Archives for January 2011

Adventures in Staining

I don’t consider myself in the same category as many DIYer’s in the blog world. As much as I love to read about these do it yourself adventures, I don’t prowl thrift stores looking for diamonds in the rough to tackle on my own. I am however very cheap and when my mom offers me free furniture, I say, “Yes please!” This time it was their old TV cabinet (Actually, I think I have more hand-me-down furniture in my home than pieces I have paid for!).

I was excited to score the TV cabinet for free, but the piece as is wasn’t my style with its ornate hardware and dark colored wood grain. Since I loved the sturdy frame of the cabinet, I decided to refinish in a dark chocolate brown stain (The one stipulation from my mother was that I couldn’t paint it white).

The cabinet has been well loved. You can see by the glass water marks that it needed to be refinished.

My major home DIY furniture efforts have been fairly limited. I have only painted 2 other pieces of furniture in our home; a behemoth armoire desk found on craigslist and my brother’s childhood bed which is now in use by my 4-year-old.

Each time, I refinish furniture I ask myself halfway through, “Why am I doing this?” This project was no different!

I borrowed my dad’s sander to make the sanding go smoother. It was part way through the sanding when I started cursing my tightwad nature that prevented me from just buying a TV cabinet in the color I wanted. This is probably why I don’t DIY.

There was a thick clear coat on the cabinet. My 80 grit sandpaper was barely distressing it and I knew I needed to do a good job so my stain work would be worth the effort. After a morning of very little head way, my husband ran to the store to get a higher grit sandpaper. He got both 40 and 60 grit and the 60 worked perfectly. The 40 grit was too coarse.

After sanding and thoroughly wiping off the dust, I was ready to stain. I wanted as few steps as possible so I chose stain with polyurethane already in it so I could skip the final polyurethane coat, the final clear coat to protect your furniture. Bombay Mahogany was the darkest color available. I had some reservations about the word mahogany since I was worried it would be too reddish. I decided to purchase it anyway because I really want the ease of one step.

What started as a weekend project turned into a week-long project. DIY efforts typically involve an element of learning as you go. And blogging about those DIY efforts means I can share mistakes with you and save you time! One of my mistakes was using a paint brush.

After a mid-week home depot run for a second cheap paint brush because my original was not worth cleaning, I wandered past the roller section and decided to get a foam roller. Once I got home, it only took one roll for me to realize I had been wasting my time with a brush! The roller was so fast and smooth. This might be a well know fact for most, but for me it was pleasant surprise. I finish the last two coats in no time at all for a total of 4 coats.
So after many, many hours of drying, the TV cabinet was moved back inside its home.
The color is a little more red than I wanted (it is Mahogany after all). I chose ease over color and I didn’t search to get the chocolate brown I was looking for.
Sigh, I wish I could have a do-over like in an elementary schoolyard game. I think I should have gone with my beloved white paint. It is hard to go wrong with white. My husband suggested navy or a grayish-blue. I am not ready to conquer painting it again anytime soon; I have to first forget how laborious and inconvenient it was to refinish. So, for now it will remain as it is.
More of what I learned, in case there is a next time.
~ use a foam roller right from the beginning. Cheap brushes shed.~ I found the combo of stain and polyurethane hard to work with because it was thicker then stain. Next time I would get a stain and a separate coat for polyurethane, even if it is more time intensive. If I went with a straight stain I would have also had more color options.

~ I would set a more realistic time frame to accomplish the task. Since I initially expected the project to take only a weekend, I was discouraged that it was taking so long. Planning for it to take longer would have allowed me to restructure my week to incorporate the staining project instead of squeezing extra staining time into my already scheduled week.By the Numbers

$15 ~ stain
$7 ~ sandpaper
$18 ~ hardware
$14.30 ~ painting supplies (paint brush, rollers, roller handle, tray)Total ~ $54.30
plus $18 ~ for a shelf we retrofitted to fit both the DVD player and VCR.

The shelf is not too noticeable, hidden in the back of the cabinet.

Including the shelf, the grand total comes to ~ $72.30

This total felt a little high, but my thoughtful husband assured me it was a good price for a TV cabinet. I tried to convince him otherwise by discussing how much time I’d spent refinishing it, etc.We eventually figured out a “rate per hour” by comparing what I would have spent for a new/slightly used TV stand. I’m a nerd when it comes to this type of stuff but I will spare you all the details. It came out to $18/hour. I was convinced that my time was worth that price.

If you are looking for more step by step instructions for your own DIY project, young house love gives a detailed rundown of refinishing their nursery dresser.
Any tips for getting it getting it closer to the dark brown I wanted? Do you think I should repaint the hutch? Paint it navy or blue gray or just leave it? What have you DIY’ed lately?

Thrifty and Simple Label Ideas


I was thrilled to be featured on IHeart Organizing, for my big Toy Overhaul, Part 1.  A few folks commented on the labels I made on my computer.  I revamped the toy closet and labels in Part 2 then laminated at a local copy store for $8.

If you add in the cost of the Velcro squares, you have some very expensive labels. That is more than I would usually spend and I’m constantly searching for free solutions around the house rather than shelling out any money. This time though even after factoring in the price, I was sold on the idea because I wanted interchangeable labels that would last us over time plus the Velcro square stuck really well on the wicker baskets.

For those projects that don’t need all the extra benefits that lamination and Velcro provides, I thought of some other very thrifty label options for all areas of your home.


Simple white mailing labels

40 for $1.68

With a price like this, you can start labeling your trash! If you need to change a label, just slap another one of the same size over the last label. No pulling off labels with sticky residue. You can always download a template to add some decoration or fancy fonts to your white labels which can spruce them up in a second. I usually like the ease of keeping them plain and simple but you have loads of options at your fingertips.

Label Pads

$3.99 for 120

Avery Removable Label Pad, 2 x 3 Inches, Assorted Neon, 80 Labels (22017)Avery Products - Avery - Removable Label Pads, 1 x 3, Assorted, 120/Pack - Sold As 1 Pack - Linerless labels stacked into a convenient pad. - Fully removable labels stick and remove easily. - Simply peel, apply and write.


If you like to keep things simple but still like something a little fancy, there are now label pads in either full color or white with a boarder. (The tabs on the right side of the label can be torn off or left on depending on what you prefer and where you are placing them.)

Name Tags

With a little searching you can find many other options besides the standard “Hello my Name is…” format.

These chocolate dots are adorable and at $3.54 for 36, they don’t break the bank.


These are originally bridal shower name tags but would make a cute decorative label without much effort. $2.75 for 24


Shipping Tags

$4.79 for 100

This would be adorable tied on to any basket throughout your home.

Picture from Etsy (these particular labels are sold out! But I’m sure you could find something comparable.)

I love that there are so many less expensive options that look just as lovely!

If you are still yearning for more options of labels with flare, check out this mega source for some adorable downloadables, Creature Comforts.

Have you found the perfect labels to use around your house? Do you prefer to keep things simple or add a little design on your labels?

10 Minutes of Painless Decluttering

This week, I was perusing my home for areas that could use 10 minutes of TLC. I peeked in my front closet, and before I knew it I had a pile of items to toss.

I don’t even know if it was exactly 10 minutes (usually I am very precise). But I have to say this was painless decluttering. After 10 minutes, give or take, I had a front closet that I am not the least bit frightened to open!

I don’t even have a before picture because I was on automatic organize without even realizing. This closet really is just for shoes/coats. We take off our shoes in the house so it is convenient to store them right by the front door.

We bought 2 cheap Ikea shoe racks to utilize the shelf above the hanging rack.

The racks on top of the closet shelf hold our seldom used shoes as well as hats. The basket keeps gloves and scarves in line.

For my pile of give away shoes, I found a great organization, Soles 4 Souls, that collect new or gently worn shoes (not all our shoes made the cut) and distributes them to people in need worldwide. Check the website to find out if there is a drop-off location near you or for instructions to ship your shoes directly to them.

In just 10 minutes of shoe sorting, I bet you could clear out some pairs that you no longer wear (and make room for new ones!). Find any area in your home that could use 10 minutes of decluttering. Put on some energizing music, and you will have a effortless decluttering session!

What are you going to declutter today?

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