Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

Oh, hey there, blog: what’s up?  It’s been a long time (long time), we shouldn’t have left you (left you), without a dope beat to step to.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy around the apartment, it’s that I’ve been busy making changes that are perceptible only to myself.  Take, for example, our kitchen.  I had painted it Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White, which I used in the bathroom and in one of the spare bedrooms to my satisfaction.  In the kitchen, however, the paint color always appeared really cold and unfinished to me – like it was just a primer coat.  I think it’s because we get very little natural light in the room.

So I tried two different shades: Benjamin Moore’s Dove White (color-matched by Behr) and Behr’s Irish Mist, which is what I used in the living and dining rooms.

See?

1KitchenPaint

Don’t worry if you can’t see that.  Only crazy people can.  And tetrachromats.  (Did you hear Radiolab’s Colors episode? It was really awesome, especially the choir.)

Here: looking at it from the side makes the difference more visible.

2KitchenPaint

I went with Irish Mist and am very happy with the change. The kitchen feels much less stark. And the cats always enjoy an opportunity to hang out on a ladder. (Looking back at my New Year’s photo suggests they have an agreed-upon positioning.)

3KitchenPaintCatLadder

I pried off that phone jack you see on the wall in the first photo and discovered this burst of color beneath.

3KitchenPaintWallpaper

I think it might be original? Or at least very old.

4KitchenPaintWallpaper

Come back tomorrow for a project I’m excited to share – something with a more noticeable impact. I’ll leave you with a sneak peek!

5SneakPeek

Gold Leaf Paint Options

My IKEA VITTSJO nesting table hack gave me the luxury of some scrap metal pieces on which to test a few gold leafing paint options.  I did a Google image search when I was considering what sort of paint to use, looking for some clear examples of the different types of finishes. I didn’t have much luck and thought I could contribute to the jpg pool here.

Gold Finishes

From left to right:

Plaid Liquid Leaf in Brass

Amaco Rub ‘n Buff in Gold Leaf

Krylon 18 KT. Gold Leafing Pen

Liquid Leaf Brass

Liquid Leaf was my favorite by far.  It looks rich, kind of marbleized/iridescent, and thick – like it was an actual brass cap on the table leg.  It is liquidy, though, so is more likely to run under any painters tape you might use (Scotch Blue worked great for me; FrogTape less so).  You can see additional pictures of this product at Pencil Shavings Studio and Yellow Brick Home.

Rub n Buff Gold Leaf

Rub ‘n Buff creates an interesting, antiqued finish.  As a wax, it seems like a good option if you want something closer to an original finish than an overlaid paint.  I found pictures of this product applied to VITTSJO shelves at Home to Three Duncan Boys.

Gold Leafing Pen

The Gold Leafing pen seemed great for detail jobs, but ineffective for broad coverage. It was difficult to apply without streaks.  See Little Green Notebook for additional pictures.

A note to Chicagoans: I was unable to find Rub ‘n Buff at my usual Elston Ave. haunts (Home Depot and Jo-Ann) and Jo-Ann had only a few Liquid Leaf color options.  I ventured outside my comfort zone to the Michaels in Lakeview, which had a big selection of these products.  Definitely worth the trip even though it puts you dangerously close to Wrigleyville, which, I’m sure we all can agree, is an abomination.

In closing, I leave you with an entirely unnecessary cat photo. Have a good weekend!

Cat Nest

When in Doubt, Paint a Door

Seriously, when all other projects feel too daunting/expensive to tackle (I’m looking at you, Bedroom), just paint a door or two. Enormous and immediate gratification.

Take this exterior back door, for example.

Back Door Before

Someone had even scratched their name into the paint. I corrected it for them.

After:

Back Door After

So satisfying! I sanded it a bit and then repainted with Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel in Gloss Smoke Gray.

Back Door Sanding

Door Before and After

Door Knob Before After

Another example: someone got creative with brown paint on the exterior side of our apartment’s back door (the one leading to the catio).  Yech.

Catio Door Before

Furthermore, the original brass door plate had been painted over so many times that you can hardly see the decoration.

Door Plate Before

I sanded the door, cleaned off the dust with Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser, applied a coat of Kilz and then three coats of white paint.

Catio Door Sanding

I didn’t intend to dive into restoring the door plate, but once it was in our backyard I thought “Well, might as well…”

Door Plate Stripping

It required two rounds of stripper to simply expose the screws that allowed me to pry off the plate.

Door Plate Stripping

Door Plate Stripping Second Coat

Brass Door Plate

Then it was time for a soak in a pot of boiling water, followed by a Bar Keepers Friend + toothbrush scrub, followed by a lot of toothpicks. Rinse and repeat, three times.

Brass Door Plate

Brass Door Plate

Brass Door Plate

In truth, I don’t even love the plate itself – it’s too ornate for my taste and I think the crystal knob looks we’re running a bed & breakfast – but I’m satisfied nevertheless to have recovered it from years of paint. I like seeing it when I come home, even if I’m also thinking “Man, that door needs a new knob.”

Catio Door After

Both of these projects can serve as examples of why I never feel bad for doing things to our rented apartment “without permission.” Are my landlords sacrificing a Saturday to paint a blazing hot exterior door or restore a vintage door plate? Nope. I am. So, please excuse me: while I’m up on this high horse I’m going to replace a ceiling light fixture.

One more thing, on a more personal note: Happy 2nd Birthday to my niece Cora! I’ve been trying to teach her about feminism (gotta start ’em young) but I think our cats have had a bigger impression on her. The other day when prompted to say “Bye, Aunt Marti” she said “Bye, Aunt Kitty!” I couldn’t ask for a better downstairs neighbor.

Cora

Project!: Living Room and Dining Room

For the record, my blog’s namesake is not Project Runway.  My blog is named in honor of the 1995 hit Clueless, which had a major impact on my susceptible teenage brain.  I remember poring over the JC Penney catalog for plaid pleated skirts and sweater twinsets. GoFugYourself.com hit the nail on the head in this Wallace Shawn post: “It’s the first movie I ever walked out of with the reaction, “’That was hilarious! I need to go buy some clothes immediately.'” (One year later, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet proved an equally compelling call to action, but that time it was “That was sad. We need to go make out right now.”)

So, when I say “project!”, I’m channeling Cher Horowitz and her love of makeovers.  I was unable to find this scene on YouTube, which left me with no choice but to rent the DVD from Netflix, set up a tripod in front of our TV, and record this clip for you with my digital camera.

My favorite sort of project is one that I can tackle within a few days with little-to-no money spent. Our living room and dining room will not be that sort of project, but I’m looking forward to it all the same. Right now, it is a blank slate. It took some work getting it to this state – check out the wall colors before we moved in (please note: that’s the previous tenants’ stuff):

Yikes. It is now Behr’s Irish Mist, which is a very light gray. Here’s what I’m workin’ with:

(Never mind the headboard leaning up against the wall back there.)

Clean and spacious but also barren and flat. Suffice it to say there are long to-do and to-buy lists for this space. Both rugs will be replaced: the dark gray/blue one in the living room isn’t the right size and the brown one in the dining room is too brown. I’m waiting for the perfect colorful rug to appear in my Craigslist feed, and then I’ll let that guide the other decorative decisions. In the meantime, I have a steady stream of fabric samples arriving from Fabric.com:

The dining room and living room chairs will be reupholstered (by myself and by a professional, respectively). I’ll layer in more textiles with curtains and pillows and more textures with lamps (brass?) and side tables (glass?). A leather recliner will be added to the right of the couch and some sort of console table will be worked into the dining room. The light fixture above the table will be replaced. Plus mirrors and art and plants and lions and tigers and bears. There’s a lot to do.

Project!

Kitchen Progress: Part 1 of 2

Our new kitchen is large and, let’s face it, pretty ugly. Or maybe not ugly, but definitely not my style.

Oak kitchen cabinets with scalloped fronts and faux-wood-panelling wainscoting. There’s nothing I could do about the former, so the latter had to go.

Before: original off-white walls, original wainscoting:

In progress: original walls, white primer coat on wainscoting:

In progress: white walls, white primer:

In progress: white walls, black wainscoting (first coat):

My working plan was to go with white on the panelling, but the primer gave me an early indication of how that would look and I was displeased. Way too much white, especially butting up against our dirty white-gray floor. (Dirty-looking that is – not actually dirty, thanks to Jarrod.) So I went with black instead – Benjamin Moore Soot, specifically, which is a nice inky black. I really like it.

It should be obvious by now that I’m rather reckless when it comes to what I’m “allowed to do” in this apartment. The way I see it: 1) This apartment is going to look much better when I’m finished with it and landlords respond favorably to that, and 2) It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.

(Side note: I looked up that quotation to make sure I had it right and learned that it’s attributed to Grace Hopper, who was a bad-ass computer scientist Naval officer I’d come across previously when investigating (for whatever reason) the etymology of the term “bug.”  Good work, lady.)

I don’t think our landlords will care, but if they give me any shit about it, I have a two-pronged response planned: 1) Play dumb. They knew I was going to paint the kitchen (they paid for the paint) – how was I to know that “painting the kitchen” excluded the panelling? 2) Argue that ALL of the ORIGINAL 1916 millwork had already been painted (and repainted) by previous tenants and owners. Once 100-year old millwork has been descecrated, there’s not much of a point to preserving 20-year-old faux-wood wainscoting, now is there?  Case closed.

More pictures to come!