Hanging Onto That Dream (Kitchen)

cottage cover

Almost exactly seven years ago, I found the kitchen of my dreams in this Cottage Living magazine. This space, it seemed, was a literal interpretation of the kitchen remodel I’d been concocting inside my head since we’d moved in. The reuse of existing cabinetry, the space planning, the color pallette and solid surface choices. All of it. Seven years later, Cottage Living is no longer in existence, in fact this kitchen was featured in their last issue, but I still have the same vision for the kitchen, and sadly, still no budget to revamp it.

cottage kitchen 1

I’d like to share why I love this kitchen so much.

1. It’s not a totally white kitchen. This issue of the magazine was published when the all- white kitchen trend was beginning, and as that look is becoming less and less of-the-moment, this kitchen’s color scheme would have aged gracefully. The olive green of the lower cabinets has a hint of grey so they feel contemporary, and it’s nice to have a bit of contrast to the white uppers.

2. The arched opening. I would love to do this with my kitchen, to allow more light into the space, as it is north-facing and in the center of our home. An opening there, would allow me create peninsula for the stove and perhaps an eat-up counter on the living room side. Doing an arched opening, versus a rectangular one, would be in keeping with the architectural character of homes built in the 1920’s, like ours.

cottage kitchen 4

3. The use of wood on the floor and counters. Wood adds instant warmth to a space. I know there is hardwood under the many layers of ugly linoleum flooring in my kitchen. I’d totally rip that up myself, but the older layers most likely contain asbestos and that needs to be removed by professionals, which is costly.  Someday, I’d also love to replace our outdated Formica counter tops with either walnut butcher block or soap stone or both.

cottage kitchen 2

4. Sensible budget choices. This designer, Anne Turner Carroll, saved her cabinets, but re-hung the uppers flush with the ceiling, to allow room for an open shelf underneath. She painted them and put on new hardware. The subway tile backsplash is a classic look, but easy on the budget. I would lay mine in a herringbone pattern, and use a light grey grout.

cottage kitchen 3


It can be frustrating, having this vision and not being able to put it into action. I know that my kitchen has so much potential to function better and look stunning. While I have painted the cabinets and walls, that is about it, and that was years ago. The paint is wearing off the edges of the cabinets, and its time for a refresh. I’d love to add hardware to the doors and drawers too. Maybe that will be the next project I tackle. Here is a glimpse of kitchen as it is now; hover over each photo to read descriptions of my vision.

I guess the upside is that my dream kitchen is yet to come, and that the ideas I’ve cemented in my brain have a timeless appeal. All this means, is that it will look fabulous whenever I get around to making it happen!

DIY: Dining Room Table Refinish

The table before it was refinished.
The table before it was refinished.

So, this dining room table refinishing project has been years in the making. And by that I mean, it’s been needing to be refinished for years. Poor table. Our family was totally abusing it. The protective finish wore off a few years ago, and stains were settling into the bare wood grain. With lots of messy baby feeding days looming in the not-so-distant future, I finally tackled it this summer.

I’ve painted lots of furniture in the past, but this was my first time refinishing and staining a piece. I’ve been known to bite off way more than I can chew, so I spent lots of time researching exactly what stain and finish I wanted and studying the steps carefully. I learned a lot, and I’m proud of my results. I’ll share my process with you.

The left hand side has been cleaned with the vinegar solution, the right has not. There was such a build-up of oils and newsprint ink.
The left hand side has been cleaned with the vinegar solution, the right has not. There was such a build-up of oils and newsprint ink.

First I cleaned the table with a water and vinegar solution, so as to remove any stuck on goo and help neutralize any grease or oils.  I used about a half cup of white vinegar to a half gallon of warm water. The wood grain was already starting to open at this point, so I didn’t want to completely saturate the table, and used a light touch with the solution.

Next I started sanding. I would recommend using a small belt or power sander, but my workshop is in the basement just underneath my daughter’s nursery. She’s usually asleep when I am working on projects, so a loud sander wasn’t an option for me. Whether you use a palm sander or do it manually, cover up anything nearby that you don’t want to get dusty. Wear safety goggles and some type of protective face mask. If your table still has a good layer of old varnish on it, you’ll probably want to strip it before sanding.

The table after a few sandings.
The table after a few sandings.

With sandpaper, the lower numbers have a coarser grit and as the numbers get higher, the finer the granules are. This table is a soft wood, perhaps fir, so I didn’t want to bite into the wood too deeply with a super coarse sandpaper. I started with 100, stepped up to 150, and then finished with 220, so that the surface was a smooth as possible. Be sure to sand with the grain of the wood, so as not to scratch or damage it.

In between sanding stages, I removed the saw dust with a tack cloth. Be sure to do a very thorough job of it after the final sanding. You don’t want the dust to mar your stain and top coat.

Fill any cracks or holes with a stain-able, sand-able wood filler. Use a plastic spackling knife and follow the directions on the tube. I used Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler MAX.

An optional next step would have been to apply a wood conditioning product, which helps the stain soak into the wood grain more evenly. In retrospect, I should have done this step, but chose to skip it in the interest of time.

The products I used for my refinishing project.
The products I used for my refinishing project.

I wanted my table to end up with a slightly white-washed look. I chose Minwax Wood Finish in Pickled Oak. (FYI, don’t bother looking for this color at Home Depot, just stop by Ace Hardware in Bremerton.) I applied the stain, going with the wood grain, with a synthetic brush and let the first coat sit for 15 minutes for maximum absorption. I removed any excess stain with a soft, dry rag. After letting it dry for five hours, I repeated this process one more time. Make sure to have proper ventilation in your work space for this step.

The first application of stain, settling into the wood, before being wiped off.
The first application of stain, settling into the wood, before being wiped off.

For my top coat, I used Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, in a satin finish, for low odor during application and easy clean-up. Wait 24 hours after applying your last coat of stain before  you layer on the top coat. Apply a thin, even coat with a synthetic brush. Don’t over brush. Let it dry for two hours, and lightly sand with a 220 grit sandpaper. Remove all dust. Repeat this process, as many times as you see fit. Since this is our main dining table, and I wanted to ensure extra protection, I did five coats.

The after. The table is stained and sealed, so it can't be damaged by our normal wear and tear.
The after. The table is stained and sealed, so it can’t be damaged by our normal wear and tear.

I’ll admit that this project was very time consuming, and took me the better part of a week, because I needed to care for my children and run a household in between steps. That said, I am so glad I did it, and am very happy with the way it turned out. Our table is now ready to withstand our daily wear and tear for quite a few more years. Next up- refinishing the dining bench to match!

The table looks great now. I'll tell you the tale of the white painted chairs another day...
The table looks great now. I’ll tell you the tale of the white painted chairs another day…
The bench is next!
The bench is next!

If it’s time to refinish your dining table, you might just be able to squeeze it in before you host Thanksgiving!

Junk Drawer Management

Like so many of you, I have a junk drawer in the kitchen. And, while this next admission may be damaging to my burgeoning career as a self-proclaimed home organizer, my junk drawer gets completely out of control at times. I like to consider myself an organized person in general, but I’m also human. I hold onto little things that I think I’ll need someday and they all seem to get stuffed in the junk drawer.

All organizing systems require regular maintenance. That is the one step that lots of articles with home organizing tips seem to leave out. You’ve got to frequently purge so as to not overwhelm your organizers with the stuff of everyday life. Chargers, receipts, match books, coupons, pens, tape, Chapstick, keys. Tiny items come home with us every single day.

So here is what I did with my junk drawer problem.

Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.
Shameful BEFORE photo of my junk drawer.

Take it all out. Sort it into piles of like items. Some of mine were as follows, tools, writing instruments, adhesives, keys, batteries, personal care, curtain hardware and chargers.

Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn't.
Holy moly! How did all that stuff fit into one drawer? Short answer: it didn’t.

Consider the items. What items did I actually go to the drawer to use?  (Pens, scissors, nail file, tape measure.) What things were just in the way? (Curtain hardware, knobs, carpet tape.) Are there things that really just need a new home? (Receipts and coupons.) Is some of this trash? (Yes, lots of it!)

Assess your drawer organizing unit. Is it the right kind for all of the things that will be returning to the drawer? Maybe its time for a different one.

I've had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better for me.
I’ve had these drawer organizers for years, and surely could make them work better.

Now purge. Only return items to the drawer that you actually need access to. In my kitchen, storage space is precious, so I really tried to hone in on what I actually used on a daily basis. Find other homes for the stuff that was just getting in the way.

How long will this drawer look like this? I'll give you an honest update in two months!
How long will this drawer look like this? I’ll give you an honest update in two months!

Okay, now don’t forget: you’re going to need to go through this drawer every couple of months to keep it from getting clogged up again! I just set a reminder on my phone for the first week of January, to check in and assess how my good old junk drawer is holding up. Maybe you should too!


Organizing Kid’s Toys

Keeping Thomas and Lucy’s toys contained in a house with no play room takes constant organizing. Space constraints aside, having proper toy storage is always a challenge, because we always seem to bring more play things home. As our kids age out of what they used to play with and get into something new, we need to purge and box old toys up, so our systems don’t get overwhelmed.

A few things have worked pretty well for me, and although it is an ongoing battle, we have mostly managed to keep the house from feeling overloaded with toys. Here are a few tips!

With Thomas’s birthday this weekend, and Christmas quickly approaching, I always do a pre-party purge of his room, assessing what he doesn’t favor anymore. I’ll tuck those things away, usually while he is at school, and save them for a rainy day. This makes room for all of the new stuff. Keep this idea in mind, before new toys enter the house, and you are one step ahead of the game.

Keep a storage tub or two, of less frequently played with toys that your child is still likes,  in the basement or a closet. When they want to play with some of them, swap them out with something currently in their room, like a little borrowing system. We have done this with Thomas’s train set, toy dinosaurs and some other toys that he is still interested in, but doesn’t need to have out all of the time. If he wants to play with them, he gives up something else for a little while, until he is ready to put the older toys away again. Or, simply create a regular toy rotation every couple of months, so that old toys seem new, and perhaps they’ll tire of things less quickly.


For babies, keep just one basket of toys in your main play area. While young babies do like bright, talking toys, they mostly want to explore their environments. They don’t need a ton of complicated play things. When I took a few minutes to observe which toys Lucy, my nine-month-old, was actually interested in, it was far fewer than what I had on hand. While I plan to keep a few extras to switch things out every so often, I was able to let go of quite a few toys. Babies change so quickly anyways, there is just no good reason to have lots of toys for one particular age.


Store toys where the kids can see and reach them. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, clear shoe boxes are the best. Of course, they don’t fit larger toys, but you might be surprised just how much you can fit into those little bins. I love that they are stackable and not so big, that they become heavy for kids to lift. We use them for LEGO bricks, play food, Thomas’s tool set, and many other items. Zippered mesh bags are good for larger sets of toys too. They can fit more than what a shoe box can hold, but you can still see what’s inside.

I converted Thomas’s closet into a music “studio”. He loves going in there and making tunes.


Create zones within a room. In Thomas’s small bedroom, we have several different areas to keep specific types of things. I promise I am not militant about the lines between these zones, but it totally helps when it is time to put toys away or when we are searching for something. His zones are as follows: musical instruments, LEGO, games, books, miscellaneous toys and CD’s and records. This principle is a classic organizing trick which can be applied to every single room of the house.

Organizing with Vintage Stuff

As I just wrote about for the Sunday paper, I prefer the patina of an old, rusty bin to the plastic sheen of a storage tub. This is not to say that I don’t own a great many plastic storage bins, but I do like re-purposing old stuff as organizational implements.

Tired of the mismatched baskets that I use as my snack pantry above the buffet in the kitchen, I went out in search of vintage metal bins and wooden boxes to replace them with, and found these at Uptown Mercantile and Red Plantation Mercantile.

Another of my favorite vintage organizing devices is this old tool box. I used to use it as my “market box”, when I was a vendor peddling vintage furnishings at flea markets. Now it holds some of my crafting supplies:

I use this metal basket to organize papers, magazines and notebooks that I need at the ready. I have another one similar to it in the bathroom, corralling clean towels.


How do you use your vintage treasures to organize everyday items?


Layering in the Authenticity Through Vintage

Photo taken at Found, in Poulsbo.
Photo taken at Found, in Poulsbo.

Hey there! Here is a link to my column this month, all about how vintage furnishings and collections add soul to your home. I hope that you enjoy it and feel inspired to search for pieces that speak to your personality too. You’ll also find a list of some of my favorite local shops to hit up for vintage treasure, here.

A vintage metal tool chest at Uptown Mercantile in Bremerton.
A vintage metal tool chest at Uptown Mercantile in Bremerton.

Vintage Adds Soul to Your Home

Some vintage accessories at Found, in Poulsbo.

What are the differences between a “decorated” home and an authentic one? How can I make my home feel more like a reflection of who I am, who my family is, and be less concerned with it just looking pretty? These are the types of soul-searching questions I have been pondering lately. Don’t be fooled, I also want my home to look beautiful, but I want it to feel real, lived-in, and happy. Not contrived. One of the ways I personalize my home is through vintage furnishings.

This Sunday, in the Life section of the Sun, I’ll touch on the idea of adding vintage soul to your home; how mixing furnishings from different time periods give a home character and how collections of vintage accessories speak to your personality. Even refinishing an old piece creates a story and can imbue your environment with authenticity. How does vintage inspire your life at home?

I Survived the Home Goods Grand Opening


It was a little crazy out there folks! Home Goods opened the doors of their new location at the Trails in Silverdale last Sunday, and boy was it hopping.  The store was looking bright, shiny and totally stocked- with merchandise, employees and shoppers. As I am generally not a huge lover of crowds, my plan was to get in and get out, without buying anything, and I stuck to my guns. But it was hard. There was so much good stuff! If you haven’t been to a Home Goods, it’s basically a giant version of TJ Maxx’s home decor section. The prices are totally reasonable and the inventory is deep. There were two huge aisles of throw pillows. Two! There were two huge aisles of lamps. Two! If you are in search of a brand new home accessory, of any kind, size or style, (no vintage of course), I highly suggest stopping in. Enjoy a few photos from my experience.

photo 1 (1) photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1) photo 4 photo 5

DIY: Under-bed LEGO Table

Living in a 1920’s house has its charms and drawbacks. Storage space is tight, and rooms are small. I have two small children, and as you might know, they come with lots of stuff, and more specifically, lots of LEGO. My basement is mostly unfinished and therefore, I have no dedicated play room. My oldest is very nearly five years old and my youngest is eight months old. LEGO and babies don’t mix. So, the house rule is that LEGO bricks stay in Thomas’ bedroom.

Since Thomas’s bedroom is pretty tiny and floor space is limited, I needed to come up with a solution that could, quite literally make the LEGO bricks disappear at night. My theory is that creating a dedicated play area for these tiny pieces, makes their migration into common areas of the house a little less likely.

The under-bed space is largely underutilized as storage in general, and Thomas’ room is no exception. Since most LEGO play time happens on the floor anyway, I had it in my mind to create some type of surface that could slide under the bed at night. This is what I came up with.

Using a scrap piece of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), I had on hand, I crafted a rolling LEGO table. It was pretty simple to make, and you could make this piece just about any size you want. It took four easy steps.


  1. Screw in four swivel casters with brakes. I used casters with brakes so the table won’t slide away from Thomas as he is playing on it. The only down side to this is that they are a bit tricky, so I have to help him set and unlock the brakes.IMG_0756
  2. Use a miter box to cut trim for the edges of the table. The last thing you want is for the LEGO creations to go careening off the side of the table when you push it under the bed at night. Meltdowns will ensue… I used a 1″ square cedar trim from Home Depot, but almost any type of decorative trim or quarter-round would work.
  3. Adhere the trim to the table. I used Gorilla Glue with clamps, then secured the trim with finishing nails.photo (17)
  4. Paint it. I used two coats of Behr’s Ultra White primer and paint in one. Of course, I had help, I’d be nowhere without my little shop assistant! If you wanted to, you could paint some streets on the surface, or glue down a few of those green LEGO building plates. We are not quite so sophisticated yet.IMG_0799

Done! The only challenge left was getting it to fit under the bed. Thomas’s bed is low to the ground, so I spray painted a set of bed risers that were collecting dust in the basement. We effectively gained a few more inches to accommodate those taller LEGO structures.


I know that the LEGO obsession is likely going to last at least another nine or ten years, if not more, according to my teenage nephews. In that time, we may very well move to a different home with more room to set up for hobbies and play,  but this solution is working just beautifully for now.