How To Paint Like a Pro: Walls, Moldings, and Doors

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This. Hallway! I knew it would be a lot of project, and oh man…it’s a lot of project. No surprises there.

Because of this, I really want it to turn out well. I don’t want to be bummed with my results, or feel like it needs a do-over down the line. Painting in an old house requires some special care and attention—especially if the work over the years has been less-than-stellar—but after years of learning through trial and error, I feel like I’ve figured out how to achieve a beautiful result no matter what existing conditions are thrown my way!

It’s been nearly NINE YEARS since I did a “how I paint” post, and a lot has changed in that time. Mostly that I know how to do things a lot better now. I used to think really nice, slick paint jobs were just something for other people (or the result of photoshop) and that my results were good enough. But the difference a really good paint job makes is HUGE. So let’s! Get! Into! It! We have a lot of ground to cover.

PREP—WALLS AND MOLDINGS:

I’ve learned to never walk into a paint project thinking that I’ll get paint on the walls on Day 1 (or 2 or 3), because the key to a good paint job is the prep. Say it with me: THE KEY. IS. THE PREP. Scream it from the mountaintops. Here are the tools that get it done, elegantly displayed on my dining table for your viewing pleasure:

I should note that I try to avoid fully stripping painted wood unless it’s truly necessary. Chemical strippers are super messy (and sometimes not especially effective), heat guns are hazardous with lead paint, and I truly don’t mind woodwork that’s been painted and repainted over the years! I don’t think old things need to look brand new. It’s a balancing act.

SUPPLIES:

  1. Sanders: I like to use 3 different electric sanders depending on the size and the surface. For large surfaces, a 5″ orbital sander is a must-have. For smaller detail work, I put all my faith in my very affordable and effective mouse sander. For the really nitty-gritty stuff, my Dremel MM50 with the sanding attachment is great, and easier to maneuver than most oscillating tools because of its low vibration. And for curvy bits and detail work, regular old sandpaper and your two god-given hands are the answer.
  2. Respirator: Any time you’re creating dust, but especially if that dust might contain lead (you can get instant lead tests to verify this if you wish, although I just always assume lead at this point), you want to—at the very least—wear a dust mask. If you think you might be dealing with lead, I encourage you to read up on lead-safe practices! Extra precautions should be taken around children or pets.
  3. Stiff wire brush: Not always necessary, but you may need it for flaking paint on a radiator, for instance.
  4. Scraper: In areas that may need more than a sanding (or where sanding will create too much dust), a hand scraper is your friend! Look for ones with blades you can change out as they dull with use.
  5. Disposable Gloves: For any time you’re working with harsh chemicals, or even when you aren’t. Dust, paint, and caulk will all dry out your beautiful hands, and you worked so hard on those cuticles!
  6. Patching Compound: My favorite is 3M Patch Plus Primer. It takes some getting used to, but it’s amazing stuff—it dries really fast, sands really smooth and easily, and doesn’t shrink or crack. It’s great for plaster/drywall patching and small patches or nail holes in woodwork.
  7. Hammer and Nail Set: Sometimes you come across a nail head that needs to be sunk down before painting. Otherwise that nail head will accumulate paint and become a big blob or cause drips.
  8. Assortment of scrapers and putty knives: for aforementioned patching and scraping off loose paint or big blobs in old paint jobs.
  9. Utility Knife: Useful for removing screws, cutting out old dried-up or sloppy caulk, and more!
  10. Flathead Screwdriver: In old houses, all the screws are flat-head, and it’s best to remove them manually rather than with a drill or driver. I HIGHLY recommend picking up a double-drive screwdriver, which speeds things up and creates less fatigue in your hands and arms.
  11. Electrical tester: usually you want to remove any existing light fixtures, outlets, and switches (depending on your circumstance) so you can paint right up to the box. Any time you’re messing with electric, a circuit-tester is a must-have so you can confirm that the power has been turned off before you touch hot wires and get a little electrocuted. That’s no fun.
  12. Temporary light: With your old light removed, take 5 seconds and throw up a temporary with a bright bulb. More lighting will help avoid mistakes and drips. You may also want to keep a work light handy for darker areas—I like these newer LED models.
  13. TSP Substitute + Microfiber cloths: ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS wipe everything down before painting. TSP substitute is great for removing dirt, wax or grease build-up, and getting a surface clean enough to nicely accept new paint or primer.
  14. Caulk + Caulking Gun: I SWEAR by Big Stretch caulk. After years of Alex Plus breaking my heart as it cracked and failed only a few weeks or months after painting, Big Stretch is a slightly-more-expensive-but-far-superior life-saver. Whatever caulk you use, make sure that it’s PAINTABLE if, indeed, that is the intention.

So. Let’s put these things to work!

From a distance, my trim looked pretty good. Up close, it did not—it had a lot of lumps and bumps and drips from sloppy older paint jobs, and some peeling paint here and there.

Step 1: I use a rigid putty knife or scraper to flake off any actively peeling paint. Peeling paint will not provide a good substrate for new paint, duh.

Step 2: Then use a scraper to knock down any large lumps and bumps. You want to constantly run your hands over what you’re working on, as things will start to look worse and worse but you’re aiming for it to feel smooth at this stage. Trust yourself! You’ll know.

Step 3: Then I sand any flat portions with one of my electric sanders, which makes quick work of smoothing out remaining imperfections. I love my Dremel MM50 for this, especially when working next to the wall. The mouse sander vibrates too much and will damage the wall, which you then need to patch. The MM50 helps avoid that problem! It’s all very time-consuming depending on the condition of your trim, so get ready for a few marathon sessions, followed by a few marathon cleaning sessions assuming health and safety is a priority in your household. Curvy bits have to be sanded by hand. I tend to go for a pretty low-grit (aka, rougher) sandpaper, like 40, 60, or 80 grit.

Step 4: Vacuum up all the dust (if lead is present, make sure your vacuum is equipped with a HEPA filter), and wipe everything down with a damp microfiber cloth. It doesn’t hurt to just use the TSP at this point, but this is not the last time you will wipe things down.

Step 5: Patch. Using your fingers or a flexible putty knife, apply 3M Patch Plus Primer to any smaller holes or damage you wish to fill. I don’t fill every little knick and ding—I like to see a little character that comes with age. Wait for it to dry, and then sand it smooth. Do not jump ahead and caulk because you’re bored of waiting for it to dry. Go cook dinner or whatever.

Step 6: Clean off your new sanding dust from the Patch Plus Primer.

Step 7: If the surface is previously painted or primed, at this point you can caulk. Cut off the verrrrrry end of the tube of caulk to create a small hole, and apply a small bead of caulk where molding hits walls or ceilings, or where the pieces of a multi-part molding has separated and created gaps. Keep a bowl of water with you. Dip your finger in the water, and smooth the caulk. It may take a couple of passes to get it really nice and smooth. Once you move on though, DO NOT GO BACK. Once the caulk starts to skin over, you’ll make a mess if you try to smooth it out further, so take your time on the first pass. I like to let caulk dry for at least 12 hours (ideally more like 24) before painting, even if the package says it’s paint-ready in an hour or two.

One last thing! For large repairs on interior woodwork, I like good old-fashioned Bondo. Bondo is a 2-part epoxy auto body filler that’s hard as nails, but dries VERY quickly and can be shaped nicely by sanding. I’m stupid and forgot to take a “before” picture, but there was a big chunk missing out of the top of this piece of baseboard, so Bondo to the rescue!

Bondo should be about the consistency of peanut butter, but I was working with an old can that had dried out a lot. It still works, you just get that grainy texture that’s more of a pain to sand out.

This is where the artistry comes in. Be one with the Bondo. Shape and smooth it until it’s justtttt right. I mostly used my Dremel sander since this is an odd shape.

After painting, can you spot the repair?? I can’t. I’m very proud of my Bondo artistry.

NOTE: Don’t use Bondo for exterior wood repairs. I’ve never had it fail inside, but outside is a different story. It doesn’t expand and contract with the wood, so eventually it just separates and falls off. Interior wood doesn’t go through the same fluctuations in temperature and moisture. A better product for exterior wood repair (whether it’s rot or other damage) is Abatron WoodEpox, available online.

PRIMING:

Here are your priming supplies to add to the prep supplies:

  1. Canvas Drop Cloths (+ extra, or plastic sheets if you need to cover furniture)
  2. Blue Hawk 2″ angled brush(es—I like to keep a bunch around, and they’re cheap)
  3. Drywall Primer/Sealer
  4. High Quality Oil or Water-Based Primer (here I’m using Zinsser Peel Stop Primer—a true miracle of modern science!)
  5. Spiral Mixing Arm
  6. Optional: Marking Line Chalk (so cheap and a container will last a lifetime)

If your surfaces aren’t painted or primed, you’ll want to prime before you caulk to extend the life of the caulk. Caulking onto unpainted wood or drywall/joint compound will suck the moisture out of the caulk, causing it to fail prematurely.

I hate to tell you, but it needs to be said: all major paint retailers are selling “Paint Plus Primer” paint products now, with the implication being that you don’t have to prime. Here’s the truth: essentially it’s just really thick paint, so you can get good coverage if you’re painting, say, white over burgundy or something.

BUT: if you’re painting over unpainted drywall or joint compound (as I was, since my walls are skim-coated in joint compound), you want to use a drywall primer/sealer first. This is specifically formulated to seal in the drywall and give yourself a solid foundation for paint. It IS different (and much cheaper!) than regular paint, whether or not that paint claims to have primer included. DON’T SKIP IT if this is the first coat of paint over new drywall or joint compound.

PRIMING WALLS:

Step 1: Lay down drop cloths over anything you don’t want to get primer on. A plastic sheet is fine for covering furniture pushed into the center of a room, but you want canvas for the floor. That way, paint will soak in and dry on the canvas, rather than staying wet on a plastic tarp and inevitably end with you tracking it around the house.

Step 2: WIPE. DOWN. THE. WALLS. DO NOT SKIP THIS. I REPEAT, DO NOT SKIP THIS. If you’ve ever had the experience of new paint peeling off of newly finished walls or coming up when you remove painter’s tape, that’s usually because the walls weren’t adequately cleaned to remove any joint compound dust. You can use a wet microber cloth, or even a mop! You want to be able to wipe your hand against the dried wall without it getting covered in white powder. If your walls are already painted, you’ll want to wipe them down with TSP substitute (or similar) to remove any dust, dirt, or oils. If your walls are glossy, a liquid deglosser isn’t a bad idea.

Step 3: I prefer to “cut in” (brushing corners—or areas where molding meets the walls—that you can’t reach with a roller) before rolling, but you can do it in reverse if you want. I like to use a cheap brush for this to preserve the nicer brush I’ll use for the finish coats of paint. I love these short-handled 2″ Blue Hawk angled brushes for anything I don’t need an especially high-quality brush for. The short handle allows you to get into tight spaces where a longer handle might prevent that.

PRIMING MOLDINGS:

After sinking any nail heads, sanding, filling, cleaning, and caulking, it’s time to prime. Again—with these newer paints on the market, it’s tempting to skip priming, and while it’s not a crisis if you don’t, priming is never a bad idea.

Paint can continue to peel even after removing anything that’s loose now, so my new favorite thing in the world is Peel Stop Primer by Zinsser. It bonds to both oil and latex paints, can be used for interior or exterior work, and it’s almost like a paintable glue that kind of seals everything in. The Triple Thick formula has the added benefit of helping to fill/smooth out imperfections left by paint that’s been removed, although you don’t want to rely on that aspect too much—you’ll be better off getting a smooth surface by sanding first. Peel Stop Primer leaves behind a beautiful matte finish—slightly toothy?—that is the perfect foundation for finish coats of paint.

While Peel Stop does have my heart, any high-quality oil or water-based primer will do. But if you have issues with peeling paint specifically, check out Peel Stop!

I know this casing LOOKS rough, but I promise at this point it’s smooth as a baby’s butt! I hate that phrase.

You may notice that my Peel Stop is pink! That’s because I added a little bit of red chalk, which is made for creating snap lines. It’s my fun little hack—just add a little chalk and mix it with a paint mixer attached to a drill until it’s all combined. Peel Stop is a white-ish clear, so this allows me to see it and make sure I’m getting decent coverage and not missing any areas because it’s invisible! I do this with patching compound too if it’s the same-ish color as the walls, so I make sure I don’t miss any sanding before painting.

PAINT:

FINALLY! LET’S PAINT!

SUPPLIES:

  1. HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Infinity Paint. I typically like a flat/matte finish for walls, but in this high-traffic space I went with Eggshell. For trim and doors, I prefer Satin finish to Semi-Gloss—I just usually think Semi-Gloss is too shiny. The shinier the paint, the more it will show off imperfections.
  2. Floetrol. YOU. GUYS. WHY HAVE I NEVER USED FLOETROL. It is a game-changing paint additive that extends the dry time of latex paint, allowing it to self-level (evening out brush strokes) and behave more like oil paint. It’s INCREDIBLE. This particular Sherwin-Williams paint is VERY thick and dries VERY fast, which can quickly lead to a messy paint job if you go back over the same area even a minute or two after painting it, so I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend using Floetrol. And yes, it does work better than watering down the paint a little, which was my old method.
  3. Metal (or plastic) Paint tray and disposable liners. I don’t like plastic waste either, but I’m only human—disposable liners make my life easier and save a little on the already considerable clean-up time.
  4. Paint Roller: These can vary in cost significantly, but I’ve never had a problem with the cheap ones. This one by Blue Hawk is perfectly fine, and only a few bucks.
  5. Paint Roller Pads: For the past few years, I’ve been in LOVE with these microfiber roller pads by Whizz. I prefer them because they never leave lint behind like traditional rollers, and I HATE finding little fibers dried into a brand new paint job. I used to just throw away roller pads when I was done with them because I found that they never held up well to washing, so I just gave up. NOT THESE! I literally just throw them in my washing machine, and they come out as good as new. I’ve been using the same roller pads for years! They work best when you pre-wet them in the sink and wring them out a little, so they’re just a little damp. LOVE.
  6. High-Quality Brush: For trim, you want a nicer brush than you use for primer or even for cutting in the walls. I love Purdy’s brushes—a little pricey up-front, which is why I try to preserve them and avoid using them for everything. I prefer the short-handled ones, and for painting trim with latex paint I like a Medium Stiff bristle.
  7. Handy Pail + Disposable Liners: For cutting in walls or painting trim, I love my Handy Pail! They have a little magnet built-in which holds the paint brush from falling into the paint, and a handle so you’re less likely to drop a gallon or quart all over your floor. Again, you could skip the plastic liner as long as you’re diligent about washing the thing after every use. I am not.
  8. Spiral Mixing Arm: Even if your paint is freshly mixed, it’s never a bad idea to really mix it up and incorporate any pigments that might settle toward the top before painting. Wash it immediately after so it stays clean! You can also use the wood paint stirrer they give you when you buy the paint, but I feel like the mixing arm is faster and more thorough.
  9. Brush/Roller Cleaning Tool: This one by Purdy is for cleaning both brushes and rollers. The teeth help separate any bristles that get gunked up, especially up toward the handle of the brush.
  10. Painter’s Tape: It has a time and a place. I do NOT use it to tape off walls/ceilings or trim—I find I can get a cleaner line with some focus and a steady hand. But sometimes you need a little bit.
  11. Aluminum Foil: I use it to wrap wet brushes or rollers if I know I’ll come back to them within a day or so. Otherwise, it’s best to wash them. Some people keep these in the fridge or freezer—I’ve never found that helpful, but hey! You do you.
  12. Paint can opener: It’s better than a flathead screwdriver at getting the lid off the paint without messing it up, so you can close the can later. They’ll give you one for free at the paint desk. Use it!

The first coat is always so exciting! I include this primarily so you can get a sense of how NOT white this paint is, even though the end result reads like a pale off-white. This is Sherwin-Williams Oyster White, which is SUCH a nice color that—in my hallway at least—looks great in all lighting conditions. LOVE.

Step 1: I usually cut in with the brush before grabbing the roller, but I was so antsy to paint and my caulk hadn’t dried yet, so I rolled first. I typically work top-down, starting with the ceiling. While there’s nothing wrong with a white ceiling, in here I decided to paint it the same as the wall color and I’m really glad I did! I think it softens the whole thing, and maybe makes the ceilings appear higher? The ceiling looks like a lighter color, but that’s just because it’s on a different plane than the walls.

Step 2: With your first coat dry, hit any areas you may have missed with patching compound and caulk. Make sure you sand the patching compound before proceeding.

Step 3: Cut in and roll all over again. Note that this paint, like many others on the market now, promises “One Coat Coverage.” This is a lie. There is no such thing, full stop. So while you can stop at one coat, don’t come crying to me when your paint job looks lousy. Always two coats, minimum. You’ve done all the hard work already so there’s no sense in letting a final coat of paint get you down.

DOORS:

Doors are their own special beasts that require extra attention to do right. And, you guessed it, it’s all about TLC and prep.

When possible/practical, I like to remove the door entirely—it’s easier to work through all the steps, and easier to avoid drips that tend to come with gravity around the ogee molding in the panels.

Step 1: Use a utility knife to score out the slot in the flat-head screws so your screwdriver can get a good grip. Also score around the hinge itself so the paint doesn’t lift off wood with it. Remove the hinges.

Step 2: Remove any additional hardware like knobs, keyholes, and the mortise.

Step 3: Lay your door flat on sawhorses (I like these!) in an area that can get dusty. Luckily I’m still living with a few un-renovated rooms that are good for this kind of thing.

NOW. If you’ve ever painted a door this way, you know how it goes: you can really only do one side at a time, and the sawhorse tends to damage the new paint job when you flip it over to do the other side. With solid wood doors, flipping the door can be really difficult, particularly when you’re working solo! Which I pretty much always am, while praying I can find a man that will put up with me.

Don’t worry about that. See the thing that’s screwed into the top and bottom of the door? Well. Let me tell you about it.

ENTER: THE SPINSTER DOOR FLIPPER™. I straight-up ripped this off from @chalkstonewoodworking’s instagram, but the name is all my own. Get it? It’s a cheap pun. Because it spins the door but also it’s for spinsters like myself.

Essentially a set of two allows you to flip the door while you’re working, without the need for it to dry, and they cost about $15 to make. They speed things up SO MUCH, especially if you’re tackling a bunch of doors at once. Here’s how to make one:

  1. Start with a piece of scrap wood that’s close-ish to the width of your doors. A little shorter is fine. This is a piece of 5/4″ lumber (which used to be one of the shelves in my now-defunct pantry! Don’t throw away good wood, y’all). You could also use a 2x, but I think a modern 1x would be too flimsy. Drill one hole in the center for the threaded rod, and two holes large enough to fit the lag bolts through.
  2. A long threaded rod, or something like this big eyelet bolt. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s hefty enough to bear some weight.
  3. Two nuts that fit the threaded rod
  4. 4 large washers
  5. Two large lag bolts—mine are 5″. Err on the side of bigger rather than smaller: it needs to support the weight of the door.
  6. 2 Metal spacers large enough for the lag bolts to fit through. I can’t remember what these were called…dig around in those specialty hardware drawers until you find what you need.

Assemble it like so!

Assembled, it should look like this. Pre-drill the top and bottom of your door at the locations of the lag bolts, and screw in the lag bolts into the top and bottom of your door with your driver.

SO. The door is actually floating slightly off of the sawhorses and being supported by the Spinster Door Flipper™. The beauty is that all you need to do to flip the door over is shimmy your sawhorse out a few inches so that the threaded rod is resting on the sawhorse. Do this on both ends, and you can pivot the door on the threaded rod to rotate it 180 degrees.

You will feel like an all-powerful trick that don’t need no man. Trust. It’s worth the 30 minutes it takes to fabricate the thing.

From there, it’s really a matter of following the same steps as the rest of your trim! I sand to remove any lumps and bumps and mostly leave small knicks and damage alone. I like using my mouse sander with 60 grit pads, and then follow up with hand-sanding on the detailed bits. Then clean and prime with Zinsser Peel Stop.

Once the Peel Stop is fully dry, you may wish to do some light sanding or skip it. Then it’s time to paint! I prefer to do it all with a brush and fairly thick 2 coats of Floetrol-infused paint, taking care to proceed in an orderly manner that keeps brush marks in the direction of the grain for the different parts of the door. You’ll get into a groove. I’d caution going more matte than a Satin finish, but you’re a grown adult and can make your own choices. I like satin, personally!

Note: depending on condition, you MAY want to do some strategic caulking around the ogee moldings, if present. It will take away some dimension, so use sparingly!

Now! Let’s get that hardware all nice n’ naked.

My preferred method is the classic Crock Pot Method. I got this from my friend Anna, who got it from This Old House, who got it from Brad Kittel, who has a podcast about Tiny Houses in case you’re curious.

Here’s all it is:

Step 1. Buy a cheap crock pot. You can always find these at thrift stores for a few dollars.

Step 2: Place your paint-laden hardware in the crock pot. Fill with water. I like to throw in a dishwasher detergent pod—I’m not positive it actually helps, but I love to try to hack a system.

Step 3: Set the crock pot on low and leave it for several hours. I usually let it go overnight. The low heat of the crock pot prevents lead from vaporizing and killing your family and pets.

Step 4: Dump all the cooked hardware in a colander, and clean each piece with a scrubby sponge and dish soap. All the paint should slide off—if there are stubborn bits, just let that piece simmer a while longer.

LOOK AT IT ALL! SPOTLESS. MY PRECIOUSSSSSS.

Small caveat: This method removes paint effectively, but can also mess up brass plating. If your hardware is brass-plated, a better method is to use Citristrip—either submerge the piece in Citristrip, or coat and wrap in plastic wrap and clean after about 24 hours.

Iron hardware will rust if left untreated, so I typically spray paint it with a good-quality spray paint. I love Rust-Oleum’s Professional High-Performance Enamel in Semi-gloss, but it’s up to you. You could also use a clear varnish if you want to preserve the raw look. Options!

Let’s just take a collective pause to appreciate this spring-bolt lock that belongs on the front doors. I MEAN. Eastlake goodness.

Patience is a virtue when you’re re-hanging the door and re-installing all your fresh and beautiful hardware. Each of my doors require THIRTY individual screws to put back together, and it takes about an hour per door. So put on a podcast, grab a drink, and get busy.

Pro-Tip #1: Sometimes, the screw holes in the jamb will be too large to hold the screw effectively. Stick a toothpick or a section of a bamboo skewer into the hole, and your screw should go in nice and tight.

Pro-Tip #2: For the love of god, don’t toss your flathead screws and replace them with the modern and, admittedly, easier phillips-head screws. It will look stupid and wrong, and you’ve come too far for that!

OK. PHEW. BEFORE YOU KNOW IT (jk, well after you thought it would be done…), YOU WILL HAVE THE SLICKEST PAINT JOB IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. CHECK IT OUT:

2013.

This was a couple weeks ago. And nowwwwwww…

LOOK AT US. Thank you for your support.

Guys. My house is starting to look like a functional person lives here. I’m not sure what to do with that, but I know I like it.

I keep considering cutting out the top two panels of this door and replacing them with a piece of textured glass—just like the bathroom door at the other end of the hall—to let more light into the hallway. This is the one space in the house that feels starved for natural light. The rest of the house gets so much light, for which I’m extremely lucky. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place.

I’m just so happy with how this all panned out. I’ve taken on some big renovations but honestly? I feel like I’ve had to apply everything I’ve learned over the past decade+, mostly through trial and error, in this one space. And the results are NICE. Doors so smooth you could lick ’em. That’s a good feeling!

To finish off the upstairs, I added this great light fixture from Globe Electric! It’s super nice and looks way fancier than the $145 price tag suggests. I like having the contrast of a modern touch in a nicely restored space—it kinda reminds me of a modern mobile, and lights the space so nicely!

Now. Onwards! We have 17 stairs, the entire downstairs, and things like art and rugs and hooks to contend with. Stay! Tuned!

From the Vault: My Bedside Tables!

There are two pieces of furniture that are, without exception, always the most difficult for me to source and settle on. The first is coffee tables. The second is bedside tables. Either the prices are out of range, or the quality is too crappy, or the style is wrong, or the dimensions (height, especially!) don’t work with the couch or the bed. It’s a profound struggle! Exhausting! Simply untenable! Something must be done!

Back when I first put my bedroom back together a couple of years ago, I stuck a couple little vintage teak side tables next to the bed while I searched for better ones. I found these on Craigslist years ago, and they necessitated a very…interesting trip to a nursing home to procure. That’s neither here nor there.

On the plus side, they didn’t obscure the panel detail below the windows. But that’s about where the appeal started and ended, because I truly don’t understand how people don’t NEED storage next to their beds. HOW. I don’t know if it’s because I aspire to spend all my time in bed and have everything I need within reach, but I simply don’t understand where the stuff goes otherwise. I need pens and pencils next to my bed for late-night sketching and list-making! I need my crazy pills! Hand lotion! Pot! You see the challenge.

Eventually I got fed up and made my own weird but very versatile solution that I’ve come to really like, so I wanted to explain!

It’s an IKEA kitchen cabinet. This makes…4 IKEA kitchen cabinets in this house, none of which are in my kitchen? The other two are in the closet serving as the dresser.

You won’t see this particular arrangement online, but the amazing thing about IKEA kitchen cabinets is that everything is modular, and they now make the drawers in both the base cabinet depth (24″) and the upper cabinet depth (15″) if you’re more pressed for space. This has opened up a world of hackery options. The drawers come in 3 sizes—5″, 10″, and 15″—that you can arrange to your heart’s content. It’s all so smart.

So here’s alllll it is. The frame is a 15″ high x 15″ deep x 24″ wide cabinet, which is intended to hang on the wall. Like I said. It’s all modular. Choose your own adventure.

For these cabinet frames I got a 5″ drawer and a 10″ drawer. But you could do three 5″ drawers or one 15″ drawer…THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER.

Then I unscrewed the legs from the teak side tables and put the tops underneath the cabinet frame to keep them a bit off the floor. This was intended to be an entirely temporary solution, and then I forgot all about it.

For the tops, I just pried the little rubber feet things off the bottom of these Crate & Barrel marble pastry slabs and placed them on top. They’re heavy so they really don’t shift around, but the original intention was to double-stick velcro them to the cabinet’s top for a more secure (but easily reversible) assembly.

The handles I got years ago in Sweden! I have a ton of them but figured it was better to use 4 now than none at all until whatever project they get used for presents itself. Until then I’ll just hoard the rest, as I tend to do!

That’s it! Obviously you could customize this 10,000 different ways with different drawer fronts/hardware, wrapping the sides of the cabinet in wood or another material, doing something else on the top, adding feet or legs in whatever style you want—I don’t know your business! They could also be wider or narrower or taller, too, depending on your bed/sofa situation of course.

The great thing is that because these are really intended for kitchens, the quality of the drawers and glides is GREAT. IKEA also makes plenty of interior organizers so you can keep all your little bedside thingamabobs nice n’ orderly. I can’t stand chaotic drawers. I would show you the interiors but that feels oddly personal. Like, we’re friends and all, but I’m not sure I know you like that. I’m a very private person as you can plainly tell by my near-decade of blogging in detail about my living spaces.

BTW—how cute is my little macrame plant holder/pot/plant?! It was handcrafted by one of my favorite local makers, Lail Design. Brad’s work is so beautiful! The plant is from Lowe’s—it’s a Hoya Hindu Rope Plant which may or may not bloom someday, but it seems happy being generally neglected, which I appreciate in a house plant.

Other than that, not a lot has really changed in the bedroom since I installed the faux fireplace back in the spring! I futz around with stuff on the mantel sometimes. I picked up this H&M Home linen duvet cover during the Black Friday sale, which I love! I have one in the “light taupe” as well, and I’ve been really happy with the quality and how well they wash and dry. Ordering something in a color called “dark beige” was, for some reason, extremely exciting and funny to me. I LOVE LOVE the “dark yellow” color too, but this just isn’t the house/room for it as much as I wish it were.

I got the linen bathrobe at the same time, also in dark beige, and much to my delight it’s the exact same fabric as the duvet cover. Which means when I wear it in bed, I just look like a floating head with a coupla hands.

I maybe need more adventure in my life.

I dunno. Still gotta paint that door to the nursery. I put up that tiny oval mirror recently. I found that art above the radiator at our local consignment shop for like $20 and I dig it. Still keeping my eye out for a rug…I do miss having a rug in the bedroom particularly in the winter. It appalls me that I have so many rugs and none of them fit/work in this room. It feels like it should not be possible.

Mekko continues to be the most beautiful woman on the planet, perfect in every way. This is not up for debate.

Bungee is an absolute menace and I adore him. I’m thrilled to report that he’s FINALLY coming around to enjoying an extremely close cuddle. He’s super soft and has a lot of loose skin, so I’m glad to see his priorities are aligning better with my own. A huge relief, honestly. I will continue to work on it and keep you updated on our progress.

Brand New Year, Brand New…Paint!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

Ahhhhhh, the first days of a new year! The promise! The potential! The overwhelming need to try to start things off on the right foot, as though your actions at the beginning of the year probably-definitely-certainly will inform the rest of the year and, by extension, your entire life. Isn’t it exhilarating?

For me, the new year always brings with it a certain feeling of dread over the things I failed to accomplish in the previous year. I love performing the ritual of listing out goals in January, forgetting all about them, and then later using them to feed my end-of-year self-loathing about all the things that I haven’t actually managed to complete. Then I roll those items over into the next year, so what starts as an actionable plan to finally pull my life together inevitably just creates more evidence that I have not, in fact, pulled my life together. But maybe this is the year! Who’s to say! Because I’m kicking it off with a big grown-up someday project that has, heretofore, rolled over as a goal from year to year but has not actually gotten done.

WELCOME TO MY HALLWAY, A MERE 6+ YEARS AFTER MOVING INTO THIS HOUSE. Allow me to explain.

My house is a big project, as we well know by now. And I’ve done a lot of work on it. But I’ve also neglected this space because it’s not an actual living space—just a large area you pass through to get to the living spaces. Like most typical side-hall layouts, this hallway runs from the front to the back of the house and contains both the stairs and access to all the main rooms. So I’ve told myself that it’s a project for another time since it won’t functionally change how I live in the house, and so I just have to wait.

The problem is, it makes me feel very bad, what with its abandoned paint samples and general rattiness. It’s like a monument to that final 10% (OK, maybe more than 10%) of work that’s so hard to get yourself to actually do, and it’s the FIRST thing you see when you walk in and the last thing before you depart. Added to this is the palpable sense of indecision, which is somehow scarier than the actual work? I generally think I’m a decisive person who knows what they want, and this hallway makes me question that idea every single day. I’ve been stumped for years, which makes me feel worse and more insecure and less capable of just making a decision!

So let’s end the madness. Right here right now. It’s 2020 and I have HAD IT.

To be clear, a lot of work has already gone into this space! It’s easy to forget, so let’s take a little trip back in time.

This is almost exactly 7 years ago, from the first time I saw the house! About 5 feet beyond the grand front doors was this big 1970s wall, covered in fake wood paneling with weird windows and a hollow-core door. I had been OBSESSED with this property listing but there were only a few photos and they were, unsurprisingly, horrendous, so I don’t think I was expecting this. Note also that both doorways to the current living room (left) and the enormous someday-living-room (right) are covered over in plywood, and that little tiny sconce on the wall was the ONLY source of light in the entire space.

BUT THEN! Once through that crazy “vestibule” I was hit with this gorgeous unpainted newel post and banister and I fell in love.

At the back of the staircase was this other 1970s wall, which provided the entrance to the first floor apartment.

At the top of the stairs was yet more 1970s fun and excitement! The door served as the entrance to the second floor apartment, and the entire upstairs banister was obscured by wood paneling to create more of a wall. They stopped the wall about 1′ short of the ceiling, for light I imagine?

It did not work especially well, because this hallway was DARK DARK DARK. So very dark. The upstairs space was also extremely narrow, in addition to being so so dark.

I’m unclear on whether the previous owners were just being kind of lazy when they built these additions or if they were concerned about preserving the house, but either way…the plywood-covered doorways still maintained the doors on the other side, none of the trim work had been removed or even really cut into, and I felt confident that the original banister would be hiding underneath the paneled walls. And it was! All of this was really very lucky and I’m so thankful they didn’t destroy the house in the process of dividing it up.

First order of business was opening up those doors again! It was so exciting.

And then the “vestibule” had to go too! Returning this space back to its original layout and scale was the stuff of old-house-renovation dreams! Immediately the house felt so open and airy, like it could breathe again.

Upstairs, I did in fact find the original banister relatively unscathed. The upstairs hall has no windows and is just generally pretty dark, but opening everything back up really helped.

I can’t forget about stripping ALL THAT WALLPAPER. It appeared to be a couple layers of wallpaper, and that green and gold pattern was actually painted with some kind of patterned roller. It was separating from the original plaster all over the place, and it all had to come down to restore the walls. Fun fun! So messy and sticky and slow.

Later on, I had the radiator moved away from the stairs and closer to the front door (if you really want to know, I actually put the hallway radiator in the dining room and the dining room radiator out in this location in the hall), other plumbing re-routed into the walls, and electric roughed in for new lighting! Then I tore out the ceiling, which had already been replaced with drywall that was poorly installed and even more poorly finished—it just made more sense to take it down and start over, especially since the living room and dining room both got new ceilings at the same time!

New ceiling! This was also the first time I hired Edwin—who knew what THAT would turn into?!

Finally, I did have some good sense to hire out skim-coating the walls, which was a huge job that I still would not want to attempt today. This left smooth and hole-free walls, ready for a little finish work and PRESTO! Restored hallway!

Except that’s not really what happened. All this major work occurred years ago at this point, and then progress in here just hit a total stand-still as other things were attended to. Eventually I did get my act together and throw a coat of primer on the walls, because I was sick of getting covered in white dust every time I swiped against the raw joint compound.

And that’s how it’s been for the last few years. Generally ignored and neglected. Being treated as a landing zone for materials and supplies as they round-robin their way in and out of the house. Waiting.

Well, I’m done waiting! I’m so tired of it looking so lousy in here, and so tired of apologizing to guests and sheepishly telling them the house is a “work in progress” as they walk in the front door and take it in. That feeling? It does affect the way that I live in the house. Negatively. And it occurs to me that if this space was “finished,” it wouldn’t matter so much what’s going on behind a few of the doors where rooms are in various stages of renovation, because the overall impression would not be one of a total construction site. This all sounds so luxurious, so I just have to make it happen!

I don’t think I’m easily overwhelmed, but yet this all feels extremely overwhelming for two main reasons. Maybe they sound familiar:

  1. The scale of the project. It is not really a room and yet there are—count ’em—13 doors in this hallway needing various levels of restoration work (think missing hardware, alignment issues that don’t allow them to close, sloppy old paint jobs, etc.). There are also 17 stair treads—all painted—and 57 spindles—all with some paint on them but not enough to justify painting them—and three transom windows and miles of painted trim and a lot of wall and ceiling surface area to contend with. Oh and the floor needs some patches where radiator pipes have moved around, and eventually a full refinishing.
  2. COMMITMENT PROBLEMS. How many years should it take for me to decide what I want to do? APPARENTLY ALL OF THEM. While my typical attitude toward painting is usually “hey, it’s just paint!” (i.e.—the easiest part of renovating and the least problematic to change down the line), this is SO MUCH WORK (see item 1) and SO MUCH PAINTING that I really don’t want to face redoing it any time soon. Which has created all this internal pressure to get it right the first time, which has led me into an insecurity spiral of uncommon proportions.

So I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to overcome these obstacles and get my butt in gear. I thought if I told you about them, it might help you work through whatever version of this hallway you have in your life! Unless you don’t have one. Think you’re better than me?! Ok fine. You are.

First, I finally cleared everything out. That stack of drywall had been there for years, and now it’s waiting in the other room. Hooray.

Next, I evaluated what actually needed to be done. I’ve had hallway blinders on for so long that I didn’t really have a list, and like most painting projects, it isn’t so much about the painting itself but all the prep that has to happen first to get a nice result. This list quickly became very daunting, so I turned to my default strategy: break up the project into parts so I don’t completely lose my mind! Sometimes you have to take it in smaller chunks to keep things feeling manageable, which I often forget is an option. Not everything is a strictly all-or-nothing endeavor, Daniel!

So. First I will tackle the upstairs hallway. It probably needs the least work? And getting it squared away should help motivate me to keep going. That, or I’ll just get completely burned out…but at least I will have accomplished something.

Then I will tackle the stairs–a massive project unto themselves. I painted the bottom three treads black years ago to see how I liked it, and the verdict is: I HATE IT. Black treads often/usually look GREAT, but not only did the dogs and I quickly wear through the paint, I’ve finally made peace that I just CANNOT have painted floors in this house. They are destined to always look dirty—no matter the color—and I just simply cannot deal. Does that dog look like someone concerned with keeping dirt and fur off the floor? Because he is not remotely concerned. I am outnumbered in this regard and it’s a battle I plainly cannot and will not win.

Obviously, these stairs once had a runner. I’m actually pretty sure they’ve always had a runner, meaning that the paint build-up on other edge of each tread is…immense. So many layers. And I have considered a runner, but I actually don’t think I would like that option much better than painted stairs from a functional standpoint, and it would cost a fortune.

Which leaves me with…I’m going. To Strip. The treads. And I WILL SURVIVE IT. I used to get really hung up on whether to stain the treads to try to match the banister or the floor, but honestly? I think leaving them natural pine and then letting the sealer enrich them to whatever wood tone they want to be is going to be just fine. I’m testing out various chemical strippers to try to avoid lead exposure and endless hours of scraping and sanding, although I know scraping and sanding will inevitably be part of the process. I think I will be extremely happy with this result, and I’ll just divide and subdivide the process to keep it feeling achievable. A little bit at a time is the name of the game!

And then, finally, I will tackle the first floor hallway. And then it will be so so nice. I can’t wait to strip that transom window over the bathroom door at the back of the hallway! And put a doorknob on the bathroom door. And finally make what’s behind that door into a bathroom. Ha!

So now that I have a decent idea of the how, I just needed to commit to some daunting choices like color and fixtures and stuff. Easy, right? Fun, right? WRONG.

FOR INSTANCE. These samples have been on the wall for so long that I no longer remember what they even are. I did not label them because I figured I would tackle this in a timely manner and therefore would still have the benefit of my memory.

I think where I’ve gotten hung up on these decisions is the fact that there are a lot of options that would all look good! Hallways can be a great place to have some fun with some amazing wallpaper, and they can also be a perfect opportunity for dark and moody colors and interesting arrangements of art and some bold, whimsical choices. I’ve felt like there’s a simple solution that I know will look nice—white-ish trim, grey-ish walls, and black doors all around—but that I’d somehow be betraying myself or the house or everyone on the planet by just going with the simple solution. But sometimes classic and simple and—sure, maybe a little boring—is all you really want, and all it takes is the confidence to hush whatever’s telling you it’s not good enough and commit.

So I guess my basic rule is this: if you feel PASSIONATE about a bold decision, MAKE THAT BOLD DECISION. But if you feel on the fence, or like you should but your heart’s not really in it…there is nothing wrong with the most obvious choice. I’ve always felt like paint should complement whatever else you have going on in a given space, but it shouldn’t be the dominant choice. In other words, if you’re relying on the color of your walls to make or break a space, you’re probably doing it wrong—try to think more about lighting, rugs, art, objects, furniture, and architectural detail.

ANYWAY. Upon revisiting these samples that I’ve walked by everyday for years, I finally realized that none of them were really right, but that doesn’t mean the general direction was wrong. I can get a few more samples! Or 17 more!!!

Picking paint based solely on a paint chip rarely works out the way you want it to, so getting actual samples and painting big swatches is KEY. I like to narrow down by a process of elimination, and then paint more samples of the finalists in different areas to see how they work in different lighting.

So. I wasn’t kidding—I literally got 17 samples mixed. The women at the paint counter at Lowe’s are some of the nicest people ever for humoring me in this endeavor. And the craziest thing happened—I ACTUALLY THINK I MADE A DECISION. ACTUALLY SEVERAL DECISIONS. BEHOLD.

A mood board? FOR A HALLWAY? LIKE I SAID, 2020 IS WILD. Here’s what I’ve got!

  1. PAINT, DUH. I’m going with my gut, and my gut says that this space is so pretty on its own that it doesn’t need to get all gussied up—a quiet, classic approach won’t feel dated in a few years, but will really allow the existing architecture to shine. So it is decided: black doors (Sherwin Williams “Caviar”), white trim (Sherwin Williams “Extra White”), and grey walls (Sherwin Williams “Oyster White” I THINK). Grey paint is really tricky because of the temptation to go too dark (like my first round of samples), and the undertones will drive you nuts EVERY TIME. The swatch on this mood board looks like a putty color, but on my walls it has a lot of green and a little blue but somehow is still warm? I think I love it, but I won’t really know until I go for it. Obviously I will report back. After years of mostly using Valspar, I want to give HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams a shot—the paint itself is a little more expensive but coverage and durability I think are both supposed to be better, and since it’s a relatively narrow high-traffic space, the walls and moldings do get accidentally scuffed up on the regular.
  2. I’ll refinish the stair treads, which are old pine and hopefully will look amazing.
  3. A nice vintage rug in the entryway will really help define that space, and add some color and texture!
  4. The banister and spindles need some restoration work and stabilization, but will look more or less the same. I think the wood is mahogany!
  5. LIGHTING! I’ve already added the oh-so-fake-but-who-cares foam ceiling medallion, but I’ve had a little temporary bulb dangling there ever since there’s been an electrical box to power it! I AM SO READY FOR A REAL LIGHT FIXTURE. I like the contrast of a decidedly modern fixture in an old house to keep things from feeling too much like a time capsule, which led me to this fancy fancy Kichler chandelier from Lowe’s (currently 35% off!)! I’m so excited for it to be delivered so I can see it in person. It’s about 3 feet across with 8 bulbs, and I think it’s gonna look great. Eek!
  6. MORE LIGHTING! There are three light fixtures in the hall—one at the front, one at the back, and one over the stairs. The one over the stairs feels like the trickiest, because I want it to throw off a lot of light and feel kind of sculptural/impactful without being too in-your-face. I’m really hoping this Globe Electric number from Lowe’s (currently 40% off!) fits well, because the price is great and it’s also in the mail! It sort of feels like a modern mobile that also lights up.
  7. I got really excited the other night when I realized this is my moment to add traditional gold leaf house numbers to the transom window!!! I’m about to be too classy for words.
  8. Little details! Even though all the light switches in the hall are only a few years old, I want them to look like they’ve been there—so antique-style push-button switches it is! I haven’t used these in the past because $, but I love them and so I’m just going for it. 2020, baby!!!
  9. I ALSO ordered nice radiator flanges for where the pipes come up out of the floor. Currently I don’t think ANY of my radiators have them and I can’t wait for that to change!
  10. I *think* a little console table will fit nicely at the top of the stairs (I have a little modern one that belonged to my grandparents—the one on the mood board is kinda-sorta similar), which will probbbabbbbbly end up being where I stack dirty dishes that need to make their way back down to the kitchen after I eat my meals in bed while watching trash tv. Not that I do that!!! (except all the time).
  11. Finally, art! I’m stumped on art, to be honest. I have a lot of it laying around, including a couple of vintage sketch pads that I bought which are full of figure drawings. Lotsa nudes! Maybe get a bunch of them framed and do a big gallery wall?! I’m not sure. This feels so far in the future. It’s hard because there are big expanses of wall, but I think the space is too narrow for a huge piece to fill them.

SO! IT IS ON! I am shedding my old habit of beating myself up over this space and getting to WORK. I started a few days ago, and I have to say…I’m truly no longer mad at myself for not doing this earlier. The prep is always 10x what you think it will be, and this is no exception! It is SLOW SLOW SLOW so I just hope I can get it all done without losing steam. I’ll keep you updated along the way!

Are you circling back to a long-neglected project this January? Let’s hear it. I can’t be the only one!

5 Ways to Add New Life to Old Cabinets!

This post is in partnership with my friends at Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

Did you see all the before-and-afters of the Burgevin Gardens kitchen renovation?! OK. Cool. Me too.

John the homeowner and I are both thrilled with how it came out, and especially happy with what we were able to accomplish without breaking the bank on new materials! Aside from sourcing everything from Lowe’s, one of the most impactful ways we kept the budget in check was by reusing the old cabinetry.

Yes. THAT old cabinetry. They said it couldn’t be done. They said I was crazy. I feel like I really showed them.*

*Not sure who “they” is. Don’t worry about it.

I never priced out replacing the cabinets, but I’d say MINIMUM that would have tacked on $2,000-3,000 to the overall cost. And dare I say, I’m not sure we would have been as happy with them as we are with these revamped garbage cabinets?! So I’m back to ‘splain myself and show you what I did to make these brown-town basic AF 1970s (80s?) cabinets work in this new kitchen! It was one part creativity, one part strategic hackery, and one part jigsaw puzzle. In other words, it was kinda fun! Let’s! Get! Into it!

Method 1: Rearrange, Strategically Alter, and Reuse.

Typically when we think of reusing tired kitchen cabinets, it’s because the layout of the kitchen is remaining the same, but what about when the layout is changing? Normally in that situation you’d (hopefully) donate the old cabinets (smashing with a sledgehammer is fun for TV I guess, but usually needlessly messy, low-key dangerous, and stupidly wasteful) and get new ones that suit your needs. But cabinets are really just wood boxes, so not a lot tends to actually go wrong with them over time. We had the advantage of reasonably well-built and fairly solid basic plywood cabinets, but they weren’t the right sizes to work with the new layout. Just a small obstacle!

For the base cabinets, I realized that if I kept the one to the left of the range (formerly, left of the refrigerator) as-is, I could simply retain about 2/3rds of the similar one from the other side of the room to fit between the new range and fridge locations.

So I used a combination of my circular saw (currently on sale!), jigsaw (also on sale!), and oscillating saw (you guessed it, ON SALE!) to cut the end of it off. Easy! Often these cabinets would already be divided into separate units, so you wouldn’t have to saw them apart. Everyone’s situation will be a little different but the point is that there’s usually some kind of solution!

See? Now this 60-something-inch bank of cabinets is a mere 37-inch bank of cabinets, and you really can’t tell at all that anything was done. Funsies.

Then to fill in the remaining space, I just subtracted the width of the fridge and built a little cabinet at the end to fill the gap between the fridge and the wall. Make sense? I’ve gone over my very basic cabinet construction method before so I won’t rehash it here, but it’s super easy and straightforward. We can all build a box! Do not fear a box. Unless someone is trying to put you inside one—in which case, run.

THEN, on the wall under the window, I had to get a little crazy. We decided to replace the sink with a larger one, centered, so the old sink base cabinet (which, honestly, might as well have been assembled with chewing gum and good intentions) was too small anyway. So using my same lazy cabinet-box-making-method, I whipped up a 36″ wide sink base and a smaller cabinet to fill the gap to the right.

So then I had to deal with the doors. Because the old doors were not the right size, and I didn’t have a bunch of spare lower doors to play with. But I DID have lots of spare old upper doors to play with, many of them the same size, so this presented an OPPORTUNITY. Check this out:

I realized. If I could take the bottom of one upper door, and combine it with the bottom of a different upper door (as long as they were the same width), I could make one franken-door that would match the profiles of the other lower doors, which by this time I realized were actually kinda fine because they didn’t have the weird arch that makes the upper doors such a bummer. By this point the scope of work had kept expanding, so I gladly took the option of not totally refacing the lowers but instead just figuring out these few missing doors if possible.

Is it worth it? Let me work it. I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it.

Let me tell you how nice it was to cut one of those upper doors in half. It was very nice.

Actually, it was made nicer by the addition of a new table saw into my life!! And GUESS WHAT?! It’s on sale!

My old one suffered a sad death as a result of neglect and mistreatment (whoopsie), so I had to emergency-buy a new one. After some hemming and hawing, I went with the Kobalt 10-in 15-Amp Portable Table Saw and used it throughout this whole project—no complaints! It folds up fairly compact and rolls around on wheels, and has a nice extendable fence for cuts up to 30″. It’s a great price point for what you get, and I’ve used a lot of different saws.

I used wood glue and my Kreg pocket-hole jig to attach the two ends together. This all seemed extremely iffy but “extremely iffy” is kind of my modus operandi at this point.

IT. ACTUALLY. WORKED. I had my doubts, but a little patch, sand, and paint? You really can’t tell unless you’re reallllllly looking for it. I’m OK with that!

When you’ve got it, you’ve got it! What can I say!

NOW. THE UPPERS. SAME GAME BUT DIFFERENT.

The cabinets shaded in pink are the old cabinets, sans doors, left as-is. But they were about a foot too short to span the width of the wall between the window wall and the range hood. SO, to give them a truly built-in look, I just added a slim filler cabinet to one end by building a box (shaded in green) and then attaching it to the old cabinets with drywall screws. Then I attached a new piece of 3/4″ maple plywood along the entire underside, creating one uniform surface. For class!

On the other side of the hood, I matched the size of my new filler cabinet (for symmetry!) and then used most of an old existing cabinet to fill the remaining space, cut down with just a new side panel added on. Make sense? I have color-coded the new in green and old in pink for visual excitement! I also added the same 3/4″ ply panel on the underside but it’s not installed yet in this picture.

NOW. The bigger problem with the uppers was the height! The plan quickly spiraled from reusing a few of the old cabinets into using the entire wall for cabinetry—from about 20″ above the countertop until just shy of the 10′ ceiling, meaning about 5 vertical feet of cabinet space. But the old cabinets were only 3′ high, so we had a large gap at the top (or the bottom—we could have mounted those cabinets higher and ran a shelf or two below them, but that was way more open storage than John wanted to get into. Understandable—it’s not for everyone.). Much like cutting down the width of the old lowers, I could cut down the height of the old uppers to make them fill the space. Then it was just a matter of attaching a new piece of plywood to the top and re-attaching the top rail on the face-frame. This sounds much more complicated than it was.

The point here is not to freak you out. The point is that if this dummy can figure out piecing all this stuff together, you can also figure it out. Grab a measuring tape and see what you can come up with!

Method 2: Reface them! 

I’ve covered this topic before, but real quick: these cabinets are a partial-overlay style. That means there is the cabinet itself (carcase)—think just a simple box that you don’t see—with a face-frame attached to the front that the door hinges are affixed to. Doors and drawer fronts partially overlay this face-frame. Typically the back edges of the doors are routed so that one part fits within the opening created by the face-frame, and maybe 1/4″-1/2″ sits in front of the face frame.

In terms of stock cabinetry, these partial-overlay types are generally considered the least expensive. The combination of the face-frame and the partial-overlay doors doesn’t require the same precision as frameless cabinets (which are sometimes called “European style” or “full-overlay” and have become increasingly common in the U.S. in the past couple of decades) or inset-style ones. Inset is generally the most expensive option (if it’s an option at all!) and mostly what you see with cabinetry that pre-dates WWII.

Very often you’ll see a hybrid on vintage or antique pieces, where drawer fronts are partial-overlay and the doors are inset, like above! I snapped this picture out in the wild. So pretty, right? Take note of that bead detail on the face-frame surrounding the doors—with the right router bit, this would be easy to replicate and apply to a plain face-frame for even more old-school authenticity and charm!

ANYWAY. All of this to say that the hidden beauty of an old bland partial-overlay cabinet is that the carcase and face-frames are already present, meaning that you can easily convert them to an inset style simply by replacing the doors!!

Refacing cabinets can happen in a number of ways. Sometimes, you can work with your old doors—either by adding wood, cutting away detail, or just turning them around so the intended interior surface of the door becomes the exterior. Other times, it may make sense to buy new doors—local cabinet shops might offer this, or a skilled carpenter, or there are a number of online sources that can take custom measurements and turn them into a wide variety of door styles. You have options!

OR you can make them yourself. Again, there are a number of ways to approach this. With the right tools, you can teach yourself to make new doors with traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery and really impress all your friends. I’ve also seen them assembled with biscuit joints, which is a bit simpler. I’ve also seen them done with the Kreg pocket-hole system…lots of ways to make a door. A cabinet is just a box and a door is just a panel that covers one side of it. Relax already!!

Because we needed NINETEEN doors, ordering them was absolutely not an option budget-wise. I didn’t fully price it out, but I think minimum it would have cost around $1,000 before tax, shipping, hinges, or knobs—around $50 per door. So I wanted to do something VERY simple, VERY inexpensive, and VERY fast because that’s a lot of doors to make, and I was hoping John could mostly take on this job himself with a little guidance from me!

ENTER. THE FAKER SHAKER™. That is what I lovingly call my extremely hack-y solution to shaker doors. It is so simple it bears almost no explanation. Here’s all it is:

Step 1. Measure the door openings. Subtract 3/16″ from the length and width. That’s the size of your door.

Step 2. Cut 1/2″ cabinet-grade plywood (ours is maple) to the size of the door. A table saw is by far the easiest way to do this precisely.

Step 3. Rip 1/4″ thick lumber to the width of the stiles and rails you want. This width is personal preference—to me anything under 2″ tends to look a little dinky. We settled on 2.25″. You can buy 1/4″ x 4″ x 4′ stock at Lowe’s (I can’t find the link! but it’s there.) and rip it down, but in this case we happened to have a bunch of cedar off-cuts from a different project that could be run through the planer a few times to achieve perfectly uniform 1/4″ thickness—so that’s what we did!

Step 4. Cut your strips to size. The sides (stiles) should run the entire vertical length of the doors, and the top and the bottom (rails) fit between the stiles.

Step 5. Glue the back of the 1/4″ boards and face-nail them to the plywood with 1/2″ brad nails. I have an old little Craftsman brad nail gun that I love! I would highly recommend owning a compressor and a couple nail guns—I have nailers for brad nails (18 gauge), finish nails (16 gauge), siding, roofing, and framing, and they allllll get plenty of use depending on the job! Makes everything so much faster and more precise. They can all run off of this compressor that’s been a workhorse for several years now. ANYWAY if you’re in the market, this (currently on sale!) combo is a GREAT value to get ya started!

Step 6. Use your favorite patching compound (I LOVE 3M Patch Plus Primer—easy to work with, dries fast, sands super smooth with ease…it’s a great product!) to fill nail holes. You may also choose to use a patching compound around the edges to smooth out the laminated plywood edge. Bondo would work well for this, or you can use iron-on veneer edge banding if your edges are nice and even!

Step 7. Sand the doors smooth and paint! We painted using a little craft sprayer, and then back-brushed with a good-quality Purdy brush. I personally prefer a brushed finish for things like this, although a sprayer will give you more of that factory-finish look.

Step 8. Install the hinges! There are options for this, including concealed hinges, but I love exposed hinges on inset doors! We used these hinges from Amerock in a “wrought iron” finish, and they’re really very nice. For repetitive tasks like this where uniformity is important, I love this little Kreg multipurpose layout tool. It’s so simple but takes out the measuring and marking part of the process, allowing for faster work!

Step 9. Install the doors! This is definitely easiest with an extra set of hands. We numbered all the doors since many were similar in size but not exactly the same. Some didn’t quite close right away, so it was just a matter of removing them, running one side through the saw to shave off like 1/16″, and then putting them back. Plywood is a very stable material, so I don’t anticipate problems with them expanding and getting stuck.

NOTE: The nature of inset doors is that there will be small gaps around all sides of the door, and those gaps are difficult to make perfectly uniform so there might be some variation. You have to accept a little imperfection to get that old world look. Imperfection is OK, as long as it’s not egregious!

Step 10: Install hardware! We used these knobs from Lowe’s and little magnetic latches inside the cabinets to keep them closed.

That’s the whole thing! I’m super happy with how they look, especially considering they came out to under $4/door rather than like $50/door. You can’t really beat that! Faker Shaker™ for the win!

Method 3. Paint and New Hardware! 

This almost goes without saying, but the cheapest and highest-impact change you can make to existing cabinets is fresh paint and hardware. You know this already because you were, presumably, not born yesterday. Here’s how I did it:

I used 3M Patch Plus Primer to fill nail holes, holes left by the old partial-overlay hinges, and holes left by the old hardware. Check to make sure your new hardware isn’t the same spread as the old hardware (the distance between the screws)—there are a few standard spreads like 3″, so you may not actually have to patch and re-drill the holes.

I used my faithful little $30 Black and Decker mouse sander to smooth out the patching compound and knock off the shiny polyurethane finish. You don’t have to get down to bare wood, but as a general rule you don’t want to paint right over a glossy finish because the paint will have a difficult time adhering.

After sanding, you want to wipe everything clean and remove any dust or old oils or waxes. TSP substitute works well for this, as well as Krud Kutter (ONLY to be said in a thick southern drawl), or a liquid deglosser. In any case, I love microfiber cloths for this. They don’t leave lint, are reusable, and pick up dust exceptionally well.

Let that all dry out! It’ll look really bad at this stage. Everything is under control!

Then paint! Latex paints have really just gotten better and better in the past decade or so, so I didn’t use a special cabinet paint (although Valspar does make one!). I just used Valspar Signature paint in a satin finish (total preference, although I wouldn’t recommend going more matte. Semi-gloss would be nice too!). It’s GREAT paint! We used it for the walls (matte) and moldings (satin) as well. While it’s never a bad idea to prime first, Valspar Signature acts as a paint and primer in one, and is super scrubbable and hard-wearing over time. Kitchen cabinets can take a beating so a good paint is your friend! Two coats on everything, always.

For the face-frames, I used a good-quality 2″ angled brush by Purdy, which gave a nice hand-painted look that I think is most appropriate for this style.

Do yourself a favor and just paint the interior of cabinets as well. I didn’t when I did my first kitchen revamp in my house and always regretted it. It’s just not that hard and makes such a difference over time. To make this go quickly, I used a small foam roller to coat all the interior surfaces with a nice thick layer of paint.

Then I went back in with my brush to hit all the corners and back-brushed the surfaces I rolled. Painting the inside of cabinets sounds like such a drag, but I was actually surprised by how quickly it went. So. Very. Worth. It.

For the doors, I sanded them down a little but didn’t go too crazy. I then used this Liquid Sander Deglosser, which is made specifically to promote adhesion onto glossy surfaces like this. Just follow the instructions on the back! So much more painless than trying to get into all the nooks and crannies with sandpaper. Then it was just the same process of spraying and back-brushing, two coats per side, and reinstalling everything.

OH! And for drilling out for the new hardware, I can’t recommend this little Kreg cabinet hardware jig enough! It’s simple to use, speeds the process soooooooo much, and leads to very uniform and level placement. I use it anytime I have to install a bunch of hardware now and it’s really improved my life.

Method 4. Add shelving!

I’m not sure why, but very often older cabinets aren’t using the interior space very efficiently. It’s not uncommon to see shelves that are fixed in place (my old kitchen cabinets were like that), or adjustable but only within a couple inches. These upper cabinets were originally set up for two interior shelves, but they could easily fit three—thereby increasing storage capacity by 1/3rd! That’s a big deal!

Of course, there are a number of ways to go about this, too! If your shelves are fixed in place, you’ll want to remove them and the cleat that holds them up. It’s possible they’ll be fixed in place with a dado joint into the side of the cabinet itself—this is also surmountable! Just remove the shelf and affix a new piece of plywood or melamine to the interior of the cabinet’s sides to cover the old dado cut-outs.

I think the easiest (and cheapest) approach to adding adjustable shelving is to drill out holes for shelf pins, and luckily there’s a great tool for that! I LOVE the Kreg shelf pin jig—it’s just so SMART and I’m mad I didn’t think of it before Kreg did.

I like to start with the jig resting on the bottom of the cabinet and drill out just the top hole, since it’s unlikely you’d want to mount a shelf lower than that. The jig comes with its own bit, and the collar on the bit stops you from over-drilling through the cabinet. Perfect depth and spacing every time!

The jig also comes with a handy little pin that can be inserted into the first hole you drilled. From there, you just move the entire jig up, drill out all the holes, and repeat the process up the side walls of the cabinet. The smart thing about the jig is that it’s identical when you flip it over, so the spacing is always level and perfect. It gets a little tedious (one cabinet might take, like, 60 holes!) but fast and simple. The jig is sized for a standard 5mm shelf pin, which are readily and inexpensively available at Lowe’s! It’s such a good tool and the results look so pro!

We reused all of the original shelves, but still had to make a bunch of our own! The simplest and most cost-effective way I like to do this is with 3/4″ plywood and iron-on veneer edge-banding. Just take the interior measurement of the cabinet, subtract about 1/4″ from the length, and cut the shelf to that size. The iron-on veneer edge-banding is just a little strip of real wood veneer that comes pre-glued, and you just activate the glue with a regular clothing iron to adhere it to the cut plywood edge! That way, it looks like a solid piece of wood. You could do all four sides, but why bother? You only see the outward-facing edge, so just leave the sides and back alone and do that.

To trim the excess, there’s this handy little tool that shaves off the excess and makes the edge-banding flush with the wood. You can also give it a light sanding until it’s all nice and smooth. Boom, you’ve got a shelf!

Just like with the doors, we sprayed the shelves out in the garage and back-brushed by hand. That’s my paint sprayer, by the way! I got it years ago but it took me a while to actually try it out, and it’s AWESOME. A high-end professional paint sprayer will set you back about $500 minimum, whereas this little Wagner Home Decor sprayer is under $100, works great, is very easy to clean, and perfect for small-ish jobs like this. Inexpensive paint sprayers often need the paint thinned out to work effectively, but I’ve never had that experience with this one. Such a handy thing to have around!

YAYYYYYYY, shelves! This is one of the “unaltered” original cabinets, so I just added additional pin holes between the existing ones to allow for more storage possibilities. Getting that third shelf in there made a huge difference!

Here you can get a better sense of how the pin holes look, and how nice and uniform they are! I just love that the Kreg tool makes it so painless and fast. You could really add the pin holes at any point in the cabinet-making process, but I like to do it after the painting is done so that they don’t get clogged up or create opportunity for drips if paint collects in the holes.

Method 5. Add drawers!

I think lower cabinets should pretty much be drawers wherever possible. It’s just better that way? I hate when things get lost in the back of cabinetry and drawers help avoid that issue of major social and economic concern. I will not be told otherwise!

But even if your cabinets have doors with shelves inside, that doesn’t mean you can’t have drawers! Could you build and install drawers? Totally. You could. I, however, would rather not. So I really love these Rev-A-Shelf interior organizers, which can turn any base cabinet into more functional drawers with just a couple screws! They come in a bunch of different sizes to accommodate all the standard cabinet dimensions.

These actually came out of my own kitchen (which is why they weren’t included in the budget), which means they’ve been in use for about 6 years. Just as good as the day I bought them! They are on the somewhat expensive side, but certainly cheaper than new cabinets and such a quick and easy upgrade. I love them and I’m so glad John can put them to use as I wait for new kitchen cabinets to materialize for my own house, ha! I’ll get there someday. I’ve been a little busy!

Is that enough to chew on?! The point is this: whether you’re looking to make a few improvements to your existing space or even if you’re looking at a full kitchen overhaul, don’t completely discount your existing cabinets! Sometimes total replacement makes sense, but I feel like I often see people ripping out perfectly good cabinets to replace them with other perfectly good cabinets (maybe at the expense of a more impactful decision, like amazing backsplash tile or the dream countertops!), when really a little bit of thought could have saved a whole lot of money and hassle and waste. Sometimes little improvements like just adding another shelf can totally change your storage game!

I’m curious: anything you’d add to this list? Smart storage is kinda my main passion and under-exercised skill in life, so I’d love to know what strategies you’ve found or loved to get the most out of your kitchen storage! I’m also planning TWO more kitchen renovations AS WE SPEAK, so help a guy out and tell me your secrets!!

Burgevin Gardens Kitchen Makeover: The Big Reveal!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my amazing sponsors!

WELL. I am pooped.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months whipping the kitchen at Burgevin Gardens into shape! What started as a “light budget refresh” quickly spiraled into just a little bit more than that, but honestly? This was a challenging project in a lot of ways, but a really fun one that turned out SO much better than I expected! It’s ended up being one of my favorite rooms I’ve ever renovated, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished with such a small budget, so let’s check it out! We’ll talk numbers at the end. I gotchu.

I mean. Can you blame me for having the deep, unshakeable urge to redo this kitchen? Like, if the word “bummer” took the form of a physical space, that’s this kitchen. It felt really cramped and harsh, awkwardly laid out, and spectacularly brown. John and I have talked a lot over time about all the possible renovations for this house (my favorite kind of conversation!), but plans around the kitchen always involved moving walls and doing all sorts of things that, frankly, are just not going to happen. So the choice was basically to radically scale back those plans or do nothing at all…which led to me innocently suggest to John that we should throw a little money and a buttload of elbow grease at it and see what we could make happen. This was not an insignificant demand. But I acted like it was so he’d agree.

He did.

Fixed her up nice, ya know? Where do we begin. There is so much to discuss.

I’d like to note now that this whole project was really made possible by my amazing partners at Lowe’s, who provided all the products to make this renovation so impactful on such a tight budget! It was truly my one-stop shop for all the new materials that went into this room—from the basic construction stuff to the lighting and hardware and that gorgeous tile! Between hitting a sale or two and just selecting from their huge array of super-nice-but-affordable products, Lowe’s kept the budget happy without sacrificing on the vision! I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to take this on!

So. The how. If you’ve fallen victim to my near-daily Instagram stories, you’ve basically watched this unfold in agonizing detail. And there was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants here—which is pretty typical of my approach to things, but this was maybe more than usual? We started with an inkling of plan to get away from a U-shape and really make use of the longest wall by flipping the stove to the fridge’s location and pushing the fridge down toward the end of the wall to create more floor space, since the room is pretty narrow at 9′ wide. The drop ceiling had to go, and that poor window needed to be seen again, and the soffits basically ejected themselves from the situation by being totally worthless, and then we were left with this. Life comes at you fast sometimes.

Then a series of other decisions occurred through no fault (much/all fault) of my own. Firstly, there had to be hardwoods under that vinyl and there WERE but they did not come easy. Secondly I felt a moral responsibility to center up the sink on that stunner window and get the dishwasher to a better spot.

Which necessitated some *minor* work done to the radiator lines to get them out of the way and, well, it’ll be worth it.

Also a vent for the range. But a proper one, to the exterior. Hello huge hole in the ceiling, joining the other huge holes.

Then we had to put this mess back together into a kitchen for a few thousand bucks before Thanksgiving. No biggie! In all honesty I probably should have removed that last bank of cabinetry and put it back later, but I was really clinging to that “light refresh” idea and that was the only thing keeping this room looking remotely like a kitchen.

Trying to keep some semblance of our original timeline intact, I brought in my old friend and cohort, Edwin, to bang out the patching and skim-coating for me in a few days, and then it was ON.

I patched and refinished the floors, made concrete countertops, tiled the backsplash, and spent a lot of time scratching my head over exactly how to make the old cabinets (custom, as it turned out! which made things even more difficult!) work in new locations and arrangements. This plan also expanded rapidly because I hadn’t entirely landed on a plan for how to make the tile work like I wanted it to, and John requested more storage…so the cabinetry plan went from rehanging some of what was there in different spots to reusing nearly all the original cabinets and building various new boxes to fill in where needed. There was also a lot of random carpentry stuff involved like fixing up the window trim, door casings, and adding baseboards. I made a whollllllleeeeee lotta sawdust.

It was a lot of project.

But somehow it never seemed that crazy? Honestly, things proceeded pretty seamlessly! Between John’s garage, my basement, and Lowe’s, we kinda had everything we needed to just keep plugging away at it. And then it was a kitchen again!

Changing the layout made SUCH a big difference. Between that and the two extra feet of ceiling height we got by removing the drop ceiling, this room feels so spacious now! AND there’s so much more storage—so much wasted space before!

A few weeks into this endeavor, John got all excited by the progress and decided on his own accord to buy a new fridge, and I wasn’t going to tell him not to! Nobody was too excited to put the old white french-door honker back in here, but it was an improvement for the vacation rental apartment upstairs. So we moved the upstairs fridge out, the downstairs fridge up, and then John got this slick counter-depth Hisense fridge for $800! It’s still on sale—marked down 46%!—so if you’re in the market…that’s quite a price point for a counter-depth fridge. Unheard of! We weren’t really sure what to make of the Hisense brand, but it’s totally nice! It doesn’t have any fancy features or anything, but it’s nice-looking and the interior organization is really well done. John loves it and reports that it’s performing like a champ!

I’m so happy (and relieved, haha!) with how our concrete countertops came out! We used this Quikrete Countertop Mix, built forms out of melamine, and poured them to 1.5″ thickness. They’re sealed with Waterlox (an old school tung oil based finish), which added a lot of warmth and dimension, as well as some sheen! It’s food-safe once fully cured. I’m not even usually a fan of concrete countertops, but I really think these came out so pretty and work well for this space. They also cost less than $175 to countertop this whole kitchen, which is kind of nuts! Poor man’s natural stone—I’ll take it! I think in this context it doesn’t scream “industrial” like it usually comes across.

Moving the stove and losing this wall of built-in cabinetry provided space for a nice freestanding piece. Originally this was going to be a butcherblock-topped storage piece (specifically, the one with the microwave on top in the before pic!), but at the last minute John suggested this sweet china cabinet that belonged to his grandparents! Sold! I love when I get to incorporate special things like that into someone’s space, and he’s excited for it to be put to use!

The other reason to lose the stove and cabinetry on this wall was that it allowed me to move the dishwasher over and center a nice big sink under the window. Like so.

We kept the faucet modern with this matte black Delta number, and I love it! The quality really seems excellent, and at $230 it’s very well-priced. I think my kitchen faucet was more than double that price, and this Delta is nicer.

I’m not mad.

I’m a little mad.

And the SINK! Love this sink; love the PRICE of this sink. Several years ago I got to go visit the Kohler factories in Wisconsin and see these being made, so I have a real soft spot for Kohler. Once you’ve seen a raw cast iron clawfoot tub glowing red-hot and getting enameled, the image kind of never leaves you! This heavy, deep, double-basin specimen can be installed both as undermount and drop-in, and it’s only $250! And made in Wisconsin! Just like Mark Ruffalo.

SHALL WE DISCUSS this gorgeous tile? This Bedrosians Cloe Tile from Lowe’s was really the jumping off point for this whole kitchen—that’s how much John loved it! It’s really beautiful stuff, and at $7.85/square foot it’s about half the price of similar tile from more boutique sources, which allowed us to use a generous amount of it here! It comes in white, gray, black, blue, and pink as well, and all in either this 5×5 format or a subway style. John wanted the subway but I pushed him into the square and I’m not sorry. I used a black epoxy grout and this charcoal-colored caulk where it meets the countertop.

I may be weird, but I was very excited to have a good reason to use a brown outlet. I got fancy with these nice metal plate covers that are sort of an oil-rubbed bronze finish—I couldn’t put a plastic cover on that tile!

Lights! I really love how the lighting all worked out! The pendant over the sink is this one by Progress Lighting ($67!), and the two hurricane-style pendants are by Kichler! At $135 a pop, those pendants are a STEAL. The scale is so nice, they’re really well-made, and they come with about a mile of extra cord and chain for all different types of installs. The glass shades are so substantial and pretty, too, and easily removed if you wanted to just stick them in the dishwasher every now and then. Now that I have a dishwasher, I will put nearly anything in it.

I’ll need a whole post to get into all the cabinet shenanigans I got into during this—stay tuned for that—but for now suffice to say it was a process. I decided to keep the lowers more or less as-is, with just paint and new hardware rather than totally refacing them. The uppers are also mostly the original cabinets, but hacked here and there with some new filler cabinets where I needed more! These cabinets were really nothing special at all, so I’m kind of extra-proud that we were able to reuse and totally transform them. Utilizing the original face-frames to go from those partial-overlay doors to inset ones on the uppers worked out great.

John and I tag-teamed making new very simple shaker-style doors for the uppers, and I think they came out really nicely! The drawers all have these classic Sumner Street Home bin pulls, and the doors have these coordinating knobs! I ordered the hinges on the new inset doors from Amerock, and just reused the old hinges for the lowers.

We didn’t have budget for a new stove, but this one works just fine so we put it back! The nice thing about stoves and dishwashers is that sizes are standardized and they can be easily replaced at any time—if they still work and budget is an issue, I’d take new counters and a backsplash over a new appliance any day! You don’t have to do everything at once to make a big difference.

Also, the range hood! I got this affordable but well-reviewed GE vent insert, which is tucked up about 2 inches inside that hood structure. We just boxed it in with a simple wood frame and drywalled the whole thing—I don’t love the way hood vents look generally, but I’m into this solution! I love that you can’t really see it, but it still has all the function including a task light with two brightness settings! It even has a remote control!

I agonized over paint colors a little more than usual in this space—that green tile is amazing but I had a hard time landing on the rest of the colors to complement it! The ceiling is Valspar “Wispy White,” a nice creamy white I planned to use on the walls as well…until I painted a coat and felt like it it was too stark with the cabinets. I then switched gears to a Benjamin Moore color called York Gray that I had color-matched at Lowe’s in Valspar Signature paint (matte) and mixed at 75% strength to lighten it up a touch. For trim, I used the York Gray at full strength—also color-matched to Valspar Signature paint—in a satin finish so it’s ever-so-slightly darker and has a sheen.

The cabinets are Valspar’s Cobalt Cannon in satin finish—a color we landed on after painting about 10,000 samples. Ha! We debated dark vs. light cabinetry up until the very last minute, but this nice slate blue/grey with just a hint of green won out in the end and I’m glad it did! I love the way it plays with the backsplash tile, and feels kind of rich and neutral at the same time.

That Valspar Signature paint, by the way? GOOD STUFF. At like $30 a gallon, the price is amazing for the quality. I did sand and prep the doors to some extent, but skipped primer, and the paint has adhered beautifully and I really don’t anticipate any problems with it over time.

Then. On the window. You may have noted. I really swung for the fences and painted her pink! I used the dregs of what I had leftover from painting my laundry room floor, so it’s a color-match of a Farrow & Ball color called “Setting Plaster.” Am I cool enough to pull this off? Not especially. But it’s kind of my nod to that good good British quirk that helped inspire this space, and it’s really delightful in real life. And John LOVES it, which is what’s important! Painting it the cabinet color was my back-up plan if the pink didn’t work, and I still think that would look great but more expected and less fun.

I also just live for a little controversy. It’s how I get my kicks.

Oh also! I was *this close* to just painting over the sash lock again like every other painter of this window in the last 100 years, but I just couldn’t do it. So I stripped it in the crock pot and put it back—I love this kinda mottled copper finish that was hiding under all that paint!

Also! The newly re-routed radiator lines got a fresh couple coats of the wall paint, and I like them! I feel like they add some utilitarian kinda charm to this room, and I’d so much rather see those than a big soffit or something! Breaking a couple joints and getting them re-routed into that corner chase really wasn’t such a big deal, but it ended up being unexpectedly expensive—to the tune of about $500—which honestly was a bit of a shock and I’m not especially clear on why it cost so much, just that it did. Plumbing has a way of doing that to you. Luckily since the sink only moved about a foot, we didn’t have to mess with any of the other plumbing, and I do think it was a worthwhile change.

What else! I hung a couple of vintage hooks I had floating around next to the china cabinet for aprons, tea towels, dog leashes, ya know! I’m still getting used to seeing that cabinet there, but I like it a lot! The microwave fits in the lower part (I love a concealed microwave!!) and I just went ahead and threw a bunch of dishware in the top primarily so I could take these pictures. STORAGE. FOR. DAYS. IN. HERE! I would guess the cabinet is from the 1950s—that colonial revival style has never really been my favorite and not what I would have chosen necessarily, but I think it looks so cute in this room! I’m so glad John suggested it.

I found these two antique portraits of George Washington and good ole’ Abe Lincoln laying around in John’s house and nabbed them for this little wall between the doorways to the dining room and the hallway. I think they’re charming! Sadly the previous owners appear to have removed and disposed of all the original doors on the first floor (second floor doors at least went up to the attic for safe keeping…but why remove them in the first place?!?!), but John and I found a bunch of salvage doors to address that! I think it would be nice for this room to have doors again. The one into the dining room is supposed to swing!

That being said, I am NOT mad about this view from the dining room into the kitchen! It used to look like a portal to another dimension, whereas now the kitchen really feels like a natural part of the house. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

(By the way, the wood flooring in the dining room is quartersawn oak, and the kitchen is douglas fir—getting them to match would be a losing battle anyway, especially without refinishing both, but I don’t mind that they look different. They are different!)

Guys. I really like this kitchen a lot. Let’s talk numbers!

First, I’d like to recognize that two major things contributed to the success of this budget because I do not like pushing unrealistic budgets. The first is that we relied a lot on reuse of materials—restoring what was already here, and excess supplies we both had leftover from other projects. I’ll try to note those items where appropriate! I am also not including myself in this budget. Mostly that’s because this was not a standard client gig due to my partnership with Lowe’s on this project, which really allowed me to treat this like a DIY project for myself even though it’s not my house! And that’s really kinda the point—to demonstrate what can be done in terms of high-impact work for a modest cost. So while this renovation was involved, there really isn’t any part of it that’s beyond the skill level of a hardworking DIYer! All of the projects in combination made it a lot of work, but none of them are all that difficult even if you’ve never, say, hacked a bunch of existing cabinets or poured concrete counters (I hadn’t either!).

Here’s how it broke down:

WALL REPAIR/NEW WORK:
1 Sheet 1/2″ Lightweight Drywall: $13.58
1 Sheet 3/8″ Lightweight Drywall: $12.57
Metal Corner Beads: $10.31
Drywall Nails (for corner bead): $4.48
11 Bags Quikset 90 Joint Compound: $131.78
Fiberglass Window Screening (which we embed in the skim-coat to prevent cracks): $17.98
*I had plaster washers, drywall screws, fiber mesh tape, scraps of 5/8″ drywall, and some window screening on hand.
TOTAL: $190.70

COUNTERTOPS:
6 Bags Quikrete High-Strength Countertop Mix: $107.64
1 sheet 4×8 Melamine (for the forms): $28.97
Steel Rebar (to reinforce around the sink cut-out): $7.74
2 sheets Metal Lath (embedded for reinforcement): $21.20
Gorilla Epoxy (for the seam): $5.31
*we had an old can of Waterlox on hand to seal the counters.
TOTAL: $170.86

BACKSPLASH:
5 Boxes Bedrosians Cloe Tile: $425.00
MAPEI Sanded Caulk: $8.48
*I had enough thinset and black epoxy grout on hand, so no need to buy additional!
TOTAL: $433.48

APPLIANCES:
GE 30-in Convertible Range Hood Insert: $328.75
Ducting Components: $101.65
Hisense Counter-Depth Refrigerator: $800 (the homeowner bought this so technically it wasn’t part of my budget, but I’m including it here for completeness)
*I had foil tape for the ducting on hand.
TOTAL: $1,230.40

ELECTRICAL:
Cable, Boxes, Wire nuts, etc: $113.33
New Range Outlet: $6.62
4 Brown 20-Amp countertop outlets: $23.92
Decorative Outlet Covers: $24.72
Progress Lighting Small Pendant (over sink): $75.57
Kichler Large Pendants: $270.88
Lightbulbs: $31.62
*we had electrical tape, NM cable staples, wire nuts, white outlets and GFCIs, plastic covers, dimmer switches, and assorted electrical screws on hand.
TOTAL: $546.66

PLUMBING:
Kohler Deerfield 33-in Cast Iron Sink: $70 (this is our actual cost because we returned two hundred dollars worth of extra joist hangers from the porch project for store credit to offset the cost of the new sink. I love a…flexible return policy)
Sink Strainers: $19.96
Delta Faucet: $236.09 (John also bought this so it wasn’t part of my budget. We could have reused the old faucet but he understandably didn’t want to. It’s pretty blah.)
New P-Trap and End Waste Outlet parts: $15.56
*we had teflon tape and plumber’s putty on hand.
TOTAL: $341.61

FLOORING:
Drum floor sander and edger rental, including sanding pads: $204.15
Mastic/Adhesive Remover: 28.98
*We had scrap wood for patching and a gallon of Bona Traffic HD polyurethane on hand.
TOTAL: $233.13

CABINETRY/HARDWARE/CARPENTRY:
2 Sheets of 3/4″ Maple Plywood: $96.86
2 Sheets of 1/2″ Maple Plywood: $89.36
Dowel for the Corner Guard: $5.97
2 Oak table legs (used for corner guard): 5.96
Shims: $3.38
Magnetic Catch with Strike for cabinet doors: $25.48
8 Sumner Street Home Bin Pulls: $24.64
27 Sumner Street Home Knobs: $76.95
38 Hinges for Inset doors: $125.40
*We had about 4 sheets of plywood, a little MDF, framing lumber, and a lot of scrap 1x, screws, finish nails, and brad nails on hand. We reused the crown molding from the old soffits to top off the cabinetry!
TOTAL: $454.00

PAINT:
Valspar Color Samples (various colors): $31.84
1 Gallon Valspar Signature Paint, Flat (Walls): $29.98
1 Quart Valspar Signature Paint, Satin (Trim): $16.98
2 Gallons Valspar Signature Paint, Satin (Cabinetry): $59.96
*I had the ceiling paint on hand, as well as patching compound, caulk, brushes, and rollers.
TOTAL: $138.76

MATERIALS TOTAL: $3,739.60

Now, that’s just the materials cost! Which I think is PRETTY DARN GOOD for everything we took on, and the result we got! Originally we weren’t planning to need a plumber (we did) or hire out the wall repair (worth every penny, thus is my hatred for DIYing that particular job), so that added about $1,500 to our actual cost. But still! Getting in and out of that NEARLY GUTTED kitchen for like $5K? I am JUST FINE with that!

Lastly, I just want to say a big HUGE thanks to John the homeowner for, once again, trusting me to tear apart his house for a little while! And to Lowe’s for seeing those before pictures and still letting me run wild with this kitchen—they really made this project possible and I’m so glad I got to do it!

And to you guys! I’ve never really shared quite so much of the process as I did with this kitchen over on Instagram stories, and it’s been so much fun talking with so many people about stuff I usually think I’m the only one who cares about! That really made the work more enjoyable for me and was a great motivator to keep going when I felt unsure or overwhelmed. I’m a lucky duck! I hope ya like it!

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