Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fireplace Makeover

The fireplace is finished!

Since we moved in (1.5 years ago), I'd been eyeballing the brick fireplace and thinking about how permanent any changes would be. I'd thought about whitewashing, full-out painting, building out over top of it, and various other things. Whitewashing was always my go-to plan for it, but I worried about whether or not we would love it. And if you're doing something as permanent as painting brick, it needs to be a love it situation. 

I'd looked on Pinterest and read through tutorials. I imagined what it would look like. I considered and reconsidered. And then I finally decided that the brick would be whitewashed. I would whitewash. Decision made. 

Of course, once we decided on that, I wanted to get going right away. Buuuut, our chimney was in need of some repair, and we thought it best to wait until that was done. Then we could rip out the old fireplace screen and start from there. Three weeks ago, the chimney was finally all finished and cleaned up. 

Another part of the fireplace that we talked about changing was the mantle. It was a lovely, solid, nice, wooden mantle. Nothing was wrong with it. But we wanted to change it anyway. I thought about painting it (probably white or maybe a contrasting color like the back of the bookshelves), but Richard just decided that he would build a new, better one. And so he did. 

Mantle demo!

The first thing I did after the brick was free of the mantle was wipe down the entire surface. I used warm, soapy water and a microfiber cloth (that way the rough surface didn't pick it apart). I would have said our fireplace was pretty clean, but after looking at that water -- it was disgusting. Lots of red brick dust, too. 

Trusty sop vac and a bowl of gross, red, brick water -- oh, and the test-fitting of the brand new, custom made mantle!

I used a basic white, interior paint and mixed it with water in a 1:1 ratio. I made sure to lay down a drop cloth, and I had a full roll of paper towels on hand. The watery paint mixture is super drippy, so you have to make sure the paint brush isn't too soaked and then still be ready to catch any errant drips. 

While watching the Clemson game, of course. GO TIGERS!

In this last picture (that one ^ up there), you can see where I decided to switch strategies. On the first seven rows, I did the paint-and-dab technique. I painted it on one brick and then immediately dabbed the whole brick with a paper towel. After making it through those rows and seeing whitewash soaked into the bricks, I decided it wasn't nearly white enough. In the picture above, the right section of the top seven rows is what it looked like after painting and dabbing and soaking in and drying. It looked like it hadn't even been painted. 

So, I switched to doing the paint-and-don't-dab method. All of the bricks below the seventh brick line were done that way. That achieved a just-barely-white-dusted look that I LOVED. But the top seven rows didn't match. Womp womp. I decided to go back over the first rows with same paint-and-dab attack and maybe the two thin layers would equal out to match the bottom three quarters. 

Nope. The top left section of bricks shows how that worked out. Once it soaked in, the discrepancy wasn't that stark, but it was still noticeable. 

See? The difference between the top seven rows and the rest of the fireplace was definitely noticeable. 

We decided our best bet was to use a more diluted mixture and do a second coat on the bottom section. So, I used a 1:2 ratio of paint to water. That worked out beautifully, and you can no longer tell that I switched techniques in the middle of whitewashing. 

The finished fireplace! Well, almost, we need to put trim on the sides of the bookshelves, and the mantle-styling is clearly not done, and it won't always have the "Trick or Treat" banner. And we need to get a screen. This is the one I've had my eye on for quite some time now. 

And, being that it is now my favorite month of the year, we had to decorate accordingly. We went and picked out our perfect pumpkins and then carved them up. 

They were all marked with Sharpie to show the price of each pumpkin, but some rubbing alcohol took care of that quickly. BUT, it did leave a big mark on the rag, so make sure you use one that you don't care much about. 

Three dolla pumpkin!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Closet Shelving

Two closet-shelf tales for the price of one! 

Part I: The Paint and Shoe Shelves

We've been doing a lot of painting recently, so we've acquired a lot of paint. We have been storing it in one of our downstairs closets where we also keep some coats and general house supplies (light bulbs, paper towels, etc.). With all of the newly-acquired paint cans, we quickly filled the floor of the closet and started stacking them. 

Richard, being the oh-so-handy problem solver that he is, whipped up some shelves to install in an adjacent closet to better store the paint. This is also the closet where we currently store our most-used shoes, so he made sure to make room for those when building the shelves. 

Oh yeah, and we keep the water heater in there. And an assortment of mops/Swiffers and other cleaning supplies.

Closet 1: before

Closet 2: before

Closet 1: grainy "during" picture

Closet 1: after

Closet 2: after -- you can see the floor!

Part II: The Guest Room Closet Shelves

The closet in our first guest room (we call it that because it's the only one that is actually outfitted for hosting guests, and it'll be the first one finished), is a unique closet. It houses the door to the walk up attic, so one half of the wall space is unusable. The other half came with the flimsiest shelf and closet rod ever. Richard tested out the strength of the shelf by putting pressure down on the edge of it and up flipped the other side of the shelf. Turns out it was two boards just resting on brackets -- no anchoring down of any kind. 

So, Richard decided to take down the shoddy shelf and build new ones. He re-designed the layout of the closet shelving to make it more useful. He added a second, lower shelf and two closet rods instead of the original, small one. 

A whole bunch of slats for the two shelves. 

Framing out the L-shaped shelf

Looks like an L-shaped shelf! I spy another L-named thing in the background. 

After a coat of clear protectant -- you can't really tell, but it is a bit shinier. They have a nice "finished" look.

The upgraded shelving! You can see the closet was originally purple (good closet color). This is after Richard patched the walls but before the closet painting. We still need to do that.

So, there is still some work to be done on both closets. We need to get the guest room closet (and the rest of the room) finished soon! Emmy moves in in two months! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Oh man. So good. 

This past weekend we drove down to South Carolina to see family and friends and to visit my alma mater for a football game! Woo!

Sometimes things just work out so nicely. 

Seriously, I love Clemson. I love the campus, the town, the school, every single sports team, President Barker, The Tiger (the actual mascot and the student newspaper), and on and on and on. Clemson has a (large) piece of my heart. 

Fall beers and Clemson koozies for everyone!

Richard finally got some Clemson t shirts (and a hoodie)!

Just a glimpse of the field and our fellow tailgaters and the beautiful, fall sky.

So, we drove down late on Friday and then headed to Clemson on Saturday morning to set up for our tailgate. Then we walked to the stadium, watched The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football (dramatic build up, skip to 4:24 for the reference and 5:30 for the actual 25 seconds... chills, y'all, chills). And then the game. We watched Clemson stomp on NC State and finish the game 41 - 0. 

Selfie troubles -- it was super bright. 

The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football! Ahhh!

A much better selfie this time

So much beautiful orange! Seriously, what a beautiful and exciting place to spend a gorgeous Saturday.

We got to see DeShaun Watson continue his climb as one of the best new quarterbacks in the NCAA. We even got to see him leap over a tall building in a single bound a defender to score a touchdown! And we got to see Vic Beasley tackle the NC State quarterback, pluck the ball out of the air, and waltz into the end zone to score a touchdown. That brought his number of sacks up to 28 to tie for the school record. Pretty sweet game all in all. 

On Sunday, after church, we drove down to Helen, GA to meet Mandy and Myka. After some yummy German food, we walked around the quaint town and played some putt-putt. 

Family shadows -- a few of us waved. Myka is pretty into shadows. 

Our almost-three-year-old putt putt star!

She's the cutest.

Myka and Auntie Em!

Sunday night, Richard and I got to visit my sweet friend Ashlan, her husband Kipper, and their adorable little boy, Cason. Ash is about to have her second baby (a girl!), and I'm so glad I got to see her for a few minutes especially since this trip was so packed with plans. 

Because we had Sunday plans to see family, we decided to drive back on Monday so that we wouldn't be as rushed. It was so nice being able to take our time and spend so much time with family. It was such a great weekend!

With my first pet -- Fionna. She's the sweetest, fluffiest kitty ever, and I love her. 

Just before heading back to RVA -- still sporting our Clemson colors.