Patio Fire Pit: Re-purposed Scrap Metal Box

Roasted marshmallows, smores and warmth out the back door. SWEET!

I had a rusting scrap metal box that Heidi gave me when she and her husband decided to purge some of their….treasures. Lucky me! She originally got it at one of our favorite spots, ReStore. It sat in her garage for a couple of years and then literally sat up-ended in my back yard for another 6-7 years. Getting more and more beautiful with exposure all the while. Continue reading

Tiling a Backsplash – Part 1

Scary, exciting and well worth the adventure with Monica and Heidi.

I have a galley kitchen with a little eating nook at one end. There is an earlier post describing how we economically transformed my existing kitchen cabinets with a little paint. However, I wanted this area (on the other side of my galley kitchen) to be an accent and have some punch. I wanted a happy place.

Step 1: Sketch it out.

We sketched it out in the computer using a design program (InDesign), but you could easily go old school – take a photograph and trace it. Or just draw freehand – accuracy isn’t important at this stage. After you trace or draw it, make several copies. Then use colored pencils to color different options until you get something you are happy with.

The point is to have an overall idea first. Use it as a reference guide throughout. Keep it handy as you go along.

Step 2: Selecting the tile and design.  It was so much fun going to the tile store and looking at all the possibilities. And then again, it quickly got overwhelming. My tip for you is to stay focused. Keep that sketch at hand. I found something I liked on my first trip to Art Tile, but because I am who I am, I had to make sure there wasn’t anything better out there. So we scouted around online and at one other tile store in town. Both had great choices and selections, but I kept coming back to my first choice – 1×1 glass mosaic tiles by Moda Vetro. They come in 12″ x 12″ sheets with a mesh backing that holds the tiles together. There are standard color blends, I chose “forest blend”, made up of greens and grays. But I really wanted some blue and white tiles in there too, to tie into the rest of my kitchen.

So before I bought the tile I took my sketch with me to Art Tile to ask about integrating other colors into the stock color blend that I had chosen. They were great advisers and assured me that not only was it easy to integrate other colors, but it was fun and that I should install it on the wall myself, too. With fear in my eyes I asked the women at Art Tile to repeat a few “how to” instructions regarding installation. There was humor, encouragement and some sarcasm in her voice as she said,  “Listen, you are making this way more difficult than it needs to be. It’s easy and you can do it.”  I walked out emboldened and scared to death with excitement! So again, I called in the Hammer Girls to help work up some courage and a plan.

Step 3: Ordering the tile:  The first thing we did was to loosely measure the area so I could get the tile ordered.  Art Tile suggested I order 10% extra and helped me figure out how many sheets of blue and white I’d need to make my custom blend.

Step 4: Final measuring and marking the wall.  Because my door trim on one side of the tile wasn’t yet installed, I had control over the width of where the tile was going to be. I planned the trim measurement and placement so we would not need to cut any tiles where it would meet the trim.

Using a level, we drew on the wall exactly where we would be placing each sheet of tile once we began the install. The install is for another day. We needed some lunch!

Step 5: Have some lunch.

Step 6: Lay it all out. Using blue tape for the border guide, we laid the tile sheets out flat on plywood and saw horses. Now it was time to incorporate the blue and white tiles. The design tip that Art Tile gave me was to lay out the tile and to “Make sure that the integrated tiles look truly random. It’s not about perfect, but random. Make sure there are same colors side by side as well as singles. And don’t make it harder than it needs to be.” With that in mind, we placed white and blue tiles on top of the existing tiles until we were happy with the blend. After that, we used ½ of a clothes pin to carefully pry off the tiles we were replacing from the mesh backing. There probably is an official tool, but the clothes pin worked just great. We plucked and replaced existing tiles colors with the blue and white tiles – working left to right. It was a little bit like factory work or some might say meditation. Because I’m picky, I just let it sit in my kitchen area like this for a few days. So, once I was sure I liked it (I fussed a bit, but not too much) I began securing the blue and white tiles in place with Elmer’s Glue, keeping equal spaces between tiles.

Step 7: Breathe and wait for the girls to return for Part 2! ; )

Remodeling a Small Kitchen

I had a weird hood thingy that didn’t function and a narrow full height cabinet that wasn’t full height on the inside.  I also had no counter space around my stove for prep.  It was an awkward space.

I gathered many kitchen images from various magazines. Then looked around town and gathered samples of different material & colors – paint, tile, countertop, cabinet styles, flooring, appliances. It was kind of fun, but also bit overwhelming.

I had no plan for major changes in my full kitchen, but I did want to do something about this particular area.  So, I called in the girls for “My Kitchen needs Help – Part II”.

We brainstormed, sketched, played around with the colors, materials and dimensions. Piddled in the computer some, measured twice and measured again.  We ended up with something that I liked and would become an accent to the rest of my kitchen.  And of course, there had to be lunch.

I still couldn’t imagine how the space would look or feel with a full width cabinet.  So, I made a full size mock up of the cabinet we had sketched to make sure it wasn’t too big and felt proportionally correct in the space.  Just cardboard, tape measure, utility knife and some duct tape did the trick.

Once I knew that it would work in the space, I hired Raincap Construction to help with the demo, cabinet build and appliance install.

I still plan to paint the cabinet and wall. Next on the agenda, however; will be the tile installation. We’ll get to that the next time we gather at my house.  Scarey and fun.

~ MJ

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Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

I’ve wanted to do something with my cabinets since I moved in. That was 15 years ago. I’m a slow mover on my own. I called in “the girls” to brainstorm and make a plan. ~MJ


  • Can’t afford to replace the cabinets. Is there anything we can do?
  • They are in good shape and function fine. How do I justify a change?
  • Could those darn things even be painted?

Action Plan:

  • Paint ‘em and change the knobs and pulls.
  • Poke around online initially. We searched for “painting kitchen cabinets”.
  • Talk with quality paint suppliers about cabinet paints. We took a door in to them so they knew what we were working with.
  • Just try it, what the heck.

How we did it:

Step 1: Select a color. We got several sample pints (any brand will do) and test painted 1’x2’ or larger boards. It was worth it to see the colors options large, with my lighting, in my kitchen.

Step 2: Remove the cabinet doors from the boxes. “Boxes” are things you put your dishes in. They are fixed to the wall. You could think of them as the frame. We marked each box and corresponding door so we’d know where to return them.

Step 3: Fill the existing handle holes with spackling paste (since I wanted to replace/reposition the hardware).

Step 4: Sand the surfaces just enough to rough it up. Safety first! We used dust masks.

How to repaint Kitchen Cabinets

Step 5: Remove sanding dust with Tack Cloth.

Step 6: Set-up a factory style painting area. We used my basement table and a sawhorse set-up. Laid the doors horizontally to reduce the possibility of paint drips.

Step 7: Lunch

Step 8: Prime (with tinted primer) the surfaces being careful not to leave drips. Quick even strokes, but don’t overwork it. Paint like you know what you are doing. We had one person priming the boxes up in my kitchen and other 2 of us priming the doors and drawers in the basement.

Step 9: Paint ‘em. Mine needed 2 coats, even with the tinted primer.

Step 10: Install new hardware and put the doors back on the painted boxes.

Kitchen Cabinet makeover paint samples

Before: MJ’s Cabinets

Kitchen Cabinets repainted

I ended up painting the walls as well. Oh, and that is a new dishwasher – mine had been broken for years and I found one on sale.

Someday I’ll replace my fridge. Could be another 15 years.

Our supplies:

  • 150 grade sandpaper
  • Benjamin Moore Kitchen & Bath satin-finish paint
  • Benjamin Moore Superior Primer
  • Tack Cloth
  • Spackle paste (non-shrinking)
  • 2” and 3” quality paint brushes
  • Satin Nickle finish pulls and knobs. I bought mine with credit card bonus points. Score!
  • Dust  masks
  • Sawhorses
  • Lunch

What can go wrong:

Drips. If that happens:

  • After the paint is dry, use 220 grit sand paper to lightly sand the drip and the surrounding area.
  • Run your finger across the area to make sure it is smooth. Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth.
  • You’ll need to prime again if you sanded down to the original surface.
  • Lightly paint sanded area.

Lead is deadly.

  • It’s a good idea to get your paint tested for lead if you are not sure it is lead free.
  • We’ve used NVL Laboratories in Seattle, but there are others. It’s worth it and is cheap insurance ($30-$40) against brain damage.

Counter depth caution:

  • If you are replacing appliances make sure your countertop depth is deep enough. Countertops in older homes are sometimes not standard depth.

Last thoughts:

It was daunting to start. But the girls showed up and we immediately started removing doors and drawers. Before I knew it, we were on our way.

After the initial work party everything seemed to fall into place. I worked in the multiple coats of paint over that week and rehung the doors/drawers the following week. Ta da! After 2 weeks and about $200 in paint and supplies my 15-year old procrastination was over. Over, I say!

I’m not certain about the long-term durability.  I’ll let you know how it all holds up over time.  Stay tuned.