Project 5: Refinishing Furniture with Minwax Polyshades

When we first moved into our home, the nursery looked like this: Before_House_Shot_0052 We then turned the room into a guest room, by basically adding a bed and some paint.  But let’s be honest–as any of our guests can attest to, the room was never really finished.  Sorry guests! So when we decided to turn this room into the nursery, we started with this:

And while I like the functionality of the built-ins and someday when the kids are older, it will be nice to have the desks and whatnot, I currently can’t stand the way they look.  The woods are all different shades!

And while we’re being honest, it’s not even really all wood. The countertop is actually a laminate, and the rest are all veneers. So, what was I to do? I could rip it out, but then we’d have a flooring issue since these are original to the house and so there are no wood floors underneath. I could paint it all, but that would take forever and remember: I was preggo at the time I tackled this project; I could sand and stain it all to try and match the laminate, but again: preggo and not interested in a ton of work. So what did I decide? To do a sort of mix: paint the shelves and trim, and then use a cheater method to stain the cabinets and drawers to match the countertop.  First up, priming and painting the shelves and trim (I used Kilz latex primer and Sherwin Williams Pro Classic color-matched to Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White).


Once the first coat of paint was on, then I caulked around all the edges. Then did the final coat of paint.  The next step was tackling the drawers and doors. I didn’t feel like sanding them down so that I could stain and seal them. Just too much work. So I decided to take yet another page out of the Young House Love handbook and try Minwax Polyshades.  Remember when YHL used this method to do their new kitchen’s lower cabinets?

My goal was to have the cabinets match the color of the laminate top. So I took some pics of the top with my phone and headed off to Lowe’s.


There, I picked up some steel wool (per the directions on the Minwax can) and a can of Minwax Polyshades in Tudor, Satin finish (the same as YHL since it actually seemed that color would be a close match).   Once home, I then took all the hardware off the cabinets and drawers and used the steel wool all over everything. Then wiped it all down with a damp cloth.  I don’t have any pictures of these steps. Sorry. I then applied my first coat of the Polyshades. I bought a new paintbrush for this since it’s oil-based and I planned to just throw away the brush when I was done.  I found that this stuff goes on extremely sticky and it’s hard to get it to not show brush strokes. Even with a light hand. And even harder to get an even coat.  So be warned–it probably worked so well for YHL because they made their cabinets super dark. I’m not so sure this would look particularly good in a lighter color.  I started by doing the insides of the cabinet doors, just so I could get the hang of it before tackling parts that would actually be showing.  And I did get better at applying it. It took me only about 15 minutes to do the insides of the cabinets and all 12 drawer fronts (to allow for drying, my plan was to tackle the insides of the cabinets first and let those completely dry before moving on to the outside of the cabinets).  This stuff also royally stinks, so make sure you’ve got adequate ventilation.  Well, after one coat (and one day of drying time since dry and wet did look different), I found that the color was all wrong. The laminate top had way more red in it and the Tudor was definitely more of a chocolate brown.  Here’s a shot of one of the inside of the doors after one coat of Tudor:


And here’s another phone shot of the laminate top (this time it looks totally different than before, right? Dang iPhone):


See how it’s way more red? So I headed to Home Depot this time, where I discovered that HD carried an entirely different set of colors of Polyshades than Lowe’s. Not sure what that’s all about. But I ended up buying American Chestnut:  

My plan at that point (since I already had one coat done in the Tudor) was to just do my final coat in the American Chestnut. I figured that the blend of the two would be a close-enough match to the laminate top.  Following the instructions, I then rubbed my first coat down with more steel wool, and wiped it all down to remove any dust.  I then proceeded with applying the chestnut. I found the key was to get a decent amount in the brush, and apply it over the whole piece quickly. Then immediately go back and do long brush strokes with the grain from end to end. However, even with my technique perfected, I still found that the Polyshades went on smoother in some places than others. Here’s a pic of two drawers as an example:


I finished the drawers first since they only had one side. I decided to keep the original hardware since the size was pretty unique and I couldn’t find a replacement I liked. Plus, being the lazy preggo woman that I was, I didn’t feel like going with a different size and then having to patch the old holes and drill new ones. Plus, brass is making a comeback these days, right?


  From a distance, I think it looks pretty good and is a vast improvement over where it started.


But close-up, well, let’s just say it’s not the best. It didn’t come out nearly as well as Mini B’s dresser.



So if you want to use this on an heirloom or quality piece of furniture, then my advice? Don’t. Instead, take the time to actually sand it down and apply stain. Even if it is just veneer.  But, if it’s a piece you don’t really care about, and/or you’re looking for a quick fix, then this is the ticket. Although, while the application of the product goes quickly, with drying time it is still a multi-day affair.

And so this is where the nursery stood when Baby B made his debut:


Now that he’s been around for two months, it’s probably about time that I get on finishing this room already.  Stay tuned . . .

Step It Up

I haven’t blogged in about 10 million years.  Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.  So here’s a quickie–a little update I did that took two naps to complete, so about 4 hours for a regular person (that’s just for the vinyl sticker application; the rest of the steps were slowly completed over the past three years).  First, where we started when we bought the house:


And where we are today, after stripping the carpet, painting the doors and trim, painting the stairwell and upstairs landing, and adding some chevron-tastic details:


Big difference, huh?  The chevrons aren’t painted on (I don’t have that kind of patience or time these days, and I also didn’t want something that would take a lot of effort to remove if I didn’t like it); instead, they’re vinyl stickers from here.  Yep, Pot & Kettle Studios made them custom to fit my risers, and they were super easy to install.  And when I’m sick of them, they’ll be super easy to peel off.


Here’s a shot of them in black from their etsy shop:


So there you have it–proof that we’re still alive and still making some changes around here . . .



Mapping my Drawers

That post title could go in a few different directions, but let’s head down the G-rated path, shall we?  Remember this from a few weeks ago:


Well, what I didn’t tell you then was that not only did I refinish the outside of the desk, but I also added a little special touch to the inside . . .


I added personalized drawer liners using some spray adhesive and Mod Podge.  Fun, eh?  It only took me maybe a couple hours of Mini B’s naptime, and it was nice to finally use the maps I had been hanging onto from our honeymoon in Spain.  How did I do it?  Easily.

I first made some templates with plain copy paper of the exact drawer dimensions.  Then I laid those out on the maps (which I lightly, and I do mean LIGHTLY, ironed to get out the wrinkles), and used a ruler and exacto knife to cut the maps down to size . . .


I tried to make sure the maps were aligned so as to include areas Mr. Bunches and I visited in our travels.  Once they were all cut, I then just used some spray adhesive (sprayed onto the backs of the maps–NOT sprayed directly on the drawers) and smoothed the maps in place on the bottom of each drawer.  I used a bone folder to make sure there weren’t any wrinkles and that everything was all smoothness.


Because the maps were made of such thin paper, there were spots, particularly in the water sections of the maps, where you could kind of see the glue.  But it was minimal.  I let the glue dry for a few hours (with heavy books laying on top) just to make sure it was all good and set.  Then I used a foam brush to apply a light coat of Matte Mod Podge on the tops of the maps (just so they would be extra durable).  As I had been warned by YHL commenters on this post, I was prepared for the inevitable bubbling that the Mod Podge would (and did) cause:


What had been smooth was now a wrinkly mess.  But no fear, I knew that once the Mod Podge dried, all would be smooth in my drawers again (still keeping it G-rated folks) . . .


And there you have it.  Just a few hours of drying time (overnight actually), and voila!



And since it’s been almost a month since initiating our new entry way solution, I’m happy to report that it’s been a success!  We got our cart in, and it’s been working out great.

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Fingers crossed that it continues working out well and wrangling in our mess.  And just because, here’s a shot of Mini Bunches on her recent trip to the beach in Florida (more on that soon I hope) . . .


Entryway Solution? Maybe

Our entryway has been a bit of a mess ever since we moved in (the one from the garage to the kitchen; the main entrance doesn’t really get used, but this one gets lots of traffic).  So much so that I don’t even have any decent pictures of it.  You can catch a glimpse of it here:


And then here’s a phone shot from a few weeks ago when we finally hung a mirror.


The problem is that the piece of furniture we had there (an old server) just did nothing for us storage-wise.  And it also wasn’t really my style.  So I had been on the hunt for a solution, but wasn’t exactly sure what would work.  And with a growing Mini Bunches, I’m also not positive that whatever solution we find now will be something lasting for the future.  Which brings me to my point: I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  Or time.  Especially if it’s something we might outgrow in a few years.  Enter thrift stores–the cheap solution to almost everything.

And so two weekends ago, when Mr. B was away for his annual Idiot Nation trip to Vegas, I hit up my favorite thrift store.  You know, the one where I found this blue beauty (I’m still regretting not scooping her up when I had the chance, but I digress) . . .


Unlike my last visit to this particular Salvation Army, this time around it was slim pickings.  But just when I was about to leave, I spotted this:


Admittedly, not much to look at, but I liked the mid-century lines, the size was right, and it was solidly built of wood (except for the yucky laminate top, but I dealt with that during my last furniture refinishing adventure, so no big deal there).  And the price?  Just right.  Actually, better than just right–just $15 kind of right.  SOLD.

Once I got it home and wrangled it in the house (it’s super heavy so some wrangling it did take), I got to work.  Since I only had nights and nap times to work my magic, I wasn’t planning an extensive refinishing; rather, I was just going to follow the steps John and Sherry took on their TV stand overhaul and hope for the best.  So here’s what it looked like once I got it home and completed the first step: CLEANING.


I scrubbed the piece down with a Magic Eraser just like YHL did.  And I also wiped down the drawers with a vinegar-soaked rag.  My results?  Well, as you can see above and below, the Magic Eraser removed the finish in quite a few places.



Again, since I only paid $15, I wasn’t too upset about that, but if you’re trying to fix a piece that you really care about, then maybe test out the Magic Eraser in an inconspicuous spot first to be safe.  But it did remove a lot of grime, so it wasn’t all bad.  As for the vinegar wipe-down of the drawers, that totally worked–it completely removed all the musty old smell.  So we were 1 for 2 at this point.

Up next?  A little conditioning treatment.  Using these (again, just like YHL):


I first used the Howard Restor-A-Finish to wipe down everything.  It definitely brought some shine back and made the dried-out wood come back to life a bit.


Much better, right?  It didn’t completely fix all the spots where the Magic Eraser had, er, erased, but it helped a lot.  I then used some leftover Minwax wood stain in walnut to rub in the really light spots, and when even that didn’t fix things, I used a Mr. Sketch Scented Marker in Brown.  That, my friends, worked WONDERS.  I just scribbled it on, and then wiped it away.  It was just about perfect at evening out any light patches.  So once all of that was done it wasn’t looking so bad . . .



My last step was to give it a good ol’ rub down with some wax–the Howard Feed-n-Wax.  And just like Mr. Miyagi says: wax on, wax off.  That step took less than 30 minutes, and this thrift store find was complete!



In addition to the desk, we also added a coat rack (from Crate & Barrel here) and a basket for shoes.



I’ve also ordered a steel truck from Steele Canvas to put on the left-hand side of the desk.  That way we can just drop our bags into it and hopefully keep the area looking reasonably pulled together.


So there you have it.  Our second attempt at wrangling some type of order in our entry way.  Here’s hoping it works!


And a little bonus Mini Bunches just for making it all the way through this post . . .


Love is in the Air

Happy Valentine’s Day!  May you especially appreciate all your loved ones today . . . for my part, I am sure this will be the best Valentine’s Day yet.  So thank you Mr. Bunches and Mini Bunches for being my sweetest Valentines.

Oh, and this Hallmark Holiday was just the right excuse to change out the chalkboard pantry.  So we are no longer Cherishing the Season . . .



And instead appreciating all the love surrounding us . . .

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Of course, that didn’t seem quite good enough.  It needed something more personal . . . PICTURES!!

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Aaahhh, much better.  Now, Love is in the Air!

DIY Valentine’s: Map out your Love

It’s been a while since I’ve done any DIY’ing (not sure that’s a word, but whatever), so I thought I’d give it a go.  Truth be told, this was a project that I started a couple years ago (how’s that for intimidating–a DIY that takes 2 years to complete!  Yep–a couple hours of actual crafting and two years of procrastination).  I actually just had the idea a couple years ago, took some starting pictures, and then got busy with things like moving to Buffalo, buying a home, and starting a family.  Oops.

But let’s get to the craft at hand: DIY Valentine’s using maps and confectionery hearts.  Here’s a shot of the final products:


And now, the play by play.  Start with some maps.  I used an old road atlas, but you could use any maps really–as long as they’re maps that mean something to you or someone you want to send the Valentine to.


Then, get yourself some of those confectionery hearts.  I got a pack of four boxes at the dollar store.  On a sidenote, I think these things are absolutely disgusting–they taste like chalk.  Is that just me?  Personally, my favorite hearts are SweetTarts, but the sayings on those are too hard to read, so I went with these instead.  Then, just pour them out and pick out any with good sayings (you’ll probably have to throw out half of them b/c the printing won’t be centered/legible/make sense/etc).


Once you pick out some good ones, just put the hearts next to a place with some meaning–I chose to place them near where the recipient lives, and snap a picture.


I used my dslr to take the pictures, but you can also get pretty great results with an iPhone and Instagram:


Then, just print out the pictures.  I ordered them online through Snapfish and picked them up an hour later at my local Walgreen’s.  Not the best quality, but since these are just for Valentine’s cards and not destined for frames, I figured that was fine.


Once I got the pictures, I also grabbed some blank Valentine’s cards in the $1 section at Target.  Pack of 8 cards & envelopes for $1?  Yes please!  One pack had cut out hearts and the other were just plain chevron lovelies.


Then, I just cut down each picture to center the confectionery heart in the opening, and I gave the pics rounded corners just for a little something extra.


Once they were cut down, I added some double-side tape, made sure the pic was centered just so, and pressed.


Now, some of my little hearts weren’t quite centered in the pictures I took, so those I put in the chevron cards.  Which, of course, meant that I had to cut out hearts.  Since my cutting job wasn’t stellar, I outlined it with a black sharpie.  Black Sharpies–they hide all kinds of sins.



So there you have it, customized cards for your loved ones:


And I could’ve stopped there, but well, I didn’t.  I was craft-crazy and Mini B was taking an uncharacteristically long nap.  So I embellished.  I got out my pseudo-washi tape (not real washi tape, but close enough–also from Target) and got my embellishing on.




So much better right?  So there you have it–some easy DIY Valentine’s for your nearest and dearest.


Oh, and this idea doesn’t just work for Valentine’s Day–I gave Mr. B a framed shot for our wedding anniversary last year (he proposed in Boston Common).



And for those just waiting for Mini B to photo bomb this post, here you go.  Quite the heart breaker this one, eh?


Cher is on the Sea

Huh?  Just look . . .






Clear?  Okay, okay, I don’t actually know where Cher is (probably Vegas?), but it was either that or “Her son is on the sea” and that didn’t sound as catchy.  Still confused?  Well, don’t be–it’s just that I finally finished a home project that I’ve been wanting to do since we were in the midst of our kitchen renovation.  Of course, I didn’t get to finish it then because, well, I had a baby.  I know–weak excuse.  So through the magic of the Internet, let’s go back to the beginning . . .


I know it’s hard to focus on just one atrocious part of the above pic, but let’s try–focus on the pantry doors in the hallway.  They become even more off-putting once the rest of the kitchen gets a face lift.


See what I mean?  They were just awful.  The first step?  Painting the trim white and priming the doors as dark as possible.


Already so much better, right?  Mr. Bunches was all, ‘Oh, we’re going to paint them grey?  That’s awesome–they look great.’  And then I had to be all, ‘No–that’s just the primer.  Puh-leeze.’  But, it did make me think that maybe we should paint the rest of the doors in our house–possibly in some darker shade of grey?  Just sayin’.


The next step?  Chalkboard Paint!  We used Valspar Chalkboard Paint from Lowe’s.



They look pretty slick, right?  Of course, they need new handles, but I was under a bit of a time crunch (this all took place prior to the holidays), so I figured the new handles could wait.


And while you may think that they were ready to be all chalked up with some fun holiday greeting, well, you would be wrong.  See, first they had to be “conditioned” which basically means you have to cover the entire surface with chalk and then erase it.



And in case you were wondering, yes, this process is messy and DUSTY with a capital D-U-S-T-Y.


Once the conditioning was done (and the dust vacuumed), then it was time get my artsy on.


Once I finished chalking the doors up with season’s greetings, I thought they still could use a little more cheer.  So I decided to move my Instagram pics out of Instagram and onto my doors:




I left the bottom blank since we were expecting some wee visitors at the time and I figured they might like to get their own artsy on (they did).  All in all, I’m in love with the result and I can’t wait for Mini B to make masterpieces on those doors as she gets older.  But for now, we’re just cherishing the season :).



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