Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fireplace Makeover

Happy Wednesday guys!  I wanted to share a project that I worked on over the weekend...

Our fireplace got a fairly substantial makeover!

We are so lucky to have a fireplace in our apartment, but as the focal point of the room, it had been looking a little sad...

Here's the evidence:

It wasn't terrible - but it had certainly seen better days.

From far away it doesn't look SO bad, but up close the stone was really dirty (and this is after about 45 minutes of scrubbing).  It also had several deep cracks running through it.  Nothing non-livable, but I'd been scheming about a fireplace update for a while.

See - up close you can really see the permanent grime and the cracks.

The stone was also really yellowed, and wasn't very pretty to begin with so I was confident that I could improve upon it's facade.  I had seen several DIY projects that got the wheels spinning.

On SMP Living they did a hack on an Ikea table that turned out amazing...

On A Thoughtful Place she tackled a small countertop in a similar fashion...

And over at I Heart Organizing, their coffee table got a sweet makeover with marbled contact paper.

All the makeovers had turned out really well, and the contact paper looked gorgeous in the photos.  After kicking the idea around for a few days, it seemed easy enough to tackle, so I placed an order for this roll of carrera marble contact paper.

I will say, when I saw the price tag, I was a little surprised, but $65 isn't a deal breaker - especially when the stone was in such bad shape.  I'd also looked into less expensive options on Amazon, but after reading some mediocre reviews I pulled the trigger on the more expensive product.

I later realized it ended up being the less expensive option in the end!  The other rolls of contact paper did not have enough for me to cover our entire fireplace, but with this roll, there is 50 feet of contact paper.

I win!

Here is the first piece of contact paper after I got it installed on the fireplace.  One long sheet covered quite a bit of the fireplace front, and so even though I wrestled to get to to lay straight and flat (no bubbles) I still had to peel it off and redo it a few times.  Regardless of the several first attempts, it went up relatively quick.

An extra pair of hands would have been helpful, but since the contact paper easily peels off without loosing it's stickiness, it was totally fine.

I made my way row by row, and did my best to match up the marbling pattern on the seams - it doesn't have to be perfect - no one is looking THAT close - but I didn't want it to be super obvious.  If you're doing a smaller space, or you don't mind wasting a bit of the contact paper to get it to line up perfectly, you should definitely try.  I was covering a large surface, and didn't want to run out halfway through, so I went for "close enough".

I measured the width carefully, and then added a few extra inches than I'd actually need before cutting it out.  Once it was up, I then used an exacto knife to cut away any excess on the sides.

After this point I was feeling good... the contact paper was going up quickly, and I'd finished the majority of the front in just about an hour, but it quickly slowed down from here...

Cutting around the molding proved to be a HUGE pain in the butt, and much harder than I'd anticipated.  I wasted a few sheets of contact paper, so it was a blessing I had plenty to spare.  I found it was easiest to leave the paper backing on while tracing the molding around the contact paper as best I could, and then cutting it out roughly, adhering the paper down, and then cutting off the rest.

There are still a few spots that aren't perfect in those tight nooks and crannies, but I'm not going to sweat it.  It's pretty well camouflaged.

Despite my exacto knife cuts, I found that when I finished the edges looked so raw still.

Not loving it.  You could really tell on the edge that it was contact paper, and not actual marble.  Ignore the messy cuts here - I ended up re-doing this section after snapping a few pictures.

Woof.  I literally could not stand it.  The seams were jumping out at me.

Pretend that these pictures actually showcase my handiwork after it was redone.  The edge between "marble" and wood still looked raw and unfinished, but the rest was smooth, and seamless.

The edge where the contact paper met the brick interior, it was also pretty raw and ragged looking.  I needed a solution.

I headed to Lowes, and wandered around the store looking for the perfect thing to trim the edges with.  I originally was thinking something brass would be awesome.  The idea of trying to cut through brass was not so awesome.  I ended up buying some pre-primed and painted wood strips - the flattest I could find, and a pre-primed and painted quarter round piece of trim.

A few cuts here and there, and presto-chango... we had some very finished looking transitions between "marble" and brick, and "marble" and wood floor.

The flat ~1" wood strips trimmed out the mouth of the fireplace between brick and contact paper, and really cleaned that up, while the quarter round finished off the area between the wood floor and the hearth.


It looks pretty amazing right??  I mean the trim is so subtle that most people wouldn't notice, but it really changes everything, and takes this fireplace from "pretty good", to "finished off like a pro".

A few areas still need a bit of caulk to fully seal the gap in the seam between wood and "marble" but it's looking SO GOOD.

I also have to say, taking my time, going slow, being careful to keep my cuts straight, and being meticulous about smoothing out every air bubble really paid off.  Even when it meant peeling off the contact paper, throwing away a wasted piece and re-doing it... it made all the difference.  It looks SO REAL now that it's finished.  You'd have to get your nose right in there to tell it's contact paper.

Because of the cracked, pocked marked stone underneath, those imperfections show through the contact paper a bit, but I think it actually makes it look a bit more authentic.

As for the air bubbles, they really are unavoidable as you smooth the contact paper down over the surface.  Try to get as much out as you can by pressing hard and smoothing the air out to the seams before fully sealing it down, but for the small stubburn air bubbles that remain, use a pin to pop them (I just used an earring since we didn't have a pin).  Poke a small hole in the middle of the air bubble and smooth out the contact paper around.  The air will squeeze out of the hole, the teeny tiny hole disappears, and there's no more air bubble.  Everyone wins.

I found it was really helpful to use a towel when pressing the contact paper smooth (instead of a rubber squeegee or credit card).  The instructions on the back of the contact paper said to use a towel, it it was great.  It spared my little fingers quite a bit, although I did end up with a little blister on my thumb from all the pressing.  Totally worth it though.

I mean, this is as close as it gets... pretty real.  The colors are really crisp, and the marbling is really pretty.

Here is a close picture of one of the seams - as you can see it doesn't line up perfectly, but close enough, and the seam is WAY LESS noticeable than it had been with the old stone facade.

Look at the seam now from far away... it's hardly noticeable, and certainly less noticeable than it had been with the original stone (in case you're having a hard time finding it in the picture below, it's perfectly lined up with the top of the fireplace opening).

For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the seam on the original stone - it was pretty obvious.

Finally, I want to talk about a second update to the fireplace that you probably didn't notice... look inside the fireplace at all the discoloration - the black soot, and the ashy grey stone.


Enter a can of this high heat paint from Rustoleum.

I'm 90% certain this fireplace is non-functioning... it certainly hasn't been used in at least the last 5 years... but functioning or not, the last thing we need is to light this building on fire.  I don't want to test this out, so we're not going to light any fires in here.

That said, this high-heat paint is meant for projects like this, so in case it ever does need to be used, we're good to go.

The paint was much more liquid-y than normal paint - almost like oil - and was super stinky.  Open the window when you use this!  Luckily, it went on in one coat, and dried relatively quickly. Now the inside of our fireplace is a uniform solid black, and the perfect backdrop for all our pretty candles.

I got the idea from Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere who had a similar set-up going at her old house.

I think the white candles against the black is really dramatic and pretty, and now it's so romantic at night.

So that's it - a little elbow grease, creativity, and about $80, and our fireplace has a whole new face!

What do you think of my little makeover?  Was it worth the blister on my finger, and about 5 hours of work?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Weekend!

Happy Friday ya'll!!

This week has dragged on and on (it feels like) but I'm so excited for the weekend.  On Saturday, one of my girlfriends is trying on wedding dresses so I'm going to ooh and ahh over her whilst drinking champagne.  Two things I'm good at.  That night is our big family birthday celebration and we are going to the MOST fabulous restaurant... I've been dying to try it, and cannot wait to debut a pretty white dress to ring in 30 with my favorite people.  Yes, the birthday celebrations continue...

I'm also really excited to start a few new projects at home, and hopefully have some fun updates to share with you all next week.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gallery Wall Surrounding the TV

Look who was unable to unearth the camera from the many boxes still piled up in our house!!

Woot woot!

It really is the small victories in life - right??  

Well, I found the camera last night, and snapped a few pictures of the gallery wall in our bedroom this morning before getting ready for work (so ignore my reflection in the TV where I'm in my robe... love that robe btw).

As you can see, I've made huge progress since the last updates I'd posted in my "how to hang a gallery wall" post but while the frames are in place, the gallery wall is far from finished...

Want to know why???

Look closer... 

See it now??  Some of the art is hanging the wrong way... upside down, sideways... and some of it is seasonal from Christmas!  Yep, there is one reading "Deck the Halls" hung upside down.  It drives me absolutely nuts. Sadly, Kris didn't even notice it.  Men!

I'm in the process of pulling together new pieces to hang, that will be more cohesive together.  I want pieces that bring out the pretty blue of the dresser (which by the way photographed REALLY blue, but is more deep teal in real life).  I also want some more color, and lots of bright white.

Some of the prints and paintings will stay... specifically the black and white surf photograph, and a few of the Clare Elsaesser pieces that I still adore.

Originally, I'd been considering spraying all the frames either all gold, all black, or all white, but I'm kind of liking the mix of black and gold...

What do you think?

The two stacked frames in the middle (top) seem a little too thick to me, but perhaps with a wider white matte, and more simple art they won't look so clunky... the pieces that are in there right now are really dark, and next to each other look like too much.

Overall, I'm really happy with how this wall (and this room) is coming together.  It's so light and bright, and the gallery wall takes away from the big looming TV that was the lone ranger on that huge empty wall for so long.

The woven hampers flanking the TV and dresser are also new to the room, fill out the wall, and help us (aka help me) keep all the clothes off the floor.

The hampers are from Target. They are amazing.  A little pricey (roughly $50 each) but worth every penny.  They are out in the room, and the woven texture keeps them from being an eyesore.  I actually think they are really pretty! And not to go on and on about the hampers, but they have these super handy detachable liners, so when it's time to do laundry, you just un-snap them and carry the whole sack to the washing machine.  Genius!


Aside from swapping out the art, and a few of the mattes, I was also thinking that I may also tweak the layout a bit more.

That's the thing about building a gallery wall... you REALLY have to be flexible as you hang up pieces.  You'll find that frames you thought you liked in a certain spot don't look right once they are hung, and that certain spots need something larger, smaller, or nothing at all.  Blank space is as important in a gallery wall as coverage, and slight asymmetry feels purposeful as opposed to aiming for perfect symmetry and having a frame hanging slightly off.  Living with it for a while has really helped me see what I want to move, but it's really minimal.  Remember the original layout plan?

I don't want to say our gallery wall has a completely different layout, but it's definitely different from the original.  There are a few more frames (the mock up didn't take into account scale accurately... both the scale of the frames and the scale of that enormous wall.

To put it in perspective, some of the large frames that look relatively small here are 27"x20"... not small at all!

More pictures to come once we have hung all our new pieces, but I felt I owed you all a little taste of what's been happening in there...

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

True Style vs. a Truly cool Lamp??

So I know that yesterday I posted about staying true to your style.  Mine is classic.  Clean. Contemporary. Comfortable. Preppy.

But let's talk about this lamp for a moment.

You all know this lamp.

Nate Berkus blew everyone away with his last collection for Target.  It flew off the shelves and was only available online.  I of course lusted after it, and finally caved.  I ordered two of them.

They arrived last week, and after setting one of them up, Kris came home... his immediate response was:

"I can't tell if I hate that lamp or if it's my favorite thing in the house."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

After just posting yesterday about staying true to your style, I am evaluating EVERYTHING against that lens now, and these lamps do not really reflect my "true style"... but they are so dang cool!!!  I had originally wanted them for the living room, but they are not at all right in that space.

I'm thinking that on our desks in our soon-to-be-office they could be great, so I'll hang onto them for now...

To give you a little visual, this is sort of how I see them playing out in the office...

I'm not ready to let go of the lamps yet, but I know I need to make some decisions soon!!

What do you think?


Or do they need to go back to the store?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Back to Basics: What's you're "True" Style?

This year is going by so fast!  There has been so much going on that I've really taken to posting on here when I feel inspired... or more often than not, when I feel guilty that it's been too long.

To be honest, I haven't been feeling all that inspired, and when it felt like "work" to come up with something to write about, I didn't... but now that we've moved, and unpacked (most) of the boxes, I'm feeling more settled in, and less overwhelmed.  Maybe it's that I don't feel like I'm living in complete chaos anymore... maybe that with spring I'm feeling re-inspired to rejuvenate our space, and inject life back into it... or maybe my focus is naturally shifting back to the things I love... design, decor and DIY.

Last night, I hunted for our DSLR camera with the intention of being able to post some updates on our new apartment today, but since it's still packed somewhere, I wanted to take today to talk about where my head is at, and where I see my style trending for our new place.  After moving, and being presented with the opportunity to re-vamp our house, I've adopted an "out with the old / cluttered / things I hate or have grown out of" state of mind, and want to re-focus our space, keeping only things I love that reflect Kris any my personalities and tastes. Whether it's to Craigslist, or to Goodwill... the clutter is slowwwwlllllllyyyyyyy dissipating.

I've found that it's so easy to see a beautiful space or a cool home accessory and think, "I NEED to recreate that in my own house".

Put on the brakes Becky.  Stop.  Think.

Is that new rug / lamp / fabric / style really you?  Does it fit in with the aesthetic you are going for??  What IS my true style???

That last question is the one I have been  rolling over in my mind.  In a few words, this is what I've come up with... my TRUE style is:

Classic - but not necessarily traditional.  
Nothing stuffy... but leaning on tradition with classic lines, and finishings.

Clean - but not minimal.
Out with the clutter!  That's my new mantra for 2014!

Relaxed - but not sloppy.
I want our home to be inviting where the furniture says "come in and sit down"!

Contemporary - but not modern.
This is definitely a nod to Kris' aesthetic... he likes modern clean lines, so as long as there is balance between modern and classic, we're all good

Color infused - but not color saturated.
The one thing all these spaces have in common are their light colors - pale walls, white furniture, but I need my home to have small punches of color in the accessories... a bright bunch of flowers... art.

Preppy, a little bit elegant, and a little bit rustic.
A touch of gold here, a little rustic wood or raw linen there... a few stripes interspersed... that's my jam.  I cannot forget.

So with that list fresh in my mind, I'm in the process of going through my things - pillows, vases, frames, art, accessories - and purging. This process has been combined with unpacking, which makes both take doubly long.

I can fully admit that I've made purchases that were not necessarily "me" but from here on out, I'm going to keep this list fresh in my mind.  I'll admire the mid-century rooms from afar.  Classic, clean, natural, comfortable, welcoming with a bit of color and a bit of glam.

What is your true style?  Girly and glam? Minimalistic?

I'm curious!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Little Bit of this... A Little Bit of that...

Hello hello!  Hope you all had a great weekend!

I feel like the last week has been a complete whirlwind, between our trip to Mexico - which now feels like it happened about 4 months ago - my actual birthday, catching up on work, and some projects around the house.

Can I please be back here already?? This was the view from our room, and the porch was so private and lovely...

Could be a Corona ad, right??

Seriously the perfect way to ring in the big 3-0.

On a different note, our apartment is really coming along!

I need to dig out the DSLR camera from whatever box it's still packed in to take some GOOD photos of the progress we've made on the house so far.

Remember how I'd painted the living room the wrong color grey?

Well I lived with it for about a month, and on Sunday couldn't take it anymore.  I spent most of the day yesterday re-painting, and it's now a softer, lighter, brighter color of grey, and it's pretty much perfection.

Here is a progress picture...

In this picture, you can REALLY see how much darker (and more blue) the first color of grey was.  It looks almost purple in comparison to the first coat of the new paint.

The next picture shows the final "after" of the paint... so light and bright and neutral, which is exactly what I was hoping for!

I snapped this picture really quick on my phone, in the late afternoon when this side of the house gets darker, but even in the low light, it still is so bright!  This color has changed the entire feel of the room!

Remember this post when I had been going back and forth between two shades of grey - either Grey Owl or Intense White, both from Benjamin Moore.  Well, when I went to have the paint mixed up, I walked into the store with my mind set on getting a gallon of Grey Owl at 50% tint - this was the color I'd painted the dining room in our last house, and I figured at 50% tint, it would be even brighter and reflective.

Despite my original decision, I left the store with a gallon of Intense White.

I'm not one to usually change my mind last minute - especially after agonizing over a decision - but I chose Intense White over Grey Owl for a few reasons.

First, the guy mixing the paint said that there is no "recipe" for mixing a color at 50% tint, so the result wouldn't necessarily be a lighter version of Grey Owl - it might end up more blue, or more beige than intended, and that all he could do was mix an approximation of the 50% tint, and record exactly what was mixed in case I wasn't happy.

Too risky.  No thank you.

I do not want to paint our living room the wrong color for a second time, and end up needing to paint again.

After that conversation, Intense White was the obvious choice for me - it is actually on the same paint chip as Grey Owl, but is one shade lighter.

The Benjamin Moore paint guy also taught me about the light reflection value (LRV) assigned to each Ben Moore paint color. The number indicates how much light gets reflected vs. absorbed by the paint color.  The first grey I'd painted our living room had a LRV value of ~61, meaning that ~40% of all light got absorbed by the paint color, thus making the room feel darker than it was.  Grey Owl had a value of ~64 (slightly better but not that much) and Intense White had the most light reflection of all these options with a value ~74.

This little tid-bit of info has changed my life.  The light index is a game changer!!

Anyway, I am thrilled with how it all came out, and can now focus on other living room updates I've been wanting to make... like on the fireplace... coffee table... side tables... and a new sofa (how long have I been talking about a freaking new sofa???)

Another sneak peak I'll be posting about soon?

Oh yeahhhhhh!!!  Can you guess where this is?

Happy Monday!