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Painting the Mantel and Fireplace Black

Painting the Mantel and Fireplace Black

To create some drama in the living room, I decided to paint the mantel and fireplace black. A quick fix for an unattractive and lackluster mantel that makes my life so much better. I like drama in my decor, and very little in my personal life.

The details are pretty basic: use a good primer (Kilz or Bin Zinzer) and then use a good paint to go dark (high quality dark paints require fewer coats). I used Behr Marquee – Totally Black in my house. It’s the same color that I am painting many of the doors, inspired by Daniel from Manhattan Nest. The paint exceeded my expectations, BTW – I highly recommend it – I think it only took two coats to get full coverage, which is really impressive for dark paints.

The flesh toned color of the before was really not going it for me – see below. Yuck. Boring. Yawn.

IMG_2063 IMG_2064

And here is the after – WAAAH-BAM!


I love the black mantel and fireplace together with the brown leather chairs and bright white walls. Also, the black in the curtain hardware speaks to the black in the fireplace. I am really getting on board with the idea that every room needs at least a little black.

Go paint something black in an almost all-white house. It will make your life so much better.



PS. Fun fact – the all-white afghan on the chair to the right of the fireplace in the pic above was made by my mom. She crochets all the time and her work rocks.

Ikea Hack – Marble Plant Stand

Ikea Hack – Marble Plant Stand

In my new house, I am trying to kill fewer plants. It’s been a challenge, but I would say that my thumb has gone from decidedly black to perhaps brown? At least that is closer to green.

So I have been purchasing house plants with reckless abandon (not an exaggeration) in an attempt to fill my home with life, color, texture, and lovely vessels planted with adorable things. Of course, that meant I needed a new plant stand for ensure my plants received enough light.


I, like most women of a certain age who blog, love carrara marble. But the kitchen remodel is still a ways off, and even if it wasn’t I’m not certain I would do carrara marble countertops, since they are so high maintenance. I wanted to find a way to incorporate carrara marble into my home in an affordable and easy-to-maintain kind of way.


Enter the carrara marble plant stand made with 12×12 carrara tiles. I bought an Ikea Marius stool for $5, a Carrara tile for $3 (I think) and used so construction adhesive and gold spray paint I already had on hand to create this:

IKEA Marius hack with Carrara marble.

IKEA Marius hack with Carrara marble.

Ikea Marius Hack - Plant Stand

It was pretty simple to make, but did require a dremmel cutting tool. There was some trial and error based on the way the stool is stabilized by the plastic seat, but I think I figured it out.

First, I assembled the cross leg section.

Second, I cut the plastic seat into a square. The  edges of the seat had been peaking out below the marble, which is obviously not ok. So I taped off where I needed to cut. I tried using s circular saw to cut the plastic but the saw melted the plastic and gummed up my saw and the saw hasn’t worked since. Don’t do this.  Then I tried a saw tool on my dremmel which worked pretty well. The plastic still melted and got gummy on the dremmel bit, but I was able to clean it well when the task was complete. Wear eye protection!!! Little bits of hot plastic will be flying around.


Third, I attached the plastic seat to the base just like in the instructions.


Fourth, I spray painted everything gold. Duh! Make sure to get into all the weird angles.


Fifth, I used construction adhesive to glue my marble tile (make sure it’s centered!) to the top of the plastic seat. To ensure a good bond, i flipped the whole thing over, and stacked some heavy tools on the bottom for about an hour I think (follow manufacturer’s instructions).

Sixth, I styled it up with some cute plants.


For less than $10 (because I already had paint and adhesive), I made a really cute plant stand that I think looks much more expensive. And my plants get enough light now. Hurrah! IKEA hack for the win!

Has anyone else hacked a Marius?



I’m turning 29 for the second time.

I’m turning 29 for the second time.

Yep, it’s almost my second 29th birthday.  I can hardly bring myself to type it.  On June 1, I will enter a new life decade and I would be lying if I said I was not freaking out a bit.

To make it more palatable, I am thinking about things that would make great gifts for, ahem, someone, ahem, who might be about to re-celebrate their 29th birthday. Or things that I want to purchase for myself once my birthday has come and passed with no gifts because my family doesn’t do gifts.

In line with my previous wish list, these are lovely things that are not exactly practical, making it unlikely I will purchase them for myself because I have to buy the un-fun things like a new toilet seat and energy-efficient windows. They are fanciful and lovely, like the previous wish list as well.

Without further ado, some things I currently covet:

This chandelier. Yes, it was on the previous list, but I want it so bad. I have made progress on my dining room and I’m dying to update the light fixture.


A marble mortar and pestle. This isn’t even that frivolous – I would use it a lot, but I definitely want a marble one because it’s pretty. Maybe not this exact one, but you get the idea. I would crush garlic and whole spices so hard.


A lovely cake server. Can you believe I don’t own one already? Neither can I. How did that happen? I make SO many cakes and have to serve them with a knife like some heathen. A scratch-cake-baking heathen. Oh, the horror!

Cake Server

These pretty salad plates. Can’t you just imagine eating a jicama-avocado-grapefruit salad off of these while sitting in my solarium? Your mouth is watering now isn’t it? Mine is.

Animal salad plates world market

One (or eight) sheepskins.  I know I would get so much use of out of it, but every time I go to Ikea I am already spending $300 on things that I need* so I always put the sheepskin back at the last minute. I have some ghost chairs and dining chairs that are just begging for a nice sheepskin. (*Need is a subjective term. Duh.)

Sheep Skin

Some snail place card holders. Or some other equally charming woodland creature in a gold finish place card holders. For labeling cheeses and the like at dinner parties. Nate Berkus for the win. For like the hundredth thousandth time.

Snail Placecard holdersNow, I am can feel my father rolling his eyes, saying that we don’t do gifts and who needs more “crap,” but oh well. It’s my second 29th birthday and I’ll desire lovely and slightly impractical things if I want to. (It kills me to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s what you get when you quote Leslie Gore.)



Otomi Fabric

Otomi Fabric

I had a very brief trip to Mexico City for work. I really wanted some Otomi fabric, hand-embroidered fabrics. I was inspired by photos like this:



Here is what I bought:



This small piece of Otomi in the photo above will get framed. I just love to burro.


The piece above is about 7 feet long, maybe 18 inches wide? I got it for about $30, which was a great price, I think. I had originally intended to use it as a table runner, but my mom told me that Otomi doesn’t wash well. Apparently the colors from the thread run and get all over the white fabric. So instead, I will also use it as a wall hanging. The colors are just incredible.

IMG_1871Finally, I bought this serape blanket for about $20 (probably overpaid, since I bought it at the airport with my remaining pesos). It’s really soft and the colors are also just great. I think I will use it in the yellow-floored attic guest room.

I think Mexico is my spirit country – Mexican food is my favorite food in the world and the folk arts and colors just speak to my soul. I really hope I get to spend more time in Mexico City in the future. I was really impressed.

Besos y Abrazos,



Music Studio and Guest Bedroom

Music Studio and Guest Bedroom

One might wonder where has all the red shag carpet in the world gone? Let me tell you, it has gone into our attic. Yep – here it is in all its red shaggy glory!


Oh, and in case you were wondering where all the wood paneling went, that also resides in our attic. Lots and lots of red carpet and wood panelling made this attic feel creepy, smell funny, and basically made this space feel uninhabitable.  It was not pleasant to be up there.



You can see I have taped off the radiators here in preparation for what’s to come.


The attic space is divided into two smaller spaces – in the photo above, on the right side of the picture, you can see part of the thin wall that divides the two spaces. Eventually the whole attic will be turned into the master suite and that wall will be taken out, perhaps with a small den.

Anyway, I wanted to surprise Victor for Valentine’s Day by making him a music studio for all his many instruments, and also creating a calming place for him to meditate (the Hindu word for it is “puja”).

So I primed and painted all the wood panelling white (Behr Ultra White – same as the rest of the house). It needed primer first because the wood was dark and in some places bled through.


Then, I ripped out all the shag carpet, and painted the tiles beneath the carpet a lovely yellow (Citrus – Behr). I was channeling Scandinavian brightness.

To prep the floor I used deglosser. I didn’t want to sand it because I thought the tiles might be asbestos. Then I painted on a coat of Bin Zinzer shellac primer, which is a great primer – it’s a pain to clean, but it’s good because you can paint with latex paint over the shellac (something you cannot do with oil-based paint).

For the yellow, I used Behr Porch and Floor paint – the guy at Home Depot didn’t really want to tint the floor paint this yellow shade for me, because he wasn’t sure it would come out the right color (the floor paints come in grays, browns, blues, mostly). But he did it anyway. And it worked out just fine.

You really need to give the paint a full 72 hours (96 hours if you can wait that long) before you start putting furniture on it. But the finish seems to be very strong and is holding up well to everything that we are putting on the floor.


Victor has a full drum kit, but I was incapable of putting the whole thing together (I didn’t want to break anything). So I just put together enough of the drum kit so that Victor would get the idea – he got it.IMG_1813

I already had all the art, Victor had bought the couch when we lived in DC and my parents gave me the rug, so with the exception of paint and caulk, this makeover costs almost nothing. I think in total I spent less than $300 completely transforming this space. I’m looking forward to the future when I will vault the ceilings up the rafters, but for now, I’m very happy with how it turned out.IMG_1814 IMG_1815

This puja is on the “bedroom” side of the space (pictured below). The Indian doors are something my parents and I picked out years ago when we took a family trip to India to visit my brother. They are exquisite and really heavy. I’m pleasantly surprised by how nice they look with the yellow floor. The doors serve as a nice back drop for the puja. And the poof  I got from Homegoods for $50, I think. It is the perfect height for Victor’s meditation needs, plus I just think it’s super cute.






Obviously I still need to buy new bed linens, get some night stands and hang art, but overall, I’m so happy with how this space turned out. The best part is that the house now feels so much larger because this previously unusable space is now bright, cheery and fun to be in.



House Progress – Our Bedroom and Restoring Old Wood Floors

House Progress – Our Bedroom and Restoring Old Wood Floors

Despite my lack of blog posting, I have been a busy bee working on the house.

I wanted to focus on creating cozy bedroom spaces that were (almost) completely finished so that we could have nice retreat from the chaos of the rest of the house.

When I first moved in, everything (EVERYTHING) was painted a yellowish flesh-tone. The floors were in decent shape, but very dry and in need of some love. The doors were a weird grayish/greenish wood finish.

First things first, I wanted to deal with plastering the ceiling in the bedroom. The ceiling was covered with ugly old ceiling tiles. I applied mesh tape to the seams and then plastered with the pre-mixed wall mud from Home Depot. I was unable to get the ceiling perfectly flat, so I just went for a subtle texture. The subtle texture also helped to disguise the seams between the ceiling tiles.


I had to apply two coats of mud, waiting a few days between coats for it dry (Seattle is a little chilly and damp). Between each coat, I knocked down the high plaster spots.


I also removed all the old curtain hardware, patched holes and replastered some cracks in the walls.

Once the ceiling was plastered and dry, I painted everything flat white. The ceilings, the walls were both painted flat white. The trim and doors were painted the same Behr Ultra White, but this time in semi-gloss.


Then, to perk the floors back up I applied a coat of Restore-a-Finish in dark oak, which is a little darker than the current color on the floors, but it helped disguises scratches better than the golden oak color. I applied the Restore-a-Finish with steel wool, and rubbed with the grain to help clean the floor.  I wiped off excess Restore-a-Finish with a rag.  Next, I applied a generous layer of Howard’s Feed n’ Wax.  It’s a slightly citrus smelling wax, and I really like this stuff. You apply it generously with a rag, and then come back twenty minutes later to wipe off the excess.  I actually ended up buffing and wiping the floors down twice after apply the Feed n’ Wax, because the rags kept coming off with residual Restore-a-Finish. After the second buffing/wiping, the floors looked pretty darned good. This whole process took quite a long time, and I really wish I had invested in knee pads before undertaking this project. You live, you learn.


Oh, also, my dad installed both quarter-round and picture molding (not pictured, likely because I am lazy).  The quarter round was added where the baseboards meet the floors because there had been carpet, and the area right next to the baseboards was in rough shape. The quarter-round hides the imperfections and just makes everything look so much better and more finished. That was also painted semi-gloss white. Everything was caulked for a seamless look before painting. I also painted the door white, also not pictured.


The picture molding was added to mimic real picture molding in the living and dining rooms. This house is plaster and lathe, which means that if you start putting nails in the walls willy-nilly to hang art (FYI, I like to hang art willy-nilly. It’s the only way I know how.), you will screw up your walls pretty quickly. So I wanted to use caution. The bedroom picture molding is not true picture molding because it doesn’t hold picture rail hooks, but the plan was that you could nail into the picture molding and use that to hang pictures, without putting holes directly in the delicate plaster. So far it’s working.


Both the front and back bedrooms (the two bedrooms on the main floor) received all of this treatment. Except the back bedroom – the ceiling plaster was almost perfect in there, so I didn’t plaster over any ugly ceiling tiles.

I still need to get some yellow curtains – they will be so bright and cheery. I also intend to replace the single-pane windows and to add trim to the windows as well. I believe there used to be beautiful window trim, but the previous owner removed the original trim in the 1950s or 60s to make it more modern (when he redid the kitchen), which is truly a shame. I bet is was gorgeous, craftsman style. Tear.

But at this point, I am so happy with how the ceiling turned out. I also love how white and fresh this bedroom feels. The white walls and ceiling, with the white doors and white bedding. It just makes me so happy. I added a little bit of black and a tiny bit of color, and the crisp white of it all just hits all the right buttons.


So that’s the latest update for you, dear readers, complete with unmade bed shot, so you get the idea.

Stay posted as I slowly get more things finished around the house.



Hanukkah and Christmas Wish List – Lovely and Impractical Gift Guide

Hanukkah and Christmas Wish List – Lovely and Impractical Gift Guide

My family doesn’t do gifts, which is actually kind of nice. My fiance and I exchange gifts, but I think he already got me something. However, I have been putting all my extra funds into things like paint, caulk, and floor wax (updating coming soon). And while that is exciting in one way, I am drooling over all the gorgeous gifts that I cannot afford to buy myself since I am spending my money on the practical work that needs to get done at the new house.  Practicality can sometimes seem so cruel.

But I thought it would be fun to put together a Wish List of pretty things that I would like if my family did gifts or if I wasn’t spending all my extra dough at Home Depot.  Almost none of these things are truly practical – I often think a good gift is something someone wants put won’t buy for themselves because it’s just not practical.

Without further ado, my Wish List:

These adorable measuring cups from Anthropologie

Anthro Measuring Bowls

This adorable and cheery scarf (not the impractical, really, never mind my drawer full of scarves)

Gap Scarf

This iced coffee cup – you keep it in the freezer and it chills down the hot coffee or tea for you so that it doesn’t get all watery. I LOVE this idea.

Iced Coffee Cup

This INCREDIBLE french press. Be still my beating heart.

French Press.

This (or any, really) awesome live edge cutting board. Can you say “cheese party?”

Live Edge Cutting Board

This chandelier (for the dining room). It’s actually practical because I need to replace the dining room light fixture, but it’s got crystal, so by definition it’s a bit impractical and definitely luxurious. It will look amazing against the navy dining room walls.


Gold Flatware. ‘Nuff said.

Gold Flatware


I want to hang this picture above my bed. I love it. And it’s HUGE. And actually pretty reasonably priced for such a large piece of art.

The Stare Down


And finally, this pair of agate book ends. Because only lovely stone chunks are good enough to hold up my books. And because I definitely don’t have three other pairs of book ends. Nope. Definitely don’t. (Please don’t look on my mantle.)

Agate Bookends

OK. Dreaming over. Back to Home Depot.



PS. I also want something from Home Depot for the holidays. The Nest thermostat. It’s practical and comes from a hardware store. Has no crystals or gold on it.



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