Thursday, September 18, 2014

A look at a black dresser and camera settings

I finished up another dresser, which I mentioned when I posted the Driftwood Dresser. The weather is super dreary today (I'm actually kind of enjoying that is feels like fall), but it's not so good for taking photos. I also did not feel like trying to come up with a new way to stage this dresser so I staged the exact same way I staged the Driftwood Dresser. 

So, here's my questions for you all. What can I do when there isn't a whole lot of natural light to make photos less grainy. I normally shoot in the automatic setting with no flash. For these I did attempt shooting in manual mode (higher ISO, larger aperture and a longer shutter speed) which helped with getting enough light (I also edited them and bumped up the exposure, changed the white balance, etc). I really don't know what I'm doing so those setting probably should be different, so if you have any tips, they would greatly appreciated. The sun should be back in the next few days (along with the 80 degree weather), and I will have a more detailed post with better photos in a bit. 

Before and After - Driftwood Dresser

I have been wanting to paint a dresser in Driftwood milk paint for a while now, but I have not been able to find a dresser for longer than that.  I've used the color before on a buffet and a vanity desk, and empire desk [note: the color looks light on some of those piece because they were sealed with wax, not with poly]. Finally I was able to pick up 3 dressers over the past 2 days and finish 2 of them right away (there's another one close behind!). I originally went to pick up a different dresser, but this sweet one was also there and I couldn't leave it behind. Somehow my dad and I barely fit both of them in our SUV and drove back to my car (we met up to go get the dressers) with our seats entirely visible through the driver and passenger windows. We looked like fools, but it was great, though not entirely safe ;)

The other dresser I picked up needs a lot of work, so this one was up first. The top had been sanded down when I bought it. Personally, I don't always like the look of stained tops on piece (especially taller ones), so I opted to paint over it. It also wasn't in the best condition so I didn't feel too bad about it. 

I lightly sanded the rest of the piece, vacuumed it and then wiped everything down with TSP substitute. I then let it dry, mixed up my Driftwood milk paint by The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. (with the bonding agent added to help with adhesion and discourage chipping) and got to painting. I only used 2 coats on this piece. The paint had pretty great coverage, and part of that is due to the fact the it's a brown/taupe color that was similar to the original wood color. Once the milk paint dried for a few hours I sealed it with 2 coats of General Finishes High Performance top coat in flat. I sanded in between coats with 320 grit sandpaper to smooth everything out, then finished the piece with some bone knobs. The finish on this dresser is gorgeous if I do say so myself. It's smooth, has lovely variation, and the wood is peeking through just enough.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Grey on Grey Cabinet

I don't normally take on custom work because there are a lot of things I have to take into consideration when painting someone else's piece, but my neighbors and the family I babysit for are moving out of country and I was able to do this piece for them before they left. It had already been painted when they bought the piece at an estate sale and whoever painted it did not do it right. You could easily scrape the paint off so I knew all of the paint had to come off before I could prime and paint it. If it didn't get the paint off, whatever I painted onto the piece would still be over the yellow/orange paint that was not a good base. It also had a few layers of wallpaper that she tore out which is why the inside looks a little crazy.

Sanding this thing down took forever. I just wanted to knock it over, but after working on it for a few hours for 3 days I finally got it done. There was a lot of nail removing (especially on the inside of the doors, the chicken wire was held on with nails) and filling random holes on the piece. I also had to remove the wood detail that was above the doors as requested by the owner.  As you can see below, it looked worse before it looked better!

I was in a race against the rain trying to get this piece sanded, prepped and primed before a storm hit. Once I wiped all of the dust off from sanding, I mixed some TSP substitute with water and wiped the piece down. When it had dried it was time to prime. I chose to use spray primer because it saves so much time. My go-to choice of a good primer is Zinsser Cover Stain which is an oil based primer. This piece took 2 cans of primer and while it's more expensive to buy primer in a spray can, the amount of time it saves for a piece like this is totally worth it! In the photo below the piece is partially primed. When I sprayed the doors I just set them one at a time inside the cabinet so the over spray could be used there. Most of the inside was not primer though because I was using a chalk paint to paint it and I didn't have worry about bleed through.

After the cabinet was primed I let is cure for 24 hours then took a 320 sanding block to it to make sure everything was super smooth. I then mixed up a custom medium grey paint color for the outside of the piece using General Finishes milk paint in the colors Seagull Grey and Queenstown Grey. I just added some of each color until I achieve the right tone. The outside got 3 coats of the grey paint and was sealed with a thin coat of GF high performance poly in flat followed by a thin coat of GF's Satin wax. For the interior of the cabinet I used Country Chic Paint in their limited edition color 'Lazy Linen'. It's a really pretty soft, creamy grey that has great coverage. I primed the wood shelves to prevent bleed through, but the back and sides of the cabinet I just wiped down before painting. I only needed 2 coats for full coverage and then sealed the shelves with CCP's Tough Coat water based sealer (great for surfaces like shelves that get heavier wear) and the other parts of the interior with wax. The last thing to do was add in some hardware. I had a few of these white rose knobs leftover from Hobby Lobby, and they work perfectly!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Geometric Mid Century Dresser with a Green Accent

I've done quite a few pieces with this geometric design now, so there's no need to talk all about it again. All I really have to say is it adds some interest to an otherwise straight and flat piece of furniture. I have written a post all about how to get clean lines when painting a design, and you can check out the other geometric pieces:

I will give you a quick rundown of the products I used. I primed the laminate top before painting. For the frame of the dresser I mixed a custom medium grey using General Finishes Seagull Grey and Queenstown Grey. Once it was all painted and dry I sealed it with their High Performance topcoat in satin. All of the wood parts of the piece are original. I used some Howard's Restore a finish in Walnut to give them a little bit more life after cleaning them, but that was all! For the geometric design I used Lamp Black milk paint by GF, Snow White by GF and custom mixed the green with a latex paint I had and some GF colors. The green looks off in color in the photos, but in person, it's a true green.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Little Writing Desk in Tropical Jade milk paint

I've had a pint of Tropical Jade milk paint by The Real Milk Paint Co I've been wanting to use for a while (you can find it at Wallcott's in Shoreline, WA if you are local). I finally found a small desk to use it on when I was at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore last week that was a quick project.

I prepped the piece by sanding it lightly with 150 grit sandpaper and then wiping everything down with TSP substitute. Once that dried I mixed up the milk paint with the bonding agent (only in the first coat). I ended up using 3 coats on the piece, and 4 coats on the top. Once the paint dried I sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper to get it extra smooth, then sealed the desk with 2 coats of GF high performance topcoat in Flat. The drawer did not previously have a knob so I added a nautical one from my stash and added some wrapping paper to the drawer. This was a fun project that only took day. It's nice to have these once in a while because usually... projects don't go as planned ;)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to paint hardware (and make it last)

A while back, maybe 2 years ago, I painted a dresser and chose to keep the original hardware. It went from a gold to an oil rubbed bronze, but I didn't know what I was doing, and it was obvious. Right away the paint started chipping and I had to figure something else out. The good thing is, you can learn from my experience and skip all of the mistakes! So, here's how to paint hardware the right way.

1. Remove your hardware from the piece and clean it with soap or a degreaser.

You can use steel wood to help get any old flaky finish off if you need and smooth everything out, then wipe the hardware down with a cleaner. Soap and water works just fine (that's what I use, or a liquid cleaner/degreaser). You want to get all oils and grime off of the hardware to prep for the finish you are about to put on.

2. Wipe off the hardware and let it dry.

I let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. I also made a point to not touch the hardware, but to put it on a piece of cardboard and take it outside so that any oils from my hands weren't getting back onto the hardware

3. Prime the hardware with an oil based primer.

There are a few different types and brand of spray primer. I highly recommend Zinsser Cover Stain. It's an oil based primer and on the label it says it acts a bond coat. This step is very important to ensure a lasting finish that actually sticks to the hardware. Do thin coats to prevent drips. I waited a minute or two before spraying again so the primer would begin drying. Just make sure all areas of the hardware are covered with a good coat of primer.

Once the primer is dry you may want to use 0000 steel wool to very lightly go over the primer coat and make sure it's smooth (I primed on a piece of cardboard and some of the cardboard debris was sprayed into the finish. The steel wool smoothed it right out).

4. Spray on your paint color

For my hardware I just wanted a true gold, so I used Rustoleum's Metallic Gold. Again, thin coats are key. I did about 2-3 coats and made sure to spray at all angles for full coverage and a smooth finish.

5. Seal the hardware with lacquer or another clear sealer.

After you cleaned, primed and painted the hardware it's best to seal it. It will help the finish last longer and hold up to more wear. The paint I used said not to use a topcoat on it, but I made sure to test it out first to make sure it didn't affect the gold color or finish. I decided to use a lacquer becasue of it's shine and durability. I've also had problems with other sealers I've used in the past giving an uneven finish. I highly recommend the Valspar lacquer and I loved that it's fast drying.

6. Let everything cure, then re-attach the hardware, and you're done!

I know a lot of people just clean and then spray paint hardware, but actually taking the time to prime and seal it will really make a difference in how the paint wears and the finish holds up. Hopefully you found this useful, and now you can update some hardware with some paint!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Grey Cabinet with Washed Doors (Before & After)

I posted about the before of this piece a short while ago. I love antique cabinets like these and was really happy to finally find one to paint. Overall this piece was in good condition, but there were locks to be taken off and holes that needed to be filled all over. I don't know what someone used to keep in here, but 3 locks is a lot to have on one of these wardrobe cabinets.

You can see in the previous 'before' picture that there were two sets of drawers inside. The set on the right was added at some point, and they weren't the most quality little drawers. The rails that the drawers slid on were coming off, so I chose to take the drawers and all of the other parts out of the right side and make it back into a storage/hanging area. It still has the original hanging rod and while I did consider adding a shelf, I ultimately decided to leave it at it was originally made to be. 

I did some light sanding over the whole piece and a bunch of filling. For paint I used 'Lazy Linen' by Country Chic Paint. CCP is a chalk paint that is no VOC and while I don't normally prefer using chalk paint, I'm really loving this stuff. It's not thick like other chalk paints and... it has awesome coverage! I only used 2 coats on the outside with no priming or anything. That made my week! The outside color is just this gorgeous, soft, creamy grey. I will definitely be using it again in the future :) As I began painting I opted to give the insets on the front of the doors a wash. I really didn't know how it would turn out, but I like it. It helps to add some definition and highlight the insets. I seem to be wanting to add a washed detail to everything after I painted the striped washed top on this table

On the interior I wanted to add some color. I originally painted the drawers in CCP 'Rustic Charm' which is a pretty green, but I thought the light grey and green looked too juvenile, so I changed the color of drawers to CCP 'Backyard Picnic', which is more of a teal green. On the right side of the interior I mixed up a custom grey using General Finishes 'Seagull Grey' and 'Queenstown Grey'. It currently only has one coat and I like the worn look of some of the wood showing through, so I plan to leave it. And not that anyone would notice, but I left the hanging rod wood, but that's really the only part that remained untouched by my paint brush. Really happy with how it came out. To seal I used Maison Blanche clear wax. I've been having trouble with poly topcoats yellowing lately, so I stayed away on this piece. 

If you want to see more Before & Afters, visit the 'Before & After' page, or click here

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Monday, August 18, 2014

DIY Geometric Planked Wood Headboard Tutorial (for under $100)

I'm giving you all the details today on the geometric wood headboard I made. First, go here if you have not already seen photos and to find out where the idea came from.

After deciding I was building my own knock-off Urban Outfitters geo headboard I had to begin deciding how large I wanted it to be. I looked at the measurements of the full/queen headboard UO sold and I measured my bed (it's a full size) too see how high off of the ground it was and the width of it. My bed is 27" high and about 54" wide, and I wanted the headboard to extend just past the width of the bed, so I made it 56"w, raised it 27" off the ground, and the height of the actual geometric part is just under 47". Here's a photo that might help you visualize all of those measurements.

Let's start off with supplies and what I used to build the headboard.


  • 3, 1"x10"x10' whitewood boards from Lowes (had them cut to 56" so I ended up with 6 boards and only used 5 for the planked part of my headboard)
  • 1, 1"x6"x12' whitewood board (had this cut in half to hold the planks together and act as legs to hold the headboard up)
  • 1 1/4" screws 
  • measuring tape
  • drill

My dad was my building buddy on this project, but I could have easily done it myself (this isn't difficult). Since I got the boards cut when I purchased them from Lowes all my dad and I had to do was line them up and screw them together. Before actually screwing the pieces together, I picked the 5, 10" boards I liked best and arranged them in an order from my favorite to least favorite. I did this so that the boards I liked the least were at the bottom of the headboard and would be covered by pillows.  (In the picture below the boards are arranged in the order I liked, and numbered on the back)

First, before putting the headboard together I stained the boards. For stain I made a custom mix using General Finishes (GF) Gel Stain in 'Antique Walnut' mixed with Minwax 'Ipswich pine'. [Note: the GF can said not to mix or dilute the stain, but I did. I tested it on a scrap piece of the wood and it was fine] Before staining I applied a good coat of Minwax pre-stain conditioner. I just wiped it on with an old sock, let it sit for maybe 3 minutes, and then applied my stain mixture. I did end up applying a second coat of the stain 24 hours later (once the headboard was assembled) because it wasn't as dark as I wanted it to be. After the second coat of stain cured, I applied 2 coats of GF HP topcoat in flat to seal everything.

Assembling the Headboard
After the boards were stained and dry, my dad and I began laying out the headboard. We laid a work blanket/sheet down to protect the boards and just eyeballed everything to start with. I had to make sure all of the ends of the boards lined up. Even though they were all supposed to be 56" long, they varied so I switched the order until I liked they way it looked. Next, we lined up the legs. We put the legs so they started about an inch and a half below the top board and were the same distance from each side. We then used a measuring tape to make sure the measurements lined up and everything was symmetrical.

*Note: if you build a headboard and plan to attach it to a bed frame, make sure the legs are the correct distance apart so they match up with the bed frame. I chose not to attach the headboard to my bed frame, so I didn't need to worry about this.

Next, my dad made pilot holes only in the 1"x 6" boards with a drill bit smaller than the size of screws we using. Screw placement didn't need to be exact, so we did not measure. Total, we used 20 screws. Each of the 5 planked boards are held on with 4 screws, 2 in each of the legs.

Taping and Measuring
Here's the part where things got exciting! But first, calculations. Boo!

Just like the UO headboard, I wanted 5 full white diamonds to go across the top. To figure out what size they needed to be, I took the 56" width of the headboard and divided it by 5. You get 11.2 if you are wondering :) This meant that the height and width of each diamond would be 11.2". Next I had to figure out how thick I wanted the herringbone/chevron looking pattern between the diamonds to be. In order to make it easy for me, I made it half the size of the diamonds, which is 5.6". This made it simple because that is also the amount of space the next row of white diamonds is offset from the top row. The only 2 measurements I really worked with were 5.6" and 11.2". For measuring I used a measuring tape and a ruler. I made a mark with a sharpie on the ruler at 5.6" and 11.2" so it was obvious for me to see.

I spent 4 and 1/2 hours taping one night... until 1:30am. My back was killing me from kneeling and bending over (I had the headboard laying on the floor inside and I just sat on top of it and taped), so I called it a night and finished in the morning. The total amount of time I spent taping just the white part of the design was 6 hours. Of course there was a mistake in there that meant redoing part of a row. I also tend to be a perfectionist, so I took my sweet time. It's not a hard project to do, just time consuming!

I have a taping and measuring technique that works for me when I am painting designs (like the geometric designs here, here and here). The horizontal lines of tape you see I put down to mark the 11.2" of the design I was working with. It also made it easy for me to make marks with a sharpie directly onto the tape. People in my family do not understand what I did to tape it and thought I was doing it wrong the whole time, so if the photo confuses you, ignore it. haha! I'm the one who did it and it looks confusing! I just made sure to measure out each diamond but to also measure the distance from each line and point to others around it so I knew my tape was in the right place.

*The picture below just shows the white diamond taped out, after taking the picture I taped off all parts of the wood that were not being painted white since I always get paint splatter when I'm painting. I definitely recommend covering the other parts!*

I have a really great trick for getting clean, crisp lines when painting designs, if you want to know how to save yourself frustration you can read about it here.

For paint I went with a pure white paint. I wanted something crisp and didn't like the dullness of the UO headboard, so I used General Finishes Snow White milk paint which I had on hand. Here's just one coat of paint on the headboard. It ended up needing 4 coats of white to get full coverage and not see wood showing through. On the 4th coat of paint I only let the paint dry for about 10 minutes before pulling all of the tape off. By the time I finished painting the top row of diamonds, I could pull off the tape on the bottom row.

Before starting on the coral part of the design I let the white paint dry for 48 hours. 24 is long enough, but I went on a trip to visit my sister. The reason I waited that long was because in order to tape the next part, the tape went over the freshly painted white diamonds and I wanted to make sure none of the paint would pull off and stick to the tape. 

Taping this part was much easier because I did not really have to measure many parts. I just tape over where the edges of the white diamonds and connected the points. The only places I did need to measure were on the vert top and bottom rows where the design goes off of the wood.

For paint I used General Finishes again. I wanted a pretty coral salmon color so I made a custom mix using Coral Crush, Persimmon and a small amount of Seagull Grey.

Once all of the sections that were to be painted coral were taped off I used some paper I had to cover up everything else that was not being painted coral. I didn't want any spatter or drips on any other part of the headboard. I don't have a great picture of this part because we were have rain and thunderstorms, so this is a garage photo with bad lighting.

The coral covered much better than the white paint and because I'm such an indecisive person I only used 2 coats of the coral color. If I ever want to change the coral accent color to a different color, I can easily tape off those sections and paint right over. For that reason I also chose not to seal the piece with a coat of water based poly. The wood areas do have sealer since I put 2 coats on before painting. The good thing is, General Finishes paint does not necessarily require a sealer when used on pieces that do not receive high traffic. I may choose to seal it down the line, and if I do, I will use General Finishes HP topcoat in Flat. 

For now, I just added felt pads to the back of it and leaned it against the wall. I did the same thing with my last headboard. My bed is pushed up against it and it can't fall on me, so don't freak out about that ;) Now, let's talk about cost.

Budget Breakdown
  • Three 1"x10"x10' for the planked front ($18.04 each from Lowes): $54.12 (I only used 5 of the 6 boards)
  • One 1"x6"x12' for the legs (from Lowes): $12.38
  • Pack of 1-1/4in wood screw (from Home Depot): $1.99
  • Stain (GF gel stain in 'Antique Walnut' and Minwax in 'Ipswich Pine'): $0 (already owned)
  • General Finishes HP topcoat in flat: $0 (already owned)
  • General Finishes 'Snow White' milk paint: $0 (already owned)
  • General Finishes 'Coral Crush', 'Persimmon', and 'Seagull Grey' milk paint: $0 (already owned)
  • ScotchBlue Delicate Surface Painters Tape: $0 (already owned)
  • Total Spent: $68.49
This project ended up being really inexpensive for me because I already owned most of the supplies. I only needed to buy the wood and screws. You could definitely do this project for under $100. You don't need a lot of paint so sample sizes or pints work! 

Here are photos of the headboard all finished! (If you want to read the post on the glossy black campaign chest, click here.)

And a comparison of mine and Urban Outfitter's headboard

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