Milk Paint

26 04 2010

Anyone ever heard of such a thing?!  Well, it happens to be an organic material that gives surfaces a distinctive color-washed finish.  As I am sure you have guessed, milk is the primary ingredient in the paint, acting as a binder for the pigments (same as latex or oil when you think of “standard” paint).  Having been used by the ancient Egyptians, it is mostly found in association with colonial-era furniture and by eco-friendly users today since it doesn’t give off any noxious vapors, also known as VOC’s.  It is used widely in furniture finishing because it has great saturated colors but easily finishes off with a translucent finish, which gives wooden furniture that beautiful antiqued look.  This technique is great for furniture but, don’t try to simply mix the milk with a color pigment and spread it out on the wall or you may be disappointed.

Here are the steps to get you started with mixing a batch (this would make enough to cover a bureau or other large furnishing):

1. Mix the juice of a lemon with 1 quart skim milk in a large bowl.  Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature to induce curdling.

2. Pour it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to separate the solid curds from the liquid whey.  Add 4 tablespoons of dry color pigment (available at art-supply stores) to the curd; be sure to wear a mask, and stir until the pigment is evenly dispersed.  (Artists’ acrylic paint can also be used in place of powdered pigment.)

3. Add it one drop at a time, and stir constantly until you achieve the desired hue.  Whether pigment or acrylic based, milk paint will spoil quickly, so it should be applied withing a few hours of mixing.  Rest assured, its sour smell will disappear once the paint dries.  If you prefer, you can purchase milk paint rather than making your own.  Once source is Old Fashioned Milk Paint.

Here’s a great shot of some colors you can easily achieve if you try it.

I think this is a fantastic way to save a buck, a trip to the store and help the earth at the same time when you have a little project you are working on.  Anyone ever mixed their own paint?  I’d love to hear about it and even better, I’d LOVE to see your work!





Quickie Patio Revamp

21 04 2010

First, I would like to apologize for my recent absence.  It all started with me being under the weather for a couple days, but now I am back and rejuvenated with new topics and ideas.

For this weeks’ quickie I wanted to explore something in the outdoors since we are getting into nice weather, so I looked at revamping a patio.  John and I have been working out ideas for our own patio so I gathered some items that I loved but just didn’t make our final cut!

So here is our material board:


  1. I divided up the patio into a few sections.  A lounging area that centers around a firepit, an outdoor dining area and some accessories for a tree.  As part of the lounging area, these nesting table will be able to be spread out between all the chairs for comfortable conversation over a fire.
  2. These lounge chairs make a perfect comfy spot to enjoy a fire with a companion.  Putting two of these chairs side by side on one side of the firepit will make a great area for playing some cards and drinking some wine!
  3. These woven side chairs would look great flanking the lounge chairs, one on each side.  The high back design will make them perfect for sitting in during a long evening.
  4. Finally, a traditional firepit completes this section.  This one is great since it has the orange accents to really complete the look.
  5. This umbrella is a perfect addition to a dining area, especially since it isn’t anchored in the center of the table.  Often times this impedes conversation and is hard to remove if you want to bask in the sun.  With the cantilevered design of this option you’ll love the flexibility it provides.  As an added bonus, isn’t the color spectacular?!
  6. These chairs are a inexpensive option for outdoor dining.  While a bit on the small side, they reduce the overall size of the table while still providing seating to 4 guests.  The easy clean ability will make this dining area an easy decision for outdoor entertaining.
  7. Can’t have chairs without a great table and this one is GREAT!  The construction is a sturdy metal that will hold up for years to come and the white finish will make it very versatile with anything you accessorize with it.
  8. Speaking of accessories, these woven placemats will add a great punch of color to the tabletop that will look fantastic with the umbrella above.  These plates and glasses will also be a welcome addition since they are made of a shatterproof material.
  9. Finally, a bird feeder and a few floating candles hanging by twine from a favorite tree will look great and add to the ambiance as night falls.  Who doesn’t love sitting outside, enjoying a great night with friends surrounded by firelight?!  Sounds about perfect to me.

So there you have it, an affordable patio for entertaining guests by firelight.  What do you think?  How do you entertain summertime guests?  Do you have a favorite summertime drink you serve?  If you would like a quickie of your own, click here to have us get started.





The oww & aww of Fresh Paint

12 04 2010

Who doesn’t love fresh paint?!  I get such a thrill from the aroma of a newly painted anything-enough so to make me giddy–although it might just be the fumes.  In all seriousness, nothing says brand spankin’ new more than a fresh coat of paint.  In my opinion you can salvage anything with just a bit of primer, a little filler, some paint.

Good as new was what we were hoping when it came to our house.  When we bought the little fixer upper, it was in horrible condition.  Years of neglect and abuse showed through the ceilings, floors and everything in between.  Step one after tearing everything out was to put a fresh coat of paint on anything that would stand still.  So we called in reinforcements–Doug, a friend and John’s mom, Georgia, came to help for day one of painting, and since John’s parents own quite a few rental properties they know their way around a can of paint!  Poor Georgia, she flew in for a week from Omaha to help us out with the renovation and ended up extending her trip by a few days so she could help us move after she spent the entire trip painting!  A gigantic THANK YOU for her help!!

Now before we could get started we chose to wash down the walls with a bleech and water mix (we used the suggested value on the back of the bleach for ratio of water to bleach) since the previous owners had been smokers.  After we washed the walls we needed to patch all the tiny holes that were left from a ton of picture frames that had previously graced the walls.  So once the patching was complete we were ready to start.  We thought that since we didn’t have anything left to ruin we would initially try to spray the paint on with a paint gun.  However, we didn’t have much luck.  We probably should have rented a professional version of a spray gun but decided to purchase a inexpensive alternative.  This was money not well spent as we couldn’t get it to spray evenly and after about an hour of messing around with it we decided to go back to the traditional route of rollers and brushes.  Here is a look at our  paint gun try:

Since we were on a pretty tight timeline we had to move forward.  I am sure that we eventually would have gotten the hang of it but with John’s dad flighting in the next day to help lay the wood flooring, we had to have the lower level completely painted on day 1 so it just wasn’t the right time to work with new tools. Once we moved to the upper floor (a LOT more walls to cover) it was just Georgia and I left working on the painting.

So most of you have painted a couple of walls in your day and know the ins and outs.  But I thought I would try and recall some of our more successful tools and a few suggestions that we wish we had never tried.  We first started by taping everything but quickly realized that a steady hand and a shield tended to work better than waiting for the ceiling to dry before we could paint the walls.  In the picture below you can see me cutting in with my shield while John painted the dark wall beyond with a roller.

Another suggestion that I would have done differently would be that we have 2 different colors of trim in our place.  One color is used upstairs and one downstairs.  Since we had ordered the wood flooring for our lower level I went ahead and picked paint for the lower level.  Once we had selected our carpet for the upstairs the same paint scheme didn’t work as well so I picked another scheme.  I couldn’t find a trim that would look good with both color schemes so decided to pick upstairs trim and a downstairs trim as two separate colors.  This has made things confusing later in the process.  The paint cans have to be labeled accurately and even so the wrong color has been used a time or two and has had to be redone.  We also have run into how to finish the banister since it would be running between two paint colors.  I would have worked harder in the front end to have one trim color run throughout the project had I known it would have made things so complicated.

Also make sure that when picking a paint roller you always pick the right nap.  This can save you hours of work on a project.  Here is a guide to better help you with this selection:

  • 1/8 — 1/4 inch, are for ultra smooth surfaces. Use with enamels, varnish, oil and water base paints.
  • 3/8 — 1/2 inch, are for semi- smooth and medium textured surfaces. These can be used with all paints.
  • 3/4 inch is a multi purpose roller nap length that is useful for semi-rough surfaces. This size of roller nap is a good choice for most interior and exterior surfaces; such as siding, walls and smooth concrete block.
  • 1 — 1-1/2 inch thick piles are for the roughest of surfaces, such as rough stucco and split face concrete block.

On a side note, all the ceilings were finished with a flat paint and all the walls were finished off with a satin finish.  Flat tends to be less expensive and since it’s cleanability on the ceiling is not as important you can save quite a bit of money going this route.  However, for the walls either an eggshell or a satin finish is the way to go since it has to stand up to a lot more wear and tear over the years.  Finally, all of our trim is finished in high gloss since it is on wood and would create a nice contrast between the walls and again has a cleanability factor that you can’t mess with.

So hopefully these suggestions help you with your next painting project.  Do you have any suggestions to add that really helped you during your last painting project?  We’d love to hear them!!





Sarah’s Kitchen Quickie

8 04 2010

Well, when Sarah emailed me that her kitchen could use a makeover, I got straight to working on a solution.  Here’s her letter:

I am a returning customer and love seeing all your ideas.  My husband and I recently purchased our first home and are in need of some design help for our kitchen.  Currently, I feel like our kitchen jumped straight out of the ‘80s country look.  I am not a fan of oak cabinets, however they are in good shape so have a hard time getting rid of them.  We generally like everything very modern and my favorite finish is chrome.  Everything in our house is painted white so we will need some suggestions for color as well.  I want to bring this outdated kitchen into the modern age.  Please help. –Sarah B.

This kitchen has soaring potential and amazing bones but needs just a little TLC.  So with a lot of paint and a little stainless steel, this space can be transformed from the little bit of country to jaw-dropping modern they’ve been dreaming about.  Here’s their material board:

And now for the board breakdown.

  1. Dark, dark, dark brown paint will whip those cabinets from country oak to modern in just a couple of coats.  Since you have good bones to your cabinets but just want to refresh the room to update your look, this will be a great and inexpensive solution.  You will probably need to prime the cabinets first, then go for a color like, Dunn Edwards/#DEC756 Weathered Brown and put a couple coats of clear coat to finish them off so they won’t scratch.  Now for the walls, pairing a light tan color will create some contrast between the walls and the cabinets.  A great wall color would be Valspar/ #6003-1B Frappe.  Keep the trim consistent with the rest of your house and leave it and the doors a pure white.
  2. For your countertops either a poured concrete (fairly pricey considering the time it takes to build custom moulds) or a close look alike found in Corian would be a great fit for your ultra modern kitchen.
  3. Here we have some appliances in a stainless steel finish.  By updating your appliances you will not only add value to your home but will certainly add style to the end result.
  4. Here we have some mesh mounted stainless steel penny round tile to update the backsplash.  This ultra fun and modern twist will help connect the countertop to the cabinets while certainly making an impact with your guests.
  5. Since you will be tearing out the tile on the countertop and backsplash, this might be a great time to refresh the floors as well.  To complement the dark wooden floors in the nearby family room, here is a large scale tile (12” x 24”) with a contemporary mesh pattern.
  6. These sleek pulls will add dimension to the cabinets on both the drawers and upper doors.  They are almost 10” long so will make a dramatic impact on the overall appearence while helping to modernize the trim on the doors.
  7. Just a few accessories for the kitchen such as hand towels, oven mitts and pads in a dark cabernet red will accent the room nicely.
  8. Finally, these prints by Martin (upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right) will add a little tongue in cheek action across the kitchen near the pantry.  Since Sarah has a long standing wine addiction, I thought it would be fun to add these guys to the mix in a simple frame to finish off our room.

So there you have it.  Sarah’s chic and modern kitchen makeover.  I can’t wait to hear what you guys think.  And if you are in need of your very own material board, click here to get one for yourself.





Demolition Loose Ends

2 04 2010

Before I can begin the run down of us starting to re-build our little home, I feel like I should tie up some loose ends. We didn’t just scrape the ceiling and rip down a wall.  We were very “eager” to make this house our home so we tore into it deep and we did it quick.  Our thinking was if we ruin it now, we will have to repair it later (even if we don’t feel like it) so we ripped everything away that we planned to fix even down the road so we could have our fresh start.  We removed a layer of carpet from every room in the house minus the bathrooms.  Downstairs after the carpet was pulled back we discovered vinyl tile that had to be scraped off.

Once the flooring was all removed the baseboards and tack strips from the carpet had to be pulled off.  Since we had a Wonderbar the job went pretty smoothly.  In the kitchen we removed the 18″ square sticky vinyl tiles and all the cabinet doors (so they could be refinished with paint) and painstakingly removed the contact paper from each of the shelves, seeing as I am not really a sunflower kind of a girl.

This is my friend Sarah, she was working her first drill!

Just off of the kitchen is the powder room which we ripped the toilet and vanity out, sadly I don’t even have a before of this room because it was just too disgusting to peek in.  Speaking of bathrooms, the upstairs had to remain a working bathroom until we had the downstairs repaired so we only ripped out the freestanding shower and left the rest intack for almost a year while we completed other projects.  Let me remind you what we lived with for over a year–remember this is the room that made me exit the house halfway through our first visit it was so disgusting!

Our Original Master Bath

Oh bonus, in this picture you can see the shower we ripped out.  Let me tell you a bit about this shower…when they installed it they didn’t have backer board to put up the tile on so instead, they built a frame with lath (chicken wire) and poured 1″ thick concrete on the walls as the backer for the tile.  This made the removal horrible, dusty and extremely heavy since it is on the second floor.  Lastly, we ripped out ever single window covering in the place to get rid of the smoke smell from the previous owners.

This is our demolition pile the morning we moved into the house (photo taken from our bedroom.)  We had rented a U-haul to move with so before we piled all our belongings in the truck we decided to make a run to the local dump to get rid of some of our debris.  It really took up a lot of room on our patio so it was nice to have it gone before we had tons of people trying to move boxes in.  If you can believe it, that is an out of control avocado tree in the upper right hand corner.  Later in the year, while John was studying, I couldn’t take it any longer and bought a chainsaw and removed over half the tree!  Running a chainsaw turned out to be very liberating.  Cheers!