Painting a piano (before and after)

It’s been over a year since I bought our piano (a $100 score at a local Goodwill – you can read about that adventure here).  I had every intention of painting the thing, but as life happens, it never got checked off the to-do list. image Once we moved into the new house, I was determined to get it painted, once and for all. But indecision about the color put things on hold (again). I couldn’t decide between bright yellow or turquoise blue.  Or green?  A simple search of painted pianos yielded so many fun options for transforming a piano with paint. Here are a few that inspired me: Ten Painted Pianos in Bright Colorssources: green piano, light blue piano, dark yellow piano, my piano, turquoise piano with plates, yellow piano with antlers, aqua piano, aqua piano with birdcage, red piano, lime green piano I finally decided on yellow.  We chose Goldenrod from Dunn Edwards because it was a rich yet bright tone. We decided to hire a professional painter because we knew that trying to DIY this one was out of our skill set.  I shopped around for “piano refinishers” but the quotes were outrageous because it involved working on the inside of the piano as well.  Finally I just asked the painters who painted our house if it was something they could do. They were up for the challenge, and charged me $300 (plus materials) for the job. The used a paint sprayer, which I think is the key to a smooth finish. They sanded it, then used a primer (they actually used auto-shop primer!) and then sprayed 3 coats of paint. painted yellow piano The piano did not come with a bench – but I found a stray bench on Ebay that needed a home for only $60.  I love the mid-century legs of the bench. I painted it to match, and then added a faux sheepskin from IKEA ($10) to add some texture. painted yellow piano I love the way it came out! Once it was painted, I went to Anthropologie to choose some funky knobs for the piano. They have so many options and for $16 it made a big visual impact. I actually took India with me and let her pick, in the hopes that having some ownership of the design would encourage her to practice.. I love the knobs she chose. IMG_9911 Painted yellow piano with Anthropologie knobs Between the price of the piano ($100), the paint and labor ($380), and the knobs ($18), our grand total for this piano was just under $500. I’m very happy with how it looks and it now feels like the focal point of our living room.  Now . . . how to get these kids to practice?

I am a composter and so can you! (composting for beginners)

If you’d asked me a couple years ago about composting, I would have assumed it was a fringe thing that hippie mamas in Birkenstocks did.  Storing your trash and turning it into soil just seemed so . . . granola.  Way too granola for this city dweller. But then I visited my sister-in-law Jodie in Seattle, and noticed a small little container on her counter that she used to collect composting items. She showed me how it worked and really demystified it for me, and suddenly I saw it as the easy, practical, and eco-friendly process that it is. So in case you aren’t composting yet, I’m here to convert you. Composting is basically the collection of waste that can break down into soil. It’s obviously ideal for people who garden, but it’s still a great practice even if you don’t use the soil yourself, because it helps reduce your waste output by breaking down your trash. If you don’t have a use for the soil you create, there are no shortage of people who garden who would be happy to take it off your hands.  You would be surprised how much you can reduce your waste output by composting.  Let’s start with what you can compost. Check out these tips on composing: it's easier than you think! After I did a bit of research I was surprised to find how many things I could compost.  Coffee grounds and filters, apple cores, banana peels, tea bags, napkins, pizza boxes, brown paper bags, plain pasta or rice, old bread or cereal, paper towel rools, produce, used  non-waxed paper plates, nut shells, cereal boxes, wine corks, moldy cheese, old ice cream, wine that’s gone bad, egg cartons, old loofahs, cotton balls, dryer lint, shredded paper, pencil shavings, receipts, vaccuum cleaner contents, newspapers, houseplants and flowers, fireplace ash . . . you can even chop up your Christmas tree and compost it. Getting started is easy.  We just made two purchases.  We bought a door-mounted garbage can that hangs just inside the cabinet under the sink. This is where we collect most of our produce for composting. It has a lid so it keeps the odor down. We also bough a compost bin for the backyard. Check out these tips on composing: it's easier than you think! From there, it’s pretty simple. Stick your compostable items in the bin. A couple times a week, empty the bin into the composter.  Once a week, stir it really well. (BTW, emptying the compost bin is an easy chore for young kids.) Check out these tips on composing: it's easier than you think! That’s it! As you can see in the picture above, in a few months your items will transform into rich soil. Like magic! Do you compost? Have any tips that I’m missing?

design dilemma: choosing a kitchen window treatment

Okay, I am bringing another design dilemma to the table, because it seems that any decisions revolving around design tend to put me into paralysis mode.  This one involves finding a fabric to use for window shades in the kitchen. I’ve been searching fabric options obsessively (my apologies to anyone following me on Pinterest) and I just need to make a decision already. Here is a picture of my kitchen. As you can see, there are two windows, one above the sink and one on the door, and they both get a lot of light.  So  much that it’s difficult to even take pictures in the kitchen.  It’s less of a bright and airy light and more of an eye-straining glare for most of the day, so I need window shades that can filter some of the glare. I would also like to bring a bit more color into the room, and thought a fun fabric could serve both purposes. IMG_9859 As it turns out, there are not a lot of modern fabric choices at most of the big window shade stores. I’ve been googling how to do a DIY roman shade and I think I can pull it off, and it will be much more cost-effective.  So at this point, I just need to choose the fabric.  Here are some of the fabrics I’ve been obsessively pinning looking at:window treatment options 1. Dandy Flight by Birch Fabrics, 2.  Monaluna Circa Starburst Sun in organic cotton, 3. Timber & Leaf by Sarah Watts, 4. Calypso by Maude Asbury for Blend Fabrics, 5. Moda Swinging Circles in Mustard , 6. Moda in Asterisks Tangerine, 7. Andie Hanna for Robert Kaufman, Modern Bliss in Leaflette Vintage, 8. Simply Color by V & Co,   9.  Heather Mulder Peterson’s Summer House in Paisley Blue, 10. Citrus Fabric by  Paul + Galbraith, 11. Gray and Orange Ikat Dots, 12. Midwest Modern by Amy Butler I really like all of these fabrics, and I’m getting tripped up in deciding. Do I want to stick with gray?  A pop of orange? Or something with several colors? And do I want leaves or ikat or dots or starbursts?? ACK.  What say you?  Or do you have any ideas I am missing?

THE KITCHEN: before and after

I’ve been putting off posting pictures of the house because, while we’ve been living here for a bit, there is still so much to do.  But I thought I would share the before-and-after photos of our kitchen since it is technically done. I still need to “dress” the kitchen. We need window treatments and a backsplash and some accessories to tie it all together. But the bare bones are there, and I’m really please with the result. IMG_9863 I posted last year about how much trouble I was having choosing the cabinet color. I went back and forth on this until the very last minute. In fact, I ended up finding about half of the modern brown cabinet fronts in the AS-IS room at IKEA, because they were being discontinued. I bought them, and ordered the remaining cabinets, determined that I’d do the dark brown since they were on sale. But once the kitchen walls came down and I saw how bright and airy the room felt, I couldn’t bear to darken it up with those cabinets. So I took them all back and got the white.  Yes, they will show more dirt. But I think it was the right choice. I am a huge fan of IKEA cabinets. We put them in our last home and they performed really well, especially with four kids.  I love how easy it is to design a kitchen with IKEA – I did the entire redesign by myself using their online planner and it was fun to see it come together just like it looked on the screen. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.  Here’s what the kitchen looked like mid-remodel, when we opened the wall to the living room and tore down the brick that comprised the “built-in BBQ” portion of the kitchen. IMG_5959 We also removed a wall leading to the dining area (which stood where that beam is in the middle of the room).  Now the whole living space is an open room with a double-sided fireplace in the middle. IMG_5964 After the demo, we had to deal with the black mold, which you can see in the drywall in the sink. So gross. We hired a mold company to deal with the remediation because it’s serious business and we wanted it done right. It took forever and cost a lot of money and I’m glad that part is OVER. IMG_5961 After the mold remediation, we put in new drywall, canned lights, a new window, and bamboo floors. FINALLY we were ready to install the cabinets. Photo Dec 03, 4 04 47 PM Here is a before-and-after shot facing away from the living room. We removed the wall that the fridge was on, so we had to move the fridge to the existing wall. We put the oven and microwave combo on that wall as well.  We put an island where the fridge wall had been, and installed a cooktop there. The dishwasher and sink stayed in the same place.  Photo Mar 11, 9 31 43 PMAs you can see, we went with the Whirlpool White Ice collection for our appliances. Again, I think the white really brightens the room, and I love the counter-depth fridge and the incredible gas cooktop. The White Ice collection is really pretty in person. It’s hard to explain, but the surface is quite different from the usual pebbled white appliance. I suspect this line will become really popular. Here’s a photo facing the living room. We debated tearing down this wall because it eliminated a whole wall of cabinets in the kitchen, but I am SO GLAD we did it.  I love being able to see straight through to the living room and back yard while I’m cooking, and we configured the island with storage on both sides. What we lost in overhead cabinets we made up for with drawers in the island. I prefer drawers, so it worked out well.Photo Mar 11, 9 29 12 PM It’s hard to show an accurate before-and-after photo from the next angle because the wall kept me from backing up to get the shot, but this is the new view from the dining room: Photo Mar 11, 9 30 35 PM I also deliberated for a long time over whether to put drawers on the back of the island, or just leave it open with an overhanging countertop for seating.  I opted for drawers.  We needed the storage, and the dining table is sitting right there so putting in seating seemed redundant.  Photo Mar 11, 9 32 26 PMI do regret having to part ways with that vintage yellow stove, but it had to go for us to open up the wall to the living room. I do not regret parting ways with any other single aspect of this kitchen. It was bad. So bad. Funny story – when we first showed the kids this house, they walked around and Jafta told us he loved it and we shouldn’t change a thing. Later that night, though, I found India quietly crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, very diplomatically, that she felt bad because our new house was so ugly.  She hadn’t wanted to admit it but she didn’t like how dark and dreary it was. I tried not to laugh at her design devastation and promised that we would change the way it looked. I also wish I could do a smell before-and-after for you, because that mold permeated the whole house. Yikes. Photo Mar 11, 9 32 59 PM We had this same farmhouse sink in our previous house and knew we wanted it again, because it’s deep enough to hide a lot of dirty dishes. And don’t get me started on how happy I am to have a dishwasher after going without for three months. With the exception of the sink, all of the under-the-counter cabinets are drawers. Did I mention I love drawers? So nice to be able to see and reach everything. IMG_9866 I was a little worried about having a range on the island but now that it’s installed I really like it. There is plenty of counter space on either side so I do most of my food prep at the island.  IMG_9923 We went with Wilsonart for the countertops. We had this same counter surface in our previous house and wanted to use it again. It is affordable and indestructible, and the matte silver finish looks like stone. IMG_9926 So there you have it – our new kitchen. She still needs a little dressin’ up, but we like her a lot! [Appliances provided by Whirlpool. Countertops provided by Wilsonart.]   image

design dilemma: to paint or not to paint


Alright, folks, I’m once again coming to you with a design dilemma . . . this time, about painting the fireplace.  A few months ago I wrote about all of the different options for our fireplace, and due to the fact that we have basically run out of money, it looked like painting the thing was our only option.  When we first bought the house, I felt like the fireplace was a huge eyesore in the middle of a dark and dingy house.Photo Feb 18, 3 31 47 PM
Since that time, though, we have opened up walls, painted with brighter colors, and replaced windows.  All of these changes have really dramatically changed the light in the house, and even though we haven’t done a thing to the exterior of the fireplace, I feel like it looks totally different in it’s new surroundings.
Photo Feb 18, 3 32 25 PM (HDR)
The area of brick is much smaller since we opened up the wall, so now it’s really just a large pass-through fireplace as opposed to half of the kitchen wall.

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And the thing is . . . the brick is kind of growing on me. I had every intention of painting it a matte concrete gray, but now I’m wondering if we should leave it be. Of course, painting brick is a no-turning-back kind of decision.

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At the same time, it is a rather prominent feature in the home. This is the view as you walk thought the front door.

I have also wondered about the possibility of doing some kind of a white-wash on the brick, to soften down the red tones while still keeping the look of exposed brick. I stumbled on this picture on pinterest, which I loved because it shows a white-washed brick along with the same blue we’ve got on the kitchen walls and the same white Eames chairs.

So . . . what do you think? Should we leave the brick as-is or should we paint it?  Is the red brick too busy or distracting, or does it work in the space?  And what can be done about the unsightly black soot discoloration on the living room side?