Painting Bathroom Cabinets

A bathroom is such a small space. Shouldn’t I be done by now?

Two days ago, I shared my progress painting the walls and adding trim. I think I mentioned maybe waiting a while to update the oak cabinets. Well, forget that. Last night, I decided to drag out this mess even longer by just diving right into cabinet painting.

First, let’s look at some before photos, since I didn’t show the cabinets in Monday’s update. This is how the bathroom looked before we moved in:


I thought these cabinets were new when we bought the house. But they’re actually redone in an oak veneer that’s about a quarter inch thick. The doors are new. After taking them off yesterday, I realized that the tall cabinet on the left was once a regular closet door. Based on the interior of the cabinets, I’m guessing a painted pine vanity sat to the right of a closet before it was updated. And while I didn’t love the oak, I can tell that it must have been a vast improvement over what was under that veneer.

Once I painted the walls, I snapped a messy photo of the cabinets so I could play around in Photoshop with cabinet colors.


Natural wood can look amazing in a black and white space. But these oak cabinets were not the sort of wood that looks amazing anywhere, and the new paint wasn’t changing that.

So last night, instead of finishing up the walls, I took off all the cabinet doors and started sanding the cabinet frames. Next came some Kilz primer. I guess it wasn’t actually that spur of the moment, because I’d been to Lowes earlier in the day to pick up some gray paint samples. I even went so far as to prime a piece of scrap wood and paint swatches of each shade.


I picked my favorite swatch (the top one), and painted the cabinet frames. (I know they’ll need a semi-gloss paint or polycrylic eventually, but using a flatter paint for initial coats seemed ok to me.) It’s a good thing it was just a $2.99 sample, because even with my careful swatch painting, the end result was different once on the cabinets. Too light.

I tried to go to bed, but got up around midnight to paint another coat. This time, I went with the second from the bottom in the photo above. It looked perfect. It had just the right amount of contrast with both the white and the dark gray walls. On it went, and once it dried I realized that somehow it went a little blue. Blergh!

Determined that something needed to be done right before I went to sleep, I took a few minutes to add some shelf paper to the very gross cabinet interior.


Ah! Much better! Decades old unscrubbable filth, hidden from my sight.

A bit ago, I added a third gray to a few spots. I thought it was a little green on the swatch, but maybe that will work better in this room than the bluish hue of the other. So I’m far from finished painting, but here’s a glimpse of where it’s going:


I’m heading upstairs to check on that third paint color. It should be dry now. Fingers crossed it’s the one!

Upstairs Bathroom Progress

This weekend, I decided that I’d had enough of these yellow walls in the upstairs bathroom.


I like yellow, but not on these walls. It was a bad shade of yellow, and it just brought out the worst in the floor and honey oak cabinets. The whole room was in terrible shape, after over 40 years of being knocked around. The walls looked as though someone turned on a dust machine of colored fibers while the paint was still wet. It wouldn’t scrub off. The baseboards were possibly never painted in semigloss, and just allowed to wear with the initial primer. The holes on the baseboards were never filled after they were nailed on with a nail gun. The floors were (and are) aged cream vinyl sheet that’s impossible to get or keep clean.

Overall, it was icky.


My first phase of work for this space just involves paint, a few boards, and loads of filler on the walls to smooth things out. I wanted to leave the warm yellow hues entirely in here, and instead go for something classic, bright and clean. Above, this is how the room looked with one coat of each color, still wet.


Next came a lot of measuring and cutting. I bought boards that are 4″ wide and 1″ deep. They’re top grade lumber, or whatever it’s called, and pretty flawless. Matthew helped me to get them all leveled and even around the room. Most are attached with liquid nails and actual nails. The long wall, which you can partially see to the right in the above photo, was also attached with screws into studs. I plan to add hooks to it, so it needs to be able to bear weight.

Here’s a photo of me working, courtesy of Matthew’s Instagram:

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 2.15.13 PM

I used a countersink drill bit to make holes in the wood that allowed the screws to, well, countersink. Today, after a couple of carefully sanded coats of wood putty and paint, the screw holes are invisible. I’m thrilled to finally know about this method, since the visible screws at the last house’s board and batten project drove me crazy.


I’ll leave you with the above photo. It’s still probably a day away from all the painting being completed. So far, I’ve added one coat of semigloss white to all of the trim. That, and the walls, need at least one more coat.

After that, I need to figure out something to do about the flooring and the honey oak cabinets. But maybe not immediately. Be back soon to show you the finished paint job.

Den In Progress

As I promised yesterday, I’m ready to share my progress on the den. In case you’re just joining me, this house is a tri-level split. That means that the front door opens to the middle level, with the living room (toured yesterday here) and the kitchen. Up the stairs are three bedrooms and a bath. Down a shorter set of stairs from the kitchen is the den, a fourth bedroom, and another bathroom. I think that for the purposes of home valuation, the den is considered to be a basement. The front two rooms are partially underground, but the den opens straight out onto a covered patio.

First, let me get the self-critical stuff out of the way. The walls only have one coat of white on them. I wasn’t sold on the color (or lack of), and stopped painting. I definitely want white now, and will finish painting once it warms up. Second, the room used to have carpet and ZERO baseboards. I pulled up the carpet all by myself while we were moving in, and laid vinyl plank flooring. But I haven’t yet added baseboards and quarter round. It’ll all look way more finished once the walls are solid white, and the trim is added. But instead of avoiding sharing this space until then, let’s have a look now and an update later when it’s really good and done. Sound good? Here we go.


This chair and table were vintage finds. Actually, most of this room is vintage. The sofa is the exception. It’s used, from Craigslist, but only a couple of years old! I love mid-century design, and also 70s stuff. I embraced a very 1960s look in the upstairs living room. Down here, this 1971 split level is getting back to its roots, avocado green and all. I realize it wouldn’t suit everyone’s tastes, but we LOVE it.

The art on the wall is on a canvas, and by Matthew.

If you have a minute, check out the photos I found recently of my first apartment. I’ve been loving the 1970s since I was old enough to have an opinion in the 1990s. I wore genuine ’70s clothes back in high school, dug out of my mom’s old things, and used to be sad that my teenage years were spent in the apathetic ’90s instead of ’70s when people really cared about stuff. My first car was a ’71 Super Beetle. It’s funny that it’s already been more than 20 years since my obsession with that decade started, and it gets more vintage all the time!

I painted the patio doors yellow. I’ve been liking bright color in smaller doses lately.


The bottom two books on the mantle were made by my dad, who is a bookbinder of 18th century books. The top book is a journal from one of the world wars in Europe, and full of some pretty awesome photos. The glass container is vintage, and it used to be a terrarium that needs to be replanted.


A brick fireplace with a raised hearth was one of my dream criteria for a new house before we bought this. It’s the perfect place to take Christmas pictures. And, while I admire the clean and modern look of painted brick in other people’s homes, this brick will be staying brick. I think it’s a lovely shade – not orangey or dated looking.

I also love the brass insert for the fireplace. It’s just the right color – not that shiny 80s look. We burned one fire in here this winter, but it hasn’t been properly cleaned to really use safely. So, I like to keep plants up here on the hearth.


This chalkboard was covered in a very pretty Merry Christmas script that Matthew wrote. At the moment, it’s waiting for him to find the time to write something new.

I haven’t been able to part with my Christmas lights over here yet. I’m thinking I might get some larger string lights to keep here permanently, since I love the glow it adds to this side of the room.

Eventually, I will figure out how to knock out that swirly detail above the mantle without damaging the crown molding. I would also like to bulk up the shelves’ appearance with some thicker boards on the fronts.


A lot of the vintage stuff on the shelves belonged to family. The drum was Matthew’s grandfather’s. The slide projector was my grandfather’s. The blue Beetles were gifts from my grandfather that he painted to match my actual first car, mentioned earlier in this post.


I’d wanted a vintage map ever since purchasing one to decorate the Studio Calico office. My mom and sister drove across the US earlier this year, from Seattle to NYC, and it was fun to show the kids where they were each day on our giant map.

The floor lamp is vintage, as is the glass plant stand. The white table was from an antique store, but I think it’s just an old department store display. The chairs deserve a good wood refinishing and reupholster job someday, but at $14 each I was thrilled to get them in this condition. I really had fantastic luck finding just the right vintage pieces during the month we were without a house. My parents’ dining room was stuffed with it all!


The macrame hanging plant was made by me, along with a bunch of others that hung out on the screened in patio this summer.

Living Room Update

My last post, with a photo of Ginger the puppy in the living room, reminded me that I haven’t actually shared any recent photos of the house. In keeping with my resolution to take better photos, I got out the tripod for this one. I don’t know why I’ve avoided it so much before. It’s not that hard to screw onto the camera, and it’s such a relief to not discover blurry photos at the end of shooting.

The last time I shared this room with you, there was a rug. I had to move the rug out in order to keep things clean with a new puppy, and I’ve decided that I prefer a scrubbed floor to a dirt-holding rug. But, from a design perspective, the room took a bit of a dive when the rug came out. I missed it, but I’ve moved on.


The first change from that last update is this shelf. I actually built a TON of them, but the others ended up in Jacob’s room. His room is getting ready to switch to a guest room, so someday I’ll have photos of it. I built it using Ana White’s plans, but made it a lot deeper. The chalkboard is from TJ Maxx, and the art drawn on it is by my talented husband, Matthew.


The little blue stool/table at the left is vintage, and sort of impractical but cute. If you follow me on Instagram (@compulsivecrafter), you might recognize the tray on the coffee table as Ginger’s favorite spot to nap. It was a ceramics project of Matthew’s back in college, and it’s new function as a dog bed never fails to make me to “awwww!”



I couldn’t get a single photo of this angle without a blurry dog in it, some of just his blurry tail. This is Oliver, in case you haven’t met him yet here on the blog. The blue chair is one of a pair over there by the window. I attempted to reupholster the one on the right, which you can see in the Instagram photo above. It didn’t turn out so well, so I’m waiting to have the funds to get the pair done together by a professional. Someday, that chair you see will be redone in vinyl – either mint or yellow. It’s definitely not supposed to be that 80s blue.


This plant is one of the many I bought when we moved in 6 months ago. And, except for one I left out during a frost, they’re all still alive! I really enjoy the feeling of life they bring to the house, especially  now that we’ve gotten into this bitterly cold winter.


I’ve changed quite a few things over on this side. First, I moved the shelf over where it’s actually visible from the room. It was against the wall across from the door. I enjoy having it here. It’s vintage, and such a cute little compact piece.

You can see the stairway is still in an in-progress state. I lost my motivation there for a while. But I’m going to tackle it soon! Really, all it needs it one more coat of paint on the stair treads, followed by polyurethane. It’s just complicated to ban everyone from the stairs while it’s drying. Oh, and the wall. The mint color was definitely not supposed to stop there on the wall! I’ll finish that soon too.


The coat closet door got some chalkboard paint just in time for the holidays. I met my December 1st goal of having it dry enough for a Christmas countdown calendar. The kids had fun marking days off and adding their own chalk decorations. Unfortunately, I should have primed the door and didn’t, so the chalkboard paint is coming off. Eventually, I need to scrape the door and try again. Guess how excited I am about doing that? Yeah, maybe after the stairs. For now, let’s pretend those white marks are chalk instead of paint peeking through.


Lastly, I added a lamp to the sewing table. It’s helped so much with enjoying that room after sundown. Since there isn’t an overhead light in the room, we rely completely on lamps. Before, the only lamps were on the other side of the room, leaving the right side in a depressing darkness. This lamp isn’t my favorite – it’s a combination of a shade and base I just had around – but it’s more than made up for it’s lack of flare with function.

The coffee art is Matthew’s – purchased from his Society6 store.

I’m enjoying having two living areas. This one is my favorite for my morning coffee. The den is bigger and darker, and where we all hang out together at night. I’ll be sharing it next, so stay tuned. I don’t think I’ve really shown much of the den before at all.

Puppies Make Every Room Better


My number one goal for this year is to take more photos. Real photos, with my DSLR. The blog needs them. And Matthew and I are reopening our Lovebird Handmade Etsy shop, and our leather goods look sooo much better with real camera photos instead of my iPhone. I was photographing that mug you see just behind Ginger when she hopped up on the table. And this is probably the cutest view of this room ever, so I had to share it with you. Expect more crisp, non-iPhone photos, both with and without puppies, soon. … [Continue reading...]

Happy New Year’s Eve


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've been caught up in a lot of projects, and just life in general. I had a wonderful time decorating the new house for Christmas. I wish I'd gotten some better photos before it was all over with. Next year! Funds for working on this "new" house of ours have been limited in the past few months. Surgeries, a new computer, a new car, and just life in general mean that lots of projects are still just hanging around half done. Luckily, Matthew and I are both the type of people who can get used to messes and half painted walls, and live without being bugged by them. The design of the house is looking good - who cares if the baseboards are missing?! I plan to be here, blogging, more often in this coming year. I've been lying around useless with a bad cold this week, and now I'm really feeling like getting things done at double speed to make up for it. Happy New Year (almost)! … [Continue reading...]

Faux Wood Graining: Fake Your Way to Oak Stair Treads with Paint


These stairs started out covered in old, nasty carpet: I ripped that off, but the wood underneath was not pretty enough to stain. So I painted them white with gray treads. But it looked like a basement staircase. So then I painted them again - white this time. They were pretty, but they showed every spec of dirt, and every muddy pawprint. What I really wanted were stained wood stair treads. (more on that here) I like the way they look, but I really really like the way they hide dirt. But I wasn't up for the demo and money required to rip out my old pine treads and replace them. So I told you guys that I was going to try a faux woodgraining treatment. I'm back to report that IT WORKED!!! The surrounding stuff isn't finished yet. I still need to install quarter round at the bottom of the stairs. So please overlook that, and have a good look at these faux bois (fake wood) stair treads. They're real wood, of course, but the grain is completely done with … [Continue reading...]

The Stair Saga


I can't believe I'm painting these stairs again. First, I stripped the carpet off and painted them white with gray treads. Next, I decided to paint them a glossy white. I don't think I shared them here yet in white. No matter, because they aren't staying that way. White stairs work for a lot of people. They're beautiful. They look clean and bright and modern. You have to clean any color, right? Why would white necessarily show dirt worse, I thought? Well, I was kind of right. You know how when you clean wood floors, it's always surprising how much dirt comes off on the rag? Even if the floors didn't seem terribly dirty? In my brief time with painted stairs - now in three colors - white, dark gray, and light gray - I've found that solid colors are the problem. I don't think it matters what colors you pick, honestly. These stairs lead from our lower level to the middle level kitchen area. Everyone uses them right after they go outside via the patio. Since we have two small dogs, … [Continue reading...]

$112 Bathroom Update


I'm juggling a lot of projects lately. Most involve painting, which I actually really dislike doing. It's obviously a necessary evil when redoing any house, but I dread it. I've been halfway done with several painting projects, and finally there was enough undone stuff to totally stress me out. Today, I decided to get stuff done. The easiest, and most satisfying, of the projects to finish was the downstairs bathroom. I'm happy to say that I got two coats up on those walls today. And whoa, what a difference! I know that paint is the easiest way to change a room, but I really was amazed at what a change it made in this room. I had painted the walls a light gray when we moved in, but as I rolled on the mint paint, it was like the room just lit up. Let me back up three months, and show you the few photos I have of where we started. The room was alarmingly orange. I love orange. I even had an orange living room in my first house, which I'm still convinced was actually quite stylish … [Continue reading...]

Stair Carpet Demo


I'm right in the middle of a big project right now - converting the main staircase in the house from carpet to wood. I already did this downstairs, on a smaller staircase, though that project is still going too. This project started last night, right as the kids were going to bed. I had one major goal last night. I had to get all of the staples out of the stairs treads, so that the kids could go downstairs in the morning without getting tetanus. (sidenote: I actually got a tetanus shot during my recent physical, just for moments like these) When I went to bed last night, it looked a little bit better than this, but not by much. The stair treads were really awful - much worse than the other staircase had been. They were covered in mud, which I assume is from when the house was built in 1972. So the first step was to get that mud off. I used a scraper to get the bulk of it off, then cleaned it as best as I could. Next, I primed them. I still plan on filling holes with … [Continue reading...]