Refinishing Old Cabinets

The saga of the laundry cabinets is so long, I’m dividing it up into three parts.

Today, we’ll talk about how I refinished the cabinets. On Wednesday, we’ll discuss how we installed the cabinets. Finally, on Friday, I’ll show you how we covered up all the gaps and finished it off with molding.

Here we go!

This is what we started with.


The cabinets had dirty white paint that was sloppily applied.


Paint spilled over the edges and the brush strokes were obvious.


I took my detail sander and sanded off the paint drippings on the edges. I wish I had an orbital sander, which would have been a much more efficient tool.


I thought I would sand off all the paint, but it was too thick and it kept on clumping up the sandpaper. So, I just focused on the edges and smoothing up the brush marks as best as I could.

In the next photo, you can see what the edges looked like before I sanded them on the left side of the sander, and the sanded down edges on the right side.


After a LOT of sanding and going through several sheets of sandpaper, I was finally done! Well, eh. Done with the first step, at least.


You can see how all the sand built up in the edges of the cabinets. I vacuumed them out with a vacuum (I need to buy a shopvac soon) and cleaned them up as best as I could.

Unfortunately, the cabinets STILL weren’t ready for paint. There was thousands of holes and dings that I had to fill up with wood filler. This was almost as fun as doing my taxes. No, doing my taxes was SO MUCH MORE fun than filling up all these tiny holes.

The next time I buy used cabinets, I will be sure to check for tiny holes. If there are too many of them, I will pass on them because of how long this step took me in the refinishing process!

But again, all that work and time was worth it because in the end, the cabinets were (mostly) smooth and looked like new.


To reach that point, I used oil primer (two coats) and two to three coats of Behr paint color-matched to Sherwin Williams Web Gray. I used a foam roller and a high-quality brush.


Come back on Wednesday to see how we installed the cabinets!


Before and After: Laundry Room Cabinets

The saga of the laundry cabinets is a long one. Luckily for you, I won’t discuss it now. I will go into all the details next week.

For today, I present you some instant gratification! A simple before and after.

This is what the cabinets looked like when we bought them from a Habitat For Humanity Restore.

Peeling old cream paint, filthy both inside and outside, and many dings and other defects all over that required wood putty. Lots and lots of woody putty.

This is the wall in the laundry room that waited SO long for the cabinets.


I can’t find a true before photo that shows you the inefficient shelf and clothes hanger rod that were there before, but this is the best I could find. The shelf was too shallow, so towels kept on falling off and a little cat kept on making the situation even worse.

And today, it looks like this!


Never mind the stuff on the machines. Focus on the cabinets. And the pretty knobs! The knobs are from Hobby Lobby.


The cabinets make me so happy. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s all worth it.

I’ll discuss later about the other things that we’re working on in that room and what things we want to change (the ceiling light, for one).

But for now… let me bask in the cabinets. You are done, cabinets. D-O-N-E.

Birds in the Sky… or the ceiling, whatever.

Just because it’s been quiet around here doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy! We are making good progress on the laundry cabinets and that thing is ALMOST DONE after so many touch-ups and additions and adjustments. I hope to show you what they look like by Thursday!

For now, I wanted to show you a sweet addition to the nursery that was made by my mom. Here’s the first clue:


Yes, she’s looking up with a puzzled expression.

It’s a bird mobile!


My mom did everything, from sewing the birds to gluing on the eyes to cutting down the branches (bought from Hobby Lobby) and hanging it all up on the mobile. Since she did everything, this is not a tutorial but more like a “Look, how cute! And I didn’t even have to do anything except hang it up!” thing.


The colors she chose are perfect – bright blue/teal, yellow, orange, with touches of black and white.


Janella is in love.


She stares at the mobile when she lies down in her crib and tries to grab the birds when we hold her too close to it.


Yes, a bird is missing a branch. The cats did it. Tala is my number one suspect.


Since our goal for 2012 is to make the house FUNCTIONAL, it’s okay that the nursery isn’t 100% done even though Janella is almost 9 months old (how did that happen?). This nursery is definitely functional. It’s a happy place for all of us. Janella sleeps like a… well, a baby in there.

But I do have some things I want to finish up in there after we complete our laundry room and office to-do lists. For one, we bought three large canvases for that wall behind the crib and Nick is planning to paint a world map on them. I can’t wait for that!

See you Thursday for the laundry cabinets reveal, right? It’s a date, right?

New Ceiling Light: High Enough For Our Tallest Friend

Last week, something really horrible happened. A hit-and-run accident resulted in one of our good friends’ untimely death. Mark Gobble, a Ph.D. student about to complete his dissertation, a newly hired professor at Boston University, an owner of a skateboarding company, a family man, and probably the coolest guy we’ve ever met, died last Sunday. Needless to say, it’s been a tough time.. and even tougher for his wife and two children. You can read more about him in this blog post written by his niece, Brooke.

The world feels different without him, but the world still spins. It still moves around the sun. Janella still wakes up every morning at 6:30 AM with angry demands for milk. And so we must go on.

Mark was really tall – he was around 6’4. Nick’s 5’8 and I’m 5’4 (both rounded up numbers). When Mark came over in October to bring a meal from him and his wife to help feed me and Nick when we just had Janella, we had a conversation about new ceiling lights and how we needed one for our living room, which had a boob light at the time.

We told him that he was our tallest friend in Austin (we have another 6’4 friend who lives in New Mexico.. Hey, Jesse!) and asked him how tall he was… so we could make decisions on ceiling lights and how high they should be in order to accompany him. Since he was taller than everyone else, we could be confident that the ceiling light would also be high enough for every other friend we have.

Well, Mark – we finally installed our new ceiling light in our living room. It looks beautiful… and it’s 6’8 off the ground. Definitely tall enough for you.

Thanks for bringing us to Austin. Thanks for your humor, your intelligence, your grace, your generosity, and for being our friend. We’ll never find a cooler friend than you… or a taller one.

FYI – The photos are NOT styled at all. We’re still missing one side table and we still need to set up our newly sprayed teal lamps with new lampshades. And I didn’t feel like putting away the baby toys. Ignore all of that. Focus on the ceiling light.




To see what our living room really looks like when it’s not cluttered, check out this post.

The ceiling light is HUGE. I mean, H-U-G-E. Gigantic. It’s around 34 inches across. And we love it. It’s perfect. Especially when this was our inspiration photo, from Decor Demon:

I was afraid that it would make our ceiling feel lower, but it doesn’t! I’m really happy with it.

One thing down, only 327,121 more things to do left! PROGRESS.

My DIY Painting on Plywood

Once the gesso on the plywood dried, I was ready to start painting!

But first, I needed to look at some inspiration. I opened my pinterest “art inspiration” board and just looked through it.

art inspiration pinterest

I also grabbed a thank you card that we recently received and set it in front of me, because when we got the card we really loved the colors on it.


Then I rummaged through our paint stash. We have a nice collection of paint – some leftover paint from our walls, our furniture painting projects, and many paint samples. I looked for different colors that were similar to the thank-you card.

And then I just… put brush to plywood and started painting.

painting, first draft, on plywood

This was the first stage of the painting. It was okay, not too bad. I didn’t really like the green — it was a little dreary and I wanted something cheerier, but that was all that I had.

Actually, the way the paint flowed on the plywood… it was all dreary. It looked like things were going downhill… like something was melting.

Then I stared at it some more and flipped it around.

upside down painting on plywood

Much better!

Maybe you don’t see much of a difference, but it just made me feel good about where things were going and I stopped for the day. I knew it wasn’t done, but I wasn’t sure what to do next.

The next day, I took the painting out again and looked at it.

And looked at the thank-you card again.

I felt that it needed something more, a bright color. Oh, orange – I had some left over from the orange closet. So I grabbed that and at the same time, saw glossy black paint and glossy white paint. Hmm, why not.

First, I added some orange and black… and it immediately looked better. I also laid the orange paint on as thick as I could to add even more texture.

adding black and orange to plywood painting

And then I added some white… and I was done!

completed painting on plywood

Wanna see the progression of the painting in photos that are horribly lit? Here you go!

progression of painting

Here’s a close-up so you can see the texture. For future paintings, I definitely want to experiment some more with texture using gesso using different materials.

texture of painting on plywood

I was done but the paint looked dull. The black and white paint, which were gloss paint, looked shiny but the rest, which were mostly in satin or flat, looked… well, flat. I asked my artist mom and she suggested me to use varnish. I found two different kinds of varnish spray at Michael’s – one for oil and acrylic paints and one for general purpose arts and crafts. Since I didn’t use acrylic but latex paint, I decided to use the general purpose one.

varnish general purpose

It worked great – the paint perked up and it’s all shiny and nice now!

Where did we put it? In this weird corner that rests between the living room, the dining room, and the mini-hall that leads to the bathroom and guest bedroom:

plywood painting on wall

I know, bad photo. It’s dark in this corner. I would love to someday add a light at the top of the wall, but we’ll see.

We’ve been talking about putting up a couple of art/frames here to jazz up the corner and to make the thermostat less noticeable. So far, we’ve put up a simple white clock (which has done wonders since we didn’t have any other way to tell time while at the first floor ever since we gave up our DVR) and this painting.

I want to do another plywood painting but this time with very thick and textured gesso and in a tiny size and maybe one color to put right above the thermostat to fill up that space. I also want to find a cute little ottoman to put at the bottom of the wall with a little box underneath to hold all the kitty toys. The cardboard box that’s there right now just won’t do.

Anyway – back to the painting. How did I hang it up? Easy…

using a tab from a can to hang up painting

I hung it up using a tab that I pried off one of our Ginger Ale cans that we save in the refrigerator for sick days. I found this great tutorial and this confirmation by Apartment Therapy that it worked, so I tried it and let me tell you… IT WORKS! It’s very nifty.

I think I’m going to save all the tabs from now on… it’s too bad we don’t drink soda when we’re not sick. Maybe we should start buying canned beer instead of beer in glass bottles…

My verdict: Plywood works great if you already have some lying around. If you want to buy some just for the sole purpose of making paintings, try to get hollow plywood if you can find them so they’re lighter. In small sizes, like my painting here, their weight is just fine. I mean, if a tab from a can can hold it up, it’s not that heavy.

One DIY painting down, 321 DIY paintings to do. I’ve got plans…

Tutorial: How to Prepare Plywood for DIY Art


I have a few ideas for DIY art for my home, but pre-stretched canvas can get expensive fast.

Allow me to demonstrate. A standard 4 feet by 8 feet birch plywood, 3/4 inch, will probably cost you around 40 bucks. A pre-stretched canvas in the same size might cost you around 150 to 250 bucks, depending on the quality of the canvas and where you buy it.

Now, if you cut up that piece of plywood into four 2 feet by 4 feet pieces, you would have four surfaces ready for artwork for the same price: $40. To buy a 2×4 (or 24×48, in inches) canvas, you would have to fork over around $20. For four canvases, $80.

I want to do a painting for the space above our bed with plywood and latex (wall) paint, but I wanted to see if these elements would work well in creating an art piece. I didn’t want to do all the work just to end up with a disappointing result.

(Why latex wall paint? Well, I have a very specific color palatte that I would like to use for the painting for the bedroom, but I have no idea how to mix acrylic paint colors. I’m not an artist. It’s easier to get the specific colors I want from Home Depot than mixing them myself.)

I found a small piece of plywood smiling up at me in the garage so I said to it, “Plywood, you shall be experimented upon.” Don’t worry, no plywoods were harmed as the result of this experiment.


I started with a piece of plywood, gesso, sandpaper, and wood filler. Not pictured is primer spray paint.

The first step was to make it smooth as can be. My plywood had splinters on the veneer, so I tried to sand them down with grit 80 sandpaper, but the splinters didn’t go away and I created new splinters.


I tried 120 grit sandpaper and it worked so much better! Too-high grit sandpaper and plywood don’t play well with each other, apparently.


Some really big splinters were filled in with wood putty.

The edges of the plywood are… well, it’s plywood, what do you expect?


I read somewhere that you could add wood putty to fill in the edges to make them look more solid. I thought I would try it.


I let it dry completely and then sanded it.


Not perfect, but much improved.

Then I primed one side with primer spray paint, along with the edges. I ran out of the primer so I couldn’t do the other side, but that was fine because I wanted to experiment with gesso and see if it was better to apply primer on plywood before adding gesso or if primer was really unnecessary.

Finally… it was time to put on the gesso!

(If you’re wondering what gesso is, read this.)

See how thick it is:


That’s from the seal on the bottle. So thick. You can use it to give your painting some texture, like I did on one side (more on that later). You could thin it out with some water if you want a smoother coat.


See how thick it is. And you can see the primed side of the plywood in the above photo.

Then I just used a small paint brush and put the gesso on the plywood – thickly. I wanted to add some texture to the final painting.


And on the other side (which was unprimed), I brushed the gesso on carefully to make it as smooth as I could. I wanted to see which application looked better. After two coats, it looked like this:


It’s not as opaque as the primed side, so I had to do a third coat. it’s now 100% white but the texture is a little weird, almost like the wood buckled a little in some areas, a little wavy. I would definitely do the primer first for future plywood paintings.

Ok, finally ready to start painting!! I’ll show you the final result and how I got there in a later post. This post is too long already!

I won’t hestitate to do future DIY art on plywood. It’s pretty easy to do and the savings are great! But sometimes there are great sales on canvas that I just can’t pass up… such as this one at Michael’s:


Buy one at regular price, buy second one for a PENNY. Isn’t that crazy?! I think I will stop by there tonight and pick up a couple. Why not?

(Check out your local Michael’s if they have this sale, too. This sale lasts until May 19.)

Friday Randoms

Another day, another week, another month. Every time I stop and realize that it’s Friday, I’m amazed at how fast the week went. And then I realize that I haven’t even blogged anything or done anything that could fill out a complete blog post.

Hence, I’m trying something new here. Friday randoms, where I stop and look around and groan at our slowpoke process at making this house our home. Here goes!

The first thing I’m going to do after I finish this blog post is to order this pendant light for our living room:

Oversized Equator Pendant light cb2

I am so excited! I will have to put away a few months’ of spending money to get this, but I know it will take our living room to the next level. I’ve been looking for the perfect light fixture for that room since I wrote this post.

I’m still plugging away on the laundry cabinets… well, I should be honest and say that I’ve abandoned the project for two weeks now. I keep on saying, “It’s too late into the day now, I will do it tomorrow, I WILL!” and then I don’t. It’s the last lap around the track, but when you’ve run 1,000 miles, the last lap is the hardest.

laundry cabinet doors

I will finish it this weekend. I will. I WILL.

After all, the cabinet frames have been completed since April 11.

painted cabinet boxes laundry room

Poor, patient, and lonely cabinet boxes. I’m sorry, guys. You’ll be reunited with your beloved doors soon.

Remember the art I want to work on for our master bedroom? I have several large pieces of plywood in the garage waiting for me to get started on it, but I wanted to experiment on a small piece to make sure that it will look good. So far, I’ve sanded it, added wood filler, and primed it on one side. Next, I will add gesso on both sides and see if the primer is really necessary.

plywood art experiment 1

Once that little project is done, I will update you all and hopefully have a tutorial on how to do DIY art on plywood!

Back to the laundry room – we haven’t put up the art that I made on the wall because we wanted to experiment with templates first and see what layout would look the best. I originally thought we would have the four frames in a grid (two on top, two at bottom), but it didn’t look right with our short ceilings and the second row was too close to the floor. We realized that we were planning to remove the door anyway (to bring in more light to the game room), so we could use the whole wall and line up the frames, side by side.

templates for frames in laundry room

Looks great! We will put them up this weekend. I hope. Sometimes weekends have a way of fooling you on Fridays into thinking that it’ll be long, productive, and full of events. And then on Sunday night, you look up from your laptop when you’re sitting on the sofa and realize you’ve done nothing all weekend. No? Just me? Okay.

Oh, we used wrapping paper to serve as our templates to determine the location of our frames. It worked very well!

Our girl Janella loves strawberries. At the end of a strawberry eating session, she looks like Dexter, according to Nick.

janella loves strawberries

Janella is working on her crawling. She’s not there yet, but she definitely can move forward towards something she wants. However, you need to put the right thing to entice her into crawling/lunging forward. Put a toy in front of her, she will give you a blank look. But if you use a necklace, a working phone (somehow she knows the blackberry I give her is broken), a camera, or a leather purse, you’ll see her move with determination.

I found some redness on her knees, so I told Nick we needed to buy baby legs. But I read in this fun book that I could just cut up some old socks and put them on her legs. I tried that with a pair of argyle socks that I never wear and they look mighty cute on her legs!

baby legs from cut up socks

I’m gonna cut up more socks now. It takes 3 seconds to do – my favorite kind of DIY project.

Oh, and do you see that cute white/gray/yellow pillow in the photo above? Nick gave that to me for my 30th birthday. Love it.

Last AND least, I’m eating this greek dip right now. It’s really good and aside from lots of chopping, it’s ultra easy to make. I mean, if I can make it while entertaining a watermelon-eating baby, anybody can make it.

making greek dip

The end. I wish you all a great and productive (or lazy, that’s good, too) weekend.