Category Archives: house and home

Fridays at Home: My MCM Treasure Hunt

2nd March 2018

Tastes change. We all know it, but blogging over a period of time only reinforces that when you can look back at what you liked and how you thought. The Jenn of 2018 cringes looking back at some of my “design” choices in the past, yet I have always done what I could to make my house a comfortable home, pieced together with furniture from thrift and antique shops (and the side of the road sometimes, if I’m being totally honest).

A few years ago, I started working toward finishing the rooms in my house – identifying “for now” furniture and seeking out quality pieces to replace them with. This is a story of how my hunt for two chairs ended in the purchase of a new dining table and chairs.

My dining/reading room wasn’t working. The space is large, even with a wall of bookshelves, and the tiny table and two club chairs I had at the time weren’t taking advantage of the space. I moved furniture a dozen times over a year or so and decided the problem was with my chairs. While comfortable, the upholstery fabric is busy, and I decided I wanted two mid century chairs instead. I began hunting on our local Facebook page, as this seemed a good place to start. Mostly, this page is a mixed bag, people selling used bath mats (not lying) and old vehicles, but every once in a while, people post a gem.

After searching for a couple of weeks, I did my typical weekly search, and up popped a mid century table and six chairs…for $80. I fell and fell hard, immediately claiming them and only asking questions once the seller acknowledged my message. When the woman indicated her husband could deliver to my house the next town over, I jumped at the chance. I had to judge a UIL writing contest that night, so I handed my husband the $80 and asked him to stash the table and chairs wherever he could.

At about 8 that night, I got a text message: “Babe, do you know what you bought?” I responded that yes, indeed I did and got a response: “These chairs are kind of rough.”

In hindsight, I probably should have warned him the chairs were orange pleather and that , at some point, someone tried to spray paint them. The wooden legs had children’s stickers on them and appeared to have been gnawed on by a dog, but for $80, I knew I could afford to reupholster the chairs with something perfect. But bless the husband for “kind of rough.”

photo from Facebook listing

photo from Facebook listing

I could hardly stand it, I was so excited to get home and begin restoring them. The next morning I woke up early to research the type of wood I was dealing with, as mcm furniture is often teak, a very temperamental wood. Because the base of the table is pretty unique, it didn’t take long for my search to turn something up.

Adrian Pearsall Dining Table from the Craft Associates catalog

Adrian Pearsall Dining Table from the Craft Associates catalog

Not only was the wood walnut, not teak, but also, the very first search I did shocked me – the designer was Adrian Pearsall, who owned Craft Associates, Inc., and was a well respected designer of atomic furniture, and someone was selling just the base of the table for over $1,000. Lo and behold, I found out that not only did I get a deal, I got the deal of the mid century!

My aunt, Leslie Ravey, is an artist who creates beautiful wood furniture from exotic woods, and she offered to help us bring this piece back to life. First, we removed the legs from the chairs and began the time-consuming work of removing the vinyl chair covering. Thankfully, the workmanship was good because the foam was in near-perfect condition. Once the legs were off, we used fine grit sandpaper to remove the finish and some of the surface nicks and then applied Watco Rejuvenating Oil with an old t-shirt. We applied another coat of oil the next day. I couldn’t believe the results.

Initially, I had planned to reupholster the chairs by myself. I selected fabric, made a pattern, and got busy, but in the end, I needed a professional. Between the curves at the tops of the chairs and the backs, they didn’t look good. And I wanted them to look good.

Off with the pleather!

A local upholsterer was able to work with my cut fabric, and while the table and chairs have been finished for two years now, I am still in love. The set is sizeable enough to command attention in the space, and we eat, entertain, and play games around it. My mother in law bought us this gorgeous West Elm Multi Pixel Woven Rug for Christmas last year, and it’s perfect under the table.

Lesson learned: If you find yourself rearranging the furniture again and again, maybe it’s because you don’t have the right furniture. Oh, and maybe warn your husband when you buy something that looks “kind of rough.”

Fridays at Home: Half Bath, Flooring

9th February 2018

Last Friday, I talked about half bath demo and framing the wall and pocket door.

Once the wall was framed and the floor was clean and free of any leftover screws, we could lay backer board and then begin to tile!

We both really hated using the backer board. While it’s relatively easy to score (you really need a carbide blade for this, I discovered through reading contractor forums), the boards do tend to crumble, so it isn’t quite as easy to work with as drywall. You also do not want to lay your boards in such a way that four corners meet, so stagger them for stability. You have to leave space as well for them to shift. Otherwise, down the road, your tile might be affected. The purpose of the backer board is to make a monolithic substrate – a flat surface on which to lay tile. Contractors are divided as to whether or not you mud first. However, because we were going back with the same small mosaic tile, we were less concerned with breakage and decided to move forward. We used the appropriate backer board screws and, for stability, added them closer than every square foot. Time will tell if this was the right move.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I was desperately trying to get the job done. We host an annual Christmas party, and I was hoooooping I could have this close to finished. [Spoiler: I did not finish in time.] So I decided I could tile myself, once I finished the semester. Even though I’ve never tiled anything. Ever. We borrowed a wet saw from a neighbor who is really generous with his collection of tools, and I dry fit the tile to see how I could make the fewest cuts possible. After lots of looking and dreaming, we went with the Daltile Prologue Ceramic Octagon/Dot tile from Home Depot. The price was too good to pass up; the tile fits the feel/age of the house and the half bath and will abut the black and white lip into the kitchen (seen below). If you order tile, make sure you order more than you need – take it from me.

My husband helped me find the square of the room (don’t even ask me, it was way over my head) to make sure the tile was square. We snapped chalk lines for me to find a good spot to start. Note: Square and flush – those concepts are beyond me. Level is about as much as I can conceptualize.

Annnd I got started. I mixed my thinset, let it sit, per instructions, mixed again, and nervously began.

Mudding suuuuucks. I hate it. I was a mess. Who knew that using a wet saw and cutting tile was the easiest part of the process? Not me. But I powered through.

Tiling this tiny space took me all day. It’s so much trickier than it looks. See those little diamonds that fit into the spaces? Impossible not to have thinset ooze out. Because we used the same tile as the previous owners, I knew I had to fix that or be left with a tile job I was not pleased with. Once I finished, there were two square-foot sections that were higher. Thankfully, Caleb (my husband) was once a bricklayer, so he redid those for me.

After allowing the tiles to dry and cure, it was time to grout! Because of the size of the space between the tile, unsanded grout is recommended. I mixed it according to instructions, let it sit, then mixed a minute longer and got busy. You need a grout float and grout sponge for this step, and while it takes some elbow grease, it is SO satisfying to see the results! Essentially, you push the grout into the spaces with your grout float at a 45-degree angle, do an entire section, then wipe with your barely damp sponge. A haze will be left, but after 24 hours, you can wipe that away with a dry cloth. I couldn’t believe the difference.While it isn’t perfect, it’s so much better than the tile job before, and I love that even with the same tile, we went with a light gray diamond in between the white hexies. The gray is subtle but adds interest – and most importantly, made it feel like I wasn’t just having to correct someone else’s bad job.

We still have to seal the grout, but other than that, it’s ready to go! I’m proud that I did this almost totally by myself, but I will also admit, out of the many home projects I’ve tackled, this was not my favorite. But I saved us some money and retain bragging rights.

Join me next week as we get one step closer to completing this project.

Fridays at Home: Half Bath, Demo & Framing

2nd February 2018

If you missed last week’s Fridays at Home, and my home’s deepest, darkest secret, you might want to read that first.

So. Once we decided the layout of the room, got bids for plumbing, etc., it was time for the work to begin! The plumber came, discovered our hot water heater was leaking, which tacked on a few hundred dollars more to the scheme, but we had all that and the new plumbing installed in a day.

Even though we had a lot of visitors in and out, I was determined to get started, so I began ripping up the tile one evening when my husband was playing a jazz gig. That weekend, he helped me get the rest of it up.

Next, we had to rip up the concrete backer board, which was. a. mess.

Thankfully, the wood floor beneath that was in shockingly good condition. The floors are original to the home, and at the time the home was built, there was no sub floor underneath, so we were very happy we didn’t have to rip this out.

We also needed to pull out all the trim in order for the new tile to look neat and clean once we were finished. Pulling out trim doesn’t sound like a tough job, but these boards are ancient and thick and did NOT want to come out easily. It was quite the job.

Next, we framed out the pocket door. Because this space is so small, a swing-out door wasn’t a possibility. After a lot of research, we ordered a Johnson Pocket Door Kit to fit our door specifications. They also have a super helpful video with instructions. However, the framing was a bit trickier. In most cases, people are ripping out a wall to insert a pocket door. We were having to create a wall, and I really had to be able to visualize this process. The tutorial that helped me the most was from Sawdust Girl. Once I realized that we were really creating a pony wall (non load bearing), I was less stressed. Essentially, we needed to create a header. The Johnson pocket door kit gives explicit instructions as to the height and width you need to situate the kit.

The toughest part about this was our ceiling height. Those suckers are HIGH, so it took both of us on ladders working above our heads to get this installed. Once that was done, the pocket door kit itself was really simple to install.

Voila! Demo and framing complete.

Join me next week when I talk about the project I’m most proud of but that I’m not in a hurry to do again – floor tiling.


Fridays at Home: A Deep, Dark Secret

26th January 2018

When I bought my house nearly nine years ago, I was young and pretty broke. My house was old then and needed some love. I added duct work, a/c and heat (central air is a must in our area). I had the exterior painted. I did my own painting on the inside, but all along, I was hiding something.

The butler’s pantry. Yes, I have a butler’s pantry, which is ridiculous in a 114-year-old, 1700-square-foot house. This is a tiny, empty space that I’d gotten so used to I didn’t even notice it anymore. The previous owners had begun prepping the space to create a half bath, but they did an incredibly shoddy tile job, as you can see above, and that was about it. Years ago, I priced plumbing, finally picked my jaw up off the floor, and went on my merry way. I could live without a half bath. I was single and living alone. One bathroom was enough.

For years, I rarely had house guests. I *think* my aunts stayed once because I recall going out and buying a mattress specifically for their stay. However, once my now-husband moved in, we had his sister come and stay, and later, his mother. Having only one bathroom was extremely inconvenient, especially as it’s attached to our bedroom. Still, other needs came first. The house had to be painted again to protect the aged wood. The back door wasn’t working properly and had no steps once we ripped out a deck, etc., etc.

However, after the hurricane, my parents were with us for nearly six weeks. We also had some lovely people stay with us while they volunteered in the area, and then my mother-in-law and her husband stayed with us for two weekends. The half bath, which once seemed a luxury, became a necessity.

While we’re well on our way to completing this project, I thought I’d show you guys my inspiration board before delving into the details next week.

The space is approximately 4 feet by 5 feet, so a small toilet and pedestal sink are about all that will fit, but I thought, I’ve waited this long, why not go all out? I want to open the pocket door and just feel like this is a perfect little spot in the house.

I’m planning on wallpaper half up, paint half down. There is a massive window in the space, so even covered, there should be plenty of light even with all that black wallpaper. Two globe fixtures should brighten it up as well.

We’ve already:

  • had a plumber install new lines and tie into sewage
  • ripped up the tile and removed trim
  • framed a pony wall
  • installed the pocket door hardware
  • laid new tile
  • drywalled
  • added bead board
  • and installed the door

Now I need to get my rear in gear and wallpaper and paint so that we can hook up the sink and toilet. I cannot tell you how excited I am! Come back next Friday, and I’ll share progress photos.


Fridays at Home: The Eclectic Bedroom

7th August 2015

When people visit my home, they usually comment that they love my rooms but aren’t sure how I put different pieces together. I can’t claim credit for that because I guess I’ve never really known any other way to decorate. My mom and dad always had a nice home, but they were – as I am – on a budget, so big box, matching pieces never filled their home. Chairish – a site where design lovers can buy and sell furniture, both locally and nationally (you can sort your search by location) – asked me to join other bloggers for a Mix and Chic Style Challenge. You know I was so in. 🙂

When I bought my house, any extra money went to add central air conditioning and heat – a must in southeast Texas. I pieced together my rooms from different vintage shops, but over the years, I’ve gotten more comfortable in trusting my gut when it comes to decorating and have been slowly revising different rooms in the last several years.

After ten years with the same bedding and bedroom decor, I decided it was time for a refresh. For months, I pinned ideas to Pinterest. Personally, even though Pinterest is now chock full of ads, I still use it to curate ideas. That way, I can look at a board and see what I gravitate toward. I realized I wanted to keep dark bedroom walls (and even go darker) but modernize most everything else. I chose a bed and nightstands first. My nightstands match for the first time ever, but to keep the room from being too matchy-matchy, I went with different lamp styles. I painted. I chose bedding. My grandmother’s sofa keeps the space from being all modern, all the time, but I also didn’t want the two sections of the room to look like two different styles.

My antique vanity has seen better days, and it was a little too big, so I’m looking at options. I like the idea of an ultra modern vanity with a vintage mirror. Who says the two can’t live together well? I have a vintage lamp for the top along with candlesticks for my many, many bracelets, so I think something like I’ve added below would work well.

It’s still a work in progress, but each night I climb in bed and sigh. I love the changes. Putting together an eclectic space certainly takes longer than buying a pre-designed set, but it’s also extremely satisfying. Once I get the final pieces in place, you know I’ll share.

Bedroom 1


As for how to put together a room, I recommend several things, though the order can change:

  • Think about how you want the room to feel
  • Curate your style – look back at magazine photos you’ve loved or Pinterest boards
  • Envision specific pieces or check out sites like Pinterest, Chairish, or local sale sights for inspiration
  • Pick one major thing – for me it can be paint color, a piece of furniture, or a rug and then build a room around it
  • Get started!