve actually painting a piece of furniture) to make sure everything was running smoothly.

As I said to Mr. Q , it was nice that it was only 4 degrees on Saturday morning because that meant the snow was really light and fluffy (which makes it easy to shovel).

And the sun just coming up lent the perfect light for taking a few photos.

Poor Cossetta, she is thigh-deep in snow these days.

I hope her feet aren’t too cold.

Looks like we won’t be grilling steaks any time soon.

I really wish I had a piece of furniture finished because it would be so fun to do an outside photo shoot in these conditions.

Remember this one?

Of course, that was a ‘before’ instead of an ‘after’.

But alas, my furniture painting has been on hold lately while I work on revamping my living room and piano room.  I’m itching to get something painted though, so I may take a break from the revamp and paint a dresser this coming weekend.  I still haven’t worked up the nerve to tackle my piano.

In the meantime, I’m just going to go get a fresh cup of coffee and enjoy this gorgeous snow.

Check back on Wednesday to hear about the final port of call on our Adriatic Cruise, Venice (ie. one of my favorite cities, but then I say that about most of the cities I’ve been to).

a french farmhouse fan.

Are you a fan of the french farmhouse look?  I know I am.  But today I’m talking about an entirely different kind of french farmhouse fan!  It’s a french farmhouse ceiling fan.

I know, I know.  Ceiling fans are no longer ‘in’.

If you are lucky enough to live in a house with central air conditioning, you really don’t have much need for a ceiling fan.  However, we live in a 1904 farmhouse with hot water heat.  In other words, we have radiators and we do not have duct work.  And we have a boiler rather than a furnace.  Putting in central a/c is a bit more complicated if you don’t have existing ducts to deliver the cool air throughout your house.

So, we don’t have central a/c and ceiling fans can make all the difference on hot summer days at our house.  Especially in the room that I call the piano room.  This room is right in the center of our lower level.  It’s also the room where we install a window a/c unit in the summer, so we need to move that cool air around and a ceiling fan is the best way to do it.

Our old ceiling fan still worked quite well, but it was dated.

I can’t really remember how long ago we put this particular one in here, but I suspect it was at least 15 years ago or more.  I thought it was fabulous at the time.  I thought my tomato red walls were pretty amazing too, but they didn’t last nearly as long as the fan.

Anyway, not only was the fan dated looking but those wicker fan blades were difficult to clean.

I began my search for a new fan online and found some gorgeous options that were priced in the $400 and up range, like this one …

But I didn’t want to spend that much.

When my sister and I were out shopping for furniture a couple of weekends ago, we stopped off at our local Menards store on the way home and I found this fan.

It was on sale for $149.99, so I nabbed it.

I liked the fact that the globes sort of look like canning jars giving it a bit of a farmhouse feel.

It wasn’t until we had the fixture installed and I was washing up the globes before putting them on that it occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to add a little more personality to them with some rub on transfers.  Plus, I just happened to have a couple of remnants from my IOD Le Petit Rosier transfer that would perfectly fit the three globes.

This was definitely a bit of an experiment.  I wasn’t sure if the transfers would look good on the glass.  So I started with just one.  I figured if I hated it, it would be easier to scrape a transfer off just one globe rather than three.

But I loved it.  Of course I did.

The transfers added just a little bit of extra personality to an ‘out of the box’ plain ceiling fan.

Now, I have no idea how well the transfers will hold up over time or whether or not the heat given off by the bulb will cause them to deteriorate in some way.  But worst case scenario we have to swap out the globes down the road.  That’s fairly easy and cheap.

I will also admit that this little detail isn’t earth shattering and I suspect a fair number of the people who visit our home won’t even notice it.

But I get a kick out of it every time I walk through the room.

And it was a super simple and inexpensive way to add a little french-ness to this farmhouse fan.

By the way, if you look really closely at that picture above you can see how high the snow bank is on the side of our driveway.  It’s almost all the way to the top of our privacy fence.  Can you see it (look just above the plants on the ledge)?  Ha!  This stuff is going to take forever to melt if it ever does warm up.

Anyway, if you’re keeping track, that’s the 4th item on my magic wand decorating list checked off.  I still have to paint that piano and the walls in this room.

I’m not gonna lie, I really keep procrastinating when it comes to painting the piano.  That’s going to be a big job, and will probably be last on the list.  But like the little engine that could, ‘I think I can, I think I can’.

In other news, eeeeekkkkkk!!  My computer died.  Since techie stuff like replacing a computer drives me to drink, I’m not sure how quickly we’ll get a new one up and running.  I’m sure I will be spending a good chunk of the weekend on that (the computer, not the drinking … well, maybe both).  So don’t panic if I don’t have a post on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or all of next week.  Hopefully I’ll be back up and running soon though.  Wish me luck!

my new exercise room.

Did I mention that Mr. Q and I were adding an exercise room to our house?

Just kidding, because of course we aren’t.  Obviously if I really had that much extra square footage it would be devoted to a furniture painting studio not exercise.  But we had the living room mostly empty in anticipation of our furniture delivery on Saturday, all that remained was the TV.   Seeing so much space in the room, I said to Mr. Q ‘hey, this would make a perfect exercise room now!’  Plenty of room to stretch out while doing my favorite Leslie Sansone Burn to the Beat video.

One of the downsides of an older home, the rooms are all fairly small and there isn’t a lot of space to spread out.

Before we bring in the new sofa, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you what we’re working with.  Our living room is about 11′ x 14′.  Those three windows above face north (and onto the front enclosed porch) and the single window faces east.  The west wall is mostly open to the front hall, and the south wall where I’m standing taking the photo is mostly open to the piano room.  The cable for the TV is in the southwest corner, so the TV is pretty much stuck there.  Not that I can think of a better location for it.

That pretty much leaves me with the space shown above for furniture placement.  During the first decade of living in this house I was determined to re-arrange our furniture on a regular basis (I just love the feeling you get from a freshly arranged room, don’t you?).  There are only two possibilities for a traditional sofa, in front of the radiator or in front of the single window.  As much as I wanted it to work, putting the sofa in front of the radiator just made the room feel long and narrow, like a bowling alley.  That left just the one spot that really worked for the sofa, on that wall to the right.  Adding a chair that faced the sofa meant that the chair had to be rotated for watching the TV.

Factoring all of that in, we decided it was time to consider a sectional.  It seemed like the most functional way to use our limited space and layout.

We can comfortably fit four people on this piece, and now that my sister and niece live in Minnesota we need to have seating for 4 much more often.  And when it’s just the two of us, we can both stretch out comfortably and watch TV.

This sectional came in umpteen bazillion different configurations.  In fact, I think “Popular Configurations:  217” means you can use the available pieces in 217 different ways.

We went with the smallest version, a right angle with a 87″ section on either side of a square corner.  We could have used a ‘wedge’ section to connect them but that added another 13″ in length to each side.  In other words, it would have left only about 2″ to spare on the east wall.  So, while it would have added a spot for a fifth person to sit, I think it would have overwhelmed our space.

For a visual, here is a picture of a configuration using the wedge in the store …

You can really see just how big that wedge is.  I have to admit, it was super comfy and I would have loved it for that reason.  But not only did I think it was too big this way, but I thought that wedge made it look kind of ’90’s sectional’ if you know what I mean.

Here is the store example with the square corner.

It felt a little more tailored looking to me, and it was still plenty roomy for two, and even four people.

We paid an extra $100 to get the white glove delivery service from Macy’s.  But then we got $100 off for opening a new Macy’s charge card (even though we already have one, which seems odd to me but my sister tells me that you can have up to three different Home Depot cards too, so go figure).  Anyway, that made the extra delivery charge a bit of a wash.

The white glove delivery was pretty much amazing.

These guys obviously knew what they were doing and were in and out of my house in less than 30 minutes.  And you should have seen them backing their giant truck down my narrow driveway with 3′ snowbanks on either side.  They took their shoes off, which I totally appreciated.  Then they unwrapped everything, set it all up and took the packaging away with them.  They even offered to wipe up the bit of wet floor by the door, but I sent them on their way.  I could handle that part myself!

For now we are going to try going without a coffee table or ottoman in front of the sectional.  I like how open it makes the room feel.  Plus, although I was joking about the exercise room, I really do exercise in this space so it will be nice to not have to move a piece of furniture every time I want to do that.

One side of the sectional has the entire shelf above the radiator behind it, and I stacked some vintage suitcases on the other end so we have somewhere to set drinks.

I also replaced two of the matching throw pillows that were included with my favorite Restoration Hardware pillows.

The sectional itself is very neutral and has very traditional lines.  I’m adding my own personality to the room with things like throw pillows, the items on the shelves and the stack of suitcases.  This way when I get tired of my Black Locust walls and want to lighten up or just completely change colors I can do that without having to change out the largest and most expensive item in the room.

 I also added a couple of new lamps from Target to the room.  We mounted this one to the bookcase and it will allow me to read while sitting in the corner of the sectional.

I’m a little on the fence about the other lamp.  It looks good, but it’s another lamp that just works for task lighting.  It doesn’t light up the room.  I’m probably going to swap it out for something else.

As a reminder, here was my ‘magic wand decorating‘ plan.

  1.  repaint the insides of the bookshelves in the living room
  2.  repaint the living room walls
  3.  replace the living room furniture
  4.  paint the baby grand piano
  5.  replace the ceiling fan over the piano
  6.  repaint the piano room walls

I’m officially halfway through!

I still have a little tweaking to do in this room.  I need to find something for the wall behind the TV, I will probably switch out that lamp, and I need to draw something on the chalkboard hanging over the sofa.  But for now we’re going to sit back on our new sectional, binge watch season 3 of The Tunnel, and enjoy the feeling of making progress on the list.



embracing the dark side.

Step 2 of my magic wand decorating scheme was to paint my living room.  The biggest challenge was picking a color.  I don’t know about you, but I’m very seasonally motivated when it comes to color choices.  If it’s summer, I want to go all light and airy.

But in the winter I want warm, dark and cozy.  Especially when our temps are hitting ridiculous lows like the -27 F we had last week, or today’s ‘practically balmy by comparison’ -7.

Dark walls have really been on my radar lately.  First I saw Danielle’s home office makeover for her husband …

Gorgeous, right?  You can read all about that makeover on her blog Finding Silver Pennies.

Then my friend Meggan, a.k.a. the thrift doctor, emailed me to say that she painted her sun room walls black!

As a reminder, I shared a full tour of Meggan’s home back in 2015.  At that time her sun room had pale green walls.  But now they look like this …

The dark walls are perfect for showcasing her milk glass collection.

And as a sidebar, isn’t that cupboard fab?  It was free!  As Meggan says, nearly everything in her house was either free or is from the thrift store.  She painted the inside of the cupboard in a minty green and switched out the hardware, but otherwise left it ‘as is’.

I think Meggan’s dark walls are perfect for emphasizing the amazing view out her bay window too.

Isn’t that gorgeous?

So after seeing all of this fabulous inspiration, I decided to embrace the dark side in my living room.  I went to Home Depot thinking that I could easily pick out a deep, rich dark charcoal grey for my walls.  I started pulling out the little paint chips and every time I grabbed a different one, it totally changed the look of the last one.  I don’t know about you, but I find that even when I have a specific image in my head of the color I want, I have a lot of trouble finding it in the store.  The terrible lighting in most of the big box DIY stores doesn’t help either.

Over the years I have found that it’s wise to bring home some samples and test them on my own walls and at various times of day to make sure I get the color I really want.

The Home Depot paint guy recommended I try these Sure Swatch thingies for that.

Instead of painting your test swatches right on the wall, you paint this 9″ x 12″ film and the temporary adhesive back allows you to move it around to different locations on your wall to see how it looks.  For example, you can see how it looks next to the window trim, and then how it looks on the wall that gets the most sun, or maybe the wall that is next to the bookcase.  You get the idea.  They were quite convenient, except I moved them around so much that the sticky back lost most of its stick-ability.

After studying them in various lighting conditions, I was surprised to find that I liked the color called Black Locust (Behr) best.  I thought for sure I was going to go with Grey Tabby (PPG) while I was in the store.  But I really loved the depth of the Black Locust.

Next came the easy part, first I coerced Mr. Q into sanding the edges of the existing horizontal stripes on the walls.

Today’s q-tip:  If you have taped off stripes on your walls, there will be ridges in the paint wherever it met the tape.  You absolutely must sand those down smooth before repainting your walls or you will see those lines.

Then I coerced my bff, Vonda, to come over and help me paint!

Jobs like this always go so much faster when you have some company.

We were done in no time!  The paint covered really beautifully.  We did only one coat of cutting in and two coats of rolling.

You guys, I absolutely LOVE this color!  And it works beautifully with my existing pale blue ceiling and front hallway color.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the farmer’s market sign from my dining room would look amazing hanging above that archway instead.  I made that using a cast off side rail from a bed.

My newly styled bookshelves really become a focal point in the room with the dark walls, although it was a little difficult to get a good picture of them on a gloomy day.

So, the last remaining item to take care of in this room is buying new furniture.  My old stuff is in terrible condition and has needed to be replaced for years now.  I have an idea of what I want but need to find the time to get out there and see if I can find it.  Then I suspect I’ll have to order it and wait 2 years for it to arrive!  So you’ll have to be patient and wait for the final reveal of this room.

In the meantime, I’m going to move on to the next room and see if I can get some of that tackled.

But first, tell me, have you embraced the dark side at your house?