Master Mason

Here we are, well into November, and I still don’t have a completed front hall to show you. Progress is being made, that’s for sure, but we’ve had a bit of delay. I’m sure you’re totally shocked… NOT! : )

The delay this time around has to do with the chimney we exposed, half in the front hall and half in the library. Tony started tearing up the library way back in August. Here’s a before photo:


He ripped out the built-ins and took down the old plaster.


That gave us a look at some of the different shades and papers that have adorned the walls!


Then he replaced the plaster with sheet rock.


The library side of the chimney needed some work though. It had some damage at the bottom – you can see above that a few of the bricks had broken and needed to be replaced. There was also that terribly patched hole from a stove that was originally hooked into the chimney. Tony had contacted a brickwork company probably 10 weeks ago who came out to tell us that our chimney was in decent shape structurally, with the exception of those couple areas requiring repair, and it was lined, so there are no poisonous escaping through our now exposed brick from the furnace which currently uses that same chimney to vent. Yay! We were more than happy to pay that company for delivering such reassuring news! However, because they’re accustomed to really large jobs, like installing brand new chimneys, they wanted a lot of money to make those little repairs. Mom asked around at her marketing group, but the guy I scheduled to come out just never showed, and he never returned my call afterward either. So Tony found an independent mason who said he could do the work for about 100 bucks. So worth it, right?! A week later or so Tony talked to the guy, but he couldn’t find the right color bricks to match. “How hard can it be?” Tony and I said to one-another. Tony went down the street, as there is a brick company at the end of our block, but they didn’t have anything close. Then Tony went downtown to two companies that sell both new and used bricks. Still no luck! Tony probably spent 3 weeks looking for bricks, but he never did find anything close. In the meantime we painted everything in the room, including three coats on the ceiling!


But we still needed to repair the chimney!


Then I made a little mistake that had great results! A couple months ago when I removed the plaster from the hallway side of the chimney (after Tony did the library side) I had a little big scare. I was chipping away at plaster with my putty knife and hammer when I heard a thud. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like some of the bricks moved! Terrified, I stopped work on that section immediately and waited until Tony got home! Much debate ensued before we were able to determine that 1) yes, a column of bricks had definitely moved, and 2) they were not a concern. Those bricks seemed to have been placed next to the chimney just so that plaster could be applied over them.

Well, a couple weeks ago I nudged some of the bricks with my toe. I couldn’t help it! They’d been beckoning to me for weeks. It was a seriously gentle nudge. I just wanted to see if they’d move. They did. A whole section of bricks just plopped right over! I called Tony over and he said, “Well, I guess we found some bricks to use for the chimney!” and he pulled them out of the wall.


The problem was, Tony wasn’t able to get the brick guy to call him back, and all this brick trouble was delaying my progress in the hall and Tony’s progress in the library. We really wanted to pay someone to do this job, but it just wasn’t panning out. So, last Saturday, Tony took matters into his own hands!

First he took out the cement plug and some of the bricks around the hole.


It was a little scary in there! Then he started layering mortar and bricks.


The next day it looked like this.


It’s almost a week later now, and the bricks look almost the same – still very wet! Hopefully they’ll dry soon so we can clean them, paint the new mortar to try and match the old, and then we can finally install the cabinets! The front hall is coming along too. With the hall side of the chimney cleaned and sealed, I was finally able to start on the fabric install!

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Disguised Dog Crate

First of all, today was a gorgeous, foggy fall morning. Check out this view from the porch.


Okay, back to today’s update. We’ve had Charlie for about 3 weeks now, and we are just loving him!


However, I was not loving his Taj Mahal of a wire dog crate sitting in the middle of the library. Since there’s a good chance Charlie’s going to be a giant, we opted for the extra large package of goods from the shelter, which included a 48 inch by 30 inch crate… yeah, that’s nearly 12 square feet of space that baby takes up!

Since Charlie’s home base is in the library, that’s the man’s space afterall, which is clearly visible from the living room, I started scouring Pinterest and wracking my brain for a way to keep Charlie comfy while maintaining some aesthetic appeal. Then Tony cleaned out the attic upstairs a couple weekends ago, discovering what we assume was once the frame to an old water bed, and an idea was born!

I was extremely undisciplined with this project, and I took not a single before or during photo! However, it was pretty straight forward: measure crate, cut wood a little bigger than crate, screw wood together, and finish. I did have to sand down the original finish, then I stenciled on some old keys. I wanted just a little uniqueness to the top without going too overboard. Finally, two coats of Walnut Minwax stain, my go-to color, and three coats of polyacrylic finished it up.


Even with the plate stand, there’s a ton of space on the table!


The table top lifts right off so we can take Charlie’s crate somewhere if we need to. I would have liked to include the 4 inch strip all the way around the crate so it looked more like a table, but the door went too high, so it’s only on the front. It does a good job of hiding the curtain rod though!


Charlie seems to like his new crate cover a lot. He’s got a very private space, but he also has a little bit of the window!


Placement for the crate was tough due to its size and the placement of our air ducts, which we definitely didn’t want to cover! I think the chairs and coffee table in front help to tie the space together while connecting with the living room. He’s a view from the side where Charlie’s door is.


I’m happy with the way the library is shaping up!

If you just look at this half of the room, it looks pretty darn good.

Now if only we can get this half to that same point!


Soon, I hope!

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Door to Door

The front hall redecoration is well under way! A few weeks ago Mom and I took down the old, gold wallpaper, confirming Tony’s suspicion that those walls are still plaster.

Goodbye ugly gold!

Luckily, they’re in decent shape, but not decent enough that a coat of paint will do the trick. Don’t worry! I have a plan, but it will probably be a few weeks until I’ll be able to reveal it. I’m aiming for Halloween. In the meantime, much work has continued in the hall. After the paper came down, so did the plaster on the chimney! I’ve mentioned before that we have two chimneys in this house, but both were walled in long ago. Part of the hallway makeover (and the library, for that matter) involved removing that plaster and exposing the brick. I tackled this project one day while Tony was off golfing. I’ll show you a before view. I don’t know if you can see the pattern on the walls or not… That’s the imprint of the wallpaper’s texture in the glue! Yikes! I think we’re going to have to sand it down!

The first 20 minutes of plaster removal were really fun! This is how much I got down in that time.

Another hour or so got me to this point:

By the end of the afternoon I was exhausted, but look at that brick!

But that’s not really what I set out to show you today. I’ve also been working on our doors. The back door got a coat (okay, several coats) of deep, beautiful red!

The front door is now a gorgeous black that really highlights all the architectural detail.

But the biggest transformation was the font hall door. We don’t know what happened to the original hall door, if there was one, but the one we have now is a hollow core, plain flat number. I’ve been meaning to do something about it for awhile and finally got around to it after seeing this blog post. Here’s the before:

And here’s the now!

So much better! It’s the little details that really make a room, and now this door looks just as old and beautiful as the others in the house.

Anyway, the other news about doors is that we’ve opened our door to a new family member! Meet Charlie. He’s 7 months old and a whopping 50 pounds!

Just days after we brought him home from the shelter, Charlie came down with kennel cough. I woke up early on Sunday morning to him coughing and gagging, and he was really sick all day. He even had a fever… at least we think he did. I wasn’t sticking the thermometer up there to check. The poor guy just wanted some love and crawled right onto my lap when I sat down to comfort him. I promise, this dog does get up and walk around! In fact, he’s quite energetic now that he’s healthy again! But it’s much easier to snap photos when he’s lounging.

IMG_1698.JPG Needless to say, this little big guy has completely stolen our hearts!

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Table Transformation

My new school got new furniture this year! Usually the district collects and stores all the old furniture, but with several schools upgrading, the furniture depository was full. That meant it was all up for grabs, and this old reading table came home with me!

Some foam, fabric, and a lot of staples later and that old reading table looks like this:

There are a lot of posts and tutorials out there about how to turn a table into a tufted ottoman, and I found Little Green Notebook and M is for Mama be the most helpful.

For me, the first step was to measure out how far apart to space the buttons. This was surprisingly difficult! After the third time measuring or so, I finally got it and could drill the holes. Pre-drilling the holes was suggested by several others, and ended up being a super important step.

I then attached the foam with spray glue and cut holes where the buttons would go using a steak knife.

The foam was covered with a layer of thick batting and the fabric. I chose an indoor/outdoor fabric that was marked way down for the end of the season. I’m hoping it will be less likely to stain!

Since I predrilled all the holes, I was hoping it would be easier to use screws and washers to make the tufts instead of pulling the thread through (which is how a professional would do it). Everything I’d seen on tufting said it was pretty challenging to do on your own, since you had to go back and forth from front to back as you sewed the buttons down, and that it was pretty painful too, pulling each button through with all your might. Since Mr. Electric Screwdriver and I are pretty good buddies these days, I decided to try that route. Easier? Probably. Easy? Not one bit. I finally got into a rhythm though as I realized that lifting the foam up off the table allowed me to see what I was doing as I stuck the screw and washer into the foam, found the predrilled hole, then used the screwdriver to screw it down.

The further along I got, the better each tuft looked. The folds really started to tighten up and form the diamond shape.

Before I finished the tufting, Tony helped me attach the new legs. It would have been more economical to use the metal legs that the table came with, but then I’d have to cover the whole base. New wooden legs were going to be a much better option. I took out the flat screw that they come with and used three long screws in each leg so they’d be nice and sturdy. It was easy to attach the legs from the top, since the foam, batting, and fabric would hide the screws. Then Tony also helped me attach the fabric around the outside. I’ve done a couple upholstery projects before, and my staple gun was actually the first real tool I owned, but this table was so solid that I couldn’t push the staple in by myself! So I held the fabric down and Tony stapled for me. Unfortunatly, there’s no photographic evidence as both hands were required at all time, but he did help! (And he even struggled a bit – that’s how hard the wood that made that table is!) The end result after that first day was this:

A couple days later I went back to trim up the extra fabric. A ribbon and a combination of hot glue and staples now hides the seams away.

IMG_2120.JPG Those white spots are old glue that some sticky fingers left behind. Eww!

On the top, I used hot glue to attach the covered buttons to the screws. I don’t know how well they’ll last, but they seem okay so far. And should they pop off, they’ll be easy to fix.

So here’s another look at the before and after!

I’m very pleased with the project! The ottoman fills the space in front of our massive sectional much better than our little coffee table did, and the height ratio is much better. I love putting my feet up on it when we’re watching a show, or when I’m writing a blog post!

I did learn a lot though, so I feel much more confident about doing another project of this nature. Here are a few things I’d do differently:
*Cut the holes in the foam a little bigger to accommodate the large buttons – there will still be plenty of plushness
* Use gigantic washers. I used the washers that went with the size screws I bought, on recommendation of the guy at Home Depot – bigger washers would pull the foam and fabric away to make more room for the buttons.
* Use straight seamed sides instead of angled – I like the look of the angled, but they’re not real consisten, and I think it’d look more professionally done if the fabric met at a straight line instead of the angle

At the same time, there were a lot of things I think went really well, so I’d do these again:
*Order foam from Home Depot – the foam camping cushion I ordered was 3 inches thick and was probably half the price I would have paid at a fabric store, even with a good coupon
*Use the screw method – this technique wasn’t terribly easy, but it did work very well and it made the project go pretty quickly!


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From Dated to Dynamite Dresser

Our second apartment on Tortola had this fabulous long dresser in the bedroom. It took up all of one wall, and I absolutely loved it! When we moved back home I knew I wanted a long dresser in our bedroom, so when I found a great deal on CraigsList, we bought it…. before we even decided that we were buying the house! Mom and Dad were kind enough to store it in their garage for a month or two. The dresser needed some loving though. It was one of those Broyhill French Provincial babies that it seemed like everyone had in the 80s or 90s. It looked a lot like this one, actually.

So very quickly after moving in, I sat down in front of the TV surrounded by drawers and started painting.

I had a bunch of gray paint samples from choosing the living and dining room colors, and a blue that was leftover from the TV stand.

The main frame of the dresser got a coat of the living room gray color (the medium dark one) with the lighter gray for the accents and drawer faces, while the insides of the drawers would have the pop of blue. Then I spray painted all the original hardware black.

My intention all along was to sand down the top and restain it a dark, dark brown or even black, but this was about the time I refinished the dining room table. By the time that project was done, the idea of pulling out the sander was downright repulsive! So, this is how the dresser stayed for almost a year!

It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t really good though, either. You can see all the nicks and scratches in the original finish.

Then finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to give gel stain a try. I’d seen a lot of people say they’d used it with great results, so I started reading some blog posts, and I was quite drawn to the idea of not having to strip the current finish! I spent a few minutes giving the top a light sanding. This was a really light sanding. It didn’t even take off any color – just the shiny finish.

I wiped the dust off and used a disposable sponge brush to wipe the goopy stain on. As directed, I put it on thick! The big difference between traditional stain and gel stain is that the regular stuff is meant to penetrate the wood. You spread it onto the bare wood and the color sinks in, so it works well that it’s so runny. Conversely, gel stain is meant to sit on top of the piece, so it’s much, much thicker. That’s why it can even go on over paint!

The first coat was pretty uneven, but I was okay with that. I wanted the end result to look like real stain. After a few minutes, I went back and wiped some of the excess stain off with a paper towel, which also helped with the wood grain look that I wanted. The bad news was I had to wait another 24 hours before I could put on the second coat! It went on just as easily though, with one adjustment. Rather than wiping the excess off with the paper towel (which had left scratchy looking streaks when looking from a certain angle) I used a soft rag.

Since this isn’t a use-it-everyday-must-be-well-protected kind of piece, I just sealed it with some furniture wax. I think it turned out pretty well!

Man, does that floor need to be cleaned though! Tony did that side of the room after bathroom construction was complete… apparently he wasn’t so diligent with moving the furniture and cleaning underneath! : )

The sad news is, it doesn’t look like I’ll get to keep this beauty in our room. The false wall that will have to be built to house the pocket door that we’re going to put in (We don’t currently have a door to our bedroom!) will take up too much space. We shall see, I guess!


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Outdoor Armoire with Homemade Chalk Paint

Believe it or not, I actually finished a couple other projects over the summer in addition to the bathroom. I mostly worked on these while Tony was completing tiling, but then I got so busy with finish work, I didn’t have time to get them on the blog!

One of these projects was an outdoor storage piece. Like most everyone else, we have outdoor stuff that needs a home, like sports equipment, patio furniture cushions, and gardening tools, but until we can build a garage, we need a place to put these items… besides the shed, because the shed is scary. So, I started surfing CraigsList looking for an old armoire that could go on our back porch. I found several great looking pieces, but pounced on the one that was right here in Olathe. The girl emailed back and it turns out that we know her! Tony paints with her husband all summer, so even though they were out of town for the weekend, we were welcome to go over and take a look at the armoire. It was perfect (meaning, it was huge and super cheap). Talk about a win-win! It took 2 guys to bring it over to the house as it was so heavy! This is what it looked like after the boys unloaded it.

The thing was fabulous dinged up from the two kiddos in the previous owners’ home, which was just right for me.

I decided to try chalk paint on this baby. It seems like everybody’s doing it, and I should probably try it out. However, I’m far too cheap to spring for the real stuff! I mixed about a cup of baking soda into my banana yellow paint (the color in these pics is muted because they were taken under the back porch roof when it was bright outside, but the color in the last one is accurate) instead. It mixed in pretty well and didn’t leave big clumps, but it was quite chalky after it dried!

I didn’t want it to have real even coverage, so I just did two coats. Once those two coats were on, I started distressing it a bit with the electric sander.

With chalk paint you’re supposed to sand the whole thing pretty well after the last coat so it’s nice and smooth, but I actually wanted to keep some of the texture. I knew I’d be applying a darker coat over the top, and I wanted some of the color to stick in those grooves. So I just gave a really good sanding to the edges, down to bare wood, and a really light sanding with a block sander to everything else. I applied a dark wood stain just to the bare wood with a cheap old paint brush.

For the rest of the piece, I found that the dark stain was too dark. It made the yellow look muddy, not the mustard color I was going for. So, I tried another new thing – glaze. Martha Stewart’s glaze was on sale at Home Depot, so I mixed a little of that with my favorite dark wood stain and painted it on with a disposable brush.

I painted just a little stain on at a time, then rubbed it off with a paper towel, alternating a circular and back and forth motion. I didn’t want to to be consistent. Here you can see how it adjusted the color.

Once the paint was dry I added some new knobs from Hobby Lobby to complete the makeover!


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The Reveal of The Best Bathroom Ever (About time, huh?)

It’s hard to even picture what our bathroom looked like before. And harder still, because I don’t think I ever took a before picture! It wasn’t a space that we really cared to remember. This is it now, though, in all its pretty, new glory!

Let’s not forget the amount of work that went into this beauty over the last 10 months. Remember this photo during the destruction phase?

Now the floor is level(ish) and there’s this awesome new tub as a focal point when you walk in.

We wanted a new bathroom, and we wanted it to have some of the same old charm that is found throughout the rest of the house. So you can imagine how excited I was to find a corner tub (which I knew would fit the space so well) that had feet! We also splurged for that exterior mount tub and shower faucet. Tony is absolutely loving the rain-shower head!

And we were able to get rid of all that original plumbing and replace it with new stuff.


The cornice piece above the tub was one thing Tony fought me on tooth and nail. He did not share my vision at all, but was kind enough to put it up anyway. I’m so glad he did! Even he admits, it just really pulls everything together.

IMG_1950.JPG The cornice also helps hide (a bit) the shower curtain rod. We couldn’t use a normal sized rod with such an unusually shaped tub, and ordering a custom one would have cost a fortune. So we used the same trick we did with our custom curtain rod in the living room – conduit! I stood on the galvanized piping while Tony bent it into shape. We were able to curve it all the way around too, since the tub has a curved edge that doesn’t meet the wall all the way. That way the clear curtain liner can better prevent leaks.


The windows in this space did make design a bit challenging. We toyed with the idea of removing them, but not for long. I love all the natural light! And we did do a light-at-night test to make sure silhouettes couldn’t be seen through the curtains. Once I put a liner on each one, they passed! This little corner is the perfect spot for bubbles and bath salts. The tray rolls right over to the edge of the tub when it’s needed!

We have no shortage of towel hooks. These are old doorknobs from the doors we used to build the front porch swing. The black glass one is in good shape, but I couldn’t get the rust off the oblong knobs, so I spray painted them.


With such an open room, and no door between the bedroom and bathroom, privacy around the privy was very important! The idea of a separate toilet room made us both a bit claustrophobic though, so we ended up with just a partial enclosure.

IMG_1644.JPG The shutter door was a last-minute addition. It can be pulled out when more privacy is needed and pushed back in when not in use.

While sitting in the tub I can stare lovingly at our beautiful vanity. We found this baby downtown last winter at The Crossroads First Friday event. I’d seen an ad for a long white dresser on Craigslist, so we went down to check it out. The plan was to use the long dresser as a double sink vanity. I couldn’t take my eyes off this one though, and we decided we didn’t really need two sinks!

I can’t take much credit for the vanity – the painted top and sides and the stained drawers were already done when we bought it. I just ordered the faucet and vessel sink, and Tony installed it all. We did have to seal the top though, which ended up being kind of an ordeal. I scoured the web for how other people were sealing their dresser-turned-vanities, but very few people had a painted top on their dresser, so they could use sealants that I couldn’t use. I asked at Home Depot and was given two different products, neither of which worked. Tony had a little leak when he was installing the sink and the water soaked right through the 5 coats of protective sealer I’d sprayed on. Ahh! Finally we decided to go with a pour on epoxy. Girls at Alpha Chi had used it in college to make study boards, but I’d witnessed what a mess it could make and how poorly it could come out, so I was terrified of messing it up! We took out the drawers and wrapped the dresser in painters tape and plastic, then poured the stuff on.

Tony went over it with his heat gun, which did an amazing job of popping all the little bubbles.

The end result is extremely shiny (which isn’t what I wanted originally) and completely water tight (which is what matters), and it looks fabulous!

From our bed, we used to look at a little hallway and the door to a half bedroom. That “current master bath” is where the bathroom used to start.

Now we can see the tile, the sink, and the baskets that we installed to fill the empty wall space!

This project took forever, since it had to begin before the other bathrooms could be started, but couldn’t be finished until they were finished. It was so worth it though. We now have a space that matches the character of our home and better utilizes the space. And it was finished just in time for school to start! Yay! Tony celebrated with a cigar he’d brought back from Tortola a little over a year ago.

I celebrated with a bubble bath!

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