Sunday, November 18, 2012


We are headed down to the lake tomorrow for a Thanksgiving celebration. I made curtains out of red ticking for the upstairs bedroom tonight, roughly following this tutorial. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! It should be a very lovely time, with lots of family and food. I am very excited to see all the renovation progress as well. Not all the things are as complete as I wanted (i.e., the kitchen tile is not installed, the wood floor has not yet been sanded and stained), but I am embracing the process.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ships at sea

I found this painting on Craigslist. It was in a small little town about two hours away, but I made a detour from a work-related roadtrip to see it. After a little negotiation, I paid $60, which was probably too much given its condition. When I got it home, my husband grimaced because it was so yellowed with tobacco stains and age. I briefly researched oil painting restoration techniques and then quickly settled on a very rough do-it-yourself approach to cleaning it. I figured that if I destroyed the painting, I would not have lost too much in the trying....

I first rubbed the painting with a cut potato, which supposedly pulls out the dirt. That did not seem to make a noticeable difference, though, so I skipped to a more direct approach: dishsoap and warm water followed by a wipe down with rubbing alcohol. It worked like a charm. The old yellow tinge came off and the painting was not visibly harmed. I am sure it will not last for generations, but at least it was saved from the trash.

I then cut the painting down to fit an existing canvas that I had in the basement. I glued the painting to the front using basic craft glue. Then I used a staple gun to secure it, folding the edges around the sides of the canvas. I am not sure where I will put it in the cabin, but surely it will fit somewhere! You cannot get a sense of scale in these pictures, but it is quite large - about 2 feet by 4 feet long.

Friday, November 9, 2012


My wing chairs are ready to be picked up! I am so excited. I ordered them from an Etsy shop called Urbanmotifs. She finds old chairs and recovers them in modern fabric.  My parents are picking up these two babies tomorrow and then bringing them to the lake house when they come on Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, there has been a LOT of activity happening at the house. New hardwood floors, new paint, new tile, new carpet.... I have been promised that it will all be done by the time we arrive next Monday evening. Let's hope so! At least I know we will have chairs.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chalkboard Fridge

One of our weekend projects was to paint the refrigerator with Chalkboard paint. It turned out super cute. I  was not sure how much paint was needed, so I overbought (again). It turns out that one 30 oz can is more than enough for a fridge. For the first coat, I used a brush, but I switched to a roller for the second coat and it looked a lot better. The hardest part of the whole thing was removing the inner plastic doors and the rubber seals so they would not get painted. That involved unscrewing and then replacing about a million screws. At least now I know how a refrigerator is assembled.  

After you paint it, the fridge has to dry for three days before you can use chalk. I asked my in-laws to stop by the cabin when they next visited the boat to do the final step. Sweet people that they are, they agreed.

 Before you can write on the surface, you have to rub chalk all over it evenly to "cure" it and then wipe it down with an eraser and a dry rag. Then you can write or draw to your heart's content. I have not seen the final state yet, but I am very excited to let the kids loose on it for Thanksgiving. A $15 can of paint plus a brush and a roller. Not bad for a new fridge look. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Before: The kitchen

I unearthed some "before" pictures of the kitchen. As you can see, faux ivy and wooden fruit lined the top of the cabinets. That shtuff was the first to go. On our last night in the cabin, Hubby opened a second owner's closet and found that it was full of extra ivy and another brass lamp. After our weekend long battle with fake plants and brass accents, this discovery made us laugh like crazy people.

So much better now, but still a long way to go. We picked out tile today at Home Depot so the contractors can install the floor before we arrive for Thanksgiving. The next thing to pick up is the butcher block countertops, farmer's sink and faucet (all from IKEA). That will be installed in late November since we have to drive it down. I am learning much patience with this project.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brass lamp re-do

Brass begone! The cabin had three brass lamps which were tarnished and past their prime. I brought a high-temperature spray paint to cover the brass trim on the fireplace. When I saw these puppies, I spray painted them as well. It was quick and easy. 

I will likely add a gloss finish to these lamps when I come back at Thanksgiving, but I am pleased with the transformation thus far. Now I just need more spray paint to cover the brass headboard....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chalk paint kitchen cupboards

Our main project for the working weekend was to repaint the kitchen cupboards. They were a basic builder's brown, which was not my favorite. We used Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey with a Soft Wax finish. This paint was marvelous. We were able to paint all the cabinets with two coats and the wax finish in only two days. If we had to paint the cabinets the standard way with latex paint (sand, prime, etc.), we would have never finished. But more importantly, I really loved the soft warm finish of the chalk paint. It gives the right modern-cabin vibe to the kitchen. 

We removed one cabinet door and created open shelves in the corner, as you can see in both pictures. I used this paintable wallpaper to create a beadboard look at the back of the new shelf. I am very pleased with the final result! Now I just need cute jars to fill the shelves. 

These aren't fantastic pictures, mainly because I was so focused on painting that I waited until late Sunday night to take them and the light was bad. But we still have a ways to go on the kitchen (new sink, new countertops), so there will definitely be better pictures to come.     

I bought the chalk paint, brushes and wax from an on-line store in Wisconsin called My Table. I did not know how much paint to order, so I just bought a bunch. The owner emailed me to be sure I had the right quantity (I didn't, I had over-bought), which was extremely nice. She helped me figure out how much paint I really needed, adjusted my order and refunded the difference. Good customer service is so refreshing. If you need a web source for chalk paint, this is a good one.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Working weekend

Last weekend, Hubby and I went down to the Lake House for a "getaway" without the kids. Much to his chagrin, it was a 100% working weekend. We rented a U-Haul and loaded it with the red chairs, a coffee table, linens and a whole mess of other stuff. It was slow going because we had a speed limit of 55 mph with the trailer attached.We arrived at around 8 pm, got some vittles at the local grocery store, and then started unloading. Well, Hubby said I walked in the door and immediately started ripping down all the plastic ivy, wooden lattice, and fake fruit that was decorating the kitchen.

Our two main objectives for the weekend were to 1) paint the kitchen cupboards and 2) paint the refrigerator with chalkboard paint. It was a lot of work, but we succeeded at both. More information on our projects to come....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


If you follow my Pinterest board, you might have seen some pictures of oars used as decoration in bedrooms. Like this one. Super cute idea for the red and white bedroom, I thought, so when I found two lovely old oars on Craigslist for only $35, I bought them and took them home. The lady that sold them to me asked why I was buying them so late in the season. When I sheepishly admitted that I was not going to actually row with them, she laughed. 

We washed about 20 years of dirt off of them today with a mixture of PineSol and hot, hot water. Once they dry, I plan to use linseed oil to bring out the existing finish. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Belmont Harbor

I have been trolling Craigslist for Lake House art. I found this little gem a few weeks ago for $60. It was painted by a Chicago artist and purchased at a street fair in the early 80s. It is entitled "Belmont Harbor." I really love the colors. The frame was sad and dusty, so I sent it to a local shop and had it re-framed in black. It looks much better now - cleaner and more modern. Now I just have to find a place to hang it! Hubby and I are headed down to the cabin next weekend to relax (and do some kitchen painting.....), so I can hopefully find a spot then. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Color palette for bedroom #2

A number of years ago, I painted this piece for our old house. It is a really big canvas, with bright colors. It doesn't really fit in our current house, which has a more muted color scheme. But I think it might look nice in the Lake House' second bedroom. The color palette is therefore yellow and white with a splash of red (maybe also a touch of blue).   

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Linens for the red bedroom

I have been slowly assembling the linens for the two bedrooms. Hubby and I are headed down to the lake cabin for a long weekend at the end of September, and I would really like to dress the beds at least when we are there. As a first step, I ordered two new matresses from Costco. I read somewhere that mattresses should be replaced every ten years, so these were certainly due. Also, my sister-in-law reported during her visit that the beds felt like motel beds, which was not quite the spa-like retreat "feel" I had in mind. The mattresses were supposed to be delivered this week, but apparently the driver got lost so the delivery is being rescheduled. I figure that they should make it there sometime this month at least, so I am not worried.  

Beds need a lot of stuff, really: a mattress cover, pillows (two to sleep on and two for shams, plus any throw pillows...), zippered pillow covers (four) to protect the pillows, a bed skirt, sheets, and some sort of covering. For the king bed in the red bedroom, I ordered a white duvet cover and shams on eBay and a fluffy hypo-allergenic comforter. In fact, all of the pillows I ordered were also "down alternative." While no one in our family seems to be allergic to feathers or down (well, no one yet anyway), some of our guests could certainly have allergies.

 So for this bedroom, the duvet, sheets (basically everything) will be very white, which is easy to bleach if anything happens and will hopefully also make the room calm and welcoming. The existing bedframe seems to be a dark metal, which should contrast with the fluffy white duvet nicely. I bought this red and white vintage quilt on eBay as well. It is VERY vintage, with lots of imperfections, but I kind of like it nonetheless. It came to me with decades of dirt and stains, but it washed up nicely in the bathtub with this handy tutorial. We will see if it actually works in the room. If not, I can always cut it up for use as Christmas Stockings. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red chairs redeux

The red chairs are back from the uphosterer! They were ready much earlier than expected. For now, they are sitting in our living room as they wait to be transported down to the lake cabin. One chair will be going in each of the two bedrooms beside the beds. 

If she hadn't been encumbered by a tape measure (for all that measuring she was doing...), I think my daughter would have given the chairs two thumbs up for sure.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Lake House related...

This post has nothing to do with the Lake House really, which may happen around here from time to time. I canned some tomatoes and made two jars of green cherry tomato pickles today. The pickle recipe came from Marissa McClellan's new canning book: Food in Jars. We met Marissa last night at a book signing and she was super nice. She even signed our books after a bee stung her on the head. 

On second thought, perhaps I'll save one of these jars of pickles for our Thanksgiving celebration at the maybe this is a relevant post indeed.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Red lamps

Remember the lamp shades from IKEA? Well, here they are finished and installed on the bases. I got the lamps from a Target clearance rack earlier in the summer. When I went to install the shades, however, I realized that some conversion was required because the lamps needed harps and the IKEA shades were built differently. A quick search led to these instructions on how to convert the lamp to take the IKEA shades. My poor husband was conscripted into service. I told my daughter this morning that is is a good idea in life to either A) be an engineer or B) marry one.

Thanks Apartment Therapy for the instructions and thanks hubby for the blood, sweat, and tears!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


My lovely father-in-law is an engineer, and he always draws floorplans of the places we live as gifts, even the rental apartments we had in China and Taiwan. When he was at the cabin this weekend, he took measurements and then sent this floorplan yesterday. It is extremely useful; I used it right away to figure out the living room square footage so I could order the hardwood floors. 

This is the bottom level, with the kitchen, living room, full bath and bedroom (with the Queen bed).

This is the top level, which houses the second bedroom (the loft bedroom with the King bed) and second full bath. The living room apparently has 19 foot ceilings. Who knew? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lamp shades

I found these great lamp shades at IKEA last weekend. I thought they might work in the red and white bedroom atop some lamps I bought at Target. The original color was a little too bland, but I remembered that I had lots of leftover stain from my makeover of the red chair legs

I grabbed a brush and painted the stain on the inside and out of both lamp shades. They still need one more coat, but I am pleased with the difference.The stained lamp shades kind of remind me of these at Pottery Barn, but mine were a lot cheaper!

I'll post a finished picture with the lamp bases once they are all dry. On a completely random note, I shot some pictures of my moonflower vine while I was out in the garden painting. This plant was a real booger to start from seed, but it turned out to be so beautiful that it was well worth the effort.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lakeside view

My in-laws are all at the lake cabin this weekend. They sailed up behind the lake cabin and took this picture from the boat. Our cabin is the one on the right with the brown deck. I am pretty excited to go visit myself. Hubby and I just decided that we will be planning a weekend retreat (sans kids) there sometime early fall. Hopefully the new matresses that I ordered this weekend will have arrived by then!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deck refresh

My sister-in-law is having a little vacation at our lake house this week, She sent photos from her phone of our new deck, which looks awesome! We had the front entrance deck connected to the back deck so that you can just walk straight back to the party when you arrive. 

Ah, white plastic chairs. So classy. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Before: Bedroom #2

I know that brass is supposedly in style at the moment, but I am honestly not feeling it. Really, though, it is nothing that a few spray paint cans cannot fix...

Interesting decor details include: red valance that does not seem to match anything in the room, grey fuse box  which abuts a closet door (hmm how to hide that??), random huge mirror which is screwed into the wall directly. Oh and toddler death trap TV (see below).

Can this dresser be saved with some paint and new knobs? Possibly. On the other hand, the director's chair is destined for donation, along with the sailboat lamp. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Since our Lake Cabin is really a rental condo, there are certain requirements for inventory so that guests can have what they need during their vacation. When I spoke with the key lady in the management office this week, she was very clear on two points. First, the living room couch had to be a sleeper. Second, do not under estimate the rate at which kitchen supplies (e.g., dishes, glasses) get broken. We are required to have at least six of everything for our two bedroom condo, but the recommendation was to double that amount to be ready for mishaps that deplete the stash.

For the glassware, I ordered a bunch of Anchor Hocking's Manchester Tartan glasses: twelve each of the ice tea, juice and scotch glass sizes. We have them at home and they are virtually indestructible. These glasses have a solid, heavy feel that is great for almost all occasions. I was poking around on the internet this week trying to get inspiration for the dishes, but didn't really find anything that I absolutely loved AND was reasonably priced enough so that I would not care when it got broken. Then I hit the jackpot on Craigslist. Just north of me a lady was selling her parents' china. Apparently this couple really liked to entertain back in the day. They passed away in 1971, however, so these dishes have been essentially sitting in a sideboard for forty years. They are marked on the back with "Creative Fine China 1014 Japan." Apparently they were made sometime in the 1930s or 40s, which is consistent with the seller's story. The little starburst pattern is so perfectly art deco that it almost breaks my heart. There seem to be a lot of these dishes for sale on the internets, so it must have been a popular and reasonably priced pattern during the depression era.

The ad said there were seven complete place settings, some serving dishes and single pieces. When I arrived, I offered $100 for the lot. I think the seller did not know just how big the lot was (nor did I when I made the offer). If she had, she might have held out for more. All in all, I walked away with:

14 dinner plates
26 luncheon plates
12 salad plates
26 desert plates
16 bowls
24 teacups and saucers (plus extra saucers)
8 finger bowls (ha!)
15 coasters (who knew that china sets used to come with coasters...)
2 sugar bowls
3 salt and 2 pepper shakers  
1 covered butter dish
1 creamer
1 gravy boat (for all the gravy I'll be making at the lake....)
2 oval serving bowls
1 large round serving bowl
1 oval serving platter

The super cool thing is that these dishes coordinate perfectly with another vintage Japanese China set that I use at home for fancy occasions. That set is a plain white with a triple platinum rim. Since I have so many pieces, I will probably send 12 pieces of each item down to the lake and keep the rest here for mixing in with my home set. And if/when some pieces break, it will be no big deal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Red Chairs

I found these lovely, lovely mid-century chairs on Craigslist a few weeks back. Between meetings on a Friday in the suburbs (I swear to goodness it just worked out that way), I swung by the seller's house, bought the two of them for $35, and then loaded up our big ol' Ford.  The previous owner bought them at a garage sale and tried to dye one red, as is evident from the picture above. The red looked great, actually, but the 1950s-ish fabric was too prickly and coarse to be saved. I found new red upholstery fabric online and ordered 12 yards to be used by my friendly neighborhood re-upholsterer. I wish I could say that I have the skills (or the time) to do it myself, but I don't. Thanks to a good Yelp recommendation, they are now in the queue for new dresses.

I did refinish the legs, though, with some dark Minwax stain. I used a new (to me) paint stripper product that was sprayable, so it was super easy to apply. Taking the old stain off with a wire brush was another matter, as I kept flicking splashes of stripper on my arms, legs, and face; it burned like Dante's seventh level. Thank God I decided to wear the safety goggles. The last step, i.e., applying the new stain, was a piece of cake after my dance with the caustic stripper rain. The legs aren't perfect, but I am pleased with them. Certainly the darker color is much nicer than the original scratched-up light brown.   

My idea is to put one chair in each of the two bedrooms for a pop of color. If I ever got a bee in my bonnet to put them together, that would work too in a matchy-matchy sort of way. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bedroom inspiration - red, white and brown

While I am leaning toward a clean, modern aesthetic for the lake cabin overall, I think the bedrooms will benefit from being more on the "cottagey" side. In both bedrooms, I want to keep a clean white look as the base palette, but then bring in more color through accents. For one bedroom (not sure which one yet), I am crushing on red and brown accents (with maybe a little blue - not so much as to be reminiscent of an American flag, though). The above photo is from Country Living's July/August 2012 issue. Even though this is technically a living room scene, I can see it translate well to a bedroom. Just imagine a bed with a white coverlet instead of a couch...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Before: Bedroom #1

This is the upstairs bedroom, the loft bedroom. The bedframe is salvageable, I think, but certainly not the bedding, chair and "decor." Perhaps the nightstands can be repainted. You cannot see the window well in this picture, but there are Levlor-style blinds and a floral valance. When we bought this place, I thought there were two Queen beds, but our owner's access portal actually says one King and one Queen. Perhaps this is the King? I need to ask someone to pop by and find out.....

On the agenda: new carpet, new bedding, new drapes. And probably a new mattress.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The "Before" - Great Room

I mentioned before that we got a great deal on this place because it was a little... well... dated. Let's make that REALLY dated. Like 1985 threw up everywhere. Because the summer is prime rental season, we are waiting a bit to change things. Come this fall, however, we will be ripping out carpet and painting some walls.

Let's start with a tour of the great room. This is a two bedroom, two bath cottage. The second bedroom is in a loft area (which makes it a 1 1/2 story house). As a result, the great room is two stories high, very open and airy. Great windows, great view of the lake.

Here we can see the glorious carpet more closely, along with the fake ivy plant, the brass accents on the fireplace, and the Haverty-esqe furnishings. Gotta go. All of it.

There is not much room for a dining area. Currently the table is against the wall and between two windows. That's going to be quite a bit of a design challenge.

What's the inspiration for the new room, you ask? How about this? White walls with white curtains, hardwoood floors with a natural rug cover, neutral furniture with snaps of color on the pillows. Big art. Clean, white, beachy. Modern.