Monday, October 18, 2010

And...I need to stop.

So any free minute I have, I feel like I need to do something. Most often, it's something in the house. And my poor husband is so sweet to let long as I don't spend too much.

My first kitchen project involved the lovely invention of chalkboard paint. I've been seeing it all around blog world and wanting to use it for a while now. I couldn't figure out what to do with the empty wall in our kitchen, especially since we are planning on painting the cabinets, replacing the countertops and appliances, and re-tiling the back splash sometime in the next lifetime. So I decided on the chalkboard paint. I also decided to frame it out in molding that I painted blue and distressed to look old. Check it out below.

But of course, I had a three day weekend two weeks ago so I couldn't stop there. Because someone posted the link to this blog and I found this post, I was hand painting my walls for hours over the last week. No need to repost what she said (check her post out--what she did is incredible) but I wanted to show you my results.

My stencil...
The drawing part took about 2 hours. About 20 minutes in I questioned my dumb, dumb decision and continued to do so until I completely finished. Seriously. I had like four more lines to paint and I was still trying to figure out how I could stop there without it looking weird.

Again questioning this decision....

Love my new kitchen. It almost makes up for the nasty yellow cabinets. Okay. Not really. But can you picture this lovely kitchen with white cabinets, brushed nickle knobs, a gorgeous porcelain sink, and new countertops? Sigh. Someday.

Monday, September 27, 2010


love ALL of this picture. errrrrrverythang.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

paint and sawdust

So, I've decided that I am happiest when I'm covered in paint and sawdust. The promise of a new cheap project makes me want to giggle. So much so, in fact, that I don't take pictures throughout...but fret not, I have before and afters!

We have some lovely *coughnastycough* yellow/orange oak cabinets that I'm sure were the bombdotcom when they were put in, but they are no more. I have been planning on painting them for a while, but our bathroom vanities are an off-white color. As I painted our bathroom, I realized that white on off-white would probably not be the cutest color contrast. It's still my intention of painting our kitchen cabinets when we replace the countertops, but I set out to find some other solution for our bathrooms.

I found a chemical stripper to take the finish off of our cabinets. All the videos/reviews of stripping agents I had seen showed a "sludge" that forms after you apply it and you simply scrape off the mess. If only I had been so lucky...I ended up with more of a stubborn flake than a sludge. No fun. It took pretty much a full day to strip, sand, and pre-treat the wood.

After testing one door, I found that some polys never fully leave the wood, which makes the wood refuse to take stain. I stained one door but it didn't take ANY stain. Pain. So, take two. I got Minwax's Poly and Stain in one. It's more like a translucent paint that a traditional stain, but it worked miracles. However, don't take a magnifying glass to my cabinets--there are streak marks everywhere. The Poly and stain in one is crazy hard to use. It streaked at the littlest change in pressure and pooled constantly. But a mistake ridden beautiful stain is much better than a yellowed oak stain. See for yourself:
This is after some test sanding and test staining. But still--nas-d.
Guest bath before.
ahhh...and after. still love it.

This was definitely a full Labor Day weekend project (I went to school Monday exhausted) but every time I walk in our bathrooms, I can't help but smile.

Speaking of the bathrooms...I painted. After TWO (count em two) awful greens (and we even bought samples) allll over our walls (seriously, one color I trimmed and put fixtures back up before I realized it looked like pistachio ice cream), I figured if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I pulled out our trusty Behr Oat Straw (LOVE this color) and my stripe color. Love it. :)

Also, in other news, school is great. My new roles (team leader and AP Bio...or BAP as my awesome AP kiddos want to put on our t-shirts) keep me busy to say the least--definitely a baptism by immersion! One morning I was having AP tutorials and I had about 10 interruptions by other teachers asking questions. After a while, one of my students laughed and said "man, you must be important. this is like grand central station!" I get to teach some fantastic students. If you want to see something funny, though, come hang out in my 5th period. There are 23 (yes...23) 9th grade boys. I only have 7 girls in that class.'s comical. I have to say things like "Quit hitting him with your casita" and "Why do you have glue all over your hands?" and "Put your butt in a chair"...they get confused unless you are that specific. Plus they think it's hilarious when you say butt. But(t) I love it. :)

<3 L

P.S.- If you know me, you'd probably think teacher-me is very funny. I definitely put on a persona. I say things like "baby doll", "bud", and "let me see your pretty little faces". In fact, on day 3, I had a SIMPLE warm-up for them to practice doing my warm-ups that said "Mrs. Nichols thinks safety is important because..." and one of my students raised his hand and said "because she doesn't want us to mess up our pretty little faces." Ha. The things they pick up.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another project and a plea

Just a little side note of a project that I did during summer:

If you saw our apartment you were forced to look at this.
Granted, I re-stuffed these cushions and we cleaned the chair and cushions so it looks MUCH better now but there wasn't much I could do for that poor ottoman. That oh so obviously placed blanket stood to cover up a giant rip/snag down the side of our ottomon. I couldn't figure out what else to do with it so I just ignored it! Lame.

When we moved, I decided I would like to use it elsewhere so it found a home in Justin's game room in front of the couch. His chosen color scheme (seriously, he made a mood board for his room and everything--have I mentioned his favorite show is Design Star? He's cute.) is gray, red, black, and white. So I marched off to JoAnn's (which I can't help but say in a crazy obnoxious, nasal-y northern accent--try it, it's fun) to find some fabric. Luckily, their upholstery fabric was 50% off (so I snagged a way cute green trellis type pattern for the living room pillows as well). I found a deep red, linen-looking (but much sturdier than linen) fabric for cheap and sewed a cover.

To make this, I measured my pieces using the ottoman as a guide, cut them (I didn't make a pattern because I cut simple rectangles), and then pinned them around the ottoman to insure a tight fit. Once I fit them together, I began sewing my cute little box and hemming the bottom. I was shockingly easy! Here is my creation (I even had left over fabric to make the cute pillows in the background):
See the girly fabric peaking through?
So fun! And don't be too impressed--I've only been sewing since Christmas. We're not talking anything you might find on, oh say Ashley Carter Designs. And yes, that was a shameless plug for my cute college roommate. But seriously, I only sew straight, easy lines. And I am using the word straight VERY loosely. You could do it, too! And probably better than me!

And know my plea for help: huge blank wall. I only have TWO walls left in my house and this one is just mocking me. Daily. Like the mean girl in 5th grade who called me Jolly Green Giant and Big Foot (but in her defense, I was 5'5'' wearing a size 8 womens...). Please help! I need something cheap, probably DIY, and I guess I'm modern comfortable--like pottery barn, west elm, and z gallerie combined. I've searched everywhere and the only things I've come up with don't seem to suit a living room.

In other news, my fun friend Amanda just won a competition on facebook for a free furniture painting clinic with a value of $175 per person! She's asked me to join in on the painting extravaganza so I need to find something to paint. I am thinking about finding a console table for our dining room...but now I need to find it!

In other news, I hung the words "AP Biology Reminders" on my board at school's becoming real. I am going to be team leader for Bio 1 and teaching AP Bio by myself. I think there have been very few times in my life that I have felt so intimidated...we'll see how this goes!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

King sized space on a twin sized budget

If you recall, I recently was toying with the idea of a king size bed. With our new move, we needed another bed to join our family of furniture. And in order to join our family of furniture, you gotta be rice and beans cheap. Or living off of one teacher salary cheap. Most king beds do not fit that category.

Some time ago my favorite people introduced me to an Alaskan mother who wasn't a crazy moose hunting, lipstick-wearing hockey mom like another Alaskan mother we all know. Ana is a gorgeous woman who knows her way around a saw and a screw gun like you wouldn't believe. She finds beautiful pieces of furniture from places like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel and turns them into EASY to build step-by-step plans. She has endless experience building and knows how to help you out. She even has the shopping list and cut list for every piece.

I have had her on my Google reader for a long time and about two weeks before our planned bed construction, she came out with this little beauty. We made a few adaptations: we weren't quite pumped about the chunky leg so we bought a stain quality 3 x 3 that we cut to 5 1/2 inches and stained to match the furniture to make our legs (5 in total--one in the middle for support). We also wanted to hide the box spring so we traded out the side rails for a 1x10. Justin went through the plan and re-drew it based on what we want. He made a clear list of our new cut list so we were ready to go and re-calculated how much wood we would need.

We (coughmecough) decided that we (coughmecough) wanted an upholstered bed and the other half of we is very trusting. Because of that, we bought linen at Hobby Lobby 40% off for a total of $60 and foam ALSO using the 40% off coupons for a total of $50. I bought $10 worth of fabric buttons and used scrap fabric to cover them. The wood and supplies cost around $140. We also had to purchase a saw, but I'm not including that in our costs because we've already used it to make two end tables! That brings us to a total of $260! For a king size, SOLID WOOD bed! Incredible!

Here's our step by step. A lot of these photos are taken from an iPhone, so forgive the poor quality!
The first thing we did was make our cuts. We don't have any fancy shop equipment so we used 3 cinder blocks and team work...AKA me standing on the wood to keep it steady. The speed square was our saving grace and the whole "measure twice cut once" thing was our motto. As we cut our wood, we marked on each piece where it belonged and it's length to keep everything easy. We were slightly concerned that our bed wouldn't fit through our door (it does, phew) so we built it in our bedroom. We used a sheet to protect our floor until we got to the point that it was upholstered. We first built the box and attached the center support using wood glue and 2.5 inch wood screws. Be sure to put as much pressure as you can on the drill--stripped screws are a BEAST. We held our breath and checked for square and it was perfect!
My cute husband feeling very manly and victorious at this point.
I forgot to take a picture of us uphosltering the bed but here is a close up of the finished product. I took 1 inch foam (cheaper than what I used on the head board) and cut it exactly to size. I attached it using spray adhesive to one side. We actually stood the bed up on its end and worked on a ladder. After that, I covered it in batting (purchased cheaply at Hobby Lobby) and attached that with a load of staples. Finally, I cut my fabric using 5 inches excess as my rule to size. I bought 6 yards of upholstery fabric (after a lot of thought and calculations--keep in mind interior design fabric is wider than traditional bolts) which was the PERFECT amount in the end. Justin and I worked together to pull on either side and staple moving from the center of the rail outwards. In the end, we realized we hadn't pulled tight enough and had to go back through and restaple. It sounds intense but all we did was pull tighter, fold the excess, and staple it down. If my bed ever needs to go through a metal detector, we're in trouble...
We continued all around the bed in the same manner and left the backside bare. After that, we measured down and attached our cleats, making sure to check for level frequently. Since we are using a boxspring, we decided we could do less slats than she recommended (hers was for a mattress only bed) and only cut six. We screwed these in place to the side cleats. At this point we were feeling pretty darn good about ourselves.

...and then we started the headboard. Initially, I wanted to attach the headboard to the bed. Because of that, it would have to be heafty. We designed our own headboard based on one Ana made for a kid sized bed (mistake #1). As we put it together, we could already tell it was going to be a behemith of a piece, but we pressed on. And then the stripped screws started their attack (mistake #2). There were very unkind words spoken between us, the drill, and the screws that refused to cooperate. There may have even been a few unkind words spoken between just us...maybe. We couldn't even carry the headboard two feet without practically dying. We knew that this would not work and were too tired to figure anything else out at the time. So we took a break for the night.
The next day, we decided to scratch our headboard and just make a plywood version that we would hang on the wall. We detached one of the pieces of plywood from our offensive lineman-sized headboard. I did the exact same thing as the bed to upholster the headboard, except I used 2 inch foam instead of 1 inch foam. Most websites I read recommended 3 inch foam, but that was WAY too expensive and it wasn't sold at Hobby Lobby. I was counting on the 40% off coupon, so I nixed that idea. In the end, I don't miss that extra inch at all. Before I attached the foam, I measured and drilled the holes for my tufts. After the fabric was attached, I tufted the headboard using a tufting needle, aka a middle eastern torture tool. The thing is at least a foot long. Crazy. But it made my life much easier. Justin pushed in on the button to the appropriate depth while I tied the thread (I used the thickest thread I could find) around a brad (headless nail) on the other side of the headboard.
Final step: attach legs. Press down on the drill HARD so the lovely screws don't strip. The key here is to make sure that the legs are NOT resting on the corner braces but are using the corners of the side rails for support.

We found a Sealy Posturepedic mattress we liked at Sam's Club (you can even lay on them in the store!) for cheap (and don't worry, I researched it online and it is very good quality). We topped it off with a down comforter also from Sam's for $70 (what?!) and a West Elm duvet cover for $28 (bought using gift cards and Designing Dollars from West Elm).Put it all together and you get...drumroll...
I seriously love this bed. It's big and grand. I've haven't slept this well since I was sleeping in the middle of a queen bed in college. The bed is so sturdy that you can roll and it doesn't shift at all. Both of us are more rested than we've been in a long time. We don't ever wake each other up and we never have to say "your knee is in my face!" Getting a king size bed was actually the first piece of marriage advice I ever got...and I have already passed it on to tons of couples. We can still cuddle at night...but then we roll over the mile of space between our "sides" and sleep like babies.

And we sleep even more soundly knowing that we saved for this purchase, put our sweat into it, and walked away with a stunning product for a stunning steal!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Come on over...

So, let me take you back a year:
Last summer, we had a SERIOUS house itch. We were dying to get into something that was our own. We are completely blessed to be able to live off of one salary and save the other one, so we had about 10% down saved by then. We didn't think we could wait until we had 20% to buy--so we took a trip over to This lovely little website informed us that if we didn't wait, we would be paying significantly more each month and would pay about $100,000 more over the life of our loan. Um, no thanks?! That's nearly 3 years FULL salary. We took our patience pill and waited. And thanks to waiting, we were also able to save up a significant amount more to be able to decorate and buy fun things like lawn equipment (ha) and a fun TV. I am also proud to announce that our mortgage is...drumroll...LESS than our rent was. We escrowed (way to go in my book), so that includes taxes and insurance. It's incredible. We also decided that since we've been paying rent AND saving each month for our house, we can EASILY pay double our mortgage while I am still working AND still save for things like remodeling, babies, retirement, college, etc. How incredible would it be to pay off the mortgage in 10 years and have that much extra each month?

Without further ado, our little casa!

So, before I let you see my house you have to read this disclaimer:

This house is in no way finished. I am working slow...don't judge. :) Any holes, empty walls, mismatched stuff are not intentional.

That said...enjoy! I know we are...Our entryway--this leads into the living room and to the left you see the guest bed and game room. The two frames are actually framed linen that I found at an incredible fabric store in downtown Houston. The mirror was originally black and I found it on the cheap at Ross...just a coat of spray paint primer and a coat of pistachio green and I have a lovely little friend to greet you!
Our fireplace...I found the mercury glass candle sticks at Target on sale after Christmas and the mercury glass vase on sale at Pier 1 with a gift card I've been saving for TWO years. The lovely N is from Anthropologie. We painted all of the rooms except for our bathroom and the guest bedroom. I realize it's tan...but I love the clean base of a light tan. I'm an airy, cottage-y type person and the color we found is a PERFECT tan.
Our new entertainment center from IKEA. It's got a very Pottery Barn-esque feel for less than half of the price.

Our dining room--the stripes inspired by (coughcopiedfromcough) I made the curtains and the chairs are a craigslist find that we refinished to match our West Elm beauty of a table. The room is in desperate need of some colored accesories and the opposite wall is begging for some of that color as well. It's still a work in progress :).
Our kitchen--we'll eventually replace the appliances and countertops but for now, it's great!This is our game room/Justin's man cave. He FINALLY gets to have his arcade bball game inside that I bought him our first Christmas dating. He also gets to have his own video game room. He doesn't play often but he definitely loves the ability to go back to the game room and not bother me (or be bothered BY me, whatev). The picture of the Astrodome is one Justin's had for a while that I had printed at Kinkos and Modge Podged to a canvas. He chose the soft gray color. I also took a cheap glass vase and filled it with some of his old, dirty baseballs for a manly "bouquet" on the left of the TV. He picked out a simple (and cheap) white couch from IKEA and I sewed the cover on our old ottoman and pillows.See?? That was one of those projects that made me feel very 60s housewife.
Guest bedroom/office. Decorated with a lot of leftovers from college and the apartment.

Guest bath.
Our room! The only complete room in the house. We built this bed (more on that soon) completely. Bought the wood, foam, fabric, and voila! An incredible king size bed...we have literally never slept so well. The comforter was a West Elm purchase made from rewards bucks from our table and a gift card. The lamps are a TJ Maxx find that I found at Z Gallerie for double the price!
Justin painted both of the art pieces in this room.
Our bathroom. I haven't touched this room yet...don't judge. It's just staring at me, all tan and boring, and mocking me. But I'm waiting for our decorating budget to fill up again :).
Annnnd the garage....

I will do a post soon about all of our DIY and the bed.

The house really is better in should come visit!