Prettying Up the Porch (Part II)

Since we were painting natural wood chairs, my dad helped me prime them both. We used white primer because we had some extra lying around. Typically when using black paint, it’s best to have your primer tinted, but in this case free was best. We removed the seats for easier coverage and brushed the primer on.

We did the priming on a Sunday afternoon, so we didn’t have enough time to finish in one day. The following weekend, I picked up some of this:

(I’m not sure if that’s the exact one I got, but it was outdoor gloss black ). I also got one of these:

Looks a little scary, I know, but if you’re spray painting something this is ABSOLUTELY the way to go. They’re like $2, and they fit right onto normal spray paint cans. The trigger style allows for smoother strokes, less hand cramps, and a more consistent overall finish. Since the swing already had a coat of paint on it, I didn’t need to prime, and got ready to start on all three pieces of furniture.

Before painting the swing, I wrapped the chains in newspaper and blue tape. As you will see in later pictures, the rusty chains didn’t really look right with the fresh paint, so my dad replaced them with new white ones. But for the record, if you’re painting something with chains, the newspaper works.


I ended up doing two coats on everything, stopping in between coats to sand out a few runs. Now, let me say, this was my first time spraypainting furniture and I was incredibly skeptical. I’ve always assumed that you need a brush to get the most professional looking finish. I’m so glad that I’m happy with the result. I’m excited for my next furniture makeover!

PS- I know that there looks like there’s a big brown spot on the top of the swing. I promise it’s not there in real life. I could go back and fix it. Or, I could just trust that you’ll take my word for it.


Prettying Up the Porch

While we’re on the subject of paint, I thought I’d share a few pictures from a minor painting project I tackled a few months ago.

Zach got the rocking chairs at the flea market last year and, while we liked the natural wood look, they weren’t really standing up to the elements. The swing was made by my mom and dad. I love thinking about the two of them taking on such a neat little project together. Obviously, the swing is pretty special to me, but it was begging for a new coat of paint.

First up, the chairs. If you are going to paint chairs like this, I suggest bringing them onto the driveway. It also helps if you have your dad there so you can each prime one chair. You can also call in for additional backup:

Now, you’re ready to paint!

For the sake of not overloading this post with pictures, I’m breaking it up into two parts. Part II coming soon!

The Right White

Choosing paint colors can be tricky in general, but white may be the Mt. Everest of paint selection conundrums. Some whites look bright, some look dingy, some look a little gray, some have pink undertones…you get the idea. Not to mention the lighting! A paint swatch can look one way in the car on the drive home (natural light), another way at the office (florescent light), and an entirely different way when you finally get it home (incandescent light). So with all of these factors, combined with a general indecisive nature about most everything (oh, maybe that’s just me…)how are you ever supposed to get any paint on the walls? Here are a few (less than expert) tips that I’ve found help make the decision-making process a little easier:
1)      Stare at a bunch of samples for a really long time. Like until your eyes go a little bit crossed. No, really. This is how we chose our white this summer. It was a bit painful, but using a few “true” white swatches (like Behr’s Ultra Pure White), we were able to define the subtle differences and hone in on a shade that matched our style. If you’re looking to warm up a room a bit, then you might want a creamier white with yellow or pink undertones. If you’re trying to create a clean, crisp space, you might opt for something with a tinge of gray.
2)      Get inspired. After separating our swatches, we then compared them with a few inspiration photos. Think of how you want your room to feel. This summer, I found a picture of a kitchen in an old Country Living that I would’ve copied down to the hinges if possible. It had perfect vintage modern style. Using that photo, as  well as a few others, I was able to notice that I gravitate toward whites that have cooler undertones. As a result, I was able to choose our trim and cabinet color (Sherwin Williams’ Westhighland White). 
3)      Cheat. This is not a high school math test. You are allowed to look and see what the other kids are doing and copy the really smart ones. There are zillions of blogs out there with beautiful rooms in all types of styles, and many cite paint colors with their photos. If they don’t, chances are that if you e-mail the blogger he/she will be happy to tell you some of the details. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  If you need a starting place, Young House Love ( has some great suggestions. Some home décor stores, like Pottery Barn, even offer their own lines of paint to help you recreate the looks you find in their magazines.
As spring draws near, what better way to spruce up your space then to put up a coat of fresh, white paint? Happy painting!

Winter Decorating

Even though the weather has been absolutely GORGEOUS around here the past few days, I know that in reality it’s still January and spring’s not quite as close as I might hope. I love spring cleaning and paring things down after the holidays, but once the Christmas stuff is down things can feel a little cold and sparse. This year, I’ve enjoyed doing a little winter decorating. I’m not a big seasonal decorator, so this really means that I’ve focused on a wintery color palette (white and silver) and found a few ways to incorporate it around the house. Here’s a little peek:


Beaded placemats from Target- 50% off after Christmas a couple of years ago. I love how they add a little bit of sparkle to the kitchen!


Sled made for my grandma by my great-grandfather. Somehow I think it saw a little more use in Pennsylvania than it does down here, but I like how cozies up the fireplace room.


Sparkly branches in epsom salt snow.


Book wreath- SUPER easy to make, and it cost me all of 25 cents. The Shabby Nest has a great tutorial here.

 Nothing fancy, just a few fun ways to enjoy the season!

Deep Cleaning

One unique thing about our school is the fact that we ask the kids to be a part of the cleaning process. We do this for two reasons: 1) it gives the kids a sense of responsibility toward community spaces and 2) we can save money by only having a janitorial service come in three days a week

The kids “blitz” (wipe down tables and pick up trash off the floor) after every snack and break and “deep clean” (wipe down boards, organize shelves, etc.) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With all of this cleaning going on, it would make sense that we would go through a LOT of spray cleaner. We ask the kids to bring some in at the beginning of the year, and some of the fumes have made us downright nauseous.

Recently, we were introduced to the Shaklee Get Clean line of products. They’re made from natural, nontoxic ingredients (no crazy fumes), work great, and, best of all, they’re CHEAP! For $18,we got a 16oz. bottle of their Basic  Cleaning Concentrate, three cute spray bottles, and Scour Off (a heavy duty paste good for cooktops and bathrooms). It may seem like a lot, but when you consider that you need only a few drops (yes, drops) of the concentrate to make an entire spray bottle, you begin to realize that it equates to pennies per bottle. I was a bit skeptical at first, so I’m glad that I’ve been able to test drive the product at school. Obviously, I’m really pleased with the result and have placed an order for our house! Spring cleaning, here we come!


Ok, so not really. Nevertheless, I was pretty excited by what I saw in the most recent edition of the Pottery Barn catalogue. Over a year ago, I was thrilled to discover a pair of old posts at our local flea market. I love architectural salvage, and the color of the posts I found fit in well with our existing décor. Later that day, I met my dad and Zach for lunch, and opened my trunk to reveal my finds. They looked at me like I was crazy, but I explained my plan to convert them into lamps.


Despite the fact that I hadn’t really thought through the process too well (the posts were over 3 feet long- we don’t exactly have a drill that size lying around), my dad agreed to do the wiring. Thankfully, he has a friend that owns a cabinet shop who allowed him to use his fancy-shmancy super gigantic drill. He then installed a light kit, built bases for the bottom, and faux painted the bases to match the posts. My major contribution to the project was finding drum shades. The lamps now flank our couch. It’s neat to be able to decorate the house with things we have put together!


I was super excited to flip to the center of the most recent Pottery Barn catalogue and see this little guy:

Brentwood Floor Lamp Base, White finish

They probably didn’t sneak  into our house and  use our living room as inspiration, but I can dream, right?

That’s a Wrap

I decided to try something a little bit different with gift wrapping this year. First, I used leftover fabric scraps from the scarf project and tied them around most of our gifts. They weren’t Christmas colors, so they didn’t really match, but I sort of liked the homey, mismatched look.


The next wrapping project was actually done by 65 middle schoolers that I happen to love. We’re studying “stuff” right now in school, and as part of a lesson on the distribution process, the kids made these bows in an assembly line. The great thing is that they’re made from old magazines, which means you could coordinate them to any style or color scheme you had in mind. Find out how here: