Category Archives: before & after


furniture redo: a navy and gold dresser

1st August 2014

We basically just needed one piece of furniture for the bunkie, besides bunk beds, and that was a dresser.

I searched the online used sites for quite a few weeks, but it was tricky as the dresser had to be a fairly specific size that didn’t seem to be popular. I was spotting either really tall, narrow dressers (“tallboys”) or long, large dressers. I needed something in between, but not as small as a nightstand. And I didn’t want anything too ornate or with french country lines. Oh, and it had to be solid wood. No laminate. After a while, I finally spotted a fairly basic, solid wood dresser for $50 and snatched it up.

I totally forgot to take a before photo (bad blogger!!), but I knew exactly what colour I wanted to paint it for our by-the-lake bunkie. Can you guess?


Ha. Navy probably isn’t too surprising, huh?

The colour is called Fly by Night Blue by Valspar, which my Mum and I picked up when we were down at the Lowe’s in the States. It’s a paint & primer in one (semi gloss) that is meant for furniture and other high use areas.


My mum painted it and in the end did 3 coats, with a light sanding between each. The glossiness of the paint did show some of the imperfections in the wood, which is a bit annoying. It’s really only visible in certain bright light though, so it really isn’t the end of the world. Not sure if I would use this paint again for a similar application, though..


For the hardware, I wanted to go with brass. I am smitten with a navy + brass combo. Classic, don’t you think?

I hit up Lee Valley Tools (my go-to place for hardware) and came across these small rectangular antique brass pulls (“A” in the link). They were $3.70 a piece, so it was under $30 for all six.



And here is the full dresser in all its navy + brass glory. This was when we first brought it into the bunkie (sneak peak at some of the other accessories!)…

And once we hung the mirror and started to style it a little.

DSC_0604A little cottage chic, wouldn’t you say? I know I still need to get to the actual bunk beds in the bunkie… but I need my Dad to chime in on that one as he was the one who did the building/assembling.

Have you guys been re-doing any furniture lately? Where do you go to get new hardware? Oh, and happy long weekend to my fellow Canadians. We’re off for a girlfriends wedding today and tomorrow in Toronto, and then spending a night at a beautiful Inn in Prince Edward County on Sunday for our wedding anniversary. 3 nights without Maya – our longest stretch ever. We’re like giddy teenagers over here.


project nursery: the dresser

21st May 2013

Hey guys! Hope you had a nice weekend (it was a long one up here in Canada!). We had such a nice relaxing 3 days at the family cottage in the adirondacks with our pals. Exactly what the Doctor ordered! Feeling well-rested and caught up on a few things.

So back to the nursery where we left off last week. There are three major pieces of furniture we knew we were going to need to buy for our nursery/office: the desk (we picked that out here), a crib (yet to buy), and a dresser. I knew I wanted a solid dresser that I could customize, so I started trolling the used sale ads (Kijiji, Craigslist, etc) and thrift stores religiously.

I had some fairly specific wants. The dresser had to fit the area between our closet and desk — many were either way too long (most 6 drawer and 9 drawer dressers were too long) or too short – I didn’t want anything too small that wouldn’t take advantage of the space. Secondly, I wanted something with clean lines that had nice legs to keep dresser from looking too bottom-heavy. Lastly, I was hoping to find something solid wood and well-made.

After about a month of searching, this lovely creature popped up. It totally fit my specs, was on budget at $80. Winning!


First step was to remove the hardware and give the whole piece a once-over with my palm sander.


Then I grabbed my wood filler and filled in all of the holes from where the hardware was and a few little dings.DSC_0933

I let that dry for about 24 hours before going back again with some sandpaper to smooth it all out.


After a rub down with a wet cloth to make sure the whole thing was free of dust, I broke open the paint. The colour? The same pink mistint that I used in the closet. After seeing what a perfect shade it was, I was smitten and ready to use it on other pieces throughout the room. Plus, part of the reason for painting the room white was so that I could inject colour through the furniture.


I gave the dresser and the drawers three coats to make sure it was all really well covered. I wasn’t stopping there though. See the detailing on the drawer fronts? I thought it would be fun to highlight those by giving the drawers a gold border.


My first attempt was to try out these oil-based sharpie markers. I grabbed them from Michael’s when they were on sale a little while ago, thinking that they might be easier than paint when I want a little gold or silver accent.

Although it started out promising…DSC_0939

…once I got to the long edge, it was just way to tricky to keep it running smoothly. The paint would come out of the marker in big gushes and was really hard to control. So I gave up and covered up this disaster with some more pink paint.  DSC_0943

So attempt #2 was gold acrylic paint. The frustrating thing here was that the paint I had went on reaaaaally thinly. The first coat was barely visible, so I had to go over it 3 times. When you’re trying to keep a really precise line, having to do so many coats just ups the chances of little squiggles. I could have put some painters tape down, but I was nervous about it pulling the pink paint off and just not getting a crisp line (and having to start from scratch again). 


But I stayed patient and ultimately ended up with a pretty decent gold line along my six drawers. Sure there are a few spots that bug me, but when you stand back from the drawers you can’t really tell.


The last step before re-installing some hardware and putting the dresser back together was to give the whole thing a few coats of varathane. Because the top of this dresser will be used as a change table, and since I had only used regular wall paint (nothing high gloss), a layer of a protective sealant is really key. Two coats of this varathane (which I find to be totally non-yellowing) did the trick. I usually apply with a simple foam brush and make sure to leave a good 3-4 hours between coats. Oh and do this outside as it’s stinky stuff.DSC_0979

I wanted some fun brass hardware, so went to Lee Valley Tools (a Canadian store that carries a huge line of hardware, among other things) and browsed through the different pulls. I liked the look of some of the inset ones that you would see on campaign style dressers, and some simple brass rings, but ultimately decided on these rectangular ones. They reminded me of library drawers, and the fact that I could throw some labels in them sealed the deal (labels = my jam).DSC_0960

We measured and marked each drawer so that they would all align and be centered.DSC_0961

And then hubby came and helped me drill them in. They were flat head screws, which can be a little unwieldy to get in (I had a hard time keeping the drill from bumping around).DSC_0962

But once those were all in, I just slid those drawers into the dresser and she was a beaut! Seriously though, isn’t the pink + gold such a sweet combo? I’m smitten.DSC_0964




Oh and I forgot to mention that the insides of the drawers are pure mahogany (!!). I totally didn’t realize this until I was saying to my Mum that I might line them, and she quickly had a look and told me what great quality they were. DSC_0968

And the drawers themselves are all dove-tailed. Again this is where buying used can be so great. The pieces are so solid and well-made compared to the mass manufactured stuff we often buy these days.DSC_0970


And look at this great big blank wall space above the dresser. Can you say gallery wall? I’ve got plans, yo.

dresser - collageHave you guys made over a piece of furniture lately? I find I put it off, but once I get started I always realize what an easy transformation it really is. Plus, you can customize things to be exactly the colour and look you’re going for. Got anything lurking in your garage or basement that’s waiting for a coat of paint? I know I do!


my take/her take: thrifted tray gone cute

25th July 2012

My pal Tanya, blogger extroadinaire from Dans Le Townhouse, and I have done a little bit of thrifting lately. We decided it would be kinda fun to do a “my take/her take”  on something we could find two of in the thrift shops. We looked around for frames, lamps, or other tchotchkes but were coming up short-handed. Luckily though, Tanya found two metal trays in a “free” pile when she was out garage sale-ing, and snapped ’em up. I popped over to her place to pick mine up and brought it back home for a little DIY action.

Here is what I was starting with.

Although I love Nova-Scotia and was kinda digging the plaid around the edge, it was time to give this bad boy a little makeover.  I debated a few different options – chalkboard tray, stenciling on a pattern, turning it into a little message center, but since I have been working on a friend’s nursery, I seem to have baby rooms on the brain. So, I figured I would do something a little kid friendly.

First up was to prime and spray paint the tray. I used the same primer and cornflower blue colour that I used recently in this mason jar project.

Then I traced and cut out some shapes from leftover scrapbook paper. One in a circle shape for the center of the tray, and the other in a moose. Just a little bit of Canadiana fun.

I used decoupage to glue the pieces of paper to the tray. You want to put a very thin layer on the back of the paper, press it down, and then do a few thin coats on top. Too gooey and you’ll end up with bumps and lumps in your paper. I also did a quick spray of an acrylic sealer, just to make sure it was all set for use.

And this is how it ended up! Just a little fun, with a pop of colour and pattern.

The tray could be used on top of a dresser to corral small little knicks and knacks, or could easily be hung on a wall as artwork.

So, if you have a tray kicking around or see one in a “free stuff” pile, pick it up and do a little decoupage! Easy peasy, with a fun result. Now go on and pop on over to Tanya’s blog to see what she did with her tray… !

before + after: an easy chair makeover

4th June 2012

Good Monday morning, folks! Hope you all had a good weekend. It was pretty rainy and gray here, so other than a charity event I attended on Saturday night, the rest of my weekend was spent sleeping and lounging around the house. Not bad to have one of those every now and then.

Anyway, I thought I would share a chair makeover I did a little while ago. This is one of those projects that anybody can do – no special crafty/DIY skill necessary.

I started with this chair I picked up at a garage sale quite some time ago (I grabbed 3 identical ones actually – all for $20). The body of the chair was in great condition, but the upholstery was leaving a little something to be desired and the wood was looking a little tired.

Step 1 was to take off the seat and give this guy a coat of paint. I just used an old can of paint I had from a different project, since I liked the neutral putty colour. Since the paint was not high gloss, I knew it would wear pretty easily, so I put a thin coat of varathane on top to seal it all (the same varathane I used in this project).

Then it was time to recover the seat. Sorry, butter yellow floral, you’re just a little outdated.

Like when I reupholstered our dining room chairs, you want to cut your fabric to size, pull it tightly over the seat, and then use a staple gun to secure it on the back. This seat had some rounded corners, so I just had to do my best to keep it smooth and un-wrinkled.

This fun geometric was a fabric I picked up in England (remember my little fabric shopping spree here?). I was excited to finally put it to use somewhere!

And here she is all finished. Much better!

The chair is sitting in our dining room for now, for those times when we need an extra seat around our table. I’m not sure if we’ll keep it there for long though (we have some dining room switcharoo plans coming soon!). Either way, you can never have too many chairs, right?!

What about you guys? Done any easy DIY’s lately? Any painting or reupholstering projects? 


collin’s condo redesign: the after part 2

1st March 2012

Alright folks, you saw the after pics of the living room of my recent condo redesign project earlier this week, so I’m back with the rest (check out all the before shots here).

Here is the kitchen in all it’s after glory. Not too much changed here (the cabinets and finishes were already great), but we needed to amp up the cozy factor. I added artwork (photos, a Homesense find, and notice the chevron canvas which was a recent DIY project?). The canvas actually covers up an ugly electrical box on that wall. If you have a feature like that in your place, a canvas is a great custom way to mask it (you can find all sorts of sizes at your local arts shop).

The barstools were a favourite find of mine. I love the pop of white and chrome, and they are oh-so-comfortable (purchased for $118 on sale at Blueprint Home). The leather also means that they are easy to keep clean and will age well.

There is a small den in a nook off the main living room. I put in a sleeper sofa and this bookcase to make it feel more like a library. By day it is a sweet reading space, but at night can be turned into a guest suite at a moment’s notice.

Collin (the condo owner) didn’t have a lot of things to display other than books, so I went out to our local thrift shop, spent $30, and came up with a bunch of “chachkies” (the globe, vases, candle holders, etc). They add some interest to the bookcase styling, and he can replace them over time with more meaningful items.

The bedroom was a sore spot when we started. It was an icy baby blue that didn’t add any warmth or maturity to the space, and all of the furniture was hand-me-down and ready to be donated. See what I mean?

I kept the space fairly minimal and more masculine than the living room, but the end result is nice and crisp. I went for a warm gray on the walls, replaced the old furniture with IKEA pieces, added cozy bedding, some artwork including the big piece above the bed (again from HomeSense – hello, affordable!), and some bookshelves.

The bathroom (which leads right off the bedroom) had been originally painted the same icy blue. Again it felt cold, especially with the black floors in that space. We wanted to add a pop of colour, so an earthy lime green was just the ticket. It adds the pop, some warmth, and just makes the bathroom feel more fun.

So there is it – a redesigned condo. I think I can safely say that the owner loved the end result and feels much more at home now in his new space. I can also attest to the fact that it is a fab space for entertaining (a few dinner parties have already taken place!).

If you are looking to re-decorate your space, feel free to drop me an email to I’d be happy to help!

collin’s condo redesign: living room reveal

28th February 2012

So after talking about all the shopping and planning we did for the condo redesign project (see that here), let’s get to some after pics. Those are always the best part, right? Remember the living room before (see the rest of the before pics here)?

Well here it is looking much brighter, more contemporary, and well, finished. What do you think?

The colour scheme is pretty neutral, but mixed with pops of colour and pattern throughout. We started off with a blank slate and I just kept layering piece after piece until it felt right.

The glass coffee table is perfect for showing off the Afghanistan rug. It also doesn’t break up the space, like a chunky or dark coffee table would have.

And that buffet I scored off Kijiji for $20? Well with a coat of green/brown paint (and white on the trim details) it looks fab. It’s probably one of my favourite pieces in the whole place.

Since we were trying to keep costs down for artwork, I blew up some of the owner’s travel photos and framed them with the IKEA Ribba frames (and new bright white matte board that I grabbed from my local arts shop – Wallack’s). The big mirror over the buffet (which was a steal at around $40 from HomeSense) bounces light and makes the space feel way bigger.

The dining room table which I grabbed for $200 at an antiques shop looked great after a coat of matte black paint on the legs. It adds a nice rustic element to the space. Pushing it up against the wall means that it fits the space and two can easily sit down for a meal. When more guests come over, it’s easy to pull it out from the wall and grab the other two dining room chairs.

Oh and the piece of art above it – another steal from HomeSense at about $75.

I wanted to add in a pop of orangey/red somewhere to pull out some colour from the rug, so these built-in shelves were the perfect place to do it. They had sort of been lost to begin with, but now are definitely a feature.

So that’s it for the living room! I’ll be back later this week with the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Fun, fun!

**You can check out part 2 of this before + after reveal here**

What do you guys think of the space? Did it meet the casual-contemporary-loft look we were going for?  Do you think the mixture of high and low pieces work? 

a condo redesign

21st February 2012

I’ve been working on an exciting little design project lately. A friend of mine recently bought his first condo, moved in, and realized he didn’t know where to start to furnish and decorate the space. So he called me in to help pull the whole place together. Of course I was squealing with excitement. Design someone else’s space? Go shopping and not see the dent in my own visa bill? Try out some new ideas? I’m in.

So here are the before pics. It is a great space with a super cool vibe but was essentially a blank slate. Collin (my friend who owns the place) had a few things he loved — like his rugs from Afghanistan — but pretty much everything else was of the hand-me-down variety (forest green leather sofas, anyone?).

Here are all the before shots. It’s a one-bed, one-bath place with a big open kitchen/living/dining room area and a small den/guestroom.

There are some great features – like high ceilings with exposed piping, tall windows, and a gorgeous (and cozy) fireplace.

See what I mean about a blank slate? It looks pretty bachelor, right?

To start out the project, I chatted with Collin about what he wanted and how he planned on using the space. Then I put together a floor plan to start to visualize how things would look.

Since we needed pretty much everything (the bed and two rugs were the only items to stay), the next step was to develop a loooong shopping list. The design plan was to go with mostly neutrals with a hit of colour and a mix of high/low pieces. I wanted to create a space that felt contemporary and masculine (but soft and not too “bachelor-pad”).

Collin and I have been working away on his place and had a celebratory dinner this weekend as we finished the space! Stay tuned for all of the after pics.


the DIY files: painted patterned ceiling

26th January 2012

A couple nights ago I was at home by myself, vegging in front of the TV while surfing pinterest, and got a sudden burst of energy to paint our ceiling in our front hallway.

I was totally inspired by these patterned beauties:

sources (left to right): from here, here, here, and here

So I changed into my paint clothes, grabbed all the supplies from my stash of paint in the basement, and got to work. We haven’t done much (other than hang a few things) to our entryway since we moved in, so I was starting with a completely blank slate.

I loved the gray and white herringbone pattern posted above (top right), so since I had some light gray paint kicking around (and was starting with a white background), I  decided to go with something pretty similar.

First step was to put a piece of tape down the exact center of the ceiling. Oh, you might be wondering why I didn’t take off our light to paint the ceiling. Replacing that old boob light is on the “to do” list – it’s ug-ug-ugly. When we do, I’m planning on putting up a medallion to add some architectural interest to the space. Since the medallion is going to be bigger than the boob (ha), I wasn’t worried about getting under the light fixture. Plus, the hubs wasn’t home and I didn’t want to get into removing the light by myself.

Now, back to the steps. I put down the first piece of tape down the center and then re-measured to get the half point between the middle piece of tape and the two side walls. On that half way point, I put down two more strips of tape. Once those two pieces were up, then I just added some tape along the wall edge to ensure a crisp paint line. So that’s 3 pieces on the ceiling all evenly distributed, and 2 along the wall edges.

Then I used a ruler and measured 10 inch increments along each piece of tape (except the two pieces that are masking off the wall). See those pencil marks on the tape?

Then I got out my tape again and stuck down the diagonal pieces. You match from one mark on one piece of tape, to the next mark on the second piece of tape. Does that make sense? Check out the pattern below and I think you’ll see what I mean. I also added the small dots of tape to remember that those were the sections I wasn’t going to paint (one painted, one not painted, and so on).

I didn’t care about having an exact herringbone pattern, so my tape is even throughout. If I had wanted a perfect herringbone, I would have needed to have the tape be on the inside of the line for the white rectangles. Frankly that just hurt my brain a little too much.

Then I got out my little sponge roller and painted.

I put on two coats of the gray, watched a few episodes of Home by Novogratz (anyone else love that show?!), and then went and peeled off the tape. And surprise surprise, it turned out really nicely! I was sort of expecting for this to not really turn out, since I did it on the fly in a couple of hours, but I am totally smitten with the results. Plus, it makes the room feel a whole lot taller.

Fun, right? I’m glad I went with the light gray — it feels fresh and airy.

Now to do something about that boob light. Hmm…

What about you guys? Ever painted a ceiling before? Doesn’t it transform the room? I now want to go and paint all the ceilings in our place..


black and white striped vinyl floor tile

how to lay vinyl black and white flooring (in stripes!)

23rd January 2012

To cap off our kitchen mini-makeover (check out how we painted the cabinets and added hardware, we knew we had to do something about the floor. Enter: vinyl black and white floor tile.

black and white striped vinyl floor tile

Here is the before…

Remember that ultra-boring beige vinyl tile? It was clean and in fine condition, but it was just so dated and dull. Since we are saving up our pennies for a major kitchen rehaul (probably won’t happen for at least another year or so), we knew we wanted something super cheap and easy to install. Enter peel n’ stick vinyl tile. Okay, it’s obviously not the most glamorous of flooring options, but it can add a fun pop of colour or pattern to any room. We searched around the different options — we saw tons that were earthy/gray/beige colours that were relatively nice, but I just didn’t like the idea of using something that was *trying* to look like ceramic tile and so clearly wasn’t. That stuff doesn’t fool anybody. So when I saw the crisp white and black options at our local Rona, I was sold. They were fun and the best part? The 79 cents/tile price tag.

If you can’t find them at your local hardware store, I sourced some online options that are also a great price (and are delivered – hooray!):
Achim Home Furnishings FTVSO10120 Nexus 12-Inch Vinyl Tile, Solid Black, 20-Pack
Achim Home Furnishings FTVSO10220 Nexus 12-Inch Vinyl Tile, Solid White, 20-Pack

We grabbed about 50 tiles (25 white and 25 black) and got to peelin’ and stickin’. You can use a primer on your floors to ensure that they are really stuck on there, but since this is a temporary solution for us, we weren’t too worried. We gave our floor a good scrub and then got to work.

First step was to figure out the layout we wanted. Originally I had been thinking of the tried and true checkered pattern, but when I put it down it felt a bit too much like a diner.

So I tried laying them out in a striped pattern and was quickly won over. The stripes are something a little different and definitely make the narrow room feel wider. Sold.

These tiles are so, so easy to install. Seriously, even if you’ve never done anything handy before, you won’t have any trouble with these.

You may have to do a little cutting to fit particular spots (like around the perimeter of the room), but with a good quality utility knife, it is pretty cinchy. You want to dry-lay your tiles so you can visualize how the pattern is going to look and make sure things are centered properly, then start laying. Make sure the first stripe you lay has a perfectly straight line, so the rest line up nicely.

As you can tell from my over-enthusiastic smile in the third pic, it’s actually pretty satisfying sticking these tiles down.

And here they are in all their glossy glory…

You can see the edges between tiles a bit, especially in the white ones, but it’s not crazy noticeable.

Doesn’t it look so much better?

The whole price tag for the floor was a mere $45. Crazy cheap, right?

And here is the whole before + after of the kitchen. Three little projects with a ton of impact, don’t you think?

vinyl floor

I am so much happier in this improved space. It’s brighter, and just more fun.

This whole “mini makeover” was super reasonable:

  • Painting the cabinet: $0 (already owned paint and supplies)
  • Adding hardware: $150 (but remember, we’ll be using that hardware in our future kitchen reno)
  • Re-tiling floor: $45

Grand Total: $195. Under $200! Amazing.

budget kitchen makeover

What about you guys? Any kitchen overhauls recently? Or maybe you’ve used the peel n’ stick tile somewhere? Do tell. 

house crashing: a cute n’ cozy pad

12th January 2012

The first major renovation we did to our house (and the biggest one we’ve done to date) was our basement. We took it down to the studs, put in a lot of sweat equity, and transformed it from ultra dingy to a cozy one-bedroom apartment. The ability to turn our house into a duplex was one of the main reasons why we bought our pad in the first place.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the before and afters of our basement when we were done with our reno…

To see how we did all that, you can check out the “big reveal” post here.

Now, we have the apartment rented out to a super sweet gal who has totally made the space her own. She has filled the apartment with cozy furniture, big art pieces, books, and natural textures, which has all come together so nicely. Let’s go on a little tour, shall we?

Here is the living room. She has done a really nice job making the space multi-purpose, with a great living room area, office/study area, and some smart storage solutions.

Isn’t this piece of artwork above the couch stunning? I love the vibrant red colours with the earthy browns in the rest of the space.

And here is the super fun kitchen. I loved this green colour when we painted it during the reno, and it has come to life even more with all of the artwork and accessories.

Now onto the bedroom, which is simple and serene.

So there is it – a bit of house crashing in our own house. Don’t you like what she’s done with the place? When you walk in, you can feel the warm and cozy vibe right away. You totally want to flip on the fireplace and hunker down with a cup of tea. Don’t you love that about a place?

Thanks Rebecca for letting us tour your place!