Before and After: the Living and Dining Room

Slowly I have been painting and making changes to our new house, and I’ve talked about it without sharing as many photos as I’d like.  Not many rooms are finished yet, in fact at least some details remain to be done in every one, but the living/dining areas are complete enough to show off the general transformation of drastically different paint colours and such.  Here are a few After shots:

living room after toward lounging area and desk living room after after dining area

And Before:

living room before 1 living room before 3 living dining room before living room before 2

dining area before fireplace beforecolumn in living dining before living room corner before

Before painting the walls I spent a lot of time on fixing small details that end up having a big impact.  Unfortunately I did not remember to document it very well.  First thing, I took down the “column” dividing the dining area from the living room.  Swapping out the almond coloured plastic switch and outlet covers is something quick and easy, but I also have begun to change the switches to Decora style in white/black too.  (Annoyingly I haven’t finished doing this, because it is a pain to run up and down the stairs testing which circuit things are on or I don’t want to accidentally turn off my computer, the washing machine or some other appliance at that time.)  For now I simply rolled paint over the outlets (without the cover) to make them look a bit better until I get around to replacing them.

Instead of plastic we like these brushed nickel cover-plates.  Home Depot used to have nice ones but no longer have the finish I want.  Luckily Amazon has them, and I can get every configuration I could possibly need.  They even have dimmer knobs!  Another really cool thing that I found browsing in the electrical aisle were things to make in-wall coaxial cable connectors and phone jacks work with Decora style cover-plates.  I used to prefer the old style of outlets, but I am beginning to see the ease of having Decora throughout a house so that any single gang cover-plate works on any outlet, switch, or more.  That said, I would love the really old fashioned push button switches if I could have them.  In fact, I just found this cover-plate that could be used by our entry door!  This may just have to be added to my long term to-do/to-buy list!  The door handle and lock are the same kind of dark bronze, so it would look nice.

I also switched out the wall sconce in favour of a less traditional style in brushed nickel and frosted glass.  It was actually one of the cheapest options, but I liked the shape better than any of the others I saw anyway.  Win, win!  It reminds me of a candle holder from some long past time although it is technically a fairly modern style fixture.

A more important detail to take care of before painting was to caulk and patch every last crack, hole, and crevasse.  Doing this is key to improving the look of a room, but admittedly I didn’t know about caulking until pretty recently.  The difference made by filling in all the gaps along the crown moulding is really impressive.  I should have taken some photos focusing on this before starting, but I totally forgot.  It is not very easy to spot in the Before shots, but you can find some examples, and I hope that the After photos show a more solid and finished looking home.

Some in progress shots:

painting living room entry area painting dining area (and OMG mess)

I am sooooooooooo glad that the moving mess is mostly over.  Just looking at that second photo makes me anxious!

The previous owners painted the fireplace brick wall white and told me it had been a multicolour sort of brick.  To freshen it up, and for continuity, I repainted using the same mushroom-y, warm, off-white, “coconut ice” colour which will be carried throughout on most of the trim in the house.  Between the brick and drywall there were gaps ranging from barely there to well over a centimetre, I caulked it all, and it looks much better now.  I also took down the mahogany mantle.  I felt badly about it, because the previous owner had a nice story about her father bringing it from the airport and installing it, but it was such a traditional style that didn’t seem right to me, added a wood finish that was hard to decorate around, closed in the room somehow, and was a “stuff” magnet to my husband (what a great place to set down all of my things!)  😉  It is being stored though; just in case.

fireplace after fireplace after removing mantle, changing light, and painting

I am not quite finished painting in here.  The built-in shelving area must be touched-up before I can install the last bit of hardware, and the shelves should probably be painted.  I suppose I’ll go with “coconut ice,” but I haven’t decided if that will stick out terribly.  I’m still pondering the options.  Meanwhile all of the windows have only been primed and await their coat of “coconut ice.”

In the dining area, living room, and the hallway I didn’t want to call attention to the baseboard trim or have pale doors to the coat closet and cellar.  Thus I chose a grey even darker than the walls for them.  At first I intended to use a glossy formula in the same colour as the walls, and I probably should have stuck to that, but at the last minute I chose the only shade offered that was darker.  I did that in the store without even knowing for sure how well it would work, and although it looks as intended it probably would have been a bit nicer with just the glossy version of the walls.  I do like how the baseboard heaters no longer pop out, but one day I may re-coat all of it.

Endless priming, wall patching, and bathroom updates: switching to brushed nickel

Today I am in a poor mood, because after doing some major cleaning all morning I made a new mess in the afternoon with patching walls and priming.  An ice dam caused water damage in two areas of the kitchen, but I hadn’t painted yet thankfully.  (Now I climb out the window and shovel the roof after heavy snows.  Fun.  I’m also brainstorming some more permanent solutions for next winter.)  The priming is for the crown moulding and bead-board.  I have done some priming over two days now, and it all just feels like a waste of time, like I am just causing ugly, because it turns formerly crisp looking paint into something out of a toddler’s colouring book.  See?

messy priming patched wall

Ugh.  You don’t not want to see the “before” of the ripped apart wall.  I cannot wait to finally finish the priming and painting!  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a completed project for a nice sense of accomplishment to keep me going, and it has been too long since I have felt that motivation.

Yesterday I made some changes in the main floor bath.  The previous owners had done a little renovation, which was beautiful and preserved a lot of the original 1960 charm, but I saw a few details left to upgrade.  They had installed very nice brushed nickel fixtures, but the tub drain was left in the original chrome.  It also didn’t work.  The toilet handle was chrome too, and it is an easy thing to switch (same with the doorknob that I already changed.)  I can’t find the handle on Amazon, but it is by Moen and cost around 15$ at Home Depot.  Look near the faucets and towel bars rather than getting stuck with the selection available in the toilet repair section.  😉  The instructions are clear, so I’ll just show you before and after.  The only thing that did trip me up was that I had forgotten that the nut holding the handle on is the reverse of normal.  I was so frustrated trying to unscrew the darned thing, haha.

chrome handle new handle

handle switch done

On to the tub…

switching drain

The kit to replace the drain is from Amazon.  It looked nicer than those I saw at the store and had good reviews.  The old drain was a little tough to unscrew but not terrible.  I used pliers to get leverage, like this:


I had an awful time getting the linkage out.  It was stuck which probably explains why it wasn’t working.  Advice online said to spray WD40 and let it soak, but my WD40 was missing since the move so I tried orange oil (since it dissolves grime well when I use it to clean up antique/vintage sewing machines.)  It worked and pretty fast too.  Meanwhile I had been taking the drain apart and found a huge clog of hair.  Ugh.  I have a photo all ready, but I suppose I better spare you.  😀  It was as large as my fist!  Here is the linkage after it finally came out:


I attached the new piece to the linkage with the old cotter pin, adjusted the height, then tried to stick it back in place.  That was another hard part, but finally it was in place and seemed to function.  I’d added a new gasket between the plate and the tub although the old style one was behind the tub, because I’d noticed that it was leaking into the basement when my husband filled the tub.  It all appears to work properly now.

new gasket all done

Lastly, I hung up a small wall cabinet to store things.  Aside from a shelf tower in the bath there was no storage at all, and although I am undemanding for bathroom cabinetry compared to most people there is a certain amount required so that the basics aren’t sitting on the toilet tank.  😉


I found it at Homegoods on Wednesday and hadn’t even been thinking to get one, but it seemed like such a wise idea that I reluctantly parted with some cash.  The glass is nice, I think, and I really like the way the white of it melds into the wall.  The plan has been to paint a greyish purple above the bead-board, but now I am strongly considering painting the lower portion and trim instead of the upper walls.  Decisions, decisions!

What to do with an ugly sofa: Part II -planning

Hi!  So in part I of the sofa series I talked about supplies and promised photos.  Today I am including some and will talk about the first steps of tackling the project.  Let me start with the photos.

Remember when I said that the sofa was covered in some rather hideous baby blue brocade when I bought it?  Here is that fabric:

original sofa fabric

I still have to try and dig up photos from back then, but they are all saved on a hard drive somewhere and…  I’m just glad I had saved a cushion cover.  Imagine eight feet of this fabric!  Not for me!  😀

At the time the sofa had two seat cushions, and I have changed it to a single one.  I think it will look better.  Let me continue to describe the original design before showing the current “before” look.  It had two seat sections and four matching back pillows.  They were all box construction with cording at the seams.  The arms also had a corded seam and were a two-piece design.  It was all very tailored and formal.  When I began ripping everything apart I found that the thing had been reupholstered at least twice before.  I know I took photos of this evidence, and I really will have to find them to share.  😉

As for now?  Well, I’ve mentioned the temporary solution of wrapping a blanket around the cushion, but I made some other changes to it when upholstering it last time.  I kept the corded seam on the arms, but I didn’t want to do corded box cushions for the back pillows.  Instead I simply used two pieces front and back for each but dressed up with pleated corners.  That also made them boxier which seemed better for their use than plain corners which would have been weird.  Oh, and I didn’t get around to using the matching velvet for those and chose dark blue silk dupioni instead (to tie in with the other blanket I was using for the seat cushion.)

Here is the result and current look with the temporary blanket cushion cover in all its glory:


The new plan is to eliminate the corded seams on the arms.  (I’ll need to prep the padding better than I did before too.  You may see the ripples?)  This time I want a less tailored look, and changing to a less fussy construction also hides a few amateur mistakes better too, I think.  😉  I am considering adding a final layer of padding using memory foam, but I have to make sure that isn’t unwise first.  The back pillows covers will be made just like the silk but cut a little larger since I think they ended up undersized.  I’m also making four matching throw pillow covers to replace the ratty old ones.  Maybe I’ll use some sort of self fabric embellishments on two of those?  Lastly, I think I’ll keep the cording for the seat cushion.  It shouldn’t look strange since the edges around the wood will be finished with double cord.  Perhaps I’ll cord the throw pillows too?  Yeah, I like that idea.  My plan had been to get the pillows and cushion done first since I dislike that sort of sewing and never get around to it at the end, but it seems I may need to leave the throw pillows until later for cording and deciding about embellishments.

Moving on, I obviously did some rough yardage calculations before buying supplies, but today I began the cushions and pillows by figuring the dimensions to cut.  The four throw pillows require eight pieces of 19×19″ fabric.  The back pillows need eight 20×27″ rectangles, and the seat cushion two 25×84″ oblongs, one 4×125 for the front and side edges, and two 2 1/2×93″ pieces for the back zippered piece.  I’ll be sewing it in the muslin first in case I messed up.  😉  The muslin is mainly being used to add strength, but it is also a cheap way to be sure I like the looks of the changes I’m making.

Something I recommend for calculating yardage is to not only use online charts but grab some graph paper and a pen.  Use it to plan the layout on the fabric and you’ll see a more accurate number for your project.  I just did this, and unless I made a mistake, there is a significant difference in yardage require from last time (due to the nap of the velvet) and from charts!  I’d estimated 12 yards in my head, I bought 16 yards allowing for extra throw pillows and just to be safe, but the layout shows that exactly 10 yards may suffice if I am careful.  Sketching a layout also makes you consider the nap or direction of a print if that applies, and it should allow you create a less wasteful layout.  If I had just started cutting to begin the pillow cover then I would have wasted yardage for sure.

Before penciling in the cutting layout on graph paper I made some very rough sketches of the pieces required for everything noting the dimensions.  Like this:


Quite rough, eh?  😉

I decided that the graph paper lent itself best to half scale with each square representing 2×2″.  I drew the boundaries of the fabric in pen then switched to pencil for the layout to avoid headache.  It made sense to begin by sketching in the largest pieces required, and from there I just fit things in as looked wise.  The shaded areas are waste.  The section reserved for bias isn’t drawn to scale.  For some pieces I rounded up to make using the graph more quickly, but it should all give a general idea of the yardage required.

cutting layout

I am quite happy about only needing 10 yards.  Even if it takes a little more I definitely have plenty extra.  (Although I keep wondering what huge mistake did I make?)  There should even be more than enough to do the matching loveseat-sort-of-chair that I’d planned for later, yay!  Using a plain fabric is the <strong>best</strong> way to save money on upholstery fabric.  Any pattern, stripe, or nap will add yards upon yards to the purchase.

Well, I think this is a perfectly good stopping point.  I don’t think I am up for cutting and sewing today, so this is probably the last post about the sofa for a while since I have to pack, paint, do repairs… but I’ll try to post about other things over the next few weeks.

Repairing cracked marble results: nearly undetectable

Hi!  Today I had planned to begin the sofa reupholstering project, but I realised that I had better wait for the move after all.  It turns out that closing on the house is basically one week away, and I have a lot of moving preparations to make.  So, I did some errands and chores today, and I finally tried to repair the marble tray that I mentioned the other day.

The other day I had a little kitchen accident.  😦  You see, I love marble, and since I couldn’t have a fancy marble countertop I used a tray I found on sale at the local Restoration Hardware outlet as a way to include it in our kitchen.  I really liked the antique/rustic look of the tray and thought it made a great dry sink to place herbs, greens, and vegetables in after washing while in queue for chopping.  Then I fumbled and dropped a full bottle of olive oil.  It hit a corner of the tray as it fell, and the corner cracked right off in two pieces and some crumbs!  :sobs:

This isn’t the first time I had to deal with cracked marble.  When I was moving in with my husband the piece that tops our coffee table snapped in two.  I still haven’t found a suitable replacement a couple of years later and had found the table in my favourite Salvation Army thrift store.  It was quite the find being marked as sold at 150$ yet not picked up after weeks.  Their policy is to allow a day, so I asked about it.  They told me I could have it for 17$ (35, but it 50% off day) if I took it immediately.  Sold!  I planned to strip the base and do a particular finish, but it turned out to be plastic overlay not carved wood (surprise to me!)  So, I did a wash over it with plaster mixed with white paint and liked it very much.  When it cracked I was sad but thought I’d find something nicer.  Eventually hasn’t happened yet, and I wish I had done better than the hack-job glueing that seemed okay at the time.

Now I know better but still didn’t know exactly how to repair a crack.  I did some research and found that epoxy mixed with stone dust is the way to go, but I couldn’t find an exact product.  I’ve ended up with some sort of Loctite epoxy and a piece of marble tile to pulverise.  I’m not pleased with the fact that it is described as translucent yellow, but I hope it will not be too obvious, because it was the best I could find at Home Depot.  If I begin mixing and it looks terrible I’ll keep searching.

…So I crushed a bit of the marble tile.  It wasn’t too hard, and finding a surface to smash it on was the most difficult portion of the task.  Haha.  Then I left everything for a week since it looked passable held together with scotch tape.

held together with scotch tape

The repair actually wasn’t the bother I expected, and it took me only about ten minutes.  I laid out the supplies, read the instructions on the epoxy, and extruded some onto the foil.  I realised pretty quickly that I would need to cut the cotton off of the q-tip, because the fibres were sticking in the mix.  It wasn’t difficult to transfer the mix to the pieces, really.  Then I held it together while it set.  I did my best to line it up well.  Next I swabbed away any excess epoxy with rubbing alcohol.  After the mending layer held I mixed another batch of marble dust and epoxy to fill in the voids.  Applying this was easier than the first portion, and it filled in almost on its own.  I think it was a very successful repair!  Looking at the whole tray I’d bet no one would realise there had been a repair made to it.  Do you agree?




mixing crushed stone into epoxy




side closeup

I hope this post helps other people as a cheap but very nice looking way to fix broken marble items they may have.  🙂

First Post: a thrift store score, and perhaps a helpful tip for a troublesome dishwasher basket.

Hi!  Welcome to my blog.

I am not exactly new to journalling online, but this sort of dedicated and focused blog is new to me.  After years of writing in one or two places about every subject that came to mind I decided it was time to dedicate a blog to household projects.  My husband has never been too keen on my treasure hunting (things left at the kerb for trash pickup, Craigslist, and thrift stores,) but he has begun to appreciate the results of furniture makeovers.

For a long time I’ve not had many chances or space to work on treasures or make home improvements, but we are in contract on a house now, and this seemed like a very good time to begin the blog.  There are many makeovers, a few renovations, and other projects in mind thanks to the house, and I’ll try writing about some old ones too.

As for today’s post… I thought it would be a good place to share an awesome thrift store find.  My husband doesn’t exactly appreciate them, but hopefully anyone reading this will be a little more excited about treasure hunting.  Yesterday I was running some errands, including buying a few items for an upholstering project that I’ll be writing about, and I couldn’t help but stop at Unique.

I used to go to that thrift shop often, but it has become rather pricey, and I haven’t really found much to buy either.  Yesterday there was nothing of interest to me again, until I ran across a bit of linen in the tablecloth section.  I’m always on the lookout for linen even though I sometimes only have vague ideas of what to use the fabric for.  As I examined the cloth, in case it had any bad stains or holes, I noticed some lace-y stuff and looked closely.  Upon inspection it appeared to be hand done, in perfect condition, and of very high quality.  The lace-work decorates one side and the others are a simple hem with picot.  I began to think that the “tablecloth” was actually a flat sheet, and I put it in my cart.  Just about then a woman who’d been eying it asked if she could see.  She volunteered that it was a sheet and very nice.  Then she begged me to let her have it, but I was selfish… :shrugs:

I just finished washing it, and it is hanging to dry, but I took photos beforehand.  (Please bear with me… I had intended to make a collage rather than having giant photos.    It did not happen.) Oh, and it measures 91″x101″.

IMG_4760 IMG_4761 IMG_4762 IMG_4758 IMG_4759

I think it may even be antique?  Oh, and I forgot the best part!  I was sad to find nothing but the sheet to buy and make the stop worthwhile, but I *was* okay with the $4.99 price.  Then at the register the cashier  rang it up with 50% off, yay!

This is about all for today, but I also wanted to try sharing some potentially useful information too.  If any of you have a Whirlpool dishwasher you may know that the flatware basket on the door can *also* be set onto the lower drawer.  (Or you may not know, as I didn’t for a year or two until shopping appliances for my MIL and being shown the neat trick!)  I much prefer having the basket attached to the drawer instead of spilling out each time the door is opened, but there was a problem.  The basket easily falls off of the drawer.  All.  The.  Time.  It was so irritating, so I fixed it.

Here is how: You need two silicone (I think they are silicone) hair-ties.  I keep these around to use like rubber bands that will not eventually deteriorate.  I bought mine at a store down the street, but here are some on Amazon to illustrate the sort I am talking about.  Take one and thread it around the wire of the drawer.  Then hook the loop over the nub on the basket, obviously repeat with the other side, and ta-da: a nicely secured flatware section.  🙂