Monday, September 26, 2011

The Chairs Redo

I hated my kitchen table and chairs.  They were a garage sale find from my husband’s bachelor days, and I honestly couldn’t wait to have some money to buy a new table set.  

Because food to put on the table is more sensible than a beautiful table with starving grad-students, I figured that I would just deal with what I’ve got. They were a wooden Windsor dining chair, the early-American kind you can find anywhere for about $50 / chair.

I stumbled across these chairs at, and if you check out the prices you might fall out of that ugly chair: $615 at! They make the old and outdated so bright and inviting. 

I knew what had to be done: paint!

My first instinct was to paint it that pretty cobalt blue from my office, but I chose to actually coordinate the two rooms that are next to each other.  My living room (although it is NOT finished) has African colors and pieces from my multiple trips to Africa. It is very earthy and warm, and the stark contrast of the blue might be nice, but my kitchen is bright reds and yellows, so the small space would look like Skittles exploded.  No bueno.

I initially chose a “rust” color in my head, the red/orange color you think of when you see an African sunset as it would coordinate with both rooms that it met with. I set off to all spray paint stores that I knew of in the area to find it; however, 2 hours and 3 stores later, I gave up on the ‘rust’ color and decided to go with something more practical. In the moment during a huff of frustration I chose bright orange. I thought it would work because the antequated style and modern color would make it awesome, rather than just weird. 

Here are the steps I took to make the chairs awesome:

1.     Clean to get any grime off of chair
2.     Used medium grade sander to remove finish
3.     Clean again to remove dust from sanding
4.     Prime! I used the low VOC one so that I could do it while watching a movie
5.     Used fine grade sander to even finish out
6.     Clean again to remove dust from sanding
7.     Spray paint!
8.     Repeat steps 5 & 6
9.     I applied a second coat of paint to make it look awesome

Here are the chairs at the table!  Now I love it.  I feel so chic.  What do you think?
Happy Painting! 

The Lewis Dots

Yes, my cat Jazz did want to be involved, so he got into the primer, see the white stuff on his bum? So I allowed him to be in the final shot. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's My Party and I'll DIY If I Want To

Last night my hubby and I held my birthday party at our home! Hubby suggested we have the drinks and food after dinner at our place rather than going out because it would be more intimate.  I certainly cannot throw a party without going over the top, so I went a little crazy!

I got in from work that morning after working 3 am - 11am, an hour longer than I was supposed to because it was very busy, and still hadn't made the cupcakes or frosting yet (because I am a snob and want them as fresh as possible), but hubby made me promise to relax and made cookies to go with ice cream instead.  He wanted to get a store bought cake and I would have rather cancel the party than buy a store bought cake; I have worked as a pastry chef and can tell by taste a box-mix or from scratch, and I just couldn't do it.  Cookies and Ice Cream were great anyways!


Sugar cookies with orange meringue icing
Fluffy chocolate chip cookies
Parmesean pastry puff twists
White fizzy sangria

Because it was 60's modern, my colors were orange, pink, and green, which sound crazy but looked really nice after my chairs were complete.  I made the pretty puffs in a variety of sizes and colors, then hung them stylistically around the home.  I used dental floss for the "string" so my teeth might be hating me later...

The party was a total success - everyone enjoyed the food, music, games, and most of all, me!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wall Art Design, first draft

Now that the bookcase and end table have been completed, let's move to the white walls.  Because I rent, I can't change the wall color without having to change it back in a year, which sound horrendous. What's a cute couple to do about the walls? Make them look like you intended them to be white.

I chose to do a black and white color scheme not only because it is masculine (and actually the hubby's office), but also because it incorporates the white walls into the design.

First, as with any project, measure out what you are working with.  The office previously had nothing on this big white wall next to a big white desk, very bland.  Instead of putting a bunch of holes in the walls and seeing what I liked there, I tried multiple arrangements and shapes, turning frames sideways if the pictures or art was removable.

I started with multiple frames / photos / art that I put on the floor (also with stylish purse hanging open nearby, but let's ignore that because it isn't going on the walls). See that yellow line behind the art? That's the tape measure to make sure I didn't go over the desired area.

If I had eventually chosen that design, a great way to make PERFECT replica on the wall is to lay the design on parchment paper, then trace frames onto paper.  Tape the paper to the wall, and nail through the paper to the wall.  Rip paper off dramatically and voila!  Perfect.

I, however, had to drastically simplify my design because (if you can see above) I have great frames but  no pictures to go in them. I bought a bunch of funky frames at Goodwill because I liked the varying sizes, shapes, and textures of the frames, but haven't quite decided what pictures I want to go in them.

I also simply photocopied two color pictures to make the scheme work.  I really like Young House Love's hallway design, especially their incorporation of color.

I'm not in love with it yet, but it works for now.  I like how abstract and off-kilter it feels.

Anyone have any ideas?  I'd love to hear what you think!

the Lewis dots

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Bookcase Redesign

Hello, friends!

As published in an earlier post, I am walking you through the process of redesigning my office on a minute budget.

This time we are examining a bookcase I hated.  See it to the right, and you will hate it too.  It is an old, laminate bookcase that has been beat up.  Upon first glance this fella doesn't have much hope.

I was inspired by Emily Henderson (she is my style idol) and her redesign of a bookcase. Yes, hers was with good wood and great design, but I learned that if you paint only the back of the shelf, you help the design of the case pop!  You notice the shape of the shelves and its contents rather than the color.  Your eye goes through the case to the objects, so your design of the objects better be interesting as well.

1. I started by cleaning the bookcase, scraping off any residue. This part is doable by everyone.

2. Sand down! I didn't mention this in my earlier post because laminate is not quite as important to take off prior finishes.  For this project especially, because nothing is sitting on the painted area (the backing) it isn't as important that the paint be ultra durable.  Just that it looks even and pretty.  I used a medium grade sander by hand because I can't yet afford a professional sander.

3. Prime! For large, flat areas I cannot express how much you should use a roller.  It just makes your life easier and the paint looks amazing afterwards (I know this because there are some areas that I skimped on it and the final product is not as professional looking). Use a low VOC paint and you can paint indoors!

4. Sand again? This, again, I didn't mention in my earlier post, but sanding after each step of paint and primer makes it look so much more professional.  I used a fine grade sander in between each coat of primer and / or paint.

5. Clean again? I bet you are saying, For reals, LewisDots! Why do you keep repeating steps? Because, reader, I have learned from experience that doing multiple small steps in between the process will make the end product look impeccable.  After you sand, you may feel like you have all of the residue off, but clean it again with a chemical solution and you will find all sorts of nastiness on the rag. To get your paint to stick effectively you should make sure nothing is in between your layers, such as dirt.

6. Finally paint! Oh yes, the fun part.  You could use a spray paint, but this bookcase is bulky and hard to move, so I used a roll-on blue that matched the color of my prior table. In the picture you can see a paint brush, but that is just for the edges. I am not at my most chic during my painting projects...

7. Sand again - see step 4 above

8. Paint again!

Enjoy your work!

What do you all think of the final product?  I will do a post on bookcase styling next.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My first project!

Before getting married, I thought I didn't have any furniture.  After getting married, I was shocked to find that my husband and I had TOO MUCH! Our tiny home looked like a hodgepodge of 80's laminate and hand-me-down items.  Not my idea of chic, even when I came from a background of Anthropologie and love the perfectly mismatched.  My husband and I also live on grad-school incomes and don't have extra cash to justify a beautiful new endtable or custom curtains; we have to re-imagine what we've got.

I started with painting the laminate endtable, thinking that if they looked terrible I could just throw them out and no one would know better. I was inspired by Centsational Girl's credenza, and decided to follow a similar pattern.  

This is what I started with: nothing special. 
1. Clean the table well - let dry

2. Prime  - with smaller surface areas (legs, sides, etc) I found it easier to spray or use a small brush.  With larger areas (top) I used a roller brush, but it will leave a rougher texture.  I primed twice to be safe.

3. Tape off desired area to stay white.  I measured and was meticulous about taping because that blue will run!  I have read that you can paint the same color over the taped area to prevent bleeding, but I didn't feel that was necessary with the design I used. 

4. Paint! As you can see below, my trusty partner Jazz was there for moral support and general malarky.

I have multiple projects I've finished after starting the journey of redecorating my home.  This is the first - so easy and so cute!  The pattern is a 20's inspired modern, which is great with my other girly furniture, and works really well with the vibrant blue.  

Overall, I think this table is a success! And it will be even cuter in my newly designed office - below you can see how it is styled, but I 'm not set on it yet. Let me know what you think.  

the lewis dots

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And it begins

I recently read of another blogger's site: "Most people think that when you get married and move to a small town you should get pregnant. I started a blog" (thank you, Although I love this philosophy, I am also documenting what transformations I can make on a grad-school budget, from furniture to fashion to food.  Wish me luck!