Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dining Room Redo, Part 1

Hey, how are you guys?  I know, it's been a couple of weeks but I really hadn't done anything else to The Little Cabinet That Could and had nothing else going but plans.  Oh, did I have plans.  I told you guys about how I pine for a dining room and when my Darling Husband finished our basement space into a living/family room I was one step closer.  We cleared all of the living room stuff out and were left with a gas fireplace, an old dresser that I go back and forth about and the bigger brother of my little cabinet, a four-shelf two-door pantry that's currently holding a bunch of kid related stuff. 

It sat that way for months because we couldn't decide what to do with it.  When we moved in here over ten years ago one of the first things we did was repaint everything a different color.  I mentioned that my grandfather's decorating ideas extended to, "Eh, Ivory/Cream/Beige goes with everything," and so we went colorful:  the kitchen and our bedroom were pink, the two extra bedrooms were peach and the then-living room, entry way and hall were the most gorgeous shade of sage green.  The full effect of all of that didn't hit me until one day when I was sitting on the end of my bed putting my shoes on and I looked up and could see my room, the hall and one of the extra bedrooms all at once and it looked like the inside of a doll house.  Yikes.  What made it worse was that we'd used flat paint on everything which was a pain in the behind to clean.  Because of this experience I backed off and let my husband pick paint colors and luckily he has great taste.  The sage green was beautiful but didn't really work in our space (it looked like a cave) so he repainted the living room, entry and hall a lift-your-spirits sunny yellow that is so much better but is ultimately really safe.  We kicked around maybe putting up blue and white curtains, which is a classic color combo but not quite as warm as I wanted.  I wanted cozy and colorful but not doll house and I was still trying to figure it out when I cleaned out my purse one day.  This purse.

Isn't that beautiful?  I got it a couple of years ago as a birthday present and I love it not just for the print but also because that color combination is just stunning.  That yellow there?  That's almost the exact shade that we have on the walls in the dining room.  That's the kind of warm I was thinking about and it was on my shoulder the whole time.  I passed it by my husband who was perfectly okay with whatever I wanted to do as long as it didn't involve him having to repaint anything.  I found some really pretty colors at Lowe's but before I had a chance to show my husband what I was thinking about we started talking about the fireplace mantle.  He's been considering taking the whole thing out because it clashes so much with the floor (which was not as noticable when we had an area rug in front of it) but I love it so I asked if we could maybe paint it and again he said that as long as he didn't have to do it he was fine with whatever I wanted to do.  When pushed he said he'd like it to be sea foam green.  Sea foam green you say? 

So I planned and I waited for my husband to take the kids to his university's homecoming this weekend and then I went to Lowe's, didn't listen to my intuition and the universe delivered an expensive lesson in ALWAYS listening to my intuition.  This has nothing to do with the actual redo but if you're reading this and your inner voice clears it's throat pay attention to it.  I locked myself out of my house three times this week.  The first two times were because the back door latch is touchy and sometimes just breathing on it, let alone actually shutting the door, makes it lock when that wasn't what I intended.  The first time it was easy enough to get back in because the plate holding the latch was loose and I just had to jiggle it to get it open.  That freaked me out a little bit so I tightened the plate and problem solved, right?  Nope, the latch was still touchy and still dropped when I went out to play with the dog.  That time I had to call my father-in-law to come and let me in because I'd tightened the plate and jiggling it didn't work.  While I was at Lowe's yesterday getting paint I passed the key making counter and thought to myself that I should really get an extra key and hide it outside somewhere but put it off because I was on a mission.  Inner voice whispering to you yet?  I got home with all my paint supplies and headed out the front door to our shed and because my brain registered that I had keys in my hand I automatically locked the door as I went out.  I realized my mistake as soon as I shut the door.  Husband and kids a hundred miles away, father-in-law with them.  *Sigh*  I went to my neighbor's and called a locksmith and twenty minutes and $80 later was back in my house.

Okay, so here's the mantle that I started with.  Please excuse the glare.


Nothing really wrong with it and it's in excellent condition but again it clashes with the floor.  I took inspiration and direction from Kate over at Centsational Girl.  The mantle redo she did for a friend is so beautiful but not quite what I was going for so while I followed the same basic steps I did a couple of things differently.  For example, I wasn't really going for a totally smooth professional looking finish so I didn't worry about the primer I used filling in the grain.  For this project I used an edger, an angled paint brush, a four-inch foam roller, a 60 grit sanding sponge to scuff the surface, a 320 grit sanding sponge to smooth it out between the primer coat and the first coat of paint, tack cloth to clean up the grit, a Sharpie Paint marker in Gold, Kilz Latex white primer and Olympic Interior Latex Semi-Gloss in Sea Sprite.  Oh, and about a pot of coffee, a call to my real life best friend for encouragement, another call to my brother to recount the trauma of being locked out and a surprisingly delicious store brand Mandarin Orange Chicken frozen meal.  Maybe I was just hungry.

I have no pictures from the actual process because I keep forgetting to do that but here are the steps I took.  First I wiped it down to make sure there were no candle wax drippings or smudges or anything.  Then I lightly scuffed the surface with the 60 grit sanding sponge, just enough to take the protective coat off and give the primer something to grip.  I cleaned up with a tack cloth and have you ever used one of those?  I had a cat once who got stuck playing with a roll of masking tape and let's just say that I feel her pain.  Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I couldn't return the paint and started priming.  I used a really light touch because like I said I wasn't going for totally smooth professional looking and I wanted the grain to come through.  Kilz lives up to it's "dries-in-an-hour" marketing so I sanded again and used the tack cloth again and as soon as the first brush stroke went on I knew I was in love.  Seriously.  Again I used a really light touch and the first coat went really quickly.  As soon as I was done I put a wet paper towel over the paint still in the tray (a tip I learned from my husband), wrapped the roller, brush and edger in aluminum foil and stuck them in the refrigerator (a tip I learned from my sister) and went to bed.  When I got up this morning I put on a second coat and let it dry and could barely contain myself waiting because I wanted to do the fun part. 

My husband had patinaed (is that a word?) the shiny brass metal trim around the fire box as soon as we bought it because it was just too 80s looking.  When I was first contemplating painting the mantle I realized that I wanted the medallion to stand out a little bit and considered giving it a faux treatment but when I was at Lowe's ignoring my intuition I couldn't find anything that I liked that was under $20.  While I was talking to real life best friend I happened to spy a Sharpie Paint marker my daughter had used for a school project and as it turned out it was the perfect tool.  The tip is thick enough that it kind of outlined the carvings rather than getting down in the grooves which is exactly what I wanted and was dreading trying to do with a teeny paint brush.  It's imperfect but that's why it's so charming to me.


So here's the finished mantle.

I have some touching up to do but it turned out better than I'd hoped.  Like I said, it's not perfectly smooth professional looking but I wasn't going for perfect, I was going for beautiful and as we all know those can be two very different things.  My husband hasn't seen it yet, I'll let you know his verdict.  What are you working on?  Comments are open.

UPDATE:  My husband may be a chemist by trade but he's an engineer by nature which means he's a perfectionist in most things, especially home improvement.  One of the reasons he loathes painting is that he sees all of the flaws when he's finished.  I once got up for a drink of water in the middle of the night and found him staring at the ceiling in the soon-to-be dining room, beating himself up for all the roller marks that only he could see.  I'm not a perfectionist, I'm a make-it-prettierist.  So I approached this project with a certain amount of trepidation, wondering what he'd think of it.  When he brought the kids home from camping last night I made him go in and look because I figured if he really hated it that it was better to know right away.  He LOVED it and thanked me for saving him the headache of doing it.  My older daughter was thrilled that I'd used her Sharpie, my son wants to "detail" his dresser with a bright green Sharpie now and my younger daughter didn't even notice because she barely had her eyes open and went straight to bed.  This morning she said she liked it.  I have enough paint left over (and I so love the color) that I think I might use it on The Little Cabinet That Could, too.  Have a great day, whatever you're doing!  


  1. This looks great, but I think I'll just buy a new house, lol. Reading this kind of stresses me out! :)

    1. LOL...don't get stressed out! It really was strangely relaxing. Who knew?