it’s all in the details.

 A while back my friend Jodie gave me this wooden spool.


She thought it might be something I could use in photo shoots.

But after seeing this page in A Touch of Farmhouse Charm, a new book by Liz Fourez …


I decided to doctor it up a bit and add a few fun details.  Liz made spools from dowel rods and wood discs and used a rubber stamp to dress them up.  I borrowed her ideas but gave them my own spin.

First I wound some blue and white twine around my spool.


And then I added a few Tim Holtz rub-on’s to the top.



And I think Jodie was right, this will be fun to use as a prop in future photos.


There were quite a few projects in Liz’s book that I want to try, it really is jam packed with great ideas.

By the way, that is the stack of books that I got for both my birthday and Christmas.  Lots of great eye candy.  I’m still working my way through the pile, but maybe I share some book reviews down the road, what do you think?  Do you see any books you’d like to know more about?

the possibilities of paint.

First things first, the four lucky winners of my wax giveaway have all been contacted and have gotten back to me.  Ruth, Julie, Katie & Cynthia, your waxes will be on their way soon (I have multiple readers with those names, so if you didn’t get an email I’m so sorry but you are not one who won).

Now for a quick garage sale find makeover!


I don’t know what these oval lidded tins were originally intended for, I just know that I like them.  I like that they have handles, and usually I like their original vintage finish. However, when I came across this one at a garage sale I almost passed it by because I really didn’t like the needlepoint look, or the colors.


But then I thought, hey, I can fix that with some paint.  So I brought it home.

I pulled it out the other day when I wasn’t feeling so well because it seemed like a simple project I could whip up even though I didn’t have any energy.  I washed it up and gave it two quick coats of Fusion paint in Little Piggy.

I feel a little bit like I am rationing the remains of my Little Piggy paint.  When Fusion came out with their Tones for Tots line of colors, they sent me a jar of Little Piggy.  Looking at it in the jar, I was not impressed.  My immediate thought was ‘flesh tone, hmmmm’.  Then I saw a dresser that Mary from Orphans with Makeup painted and I realized I had sold it short.  It was gorgeous.  Since then I’ve used it on a dresser, a vanity, and a small chair.  The one jar covered all of those pieces plus there is just a small amount left.  I had plenty for this project, and maybe, just maybe, I can eek out one more small project down the road.

Once the paint was dry I used Fusion’s transfer gel to transfer a French graphic to the edge of the top and around the side.  (If you would like detailed instructions on how to use transfer gel you can download my hatbox instructions here:  making a faux hatbox with transfer gel.)


Once that was done, I sanded the edges a little to give it a more distressed look.

Now it fits right in with the other two handled tins that I own.



And they are all right at home in my pantry.


So the next time you are at the thrift store or a garage sale and you see an item that has good bones, but isn’t quite the right color, don’t forget about the possibilities of paint.

Sharing at Silver Pennies Sundays.

the reluctant seller.

I am just starting to recover from the head cold from hell.  Yep, it was so bad it made me swear.  It also made me miss 3 days from the day job, and quite honestly I shouldn’t have even gone back in on day 4, but it was Friday and I had some things I really needed to take care of before the weekend.  I warned all of my co-workers to keep their distance and wash their hands frequently.  I hope they listened because I wouldn’t wish this particular virus on anyone.

Fortunately, I had this next dresser already finished before illness struck.  I just hadn’t been able to get any photos of it yet.  I finally felt well enough yesterday to pull together a photo session, and the weather cooperated by providing some sunshine.  Bonus!


But let’s go back and start at the beginning.  I found this dresser on Craigslist a while ago.  Before I continue on with the rest of this post, I have to share a little story with you.  I have a friend who tried online dating after her divorce (this was quite a few years ago).  She had an interesting strategy.  She decided that taking several weeks or more to get to know someone via email was a waste of time, why not just meet them right away because you’ll know instantly whether or not they are worth spending more time on.  And let me tell you, she ended up with some very entertaining stories about the men she met and instantly knew were very wrong for her.  I kept telling her that she should write a book, it would have been hysterical.  And by the way, her strategy worked.  She is now engaged to a very nice man and living happily ever after.

Well, the tables have turned and now she keeps telling me that I should write a book about Craigslist transactions.  I definitely meet some characters.  The seller of this dresser falls into the category that I like to call the ‘reluctant seller’.  There are two kinds of reluctant sellers.  First there are the people who are selling a ‘family heirloom.’  They don’t want to keep it themselves, but they want to sell it to someone who will cherish it properly.  You can usually spot them right away because they say something like “this belonged to my great grandmother Ruth, it has been in our family for three generations, but I just don’t have room for it …”  They definitely do not want to hear that you are going to paint it, or really alter it in any way whatsoever.  When dealing with those sellers I usually just play along.  What they don’t know won’t hurt them.  They can rest easy in the knowledge that their family heirloom has gone to a good home.

But there is a second type of reluctant seller that is sometimes even trickier to deal with.  This is the seller who can’t be bothered with the actual transaction.  They post their item on Craigslist, but then when it comes to setting up a time to meet with you and exchange the goods for the cash, they can’t be pinned down to a date and time.  You contact them and they say “I’m going to be out of town for the next week, I’ll get back to you.”  Then you finally hear back and set up a time, say Sunday at 3 pm, and they agree but they don’t actually give you their address.  Then you don’t hear from them again until Sunday at 7 pm when they text and say “sorry, I got tied up.”  And then that happens again the next time too.  I can be a little more flexible than most buyers since I don’t need something ‘right away’, but it’s still frustrating.  However, after about 3 weeks of this, I did finally pin this seller down and Mr. Q and I went and picked up this dresser.


It probably didn’t take you long to see why I wanted this one.  Yep, the mirror frame.  I’m going to make another chalkboard shelf out of it.

But in the meantime while that project was over at Ken’s workshop, I decided to do a quick Fusion paint job on the dresser.  The dresser without its mirror was pretty much a ‘plain Jane’ except for the vintage drawer pulls and key hole escutcheons, which are gorgeous, so I decided to add some interest with a two-toned paint job in neutral colors.  I pulled out my Fusion paints in Algonquin, Putty, Limestone and Casement.  I felt like the Algonquin was just a bit darker than I wanted and the Putty was a bit lighter, so I started mixing.  When mixing colors I’ll often paint them on a craft stick (a larger version of a popsicle stick) to see how they look when they dry.  I picked up a package of 100 of these sticks at Hobby Lobby and they really come in handy for this.


I write the color mix on each stick.  You can see the Algonquin at the bottom is fairly dark while the Putty at the top is quite light.  Even the Algonquin mixed with the Putty was darker than I wanted.  But the Algonquin mixed with Casement was just right.  Likewise, the Casement itself was too bright of a white on its own, so I ended up going with a combo of Limestone and Casement for the white (that’s the stick that is under the Casement stick).

And ta da, here is the finished dresser.


Adding the wide stripe down the middle helps draw more focus to the hardware, don’t you agree?  For reference, scroll back up to the ‘before’ photo, you barely even notice the hardware right?

Now it steals the show.


I would have loved to strip the top of the dresser and go with a waxed wood top, but there was some unattractive damage that would have been hard to camouflage.  It looks as though someone set a container of some sort of bad chemical down on the dresser in a couple of spots.

Whatever it was ate right through the finish and even into the wood a bit.  So I felt like paint would be the best choice for me here.  I could also have gotten out a heavy duty belt sander and taken the wood down until the marks were gone, but that’s just not my style.  The truth is, I’m afraid of belt sanders.  Before painting though, I sanded the spots down by hand and covered them with a couple of coats of Tough Coat Sealer just in case something might want to try and bleed through my paint.

This next photo is a bit misleading as it seems like you can’t see this damage any more at all, but in reality if you catch the light just right you can still see the indentations in the wood.  It is fairly well disguised though.


I’m always drawn to the sides of dresser when they are paneled in some fashion (rather than just being a solid flat piece).


I struggled with finding a spot for this photo shoot.  I knew the horizontal stripes on my walls would compete with the vertical stripe on the dresser.  Unfortunately, I have very few options for winter photos.  The photo cottage is snowed in.  So I tried to distract the eye with lots of layers.


Player piano music, an old cupboard door, a gold frame, my grandpa’s water color, a lamp and a stack of books are all lending more vertical and horizontal lines.

Did they do the trick?


One last thing, you may be wondering if I’ve picked some winners for my wax giveaway, but I haven’t yet.  I’ll be working on that this evening and will try to notify the winners within a day or two.  Did you notice that I didn’t limit the winners to being in the US or Canada?  I just hate doing that because I want everyone to feel welcome and included on my blog.  So far I haven’t ever actually picked a winner who lived outside the United States.  In fact, the winner of my last giveaway lived less than five miles away!  And I swear to you it was totally random.  I had no idea where she lived until after I contacted her.  I’ve done a little research into international shipping costs, and yes, they are kinda high.  A bit higher than the costs quoted on my vintage postal scale …


But the shipping costs I pay to send out giveaway prizes are one small way that I can ‘pay it forward’ and say thank you for following along on my blog.  So I’m putting in every person who took the time to leave a comment (except Mr. Q because he doesn’t need any wax!) and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.

Furniture is another matter.  I only sell furniture to local buyers who can pick it up.  If you are interested in the dresser from the reluctant seller, check out my ‘available for local sale’ tab for more details.

all furniture wax is not created equal (and a giveaway!).


Back in the day when I first began painting furniture I was totally uneducated about the products I was using.  I started with latex paint, and then upped my game and began using milk paint and homemade chalk paint, both of which needed a topcoat of wax (or something).  At the time, I assumed all furniture wax was created equal.  I purchased some SC Johnson paste wax at my local hardware store and figured I was good to go.  And I spent a summer using that wax out in my carriage house workshop.  The wax had a nasty chemical smell sort of like paint thinner, but I figured all waxes had that smell.  When I wanted to experiment with an ‘antiquing wax’ I ordered some dark walnut Briwax online and mixed that with my SC Johnson wax.  It definitely did the trick and created the look I wanted, but if anything the Briwax was even stinkier than the SC Johnson.  That only confirmed my misguided notion that all waxes smelled bad.

Fast forward to winter.  Back then I usually took a break from painting furniture in the winter.  But I had an adorable little wash stand that I really wanted to paint.  I figured I could paint it indoors and then wax it on my enclosed front porch.  It was warm enough out there, but even with the door shut between the house and the porch, that stink made its way inside the house and it wasn’t pleasant.

So much for winter painting!

But then I discovered Miss Mustard Seed wax.  Eureka!  It has a scent to it, but it’s very mild, not a harsh chemical smell.  I could wax inside the house all day long and not feel like my house smelled like a workshop.


However, it definitely costs more than the cheapy stuff.

Since I’m a cheapskate, I was determined to find a cheaper choice.  As a result, I’ve tried many different brands of wax and guess what?  They didn’t really save me any money at all because I’d open up the can and realize I was back at stinky wax.  As it turns out, you get what you pay for.  Sometimes.  But other times even the more expensive ‘name brand’ waxes are just as stinky.

Initially my decision to ‘splurge’ on the Miss Mustard Seed wax was really just based on the lack of smell.  But recently it occurred to me that I do A LOT of painting.  I should really be thinking about what kinds of chemicals I am subjecting myself (not to mention the environment) to on such a frequent basis.  This really is about more than just dealing with an unpleasant odor, what about repeated exposure to unknown chemicals?  Just what exactly is causing that stink?

I tried to do some online research into the ingredients in various brands of wax, and guess what?  For a lot of the brands it’s really hard to find that info.  Apparently back in 2009 Senator Al Franken helped introduce a bill called the 2009 Household Product Labeling Act which would have required paint manufacturers to list all ingredients on their packaging, but it did not pass.  But honestly, even if the ingredients themselves were listed, would you know what they are?  I know I wouldn’t.

So I went straight to my source, Homestead House Paint Co, and asked the simple question “hey, how come your wax doesn’t stink?” and I got a nice email back from Loree Pringle with lots of info about beeswax and carnauba wax, and about how they need a solvent to allow them to be spread into a thin layer.  Then she put me in touch with Roger Clapham, the co-president of the company that manufactures their waxes.  He gave me a bunch of really science-y info about atoms in a chain and whether or not they hold hands (or something like that) that was way over my head.   But basically he explained that there are two kinds of solvents that can be used for this purpose, aromatic hydrocarbons and aliphatic hydrocarbons.  The aromatic hydrocarbons have that chemical smell like paint thinner, and include Toluene or Benzene.  And guess what?  Aromatic hydrocarbons are considered carcinogens.  Yeah, that means they have been shown to cause cancer.  Both the Miss Mustard Seed waxes and the Homestead House waxes contain no aromatic hydrocarbons.  Instead they use aliphatic hydrocarbons.


So I followed up with the next obvious question, why would any wax still contain aromatic hydrocarbons if they are so bad?  According to Roger, the aliphatic hydrocarbons are weaker solvents than aromatic hydrocarbons.  Products made with aromatic hydrocarbons require less of them to do the job and those products can be more durable and provide more shine.  For example, he does not believe the Homestead House wax is durable enough to hold up to foot traffic on my stairs (although I’m going to try it anyway one of these days).

As Roger says himself, he has a healthy respect for aromatic hydrocarbons and their usefulness as long as people understand what they are working with and take precautions.  If you still want to use one of those products, Roger gave me some safety tips:  Buy a mask specifically designed to protect against aromatic solvents (OSHA certified) and wear it while working with them (changing the filters as directed). Toxins can be absorbed through the skin, so wear rubber gloves.  Pay attention to air circulation, apply the finish outdoors or use a fan and open the window.  On the plus side, the danger is gone once the solvent has evaporated.  So a piece of furniture that has this type of wax on it is no longer hazardous at that point, once the smell is gone so is the hazard.

Since we can’t rely on a label to tell us what kind of solvent a wax product uses, I say rely on your nose.  Give your wax the old sniff test.  Does it smell like paint thinner?

If so, ask yourself if this is really something you want to be working with on a regular basis?  And are you using the proper precautions?

As for me, I’m not a fan of gloves and gas masks.  Working outdoors is only an option about six months out of the year here in Minnesota.  So I finally tossed all of those stinky waxes and am going to stick with the non-smelly stuff!

Now for the fun part!  Here is your chance to give the non-smelly stuff a try yourself.  When I told the people at Homestead House that I wanted to post about this subject, they graciously provided me with a truckload of free samples to giveaway.


I have 8 small jars of wax and I thought I’d give them away in pairs, so 4 lucky winners will each get 2 jars of wax.  I have a variety of different waxes including Miss Mustard Seed White Wax, Antiquing Wax and Furniture Wax, Homestead House Furniture Wax in clear, Espresso and Black, and a couple jars of Salad Bowl Finish.  I will draw 4 names at random from the comments left on this blog post by Sunday, January 29 at midnight (central time), so all you need to do is leave a comment to get your name in the running to win.  Best of luck to you!

Note:  the Safety Data Sheet for SC Johnson paste wax lists Ethylbenzene and Naphthalene as ingredients (both aromatic hydrocarbons).  Briwax contains Toluene, however they do offer a Toluene free version of their product, but I was not using that version.

Also please note that I have not been paid by Homestead House for this post but they have provided me with free samples of their waxes and other products including Fusion paint, Homestead House milk paint and Miss Mustard Seed products.  In addition they provided me with the waxes that I am giving away with this post.

signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.

I’ve got a thing for signs.  I have to work hard to keep it in check.  How many signs are too many?

I’m not sure about a general rule of thumb, but I’m trying to limit myself to no more than two signs per room.  That seems reasonable, right?

And what exactly counts as a sign?

Anything with words on it?  Do I have to count chalkboard signs too then?

These sorts of rules are fairly fluid in my house, and I figure I can always find a spot for just one more sign.

So a while back I purchased this Merry and Bright sign at the Goodwill.  The yellow door behind it in the photo was a garage sale find.  I’m still working on the door, but today we’re talking about the sign.


The sign wasn’t bad ‘as is’, my sister thought I would just keep it and put it up for the holidays.  But I wanted to turn it into something else.

I started by painting the entire thing in Fusion’s Coal Black.  I chose Fusion paint for this step because I wanted a paint that would adhere well, you’ll understand why in a minute.

I let the Fusion paint cure for about a week just to make sure it was a little bit cured.

Next I used my Cricut machine to cut the wording for my sign out of white vinyl.  I placed the letters on my sign using a chalk line to keep them straight.

Next I painted over the whole shebang with Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in French Enamel.

Interesting to note that the milk paint did not adhere to the vinyl at all.  It did adhere to the Fusion paint though.  This blue is my undercoat of color, so I vacuumed off the chipping paint and then added a little wax all around the outer frame of the sign.  I then added three coats of Homestead House milk paint in Limestone (vacuuming off the paint that chipped off the vinyl between every coat).

Once dry, I peeled off my vinyl letters revealing the black Fusion paint underneath.  Then I sanded the entire sign to distress it up.

I got some nice chipping (thanks to the wax) that revealed the base layer of blue paint.


For now I’ve hung the sign over my Belgian bench.


I don’t plan for this to be its permanent home, but I’ll leave it there and enjoy it for bit.

the buttermilk cream dresser.

I was checking out one of my favorite blogs the other day, Ranger 911.  Vickie from Ranger 911 is a fellow Minnesotan although she is way up north.  I’ve always considered the Twin Cities to be in a ‘warmer’ climate than the truly hardy souls who live anywhere north of Duluth.  As I write this post it is currently 36 degrees in St. Paul, but only 32 degrees in Hibbing, MN.  See?  Way warmer!

But anyway, not only do Vickie and I live in the same state but we have another, more important thing in common.  Here’s a clue …


Here’s another clue …


Yep, we both love tiny dressers!  Be sure to visit her blog and look around because she has more!

But today’s post isn’t about tiny dressers.  It’s about gorgeous, vintage, pale yellow dressers.  Vickie recently posted about a makeover in her ‘bedroom no. 3’ and it included this gorgeous pale yellow dresser.


I love that subtle pop of pale yellow in her mostly white room.  And that shade of yellow is perfectly vintage isn’t it?  And check out that authentic chipping!  Vickie tells me that she purchased this dresser ‘as is’ at an estate sale and she thinks this finish is authentically vintage.

As I was drooling over it I remembered that Homestead House sent me some of their milk paint in Buttermilk Cream.  I knew it would be very nearly that same shade of yellow.  And although there is just something about an original old painted finish, you can get pretty close to that look with chippy milk paint.


And now that I am armed with my foolproof method for creating the perfect chippy finish, well, I knew this was going to be a slam dunk.

I happened to have a lovely vintage dresser on hand too.


And sure enough, it was just that easy.  I followed the foolproof method and 3 coats of Buttermilk Cream later, voila!


I used the Salad Bowl Finish around the edges of everything, but didn’t use it on the big flat expanses (the drawer fronts and the top) which gave me chipping just where I wanted it.

My original ‘vision’ for this dresser involved replacing the hardware with glass knobs, but the original hardware is so gorgeous and it was all there.  I had to keep it.


It seemed apropos to stage my Buttermilk Cream dresser with a tiny dresser.

Thanks again for the inspiration Vickie!


If anyone local is interested in purchasing this perfectly adorable vintage dresser, please check my ‘available for local sale’ tab to see if it is still available and other details.

what am I going to do with that?

You just never know what you might find at a garage sale.  I try to keep an open mind when I’m out hitting the sales.  If something has a vintage appeal (i.e. it looks good and old) I often buy it even if I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  There is nothing more annoying that seeing a really cool project somewhere and then realizing I passed up the exact item needed at a garage sale two weeks ago.

Today’s project is definitely falls into the category of ‘what am I going to do with that?’, but I bought it anyway.

It’s an old newel post.

I paid $15 for it, which is a little high in garage sale money (which has way more value than typical money).  I felt a little sad when I saw it there because I knew that the sellers had callously ripped it out of their older home and probably replaced it with something new and with far less character.

I knew it deserved better.

I brought it home and put it in my carriage house where it got buried behind 50 other potential projects.  It sat and gathered dust for a couple of years.  Ha!  Maybe not really better treatment after all.

Then a few weeks ago I was surfing the blog world and I ended up on the Liz Marie Blog looking at her Cozy Farmhouse Winter Entryway (click that link to visit) and I spied a fabulous chippy black newel post.  And she just had it leaning up against the wall.  Duh!  So easy, and so fab!  And I knew just where I could find a newel post … sort of … somewhere out in the carriage house.

So I headed out there in sub-zero weather and started digging around.  I unearthed it from a pile of cast off remnants and hauled it in the house.

I started by cleaning it up, then sanding it, then cleaning it again, then adding a layer of Homestead House’s Salad Bowl Finish because I wanted some more of that perfect chipping.  This time I used a little more wax than I did on my original ‘perfect chipping experiment’ with the Buttermilk Cream mirror frame.  I wanted a really beat up chippy look similar to the inspiration photo.

Here’s how it looked after the wax.

Then I painted it with just one quick coat of Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Typewriter.  Once dry, I sanded to distress and found that I got plenty of chipping.  I vacuumed up the dust and chips and then added a layer of Homestead House Black Wax.


And then in answer to the question ‘what am I going to do with that?’, I just leaned it in the corner of the piano room next to my Paris subway sign.


Easy peasy.


Chippy architectural salvage for $15, not bad right?