Mo’s Kitchen – Part 2 – Alcoves

Part 2 of Mo’s kitchen transformation involves alcoves and architecture shelving. 
MO’s kitchen has an architectural shelf that runs a square around the room. Painting those areas were a little tricky, so it’s a good thing I’m little. 

Mo has been stressing about how to decorate those shelves for years, and asked me what I thought she should put up there. 

My advice was to take it all down and allow the alcoves to be architectural features! 

Design Tip: Having a lot of decor on top of cupboards or high alcoves can make the ceilings appear lower, causing the room to feel smaller. Furthermore, small items placed above the eye level can create a cluttered feeling. If you do decide to put something up high, choose one or two large statement pieces to create interest and avoid clutter. 

Mo was understandably surprised at this suggestion, and I totally get it! We are so trained to believe that every shelf needs something on it. Many homes designed in the 90’s incorporated architectural shelving for decorative items, training us to believe that we were required to place items there.
But it’s not true! Leaving a few blank shelves or placing just a few favorite items can create a clean, uncluttered, peaceful feeling. 

Try it for yourself:

1. Remove every item off just one shelf. Leave it alone and let it breath a bit. 

2. Now place just one or two of your very most favorite items on the shelf. 

The shelf is now highlighting something you love! As if it’s whole purpose is to showcase your favorite piece! 

How does that feel? 

It was a relief for Mo! I watched her whole body language just relax as she realized she didn’t have to decorate up on her shelf! 

We took all of her decor items down, and the room instantly felt larger. 

We placed a suitcase and plant on one shelf to trick the eye into thinking that the sheetrock continues past the beam, but that is all that we put on the shelving. 

Now the eye is drawn upward toward the gorgeous ceiling and MO’s kitchen feels clean and uncluttered! 

Mo’s Kitchen – Part 1

Every year the kids and I take a few weeks and drive to Utah to play with family. We send the boys to baseball camp at BYU, play at my parents’ cabin, shop, camp and enjoy the cool nights! 
This year I had the special treat of getting to paint and decorate my sister’s kitchen! (We call her “Mo” after Mohanna in the old Johnnie Lingo movie. She seriously is a 10-cow woman!! If you haven’t seen Johnnie Lingo, check it out!)
Anyway, Mo’s kitchen hadn’t been painted since 1999! It was a creamy yellow and she wanted a farmhouse update! 

She wanted gray walls, and had painted her basement in Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter, but was worried that with all of her dark woods, Revere Pewter would look too beige. I agreed. 

So we tried some samples of Sherwin Williams’ Repose Gray, and Agreeable Gray. 

Design Tip: ALWAYS paint a few test samples to try in the room before you paint. Don’t just look at pics online to decide your color, and don’t try to evaluate how your entire room will look using the teeny tiny chip at the paint store. Lighting, woodworking, and built-ins all factor into how the color will look on your walls! 

I buy the sample sizes and either paint a board to move around the room, or paint sample colors directly on the wall so I can evaluate what the color looks like in corners and next to permanent features. 

Our test samples in Mo’s kitchen were a lot darker than she wanted. She has a beautiful dark wood ceiling so dark paint would make the room feel smaller. We needed a warm light gray to keep a bright fresh feeling in the room.  
So we chose Agreeable Gray, and had the folks at Sherwin Williams lighten it by 75%. (Meaning, they only add 25% of the color to the can.)

That test proved to be too white, so we took the paint back and had them change it to 50%. 

This pic is Agreeable Gray, and the paint around it shows it lightened by 50%. (Meaning, they added 50% of the color to the can, making it 50% lighter.)

Armed with our Sure Line edging tools and paint brushes, we cranked up the music and began! 

The color was a perfect soft, calming and very subtle gray that brightened the room and made it feel fresh! We were thrilled! 

While we painted, we danced, giggled and even cried a little! We solved the world’s problems while we worked, and I just loved spending so much time with that incredible girl! 

I’m so excited to share the results!! 

The Layers Chair

This little antique chair has stolen my heart. Not because it’s ticking stripe fabric makes me weak in the knees…

It’s because of the layers.

The chair had been left on the curb for the trash, and I could easily see why. It smelled horrific, and was so dirty that it turned my fingers black when I picked it up.

However, the instant I touched this chair I knew it was special. The old wood, and flathead screws indicated age, and I was excited to think about it’s possibilities.

The easiest way to reupholster furniture, is to cover over the existing fabric. Lots of people do it, because it’s fast and it works. I considered that option, but with this chair being so dirty, I knew it had to be taken back to the frame. Back to the core.

The deconstruction was like walking back through time as I revealed 5 different layers, the original being a hand woven fabric, covering horsehair that was caked in dirt. I’ve never seen so much dirt on a piece of furniture! And judging from the rusted tacks holding it together, my best guess was that this was built sometime in the late 1800’s.

To think that all these years, people just kept covering up the dirt and grime, never knowing what they were sitting on.

Here’s a picture of the layers:

So this got me thinking about life.

Sometimes it’s easier to cover up my own problems, insecurities, and mistakes rather than fix them.  But the more I do that, the worse the problem gets. It’s easy to add a new layer that looks good, but it doesn’t hide the fact that I’m hurting inside. The dirt is still there.

Sometimes I need to just get back to the basics. Back to my core.

To root out the problems and become centered again.

I’ve even been in situations where I’ve felt that the dirt was so bad that I wasn’t worth it.  That I too should be left out on the curb. But when I’ve made a change, eradicated the problem and gone back to my core, I was rebuilt.

Getting back to our core isn’t easy… For example, deconstructing that chair took 3 hours! That’s a long time for one little seat! It was difficult and disgusting!

But possible!

I knew that the chair would look amazing when it was redone. I knew that the hard work would be worth it.

We are the same way.

Hope is real!

Change is possible!

Life, love and faith will pull us through! Just like this chair was rebuilt, we can uncover our own layers, become centered again, and rebuild.

And if we do, our new self will be stronger and more beautiful than before! A self free from dirt, heartache and pain. We will become an individual with a powerful story, and amazing history! And just like this chair, we will be stronger, and ready to face a new beautiful future, free from layers.

The “3rd Try” Cabinet

Ive been read the book “The Fearless Mind”, by Dr. Craig L. Manning, and learning a lot about fear. 

I live so much of my life in fear! Fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of messing up. And so often those fears keep me from progressing, making decisions and moving forward! 

So I’ve been trying to be fearless lately. To live more in the moment, rather than afraid of the future. I may write a little more about this topic in the future. But for now, here’s the story of how failing almost halted the progress of this project. 

1st Try:

A good friend gave me this little TV cabinet, and my first thought was to paint white. Everything looks better in white, right? 

Wrong. The white just wasn’t working. It was boring and I wasn’t feeling it. Meanwhile, life got busy. I took on too many projects, tried to tackle them all at once, and this shelf became an afterthought. 

2nd Try

I found some inspiration of heavily distressed coastal inspired pieces, and decided to try some layers. I layered wax and vasoline on top of the white. Then did a layer of blue paint. 

Using a paint scraper and power sander, I took off layers of paint. The paint just flakes off wherever the wax or vasoline is. 

And I got this look:

It photographed well, and my focus group loved the coastal look, but everyone who saw it in person hated it. Including my kids.

At this point I was stuck. By now it had 3 layers of paint, and I felt like I messed it up. I was ready to give it away and the fear snuck in.

Could I fix the paint and still have it look good? Would it be gloopy? Would it be boring? 

Again, all fears about the future, right? 

3rd Try:

I gritted my teeth, sanded a little more and pulled the gray paint back out. 

I used BM Gray Wolf, and added a black glaze and polycrilic topcoat, and this is what I got:

 It worked! It’s not gloopy, feels strong and smooth, and I love how it looks! 

For me, facing my fears means doing what I can in the moment and keeping going. 

I knew that if I quit this project it would get more stressful and the problem would seem bigger as time wore on.  

I learned that pushing through with confidence in what I could do now, really makes a difference! And sometimes, the 3rd time is the charm! 

Another Humble Chair Story

When a piece of furniture finds it’s way to me, I often don’t know much about it other than someone didn’t want it anymore. 

As I delve into the restoration I’m always trying to learn it’s history. A ding here or a knick there… extra rubbing in one spot… a crack down the middle… layers of paint or fabric… all clues to the history of the piece. 

But I generally don’t learn much beyond an idea of the date and that someone thought it wasn’t worth saving.

But I love getting to be a part of the item’s future story! 

This little French Fiddleback Chair wasn’t selling until I tried this graphic:

I loved it so much and secretly didn’t want to sell it.  Makes me want to put graphics on everything! 

A sweet lady purchased it for her daughter’s apartment! She was so excited because she had found a table to match! I loved watching her joy in purchasing something for her daughter. 

This Carver’s Chair also sold to another mother/daughter duo. The daughter was a sweet lady who was moving her mother into her home. She had been looking for a sturdy chair for her mother who was partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It just melted my heart when she told me how excited her mother was at seeing the chair. She told me that she had been to several furniture stores, but couldn’t ever find something sturdy enough.

I just love that a chair built in the 1930’s, went through 4 different refinish projects, found its way to me, and eventually to this sweet client! 

Both chairs are on their way to a new home to be loved, and I’m so grateful to get to be a tiny part of their “Humble” story.  

Vintage Rocking Chair Refurbish Project

Just finished this custom designed rocking chair for a client and wanted to share it with you! 

My client chose the colors and fabric and I loved putting it all together! 


My client had done much of the hard work to remove the fabric and stain, but since I was spray painting, I wanted it to be completely smooth. There was a thick splotchy coat of wax that would interfere with the paint, so the power sander really came in handy here! I also had to do a fair amount of scraping to get the wax out of the tiny cracks. 


My client wanted to keep the original cane work natural. So I used plastic and painters tape to protect it. 

First step was Zinsser Shellac. I know I’ve talked about it before, but Zinsser seals in old stains and eliminates bleed-through. I use it every time! 

Next I used Krylon’s Color Master paint plus primer spray paint, and did several coats to achieve the desired coverage. 

One trick with spray paint is to sand in-between coats. That really ensured a smooth finish! 

I sealed the paint with Minwax Spray Polycrilic, and just love how smooth it feels! 

I got to try out my new air compressor with my staple gun for the upholstery! Makes me feel like such a big girl to have my own tools! The air compressor was a Mother’s Day present! 

Sigh… some girls ask for pedicures… I ask for power tools! 

Some gold trim and this beauty is ready to go! 

What do you think? Ever had success with spray paint before? 

Patio Table and Seating Refinish

So excited to share my custom refinish project on this outdoor patio furniture! 

My client’s Pottery Barn patio table and chairs were loosing their luster. The stain was chipping off, and it was warped in a few spots. 

The mahogany was so weathered that it had turned gray! This is a fairly common problem with outdoor furniture, but can be easily repaired with a little elbow grease and oil-based products. 

I wanted a topcoat that would hold up better than it had before. We also wanted to match the top to the color of the legs and keep that dark rich look. 

I’d heard a lot of good things about Thompson’s Water Seal and did a test board of it on top of my stain. The results were not good, and after a lot of research, I learned that Thompson’s is best on untreated wood. Remember that… somewhere in your vast hoards of mental data! Since we needed to go over the top of stain, Thompson’s was out. 

I ended up doing more research, sample boards, and talking with several pros! My neighbor showed me the teak oil he used on his boat, and that got me thinking about how boats take a real beating, but still look great. So I checked with my friends at Benjamin Moore and they led me to Old Master’s Marine Varnish. An amazing product used on boats! I was thrilled!  

After a few more successful test boards, I was ready to go!

The weather was amazing for this outdoor project! These longhorns were very patient with the noise from my power sander! 

I think I’m developing a little love affair with mahogany… it’s gorgeous!! 

I had a slight panic attack after the first coat of stain. My sunglasses were making it look bright orange and green! When my client came by I began to apologize and she said she didn’t see what I was seeing! It was only later that I took off my sunglasses and the color was corrected! Phew! 

The varnish went on smooth and I just love how this gorgeous set turned out! 

This table and seating came out so beautifully, but the best part was seeing my client’s excitement over it! I’m so grateful I got to be a part of this table’s journey! 

Broyhill Nightstands Refinish Project

Happy weekend friends! I wanted to share the story behind my recent nightstands project!

Here is the before pic:

This is a very common set of nightstands that Broyhill manufactured several years ago. I located them on Craigslist during our time in Phoenix, and my boys used them as their “Science labs”. 

The previous owners had added a child safety lock, which was a little weird, and my boys had carved “new year” into the top.  They also let a sucker melt on the top of the nightstands, which left a hard sticky substance that had to be sanded off. 

Seriously, kids are so hard on furniture! 

The biggest problem on this project was that one of the drawers had lost it’s track, and the drawer tipped when it was pulled out too far.

After analyzing the track, I decided to try and fix it. I used a sander and made some very dangerously close cuts on my miter saw to create the pieces I needed. (Yes, I did remember my brother’s you’re-going-to-cut-you-finger-off warning…)  
A little glue, a lot of sanding, and a few prayers later, the drawer worked better than ever!

The awesome folks down at the Benjamin Moore store here offered to let me come in and demonstrate some of my projects in their store. So for my first demonstration, I used these nightstands!

After sanding every surface down, I used a shellac primer to make sure any additional stains were sealed in nicely. Then I used Benjamin Moore’s latex paint in “gray wolf”, and did a wash rag technique rather than a brush to lay it down. Once the paint was dry, I used Valspar’s antiquing wax, which was more like a glaze, and added a nice rich patina to the wood finish. Finally I covered the paint with Benjamin Moore’s clearcoat. To give it a nice smooth hard polycrilic finish. 

Finally I drilled new holes, and added some pewter handles.

We delivered them to their new owner last night, and she absolutely loved them!

This was such a fun little nightstand project! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a fabulous rest of your weekend!


Slant-Top Secretary Desk

A few months ago a client asked for help refinishing her sewing table.

Her “sewing table” was actually a slant-top desk, a descendant of the portable desk built on a frame and developed during the Queen Anne style of furniture design. 

This particular desk was built in the Philippines, but I wasn’t able to track down more information as to it’s date. It had a leather-like veneer over particle board, which is a common characteristic of furniture built in the Philippines. 

This desk had a funky metal decorative top. It had been used as a computer table and a makeshift keyboard holder had been added, as well as several holes drilled for various cords. The veneer had been badly worn off and it was missing two drawers. It just needed a good vintage update! 

My client had a vision of painting and distressing it white and I was excited to help! 

Here are some pics during the project:

After the paint was dry, we remembered that two of the original drawers were missing! 

I was able to re-create the drawers out of poplar planks. 

I was also able to find some coordinating hardware at Hobby Lobby. 

In the end, she decided to keep the slant-top off because she loved the look of the drawers. Also notice that the metal decorative top didn’t get put back on! What a difference! 

The piece went from a hulking item that was unclear what it was, to a traditional desk on a frame. It’s a gorgeous piece, and I loved getting to assist with it! 

Farmhouse Chair

So excited to reveal the final on this chair!

Of the 4 ┬áchairs chairs project, this was my least favorite because it didn’t fave a fabric seat. So, it became my “guinie pig” as I tried chalk paint with a poly top coat instead of wax.

Here is the before:

Boring black… chipped and wobbly…


Repaired the wobbles and distressed for a fun farmhouse look!

The poly top coat makes it smooth and wonderful to sit on! And I love it to death now!

So fun how a little paint can make a world of difference!! It is in perfect concision now, and ready to go!!