Category Archives: In Progress

The Great Gray Paint Debacle of 2016

What was supposed to be a quick weekend painting project to kick off the new year has become the Great Gray Paint Debacle of 2016.

First, an update on the living room. After some debate, we decided to stick with the first dark gray that we chose. It’s looking good.

Living Room Dark Gray Paint Mirror Shot

I thought that choosing the right dark gray for the living room was hard, but it turns out that choosing the right pale gray for the rest of the living space was the real challenge.

On Monday I tackled painting the kitchen, dining room, and hall with the light gray we’d chosen. As I began to cut it in against the trim in the kitchen, I had a sinking feeling that we’d chosen the wrong color yet again. But I had a gallon of the paint, and I know the color can look different after it covers a wall and dries, so I continued painting.

Kitchen Mismatched Paint Light Gray Orange Cabinets

By the time I had the kitchen done, I knew the color was all wrong. It was too light; it almost blended in with the white trim, and its blue undertones looked sickly purple against the kitchen.
And that’s when I realized how mismatched* our cabinets and backsplash were. The cabinets have an reddish orange undertone, while the tiles are a yellow brown. Now that I’ve seen the mismatched undertones, I can’t stop seeing them!

Kitchen Cabinet Tile Counter Undertones

Ryan and I have spent hours talking about this and sorting through paint samples. On Monday night I sat in the kitchen for hours, trying to figure out where I went wrong and how to fix it.

At one point Ryan teased me about hiding behind my high chair command station :)

Kitchen Painting High Chair Command Center

I tried continuing our dark gray into the kitchen, thinking that maybe that would be dramatic enough to distract from the kitchen undertones. Nope. It looked pretty awful, and not just because it was one thin coat.

Kitchen Painting Dark Gray

Then we discussed reverting to the original wall color – a yellowish white that didn’t excite us, but never bugged us in the kitchen. But now, with the dark gray blue living room, the yellowish white looked pretty bad.

Last night I picked up 4 more paint samples to try. On a whim I grabbed a sample of Perfect Greige, just to see if that worked better than the grays.   The Greige appeared to work well, but it was so brown. Not what either of us wanted.

Kitchen Painting Swatches

Sherwin Williams colors, from top to bottom: Perfect Greige, Morning Fog, Lazy Gray, Gray Screen

This made it clear that we should have used grays with brown undertones.

The house has been in disarray for over a week, and frankly we’re just over this whole thing.  Late last night we decided to go with our favorite, Lazy Gray, and accept the imperfect match with the kitchen for now.  After all, as renters we can only control so many aspects of the house.  If it drives us nuts, we’ll repaint again in the summer or fall.

If we do repaint again, I will first purchase a color consultation from Maria Killiam, the designer who specializes in color. It would be money well spent, considering that we’ve now spent over $200 on this and still don’t have the perfect match.   A $50 consult is barely more than one gallon of SW paint . . . so I would have saved money in the long run.

I’m annoyed by how much money I wasted.  I feel like I could have prevented this by thinking more before we started, but frankly I was out of practice. It’s been a while since I tackled a real decorating project. So I’m just trying to learn from this experience and cut myself some slack.

At least our living room looks awesome, even though it’s not re-decorated yet! We decided to stick with the original dark gray that we chose. I don’t know the name of it, because I lost the paint chip.

Living Room Dark Gray Paint Color Formula

*While the kitchen colors feel like a disaster, I assure you I’m keeping it in perspective. There are far bigger problems to have. And our kitchen is functionally great, especially for a rental. It’s rare that an rental home has such a nice, new kitchen.

DIY In Progress: Modern Hairpin Leg Desk

It’s been a while since I shared a good DIY building project on this blog, but that’s about to change!  Home projects are progressing more slowly with a little human around, but I’m slowly tackling them when time permits.

I’m currently completing my new office corner in the basement, which I shared the plans for here.  The walls are painted, thanks to one very good nap, the shelves are painted and curing, and the desk is in progress.  And that’s what I want to share today!

Modern Hairpin Leg Desk in Progress

It may look like a simple plywood board with metal hairpin legs attached, but a lot of time and thought and . . . well, worry went into the construction of it.  Underneath the 6-foot-long simple workspace I had to frame out a supporting structure to prevent sag in the middle.

Modern Hairpin Leg Desk DIY Sag Support

I finally finished it yesterday, and now all that is left is sanding, staining and sealing.  I’m hopeful my new desk will be in use by the end of the week.  On the 4th of July I gave the farmhouse desk I’d built to my sister-in-law and I’m now working on a very small, very messy old Ikea table.

I just thought you might like to see what I’ve been up to!  In related news, the Little Sapling got very excited watching woodworking videos with me!

Efficient Project Planning With Our Project Wall

When you have a long list of projects you want to tackle around the house, it’s hard to know where to start. And sometimes when you do start, you find that you’ve tackled the wrong projects first, making other projects more difficult than they needed to be.

When the project ideas start flooding my brain faster than I can execute them, I like to plan them all out with master lists. In the corporate world we use Microsoft Project to execute large projects and plans, because it lets you list all the tasks and link them in order of dependency. I.e. if you have to paint the walls before you hang art on them, the tasks are listed in that order.

This past fall I needed a more tactical approach.

Enter the Project Wall.

Living Room Project Wall

The back wall of our living room is really just the hall wall that leads to the bedrooms and bathroom. And it’s empty, even after 4 years.

I’ve been putting that blank wall to good use as my project planning board. I created a sticky note for each category, and then a sticky note for every project I wanted to do. I sorted the sticky notes the order they should be completed.

The overall project of creating the nursery is a great example of why I needed to lay everything out on a planning board, because the steps in the nursery created a waterfall effect of projects in other parts of the house.

Here are some examples of nursery projects, followed by the waterfall projects they caused in other rooms:

  • Move office out –> Create office in another room / Rearrange living room to hold secretary desk / Rearrange basement to create full home office
  • Move closet & dresser out –> Empty junk out of tiny master bedroom closet / Install closet system so all my clothes fit / reconfigure master to hold dresser, etc.

Then, once the nursery was empty, I wanted to do the projects in the most efficient order. For example, spackling and sanding holes came before vacuuming, then touching up paint, then steam cleaning carpet. No sense steam cleaning until the mess has been made.

Living Room Project Wall Detail

As projects were completed, I moved their sticky notes down to the bottom. It was really motivating to watch the “completed project” side grow!

By laying out every project, I was able to prioritize and make sure that projects got done in the most necessary and most efficient order. As a bonus, when I had a little down time and wasn’t sure what to work on, I could check the wall and find a project that required only a little time.

But what about the big, empty wall?

During our trip to Italy two years ago, we bought a large painting from an awesome Venetian artist, with the goal of hanging it on the empty living room wall when it’s framed. Ryan and I recently realized that one project on the wall is “frame and hang Italy painting.”

Seeing as the sticky notes hang where the painting should be, I guess that will be the last sticky note project we tackle.

Reupholstering Our Sofa: Choosing the Leather

Blog photos often convey a much cleaner version of real life.  I know this for a fact now, because our white living room sofa looks so much better in blog photos than in real life.  It’s become embarrassing to have guests see it in person.

Living Room The Borrowed Abode June 2012

We’ve gotten 4.5 good years out of the Petrie Sofa since I bought it on Craigslist for $350, and I am very glad that I didn’t pay full price to get it new at Crate and Barrel.  Many of the buttons in the seat cushions have tears around where they’re attached, and some of the folds in the seat upholstery have torn apart.  The fabric stains easily and wears poorly, too.

Want to see some proof?

Crate and Barrel Petrie White Sofa Problems

I scored it for a steal because of the tear in the arm rest. But now it’s gross all over.

It’s finally time:  Ryan and I have saved up to have the sofa reupholstered in top-grain leather*.  In the context of home decorating, this is an intimidating decision because of the cost and the longevity we’re going for – 10+ years or more.

When it came to leather, I knew exactly what I wanted.  A few years ago I saw a distressed leather sofa in medium brown at Crate and Barrel. It immediately brought to mind a Ralph Lauren catalog – I have no idea why – but I pictured it in an awesome lodge with a roaring fire.  And maybe a Ralph Lauren male model sitting on the arm of the sofa.  😉

Ryan and I agreed we should go with medium brown distressed leather. Distressed, because it would be already soft and worn and pre-scratched, and future scratches would only add to its loved, comfy look.  The square modern lines of the sofa will keep the distressed leather looking elegant.

With this image firmly implanted in my mind, I thought it would be easy to pick the leather we’d use on the couch.  Boy was I wrong.  There are so many different colors in the swatch books.

Here are the colors we’re trying to choose from:

Leather Sofa Swatches

Considering Undertones

Ryan leans towards the bottom left, Nutmeg – while I lean towards the bottom middle, Pecan.  I just worry that the Nutmeg leather is a little too dark.  I was hoping to have a lighter feel. We need to come to a compromise somehow.

I think the Lynx is too light and yellowish even though I like it.  We need to be careful about the leather’s tone. Just like paint colors, there are undertones to leather.  Because we rent, it is so important to keep our sofa neutral – something that will adapt to many different spaces and possible wall colors over the years.

Some brown leathers have red undertones, and some have yellow ones.  Beware of both!  I held our two favorites up to the mid-century credenza because we have several pieces of wood furniture in that stain color:

Leather Swatch Wooden Furniture

I think we want the leather to match, or at least not clash with, the furniture stain colors.  What do you think?  Advice on how to choose the color is very welcome.

*I know the choice of using real leather may be controversial, and I plan to share our reasons for choosing leather in a different post.

PS:  Jeannine at Small Chic Home went through a similar process to choose her new leather sofa.  She had even more choices since she had to choose nail-head trim and leg stain colors.  Thank goodness I’m only choosing leather!