Rust-Oleum Mystery Box Challenge

Hello friends! I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring. I’ve already started decorating our living room and kitchen for the season, so that’s what I want to give you a sneak peek at today.

I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the Rust-Oleum® Mystery Box Challenge happening over at the Creator’s Studio. If you love DIY projects, you need to check out this site. There’s a ton of information and inspiration, as well as fun projects and free giveaways going on all the time.

The Mystery Box Challenge involved Rust-Oleum sending me a box of goodies, which I had to use to create something unique. In my kit, I received a small, unfinished planter box, Varathane® Wood Stain in Golden Oak and Wood Grain Enhancer, and some other odds and ends I could choose to use to decorate the box.

Here’s what I crafted from my mystery kit:

Step 1

I used the wire brush in my kit to “open up the grain” on the wood planter box by brushing, in the direction of the grain, all sides of the box. More brushing will equal a more pronounced effect, less will be more subtle.

Step 2

I applied the Varathane Golden Oak stain to my box. I often use a paintbrush to apply stain. I also like to coat it on nice and thick, letting it soak in for about 2-3 minutes before wiping it off with a lint-free cloth. I find this gives the best uniform, rich color. Too often, folks make the mistake of applying stain sparingly and wiping it off too quickly, which can lead to an uneven finish.

Step 3

After the stain was dry to the touch (about an hour), I applied the grain enhancer. I used a rag to wipe it into the grain of the wood, working in the opposite direction of the grain. I wiped off the excess with a dry rag.

Step 4

Time to decorate and personalize! I taped off the corners of the box using painters tape.

Then I applied two coats of aged bronze paint. I like Modern Masters® Statuary Bronze metallic paint color.

After that, I used bronze upholstery nails I had left over from another project to decorate the edges.

Finally, I filled the center with floral foam and stuck in a few sprigs of faux greenery I got at Hobby Lobby.

Tip: Use an electric bread knife to trim foam for a quick, clean edge.

Done! I placed my new planter box on a side table in our living room.

What do you think of my project? I hope this inspires you to think spring!


Flip house before and after (Left-Behind Ranch)

Hello friends! It’s been a whirlwind late summer/fall and I have sooooo much to share with you. I’ll just have to do it one post at a time. 😉

Perhaps you’ll recall the launch of our most recent flip house project – I called the place “Left-Behind Ranch.”

I originally planned for this flip to take about 14 weeks from start to finish. Well, like so many things in life, plans change …

Due to a pipeline project in our state, which has brought an influx of temporary work crews, there’s been a huge need for vacant rental properties in our area. Soooooo, long story short, we decided to turn Left-Behind Ranch into a rental home temporarily.

That meant the timeline for completing our renovations on the place shifted from 14 weeks to THREE WEEKS. Yes, I had to completely renovate a home in THREE WEEKS, people. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly recover, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that timeline to anyone. But we did meet our deadline of Sept. 1, and we’ve had tenants in the home for two months now, which has been a real blessing.

Amid the chaos, I did get the chance to snap some quick pictures with my iPhone of the rooms as they were completed. Of course, we still have some minor details to tend to after our tenants leave, such as installing new countertops and hardware in the kitchen, and sprucing up the exterior a bit. But we’ve come a long way baby! So let’s take a look at the transformation, shall we? 🙂

Here’s a look at the kitchen and dining area before:

And now:

I have no idea why I took a photo with that cabinet door hanging open, lol. We still need to change out the countertop and cabinet hardware, but this space sure is much improved, don’t you agree?

The lighter wall color is Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige. The color on the darker accent walls is Sherwin Williams Warm Stone.

I painted the ceilings throughout the home bright white. The day I sprayed all the ceilings with my pro sprayer happened to be the day the neighbor visited to introduce himself. Of course I looked a hot mess! My eyes had lovely white circles painted around them where my gear and eye protection didn’t cover.

Light fixtures are off the shelf at Lowe’s.

The floor is sheet vinyl … but I can’t for the life of me remember the color/brand I chose. It’s a rustic driftwood-type color. We get a ton of compliments on it.

Artwork on the walls is from Hobby Lobby. Furniture and accessories were scrounged from my basement.

Here’s the living room area before:

And after:

The walls are Sherwin Williams Anew Gray. Carpet color is stone hearth (a neutral greige).

Furniture and artwork scrounged again …. lamps are from Walmart.

Below is the hallway, laundry area and hall bathroom before:

And after:

The wall color in the hall bathroom is Sherwin Williams Warm Stone. The hallway and laundry area is Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige. I need to get more pictures of these spaces!

The flooring I installed is luxury vinyl plank groutable peel-and-stick tile from Lowe’s. The tile color is Naturale Petrified Wood and the grout is Saddle Gray.

Artwork and accessories are from Gabe’s. Fixtures and hardware from Lowe’s.

Below are the bedrooms before and after. The guys started moving in before I could get pics of one of the rooms, so excuse the stuff. 😉

And after:

Bedroom 2 color is Accessible Beige.

Bedroom 3 color is Sherwin Williams Heron Plume.

The master bedroom wall color is Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Here’s the master bathroom before:

And after:

I did a bright white on these walls to save time. The flooring is oak peel-and-stick vinyl plank tile from Lowe’s.

Honestly, it’s amazing what just a really good scrubbing did for this place! I don’t have any after pictures of the exterior yet because we’re still working out there but I’ll get those and more detailed images of the interior when we get prepared to sell.

What do you think of our progress so far?

Family room design for family of 6 (including 4 young boys)

Hello friends. Right now I’m looking outside at more snow flurries, while a space heater warms my toes in my office. Yes, I am definitely ready for spring. 🙂

Today, I wanted to share with you a virtual family room design I came up with for some clients recently. This is new territory for me, as I’m typically working directly in the physical spaces I design … a process I like to call “design trial and error,” lol. This family room design was created totally virtually, using photos provided to me along with a to-scale floor plan layout.

The lovely family I worked with is a busy couple with four active, young boys. They have a gorgeous newer home that includes a family room directly off the kitchen. They were stumped on how to design and furnish this space because it presents some traffic-flow challenges; it needs to serve several purposes; it needs to be aesthetically pleasing, yet easy to maintain; and it needs to be boy-friendly.

Here a two photos of the family room “before.”

Photos courtesy of homeowner

Such a beautiful space … and I love that fireplace!

I asked the homeowners a series of questions to help me get a good sense of direction, etc.:

“We have six people in our house. The boys are 14, soon to be 12, 8 and 5. We really enjoy sports (watching and participating) and reading. We have decided to start with the family room. This is where everyone hangs out, watches television, plays with toys, wrestling matches are held, etc. I would like it to be a very relaxed, comfortable room but look nice for when guests come over. We struggle with lighting and storage. Our kids tend to leave their toys and especially books everywhere. We are not opposed to changing paint colors. I tend to gravitate towards the darker shades of color, more earthy tones. I am not opposed to a lighter shade, just no pink.”

With that information in mind, I went to work. Since I provided this particular design to my clients at no charge, I’m able to share the details with you. Perhaps it will provide some inspiration. This is the plan I developed:


I would recommend having an electrician install six recessed (can) lights in the family room, on a dimmer switch. This would provide ample lighting in the space that could be used at full brightness for playing games, or dimmed when reading, watching a movie, chilling by the fire at Christmastime, etc. I had this same type of lighting installed in my own kitchen, and it was the best money I ever spent in the room. I spent about $1,000 for this project. You’ll likely be looking at about $1,500 or so, considering it doesn’t look like you have any ceiling light wiring in place yet. I would choose to space these lights out evenly on a straight line on the left (window) and right (return vents) sides of the room. If you’d like to add additional accent/reading lamps, my pick would be the stylish and very inexpensive set below from Walmart.

Accent lamps


I would choose Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige, a soft, warm neutral shade with a touch of gray, the perfect canvas for dramatic furniture, art, etc. I know you mentioned you gravitate toward darker neutrals … this is on the lighter side. I had the choice of going darker on the walls, lighter with the furniture, or lighter on the walls, darker with the furniture. I chose the latter because I figured darker and more durable furniture pieces would be most practical for your young family. Also, I chose this color because I think it will be the perfect complement to your beautiful stone fireplace, the main focal point of the room. As far as finish, for a living or family room, I typically choose either an eggshell or Sherwin Williams’ flat enamel finish. These types of low-gloss finishes provide the most forgiving and flawless result, free of brush and roller marks.



Entertainment center

TV/Media console

I chose the ASPENHOME CANYON CREEK 84″ TV ENTERTAINMENT CENTER. It is quite a substantial piece, which would provide good balance in the space if placed on the right side of the room (the return vents side). If positioned about four inches or so from the wall, you should still have adequate air flow for the return vents. I chose this piece for its color, and because it will offer lots of storage for your media components, books, games, etc.


I chose the Lincoln Chaise Sectional Sofa by Savvy.

I have not yet purchased anything from this particular company, so I’m not sure of the quality or durability, but I like the affordable prices and customization options. For this family room space, I chose the DumDum Stone fabric and accompanying pillows in microsuede khaki. The sofa is extra long, much like the one I have in my own living room. I love the fact that several people can comfortably sit on it at once. I chose the chaise for the right side, to balance the space and offer accessibility for the chair I chose for next to the fireplace.

Additional accent pillows

I would further customize this sofa by adding some interest and color with these two accent pillows (the compass one will require an insert; it’s just the cover):

Compass pillow

Crate and Barrel pillow

Chair options

I had so much trouble picking my favorite chairs for your space because there are so many beautiful options! I’ve included my top picks below. I tried to choose pieces that would provide easy wipe-down cleanup. I would purchase two chairs total, one to flank each side of the fireplace, to provide additional seating. They don’t necessarily have to match.

My top choice: Palance Silt Brown Faux Leather Club Chair

Choice #2: Safavieh Chloe Brown Club Chair

Choice # 3: San Lorenzo Saddle Club Brown Faux-leather Chair

Choice #4: ABBYSON LIVING Tafton Antique Brown Fabric Club Chair

Choice #5 –If you’re looking for a high-end, top-grain leather piece: Vintage Brown Leather Club Chair

Additional informal seating

I added this Fuf Bean Bag chair in Sand Dune for additional seating for the boys when playing games, watching TV, etc. We have one of these in our home and the kids love it. This particular Sand Dune color should go well with the color scheme in the room. (It looks yellow on the page where you order, but I can vouch that it is actually more of a natural, sand color in person.) When not in use, the bean bag can be tossed next to the TV stand/media console (on the side closest to the kitchen). You may find you have space for two.

Side tables

I chose the Vennilux End Table (Set of 3) nesting tables for next to the couch (side closest to the kitchen) to provide a spot to set down items. I liked the price, the finish, and the fact that there were multiple tables that could be used at various spots in the room as needed for snacks, books, etc.

As an alternate option, if you would prefer something with drawer storage, I also liked this ABBYSON LIVING Northwood Industrial End Table.

Ottoman/coffee table – This choice was a challenge. I wanted something that wouldn’t be easily scratched and also provided some hidden storage for stuff like game controllers, games, etc.  I struggled with whether to recommend an upholstered top that could double as extra seating. Ultimately, I settled on this Woven Seagrass Ottoman because I felt it offered great versatility and texture. Plus I love the pull-out trays.


Curtain option

5 Foot Rustic Reclaimed Barn Wood Decorative Ladder

Art options for above the sofa – (TIP: Something I like to do is get inspiration from places like Ballard Designs, then head to my nearest TJ Maxx, Target, HomeGoods or Gabes to see if I can find similar pieces for a lot less money. All the pieces below I found online. You may be able to find similar pieces for less if you shop around.)

Blue Footprint Art

Sand and Sky Art

Green Turtle Cay

Art for above one of the chairs next to the fireplace

Framed chalk plane drawings

Lanterns for mantel – This set is nice, but you can honestly find really interesting lanterns all over the place inexpensively. I like to choose a few different shapes and sizes and display them on my mantel.

Throw blanket – I love this Herringbone throw. It’s a bit pricey, though. If it were up to me, I’d head to HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, Target or Gabes to see if I could find a similar design for about half the price.

I left some space open on the wall because I would recommend framing a few of your favorite, candid family pictures. You can even have them transferred to canvas inexpensively at Walmart or numerous online retailers.

That’s the plan!

Here was the homeowner’s feedback to my design suggestions:

“We love it. This is exactly what we had in mind as far as the level of detail, ideas and actual product recommendations. This gives us a great plan. We plan on starting implementation on Monday. I guess you could say we are excited about it!  We loved looking at all of the products. For a first time doing this virtually, we think you nailed it. Our plan is to do it in steps using some of our existing furniture in place of the new stuff while we get the lighting and painting done and get some of the pieces that we don’t have yet. Although, we would really like it to be done in 60 minutes like they do it on TV. You have 2 big fans!”

What do you think of this family room design? Are there any elements you like/dislike? Anything you might like to incorporate into your own home?