The Making of Mantels / Appeasing my Mantel Envy!

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted on our Facebook Page about the weekend project we had in the works. I mentioned that I was all done dealing with the ‘mantel envy’ I have had going on, for years now. You know, mantels, the shelving surface that many homes have over their fireplace?  Many creative homemakers have great fun decorating their mantels for various seasons and holidays, switching it up all of the time. It just wasn’t fair.
We don’t have a fireplace, anymore. Years ago, before the little-house to big-house renovation, we had a built in coal and wood fireplace insert, with a brick mantel. But that was ripped out when our sun room was added on.
I wanted a mantel of my own to work with. And when I really want something, I usually figure out how to get it.
And you know how good I am at that?

I got me TWO mantels! HA!

I reckon some will have some envy for me, now. ; )  See, the good Lord blessed me, like Mary, with a carpenter of my own.  A very skilled carpenter, I might add, who can build just about anything I want. And because I am not only blessed, but possibly (possibly . . . ) spoiled, he does build me anything I want.


 I had been telling my-personal-Joseph, how I thought it was a fine idea, for him to build me a great pair of corner mantels, over our beloved, ceramic wood burning, family-heirloom. I explained it to him in great deal, trying to paint the picture for him. I don’t think he was really getting my vision for awhile, because he kept looking puzzled, while assessing the area, and saying, “Really?”, every time I brought it up.  But then on the Thursday before said-prior weekend, I told him I just had to have it. And I’d love for him to get sketchin’, and bring home any materials he;d need for the weekend, home after work on Friday. And he said, “So let me get this straight. This is our new urgent project, that you’d like done right away, before I have even finished the last urgent project, that you’d like done right away? I’m supposed to stop that one, and do this one first, after stopping the one I was doing 2 projects ago, to do the last, new urgent project?”  And I said,
“Right. Honey.”

And so he got sketchin’,
and buildin’, and
yes, I helped quite a bit too.
Because I’m not that spoiled.

And by the next weekend, my mantel dreams had come true, x2.
And I was and am still, thankful.


02_coal-wood-stove Ok so this is the corner as it has been (before), when anyone is looking at, when they walk into our front door. On the left hand side there, is where our Prayer List Chalkboard has been hanging for years. (And we still use it, regularly.) For now, it’s moved to the wall beside the front door. But take not of the wall straight ahead.  It’s shorter . . . . .

03_coal-wood-stove . . . . than the corner wall perpendicular to it. This one is a bit longer.  So I’ll have two different lengths of mantels.
I also got thinkin’ about how much I’ll be photographing the mantels as it changes for our home decor. And it hit me that the backdrop will always be the same, and green. And the simple (right?…) mantels project instantly grew. I wanted a wider bead board like wall as a backdrop.
See? Spoiled. Possibly.

I knew if my Joseph built me these, I would be so grateful. I’d be happy to finish them myself. Of course, I wanted them to not look new. Or fresh. And for my vision, distressing on fresh wood was not going to work. So I researched how to weather/age the wood, before painting and distressing, and was pleasantly surprised to find a way to do it. That worked!
04_bowl-of-tea It’s fairly simple too.  You ‘paint’ the wood with tea, first. I made a big strong batch, soaking my tea bags over night.

05_weathering-wood-technique So I brushed the tea on all over my two built mantels, and let them dry. There was no difference to see. 
But the tea is only applied to react with the next strange solution brushed on.

06_weathering-wood-technique I had to cover very fine steel wool (#0000) with straight distilled white vinegar.  And just let it soak, at least for overnight. 
The next day, it didn’t look much different in the jar. I know in time, that wool would rust. (It has since…). But anyway, while applying it to the mantels (already treated with the tea), I could see the instant reaction happening. Very cool. Almost magical!

To see the dried wood after the vinegar/steel wool solution treatment, click on any image in the gallery below, use arrows to see each next, and then your ESC button to close.

Interestingly, even after the wood had been dry and I took the above photos, the wood seemed to turn even a bit greyer. which I was happy about. For a darker finish, I could have brushed on a second treatment, but I was quite happy with the results after just one, for this project.

So then it was time to paint both mantels, white.  I used about 3-4 parts paint to 1-part water.
And then a whole lot of sanding and distressing.

11_mantels-custom-made Meanwhile, Michael, a.k.a my Joseph in this post, was taking care of the walls to my every wishes.

And I’m pretty much done talking, and ready to show you lots of photos of this exciting home improvement project!
Here we go!
13_mantels-custom-made Now for anyone concerned, we were sure to make certain these mantels met fire code.  They needed to be at least 6 inches from the stove-pipe, and they are. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but trust us. We have the most to lose! That is why they don’t wrap around behind the pipe.  The mantel shelves are very thick, and keep in mind too, that the stove is only in use maybe 1-1/2 seasons a year.

14_mantels-custom-made So yes, while narrow bead-board goes all the way around the lower half of our green sun room (as of this post), the wider bead board (v-groove) type paneling is just in this corner.  I think because of where we let it end, and because of the molding we used, it works nicely! 
And how about those mantels?
I love that I have two to work with! Because sometimes you get going on a theme, but you really have another idea that kind of ties in too.
So that is going to be way fun.  One is 48″ and the other is 35″.
Let’s take a closer look at the beauty of the craftmanship of my husband, shall we?

15_mantels-custom-made He used  1×12″ and 1×10″ pine boards, crown molding, and base cap.

16_mantels-custom-made And these awesome pre-assembled 9×7″ shelf brackets. Which, I love.

17_mantels-custom-made Do you see how the wood looks older, peeking out from underneath the (supposed) worn paint?
Love it!
A few more photos . . . .

19_mantels-custom-made Beautiful, no?


 I am SO happy with them. Of course, the whole point of having them, was to decorate. They are looking kind of NAKED in these photos.
But as you can see peaks of in a few photos above, I have indeed gotten my Spring mantels together!
So my Spring Mantels…..that is a next post coming up!
Detail photos of what I adorned these mantels with, for this season, are on their way. Which I believe will really help you pull the whole vision together.
They are gorgeous, and so homey, all decorated. I can’t wait for you to see!
But this post is about the craftmanship of Michael’s work, and his ability and willingness to build my little dreams.
Please leave him your thoughts!
And then look for the Spring Mantels post real soon.! ; )

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My Custom Built Farmer’s Table Home Office Desk

 I know many of you have been waiting for this, with all of my teasing about it! And I have been dying to show you my custom-built farmer’s table home office desk, that that my husband made for me.  For this first post, I am simply sharing with you the build itself, and some of the story behind it.  In upcoming posts, I will show you my workspace all set up and pretty. (When I get that far.)

So first, to put my appreciation and excitement in context here, you should know how I have been working.

In this large amoire in the photos below, is our TV, which we rarely use at all. But behind it was my work cubby.  It was always amusing when someone who had been to our house a few times before, before they realized there was a work space behind there.  They’d always react with such surprise and intrigue.  So come around the amoire (following the numbered photos), and see my little space I have had . . . . . 

It certainly was a workable idea for the past few years, in that it gave me a little privacy for editing client portrait work. It is rather organized and cleaned up here, but that is not how it has always appeared or felt. (I had already started cleaning out here, to empty this whole cubby.) To start, I hated the desk. The photo is deceiving I think, because this desk was SO large, and yet not efficient at all; with shelves I couldn’t easily get to, and virtually no storage or room to work.  With a modern design, fake wood laminate and black accents-ugh! I wanted it GONE.  And what a dust magnet this cubby has been!  Anyway, imagine on the desk-top, on either side, a tall pile of papers, notebooks and dozens of folders.  And not just here. When I worked on my laptop for school and blogging, I’d sit on the couch, where beside the couch was small table with another 2 piles of papers, notebooks and folders.  Then there is the school room, where I’ve kept all of my teacher books.  I can’t stand clutter or disorganization, so having everything everywhere has tended to make me cranky, and yelling when I couldn’t find something!

 Between homeschooling my 4 kids, their work needing correcting or keeping, educational planning stuff, their activity schedules, forms needing to be filled out, home and life maintenance with mail, bills and records and the like that needs to be kept up with, and my work paraphernalia for the blog and it’s website, it has felt like unorganized madness to me! I can’t manage and work my best like that. 

What I needed and wanted was one organized management center to work from, with a style that said me, and reflected our farmish/antique home decor.  A Pottery Barn home office knock-off, of sorts.  Yes please, Honey!

Whenever a new school year is about to turn over in the next 2-3 months, I always get into this nesting mode frenzy, wanting to get super organized and ready for the next year. So my chatter about my dream custom-built farmer’s table home office desk had picked up speed as of late!  I completely cleaned out that cubby, moved the amoire, and just gave away that huge desk to a very grateful girl, who really needed it.  It was going to be an all new space, that I could manage everything from.  Open, bright, stylish and cheery.
As always, Michael and I first got some initial drawings down on paper, which Michael threw out by accident! ; ( , and a few revisions later, Michael got to making it a reality for me. 

My design idea was simple;  the base of a plain old farmer’s table, with cubbies and shelving for storage. But it needed to be BIG. The full length of the wall opposite the large window, to accommodate and organize all areas of my life and family I need to manage, as well the larger equipment I need to do it, such as my 2 computers, hard-drives, copier, etc. 

So if you haven’t scrolled down and peeked already (uh-huh), the reveal is next. But I have to say, this was SO HARD to photograph with the lenses I have, as this desk is 7 feet long!  But every inch was custom designed with a purpose for it’s space. Take a look . . . . . .

Is it not GORGEOUS?!

While there were no initial plans for drawers at all, the craziest things happen to us, and we ended up with some beautiful ones! I’ll get to that story-bit in a minute, but as you can see, the general structure of the desk is very much a farmer’s table design.

Let’s talk about some of the details:

Simple table legs support the desk.

Now let me tell you about the drawers, which really have added such beauty to the piece as a whole.  In the beginning, I had just planned on using lots of cubbies and little containers, for all of the little things, all built upon a farmers table, much like the one we eat at in our sunroom. But the craziest blessing happen to us all of the time, and this amazing happenstance is no different: 

About the time the table was pretty much built, and yet still bare wood and unfinished (as seen above, minus the drawers), Michael had a job to go re-letter the back of one of his client account’s large moving trailer. While he was there on the job site, he went to throw some things in the dumpster. There, in the container, were 3 of these beautiful drawers and some big desk all broken apart! I can only imagine how beautiful the desk must have been, because the drawers are to me, breathe-taking.  Crazier, the slim design and depth of the drawers would fit and work perfectly within the table side of the desk he was building for me. So he grabbed the drawers, and all of the attachment trackings for them, and  brought them home.  I was astonished. I immediately fell in love with them, and he installed them.

Just look at the hardware!

Even the keyhole makes me gasp and smile inside.

They silently and smoothly just roll out, like butt-ah!

And the inside of the large drawer had me flipping out with joy . . . . . .

Talk about great quality. HOW, could anyone throw these drawers away?  And what a blessing just meant to be, that Michael was there at that site on this particular day, and looked in that waste container, right when we were building this project!  The waste removal company was coming to empty that container the very next morning! The drawers would have been gone forever.

These two smaller drawers were installed side by side, on the opposite end of the large one.   Take note of the bare wood before finishing.  Aside from the drawers, the table-top is made of cabinet grade plywood, while the rest is plain pine and bead board.  A very light color wood.

Now, how I was going to finish this desk, was such a torn-dilemma! I even did various techniques experiments on several scraps of wood, trying to decide:  Did I want to just paint it white and then sand it down to worn in various places?  Crackle it? Use some dark wax or antiqued glaze?

Honestly, it feels like such a big an important decision, that it kind of paralyzed me.  So I kept it simple for now, and will likely continue to alter the finish more when I decide on one, or all of the ways I am contemplating. But at least then it will be a thought-out decision. For now here’s all I did:

I sanded it to a worn state in specific places, such as corners, edges, and raised areas.

But because the wood underneath was so light, I went a step further using a possibly odd technique and medium, to bring the distress work out more . . . . . .

I mixed clear glaze and straight burnt umber watercolor paint.  I painted just over the areas where it was sanded to wood, let it sit a minute, and wiped off with a clean dry rag.  It stained the exposed under-wood just enough, to have a more distinct worn look.  As I said, I still may do some crackle work in areas, and/or antique it more with wax or glaze.  But I also expect it will get wear and age naturally, simply from me using it a lot, and owning it for a very long time to come. But for now, I am loving it as it is.

I am still ‘moving in’ to this large piece of furniture that is quickly organizing my whole world, and there will be a follow up post to show you how I arranged everything I needed in this space.  But as I said, parts of the desk were very specifically designed for certain things.  To give you one example today; that top left cubby you see, will hold my 4 external hard-drives, most of which are about to dumped of all client work. They are already mostly free space even still,  so I will be using them for a good many years to come, for external storage space for all of my other personal photo storage and designs.

As I am sure many of you know and will agree, it’s the accessorizing that is the most fun!  It’s the pretty little things, that really make a space yours, and I have always felt it’s important to surround yourself in your home and work space, with the things that make you feel those little leaps of joy inside. (Or that’s what happens to me, anyway. ; ) So I will be sharing with you all just how I’ll be utilizing the space of my new custom-built workspace, the ways in which it’s organizing my life, and all of the little things I love that make me smile, and maybe will make you smile too. Or give you some ideas of your own.

Another crazy blessing story-bit:  I had told Michael I would probably just use one of our regular white farm chairs at the desk, rather than a black computer chair.  But that some day, I would love to find a nice white office chair on wheels, much like the Pottery Barn chairs, that we could never afford. 
Well guess what he found and brought home with the drawers? . . . . . .

Again, for free. When Michael was chatting one of the moving company employees at the job site where he pulled the drawers out of the waste container, and told him all about this desk he built, the guy said, “I have a chair inside that went with the desk we got rid of, if you want to see it.” And this is what he brings out!  Oh, you know I’ll distress this some too, and get some pretty shabby-chic cushions for it.  But what a high-quality chair!  It not only is on wheels and swivels, but it rocks! I’m a rocker, still. Between my first baby-girl that loved to nurse forever, and then my triplets, Mama-rocking is a just part of my natural movement now. This is a big chair though. It definitely needs the cushions. I feel like a kid in it right now.  Michael was more excited about getting the chair for me, than the drawers. But the drawers were actually the biggest pleasant surprise for me.

So there it is! I know I am ridiculously blessed to have a husband whose skilled hands can create these things for me.  This desk would cost thousands of dollars, bought. And it wouldn’t be custom-built, for me and my specific needs. Or made with love! He’s built so many things for me, big and small.  This one is certainly very special to me, as it will really help me manage the most important aspects of my life; primarily teaching my children, and managing our family details, and lastly, doing what I can to help my husband provide for us, through blogging, which I love to do anyway. 

I do apologize for the length of this post and number of photos, but there was a lot to share with you, and I’ve been SO excited to!
Wouldn’t you be? Tell me what you think of it! Do you have a special space in your home, that helps keep you organized and everything managed? Please tell us about it, and leave any ideas you may have for us as well.  Thanks so much for coming by and looking!

3 Little Garden Chairs / Refinishing

 There’s been these 3 little chairs, sitting in our basement for years now.  One of my husband Michael’s clients offered them to him, knowing we had triplets, and thinking maybe we could use them.  They are about toddler size. So he brought them home, and they’ve been in the basement ever since. I’ve never been a primary-colors kind of girl.  I thought maybe I would repaint them or do something with them at some point, for the kids, or maybe as available props for my photography studio.   But, I was just never inspired to ‘have-at’ them.

Until of course, I was.

I know these are ugly. Please don’t leave! I promise you, it gets much better! We were hauling out all kinds of things out of our basement that needed to GO, for our yard sale. Michael put these chairs out there, and when I saw them I said, “Hey! We’re not selling these! I could make them into cute little garden chairs!”  Well then….there was my inspiration.  The idea hit me for the first time, and flew out of my mouth. (As most thoughts do, if you must know. But I’m getting better.)  As so as it was, I was finally inspired to do something with these 3 little chairs.

The challenge was the primary colors of paint that was already on them.  Yes, I was going to paint them anyway, but I was NOT going to NOT distress them. And I sure as heck was NOT going to strip them.  They didn’t mean enough to me, to work that hard.  I mean, I love to paint, and to sand, and even to wax.  But stripping off paint? Not so much. So the primary colors underneath were staying, and I was starting to imagine, they were going to look pretty cool when I was done!

I’ll say right here, that I didn’t take photos of every step of the process.  But I think you all know what painting and sanding looks like. I DID take a whole bunch of photos of the chairs all done though! Lots. Those are the more fun photos you all like to see most, right. Because there was no special complicated process. I will tell you just how I did it right now, which was easy as 1-2-3, and then you can see so many photos I had so much fun taking as well, simply to show you.

Since I had 3 chairs, I thought it would be perfect to use the cans of the 3 colors of Annie Sloan chalk paints that I still had: Provence, Versailles, and Paris Grey. So, 1) I painted each one those colors.  It was actually very scattered painting sessions over a period of a few weeks, and my girls helped some too when they wanted to.  2) Then I distressed them to my liking. (That means, a lot of sanding. ; )

3) Lastly, I waxed them with my Annie Sloan waxes.  It was especially important for them to be waxed, because I knew they were going to be left outside in all kinds of weather. So they needed some kind of protection, to preserve all of my efforts, of making them into cute little garden chairs around our homestead.  I did wax each chair one at a time, from start to finish.  First I did the clear wax all over a chair, let it set up a bit, but before it was completely dry, I worked in some dark wax where I wanted it, to give them a more antiqued, aged look. It kind of has to be done that way, because the dark wax is potent stuff. It only takes a little bit, and if the clear wax is too dried, it is hard to rub off – or even rub around, the dark wax. So that is always the little bit tricky part, as well as wicked messy and sticky and stinky. But I’ll tell you what, this point in my project process really proved even to me, how much I love furniture refinishing! Because it was also sunny and hot this day.  But I was out on our deck working away in the sun, sweating my a*# off (but wouldn’t you know it, it’s still all there!), but singing and rocking out to the music, with that nasty sock on my busy hands, and having a ball!

Or I might of been high on wax fumes. Hard to say. But it was fun! That much I’m sure of.

Not much chatting left. Just a ton of photos, and some tidbits I think you might like to know.

Here you can see a couple of things, that really make these chairs beautiful to me. Knowing the primary colors underneath were going to show, I was careful in deciding which paint color was going on which chair. So here is the (Annie Sloan) Provence, on the dark blue.  You can also best see in this photo, the dark wax work, that helps make the chair look more aged.

 And a bunch of photos, where I have this one right now . . . . . .

Do you love it? I do!! I love the color, and I love where it is, with the daisies and the white picket fence there.  What I don’t love, is our yard. You may have noticed the lack of real grass. We pretty much just have crabgrass, and fine sand. I don’t much like the cement steps either. But, we have decided to hold off a bit and not invest in our grounds anymore, until we make some other pretty big decisions.  So, we make due, with making ugly . . . pretty, best we can for now.

Next up, is the one that was yellow chair, which I painted Versailles.  It’s out front with the garden beds, next to the covered bench and potting bench . . . . . .

Again, you can really see the paint underneath, where I excessively sanded, just the right amount. : )  You can also see the dark wax work, which only adds some character to it, to me. And do you see where the paint dripped? Some may think that is some imperfection. But I see it, and it makes me smile and feel happy. Because it reminds me of the memory, that my little girl was helping me paint this chair.

 And lastly, is the red chair, that I painted Paris Grey! I really wasn’t sure where I was going to put this one. So I just stuck it under the apple tree, and it seemed to look like it was at home there. Funny thing is . . . . . . it’s not at our home. (Yikes!)

The apple tree is not actually ours, nor on our property of course. Just over the line, but we pretend it’s ours. The owner is not usually around at all, and Michael does manage the property. (My excuse to take such liberties.) But she’s coming tomorrow for a week, so we’ll see if I get my hand slapped, or she kicks it back to our side, along with the birdhouse. And if I get arrested or anything, I’ll surely let you know. Because we’ll need to collect some bail!  (You all would help me get out. Right?!  Say yes.)

Care to sit for a spell, in the cool shade of the apple tree?

See? I really go to town, with my sand paper!  This one even has a little broken piece. Again = love.

 I always say . . . . . . it’s the little things, that make me so happy.

Thanks for taking a stroll around my gardens with me. (We literally, walked around the garden beds.) I always love when you visit us here, so please come again. We invite you to join us on Facebook too.

Doors to Storage. (Literally.)

We’re guessing many of you love to see little home transformations, and creative spaces, as we do, and that’s just what we hope to share with you today.  The photos we share will likely explain what we have done. But if you have just a bit of time, grab a drink of choice, and let us amuse you with a little more about the birth of this project.

We’ve heard some people try to ‘ keep up with the Jones’. But that’s not our style.  I’m sure they’re really nice peeps, and all. But they don’t run in our circles, and even if they did, I doubt we’d want or care what they have, even if we could  afford a thing.  No, our wants and needs are really quite simple. If not a little off-beat sometimes, I suppose.

What we would love to keep up with, is ourselves, and our own plans and ideas.  Michael and I enjoy walking around our home and yard, chat, brainstorm, and hatch a plan, that continues to make the best of our little piece of the world. Our ideas always have a purpose, whether they are to create a sense of decor, efficiency, organization, to save money, or simply to amuse ourselves because we think it’s cool. Many times, it’s all of the above. One thing is for sure; 100’s of plans have been laid out between us, in detail, and never come to fruition, whether it was intended to be done right away or not. Time and/or funds usually hold up the process a bit, until we’ve forgotten we even had the plan!  Sometimes, new plans and ideas have been made over the old ones we forgot, or remember we had.  And we always have more, than we could ever realistically get to, anyway.  It’s craziness, actually. So priority is the key, and some things just need to be dealt with once and for all.

Case in point is this hot mess, known as our shoes issue.  First, you should know, “I” am the kind of person, that really prefers one take off their shoes, before walking around the house.  Not because we have any fancy home, or carpet that mustn’t get dirty for appearances sake.  But, because of the things I notice in the world around me, the things I think of, and the things I know dang well those shoes have walked through.

Take for example, (just to make the most of my point), those teenage/adolescent boys you see walking through parking lots from point A to B, when you suddenly see and hear them do a big collecting sniff of sorts, hack it up, and just let it fly out onto the parking lot ground.  It turns-my-stomach. I’ve seen/heard it hundreds of times, and I have told my boys every time, “Don’t you EVAH, in your life time, do that.  I don’t care if you are 36. That is absolutely dis-gust-ting, rude and UNacceptable.” To which they reply, “We know Mama. You tell us that every time.”  So along with 100 other examples I could give (I’ll spare you), I simply know it’s a small sample of what is on the bottom of anyone’s shoes, and I really do not want to know such disgust is all over the floors of my home.

I’ll take earth-dirty-feet over that kind of what-nots, any day of the week.

So that helps explain all of the shoes, along the walls of our sun room, right inside our front door.  Keep in mind, this is also the room with our wood stove, and one of our family tables where we often eat and school, half the time. We originally imagined it as a cozier room for reading and such, possibly with a chaise lounge chair or 2, and an area rug under the table. Not the feel we had going here. Using the table for eating and schooling the other half of the time, it is the room we enter when we come home, and through which guests come as well. With only our shoes for that season out, with 6 of us, it’s too many. Any, is too many, for me.  It’s actually worse then you see. At the time of this photo, some had just been put away, and 5 other pairs were busy walking around in the world of what-not.  The bottom line is this:  the sight of these shoes always puts me in a bad mood. It looks terrible, and we are always tripping over them.  So, for a couple of years now, our plan was to build a storage bench along the wall you see. We had designed it right down to the details, and frankly, the shoes could never let us forget that plan.  It’s just been on a list of many things we’re been trying to get to.  But we finally did, with a whole new spin, and we’re about to show you.

But completely related, you need to see this…..

This is in (in part) our school room. If I ever took photos of these floor cabinets Michael built for our school room 4-5 years ago, I cannot find them.  So this photo and the one below, will have to give you an idea.  There are 3 of them along the 1/2 wall adjoining the kitchen.


If you can possibly look past one of our adorable boy when he was starting 1st grade, you will better see the size of these cabinets.  Michael did an great job, and they served us well in this room for 5 years.  But as of late I decided they are really (way) more specious inside, than we actually need, for our school books and materials. Very roomy.  And we probably did not need so much table-top space either.  As a whole, they take up a lot of space in this room, where there is also another long table and chairs, and where we also tend to gather to eat and school.

Since the sun room was meant to be cozier and loungier than it is, we thought a good first step, is to not let it be the door we come inside the house through, for one.  The back door would probably be better for that.  But there was still the shoes issue. We still needed somewhere to sit down and take our shoes off, and somewhere to store all of those shoes. What we did not need, was quite so much storage space, for all of our schooling materials.   I forget now exactly when, but the 2 matters collided at some point in my head, and ideas started rapidly coming together.  It was likely in the shower, which tends to be my most productive think-tank, but if that is TMI for you, disregard.

The gist of it all was….get rid of the big spacious cabinets in the school room, build some kind of more shallow shelving instead, and move this whole storage bench idea to the school room, where we should really enter the house from now on. A-hA!!  Then we can do better with the sun room! But that would be getting ahead of ourselves here.

I also had an idea of how/where else we could use the big cabinets, but that too is for another time. In a nutshell, they were moved elsewhere, and it occurred to me that it would probably come out pretty cool, and save us big-time in material costs, to build our storage bench and shelves, out of old doors.

In a matter of days, we had found 4 doors on ebay offered for dirt cheap, just a hop, skip, and maybe 2 jumps, from us. Michael arranged to meet the guy to take a look, and he brought them home. (2 of them from this photo were already moved to the school room.) The doors were dirty, and somewhat mismatched, but that was all workable.

Show and tell will go fast from here I think.All 4 doors were re-purposed in this project(s).

I loved the features on these old doors, and I knew I’d probably rough things up some more, from here.

First Michael relocated the huge cabinets to other locations. The floor space we gained just doing that, was unreal. Then, put up some leftover bead-board we had, as the back wall.

Then a bit of measuring and taking a moment to think things through, and we started to build.

The doors were sawed into half the long ways, as well as proper sized-pieces, for various parts, and we were able to start putting it together.   We wanted it a good height to sit on, and have as much room on the inside, to store/hide the abundance of shoes.

As you can see, the bench unit, using the doors, was built 3 sided, simply using the back wall as the back of the unit.   And all of our shoes fit in there perfectly.


Without all of the shoes inside yet, here is what the bottom looks like.  These removable racks are a feature we came up with, even when the plans was to build traditional storage benches in the front sun room:   The shoes we take off when we come indoors are not only dirty/sandy, but often times wet too.  I know what a mess the elements from the shoes made on the floor, so I had thought of that in terms of the inside of the bench, and what a pain it would be again, to move each pair of shoes, to vacuum up the sand and dirt.


So we built these shoe racks out out of strapping and chicken wire, so that a whole rack with shoes on it, could be lifted out, and we could vacuum underneath.  They would also keep the shoe off the floor of the bench, so they could dry easier.


At the same time, we were not only building the storage bench with our old doors, but wall shelves beside it, for all of our school books and materials.


I know it’s quirky, but I really love this part of the door-shelves.  I knew the doorknob would serve purpose, aside from looking cool. The sharpener simply needed to be relocated from elsewhere, as it ended up being located in such a way they we could no longer use it, without moving it, and this was the best place for it.

As you can see, a lot of the doors were beat-up, and the dark wood of the original door showed through. I liked that.  But a few parts of the structures were also necessarily built with new wood.

Such as the shelving itself, built with new wood.  So there was still some distressing and aging to do anyway, on new wood and not, which I did with course sand paper, and dark wax, to properly stain and age the new wood, with the old.


Here is the lid to the storage unit open, pre-distressed. Obviously a door, but this side was painted by the original owner more recently, it appeared.  To add interest, and of course organization and function, we added a collection of old and mismatched doorknobs along the wall above it.


Here’s a better look as you step back and look at it as a whole. Again, we obviously used doors, and we intended for it to remain obvious, keeping every lock , doorknob and door feature we could.

Coming into the house using the back door, we come in and sit down on the bench to take off our shoes, and put them inside.  I should add, we will be putting down a mud runner, from the backdoor to along the front of this bench.  The little kids can hang their jackets and hats on the doorknobs, which is much easier for them as they cannot reach well in the coat closet that is in the room.  Yes, some coats will be too long to hang completely, leaving the bottom of the coats to sit on the bench, but that’s fine.  Scarves, bags and all kinds of accessories can be hung on the knobs too.


The top shelves are for what you can see, as well as some of our music books.  I have many more of my teacher and resource school books that I plan to move from other shelves in the house to these upper ones, for my own use. But the depth we made the door shelves was just right for our needs.


The lower shelves are for the kid’s school books, and more of my every day teacher books.  As you can see, we found immediate use for this original doorknob, as well.


The kids hang their recorder instruments there. Perfect!

I forgot to take photos of the bench with the lid closed, before we embellished it just a little bit.  But in closing this post, I wanted to give you a better look at the finished bench and shelves.


In an upcoming post, we will share with you the embellishments details you see, and how exactly we did it, with a surprise inside as well! But that’s pretty much the finished project as a whole.

We have found the entire project to serve us much better. It’s all so much more convenient, functional, and we think, has a cool factor.  I would think it’s the kind of thing that one would either love, or hate.  And I wonder, would features such as these, have a negative 0r positive impact on the ability to sell a house, should the time arise?  What do you think? We personally love the uniqueness and interesting features of people’s homes, and this fits right in with why we love ours. Everyone’s tastes vary, and so our feelings could never be hurt. But we’re curious to know what you think of this idea?  Is it cool, creative, or downright crazy?

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Big Furniture Refinish } A Work of Heart

(‘Before’ thumbnail. The ‘After’ is a must see!)

This is the biggest piece of furniture I have refinished, yet.  (Well, my husband did very kindly help me. I worked pretty hard on it too, though.)

But as big of a job as it was for my hands, it was a much bigger job, for my heart.

This is my mother’s dresser.  My mother passed away very suddenly, a little more than 6 years ago, at the time of this posting. (2005).  Her passing hit me like a train, and threw me into a grieving like I had never known. In the state of fog & hurt I lived in, one month after another, the only thing I was aware of at all, was the depth of grief my father was in. It was hard to watch him go through all he was. I honestly don’t know which hurt more.

This dresser was the only one my mother ever had, in all of my years growing up, since the day I was born.   Except for a few sets of sheets, the drawers of it have been empty for the past few years, since my sister and I cleaned out my mother’s clothing together. But the rest of the house my father has kept exactly, as my mother had it. People say things to him about that, but he can’t understand why anyone thinks he would change anything.

My youngest daughter had moved out of the bedroom she had shared with her triplet brothers, and into her very own room.  I gave her my old white iron twin daybed, from my adolescent years, but she still needed a bureau of some kind.  One night, as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I got to thinking about what kind of dresser would go best in her room, and when I came up with a long dresser with a mirror, I immediately got thinking about my mother’s.


My intention right along, had been to find an antique or used dresser somewhere in my hunting, and refinish it.  We don’t buy much of anything new.  But when I remembered my mother’s, I knew I had more thinking to do.  You see, I knew my father wasn’t going to use it again.  He has the tall dresser, that goes with this one. When he sells the house, I knew he would either sell the dresser in an estate sale, or sell it with the house.  But one way or another, he wouldn’t be taking it with him, because he didn’t need it.

My issue was, the dark finish and style of the dresser, didn’t go with {O}’s room at all, or our home style in general.  But, when it comes to sentimental matters, I am also the type, that doesn’t like things to change. I want everything to stay the same – which is why I take such comfort in going to my parent’s home, where my father is, and everything is just as my mother left it. My mother would be there too, if I had any say in that.

So the idea of refinishing this dresser, of my mother’s, was hard to think about.  Just the vision of it, just as is, with every detail, brings back memories. It’s such a part of my history, and my parent’s.  But it was either refinish it, or let the whole thing go to some stranger, who never even knew my mother.   Changing it, was a easier to handle, then letting it go altogether.

I talked to Michael about it the next morning, and called my father that afternoon, to ask him about it.  I was tentative, to tell him about the refinishing part.  (Yikes!) He did pause for a second of silence, when I got to that part of my plan.  But I wasn’t sure in the moment, if it bothered him because it was my mother’s, or if he didn’t get why I would do that.  I guessed it was the latter, knowing him pretty well, and a couple of questions later, I found I was right.  I figured, even if he was OK with me refinishing it, he wouldn’t understand why I would bother.  (Because he wouldn’t even think of it….because it works as is!)   “Why would you do that?”  “Because Dad, it doesn’t go with her room.  At all.”  I could hear him trying to wrap his brain around it.  He’s just a simple guy, who is not at all about home decor, etc.  If it works, it’s good! If it’s comfortable, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.  But he was fine with whatever I wanted to do with the dresser.  And he insisted on bringing it down to us, even though Michael had every intention of going out to western MA to get it.

I knew he would insist on driving it down, and as soon as possible.  He always makes sure we understand, “Anything you guys ever need, just ask me.  I mean it.” He means it.  There is nothing he wouldn’t do for us.  The dresser arrived in the back of his van, which arrived in our driveway, that weekend.

It was a beautiful day, so we got right to sanding it down, before it even came into the house. I did need to take a deep breathe, and push my hesitancy away, before I let the sander hit the surface.  But after I took some ‘before’ photos!

I could see the dresser, all refinished just as I wanted it, in my head.  I went to Home Depot myself that week, and found what I was hoping I would, for the original hardware – which I definitely wanted to keep!  It was the design of the hardware, that that really marked the dresser as my mother’s, and part of my parent’s set.

The spray paint I chose, was brushed nickel.

The tone was so beautiful

The dresser itself, was a whole lot of work.  A lot.  Sanding, painting, steel wooling, and the high & smell of denatured alcohol, that was stuck in my head.  It was a big piece to work on. So much to it. My hands took a beating.

But the labor of it all, was therapeutic in a way, too.  It was a process I needed to go through.  Accepting change, and looking it in the eye, whether it is easy, or welcome, or not.  Knowing inside, that the only thing that is ever guaranteed to never change, is the memories born in the minutes & years that pass by.

Time marches on.

The dresser came out absolutely beautiful, I think.  I totally love it, refinished.  It now goes so perfectly, with the rest of {O}’s bedroom.

But it’s funny to me that, as completely different as it looks now, I somehow still see my mother’s dresser.


Every time I see the hardware, I am back in my parent’s bedroom(s), or I actually hear in my head, the clinking sound it makes, when the drawer is closed and the handle is let go.  I heard it for 21 years, or something.


The dresser has new history now.

{O} now has her grandmother’s dresser, and she watched her parent’s refinish it with love, just for her.

I can’t tell you how many times, I used this big mirror myself, growing up in a house with 5 kids, and one bathroom.

I can even easily imagine the many things of my mother’s on the dresser top, that were there for so many years.

{O} is slowly covering it, with her own things, now.

She knows it’s her Meme’s dresser, and it makes her happy to have it in her room, and call it her own, now.

Things change.  It’s a part of life.

And yet some matters of the heart, inside, never do.

No matter what it looks like, on the outside.


Sometimes, letting go, is all we can do.

While we hold on to whatever we can, as best we can.

I’m so happy I thought of getting my mother’s dresser, before it was too late.

I miss her so very much,  and it was hers.

Nothing I do to it, can ever change that.


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