Mom & Dad remodel, restore, and go green

About a year ago my parents decided to buy and remodel an older East Fayetteville home. It’s just a few blocks away from where my mom grew up with her seven siblings in the historic Mt. Sequoyah district and was in need of some serious TLC. From concrete and studs, it has come a long way. It’s still not finished, mostly because of their work schedules, but it shouldn’t be long before the finishing touches are placed.

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Gutting and remodeling an entire home is definitely not for everyone. But, even small remodeling projects can make a huge difference in your lifestyle and even your utility bills. Northwest Arkansas is a relatively earth-friendly part of the country and we have access to lots of materials and resources for going green. Here are some ways they chose to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

When they first got the house, the previous owner had left a garage full of old electronic equipment, tools, and furniture. All of it was either donated or recycled and I even transformed this piece from the garage into a new tv console for them.

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Rather than adding to the landfill with the gutted materials, Habitat for Humanity received all of the doors, windows, light fixtures, and extra wood.

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USA Metal Recycling purchased the copper from old wiring, plumbing parts and the aluminum from the windows.

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They installed all energy efficient appliances as well as Kohler water-conserving toilets and faucets.

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The new windows and slider door are Andersen 100 series with low-E and are also very energy efficient.

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The new insulation is made from cellulose which is a plant fiber with low-thermal conductivity.

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The old brush and landscaping was picked up and delivered to the city compost facility and several trees became firewood for three different households.

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From start to finish, my parents have tried their best to make the most of the old and new materials for this remodel. I can’t wait to share pictures of the finished project!

Time for a change! What’s your design style?

In referring to my mom, my sister and I, my dad always says “you women, you’re always spending so much time getting your house just right, and when you do, it’s time to change it again.” It may be true, but I think, very justifiable. How much time do you spend at home? Shouldn’t you love how it looks?! For me, it’s a hobby…just like how my husband likes to play hockey or shoot guns or go to the golf course. And, it’s a hobby with something to show for it afterwards!

My parents are remodeling an older Fayetteville home and its modern finishes have really inspired me. I love the simplicity and the clean lines; I definitely want to emulate certain parts in my own home. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about or known what my particular “design style” actually is. This year, I want to do that. We always quote William Morris in our presentations – “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” It’s such a great rule to live by….what else do you really need anyway?

I took a few design quizzes online and discovered that my style is contemporary. I like the “less is more” theme but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean stark and cold, my husband and I are practical and definitely make comfort a priority. It also means that I like to keep the walls neutral and add color with bright accents. Also, I don’t want to over-decorate, but instead I need to take advantage of the architectural accents in my home and let them make the statement.

For me, going more contemporary will be a step by step process and will depend a lot on when my husband feels like tackling different painting projects. Greys and whites are much more contemporary than the beiges that can be seen throughout our home. He has already painted two bathrooms and our master bedroom and I love the impact it made! We chose Porpoise (dark grey) for the hall bath, Alabaster (white) for our master bath, and Dovetail (grey) for our bedroom…all Sherwin Williams colors. I love how paint is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to dramatically update a space.

Our bedroom before and after

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Shabby Chic Coffee table (Before)

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New Contemporary coffee table (thrift store find!)

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Are you curious about your own design style? Maybe you even fit into more than one category. Take a look at the styles outlined here! http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/design-styles-defined/pictures/index.html

Furniture Flipping…the how to!

When I started out painting and “ReJennaRating” old furniture, it seemed like I could find cheap stuff all day everyday and never run out. Now, that’s not so much the case. People have caught on and even many of my friends are doing the same thing. While it might seem like an increase in competition, it really makes me glad.

I love it when people are resourceful…when they use what they already have…or buy something inexpensively and transform it to function in their home or someone elses. Plus, the old stuff is no longer heading the the landfill…one man’s trash really does becomes another man’s treasure.

That being said, I don’t think furniture flipping is for everyone. Take my sister for example. She has come over on multiple occasions to borrow paint and attempt to refurbish a few things. There was a large picture frame, some old window panes, and even two arm chairs. At the time I had quite a few other projects to work on so I let her go ahead and paint her own stuff. She ended up painting each item about 4 or 5 times because she couldn’t decide on a color and she complained the entire time. FAIL. Chere’….just do us all a favor and take yourself to Pottery Barn to buy something new. 🙂

That being said…if you do enjoy painting, if you are a little handy, and if you love making old things new – you should definitely give furniture flipping a try.

Here is a quick tutorial on a typical dresser that I like to redo.

My husband picked this up for me at Salvation Army. It’s solid wood with dovetail drawers (which is usually a criteria for me.)

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1, Remove the hardware (Sometimes the old hardware is unique and can be salvaged…but not in this case)

2. Wood fill the existing hardware holes (Skip this step if you are using the original hardware. Also, if there are just single holes and you are putting new single knobs back on, you also do not have to do this. If you are replacing (two-hole) pulls with new ones, it is usually hard to find drawer pulls that you like in the exact same length.)

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3. Put on a mask & rough sand the entire piece – I use a rotary sander and it saves me tons of time! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but some sanding will help give it some “tooth” and hang on to your paint. If you did wood fill, do it again and sand them again.

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4. Thoroughly clean off all of the sawdust and dirt. You can use TSP or denatured alcohol. Wear gloves and make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area!

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5. Put your piece on a drop cloth (unless you’re going for a new look on your floors) and place blocks under each corner or leg of the piece. This prevents it from sticking to the cloth and allows you to paint the bottom of the piece thoroughly.

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6. Prime! As a general rule of thumb, I almost always use bonding primer. It’s designed to create a surface that the paint will definitely stick to. You can even use it on laminate furniture or glossy surfaces. It’s the reason why you don’t need to sand the piece down to the grain and ensures that your paint will stick.

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7. Pick a color & start painting! Take your time and be thorough…you don’t want drip marks to ruin all of that hard work. I usually start with the top of the piece (sides first) and do long strokes. Unless you are spray painting the furniture, it’s the best way to avoid choppy brush marks. It depends on the type of paint you are using and the type of finish you are going for but it should take about 2 coats on average. (For example, if you are going to be distressing the piece, you don’t need full coverage.) You can see some of my favorite paint colors here.

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8. When your final coat has had ample time to dry, you can reattach the hardware. This is easy if you are just replacing the original…or this can be where it gets complicated. In my case, this is when I call in the hubs. He has lots of lasers and drills so I let him attach my new hardware. (Hobby Lobby is a great inexpensive option for fun and unique hardware.)

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9. Last step – Protect your finish! If you did all of the other steps, including the bonding primer, the paint should definitely stick. However…you don’t want the objects placed on top to scratch it. So, I like to use Minwax Finishing Paste. I personally think it’s just as good as polyurethane but it doesn’t look like you have coated it at all. Also, if you’re doing a white piece it won’t yellow over time. And again, don’t forget to wear your gloves! Apply it with a rag then come back about 10 minutes later and buff it out in long strokes.

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That’s it, you’re done! It can be a lot of work but it’s so worth it when you put it somewhere special in your home. You have something new and you have the satisfaction of flipping an old piece into a masterpiece!

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Our new bathroom!

The day has come! I have to say, it took much longer than I thought and it cost a little more than I thought, but our bathroom is finally finished.

Our goal was modern and sleek and we’re both very pleased with how it turned out. Here is the new shower area, my favorite part! (and below, the tub and awkward shaped window that were once there)

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This is the new vanity. It’s called Caesarstone (quartz) and the color is espresso. We do have granite in our other two bathrooms but I love the sleekness and solidarity of quartz. We also went with rectangular sinks rather than oval and had them only cut one hole on each faucet for a more simple look.

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Here it is before.

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I painted the vanity a solid white – it’s called Alabaster by Sherwin Williams and I chose a semi-gloss finish. It matches the trim and doors in the bathroom as well as througout our entire house. We went with plain pulls from Lowes in a chrome finish.

My husband who is 6″5 can now see the top of his head in the bathroom mirror! We did a frameless floating version which is standard in many new modern homes. We took a 1/4 inch thick piece of plywood that would be slightly smaller than the mirror and screwed it into the drywall. The edges were spray painted black and then the mirror was adhered to the plywood. The edges are polished and it has a “floating” effect. I love how it turned out and it matches the new light fixtures.

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I didn’t want any wall color to compete or clash with the tile or the quartz so we decided to just go with white. They are also painted Alabaster but I chose a satin finish so that the trim and cabinets would not just blend in.

The only unfinished part is the area behind the door where the shower used to be. We had it drywalled out and for now it’s a great place for our laundry basket and scale. It’s going to be  large linen closet but I haven’t quite decided what kind of shelving and doors I want yet. Suggestions are welcome!

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This photo shows the old shower.

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We ran into a few frustrating issues and felt a little cramped in our hall bath for a few months;  but, we love how it turned out and now we just get to enjoy it!

Thrift store find = Upgraded office

I was out hunting for furniture last weekend and found a great new desk for my office. Sometimes I really don’t get the pricing logic in the thrift stores that I frequent. I spotted the desk as soon as I walked in and as I approached it, I anticipated a high price tag. After all, it was next to a particle board dresser that was practically falling apart for $175!  Way overpriced in my book. When I saw that it was only $55, I knew it had to have a huge flaw.  I couldn’t believe it… the drawers all worked great, the legs didn’t wobble, it had no giant gouges, and it was solid oak. It was too good to be true.

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I knew I had found a gem and just couldn’t part with it, plus I didn’t realize just how much I needed a bigger desk.

Home offices are spaces that many people don’t give much thought to when it comes to decorating and organizing. In reality, they’re actually very important. With Simple Spaces, we tackle quite a few home offices and sometimes those are the most satisfied clients. People say how much more productive, creative, and motivated they are in a functional, attractive office space.

Here is my old desk. I remember my parents buying  this for me at Pier One when I was 20 for my first apartment in college. Since then, it has traveled with me to 5 different homes and now that I have a good-sized office, I think it’s ok to let it go. I don’t like visual clutter and so I was stuffing way too much stuff in the one little drawer. I also had my office supplies stored in a closet in another room..and of course, when I got up to get something I would be distracted by another task.

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I decided to paint the desk a chalky matte black called Tricorn Black from Sherwin Williams. I really like using this color on light oak colored furniture because I think it looks great when it comes through the paint. I slightly distressed the edges and the detailed parts. And, I kept the original, industrial hardware.

Now I have all of my office supplies in one spot, ample surface area to write and spread out documents, and drawers to conceal it all when I’m done! A small investment for a big office upgrade!

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The award for ugliest bathroom in America goes to…

That’s right, we win. In fact, we even sent a video to HGTV…I still can’t believe they didn’t pick us! We decided it’s time to start our master renovation, we’re tired of the ugliness. Here it is.

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First we came up with a plan. We didn’t like the current location of the shower (behind the door.) We also didn’t like the tub, all it was good for was collecting dust. So, we decided to move the new, bigger shower to where the tub was. We did all of the demo ourselves. We ripped out the tub, took up all of the tile, peeled off the painted over wallpaper, and ripped out the shower tile and backing down to the studs.

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We also decided that we did not like the shape of the window. It was funky and we wanted to open it up. My husband and my dad knocked out the window and actually had to cut some of the exterior brick in order to make the window a standard rectangle. We lived for 3 weeks with just some classy plywood over the opening.

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Now that the demo is complete, we  have brought in a professional. He has put up most of the durock (a cement board backing for the shower), installed the new rain glass window, and poured the new shower floor.

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Here is the tile we picked out, we went with a modern, sleek 12×24 in a greyish brown.

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The next steps for the professional are tiling the shower and the floor, drywalling the old shower area, and finishing out the brick on the exterior.

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Here’s what we will be doing ourselves – painting the vanity, cabinets, and trim; installing the new countertop and light fixtures; painting the walls; installing new hardware and plumbing fixtures; putting in an exhaust fan; and installing open shelving where the old shower was.

Also, rather than paying for a roll-off or sending things to the landfill during our renovation, we have been using Craigslist. You would be surprised what people will take off your hands. Under the “free” section I posted our bathtub, old vanity, and even our toilet! Within hours it was all picked up and out of our way.

It’s been a lot of work but will definitely be worth it. Stay tuned for the end result!

Repurposed for a purpose!

One thing I love about old dressers is how multi-functional they can become when they’re repurposed. Give them a fresh look with a few coats of paint and suddenly you have the perfect storage piece for a dining room buffet, a flat screen tv console, or even a functional office piece.

Here is one of my favorite pieces turned into a console for a media room.

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If I’m looking for a piece to function as something other than a dresser, I usually look for a piece with a middle cabinet (rather than just drawers.) However, this 9 drawer dresser looks great as a sofa table in this living room and the legs on this particular piece really dress it up.

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I kept this French-style piece for my own entryway, and since we don’t have a hall closet, I love that it provides great concealed storage.

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And, here is a complete Simple Spaces office transformation finished off with a great looking piece for storing office supplies and paperwork.

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06_19_12-12403So, when it comes to old dressers, think outside the box, and repurpose for a purpose!

Red, white, and blue…paint color favorites!

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I had a productive day yesterday…aparently in honor of the 4th of July! Finding the right paint colors for your projects can sometimes be half the battle. I have a few standby favorites that I’ve been using for a long time and a few others that I’m loving this summer!

My long-time favorite white for furniture and other small projects is “Oyster” by Valspar at Lowes.

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For a nice powdery black, that looks great distressed or straight painted, try “Tricorn Black” by Sherwin Williams. (as seen above & below)

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Looking for a great turqouis? My favorites are “Cooled Blue” by Sherwin Williams and “Sprinkler” at Lowes.img_7199

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I love coral this summer and “Peppery” at Sherwin Williams is bold & bright.

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Looking for a great grey? Try “Dovetail” by Sherwin Williams.

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Or, if you want to go bold with gold, I love  “Scrambled Eggs” by Mythic

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Going green? I love “Palmetto” by Martha Stewart.

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If you’re thinking about painting a room or a piece of furniture but you’re not sure on the color, try something small first…a lamp, a picture frame, a mirror. Or, jump right in and take a chance, you can always repaint!

Treasures take time…

When we moved into our house two and a half years ago, I knew I wanted to take my time decorating it. For months, I had rooms with almost nothing in them. I’m not saying it was easy…I had to refrain. When you move into any new place, the first instinct is to FILL IT!  But that’s really just instant gratitude..the thrill fades; especially when you realize your living room is an exact replica of your Pottery Barn catalog.

What is really rewarding is taking your time. Besides, I think you have to live in a place for a while before you can truly get a feel for how you want it to look and function.  If you want unique and original, be patient and search for furniture and decor at all kinds of different places.

Here are some of my favorite finds –

 

 

 

 

 

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The two wooden vases came from Goodwill for $30

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We use this column as an end table, $26 at a flea market!

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These chairs were $60 each and immaculate at Salvation Army, all I did was paint the arms and they help create the perfect reading area for our bedroom.

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I love this vintage green lamp I found at a local thrift store for $12. All I had to do was buy a new shade

“Enjoy the hunt – it’s worth waiting for something SPECIAL…and you’re bound to find other bits along the way” – Emily Chalmers

Buying old furniture? What to look for…

Hunting for furniture is fun, and when the price is right, it’s even more fun to take it home and transform it! But, just because it’s cheap doesn’t always mean it’s a good find. I’ve learned the hard way that there are definitely some key elements to look for in second-hand furniture.

1. Material

Solid wood is always a safe bet for painting, It requires the least amount of work and is usually the best quality, best-looking type of furniture you can buy to paint. Another sign of quality is dovetail construction on the inside of the drawers.

This doesn’t mean that laminate or veneer pieces can’t also be transformed into something beautiful. They just take a little more preparation…and you’ll need to use a special “bonding” primer to make sure your paint will stick to the surface.

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This is a solid walnut piece that I found for our bedroom, it was too nice to even paint!

 

 

2. Detail

Detail is what I look for most…that is what really makes a piece stand out when it’s painted! Fortunately, there are a lot of these pieces out there right now from the 70’s and 80’s…and yes, most are laminate or veneer, but worth the extra work. Look for patterns, cutouts, or raised designs….they also look great distressed!

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3. Hardware

The right hardware can make or break a great piece of second-hand furniture. If the hardware is boring before the piece is painted, it will probably be just as boring when the piece is painted. Look for unique! If the piece is great but the hardware is not it can be changed out. I’ve found the best place to find fun hardware for a good price is Hobby Lobby. And, if you’re really handy, (or have a husband who is) and the hardware you want doesn’t fit, you can use woodfill before you paint and drill new holes.

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If you keep an eye out for these 3 key elements, you’re bound to find some great pieces to transform. Happy hunting!