Monday, June 22, 2015

Blue Grey Chalk Painted Media Cabinet

Before we even moved into our house we realized our giant entertainment center would not work in our living room. With two big "open" walls leading into other rooms (I just love the open floor plan) a giant window on another wall and a fireplace on the remaining wall we realized the only real logical place for our TV was above the fireplace. With no cabinets, shelves or storage of any kind for our DVR, Playstation, DVD's, etc. etc., we decided to buy a media cabinet.

With our new found storage dilemma, built in shelving units on both sides of the fireplace quickly became #1 on my wish list for our house. I must have pinned 50 built in ideas on Pinterest! I have begged and pleaded with Cory to make me some, I've even told him that built ins are the only present I want for my birthday or Christmas. Needless to say I don't have them...yet. By the time he gets around to it, I may just be able to tackle it myself (wishful thinking, I know)!!

To solve our storage problem I looked on Craigslist for a solution. I found a pretty nice looking cherry media cabinet for $60. We went to check it out and the guys kids were playing video games on a TV perched on top of the unit which was jammed packed with games, DVDs and other odds and ends. I guess he must not have thought we were serious buyers.

As he helped load our "new" media cabinet that we ended up getting for $40, I couldn't help but wonder what they were going to use now for their TV and video game stuff. Craigslist is chalk full of interesting people.

Cory immediately hated our new media cabinet. He thought it was cheap and rickety. I thought it was cute and while not the best quality, totally worth 40 bucks. While we had bought this cabinet to store everything that had once been in our entertainment center it somehow ended up in our master bedroom with a TV on top of it and some DVDs inside of it. Good intentions is all I have to say about that.

So meanwhile in our living room our gaming systems and DVR sat atop a cardboard box filled with DVDs and other living room tchotchkes. Yes, this is our life. Eventually they graduated to a wine refrigerator Cory's mom gave us for Christmas (I still don't know how that happened!). 

So finally after I purchased a $25 dresser and painted it to match the other wood furniture in our room, see dresser post here, we were able to bring the media cabinet down into the room it was originally meant for.

I decided it needed to be painted. It was cherry and while we have cherry colored wood floors I just didn't think it would look right. Also it was pretty beat up from the previous owners, I just couldn't see the full extent until we brought it downstairs. We put it in the kitchen "work space" and I immediately got to work. 

Jackson used the media cabinet as one of his play spaces the entire time I was working on it. He would climb inside to hide, use it as a garage for his cars and other toys and he even helped me with his own toy tools, leaving them scattered around inside the cabinet.

 I had to paint several coats of white on that puppy. After one coat I could see this was going to be a long process.

Two coats, not quite there yet.

Three coats will do it I think!

I also decided to leave the top cherry, but it was all scratched and scuffed up. So I pulled out the merlot cabinet transformations I already had so the cabinet would keep that cherry look on the top. Again if you want to see how to paint a cherry wood look see my dresser post here. I lightly sanded the edges of the top to give it a nice worn look. 

Jackson watched me do this and whenever he could get a hold of one of my sanding sponges he "helped" by sanding the top. I can attest to how nicely the finished merlot and glazed top without protective clear coat held up. Not one scratch from my toddler sanding helper.

I painted a couple coats on the glass doors and with only the shelves left to paint you would think I'd be excited about being almost done. Nope. After ALL that work I decided I wanted to do a different color. I thought the white looked too boring. I really wanted a pop of color in the living room, something interesting and different that your eye would be drawn to.

I also figured now would be the perfect time to try out some homemade chalk paint. I'd already wasted hours on this project so if the homemade chalk paint didn't work out, oh well, I gave it a shot.

One day soon after my new decision I was in Menards picking up a bunch of stuff for other projects and I decided to get a couple pints of their cheapest paint to try out some chalk paint. I picked out a light teal color and a blue grey color. I normally buy Behr paint for my walls but I figured I was mixing stuff in with this paint so it didn't have to be the best quality.

I wasn't sure which color I wanted to use so I held them up and looked at the living room walls, squinted, hemmed and hawed and finally decided on teal. I mixed up some teal chalk paint and slapped on a coat. Cory, bless his heart, didn't say one word against it. When it dried, to my dismay at wasting more time and paint, I realized it looked downright horrible. 

So that night I mixed up some of the blue grey color chalk paint (At Peace by Dutch Boy). Let me just say this media cabinet was my first experience with chalk paint of any kind, homemade or store bought, and I'm in love (find my recipe here). When I mixed the teal I think I mixed it too thin, which made it look even worse with white paint showing through. I mixed the blue grey a little thicker and it couldn't have worked out better. The paint went on super smooth, like nothing else I've ever used. One coat and I was done.

Well, not quite. I love the look of dark wax on chalk painted furniture but since I'm such an extreme novice and I didn't want to go out and buy wax I used what I already have experience with: stain. I took out the glaze/stain from my cabinet restorations kit and got to work brushing stain on one of the shelves first. I used some cheesecloth to wipe the stain off. 

It wouldn't come off though. No matter how hard I wiped the stain wasn't budging. It must have been that the dry, chalky finish of the paint was just soaking the stain up! I had a mini freak out for about 30 seconds where I came to the conclusion I'd just have to repaint that shelf. What was a little more work on this endless project?

I thought I'd try one more thing before I gave up though. I soaked the cheesecloth with water and tried rubbing the stain off again. YES!!! It worked perfect!! Thank God for small favors. The stain wiped right off leaving just the right amount behind to give the cabinet an antique-y, not so blue-grey in your face look.

Here's a pic of me painting the stain on with a foam brush. 

Here's one of me wiping off  the stain with a damp cheesecloth.

I reused the old silver knobs by giving them a quick scratch with the sanding sponge and spray painting them with oil rubbed spray paint. Then I was finally ready to call it a day, a long 3-4 month day.

Here's the finished cabinet. It really did feel like it took forever and it probably would have sat in the kitchen for a few months longer if Jackson's third birthday party hadn't pushed me into completing this project once and for all. I guess I should just stop being so indecisive!

Here's a close up of the different techniques I used. You can see the slight distressing I did to the edges of the top and you can see where I've left more stain on the edges to give the cabinet the look I was going for.

I am very satisfied with the outcome and I'm really happy to have that cabinet out of our kitchen (only to move some other piece of furniture in,..Yes, I'm that girl) and to finally put those DVDs and gaming systems in their rightful place. Cory seems to be the only one who hasn't liked the finished look and I'm really hoping it grows on him because I love it!

Since this particular post is about a cabinet I "transformed" I figured it would be the perfect post to show you all my latest featured board from Hometalk since it's all about cabinet transformations! Click on the image below to check it out and be inspired by so many great makeovers, painting techniques and amazing transformations of cabinets!

Until the next project and the next post!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Whimsically Ambient Birdcage with Ivy and Lights

For my next few posts I'll be highlighting homemade chalk paint. It's my new obsession. That along with birdcages.

This particular post is on a birdcage that I spruced up to decorate a piece of chalk painted furniture that I'll be revealing on my next post.  

Ideas with birdcages started brewing when my neighbor brought me into her house the other week to show me her beautiful succulent birdcage that she made after seeing my succulent birdcage post (here). It really made me feel great to have inspired someone (especially so close to home!) since that's one of the reasons why I started blogging! 

She also showed me her other awesome birdcages decorating her house and she filled me in on where could get some cheap birdcages, since we share the same, some would say addiction, to birdcages. She purchased her birdcage that she used for succulents at Michael's for 40% off or so and she was able to use a coupon to get a sweet deal. This was news to me. I didn't know Michael's had coupons! She said you can also just pull up the coupon ad on your phone in store and use it! Even easier!

So a few days later I made my way to Michael's to scope out their birdcage collection. I found a shelf full of white birdcages with clear birds perched on the top for 50% off (apparently it was a get the Spring decor outta here sale) The bird had been broken off one of the larger birdcages, which was fine by me since that wasn't the look I was going for anyway. I put that birdcage along with a smaller one in my cart and strolled around the store for a minute before making my way to checkout.

I'll share with you all a trick/tip I ALWAYS use on damaged goods: I ask at the counter if I can get a discount for damaged products. They more than likely will say yes and it just depends on the store and employee how deep of a percentage off they will give you. It never hurts to ask! I've left stores saving tons of money, feeling great because I'm a bargain shopper by heart!

I scored the two birdcages for $17 altogether getting an additional 20% off the missing bird-cage. Not too shabby. I think I'll be checking out Michael's more often since in the past I found them to be a bit on the pricey side.

I got home and started almost immediately with my birdcage project. I knew I wanted to put the birdcage on top of my "new" piece of furniture and that I wanted to put a plant inside of it. I just happened to have some leftover ivy from planting all my planters outside. I love everything about ivy. It is one hardy plant (it's hard for even me to kill with my black thumb and all) and I am in love with trailing plants that you can train. We happen to have an old ivy plant that is pushing 16 years old on top of our fridge.

I pulled out a pot that was sitting in our garage and planted the ivy in it and then set the pot in the birdcage to admire. Eh. It needed something. The terra cotta color wasn't doing it for me. It just didn't flow. So I decided to paint the pot with the same color chalk paint I had just used on my piece of furniture.

The recipe I used for my homemade chalk paint was super easy. I found it on Salvaged Inspirations along with 3 other great recipes for chalk paint. They are all tried and true recipes that have been passed along so much that the original creators are impossible to find.

I'll share with you all my first second experience making chalk paint:


  • paint (any color you like in a satin, eggshell or flat finish)
  • plaster of paris
  • water
I mixed plaster of paris and water in my handy dandy paint container until it was the consistency of a smooth paste. 

Then I poured 3 times the amount of paint to the amount of plaster of paris mixture into the container and mixed that all up. 

To reiterate the ratio is 3 parts paint to 1 part plaster of paris mixture. If you don't mix the paint and plaster of paris mixture well enough there will be hardened pieces of plaster of paris on the bottom of the mixture (speaking from experience here folks), so be sure to mix very thoroughly.

The chalk paint is super smooth and, well, chalky. I really like the ease and smoothness of painting with this paint. I only had to paint one coat on the terra cotta pot. I'm not really sure if this is exactly how thin chalk paint should be but it worked out great for me and I'm very happy with the outcome.

While I don't recommend painting a pot when there's a plant and dirt already in it. the whole process really did work out just fine for me. No dirt spillage or dirty paintbrush. I could have just been lucky though, and you can still see a tiny bit of the terra cotta color peeking through on the inner edge but I don't think anyone will be looking that closely to notice since it's inside a birdcage.

I set the finished pot in the birdcage and then stood back to admire my new ivy decoration. I thought it looked pretty good and once the ivy starts to grow it would look even better. As I scrutinized the birdcage I thought to myself it could still use a little something...maybe some lights to give the room some of the cozy, warm feelings I get during Christmastime from the Christmas tree.

Yes, I'll admit I am in love with Christmas lights. It's such a sad day at my house when I take down the Christmas decorations, especially the lights. Not just because it's so much work taking all those decorations down (ugh I absolutely dread it) but because I immediately miss the beautiful ambiance Christmas lights create.

I went on down to the basement storage area and pulled out my heavy tote of Christmas lights and brought out a string of battery powered led lights (with a timer even!) that I had previously used on a wreath. These lights would work out perfect!

I strategically placed the lights inside the birdcage and tada! Instant mood change to the room. Here's the finished birdcage. It creates the perfect amount of whimsical ambiance to the living room.

Now I can get that warm and cozy Christmas lights feeling all year round!


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