Dressin’ Up

When you find a dresser on Craigslist for $10, you buy it.  Well, I do.  Especially when it’s solid wood with dove-tailed drawers and clean lines.  Yes. 

But you also get what you pay for.  This guy was in need of serious work.  And he reeked of curry.  Don’t be fooled into thinking he was all cute and chipper…

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To eliminate the odor and give myself some time to figure out what in the world I was going to do with him, I left him in our garage for several months.  I didn’t really intend for his time out to last so long, but that’s kind of the way it goes for me anymore.  Can you relate? 

Lately I’ve really been into the two-toned look of paint paired with stain.  Ummhmm.  It’s a bit of a cottagey look, which I also love.  This photo ended up being my inspiration from LizMarieBlog


It was basically the kick in the pants I needed in order to get started—which was pretty daunting since it required some steps that I’ve never done before, like stripping and staining. 

Although painting is the most rewarding part of the refinishing process for me—since you see such a major change in such a short amount of time—I knew that in order to bring this dresser fully back to life, I needed to strip it down to the bare bones.  To do this, I used paint stripper (a first for me), and then I sanded it with 60 grit and finally 220 grit paper.  I wasn’t sure that the 220 grit was necessary, but it brought such a lovely smooth finish to the wood that I will definitely use it on future projects. 

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As usual, things got worse before they got better…

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Then I gave everything a coat of primer and several coats of paint (one coat of Minwax Jacobean stain on the drawer fronts—I let it sit for about 10 minutes before wiping it off), plus some polyurethane on the top, as it tends to be the most heavily used part of the dresser.  Then I painted the inside of the drawers and added some hex-like contact paper that I snagged at HomeGoods.  Glass knobs from Hobby Lobby were the final touch. 

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Sadly, even though I tried multiple times to find the perfect spot for him in our home, it was a lost cause.  Our house is small and cramming it just emphasizes that fact.  I tried selling him at our yard sale last weekend, and while lots of people expressed interest, only one guy was willing to pay more than the usual $5 yard sale price, but he never came back for it.  So I put the dresser on Craigslist and got loads of interest!  I was so happy to send him off with a sweet young mom and her son tonight—and I was really glad that the semi-creepy guy didn’t end up with it at our yard sale.  I think our dresser found his rightful home.  *Happy sigh.*

Projects like this are about getting my hands dirty and enjoying the process of redeeming a piece.  If I kept every knick and knack that I redid, our house would be overflowing with stuff, so it’s really fun for me to find ways to give and sell it to others.  In case you’re wondering, this project took me several months of on and off work, as I had to squeeze it in during Liam’s naps.  It could definitely be done in less time, but if you’re a mom like me, it’s at least nice to know that it can be done—just take your time.  : )

*ACE Hardware occasionally gives away free quarts of their Clark & Kensington paint, so I snagged Colonial Blue and used it on this dresser.  Although it’s a flat paint, it actually has the quality of a satin finish.*

A final before and after…

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Nursery Furniture

Happy Wednesday morning!  I just finished grading my last online discussion posts of the year—whoohoo!  Final exams…well, those will have to wait until next week.  The end is in sight, ladies and gents!  Although I’m not sure if any gents actually read this blog…maybe my dad?  Little bro?  If so, welcome!

Blogging has clearly been at the bottom of my list lately, but I thought I should update y’all on the nursery.  It’s done enough that if a baby came tonight—gulp—we would be okay.  In all honesty, we would have been fine if the nursery was mismatched and chaotic, so maybe I should say that I would be okay.  Haha.  Perhaps it’s more about the mom feeling prepared…


We definitely made our biggest strides when my mom and aunt came out, as they painted walls and furniture, bedazzled curtains, and decked out the room with frames for art.  My mom was a whiz at painting the room!  I’m pretty sure she did it all within about four hours, and that included two coats of paint, plus painting the inside of the closet.  But this post is about furniture, so let me get back to the point.  Our nursery consists of used furniture, which we were extremely happy to receive, in addition to making a few Craigslist purchases.  Buying a new set just wasn’t in the budget for us, and when it comes down to it, I thoroughly enjoy the process of making used pieces feel cohesive and new.  Plus, I love it when a room evolves over time.  Take a peek into our progress…

Remember how I bought this rocker off of Craigslist awhile back? (I was air-drying the cushions after washing them…)


As it turns out, the cover was much harder to…cover…than I originally thought it would be.  My kind neighbor was willing to help tackle the project, but in the end I decided that it wasn’t worth the headache, nor the extra cost of upholstery fabric.  Thankfully, I was able to resell the rocker for the same price I paid for it, and then a few days later I bought another rocker for $30 off Craigslist.  This time, the rocker was pretty much everything I wanted.  The owners took extra good care of it, and they even had it recovered recently in a fabric that I was happy with.  To top it off, they were super nice people and we spent about 30 minutes chatting before I actually paid them for the rocker.  It felt right. 


All I did was prime and paint the rocker white (actually, my aunt did it for me—thanks, AJ!).  Tadaa! 

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The other piece of furniture that needed some TLC was a table given to us by some good friends.  Apparently they swiped the table off of when they first got married, so I didn’t feel bad taking it off their hands for nothing. 

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My original idea was to paint the table white in order to match the rocker and changing table dresser, but it looked pretty washed out.  Mom suggested painting the top a darker color, so we just wrapped a garbage bag around the white base, gave the top a few coats of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint, by Rustoleum, and then a few coats of polyurethane to keep it from getting scratched and beat up.  I love the final result! 

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The dark top really helps to ground the table and ties it in nicely with the other dark brown accents in the room.  It makes me want to find more free tables…they have so much potential!  Actually, some friends called us the other night to tell us about a free desk that was on the side of the road.  I sooo wanted to pick it up and give it a second life, but I said no.  It’s getting harder to maneuver myself into the positions needed to paint, I probably shouldn’t paint right now, and with a baby coming soon, I need to allow myself a little time to relax.  I hope someone else decided to redeem that desk! 

In other baby related news, my sweet 7th grade students and their parents threw us a surprise baby shower at school yesterday!  They went all out on food, décor, thoughtful notes of encouragement, and gifts galore!  It was a blast, and we were so blessed by their efforts.  They even gave us a huge lawn sign that we can apparently stick in our yard when the baby comes.  It has a place to write the name, weight, etc.  I guess it’s an easy way to let the neighbors in on the action! 

Detail Dallies

Happy Monday, all!  Our weekend consisted of warmer weather, juicy hamburgers, games with friends, and a good old fashioned house cleaning.  Oh, and I whipped up these tasty orange-chocolate-chunk muffins—one of my favorite combos.  Hopefully you were able to relax and indulge in a bit of springtime activity.  We’re thinking next weekend it’s time to tackle the garage, which is sorely in need of rescue…

While I haven’t written much about it lately, our nursery is progressing.  It won’t be painted until my mom comes to visit in April (I’m actually saving up a bunch of mini-painting projects for her), but we’ve got some of the big pieces in place, which I’ll be sharing as they come into completion.  This weekend I wrapped up the details of our changing table dresser.  Remember this guy?


While I love cheery white furniture, I thought new knobs would add some pizzazz, plus the original wood ones were looking a bit chippy.  I also wanted to cover the inside of the drawers in decorative paper for a fresh feel—and because who doesn’t love that tiny surprise of finding a pattern tucked into a drawer? 


So other than giving the dresser a quick coat of white paint, I dallied in the details, which tends to be my favorite part of decorating. 

During a trip to Hobby Lobby, I spotted these star-like beauties for 50% off and ran home to try them out. 


Sadly, one of them broke as soon as it was tugged on, so I hunted down a new one on my next trip to HL and actually purchased a few extras just in case it happens again.  Their tawny taupe color and slightly jagged texture definitely tug on this girl’s heart strings. 

For the record, I’ve been having really good luck at Marshall’s lately—my second home—and found this self-adhesive drawer liner for a song.  And it came in a two-pack! 


I’ve been slightly obsessed with bamboo patterns recently and this was the perfect blend of bright, clean pattern to add to a boy’s dresser. 


For some reason most of the drawer liners I’ve run across are floral and scented, which was not exactly the route I wanted to go.  As a back up, I was prepared to go this route and use high quality wrapping paper with Mod Podge if necessary, but the self-adhesive liner worked like a charm.  It was pretty easy to cut and lay out, since there was a grid to follow on the back, although it took some patience to make sure there were no stray air bubbles hanging around (I used our debit card to smooth the paper into place). 



The final product…





Gotta love how those details give the dresser a unique feel.  I keep opening the drawers and oohing over the “surprise” of the bamboo paper.  (The knobs look really dark in the photo above, but they actually change color depending on the lighting, as they’re more of a translucent glassy brown.)


What are your favorite details to add to a room?  Knobs?  Drawer liners?  Funky patterns?  Lighting?  A bold piece of art?  Divvy up the details, please!

I’m Dreaming of…


grey nursery

bright nursery

linen nursery

cheery nursery

That’s right.  Baby nurseries.  Any guesses why? 

Chair Flair

You may recall these lovely legs…

Well, I finally got around to clothing them in some fresh paint and starchy linens!  Because I’m not an expert in upholstery (that’s the understatement of the year…), and since Little Green Notebook recently posted  a fantastic DIY upholstery series on her blog, I decided to simply give you a rundown of the whole process in photos with just a few comments, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by explaining all the steps I went through.  But, since I’ve decided that I need to be completely (sometimes painfully) honest about our DIY projects, I will be sure to drop a few tidbits that I learned along the way. 

*If you plan to upholster a piece anytime soon, you must check out these awesome tutorials by Little Green Notebook: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4, and Step 5.*

First, I snapped a bunch of “before” pictures—mainly so I would have a reference point in case I forgot something important in the middle of everything.  Believe me—once you are in the throes of it all, you might feel slightly disoriented.

Then, I stripped her down to the bare bones.  If you have never done this with a piece of furniture, I encourage you to give it a try.  It’s amazing how often we sit on furniture but have no idea what lurks beneath the surface!  Trust me—it will make for an interesting afternoon!   

To keep things running smoothly, I labeled each piece of old upholstery with a sticky note reminding me which piece was for the back, front, etc. 

After freshening her up with several coats of paint and some poly (for a good protective measure), I came to the point of no return—cutting the fabric.  Eek!  Basically, I just traced the outline of the old upholstery and used that as my guide.  And this is where I made my first big mistake… I thought since I was using a linen fabric with no obvious pattern that I didn’t need to think about the direction of the fabric.  Wrong!  All fabrics have a pattern—or at least a texture—so be sure you don’t let your brain wander during this phase!  Thankfully, I had enough fabric left to cut another piece.  Whew!  It was nip and tuck, but in the end I averted disaster by the skin of my teeth (pardon the gross expression).   Disaster being that my fabric on the seat of the chair would have been horizontal, while the back of the chair would have been vertical.  I know—a harrowing afternoon at the Braham house. 

Once my fabric was cut, I kind of stared at the chair not knowing how to proceed.  I went back and read through the tutorial again, but I still felt a sort of paralysis.  That’s when I started having that odd back and forth conversation in my head about putting on my big girl panties and such… Can you relate?  So I pulled out the stapler and just started in.  After my first few staples were in place, the project took on a life of its own and I just followed suit.  I’ve done enough projects by now to know that I’m never going to be 100% comfortable trying my hand at something new; usually I have to just begin and everything falls into place after that. 

Once I stapled all of the fabric in place, I hot-glued trim around the unfinished edges for a clean look.  Originally I wanted to use nail head trim, but it was pretty expensive, and I actually like the soft finish of the trim I ended up with. 

Now for the confessions… I had read in a tutorial that it’s possible to “damage the integrity of the wood” when stapling.  Sadly, this happened to me while stapling to the back of the chair.  There was a tiny lip that I was stapling into, and some of the wood splintered.  Thankfully, it didn’t compromise the stability of the chair, and since it’s on the back it’s not noticeable.  But still.  It was unfortunate.  I’m not exactly sure how to avoid this, but I imagine a nicer stapler and a tad more care might have helped.  

Can you see it along the right edge?

While we’re on the topic of stapling, I must admit that I used the wrong size staple at first.  I thought maybe the wood was just really hard wood…until my husband gently informed me that my staple size was too big–hence the reason they weren’t fully penetrating the wood.  It’s never just one trip to the hardware store, is it?   

The second (or is this really the third?) confession is that I bought fabric and didn’t like it, so I ended up purchasing different fabric.  Because I always try to do projects on the cheap, I was a little frustrated, but I decided to make pillows out of the original fabric (which will be another “first” for me)—and since the second fabric was on clearance, it wasn’t a huge deal. 

After moving her into the kitchen, I realized that the ugly black fabric on her underside could be seen from certain angles.  I ended up covering the bottom with extra fabric simply by tacking it around the edges. 

A last look…


Overall, it was a good experience!  You’ll definitely want to go into it with a large dose of common sense sprinkled with bits of humor and some courage, but this is a project that anyone can tackle.  I mean, people, the internet has all the answers!  Just kidding—kinda. 

What about you guys?  Have you upholstered anything?  Did you freeze when you came to the point of no return?  Do you know of any amazing tutorials floating around in cyberspace?

Yes, We’re Still Alive…

Hi friends!  Sorry for the long blogging pause.  We took a road trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons (which were absolutely stunning), and along the way…we lost our camera.  Yup.  It’s a trip of all mental snapshots for us.  If you’re interested in the whole story, see my “P.S.” at the bottom of this post.  Needless to say, it’s difficult to blog without a camera, and while I probably could have dug up some old photos, I decided that since I’m on summer vaca it couldn’t hurt to take some additional time off.

Now that I’m done rummaging up excuses for my absence, I have some exciting news to share!  Remember the desk I scored at the ARC (which is a killer thrift store in the Springs, similar to Goodwill, but better)?

Well, I finally posted it on Craigslist and it sold today!  I literally waved goodbye to it not ten minutes ago.

As it turns out, the desk was pretty popular.  I had lots of people emailing and asking if it was still available.  Unfortunately, as many of you know, Craigslisters tend to be a bit wishy washy.  One minute they’re “very interested” in your stuff, the next they’re not even returning your emails.  I suppose you could say I have a love/hate relationship with good ole’ Craigster.  In the end though, it was worth it to be patient.  Julia, a beautiful, sweet college gal had apparently been hankering for a desk of this type for months, and she was smitten by this one.  She said it’s going to be the “apartment desk,” which I’m guessing means it’ll be used communally by all her roommates—love that idea.  She kept running her hands over it and saying how perfect it was.  Yay, right?!  When she and her mom drove off after picking up the desk, I could still hear her squealing with delight over her find.  Honestly, I think she was the perfect person to buy it.  Julia, if you’re out there, it was so fun to meet you!  Wishing you the best as you enter college!

We didn’t make out too badly in the end either.  I bought the desk for $15, purchased paint supplies (which I’m not counting, since I have tons of product leftover and will definitely use those supplies for a plethora of projects in the future), and sold it for $75.  Not too shabby!

Really, I’m thrilled with the way this experiment went.  A few things I learned along the way:

1.)    Painting/updating furniture is fun for me, so it didn’t feel like work—that’s a plus when you consider that time is money.

2.)    I learned new painting techniques (see this post for more details); even though it’s going to be a continual learning process, I had to start somewhere.

3.)    Having a decent storage space is essential.  Fortunately, we have a detached garage and a basement, so the project didn’t encroach on our personal space.  Still, I realized that I probably should sell the desk before buying too many other potential projects…

4.)    There are loads of people who liked the style of the desk—let’s call it slightly distressed shabby chic.  You might even say it has a cottage feel.

5.)    Being patient and waiting for the right person to come along on Craigslist is a must!

6.)    It was worth taking the risk.  Now I have the courage to try again!

Some of you may be wondering what I plan to do with the $75.  My plan is to give 10% of what I earn via refinishing furniture to a home related cause or charity.  There are a lot of ways this could go.  I’ve considered Habitat for Humanity, The Alma Project, Casa Vida y Esperanza in Magdalena, Mexico, and Gateway Woods.  I’m leaning towards Gateway Woods, which provides a home for “lost and wounded children.”  My family has been strongly involved in Gateway Woods for many years, and I truly believe in the work they’re doing.  The rest of it will go back into our home, which supports my DIY hobby, helps complete our home, and provides a bit of blog fodder.  One of the reasons I wanted to sell something on Craigslist in the first place is due to the fact that we have a limited budget, and I have to be creative in finding the $$ to splurge on my wish list.  While that can be challenging and sometimes frustrating, I think it gives me a greater appreciation for what I earn.  You know—like when you had to save your pennies as a kid.

About an hour before Julia came to claim her “new” desk, I decided that it would be fun to snap a few photos of the desk, so I ran around our house grabbing random items, which I then arranged on the desk in an attempt to make it a functional, yet cozy and personalized, workspace.

The first arrangement has a clean, breezy feel.  (Pardon the washed out look against the wall…twas a bummer I didn’t have a colorful flower handy to pop in the white bottle.)

The second one is a bit more rustic and warm.

Hmmm…I’m feeling inspired to tackle the desk in our guest bedroom.  (Sorry, but I don’t have a good shot of the inside.)

We don’t currently use this desk much, but in the fall I start a new teaching job where I will teach a few days in the regular classroom and the rest online.  It’s completely new for me—so exciting and so scary—but I can’t wait to try on more flexible hours.  All that to say, I think having a comfortable and inviting workspace is really important, so I’ve been brainstorming ways to make that a reality in my own work-from-home-space.  More on that later…

P.S. So here’s the missing camera scoop… Our third year anniversary fell over our trip to Yellowstone, so Matt sweetly planned a surprise overnight stay at the Lake Hotel, complete with a romantic dinner and dressy clothes to boot.  (We were camping, so a shower sounded like bliss!)  Since we were traveling with another couple and their 14 month old daughter, they were going to drop us off at the hotel and pick us up the next morning—such great friends!  We had spent the entire day taking in the geysers and mineral basins, and we were running a tad late for our dinner reservation.  As we careened down a curvy road trying to make up for lost time, our friend’s poor daughter threw up her entire day’s worth of food…all over everything.  Needless to say, we pulled over and it was all hands on deck as we cleaned everything up.  After fifteen minutes we were back on the road, and about two miles later we spotted our first grizzly bear!  I was freaking out, because I wanted so badly to see a bear on our trip.  Of course, I’m screaming, “Get out the camera, get out the camera!”  *Crickets.*  No. camera. to. be. found.  Long story short, we went back to look for the camera multiple times on the side of the road.  Nothing.  We even filled out a lost and found report, but so far we haven’t heard anything.  Our final conclusion is that during the crazy puke pullover, we probably placed the camera on top of the vehicle and drove off with an unsecured camera.  So sad.  The good news is that we still had a great anniversary, and now our friend is lending us a camera that her brother won.  But that’s actually another story for another day…

Another Thrifty Find

Our kitchen has an odd corner that used to baffle me.  It’s not very large, and it’s near a window, which limits the kind of furniture that might fit there.  But one evening when I was making dinner, the proverbial light bulb clicked on.  A chair.  A cute little chair for the odd corner of our kitchen.  A place for friends to sit and chat.  A surface for bags laden with groceries.  A dash of texture (and–gasp–possibly even some color) for our kitchen.  A chair!

Of course, I wasn’t about to spend lots of money on an expensive chair, so I turned to a girl’s best friend–Craigslist.  Within a few days I spotted this beauty for a mere $25.

According to the seller, this chair once graced the halls of The Broadmoor, which is an absolutely fabulous (and outrageously expensive) resort in Colorado Springs.  If you live in the area, The Broadmoor makes for a great date with your special someone.  You can go high class and enjoy their delectable Sunday brunch, or you can meander around the lake and play a game by the fire in one of their lounges.  If you’re lucky, there might be free entertainment in the black box theater.  And don’t miss out on the ice sculptures and gingerbread village around Christmas!  Don’t even get me started on the a.mazing decor…  Okay, I digress.  I’m starting to sound like a travel agent…

Aside from the fact that this chair is solidly built and boasts a smidgen of detail that I love…

it also has the perfect seat and back for reupholstering, which is something I’ve been dying to try ever since I fell head over heels for staple guns while covering our DIY headboard.

I plan to strip the peacock blue velvet from the chair and recover the base with upholstery from The Mill Fabric Outlet, which is my favorite fabric store in town.  I’ll definitely repaint the wood as well, although I’m not sure if I’ll stick with a distressed white (similar to my desk makeover) or a color of some sort.  Although I’m a teensy bit nervous to get down to the bones of this chair, I feel pretty confident that it can be done, as there are a ton of reupholstering tutorials online.  It’s also comforting to know that I only spent $25, so it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t turn out quite as I’m envisioning.  You know I’ll keep you posted on the details–the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Have you guys found any great furniture deals lately?  It’s addicting, isn’t it?   I’d love to hear about them if you have a minute to leave me a comment or link to a photo.  Cheers!

Desk Makeover

Remember this bad boy?

After a few coats of paint, a bit of distress on the edges, and some poly, an adorable desk emerged!

Talk about a face lift!

Please pardon the drop cloth and garage mess.  I don’t have a great place to stage photos, and since I’m going to attempt to sell this desk at our yard sale tomorrow, I didn’t want to make a big fuss over it.  Here are a few more angles for ya…

Some of you know that I work at a local golf course over my summers.  And when I say “local,” I mean literally one block behind our house!  Anyway, I have to get there by 5 am, which means I’m usually pretty tuckered out when I get home at 1:30 pm.  But I found that by painting this desk in stages, I was able to paint a layer each day after work which made the project more enjoyable since I wasn’t forcing it all to happen in one day.  It also allowed each coat to dry thoroughly, which eliminated stickiness.

Before painting, I primed the desk using Zinsser’s oil-based primer, which is supposed to be the best (at least according to blog authorities Centsational Girl and Young House Loveand the friendly sales associates at Home Depot).  The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s White Dove in an eggshell finish.  I topped it with a coat of polyurethane in satin (which is the same finish as eggshell).  Then I spray painted the hardware using Krylon’s Celery, which adds a cheery touch of color to the neutral base.  I’ve never painted furniture using so many layers, so I was a tad skeptical about whether or not each step was truly necessary.  Happily, the desk turned out great.  It will definitely hold up to some serious use without scratching thanks to the adhesive primer and the protective topcoat (I cannot say the same for our dressers that I painted this winter…although I love they way they turned out, they were a get-it-done paint job with little thought regarding longevity or paint adhesion).

I would love for this desk to end up in the room of a young girl or even the entryway of a home.  I’m crossing my fingers that it will catch someone’s eye at our yard sale tomorrow!  As a back up, I’m also posting it on Craigslist.  I’ll let you know what happens.

Happy Friday!