Month: February 2015

Family Room | Prep & Paint

Having a family room that’s open to our kitchen was a MUST on our checklist when searching for a new home. Our last home didn’t have a sight line between the two rooms so we were really happy when we saw that this house has the layout we were looking for. When I saw that the family room also had two beautiful french doors flanking a two story fireplace I was pretty much sold.

The family room has a cozy feel but there’s also a grand 20 foot ceiling. We definitely had some concerns about how we’d reach the ceiling, the walls and the second story windows ourselves but we didn’t let that stop us from making an offer on the house.

This is what we saw on the day we viewed the house:l499be044-c2o

We gave ourselves a little over 2 months to complete as much work as possible in the house before moving in but because the work in the kitchen took a lot longer than we expected we got a late start on the family room. The pressure was on. The guys had a 20 foot ceiling to contend with as well as a bunch of woodwork that needed prep work before painting.

We were running so short on time that we considered hiring a painter but in the end J and his Dad decided to complete the work in the family room like we had originally planned. J called around to get some quotes for a 12 foot scaffolding and a few days later he picked one up from Sunbelt Rentals.

Watching J and my father-in-law assemble the scaffolding was scary but once they got it together I felt better about them using it. Sorta.

Assembling Scaffolding

The family room has 2 windows and 2 french doors that needed sanding, priming and painting. Everything was sanded down using medium grit sanding blocks and/or a palm sander. All of the woodwork was cleaned with Krud Kutter Degreaser followed by Krud Kuttler Gloss Off prior to priming with Kilz Premium No Voc Primer. After two coats of primer and a good caulking the woodwork was painted with Benjamin Moore’s Natura in the color Simply White/Semi Gloss. We have an entire house full of dark wood trim and this is the process we’ve been successfully using on all of it.

Sanding Windows

There was also a painted border that needed priming before the walls could be painted and the ceiling needed two coats of fresh white paint  (we’ve been using Benjamin Moore’s Natura in the color Simply White/Flat Finish for all of the ceilings in the house). Once all of the woodwork was painted and the ceiling and priming were complete the guys were finally able to start painting the walls. We chose the same color as our kitchen – Benjamin Moore’s Natura in the color Overcast/Flat Finish.

There’s no way this job could have been completed without the scaffolding.

Using a Scaffolding

J also used the scaffolding to put up a new ceiling fan. I originally wanted to put up a pretty light fixture but having a ceiling fan in the family room seems to be more practical for Florida living. The fan we chose does not have a light kit so J installed 2 extra recessed light fixtures opposite the existing ones above the fireplace. Adding the 2 extra recessed lights (with a dimmer) in the room gives us the perfect amount of light at night.

We purchased the family room ceiling fan at Home Depot. It’s the Altura Oil Rubbed Bronze 68 inch Ceiling Fan from the Home Decorators Collection. We chose to hang our fan on a 6 foot pole.

Altura Ceiling Fan

I really love how the windows look now that they are painted white. The room feels so much brighter. I’m also loving the paint color we chose – it’s a really soft color and I love how it changes throughout the day. Overcast is part of Benjamin Moore’s Off White Collection and at first I was afraid it might be too light but it’s perfect. The color will also continue into our foyer and loft and I can’t wait to see how it looks when we get around to working on the stairs and railings.

Painted Windows

Other things to help spruce up the room before move in were 7 inch baseboards and new hardware on the french doors. We purchased new hardware for all of our interior and exterior doors from We chose Kwikset’s Ashfield Collection in the color Venetian Bronze.

Kwikset Ashfield Venetian Bronze Lever

J spray painted the brass fireplace doors with Rustoleum’s High Heat Ultra Spray Paint for a quick update. We’re still undecided on what we want to do with the fireplace and mantle so we’re leaving them be for now.

Fireplace Wall Family Room

We’re also feeling indecisive about the family room couches. We aren’t exactly sure what we want long term for the space so for now we chose to bring in a set that we had in the upstairs loft of our old house. The couches are actually from our very first apartment together which makes them 10 years old! I still can’t believe that we’ve been living together for that long!

We also had a newer sectional but since its configuration didn’t fit the space well we decided to sell it. The couches we kept are in pretty good condition and should feel like new once I give the back cushions a good re-stuffing. I’m even thinking about changing out the legs. We figured it was better for us to keep the old couches until we know exactly what we want for the space instead of rushing into buying something new. The thought of “new” scares me now anyway since we have a dog, toddler and another baby on the way! I’m thinking that with a little bit of work and accessorizing we can bring the old couches back to life.

Luckily our Little Duck doesn’t seem to mind them the way they are for now :)

Little Duck Couch

The family room still has a long way to go but we’re really enjoying living in our new space. The layout has been perfect for the way our family likes to function and I especially love that we’re able to cook and clean in the kitchen while still being a part of the action. Eventually we’ll start personalizing the space but for now we’re just glad to have the bones of the room complete!

Houseplant Hoarding

I’m N and I’m a Houseplant Hoarder.

It wasn’t always this way. In the past I tried to keep a plant or two alive in the house but the outcome was always the same – a few weeks later they were goners. We did have a small ZZ Plant that survived living in the foyer of our townhouse for quite some time but that was the sole survivor of my black thumb.

My obsession with houseplants is a direct result of my pregnancy with Baby #2. Once my morning sickness subsided enough for me to get out of bed (literally, it was THAT bad) we decided to move out of my parents house and rent a temporary apartment while we continued our house hunt.

That’s when I started worrying. Were the previous tenants clean? Was the apartment ever fumigated? Was it ever a crack den? A meth lab? You know all of the things normal people worry about. I was worrying myself sick over all of the potentially poisonous air we could be breathing in. Then Google led me to houseplants. NASA research concluded that houseplants can help lower indoor air pollution and remove harmful VOCS from the air. I was sold. If it’s good enough for NASA it’s good enough for me. That was all it took for me to become a houseplant pinning machine on Pinterest and I couldn’t wait to start shopping for some air purifying plants.

The apartment didn’t have much room but we were able to fill the space with a few plants and that made me feel better. We opened the windows as often as we could and we let the plants do their job. 8 out of 9 plants survived 4 months of living under my care in the apartment. MAJOR SUCCESS!

Moving into the new house gave me the same toxic/air pollution/VOC anxiety. There was going to be a lot of sanding, priming and painting going on so we decided to wait a few months before moving in. J enlisted the help of his Dad since I was going to be sitting the first few projects out. I was extremely disappointed because J and I always do everything together but keeping our incubating baby safe was a priority. For two months they worked on the house while my daughter and I stayed back in the apartment.

Before I knew it I was back into houseplant mode. As soon as the guys started working in the house I started filling it up with plants. The goal before move in was 30 houseplants. I know that probably sounds insane but ideally you should have 1-3 decent sized air purifying plants per 100 square feet and because our house is approximately 3,000 square feet our house requires 30 plants. See, it’s NOT ME, it’s just the way the math works out.

I’m pretty sure I’m on the verge of houseplant OCD.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to keep up with all of these plants – but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve become strangely attached to a few of them. There’s one in particular that I’m really excited about, he’s a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Yep, I said he. Fiddle Leaf Figs aren’t known for being air purifiers (some plants do better than others when it comes to removing certain toxins) but all plants help contribute to having cleaner air and these guys are really cute. They’ve been trending for awhile now and I just had to have one. These plants have a reputation for being hard to please so we’ll have to see how he fares under my watchful eye (and thumb).

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Adorable little fella right? Kinda reminds me of Cabbage Patch Kids. For now he’s living it up in our kitchen which is where I’ve always pictured having one. I really love this plant and he’s been doing great the last few weeks.

The Rubber Plant.

Rubber Plant

These guys made it onto NASA’s list. They’re in the running as my second favorite. Right now we have two of them. The one pictured above sits between our kitchen and family room and we have another one in the corner of the playroom/office.

The Peace Lily.

Peace Lily

Based on NASA research these plants remove multiple toxins and they’re supposed to be pretty easy keepers. They sorta remind me of an “old lady plant” but because they’re supposed to be really efficient at removing multiple toxins and mold spores we have a bunch of them throughout the house. Pictured above is the largest one we have and it hangs out in the corner of our family room between the couches. We also have smaller ones in our bedroom and the laundry room.

The (super hard to kill) Snake Plant.

Snake Plant

These plants were my confidence booster in the apartment. They are no fuss and for that I will always love them. Again, not the prettiest of plants but great for air purifying. I’ve been sleeping with one on my nightstand for months now and just read that they’re great to have in the bedroom because they give off their oxygen at night. Plant Science…Pretty Cool.

The Dracaena Marginata is another good plant to have around for air purifying and they rate well on the NASA list.

Dracaena Marginata

The only con about is that their bottom leaves can get a little funky before they drop as the plant grows.  This one has been hanging out in the playroom and we have one in the family room too.

The Golden Pothos.

Golden Pothos

These guys are supposed to be easy keepers and good air purifiers so we have a few around for the sake of clean air. You usually see them as a hanging plant but we prefer to have them potted. 

These are some other popular houseplants that made the NASA list: Boston Fern, English Ivy, Spider Plant, Bamboo Palm, Philodendron & Weeping Fig.

Ironically I came across an article about plants giving off VOCs –  either from the soil, or from microorganisms living in the soil, or from pesticides that were applied to the plant, or from the plastic container, or from your Mom, blah blah blah. I guess you really can’t win – but at this point I’ll take my chances with the plants. They’re also supposed to help with stress relief and I have to say that living in a home with plants does feel more peaceful than living in a home without them.

I may be becoming a crazy plant lady – but a crazy plant lady is better than a crazy cat lady right? I think so…

Anyway, I hope I’m successful at keeping all of these plants going. If I do, I think it will give me the confidence that I need to start a rooftop organic garden on our second story deck next year!

But in the meantime I’ll be busy in my jungle.

PS: Assume any plant you bring into your home is toxic if eaten by your child, dog or cat. I think it’s safe to say that none of us adults are going to be munching leaves but if you have pets or more importantly children please be careful with your plants. I’ve researched and most of these can be “potentially dangerous” if enough is ingested.

Kitchen | Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Even though a big white kitchen has always been on my wish list we never seem to buy a house that has one! Our last home had new maple cabinetry that we didn’t want to mess with so I learned to love that kitchen as it was. This kitchen on the other hand was begging for white paint.

Here’s a listing photo that shows exactly how the kitchen looked when we first saw it: l499be044-c3o

The kitchen felt dark and was in need of some serious updating. The cabinetry in the house is original which means it’s as old as me – you know,  30 years young & in great condition ;) Even though the cabinets are old it felt right for us to keep them – we’re on a budget, we love to upcycle and we figured that they’d look pretty sweet after we got our hands on them.

J and his Dad already had a lot of work in the kitchen to keep them busy. Not only were they tackling the kitchen cabinets but they also had a tongue and groove ceiling, trim work and doors to prep, prime and paint.

We began by removing all of the cabinet knobs (51 in total). After all of the hardware was removed we used Elmer’s Wood Filler to fill in the holes. The holes needed to be sanded once they were dry. That process was done twice. We found it easier to do this while the doors and drawers were still attached to the cabinets. Then the doors and drawers were ready to be removed. We made sure to label each door (and its hinges) so that everything would end up back in its original place when we were done.

We were simultaneously working on the kitchen ceiling so the room was already prepped for sanding. Our appliances were moved and/or covered, the flooring & countertops were protected and the openings to vents and other rooms were already closed off with plastic.

The cabinet bases were sanded with medium grit sanding blocks. Our cabinets didn’t need much sanding because most of the finish had already worn off over the years. I guess that’s a plus for having some old ass cabinets.

Once the cabinets were sanded we used Krud Kutter Degreaser to clean them followed by Krud Kutter Gloss Off to degloss them. We used the same process for all of the wood work in our house to prep for primer.

We decided not to paint the interior of the cabinets (with the exception of one cabinet with glass doors) so we taped off the tricky spots as well as some shelves that weren’t removable. Then the bases and drawers were primed with Kilz Premium No Voc Primer using a brush and foam roller. The bases and drawers were primed twice, lightly sanded and wiped down.

Priming Kitchen Cabinets

A crucial step not to be skipped is caulking. J went through the entire kitchen and caulked any and every gap with DAP Paintable Caulk. Since he was also working on the kitchen ceiling and trim work he spent a whole afternoon caulking everything in the kitchen.

Caulking Kitchen

At this point we were finally ready for some paint. We choose Benjamin Moore Advance in the color Simply White/Satin Finish. We used Benjamin Moore’s No Voc Line Natura for the rest of the house but chose to go with Advance for the cabinetry since it’s like using an oil based paint minus the smell and high VOC content. Advance is a self leveling paint which helps to achieve that high end finish and it’s Benjamin Moore’s recommended paint for cabinetry.

J’s a fan of foam rollers but we read on other blogs that using them with Advance could cause air bubbles. We definitely didn’t want to deal with that and after doing some research we decided it would be best to roll with small 3/16″ nap rollers. The smaller the nap is on a roller the smoother the finish will be (so no texture).

One of the cons with Advance is that the re-coat time is 16 hours. After waiting for the first coat to dry J was able to sand down the bases with fine grit sandpaper, wipe them down and re-coat. After he finished two coats of paint on the cabinet bases and drawers J was ready to start on the cabinet doors.

The same process was repeated on the cabinet doors: sanding, degreasing & deglossing. J used our Graco Magnum LTS 15 Electric Airless Sprayer to apply the primer and the paint to the doors. Using a paint sprayer is definitely a time saver when it comes to covering large areas (like our tongue & groove kitchen ceiling) or when you want to paint multiple surfaces at once.

The guys divided the garage into two sections: one for spraying and one for drying. The guys used furring strips (1″ x 3″ x 8′ strips of wood) on top of Home Depot boxes to lay down the cabinets doors. They taped plastic water bottle caps to the wood so that the doors were raised just enough to allow the sides to be sprayed and to ensure that there was no sticking. My father-in-law actually came up with the idea. Genius.

Bottle Caps for Painting

This system enabled them to carry 4 doors at a time into the spraying section of the garage and then easily transfer them back into the dry section.

Spraying Section:

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets

Drying Section:

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets 2

J sprayed 2 coats of primer (with 6 oz of Floetrol added to every gallon for thinning) to the backs of the cabinet doors. He allowed a full day in between to let them dry before flipping them over to the front side. The fronts were primed twice as well and after they dried the doors were lightly sanded and wiped down.

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets 3

J followed the same process with the Advance paint and used 6 oz of distilled water per gallon to thin the paint for spraying. The only major difference was the drying time. Even though the actual spraying goes really fast (30 minutes to spray 30 doors) the project as a whole still takes awhile. No matter how you cut it prepping, priming and painting cabinetry takes a LONG time. We knew going in that this wouldn’t be a weekend project but nothing could have prepared us for how long it actually took. We figured it would be 2-3 weeks but with all of the other projects we had going on in the kitchen it took almost two months. Yikes!

Our cabinet doors have exposed hinges so while we were literally waiting for the cabinet paint to dry the hinges were cleaned with Krud Kutter Degreaser and spray painted with Rustoleum Professional High Performance Protective Enamel in Flat Black. We tried finding new hinges that would fit our cabinetry but had no luck. I’ve read mixed reviews on how spray painted hinges hold up so we’ll have to wait and see how they do after some heavy use but so far so good.

Like most oak, our cabinetry has a lot grain. I’ve seen other bloggers use different techniques to minimize or hide the grain in their oak cabinets but for this project we preferred the look of some grain showing through. It was important to us to keep some of the original charm and we’re really happy with how the cabinetry came out. We wanted the cabinets to look like wood cabinets that had been painted (but painted WELL) and that’s exactly how they came out. The techniques J used left a factory finish – everything is super smooth and streak free. I absolutely love them and the job looks 100% professional. It was definitely worth all of the time, patience and effort to achieve these results.

Painted Cabinet Drawer



Painted Cabinet Door

Here’s a shot of the CHAOS in the kitchen as the last few pieces were coming together. We chose Benjamin Moore’s Natura in the color Overcast/Flat Finish for the kitchen walls and the color will continue into our two story family room and foyer. So far we are both in LOVE with the wall color and can’t wait to see it in our family room. We also got rid of the dated brass light fixtures and replaced them with new. When the kitchen is ready for a final reveal I’ll be sure to include the details.

Kitchen Painting in Progress

We let the cabinet doors dry for 5 days before hanging them back up. All I have to say is THANK GOD we labeled the doors and hinges because it made that part of the process go smoothly. We left the doors open for over a week before we added the hardware to give the paint more time to cure. We chose matte black knobs and cup pulls that we found at Lowe’s to match the hinges, lighting and appliances in the kitchen.

Kitchen Cabinet Knobs

Kitchen Cabinet Cup Pulls

The kitchen island ended up becoming a mini project. We were thinking of painting it black and distressing it for contrast but in the end we decided to keep it white.  The process was pretty much the same (sand, degrease, degloss, prime and paint) except for a few extra touches like adding beadboard and new base molding.

Beadboard Island

J also added new toe kicks to the bottoms of the base cabinets as well as 7 inch baseboards for the walls which continue into our family room, foyer and dining room.

When I look back at the original pictures I can’t believe that we are living with the same kitchen. The stained glass window, granite countertops and wood floors really pop now and the kitchen feels cheery and bright. I’m so glad that the vision we had really came together in the end.

Kitchen Cabinets Simply White

We still have a lot left to do in the kitchen. We need to paint the pantry and laundry room doors, figure out window treatments, finish unpacking and accessorize the space. We found an awesome antique dining set on Craigslist that fits perfectly in our breakfast nook that we plan on refinishing once we complete some other projects in the house – but for now all of the major hard work in the kitchen is DONE! We even made our first batch of cookies the other night :)

Isn’t it amazing how painting can transform a room?

We have to thank my father-in-law who stayed with us for 2 months to help J work on the kitchen (as well as a bunch of other projects) before we moved in. J and I have always done projects like this together but my pregnancy put the kibosh on that this time around. It was hard not being able to work side by side with my husband but my father-in-law was the very best stand in we could have asked for and we couldn’t have done it without him. We’re very thankful and lucky to have such a great Dad who was willing to help us conquer this project. There’s no way we could’ve had this amazing kitchen ready without all of his hard work and help. Thanks Dad!

I also have to thank all of the other crazy people out there who painted their kitchen cabinetry and shared their stories and photos with us on the web. I hope that by sharing projects like this we’ll give other people the inspiration they need to go for it in their own homes. It’s an incredible feeling when the project is complete. Was it tiring? Yes. Exhausting. Yes. Painful at times? Yes. Worth it in the end? ABSOLUTELY!

For now I’m off to go enjoy my new kitchen…until the next project :)