Category Archives: Projects

Office Remodel – Closet


Our office has had many remodel phases.
This was the phase of turning the closet into a desk space.

**It’s important to note, you cannot always just remove walls and closets!  You better make darn well sure it isn’t a load bearing wall!**

This was not a load bearing wall, and thus, the header above the closet door was unnecessary in terms of strength to our house.

(My camera was in the repair shop during the demo phase of this project, so iphone photos will have to suffice.)

phase_5_closet_remodel (6)I realize other people are much more organized than I am.  It is what it is…  The space was not working for me, and my needs.

First up was cleaning out the entire closet.


Next was demo phase…  Took some man power!


After the demo work was complete, it was a matter of re-sheetrocking the areas that needed it.  Adding a nice rounded corner on the side, etc.  I actually left town during this process.  I’m sure it was a pain.  Thanks to Scott for doing all the grunt work.  :)

Then, I returned in time to paint the new walls.
This is Restoration Hardware – Silver Sage color.


Meanwhile, my office looked like this:
Scott built all the cabinets.  Out in the garage…
I helped sand and stain and lacquer all the cabinets and doors.

And, ready for install!cabinet_install_closet_mancave

All completed!closet_finished_mancave

Materials Used:
Cabinets – Alder.
Cabinet Stain - “Old Master” - (oil) Special Walnut
Cabinet Top Coat – Lacquer

Countertop – Hickory.
Countertop Stain – “Minwax” (oil-stain) - Ebony
Counter Top Coat - Lacquer.

Wall Color – Silver Sage (restoration hardware)


Buffet Hutch


I often feel the need to rescue things.  I’ve brought home my share of puppies needing mothering.  I’ve also brought home plenty of furniture that needed some loving card.

I found this sad story at our local Goodwill.


Being that this buffet is made from a veneer, I couldn’t just take a power sander to it.  I opted for citristrip to get the white paint off.

Stripping Gelcitri_strip_mancaveinvaded
Apply the stripper with a brush or a rag and let it sit for an hour or so.  After it’s had a chance to soak in and penetrate it should start to peel up the paint.  Not so much ‘bubble’ as just start to look loose and flakey.  TIP – Don’t apply the gel and think you’ll come back to the project in a few days.  It’s easiest to remove the gel and the paint within the hour.

Putty Knifecitri_strip_2_mancaveinvaded
Once it looks like above, it’s time to scrape with a putty knife.  Don’t gouge.  Just use the putty knife flat against the surface and with a gentle pressure slide it under your painted surface and you’ll soon have large strips of paint and gel and gunk coming off with relative ease.citri_strip_door_mancaveinvaded

The citristrip does a decent job after one application.  You can start to see the wood again!  This is the door after one application of citristrip and a putty knife removal.

Obviously this wasn’t the look I was going for.



Stripping Gel (Application #2)
This time, I applied the citristrip by dipping a wire brush in the gel.  I then scrubbed the door with the wire brush / citristrip, working together.  Once the strip has done its job and an area seems free of paint, I like to keep a damp (I mean barely wet) rag nearby so I can wipe off the gel and really see if my job is done in the area.

Here you can see the difference between the putty knife and the wire brush method.


After I did the other door and the top with the wire brush, it was time for a light sanding.  You have to be really careful with veneer as the “pretty” wood is often thin, and if you sand it too much you will take off all the pretty wood, exposing a different wood.  I used a 120 grit sand paper – hand sanding.  I then quickly went over it with a 220 grit – very lightly, by hand.

It’s important to make sure all the stripping gel and sanding dust is off the furniture before applying a stain.  They make special rags to collect the dust.  I just got out the air compressor and sprayed it with bursts of air.  Then, dusted it with a clean rag.  Once I was satisfied, I applied the stain.  I wanted it to be dark, so I used minwax, dark walnut, oil based stain.

Top Coat
Once the oil stain had dried over night (or perhaps a few days) it was time for a topcoat.  Being as this wasn’t a piece I was going to set water or hot items on, it didn’t need ‘ultra’ protection.  I went with a simple satin polyurethane.  1 application on the entire thing.  2nd application on the top of the buffet.


I got the fun colorful knobs at World Market.
I really enjoy seeing this piece in our home.
It took effort, but it’s a reminder of what something can become if we just give it a chance and use the right methods!

The wire brushing was the most physically intense part of this project.  But, the result was so dramatic it was fun.


Supply List for this Project
*Old piece of awesome furniture that someone decided to paint.
*Paint Stripping Gel (I like Citristrip gel)
*Way to apply Gel (rag, brush)
*Putty Knife
*Wire Brush
*Sandpaper (I used 120 and 220 grit)
*Stain (I used Minwax Dark Walnut Oil-based)
*Top Coat (I used polyurethane, satin finish)
*Rags (a few, just to have around for spills)
*A “can do” attitude!  :)


You might also be interested in:
What is veneer?
Oil vs. Water based Stain
Top-coat options


Deck Refinishing


Our house has a great deck off the kitchen.
And…the peeling paint/stain from the previous owners made it an eyesore.

Every time I’d walk on it, I would end up with peeling paint strips stuck to my feet.  It made it through one summer, but we knew we wanted to ENJOY the deck this summer, which required it to be refinished.

Step 1  The boys and I scraped with putty knives real fast and got up the pieces that were ready to flake off on their own.

Step 2  We rented a drum sander from Home Depot.  It took about 2 hours to drum sand the entire floor surface.  Tip – if you have a deck that needs refinishing like ours, don’t get a simple floor sander.  I made that mistake.  It would’ve taken many painful hours to get the deck sanded with the floor sander vs. the drum sander.  Granted, ours was in pretty bad shape to begin with.  The drum sander takes off more material than the floor sander.  I would say the floor sander is more for the finish sanding.

Step 3  After drum sanding, use the floor sander for a finer finish.

Step 4  Sand everything else - the real pain.  The railings weren’t too bad.  The balusters were a huge pain.  I never want to sand and refinish balusters again.  At one point we considered just unscrewing them to sand them, or buy new balusters and put them on.  It was that tedious.  To sand these areas we used a belt sander, a hand sander, and a grinder (with a wood sanding pad).

Step 5  We got out the air compressor and air hosed off all the sawdust.  Our neighbors were loving us by this point.  Inside our house was super dusty, as I’m sure my neighbors got our dust too!

Step 6  Stain.  This was fairly fun as it’s cool to see the transformation.  We opted for an oil based semi transparent stain.  We love it.  We love being able to see the grain in the wood after all our work to make it new again.  We used:

Brand:  PreservaWood (It’s an oil stain and sealer in one.)
Color:  Pacific Redwood




Scott built this custom bookcase for a specific spot in our house.  Although I don’t have ‘plans’ to offer you, it’s still fun to look at from a design standpoint.

I told him I wanted something that would feel solid at the bottom, without me worrying it might tip over on a child. Aesthetically bottom heavy.  I scoured the internet for something, and nothing caught my eye.

It has adjustable shelves, and wooden drawers.
It’s perfect for the space and for what I was envisioning but couldn’t find.


Material Used:
Wood – Alder with a little Rosewood trim for accents
Stain – Old Masters “Dark Walnut”
Hardware – Home Depot .com



We desperately needed a mudroom space with storage.


We were on a tight budget (as in there was no money to spend on a mudroom).  Therefore we opted for inexpensive pine.  It worked for our needs.  Pine is a softer wood, but if top coated with a lacquer, it’s finish becomes more durable.  And, being that pine is a soft wood it’s fast and easy to work with.  Scott was able to whip this out in a weekend.

The other great thing about this project was the bench top.  Normally you’d need to butt end join wood together (like with a biscuit joiner) to get this width.  We were able to buy a 21/32” x 18″ laminated pine panel from Home Depot.  Scott just cut it to length, and added trim and legs.  Simple solution.

Backing – Pine bead board
Cabinets & Bench – Pine
Stain – Minwax “Dark Walnut”
Top-coat – Lacquer
Hooks – Home Depot



Built-in storage around our fireplace.
living_room_mancaveinvadedWe loved (we have since moved) the storage it offered behind the cupboard doors.  The glass shelving was a nice way to keep the space open as we were afraid dark wood shelving would make the space feel enclosed and too dark.

Cabinetry (visible) - Alder
Cabinetry (inside) – Birch
Fireplace Mantel – Alder
Stain - Minwax “Dark Walnut”
Topcoat – Lacquer (satin finish)
Shelving3/8” annealed glass plate, clear