I'm really excited to announce the ABM book club selection for October. Many readers have requested for the book club to look into reading a few classics now and again. Guess what, we listened! :) In October we will be reading The Great Gatsby.
I'm really excited to refresh my memory on this one. I read this book back when I was in high school (so it's been over 10 years!). Maybe you've read it too, but it's been a while? You should totally join us next month. Or if you've never read The Great Gatsby, then you should for sure join us as this one is a real treat. If you don't read, guys, there's a movie version too. So... options.
The ABM book club will also have a rad guest moderator next month, Elise Blaha Cripe. Elise is a good friend, fellow blogger (did you read her goal setting post this week?), and e-course author. I've received many awesome book recommendations from her site, so I'm super excited to have her moderate for us in October.
And don't forget: we'll be discussing Middlesex with Danielle on September 30th. I can't wait to see what you all thought of this month's book as it's sort of... different. Abnormal. Extraordinary. It should be a good discussion, so please join in. xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Elise Blaha Cripe.
Every morning I turn the light-filled corner into my kitchen, and I almost can't believe my eyes. The past two months we've burned the midnight oil and spent seemingly every spare moment in our lives working on our kitchen transformation. I've almost forgotten what it looked like before, so these before and after shots below are a little shocking. I've always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, but these days I'm practically kidnapping friends just to come hang in my kitchen while I cook for them. I think I need a larger refrigerator for all of the feasts I want to prepare for all of the dinner parties we need to host.
The biggest impact of the new kitchen is all that white! It's so cheerful compared to the old, dark cabinetry. Because I adjusted my camera settings for the low light of our old kitchen, it's difficult to tell how much brighter our kitchen is now. It really is incredible how much light is reflected by the white paint. I also love that the dark, lower cabinets keep everything grounded, while the wood counters warm it all up nicely.
Now that I have some open shelving, I know I'll enjoy changing things around from time to time. Being able to actually decorate in our kitchen without sacrificing counter space is a real joy for me. As far as style goes, I was aiming for a contemporary take on a mid century-meets-country kitchen, and I'm pretty happy with how it worked out. You probably can't tell by our home's interior, but the exterior of our home has some pretty inescapable country elements to it, including a long, arched porch area and white barn siding. I think the new kitchen appropriately reflects that country sensibility without feeling like a rustic time capsule.
Life During Renovations
I don't even know how people manage life during extensive kitchen renovations that take months— just one month in this destruction was enough to cause incredible anxiety in my life. Look out! Toddler on a ladder! Oh yeah. It was a little stressful to say the least. (For the record, Lucy never got far up the ladder before we swooped her down and resorted to baby gates and television to keep her safe.) Our sink and counters were out of commission for at least three weeks, and during that time, all of our dishes and pantry items were stored away in boxes throughout our house. We ate a lot of frozen, sodium-rich meals and pizza. Since I couldn't make coffee (I use a French press), I ran to Dunkin almost daily— and I couldn't say no to a cake donut most of the time. Yikes! I kind of miss those mornings, actually. But I'd be lying if I said I can still easily fit into my pants.
I'm the kind of person who likes to work my butt off until a project is finished. Full steam ahead, I always say. But when you're counting on help from others, you can't just snap your fingers to make people jump. They have things called day jobs and choir practice and softball games and social lives. Waiting around was a really difficult part of this project for me. It wasn't easy to rest and wait when there was still work to be done, but I didn't have much of a choice when it involved things I couldn't do alone. So I did a lot of sitting on my hands.
There were a few nights Phil and I stayed up until at least four a.m. (Now you're understanding why trips to Dunkin were a must!) I really appreciated Phil's willingness to work alongside me at times like this when I know he was completely exhausted. That's true love, folks.
Once we got our cabinets back up on the walls, I could finally put away dishes and clean up the dining room. What a tremendous relief! It was all downhill from there— the countertops went in next, then shelving, then the greatly anticipated Return of the Sink (extended edition)! Once the area was livable again, I felt like slowing the pace wasn't the worst thing in the world.
Now that my life has returned to a more normal pace, I start every morning right here at my kitchen's bar. I usually have to tear myself away from this sunny place where I enjoy my coffee, NPR, and social media scrolling. Though I really just want to sit for a while on my reupholstered stool and soak in all the joy I feel at having completed the renovation.
Reflecting on the project, there isn't really any part of the design I would change, but I do have some wisdom I gleaned along the way.
Semi-Gloss Paint— I always knew the truth about semi-gloss paint, but it never felt real until our kitchen renovation. Semi-gloss paint shows every single flaw in the object you're painting. Because of how reflective it is, it will show texture from brush rollers (see the sink vent area above), and any dents, bumps, or scratches. I don't notice it too much from day to day, but it sticks out to me when I look at these pictures. There are a few places I wish I would've spent more time filling and sanding when we were repairing old hardware holes on the doors.
Semi-gloss paint is a must for places that will be frequently wiped down, like kitchen cabinets. I love how easy it is to clean, but I hate how quickly it smudges. I wipe down our drawers and doors way more often than I ever did before, but the paint holds up to it nicely.
I noticed the semi-gloss paint took longer to cure than other paint (eggshell and satin finish), and oddly enough, the darker-tinted paint was worse at setting up than the untinted paint. I have no idea if this is a normal thing, or if it was an anomaly for me, but I'm storing that away for future projects– You might need to allow for longer cure time with semi-gloss paint.
Painting Brick– Don't be afraid to paint brick! I had it in my mind that it would be a huge undertaking, but it wasn't. I was also afraid of what people on the internet would say about me painting brick— a fear which probably stems from my days as a writer for Apartment Therapy. But it's my house! It's so bizarre that I even worry about what internet commenters would think about a change that made me so incredibly happy in our home. This post explains my experience with removing tile from the brick wall, repairing its badly cracked surface, and why we decided to paint it.
Open Shelving– I grew up with very pragmatic family members always raising an eyebrow at clutter. Because clutter=more things to dust, and it seems good housekeeping runs in my family. (Though that buck might stop here.) I can just imagine my grandmother raising said eyebrow at my open shelves. But I like to think of this mix between closed cabinets and open shelving as a nice compromise between vanity and practicality.
I will say, I have already had to dust everything on the shelves a couple of times since finishing the kitchen, so I get where they're coming from. Even items I use every day still gather dust— like my canning jar food storage. But it's not too much work, and I don't mind it.
Budgeting– I talked a lot about budgeting in my planning post, and spent more money than anticipated due to some personal choices (such as a fancy faucet with a far reach) and also some unforeseen expenses (see the end of my planning post for an idea of what those expenses entailed). I definitely think planning the money you'll need for a renovation project is a necessary step, unless you have unlimited funds. I really profusely discourage anyone from going into debt to finish a home renovation project, but that can easily happen if you hastily begin a project and put everything on a credit card.
When planning your budget, I suggest adding 10% to your foreseen expenses to include error in planning or expenses you didn't plan for, like fixing something that breaks or buying lumber to replace pieces you cut incorrectly. If you're working with an older home, you might want to overestimate your budget even more than 10% to include potential money pits like electrical rewiring, plumbing, and ventilation issues.
Scheduling– Taking the time to make a renovation schedule is a smart idea even if you might be way off in your time estimation. A schedule keeps you motivated to work, even when you feel like ditching it all for a night on the couch with Netflix. (Not a bad idea, I might add— but perhaps you could schedule in rest days.) Sharing your schedule with people who have offered to help will also help them stay committed to your project, knowing that there's a schedule to stick to. Just make sure you're gracious about it— your helpers will appreciate every iota of kindness you send their way.
The most time-consuming aspect of this project was definitely refinishing the cabinets. You can see my timetable for our cabinet refinishing right here. All of that sanding, hole-filling, and wet sanding was the bulk of it. I would be happy if I never sanded another object as long as I live, but I'll settle for just a month off. Sanding is a pain, yes, but I always scoff at cabinet refinishing tutorials that skip this step. Paint builds up over time and affects the fit of your cabinetry. Also, wet sanding after priming really improves the feel of the paint finish– it's like silk after wet sanding. If you're going to do it at all, you might as well put in the extra effort to do it well.
Another time intensive part of this project was the countertop. We did a lot of practice cutting with templates, lots of measuring, and so much planning. It's worth the extra time to make sure you don't make a mistake when cutting into an expensive countertop material. You can read all about the process (and the mistake we made, which forced us to widen the gap between my sink basins) here.
Splurging on Hardware– The biggest sticker shock I felt during the planning process of our renovation was when I added up the estimated cost of our new hardware. I ended up compromising by mixing the expensive solid brass bar pulls I loved with cheap brass plated knobs from the hardware store. It turns out I adore the end result of mixing the two styles and wouldn't go back in time and use all brass bar pulls— even if I had the money. It still was a splurge buying the solid brass bar pulls for the drawers, but I think it really paid off. The hardware really is the icing on the cake, isn't it? I don't think I would love the result of our renovation as much if I had compromised completely on the hardware. Was it worth the extra money? Definitely!
Before & After
And now I bring you a few more before and after shots. These images practically send chills down my spine! I chose to photograph our kitchen with the typical clutter that we see from day to day, like bread, fruit, my French press (it only ever gets cleaned right before I refill it every morning), and magazines— just so you could get a feel for what it's like being there in real life. Too bad you can't really come over for a cuppa!
Here are some handy links to all of my kitchen renovation posts:
Next I'll be sharing the space adjacent to our kitchen— the dining room! It underwent some changes recently too, and together they make this area my favorite place in the whole house. Definitely well worth the waiting and saving!
Are you wondering about any of the fixtures or accessories in my kitchen? I've included sources for everything below.
-cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore's Black Panther in semi-gloss -wall paint: Benjamin Moore's Bright White in Eggshell -trim and backsplash paint: untinted white paint in semi-gloss -butcher block sealer: Waterlox original low VOC in satin
Hardware, Fixtures, & Furnishings:
-butcher block counters: Lumber Liquidators (maple) -brass bar pulls: Lewis Dolan -brass plated door knobs: found at a local hardware store for $2 -faucet: Amazon -espresso machine: Krups from Amazon -pendant light: Amazon -under cabinet stemware holder (brass plated): Amazon -utensil rack: DIY
-landscape collage art: Jesse Treece from Society6 -photobooth panel: vintage -paper towel holder (brass plated): West Elm -tea kettle: Amazon -radio: Vermont Country Store -rug: Urban Outfitters circa 2009 -Le Parfait canning jars: from Marshalls & Grow Organic -blue Ball jars: from my departed grandmother's kitchen -bread box: Amazon (small and large) -enamel tray by sink: West Elm -soap dispensers: Amazon (dish soap and hand soap) -tea towel: vintage -baskets above refrigerator (fair trade): Amazon -stools: eBay reupholstered with fabric below -faux cowhide upholstery fabric: Amazon -whale sponge holder: World Market -refrigerator note station: DIY -clamp light: Lowes -cutting board under the bread: made by my dad in his high school wood shop! -speckled bowl: hand thrown by my friend Austin -enamel utensils and little white colander: World Market
I've tried to include as many sources as I could, but feel free to ask about anything unmentioned in the comments. Thanks for following along with this renovation journey! I've loved hearing your encouragement and advice along the way. Hopefully you feel inspired to get down with the DIY in your own kitchen. Remember— reusing old fixtures can produce beautiful, inexpensive results with a little hard work! -Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella of the Signature Collection.
Do you have a door problem at your house? You know, the kind of issue where you have a tiny space and opening a door into (or out of) that small area makes for some awkward maneuvering? I love that we have an attached bathroom in our bedroom, but it's a pretty small area to walk into and having the door swing into the already tiny space was frustrating from day one of living there. My Mom suggested when we moved in that I fix the problem with a sliding door of some sort, but I didn't really know how that would look. And it sounded expensive on top of all the other renovations we wanted to do.
I continued to be annoyed with the door situation until I saw the sliding barn door that we had installed at the studio to fix a similar problem. The issue with that door was that it actually swung outwards and stuck out into the living room when it was open (as you can see in the above before and after pictures). So awkward. A door that would slide instead of swinging made much more sense and wouldn't take up any space in the teeny-tiny bathroom or kitchen. Problem solved!
When I saw that the problem at the studio was instantly fixed with a new door configuration, I knew it would be the perfect set up to fix my door issue as well. Now, another door solution for small spaces is a pocket door, but they slide inside the wall rather than on top of the wall. So they are much more expensive because you need a contractor to open up the wall and install them. I wanted to use the hardware that we used on the studio door, but I also needed an actual door to hang on the hardware (duh!). The simple ones I liked were about $400. Too much. So I recruited Josh to build a door I designed with a vertical and horizontal stripe pattern, and of course, he nailed it and built it for much less! Tell us your door secrets, Josh!
Hey! Josh here. The real secret to building this door is that it's so easy and inexpensive to make. A door that looks similar can cost up to 800-1000 bucks (I stress looks because some material is just inherently more expensive.) This door cost about $80!
Supplies: - about 9 1" x 4" x 8' pine boards - 1 4' x 8' medium grade plywood sheet (I used an oak ply) - wood filler - paint
Here are the tools I used: - table saw - miter saw - circular saw - tape measure - nailer - straight edge - sandpaper - painter's tape
The first thing we did was make a plan, which is a good place to start. Laura's doorway was pretty narrow, so the door ended up only being 29" wide and 93" high. The door was just wide enough to cover both sides of molding when closed (by design.) Don't forget you can modify to fit your opening and space!
After we came up with the plan, it was time to cut some wood (or make some sawdust, as I've heard old timers refer to woodworking). I cut the plywood down to the size we needed (29" x 93"). In order to get the amount of planks onto the size we needed, I had to rip them to 3 1/4" wide. After everything was ripped, I cut them to the length needed, then sanded them.
After everything was cut and the edges were sanded, I laid all the planks on the plywood to make sure everything fit right. Then it was just a matter of gluing and nailing everything into place. I started with the horizontal planks. Then moved on down to the verticals, making sure to push the pieces firmly next to each other. I used 1.25" 18 gauge galvanized nails.
After everything was glued and nailed down, I filled all the nail holes and any other imperfections in the wood. Once the filler was dry, I hit the entire thing with 120 grit sandpaper, and then moved up to 220. Since I was painting the door, I wanted to make the surface as free of defects as possible...almost so you couldn't tell it was made from wood.
To install the door handle, I drilled a couple of holes from the back side of the door, inserted the screws through to the front, attached the screws to the handle, and then filled in those screw holes with wood filler.
At this point, all that was left to do was to tape and paint. I used painter's tape with edge lock technology. It costs a few bucks more, but you can tell the difference! I taped all of the edges super tight, and then applied 3 coats of each color, lightly sanding between each coat. And that is it! The whole thing took about a day to make. The longest step was painting.
To install the door onto the wall, we just followed the instructions that came with the hardware. This process will be different depending on which hardware you go with, so make sure to choose hardware that has an installation process you are comfortable with (or you can always have a professional install that part and just concentrate on your door).
Didn't Josh do such a good job? Teamwork! You can see above that I made the inside handle with a 1/2" piece of quarter round that I cut to 7" long, painted white, and glued on to the door. My husband wanted a really low profile inside handle so we could open the door completely (it's a really narrow doorway so you need all the width you can get), and this was the perfect solution.
This sliding door has made all the difference in our bathroom space, and it feels so much larger since we made the switch. Plus, I love the character it adds to the bedroom side of the wall, and the stripes are just too fun not to like. Do you have an awkward door that needs a sliding door makeover? xo. Laura
Credits // Authors: Laura Gummerman + Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Laura Gummerman, Joshua Rhodes, and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.
Yes, I waited until the very end of summer to buy a romper. I know. Why even bother at this point? I just kept seeing these all summer and wondering if I could find one that fit right. And I think part of me just lacked the confidence to try a few on, even though I thought it was a cute trend.
I am often late getting into a trend. But hey, better late than never. Also, do you think I can wear this romper with tights? Is that weird or cool? I have a feeling in just a few weeks I'll be really needing to know. :)
I'm pretty sure I was on my second or third cup of coffee when we snapped these photos. Someone needs to cut me off—I'm just too addicted.
Despite my summer attire at work lately, we've been gearing up for fall. I've been working on lots of autumn-appropriate recipes and blog content, we are working on three different e-courses that will all launch before the holidays (I think you're gonna love them!), and we're preparing to launch our first offering of physical products. It's a big time of change and transition, which is both scary and exciting.
What about you? Are you going through changes at work or in your personal life this season? xo. Emma
Sometimes when I'm out shopping at flea markets, I can't help but feel my "motherly nurturing" side kick in. You know, you see an item that could be really cute, but it needs a little (or a lot) of TLC to get it back to a positive state, and you just think, "Ohh, don't worry little guy, Mamma's here to help." Do you ever think that? No? Oh. Me neither. But if I ever did think that, it would be about this chair makeover. I saw this replica of a Robin Day 1970s chair at a flea market earlier this year and thought it would be just the right project to encourage me to learn some upholstery skills. I've since been able to make several other cushion covers (like these and these) all based on what I learned from this project. So, if you haven't gotten into the world of upholstery yet (but would like to), recovering a vintage chair with simple cushions is a great place to start your journey.
This is the chair before. Wowza. I wish this post was one of those "Pat the Bunny" books where you could feel how this fabric felt. It. Felt. OLD. And crusty. OK, on second thought, maybe it's a good thing you can't feel it. Just trust me...every time I had to touch the fabric to move the cushions, I got a solid wave of the textile heebie-jeebies and did one of those body shudders usually reserved for much more scary situations.
Supplies: -upholstery fabric (I'm obsessed with this fabric I used. It's called Black Kilim black fabric from Home Fabric and Trims. Contact them and ask specifically for it if you're interested. It's not for sale on their website) -zippers -fabric scissors and pins -standard sewing machine with a zipper foot
Unfortunately for me (considering the above information about the fabric), the first step in making a new cushion cover is to use the existing cover as a template. That means you need to take apart all the pieces of your cover so you can use them as a pattern for your new fabric. The covers were made up of three pieces each: the top panel, the matching bottom panel, and the long side panel that went around the side of the cover connecting the top and bottom panel. That long side panel is made up of two pieces of fabric. One section has a zipper installed so you can add or remove the insert from the cover as needed.
Even if the cover you have is laid out a little differently than the above arrangement, you should still be able to make your new cover using a layout like mine if you can measure your needed dimensions for each panel width and height (don't forget to add your seam allowance for the hem).
You can also use scrap fabric to make a practice cover first (which is what I did) to make sure the dimensions are right and to get a little practice before moving on to the real fabric.
Lay out your original fabric pattern pieces onto your new fabric and pin in place. If using a print, you'll want to carefully consider where you want the pattern placed so it's showing the best portion of the print and is lining up in a flattering way with the side panel fabric as well. Pin the fabrics together with a few pins and cut out your panels.
At this point you should have your front and back pieces, your side panel that will include a zipper, and your longer side panel. The photo above shows the side zipper panel with the zipper already installed, but have no fear! I'll show you how to do that step first, and then you can attach all the rest of the panels from there. Here we go!
Take your panel that will include the zipper and use fabric scissors to cut down the middle of the panel (lengthwise) cutting it into two pieces. You want this side zipper panel to end up the same width as the rest of your longer side panel, so make sure when you cut this piece you are adding the extra 1" you'll need for the zipper seam allowance in the middle as well as the regular seam allowance on the sides.
If it helps to visualize it, you are basically making a really short (and kind of square) drum shape, so you need to make the sides of that drum with one section that has a zipper down the middle.
Make sure your fabric is right side up. Take your zipper and turn it face down. Lay the left edge of the zipper even with the left edge of the right piece of fabric (see photo above). Pin zipper in place.
Use a zipper foot to sew that side of the zipper in place. Repeat steps with the other side of the zipper.
Once sewn in place, fold the zipper back so both rows of teeth are facing each other and press the zipper in place with an iron. Pin the fabric in place.
Switch back to a standard foot on your machine and sew down your fabric 1/4" from the zipper to keep the zipper folded in place.
Once this task is completed, you should be able to zip your fabric together.
Pin the end of your long side panel to your zipper panel (right side of the fabric together) and sew 1/2" from the edge to join the two pieces.
Center the middle of the long side panel with the middle front of the bottom panel. With the right sides of the fabric facing together, pin the two edges together working your way towards the end of the side panel that has the zipper panel attached. Once you get to the end of that side, pick back up where you started in the middle and pin the other way until the two ends meet.
You could attach both ends of the long panel to the zipper panel instead of just one side like we did a few steps back, but I find that no matter how well I measure, I always end up a little off and have to rip out the seam when I discover my circle of side seam fabric is either too long or too short to go around the bottom panel edge. Once I have my sides pinned snugly in place all around the bottom panel, I mark where the open end of the long side panel should meet up with the zipper panel, remove a few pins on either side, and sew those two ends together the same way I did it with the first end. Then I can trim any seam allowance (if needed) and pin it back in place.
So, it should look like a shallow pan of fabric at this point. Use your sewing machine to sew all around the edges with a 1/2" seam allowance (or whatever seam allowance the original cover used so the dimensions still work).
Repeat the process of matching up the middle of the front sides of the fabric with the middle front of the top panel and pin that panel in place as well. Before you sew this side, remember to open the zipper a bit so you can get back in when you're done sewing.
You can press the seams flat with a hot iron if you wish before turning the cover right side out. Add your cushion back into the cover. Thankfully, even though the fabric on the foam cushions was in terrible shape, the actual cushions themselves were in good condition and totally usable. If yours aren't, visit your local fabric stores and see what foam cushion options are available, and you can cut one to size. If you happen to have any areas that don't look as stuffed as they should, you can add small amounts of pillow stuffing or batting into the area before zipping it closed. Just make sure to evenly disperse it in a way that won't look lumpy when you're done.
You can see that in addition to the new cushions, I also gave the shell of the chair a fresh coat of white paint (I used a spray paint specifically for plastic) and cleaned the chrome legs as well. The new bright white body instantly freshened up the chair as the previous off white had significantly yellowed over time. Since I couldn't decide which part of the print I wanted to run down the center of my cushions, I cut out the top and bottom panel of each cover with different areas of the print. That way if I get tired of that particular design, I can flip the cushion over and see a different pattern. Nice! I love the little "You're My Fave" pillow that I made to go with the chair. It looks like Mac the Cat thinks it's referring to him...
Hopefully next time you see a cool chair that just needs some fresh cushions and a little love, you'll feel confident that you are just the person for the job. You can do it! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with Stella of theSignature Collection.
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