I've changed up a couple things here at OFN and wanted to point them out, if you haven't already seen them.

First up is the new header.  For no other reason than I was starting to get bored with the old single paint swatch.  The second change is tab bar that's right under the header.

I've had some pages that I haven't published and wanted to clean up my sidebar for some time.  These are just pages that will make finding stuff around here a little easier.  I don't speak HTML, but I'm learning how to tweak things here and there.

Obviously Home will take you home.  If you're ever lost or feel scared you can click there and it'll take you home.  Not to your home, just to the home screen.  It's not magical people.  It's the same as clicking the header and seems redundant to me, but Blogger won't let me delete it.

The next is Tour Our Nest which some have noticed is where you're taken if you click our little house picture to the right.  For a while I didn't realize I had published it there and that's why not all of the rooms are added.  I'm still working on getting everything up there, but for the most part the rooms are all there in one way or another.

Archives is pretty self-explanatory.  I took the side bar Archives menu and added it to the page.  That's all folks.

Our Nest List is something completely new though. Something that I thought would be useful to both Mike and I, and you guys is seeing a (tentative) list of the things that we've done and plan to do all over the house.  I've also added links to the projects that I've posted about.  Plus it's just fun to cross out things on a list, whether it's physically or cyberly (I think I just made that word up).

The last page, for now, is the Topics page.  Here again, I've taken the labels menu from the sidebar and made it into a page.  Nothing too fancy, but if you're looking for something specific like say, I don't know, my $89 Kitchen Makeover, you can find it easily here under Before and After or Painting.

I'm sure I'll continue changing little things here and there, but I doubt they'll be nothing you guys can't keep up with.

Urban Farmer

That's what Mike likes to call himself nowadays.  Sometimes I catch him early in the morning outside without his shirt off just staring at all of his plants.  I swear sometimes I see him talking, to himself or the plants, I'm not sure.

To say this gardening adventure is a new development is an understatement.  Just a couple months ago our yard looked as bare as the Sahara Desert:

What a little sunshine and Northeast Ohio's almost daily rainfall can do, (sorry for the glare, I took this from our upstairs window):

While a new lawn and real live green grass is exciting, (okay maybe to only me and Mike), it doesn't really constitute calling ourselves farmers.  Our agricultural status comes thanks to my sister's boyfriend Keith who, during the summer, works at a greenhouse.  Did you know that when plants look a little less desirable, nursery's throw them away to make room for nicer looking plants?  We found this out when we started finding plants and hanging baskets on our back porch every day after work, courtesy of Keith.

With all this new plant-life we needed to make some sort of designated garden area.  Since our grass was just beginning to grow in, we didn't want to start digging areas out to plant veggies and the such, so we decided to take a cue from our neighbor.  A couple weeks ago, our neighbor took advantage of the area between our properties to relocate his new garden:

After some thought, we both decided that the rock surround would be the perfect solution to fill the area since it means less grass to mow and we have awesome neighbors so we are regularly walking back and forth to each other's house.  For those wondering, he has some peppers in the farthest bed and tomatoes and marigolds in the front bed.  (Apparently, marigolds keep insects away from the tomato plants).

Mike built our veggie bed right below the rock border and used the same bed design for ours, (since it was going to be so close it would look more uniform): 

In our bed we have some peppers up front, a little patch of cilantro, some chives in the bucket, and some tomatoes in the back.  We also had some more tomato plants from the greenhouse fairy, so we planted them further up our driveway:

Even though they're in front of the large bush that's used to provide shade to our neighbor's deck, they are still thriving and even have some orangish-red tomatoes that are close to picking time.

Here's a view from the second floor window to give you some bearing of all the beds:

To the left of our yard is something most farmers or gardeners can't boast, whether they're urban or rural.  Making its debut appearance on OFN is our hop garden:

Not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but Mike is a homebrewer and loves all the different aspects of brewing his own beer.  Hops are the little flower clusters that are added to beer as a flavoring and stability agent.  The more bitter the beer, the more hops it probably has had added.  (Mike's probably going to make me edit all of this as to not embarrass him in front of his brewing buddies, since they, (unlike me) actually know what their talking about.)  All I know is that I don't like bitter beer, therefore I don't like a lot of hops.

As for the growing of his own hops, Mike is part of a couple homebrewers associations and some of his friends grow their own, and he figured he could do it too.  And who doesn't want to be able to say I brewed this beer with hops that I grew? 

Hops are a very vigorous climbing plant and can grow up to 2' per day.  Yes, per day!  We find ourselves checking everyday to see how much progress has been made.  We have two different varieties planted, the middle one being different from the other two, (we had more than three plants, but a couple didn't make it, so right now the last bay is housing some more tomatoes and a zucchini plant).  Because of this very fast growth and the vine properties of the plant, it's important to build a structure to support the growth.  Mike designed it himself and even added some pulleys so that he can lower the ropes and harvest the flowers in a couple years.  And yes, I know what you're all thinking - I am the best girlfriend in the world to allow my boyfriend to build a 20' hop structure in our yard.  Don't worry, I don't let Mike forget it.

The structure will not only serve as support to the hops, but after a couple of years of growth, the hops will fill out and the entire structure will almost be completely full serving as a shade/privacy for our soon-to-be-built deck.
Although it's close to matching the height of the house, it's not quite that high, here's another shot from my lookout to show you the side of the yard and how high it really is:

While we're both new to the gardening world, we've enjoyed watching all of our plants, and can't wait to enjoy some of our harvest!  We've even had a few strawberries from the hanging plant left for us last week:

Anyone else enjoying some homegrown fruits or veggies?  Or maybe you grow something a little more unique than tomatoes and peppers, like our hops.  Do share!

Countertop Cover-Up

Since the article over at Apartment Therapy Re-Nest highlighting my Kitchen Makeover, I've had many requests to do a follow-up post on the status of my painted countertops.  Since it's been almost exactly a year since I painted my kitchen, it's actually a perfect time to see how they've stood up.  And I've finally got everything together to give you all the gory details.

I'm a pretty confidant person when it comes to paint.  The great thing about it is you can always paint over it if you don't like the color.  That being said, I had never painted countertops before, I had never even seen an example of it before.  Around the time I was planning to paint the kitchen I saw an ad on TV advertising a total countertop coating system, similar to the Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations which includes a base coat, color chips, and top coat.  I would have loved to use this, but with a price tag of $248 it was well over my $100 limit.      

Image via

After sulking around Lowes for a minute I, completely by accident, stumbled across my saving grace: Rust-Oleam Specialty Countertop Coating.  Which was actually in the painting isle, a completely different isle than I was in. 

Image via

I had it tinted to "Putty" which was the darkest color on the box.  I wish I was able to go darker, but beggars can't be choosers.  Although in this case, I guess they can.  Maybe it was me not looking hard enough, (although I swear this was the only box I saw in the isle), but I saw this a couple months ago in the same isle:

Image via

Notice the "Tintable to Dark Colors".  Where were you last year?!
Anyways, as far as the process went, I followed the directions on the box to a T.  I was so scared, I even watched the videos online a couple times, (found here).  Remember Mike didn't want me to do this whole kitchen project, so I was worried that I would completely botch this countertop and we would have to a.) live with crappy counters or b.) it would be so bad we would have to replace them, (after doing it I now know that I can easily paint over it, so I was never in danger of completely ruining them, but the bottom line was, I was scurrred).

I started by moving the appliances out a little bit, and then cleaned (with TSP for those wondering) and sanded the counters.  I'm sure it said something like "lightly sand the area", but I was worried it wouldn't adhere, so I really sanded it.  Afterwards I realized it didn't really help of hinder so I think a light sanding is fine.  Box directions: 1, me: 0.  After wiping and cleaning the counters again I was ready to go.  At this point I would suggest taping off all of the edges, (along the sink, backsplash, walls, etc.), but I'm a bad-ass painter, (see my stats here), so I just used my favorite stubby angled brush to do my edging.

After taking a deep breath I used my brush to start painting around the edges.  Surprisingly, the paint was pretty opaque after only one coat and was relived to find out I only needed one coat.  And as for the deep breath, it was the last I took cause this stuff stinks.  Like open all the windows and our back door and it's still stinky.

After finishing up the trim work I used a small foam roller to roll the larger surfaces.  In some spots I used the brush to fade into the roller marks.  After I was done I didn't touch it for 3 days.  This was pretty easy for us since, like I've mentioned before, we still had our apartment for a couple months after we closed on the house, which helped with a lot of the big projects.  I realize this isn't the norm, to completely stay away from your kitchen for 3 days, but just think about how potentially long you would have to go without if you completely removed and replaced the counters.

After the third day the counters were completely dried and I had myself pretty much a new kitchen.

After the third day I was excited to see how they turned out and was a little disappointed to see my brush marks along the edges as well as the rest being textured from my roller.  Since I would have had to use a brush versus a roller along the edges regardless of using tape or not, I knew it wasn't me.  It was hard to capture this in a photo, but see how the it's smooth next to the sink, then there's a feathering that happens about 2-3 inches along the edge.  I'm sure I'm the only one who notices it, but it's something that's bothered me.  I don't mind the texture so much but it's not something I expected.

As far as durability wise, it's not the greatest.  Looking at reviews online, I think I should have done a second coat to make it a little thicker.  I think this would greatly reduce the small scratches that we've made.

It might even have prevented the big scratch that Mike made with his homebrewing equipment a couple weeks ago.

As far as the most used spot, it's seen better days.  This is the little drawer section next to the refrigerator which is directly across from the back door.  We use this for the cat's food container and dropping our keys off when we come inside.

And if you guys ever wondered why we want to completely rip this kitchen out one day, all I have show you are these drawers and it'll give you an idea of what the rest of the kitchen is like.  These are the wonky drawers we inherited, missing board on top and all.  And that's the largest drawer in the kitchen.  The top one is where we have our silverware.  It's about 7 in across inside.  Yeah, it drives me crazy.  There's only so much ugly you can cover with paint.

As for the rest of the counters, they've all taken a beating.  And that's something Mike and I knew would happen.  As much as I would have liked to baby the counters after painting, I knew that wasn't realistic. 

In the end, I'm still very happy with my counters and they made a huge transformation to my otherwise fugly kitchen.  Even with the little nicks here and there, I would definitely do it over if given the chance.

And speaking of doing it over again, I've already hinted to Mike about the possibility of repainting them, this time doing a couple coats and seeing if that helps reduce the nicks.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Taking a Break

Not from blogging.  It's just sometimes with all of our projects, big and little, Mike and I forget to take advantage of the little things in life.

Like lying in a bed, that's sitting on a bed:

Must be nice.

Victorious Headboard

After a cutthroat debate, a winner has finally emerged:

With a whopping 74% of the votes, the headboard you guys preferred is the curved headboard.  And, I couldn't agree with you more!  This poll was actually helpful in two ways.  First, sometimes we all need a little idea support, and a curved headboard was a little out of my comfort zone, especially because the rest of the room was a little angular and I was a little afraid that something so prominent would look out of place.  It's nice to be able to ask 50 people and have them give you their opinion.  It's even better when their opinion matches your own!

Secondly, Mike's not that big on change, and isn't exactly what you would call an adventurous decorator, (sorry honey if your reading this, but it's true).  He's definitely from the school of less is more, and even something like a headboard that can be easily removed of changed, he's still less than excited.  That's where you guys come in.  Having a little help from people that are interested in the same things that I am, and since your reading home blogs, I'm assuming you all know what your talking about, gives me a little support in my argument to try something new.  And, although he gave me the predictable, "You're crazy." he can see that a new headboard, whether it was curved or square, isn't that crazy and will actually look nice in the room.

So thank you to all that voted!  With your little click, you've helped me grow some kahunas and try something new and given me some design clout in my household!

PS. After numerous requests, I've started writing a post about my kitchen countertop painting.  I'll have it finished sometime this week, so check back to see the process I used and how they're holding up after a year of use!  

Headboard Debate

Something that I've been pondering for a while is building a headboard for the guest room.  Awhile back I posted about my search for the perfect fabric, and although it was the most expensive, I've finally decided on the Sunbrella Wyndham Honeydew:

The stripes add a little depth to the room and although the photo above doesn't really show it, it has a faint hint of blue.  What finally sold me on it was that I was able to find numerous online stores that sold it for $20/yard, a 1/4 of the original price.  That's right 75% off.  Everything sounds better when it's 75% off!

Since I have the fabric picked out I thought I was set and was ready to order 2 yards, (since it's pricey I plan to be very careful and not have that much waste).  That's when I thought about the actual shape of the headboard.  I had always assumed I would do a square shape with some tufting, something like this one from West Elm:

But, then I got to thinking, it doesn't have to be square.  I started looking at more exciting curved headboards like this:

Image from Pottery Barn

This leaves me with a dilemma, on one hand I feel comfortable knowing that a square headboard will be easy to construct, but I like the look of the curved headboard.

That's where I need your help.  I did a little photoshop magic (almost as awesome as my Microsoft Paint skills shown here) and made two different headboard designs, (with my fabric) to get your opinion.  Use the little survey I made to let me know which one you prefer.  I already have an idea of which one I like better, but I would love to hear everyone's opinion. 

Here are the choices:

Which headboard do you prefer?

Living Room Reveal

I realized I've been holding out on everyone.  We've been living in our house almost exactly a year now and I've neglected to show some after photos.  When I first started posting I thought I would wait until the rooms were completely finished before I would post full room shots, but let's be honest, when is a room ever completely finished.  Whether it's switching out some art, or restyling a side table, my rooms are in constant evolution.

When we moved in, I tried to focus on decorating the rooms we used the most, like our bedroom and living room.  Hmm, that sounds like all we do is sleep and watch TV.  Okay, so maybe the rooms that would get the most action, okay, that just sounds worse.  Since we knew we wouldn't be renovating the kitchen or bathroom anytime soon without winning the lottery, I focused on the next couple of rooms that we used the most.  There, that sounds better.  

While I'm constantly tweaking little things around the room, for the most part the living room is complete.  I asked to borrow our friend's DSLR camera, (something I've been wanting for myself for a while - hint, hint Mike) and thought what better time to take some 'After' shots of the living room.

When Mike and I bought the house, I didn't know I'd be documenting everything so I only have one before picture, but it's still a doozy:

The room is about 20' long by 10' wide, with 9' ceilings, so it's a pretty nice size room.  The previous owner's paint choices were not doing anything for it though.  The dark gray stripe around the room actually made the high ceilings feel much lower and the extra thinner dark stripe chopped up the wall even more.  And, let's not even begin to talk about the actual quality of those stripes.  Hours were spent sanding the thick gloopy paint along the edges of the stripes, just to primer over to get a smooth finish.

Besides the paint, we had all the floors refinished (you can kinda see a semi-before picture of the other side of the room too) and replaced the door.  And, I obviously burned all the old window dressings. 

We already had all the furniture from our townhouse, and after repainting my original choice of color to gray and adding a few details like our picture ledges and paint swatch art, the room has come together pretty easily.  Although I still feel the room is a, gray.  I'm hoping to add some more colorful accessories to brighten it up.

Here is the view from the dining room, (how come my 8 foot couch looks so small?):

And looking at the front door from the stairs:

And the opposite side, from the front door:

And, a close up of my new favorite spot in the living room:

Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled DIY

After yesterday's exciting news, I thought I'd get right back to our home improvement projects.

With the arrival of Mike's grandparents quickly approaching, Mike and I had to get our butts in gear to not only clean the house, but get all the little projects done before they arrive.  We had no trouble installing the new handrail, and knew the next thing on our list was to finally rid ourselves of the water damage spot in the guest room above our homemade mirror.

We all know what I'm talking about, since I talked about it when we removed the chimney, but here's a reminder of what it looked like in all of it's bubbly, brown stain glory:

Like most projects, it had to get worse before it could look better, so I started by scrapping all the loose paint and compound on both the wall and ceiling.

Since we removed/fixed the source of the water, we knew we wouldn't have to worry about anymore leaks in the future.  So, we cleaned up the area and Mike used some quickset joint compound 45 (sets in 45 minutes) to patch in the spots and then sanded and cleaned off the areas.  I then used some Kilz primer that we always have on hand, since I didn't want any water stains to leak through.  After the primer dried, I painted the ceiling, waited for it to dry, then painted the wall, all with leftover paint that we have stored in the basement.

Now, it looks as if there was never any leak at all:

Our First Nest on Re-Nest

Something amazing happened on Tuesday.  I noticed that I had a couple comments that needed moderated under my '$100 Kitchen Makeover'.  I noticed they weren't from my regular readers, (my mom), so I got a little excited.  I almost fell out of my chair when I actually read them:

With an obnoxious smile that reached both my ears in place I copied and pasted the link and found that my kitchen makeover had caught the eye of someone over at Re-Nest, Apartment Therapy's green design site.

Not only that, but after looking at my stats I found people we're coming here from Curbed as well.  That's when I almost peed myself, (from the floor, since I had already fallen out of my chair from the first discovery) when I found that I was also featured on Curbed as well:

Most of you know I started this blog to keep my family and friends in the loop of the happens going on over here.  Most of my readers are family and friends and the occasional visitors that have stumbled upon my little site.

I take a lot of inspiration from blogs, design sites, magazines, and the like, and I cannot describe how awesome it is that someone noticed my little kitchen project and felt like sharing it.  If it inspires just one person to finally tackle their ugly kitchen by painting what they've got, then I can shut down my blog and die happy.  Just kidding, I'm not that dramatic, (although Mike would sometimes say different).  What I'm trying to say is, I feel incredibly honored to have one of my projects featured and hope that all the new readers who've stopped by will continue to check back and find enjoyment out of my ramblings.  Because, as far as home renovations go, we haven't even begun to get dirty!

Canvas Redo

After living with my silver-leafed project for a couple of weeks, I still wasn't feeling it. 

The silver was too similar to the wall color and didn't really add anything to the area.  I decided to try another idea I saw on Pinterest and use paint swatches to bring in some color, kinda like this:

(via Pinterest)

I grabbed another canvas from Joann's while I was out and about and a paint sample book that we had laying around my office collecting dust.  

I started by cutting out the paint samples in 2" x 2" squares to fit the 24" x 36" canvas size.  

Which left me with about 250 or so paint squares:

I then used some double-sided tape to adhere the squares to the canvas.  I used the blue tape just to make sure I was aligning up, so that it didn't get wonky towards the end.

I kept the colors in order of the booklet to get a rainbow effect and kept adding squares until the entire canvas was filled.

In total it probably took an hour to cut and paste all the squares.  I had Mike hang it for me with some screws and I had a new piece of art in an afternoon.  It's not perfect, but I like it that way.

I think it looks a lot better than my original art and adds some much needed color to our muted living room:

(We also finally broke down and bought some wine corks from Ebay (you'd think it would be more fun drinking 100+ bottles of wine, but sadly Mike and I couldn't do it) and filled our glass container - Benelli must be so overwhelmed because he hasn't thrown any of them out - yet!).

PS.  Check out my other paint swatch art here.

Stairway to Heaven

A while back I wrote about our hallway and how much I loved it.  I'm not sure if you noticed or not, but something important was missing from our staircase.  Need a hint?  Here's a photo to help you out:

Still don't get it?

A handrail!

Call us daredevils, but Mike and I didn't feel the need to install a new handrail right away.  I'm the only one that's fallen down the stairs, (Mike's fallen up them a couple of times, but I don't think he would have been saved by a handrail anyways - he runs up them too fast) and actually the first thing I said after I fell, (okay, after some four-letter words), was "I want a bleeping handrail."  Mike then politely pointed out that I fell on the bottom two steps after the landing and wouldn't have been saved by a handrail had there been one.  I had a bruise the size of a softball for two weeks.

With the arrival of a couple weekend guests, (in the form of Mike's grandparents), we thought it was about time to tackle this small project, just to be safe.

Before we removed all the signs of the previous stairway, we did save the old handrail.  It had seen better days, and like everything else in the house, was covered with about 4 layers of paint.  Finally ending with the current layer, an off-white/yellowy color.  Definitely not something that would look nice in our hallway.  Not to mention the profile was almost a circle, kinda like this one:

We weren't really feeling it.  So, with the prospect of stripping and refinishing an ugly handrail, we ultimately decided to just buy a new one.  We went with more of an oval profile and bought 10' for the 9' span, (definitely better to have extra for nice clean edges and possible mistakes).

At $3.28/LF the total came to $32.80.  Add to that a small can of Minwax stain in Ebony for $4.31, and we were out the door for under $40.  I chose ebony to make it pop a little bit and bring out the dark veins in the stairs.  And, most importantly cause it would look cool. 

After cutting and sanding the handrail to the right length, we used some brackets we had bought a couple months ago, (knowing we would eventually have to put one in) to install it.  We chose to temporarily install it before staining and finishing it so that we wouldn't damage the finished product, and any mistakes could be fixed before staining.

After two coats of stain, and two coats of some clear shellac we had on hand, we were ready to install the handrail permanently.  And the finished product:

And that concludes the world's longest post about a handrail.

All handrail products and stain images found at Home Depot.