The Great Stencil Saga of 2016

The Great Stencil Saga of 2016

When I started drafting and planning the walk-in closet, I knew I wanted to put my vanity in there to get it out of the bedroom.  It was part of the bedroom suite, but it was taking up space in front of the bay window; space I thought could be better used for a window seat. I played around with a few options and decided I wanted the vanity against the back wall of the closet, where I could add lighting and outlets for all my hair apparatuses.

Because that wall is the first thing you see when looking into the room from the bedroom, I thought it needed something special.  I foolishly decided I wanted to stencil it.  My original plan was to use a metallic silver over the pink base.  I found the perfect stencil, described as “Victorian Baroque,” at the Home Depot.  This is the photo from their website.  This is what it’s supposed to look like.


Of course, I Googled for advice before I started, as I always do when trying something new.  Most of the sites I found suggested painter’s tape for keeping the stencil in place and a mostly dry stippling brush for application of paint.  That’s where I started.  But it seemed like no matter how much paint I used, the stencil ended up looking like mud.


I did this as a test run on my dining room wall.  We’ll talk about that color later, I promise.  It’s similar to the base color in the walk-in; not exact, but close enough that I thought I would at least be happy with the silver.  “Okay,” I told myself, “it’s only paint.  If you don’t like it, you can always just paint over it.”  I gathered up my supplies and went to work in the walk-in.  I figured I would just have to use even less paint on my brush.

I drew two level lines on the wall; one horizontal, one vertical.  Then I lined up the corner of the stencil and used a couple pieces of painter’s tape to hold it stationary.  When I applied paint, I dipped the brush, then wiped it off on both the can and a paper towel before dabbing it over the stencil.  I don’t have a picture of it, but it was much the same as my trial attempt.  Actually, no.  It was way worse, because the pink base was just light enough that it made the silver look brown.  I was really getting discouraged when DH called me down for lunch.

DH: “How’s it going up there?”

The Wife (TW): “Oh, you know.  Classic me.”

DH: “You got halfway through it and realized it isn’t what you wanted?”

TW: “Yep!”

After 13 years, he ought to know me.

I tried a few more times in the afternoon.  At this point, I had practically no paint on the brush at all.  I even tried using the grey I used on the ceiling. The result was the same: a mess. I know myself well enough to know that I wasn’t going to be happy with the result I was getting.  I also knew that I would be furious if I spent hours working on something just to end up hating it.  Frustrated, I decided to give up for the day.  I needed to regroup.

After a cool down period, I did another Google search.  I found a few more sites that suggested spray tack on the back of the stencil.  I went to Michael’s a few days later and grabbed a can of repositionable spray adhesive.  Since the floor was already installed in the room, I had craft paper down to protect it, so I just laid the stencil down on the floor and sprayed it with the adhesive, then stuck it on the wall to try again.  Again, no luck.  It was still just mud.  At this point, I’m considering ordering wall paper.  Two sheets of it and this project would’ve been done.  But that wasn’t what I wanted.  As I got down from the ladder, I happened to glance down at the floor.  That was when I saw it.  In the spot where I had sprayed the back of the stencil with adhesive was a perfect design.  “I have two cans of grey spray paint downstairs somewhere,” I said to myself.  “I’m going to try this on the wall.”  So, that’s what I did.  It worked beautifully.


Crisp, clean lines.  Clear details.  Just look at it. I almost cried tears of joy.  It got a little easier after that.  If you attempt to spray paint inside, which is really and truly a terrible idea, please please PLEASE open all the windows and doors you can possibly open and wear a mask.  I opened the door and window in the walk-in as well as the bedroom windows and door. That, combined with a fan in the walk-in window and another at the closet entrance blowing in, kept the stink to a minimum and I was unable to smell it at all downstairs.  If you have small children, send them to grandma’s.  If you have pets, find a way to keep them out of the room.

To prevent over spray, I cut a square out of a sheet of brown paper and taped it around the stencil like so.  Those places where the paint is scraped away are where the registration marks are.  I had to keep the stencil clean there so I could line them up with the marks on the wall.  I’ve just noticed this picture is sideways.  Much like my attempt at stenciling.

I used the spray adhesive only on the stencil, working on the areas of the wall that would be a complete pattern.


When I got closer to the corners, I taped the opposing walls to keep the spray paint from bleeding over, which you can see on the left in the photo below.


I did the corners last because I knew I would have to fold the stencil and I didn’t want to do that before I was done with the whole stencil areas.  I curved it into the corners, then pushed it in tight with a paint shield and held it while I sprayed.  Pro tip: wear gloves for this step if you’re not into the Mr. Roboto look.  Domo arigato.


Here is one of the finished corners.  That paint shield idea was borderline genius, if I do say so myself.


It was easier at the base and ceiling because there will be trim there.


Of all the projects I’ve done in this house and otherwise, this one might have been the biggest hassle, and that’s saying something.  When the stencil got clogged and I had to scrape the paint off, I stuck it onto a piece of spare dry wall to do so.  Once it was clean, I pulled it off, and most of the dry wall paper came with it.  I had to wet the paper down and rub it off.  The adhesive on the back of the stencil kept peeling patches of the pink base color off the wall.  When the stencil got clogged again, in addition to bent and torn, I tried to order a second stencil, from Amazon this time, and I didn’t get the same one even though the manufacturer, description and picture were exact.  I returned it, then I cleaned the first one off again and did the best I could with it.


The worst thing?  I ran out of spray paint about halfway through.  The problem with that is that the spray paint I had laying around was purchased from Ollie’s about 8 years ago, and the paint color and number had been changed by the manufacturer.  Luckily, it was automotive paint, made to match a specific vehicle.  Not so luckily, the make and model of the vehicle isn’t listed on the can.  After trying a can I’d purchased at an estate sale, as well as a can I’d purchased at the Depot that I was sure would match, I was again ready to order some wall paper.  Then I thought to myself, “If this is made to match a specific vehicle, all I have to do is figure out which vehicle it’s for. That shouldn’t be so hard.” Maybe someday I’ll learn.  It was damn near impossible.  I had to plumb the depths of the internet to find it, but I finally located a PDF from Frank’s Auto Supermarket of old Dupli-color codes that listed the vehicle they matched.  If I ever decide to park a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria in my walk-in, it will coordinate perfectly.

So, without further ado…

I still had to do a few little touch-ups with an artist’s brush where the silver bled through because the stencil got bent, and where the adhesive pulled the pink paint off the wall.    But I’m so in love with it.  It’s the perfect focal point for a princess closet, and the perfect background for the darling light fixture above the vanity.


The only thing missing is a tiara.  I’ll have to get right on that.







The World’s Cutest Office Chair

When I started planning the renovations for my currently in-construction office, I knew I would need a desk chair.    I didn’t want just any old desk chair.  Have you seen those things?  Have you ever seen one that wasn’t a dark, solid color? I certainly haven’t.  No prints.  No patterns.  No color.  They are boring.  And I don’t do boring.

I started thinking.  I hit up Pinterest for some ideas.  Then it occurred to me that if I could handle reupholstering a wingback recliner, I could surely handle reupholstering a little old office chair.

Something else you’ll learn about me is that I hate to pay full price for anything.  The husband is an avid estate and yard saler.  If he’s not working PM Friday or AM Saturday, he’s out at the crack of dawn, standing in line for his opportunity to dig through moldy basements for old, dusty boxes of records and ancient electronics.  Occasionally, I will join him.  There has to be something I desperately want for that to happen, though, because he doesn’t call me Rip (as in Van Winkle) for nothing.  I like sleeping.  A LOT.  A few months ago, I was browsing through the photographs in an estate sale listing when I saw exactly what I’d been looking for.  I rolled out of bed that Saturday and headed for the sale.

If you’ve never been to an estate sale, you should know that the quality of merchandise versus pricing at estate sales depends a lot on the company hosting the sale.  Some companies are great, and you can get amazing things at a very low cost.  Some other companies?  Let’s just say there are a few who will never see my husband or me again and leave it at that.

The company that was selling my potential dream desk chair is one of my favorites.  Their listings always have tons of photos.  Their prices are always reasonable, and they don’t do presales, so everything is first come, first served, as it should be.  At this sale, I not only got my chair for a paltry $5, but I also got an antique chandelier for a second Lincoln.  And some books, of course.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a second hand sale without at least one book.

Here’s the chair.





Gross, right?  Even if it weren’t dirty, stained, pilled, and snagged, it would still be beige.  The important thing was that the structure of the chair was still solid, the mechanics worked perfectly and it appeared that most of the foam was still in great shape.  It’s hard to tell exactly what will need replaced until the old fabric comes off.

The next step was falling in love with some fabric.  It sometimes takes me months to decide on a fabric.  I love pattern and color, and despite what the address of this website might imply, I am absolutely a perfectionist.  Which means everything must match…exactly.  As a result, choosing a fabric is often a long, arduous process of ordering sample upon sample until I fall in love with one that actually coordinates with everything else I’m doing in the room.  Miraculously, my chair’s fabric soul mate arrived with the first batch of samples I ordered.



It’s called Wonderama Toucan by P/K Lifestyles.  I love love love this fabric.  It’s bold, it’s colorful, and it’s fun.  It’s really strong, too, so I know it’ll hold up really well.  And it coordinates perfectly with my cow painting (more on that in a later post).  I ordered it immediately and got to work on the makeover.  I started by removing the seat and back from the chair base.  It was as simple as removing four bolts.

Then I removed the back rest from its support by driving the pin through with a Philips screwdriver and removing the screws holding the bracket to the back rest.  That little silver circle is the pin and the black part is the bracket.


I’m making it sound easier than it was.  In actuality, it was all out war.  A war I won only because I have power tools.  One of the metal grommets was loose in the wood, so the grommet was just turning as I tried to loosen the screw.  I ended up having to pry the bracket off around the screw, cut the screw off with my Dremel, and then dig the grommet out of the seat back later in the process.  There are three other screws holding the bracket on, and the way the support attaches hides the fact that a screw is missing.  I decided I could live with it since no one will ever know.  Imperfect improvements, yo.

Step 2 was pulling the two parts of the back rest apart.  Basically, I jammed a flat head screwdriver between the sections and pried them away from each other.  I removed the staples from each section and carefully took the fabric off.  Due to the age of the chair, some of the original padding had essentially turned into dust.  I ordered some 1” padding from Amazon to replace it.


In most cases, when I’m reupholstering a piece, I keep the original fabric to use as a pattern, because it’s not possible to take the piece apart.  With something as simple as this chair, however, I just put the two back pieces and seat down on the wrong side of the new fabric and cut a square of fabric large enough to re-cover each piece, making sure I had enough to pull over the new padding as well.  I decided to avoid disaster by working with the padding and fabric separately, as opposed to trying to get everything tight at once.  I placed the padding right side down on the table and set the piece top down on the padding.

Because the backrest and seat of this chair are curved on the front, I wrapped the padding around the top center of the back rest and stapled it.  At this point, it doesn’t have to be stretched tightly.  The first staple is just an anchor for the rest of the piece.  Next, I wrapped the padding around the bottom center of the back rest and stapled it.  I had to pull the padding tightly for this step.  Like, snare drum tight.  Apologies if you weren’t a band geek in high school and don’t get that reference.  It had to fit the curve of the back rest, so it had to be taut.

If you intend to do a lot reupholstering, I highly suggest purchasing a pneumatic stapler.  I got one at Harbor Freight for less than $20.  I already had an air compressor, but you can pick up a 3 gallon one for around $60, also at Harbor Freight.  It’s a worthwhile investment.



I wrapped and stapled the padding on each end of the back rest.  At this point I only had four staples in the piece.  Then I worked around the rest of the piece, wrapping the padding as tightly as possible and making folds where necessary.  If you think folding padding is easy, I’m here to enlighten you.  It’s not.  My advice is to use as many staples as possible to make it neat.

Once all the padding was stapled nice and tight around the piece, I followed the same basic process with the fabric.  I’m extremely particular about folds showing on the curves of whatever I’m reupholstering, so I use as many staples as it takes to keep that from happening.  Keep in mind you can always pull a staple and redo a fold if necessary.  I had a little bit of a hiccup with the back of the back rest.  The staples I had for my air gun were too long and were poking through the back, showing through the fabric.  I didn’t have any shorter staples, so I ended up using my manual staple gun.  It worked out okay. Even though if you look really closely at the right side you can see the bumps where those staples came through also.  If I had it to do over, I would put some thin batting around the back of the back rest.  You know what they say about hindsight.


I followed the same process with the seat.  The only difference was that I had to make piping.  All I did was use a seam ripper to get the cording out of the original piping and recover it with my fabric, making sure that I left enough seam allowance to staple it to the bottom of the chair.                            107

Once the piping was stapled on, I replaced the cardboard and stapled it back down.

Once all the pieces were recovered, I put the front and back of the back rest back together, attached the bracket and reinserted the pin.  Then I bolted the seat back on the base and replaced the back rest.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my process.  That is something I’m trying to keep up with now that I’ve started this blog.  Step 1 is keeping my camera charged.

But I do have pictures of the results.  Behold!  The world’s cutest office chair.





I absolutely love it!  So much more exciting than the bland, boring, neutral chairs you find in every office ever.  How could I help but be inspired when sitting in this chair?


Walk-in/Office Before: Part 2

You can find Part 1 here if you need to get caught up.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  All good?  Great.  Below is what the room looked like before any work started.


BW hung and finished drywall on the perimeter, installed hardwood flooring, built a partition wall and hung and finished the drywall on it.  It’s almost physically painful for me to pay someone to do work that I’m capable of doing myself, but I can’t possibly express how much I hate sanding drywall seams.  Plus, I also have a full time job, and I’ve been wanting to get these rooms done for what seems like an eternity.  I’m fed up with my craft supplies taking up the dining room, along with most of the dining room table.  The clutter in the bedroom that accumulates when you are living without a closet drives me crazy on a daily basis.  I just wanted the work done.  And while I could’ve done it myself, it would’ve taken me at least six months to carve out enough time to do so.  BW had it done in about three weeks of off and on days.

Let’s start with the walk-in.


It’s about 5′ wide by 10′ long.  Storage will go on the left.  The vanity will be on the back wall.  I’m working on coming up with uses for the space on the right.  There can’t be anything that protrudes too far into the room, otherwise it will be more like a squeeze-in closet.  I want to have plenty of space to maneuver when selecting clothing or putting it away.  One of the things I’m planning is crown molding shelves on the wall to the right of the vanity.


I got a great deal on this birch hardwood flooring at $3.09 a square foot.  Unfortunately, now that it’s down, I don’t know how well it’s going to hold up.  I had BW install it in the upstairs hallway about two months ago, and it’s already scratched and dinged up.  Not deeply enough to remove the stain, but deeply enough to make me annoyed.  From now on, I will spend the extra money to get oak.


Partition wall finished and sanded.



Can I just tell you how much I love this scaffolding?  I have been working on this house for 8 years.  If there’s one thing I learned from my dad, it’s that whatever project you’re working on is made so much easier when you have the right tools.  So, I’ve purchased a LOT of tools.  I bought a specialty wrench, one I will likely never use again, just to tighten the drains on the kitchen sink.  That said, I can’t believe it took me this long to finally break down and buy scaffolding.  I’ve had it on my Amazon wish list for a long time, but I kept waffling because it was $200 and I didn’t think it was something I really needed.  For the longest time, I’ve been using two ladders with a couple of beams stretched between them.  Not exactly OSHA approved.  Now that I finally own scaffolding, I’m not sure how or why I lived without it and I’ve realized it was worth every single penny.  I painted the ceiling and every wall in the walk-in and I only had to move it once.  There is plenty of space on the platform for me, a can of paint, a tray of paint, and whatever other tools I need.

My husband will, of course, be using the walk-in too, but what I really wanted was a closet fit for a princess because having my vanity in there meant I would spending a lot of time in it.  I headed to the Home Depot to chose my colors.  I decided on Radiant Rose, a lovely shade of light pink, for the walls.  French Silver, a light grey, would go on the ceiling.



My husband made a comment about my Rainbow Brite blanket/curtains.  I told him this isn’t the first time I’ve had them.  This time they’re temporary.  I hope it wasn’t necessary to write that.


There will be crown molding installed in this room.  I don’t mind paying BW for that, because I’m about as good at crown molding as I am at running marathons.  Which is to say, both of those exercises (no pun intended) would likely end in tears and/or vomiting.  The back wall will be stenciled and all the trim will be Ultra Pure White.

On to the office.  This is where the original reach-in closet was.


There will be a u-shaped desk on this side of the room.  I have a “dresser” for one leg of the desk and I’m looking for a filing cabinet that will support the other end.  There will be wall cabinets above the desk and another cabinet across from the door.  All of the storage needs to be refinished.

This picture is terrible, but here’s another shot of the same corner.  Look at all that beautiful vertical space.


Here’s the entry door.  I still need to take the door and transom down and strip them.  They will be stained to match the rest of the trim.  Notice the color on the ceiling?  Did I mention I’m terrible at taking “before” pictures?


For this room, I wanted something cute and fun.  The challenge was how to accomplish that with a neutral color on the walls.  You don’t know this yet, but you will if you stick around here for very long.  I.HATE.NEUTRALS.  Neutrals are boring.  Neutrals are for people who are trying to sell their houses and for mental institutions.  I’m kidding.  Please don’t leave me nasty comments.  If neutrals are your thing, great.  Me, I don’t typically do neutrals.  Plus, this is going to be my creative space.  I wanted to be surrounded by inspiration.  It had to be fun, because I love fun for rooms like this.  It had to sing to me. I had to love it.  But this room doesn’t have a window and is only around 6 1/2′ wide by 10′ long. Putting a dark color on the wall would have only made it look smaller.  So I had to come up with a way to get color on the walls without closing in the room.  And then it hit me: polka dots.  Originally, I was going to go with a soft aqua on the walls with white polka dots and the same white on the ceiling.  As usual, I changed my mind.  Also as usual, that was after I’d already purchased a gallon of Behr Aqua Wish.  Instead, I went with Cowgirl Blue for the ceiling and polka dot color, with Vanilla Frost on the walls.

Painting completed.


I am the queen of cutting-in.


And with the polka dots started.  I don’t have a picture of the finished walls for you, but you get the idea.  I debated about painting the dots versus making circle stickers.  After some Pinterest research and mocking up both, I went with the stickers.  I liked the clean lines that the stickers provided.  I also wanted 1″ circles 9″ apart off center, and I couldn’t find a stencil with those dimensions.




Isn’t that adorable?!  There will be a separate post about the polka dots later, because that kind of drama deserves one.  The important thing is that I am absolutely in love with this room.  I can’t wait to sit in here and work and that’s exactly what I was going for.




Walk-in/Office Part 1: Before

When we bought our house, every room on the second floor was paneled.  That includes the bathroom.  As if that’s not bad enough, all three of the bedrooms also featured stunningly hideous suspended ceilings, complete with fluorescent light fixtures.

We pulled up carpets, tiled the kitchen, and did some painting before and right after we moved in, but the master bedroom was the first full room I took on.  I knew this whole house renovation would be a long-term, stressful, dirty project, and I wanted to have a refuge where we could sleep in cleanliness and peace. I needed at least one room where I could close the door on the construction and be surrounded by pretty things.  In the meantime, DH and I temporarily moved into the smallest of the three bedrooms, so I could work on the adjacent master bedroom.  My first order of business was to pull down the paneling.  In doing so, I discovered a door between the master bedroom and the approximately 10′ x 11’6″ bedroom in which we were sleeping.  I realized immediately that that small room, once partitioned, would make a perfect 5′ x 10′ walk-in closet, with a slightly larger office/work space on the other side.

About six years later, the walk-in/office is nearing completion.  At some point during that time, I removed the suspended ceiling.  Then I pulled down the paneling and found fiberboard nailed up between the paneling and the wall, on top of the firring strips.  Can I just tell you what a nightmare it was to get that off?  Every time I tried to dig my pry bar in around a nail, the stuff would just crumble apart and yet, inexplicably, I was unable to just yank it off the walls.  That was the first time I had to stop, sit down, and just cry in frustration.  It would not be the last.  The door and window casings and baseboards were all gone from this room.  The door connecting the bedroom was missing all of the hardware except for the hinges.

The room sat in limbo until recently when I got fed up with the lack of work space and with my craft supplies taking up the dining room and decided it would be the next project.

This is essentially what the room has looked like since I gleefully tossed the paneling, fiberboard, and suspended ceiling into a dumpster, only with a lot less junk in it.  It’s been a catch all for tools and materials for the past five years.

060Notice those holes in the floor? Notice the plywood pieces, which are hiding even bigger holes? I did that.  I knew there would have to be new flooring, so I took the opportunity to run new wiring to some of the fixtures on the first floor.

I was at work when my general contractor, BW, started working in the room. My husband (DH) came upstairs to find him standing there in disbelief.  They had this conversation:

DH: “What’s happening?”

BW: “Oh, just surveying your wife’s handiwork.”

You wanna make an omelette?  You gotta break a few eggs.

As you enter the room from the hallway, there was a reach-in closet to the right of the entry door.  Because it already was a small room and the plan was to make it even smaller by dividing it into two separate areas, I had BW pull the existing reach-in closet down.  It made the office wider by 18″.  Also, you can see below how much vertical space was gained by demoing the bulkhead above the closet ceiling.  The bulkhead started where the plaster ends.  That space will be extremely useful when the pendant task lighting is installed over the desk.

Once the closet was gone, I ran Romex cable on a new circuit from the basement to these two rooms.  In the office, there will be 3 outlets and 3 pendants above the desk, with another fixture in the center of the room.  I also left an existing outlet on the wall near the door.  In the walk-in, there will be 3 outlets and a fixture over my vanity, as well as two adorable chandeliers on the ceiling.

A few more pics of the side that will be the office.







This will be the walk-in.  The door on the right side of the picture is the one that I excavated when demoing the paneling.


The back wall is where the vanity will go.

This shot was taken from the back of the closet looking toward the bedroom. You can see some of the wiring I did to the right of the door.  Did you notice the gas pipeline between the work light and the wall switch?  My house, like most older homes, used to have gas powered lights.  The partition wall is 18″ to the right of the door jamb.


When we moved in, there was carpeting, then luan or something, then 3/4″ pine.  This is after the carpet was pulled up.


The chandeliers will go here, under ceiling medallions.  I put those holes in the ceiling, too.  Omelettes, people!


The window will have white, faux wood blinds.  I also ordered fabric to make a valance and purchased white sheers.  I’m still working on ideas for tie-backs.  I would’ve preferred to have this window in the office, but considering the placement of the connecting door, I couldn’t come up with a floor plan that would’ve made sense.

And this is how dirty I got while clearing out and vacuuming the room for BW:


Luckily, I clean up nice.

Walk-in/Office Part 2: Drywall!! coming soon.

Welcome to My Nightmare

Greetings and salutations!  I’m Beth.  I’m 36.  I, along with my husband, own a 1900 fixer upper in Pittsburgh, PA, which I’ve been renovating since the dawn of man and which I hope to have completed shortly before the apocalypse (could be the zombie or the four horsemen kind; that remains to be seen).  When we purchased the house in August of 2007, the original plan was a 3-5 year remodel.  But as everyone knows, life isn’t perfect and things don’t always go as planned.  Here you will find posts about our home improvements, other DIY projects that I’ve taken on, possibly a book review/recommendation or two, and definitely pictures of my beloved dogs.  More than anything, this is a place to share my struggles, triumphs, and advice, but it’s also a keepsake for me to look back on how much we’ve accomplished and to motivate me to keep moving forward.