Kitchen – The Details

Today we are going to go over a bunch of small projects that made a huge impact on the Phase 1 Kitchen Update, as well as take a look at the budget and what is left on the To-Do List.

Paint Back Splash ($4):

I figured if the countertop paint could handle the countertops, it could for sure handle the backsplash. I some leftover paint so I used the primer from this kit to paint the backsplash tile (3 Coats).

It was looking a bit “Jail Cellish”, so I decided to paint the grout lines. I purchased a $4 gray marker from Michaels and ran it through the grout lines. Since the lines were already there I did not tape or measure anything, just ran the marker through the grout channels:

Here is the final:

Paint the Window Mouldings:

The mouldings were all the unpainted wood, and while I actually liked it, I really needed them to be white to be less of a focal point in the room. We pained the mouldings and it freshened up the space right away:

Replace the Knobs and Pulls ($50):

We choose to replace the knobs to these, and the cup handles to these.

Replace the Faucet ($250):

I installed a new faucet that was a Champagne finish that really tied it together with the pulls and handles.

Replace the Light ($60):

The kitchen originally had a built-in can light above the sink. I ordered this light as a replacement. The price was right, but when it came in, it was way too yellow gold, rather then Antique Gold. I used Rub-and-Buff in European Gold to rub on a more antique look. It worked perfectly and the fixture looks great:


That covers some of the smaller details that needed to be done. Here is the best after I have of most of the little projects in action:

There is still a lot to do including:

  1. Replace the floors
  2. Replace the window treatments
  3. Cover/Paint the Dishwasher to match the cabinets (not sure of the plan here yet)
  4. Paint the Walls
  5. Re-Configure the Island
  6. Island Lighting
  7. Install Island Countertop
  8. Pulls for the Pantry (I would like longer pulls for those doors)

At this point, we have spent a grand total of $850. We are trying to keep the kitchen reno at around $3000. The remaining projects are the big ones that are where we would like to spend more of the money, including flooring and a massive 10 foot island with the most beautiful real (ie: not painted) soapstone countertops you have ever seen. Stay Tuned!

How to Paint Granite to look like Marble

It’s here. The post that everyone has been asking about: How did we get this before and after:

I cannot stress enough how easy, fun and dramatic this project was. I was skeptical at first but the countertops feel as great as they look. Before we dig in, lets chat about how we decided on this product.

I knew the early 2000’s granite was not our style, but I actually found receipt that this granite was added in May of 2020 in order to try to make our house more “sellable”. We purchased the house in September, so the granite is just over a year old (*trigger: guilt*). On one hand I felt really bad about the idea of ripping out perfectly good granite to replace with another stone countertop. On the other hand, I knew I was eventually going to replace it regardless, so I might as well be happier sooner 🙂

So we took a trip to a stone/countertop shop and started getting quotes for the Quartz we wanted. The quote came out to $3600 for the perimeter of the kitchen (not including the island). That quote included the stone, install and a granite sink. I actually didn’t think it was a terrible price, but I also really want new floors and a new island with a massive countertop, so I would rather spend that money elsewhere.

I will note that after painting the cabinets, I hated the granite less. The orange wood cabinets were not doing the granite any favors, and the green cabinets really softened the look of the granite. However, it was leaning too traditional for me, it needed a punch of modern.

So I did some research and came across this post from A Beautiful Mess. I have followed them for years and years and really trust when they give a product rave reviews. I figured, worse case scenario I have to replace the countertops, which we were planning on doing anyway, while holding off on new flooring and a new island. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. Best Case scenario, we buy ourselves a 12-18 months with a countertop we can live with while we save up some extra $$ for the new countertops, while still getting new floors and new island. Either way, our money was going to go towards improving this kitchen, not fixing a mess we made, so I was fine with it.

We ordered the kit they recommended, which came with everything! We literally did not need to purchase one other item. The kit came with drop cloths and stir sticks, all brushes and rollers. Everything! So the total price of the project was $180.

To start off, we taped off the edge where the countertops meet the backsplash, the faucet and the sink. Then I gave the countertops a good scrub with a Brillo pad and finally wiped down the countertops with rubbing alcohol to make sure they were extra clean! Next, you paint the first primer coat:

Here it is after one primer coat:

I needed 3 coats of the primer to complete the countertop. There was still plenty of primer left to eventually do 3 coats on the backsplash as well (will cover that change at a later time).

Once the primer was done, you use a small artist brush and the gray paint and create veins in the countertop. I found the best, most natural veins, came when I would spray water on the area first, then paint the vein, then use the dry brush to blend it out. We were going for a more white countertop with just a few veins, so I tried to keep it to just a few major vein areas. Here is what it looked like:

I used an image of marble on my computer to try to duplicate some of the movement I saw.

Once you feel good about the veining, you can start to mix the epoxy. I finished veining on a Wed night and did the epoxy first thing Thursday morning. You follow the directions, mix the two cans and pour it on the countertops. You can use the included roller to even it out, making sure you get all areas covered. It is self-leveling so do no overwork it.

I wasn’t sure how it was going to dry or would it feel sticky, but I can assure you, it does not. The countertops took 24-48 hours to really set. It looks shiny like glass and feels like a bar top. The best example I can give is you know when you go to a bar that has like pennies or bottle caps as the bar top and then an epoxy on top to make it nice and level, it feels exactly like that. Super durable and solid, no stickiness. It wipes up like a dream!

Here are some more close up pictures:

I did eventually decide to use the same primer to paint the backsplash as well. Next, I will post about some more details, like hardware choices, backsplash and lighting.

Painting our Kitchen Cabinets

Finally, on to some juicy details! I did a bunch of research and decided to follow this tutorial for painting the cabinets. We knew that now was the time to invest in a paint sprayer, since it would be the quickest and give us the most professional finish. Below is the list of supplies for this project:

All-in-all, the cost came to just under $250 for all of the supplies for us, based on what we already had in our stash.

Once we had the supplies, we started by removing all of the Cabinet doors and removing all of the hardware. I also filled in the previous hardware holes with wood putty.

Once that was done, I moved to cleaning all cabinets and doors with a de-greaser (like Krud-Kutter or Mr. Clean degreaser). Then I wiped them all down with the Liquid Sandpaper with an old rag. The Liquid Sandpaper removed the top shiny layer on the cabinets allowing for just an easy light sanding.

Next I got in to the sanding. I used my Hand Sander to rough up the doors and cabinet bases with a 180 grit sand paper. I did not worry too much about the inset areas or the detail parts because the liquid sandpaper took care of that. Each door took maybe 30 seconds – 1 minute. Overall, it was a 1 night job (maybe 2-3 hours) to prep all of the doors and cabinet bases.

The final step of the prep-phase is the taping and drop cloths. Honestly, this was the worst part for some reason. We knew we were replacing the floors, so I wasn’t super super careful, but it just took a long time and was very detail oriented to make sure that we didn’t get over-spray everywhere.

I have read before that using a paint sprayer is 80% Prep, 15% Paint and 5% Clean-Up and it couldn’t be more true. For someone as impatient as me, it was brutal to take almost 3 days to just prep, but we did have a deadline. The weather had been brutally hot and humid for days and we were going to get a break Wed and Thurs with a high of 75 each day. Paint does not dry well in high temps, so I really worked hard to get all prep done for Wednesday night paint.

Come Wednesday, after got the kids to bed, we got started on primer. The paint spray was amazingly easy to use let a super thin coat that was really even!

Leftover masks, coming in handy!

The overspray was not as bad as I expected, maybe a few inches, so we relied a lot on carboard that we moved around the room to protect different areas. We did set up the cabinet doors in the garage on top of dixie cups and some drop cloths to keep them lifted and protect the floors.

We were able to get the primer done Wednesday night. Collin worked a night shift on Thursday so he did the first coat of paint before he left for work Thursday morning and I did the final coat after the kids went to be Thursday night. I did wipe them with a steel wool in between coats to make sure they were nice a smooth and then wiped with a dry rag to make sure no dust particles got in to the paint.

We let them cure all day Friday and were re-mounting the doors Friday night.

We decided to replace the hardware and installed the knobs on the doors Friday night.

Look at that smooth finish!!

They have since fully cured and feel great. No Sticky-ness, no chipping!

Next up, getting rid of that early 2000’s granite and back splash. Stay tuned, because this is the best project I have done in a long time!

Kitchen Cabinet Reconfiguration

Now that we have gone over the kitchen plan (here), let’s actually dig in and get started.

The Cabinets:

The obvious choice was to paint the cabinets. Like I mentioned before, they are in great shape and the layout was *chef’s kiss*. But before we can get to paint, we needed to reconfigure what needed some help. We began with this area that was formally the Breakfast Area.

The tall pantry cabinet was definitely going to stay, but the counter top to the right was where the TV was going. We spend 80% of our day in that kitchen, so a good TV Spot was a must for us. We decided the best course of action was to remove the upper cabinets and wall mount the TV, along with a shelf above it for pretty items.

Collin started by taking down the upper cabinets and demoing the backsplash.

I followed behind an installed some simple shiplap up the wall and mounted the TV:

Finally, we installed a shelf above the TV for Cookbooks and Vases.

The other re-configuration took place above the sink. As you can see here, it used to have a header that went across the sink, above the window.

I worked to rip that down. I think that area being open would highlight the vaulted ceiling in this room and make it seem taller and more open. It did have a light fixture installed underneath, but I will just replace that with a sconce of some sort.

This photo is not chaotic at all, don’t worry.

Once everything was moved around and any nail holes patched, we were ready for paint/prep. Saving that for the next post, since its a doozy!

Phase 1 Kitchen Update – The Plan

Haven’t written here in a few years, so quick update: We had another baby, moved to Connecticut and bought a 1947 Colonial fixer-upper. Good bones, bad wallpaper. Now on to the fun stuff:

The kitchen in this house is probably what sealed the deal for us. Now, it was not cute, by any means, but the space and vaulted ceilings felt huge in comparison to the other houses we were seeing in this area.

The cabinets were solid wood, and aside from the orange 90’s stain color, the layout of the kitchen was exactly what it should have been. Since this is our 4th house, we knew that not changing the layout would be a game-changer in how much money it would cost to renovate this kitchen and get to our liking.

However, although this kitchen had great bones, there was still a lot to be improved on. So we are setting out to do a Phase 1 Kitchen Update. What that means to us, is that we are not ready to invest $20K – $30K in to the kitchen yet, but how can we make it something we can enjoy and feels “like us” while keeping the budget lowwwww? Like under $2000 low…

We started planning. What were the major ticket items that make the kitchen and where can we save to update those?

Item #1: Cabinets

Like I said before, the cabinets were solid wood and in great shape. The layout was perfect, but not our color style. Overall, the kitchen felt very very orange. Below is the listing pic:

We planned to paint the cabinets, reconfigure the area to the right to include a TV (a must since this is our kids primary hang out area) and do something more drastic to the way-to-small island.

Item #2: Countertops

Ooff, this is a high ticket item. It’s tough because the countertops are granite right now. So do we just live with it, because granite is granite, even if its ugly granite? We went to the stone store to get some quotes on Quartz and the number was around $3600 for just the perimeter, not including the island. I feel like that’s not terrible, but we are also trying to work with a $2000 budget. So if we try to do countertops, we don’t get anything else on our wish list. It didn’t feel worth it.

After a ton of research we decided to try to paint the countertops. I have a full blog post coming on that, but we figured if it works we just potentially bought ourselves some time to save for the countertop of our dreams (while still getting a fully done kitchen). If it doesn’t work, we will just get the countertops done now and neglect making changes to the flooring, island or appliances this year. Not great, but not the worst case scenario.

Item #3: Floors

I hate these floors with a passion. Cannot express this enough in writing. They are basically white, which you can imagine with 2 kids and a dog look dirty 24/7. Also, they are shiny or glossy so they show literally everything. They look clean twice a month when the cleaning lady comes and for exactly 8 minutes before someone spills something. The kitchen door leads to the backyard so there is always dirt on them. Now, I understand changing the floors will not make my whole family stop being slobs, HOWEVER, I am ok with the idea that if I don’t have to see the dirt, then they are not dirty.

Item #4: Appliances

This is where we are choosing to hold off totally for now. All of our appliances are dated, but they all work perfectly. We will wait to replace them until something gives out, or we have saved up the money to get amazing appliances that I cannot live without. For now, they are fine.

Item #5: Details

This is where we can have fun. From handles and pulls to lighting and faucets. I am planning on going for it in the details to make this space special.

Our goal with this phase 1 reno is to get the kitchen to feel like us, and see how many projects we can do for under $2000. I am excited to take on this challenge and show people that you do not have to throw down $30,000 to get the kitchen you need today. You can build on, reconfigure and work with what you have to make changes that make you happier in your space now.

Getting back on Track

Wow – those three months flew by!

Since we left off, we were able to finish the stairway renovation just in the nick of time for this little bean to be born:


photo cred: Baby Bella Photography

Tessa Odette Twibell was born December 2, 2018 and came home to the smell of fresh paint and drywall dust.

The past 2 months since her Birthday have been a whirlwind of snuggles, pajamas, spit-up and exhaustion, but we are finally getting in to enough of a groove to get back to this little old blog.


Collin was able to finish sanding and painting the hallway. Once that was done I followed up (very pregnantly), finishing off the mouldings, caulking and priming.

Finally, we hired a carpet company to come in a take care of the stairs.

During my maternity leave, I was able to complete the final details like cleaning up the paint on the spindles and railing and hanging some new art. Here is the very exciting before and after:





With Baby Tessa making her grand debut a few days late, we were super ready for her arrival and the nursery was complete, with a few short weeks to spare.

I created a custom (no sew) crib skirt with some fabric, iron tape and velcro. I also purchased a vinyl sticker with Tessa’s name for the front of her toy box. Finally, we added some shelves that perfectly match a custom sign she received for Christmas. We are still waiting on some art for above the crib, but for now, she is enjoying her space as much as a 10 week old can.


Rest of the House

The rest of my maternity leave consisted of Mari-Kondo’ing my entire house. A few years ago, when the book came out, I did do a full sweep, so the house wasn’t too bad. But after watching her Netflix series, I was inspired to keep going. I was determined to head back to work feeling like at least my house was in order and clear of everything unnecessary and messy, especially when this is what our house looked like after Christmas:


I got the greatest ‘joy’ decluttering the bathroom of all unused products, makeup and cleaning supplies:


And the bedroom drawers, where I bought these expandable drawer dividers to keep everything neat.:

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Its been about a month now, and everything is shockingly staying really nice and neat, and I am being so much better about pairing down. Basically, I am keeping a box by the front door for donations, and anything I see or use/don’t use get scrutinized. For example, if I try on a sweater I haven’t worn in a while and then take it off because I don’t like it, it goes straight to donation. No use in keeping things that aren’t 100% perfect. Same with useless kitchen items (I’m looking at you wine decanter that we have had for 5 years and haven’t opened yet).

Overall, I have a bunch of new blog posts on the way, including how we are working around all of the new baby stuff that has taken over our house and some new changes to the living spaces. Last project on the list for this house is adding a bathroom, so stay tuned for that big one too!



Drywall and Dust

For the past month Collin has been working hard on getting that stairway in order and it was definitely a bigger job than we both anticipated. That, along with trying to spend time relaxing and nesting pre-baby, has been a balancing act. But, good news is, it *should* be done before Baby Girl makes her arrival, assuming she doesn’t surprise us and come early. If that happens, she’ll be introduced to the smell of paint at a young age.

Last time we left off, we were debating how to get up here to actually install the drywall:


Well, we figured it out, and tested Collin’s fear of heights in the mean time. We purchased a 14 ft multi-position ladder. We used that on the step, set to 14 ft high and leaned it against the back wall (Shown above). Then, he used a step ladder at the top of the stairs. We took a 12 foot by 2 inch thick board and ran it from the step ladder to the top of the 14 ft ladder. This is the best picture I could get to explain how it was set up:


The board of wood acted as a plank for Collin to walk on to be able to reach the ceilings and corners for installing the drywall and multiple layers of spackle.


Overall, it has been a few weeks of layers of spackle, sanding, cleaning up layers and layers of dust on every single surface of the house, and then starting the process all over again.

Currently, Collin is working on 2 small areas that needed extra attention, but the bulk of the sanding is complete. Once those 2 small areas are done, we can paint the ceiling and the walls and finish off the last coat of paint on the mouldings. Should be no big deal with only 12 days left until the baby’s due date (Don’t worry, I’m not panicking at all).


In better news, the Baby’s nursery is coming along. Collin built me these book shelves, and I got 2 coats of white paint on them. Then I mounted them to studs on the wall above the baby’s toy chest:


Once the baby comes, I’m going to do a full nursery reveal. Its almost there, but full of stuff that needs to go to different areas of the house once she makes her grand debut.

Hopefully be back soon with the final Stair case post, prior to the baby announcement post, but we’ll see!



New Bed, New Crib and Start of the Stairs

I really didn’t mean to take 7+ weeks off from blogging, but it just happened. We have been going a mile a minute over here with travelling and work and baby prep. There have been a few updates around the house, and we are starting on a more major project this week, so I have details on that towards the bottom of this post.

Master Bedroom – 

Our new bed arrived! It was super simple to put together and the quality and fabric is better than I could have hoped:


I ordered the sage green pillow covers from Amazon to break up all the beige going on, but I feel like this room is finally at a place I am happy with. Officially calling this room done!

Nursery – 

Our Baby Shower was last weekend in New York, so we are still in the process of moving things from New York down to Baltimore, but we do have some nursery updates. I spent a little time adding a gallery wall above the dresser and changing out knobs:


The knobs are from Hobby Lobby, and the wall hangings are from a mix of antique stores (mirror, “T” Handkerchief), Hobby Lobby (Plants, Hello sign and moon, cloud, star) and hand-made (I hand painted the wood sign and used my wood burning tool to engrave the quote).

Collin and I put together the crib, but we are still waiting on a few more items to finish this room off:


Stairs Project – 

The new project we are starting on is finishing the stairs!

Backing up almost 2 years ago, when we moved in, we were grossed out by the pink carpet, so we removed it. We also removed all of the wood paneling that lined the 2 story staircase. Leaving us with this mess:


In the past few months, Collin added new drywall to the lower part of the stair walls:


The issue we have now, is how do we drywall up here (Above the stairs):


And I say we, but I really mean this is a Collin issue. Either way, I’m not getting up on that ladder to drywall, so he is going to have to MacGuyver something and figure it out.

Regardless, we are moving forward with the stairs, with or without the drywall complete. Over the next 2-3 weeks the plan is to:

  • Reinforce 2 stairs that feel wobbly from underneath
  • Patch and Sand the lower wall drywall
  • Install the Stair Moulding on the new drywall
  • Paint the Stair Moulding
  • Carpet Install (the company keeps calling to schedule, but I am not ready!)

I’ll be sure to detail out the progress and keep the blog more up to date. I’m really looking forward to being able to walk up the stairs barefoot without fear of getting stabbed by a nail.


Upstairs Updates – Done and Done!

Wayyyyy back in this post, from mid-June, we went over what was outstanding in each room on the second floor. Well, I’m happy to report that over that past month, everything got done, plus a little extra 🙂


Current Nursery To-Do List:

  • Paint Walls
  • Fix Outlet on the brick wall (Currently is a child hazard, as it is a little loose in the wall and need to be securely affixed to the brick with an outlet cover added)
  • Hang Blackout Curtain for daytime naps
  • Furnish – Half Done!

Coming in at the least exciting make-over ever, here is the gray nursery, repainted in almost exactly the same color gray as it was before:


After weeks of trying, there was no way I was able to match the paint, even after bringing in a sample to Home Depot to color match. So we bit the bullet and repainted. The nursery walls got a fresh coat of Campfire Ash by Behr, the same color as the Guest Room.

I fixed the outlet on the brick wall with some masonry liquid nails to secure the box to the brick, shortened the cord and added a cover to it.


We also picked up the Ikea Hemnes 8 Drawer dresser in White stain. I really liked the layout of the drawers in this dresser, and the ability to store small things, like diapers, wipes and all of that fun stuff in the top level of drawers. It was a little bit of pain to put together, but I camped out in front of some Law and Order and just zoned for a few hours while I built it. I plan on grabbing some new knobs at some point, to make it look less Ikea-y.


The rest of the nursery furniture will wait until after the baby shower. Really all we need is the crib and a glider to finish furnishing the space. Then we get accessorize and decorate!


Current Bathroom To-Do List:

  • Tile Outside curb of the shower
  • Grout Outside curb of the shower and the edges of the shower
  • Install, Caulk and Paint 1/4 Round (once above 2 are complete)

Done, Done, Done!

Collin installed the outside curb tile on a day off a few weeks ago. We let it dry overnight and I came in the next day and grouted the gaps and the edges of the tile on the walls.


I also finished cutting and installing all of the baseboards and quarter round in here, making this room done!

I would love to add some type of art above the towel bar, but I haven’t found anything I love. I’ll keep my eyes peeled, but in the meantime, this room is complete.

Master Bedroom:

The only thing left on the Master Bedroom to-do list was to Build a bed. Guys, I had big plans and was ready to head out to start buying materials. Except once I started estimating costs, I realized I could buy a bed for less.

So I ordered this King size bed from Wayfair:


It was sooooo affordable, has good reviews and will take me no time to put together, as opposed to the bed I was ready to build from scratch that was going to cost almost $300 and take me 3 days to build and finish.

The bed is getting delivered next week, so I’ll be sure to update you on the quality, ease of assembly and some after pics.

Once the bed is in, the Master is done!


Overall, it has been a pretty productive few weeks. I am rushing to get all of these little projects done while I feel good, have energy and can still squat down. While we wait for the Bed, we have started moving to the first floor small projects and to-do list. There is one Major item we have to check off before baby comes, for safety reasons, so fingers crossed, that gets started in August!

Outside Re-Fresh – Under $90

While continuing work on the upstairs updates, our million year old mailbox, finally rusted over and the top came un-attached. The time had come to move on to the front of the house, a bit sooner than anticipated, if we wanted to stop having to sort through soggy mail.

Here is the before of the Outside of our house:


There are major things that need to get done outside, including all new windows and that chipping paint along the bottom, but that is not part of this post.

Today, we are just going to focus on the little quick changes we made to spruce it up a bit. Here is the close-up of what needed to be done:


I was giving myself one weekend to repaint the railing, install a new mailbox, install a new light fixture, install a new doorbell and spray paint the door handles on the white storm door.

To start, I ordered this light and this mailbox from Wayfair – Total Cost: $74.07

Before, the mailbox was installed on the railing, but I wanted it on the brick. The new mailbox came with a template for drilling the holes. I taped the template to the wall, made sure it was level and pre-drilled with my masonry bit. The mailbox just slid on and I tightened the screws:

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Next, I turned off the power in the house and removed the current light and the doorbell. I installed this doorbell from Home Depot ($9.04). I also went to install the light fixture, but ran in to the following issue:

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Of course, it can’t just be easy. I needed to create a cap that was going to bring the light out a little. I used a spare piece of wood, cut to size and added a 4″ hole to the middle. Once it was all cut, I sprayed it satin black. Next, I used masonry liquid nails to connect it to the wall over the light box:


I re-installed the new light and caulked all around everything so that water wouldn’t get in. Here is the light and doorbell, all done:


Next, I moved on to paint. I removed all of the hardware from the storm door and threw it in to a box outside:


I sprayed it with satin black spray paint. While that dried, I used this to paint the railing ($5.99). I only needed one coat with a regular paint brush to cover up the old rust:


After the handles were dry, I re-attached them to the storm door. All of the small updates needed in the front were done!


All in all, $89.10 for these updates that make the house look just a little bit better. And a quick before and after:

Next up out here is painting that red area below the brick. The hold up is the color choice for me. It is paralyzing and I think will take a few rounds of Photoshop to make the final decision. Fingers crossed I can decide before the end of the year!