Before and after

IF YOU’VE GLANCED at Pinterest within the past couple of years, you may have noticed trend that involves chalk-painting old furniture to give it a fresh-yet-deliberately-distressed look. And if you’ve ventured down that particular rabbit hole, like I did, you may have learned that this stuff is not your mother’s paint. Mother used to strip and sand and varnish, in an area with adequate ventilation. But with chalk paint, there’s no need for that nonsense. It requires virtually no prep (no stripping, no primer, no all-over sanding), it dries fast, and it doesn’t stink.  They say you can even use it to paint right over upholstered fabric! And if you check out the paint manufacturers’ web pages, or search for blogs devoted to the rehabbing of furniture, you might become inspired to apply this magical substance to transform your own old, tired-looking pieces of furniture. Such as:

My mom refinished so much furniture in her day. She always had a project. The tall cabinet pictured above? She actually had that one custom-made to fit in the dining room, then painted it an antique blue… in the 1970s. “Antiquing” was a thing then. I’ve had it since 1995. The dark dresser above, she rescued from her brother’s barn and refinished, but I remember it exactly like that in my childhood bedroom, so it was way overdue for an update. The buffet and matching chest came from my grandma’s house in 2005, and I don’t know if they were ever refinished, because that’s exactly how I remember them looking when I was a kid.

So in 2017, when I got a wild hair to try out this chalk paint thing, naturally, I called my mom to get her thoughts. She was slightly skeptical of the paint’s many promises (“No sanding? Really??”), yet intrigued. I told her that my first project was to redo the blue hutch. Here’s how that ended up:

I used gray chalk paint with clear wax, spray-painted the hinges brushed nickel, and replaced the door pulls. I should have painted the shelves white, but I got lazy. The chalk paint completely covered the two knots that the antiquing could not.

I also told her that I wanted to repaint Grandma Sara’s dining room furniture. My vision for the dining room furniture was for the bottom parts to be a deep navy blue, but to keep the tops stained. She thought that sounded interesting. And a few weeks ago, I finally got around to it:

Two coats of Renaissance Chalk Paint in Black Indigo, one coat of Dover’s dark wax. On the top, I applied a couple of coats of Restor-a-finish,  and holy cow, that stuff is completely magical, too – it got rid of white water marks, without stripping or sanding! I had to repair a few areas with putty where the wood veneer was chipped, and re-glue some veneer. The hardware, I removed and sprayed with a coat of brushed-nickel Rustoleum.

Yesterday, buoyed by my success, I took on the dresser. I had been eyeing a taller version of this one from Ikea:


“I wish I was the kind of person who had yellow furniture,” I said to Steve. He looked at me as if to say, who says you aren’t? Two coats of this golden chalk paint and a coat of dark wax later, I had this:

Oh, and the hardware! When said I was thinking of redoing this one, the first thing Mom said was, does it still have those hateful drawer pulls? YES!, I said.


I have hated these pulls for literally my whole life. The nuts kept working their way off of the screws, and the handles would pop out of the holes and were inexplicably difficult to re-insert. So, I replaced the pulls with these. And if I said to you that this alone was life-changing, you might accuse me of hyperbole, but you would be so very wrong. I seriously don’t know why I didn’t do this decades ago.

Mom would have been pleased, I think, with the results. She was all about updating and repurposing furniture. The trend in her day was stripping and revarnishing. Now, it’s using chalk paint in classic colors or bold. Regardless, it’s nice to freshen up the decor and to have the satisfaction of having done it myself.



(I’m not being compensated by linking to products; just sharing to let you know what worked for me.)



Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

I didn’t know I needed this

THE INTERNET GODS sent me this ad:


It’s not just an ironing board, it’s an ironing system. A whole *system*! For pressing clothes! And it’s on sale for just $1,999! And it ships free!

They’re practically paying you to take it.

The product description begins:

Whether you’re ironing table linens or removing wrinkles from a cocktail dress…

OK, hold up. If you are the owner of a $2,000 ironing system, you probably aren’t ironing your own table linens. You’re sending them out, or you’re having the housekeeper do it. I can see maybe touching up one’s own cocktail dress, say if you forgot to ask your housekeeper to do that for you before she left for the evening. Or maybe if you can’t decide what to wear to that charity gala tonight and have searched the dark recesses of your second walk-in closet (the one with all your fancy clothes in it) and dig out something you haven’t worn a couple of years. It might have wrinkles that need removing. And in that case, you would be really happy this system is still set up in the laundry room. From when the housekeeper was ironing the cloth napkins. That is, if you can figure out how to use it:

This easy-to-use ironing system features an LCD display with user-friendly navigation.

In my experience, “easy-to-use” and “user-friendly” are code words for “plan on 20 minutes to view YouTube tutorials.” I can barely program my coffee maker to brew at some future time. If my ironing system has “navigation” it’s probably too complicated for me.

I know what you’re thinking: Will the B3312 model will deliver everything I want and need in an ironing system? Fear not: The manufacturer also offers the B3847 system for just $500 more. Because spending $2,499 on a glorified ironing board seems normal.

If ironing is your jam – or you are, say, a professional seamstress – an investment in a device such as this might make sense for you. But for the rest of us – those of us who even still *do* iron – isn’t a regular old ironing board and mid-level iron enough to successfully do most household jobs? For money like that, you could buy a whole lot of professional dry cleaning. Or, a couple of really nice new cocktail dresses. Even ones that aren’t on sale. And have cash leftover to bid on the silent auction items at that charity gala.

For more things you never knew you needed, here’s a link to that time I went to Williams-Sonoma and analyzed their Thanksgiving table display.