Office Progress: Refinishing A Desk

August 23, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Office Space   //  By: Emily   //  12 responses

Office Reno 2011 has kicked-off. Yesterday, you saw the fresh coat of paint. Next up?

I’m on a mission to refinish a Pier 1 desk that has been moving around with me since 1998.

Its simple design was never too out-of-place in all of the apartments and homes I’ve lived in, and its undeniable functionality has always come in handy. Lately though, it’s been a good surface for accumulating junk. The built-in drawer in the front is spacious, and an optional second tier of storage can be installed to extend across the back of the desk, something that I’ve intermittently swapped on and off. It’s sturdy, solid wood, but hasn’t been used as a formal workspace in a long while.

Guest room tornado.

To give you a better sense of what it actually looked like, I found this picture from earlier in the year when I had it squeezed into another room, serving no purpose but collecting dust and dog fur around its legs.

The guest room, filled with nothing that would permit me to have house guests.

My plan of attack involved removing the second tier of storage, and refinishing part of the desk with a glossy, fresh coat of paint. The biggest decision I had to make was whether I should paint the frame white, and leave the top of the desk natural wood, or do just the opposite, leaving the legs and frame natural, and giving myself a new glossy work surface.

I wanted to transform it. Less Pier 1, more CB2. At least migrate it’s design in that direction, at least.

Not that I have nothing against Pier 1, this old piece just needed an pick-me-up.

Disassembling the desk to prep for painting.

Messy room, yes, but it’s organized chaos. Everything will have a home when I’m through.

Going with my gut, I leaned towards painting the top. Main reason being because over time, careless spills and condensation had caused a few watermarks to imperfect the surface of the wood visually. Having removed it from the base, I set up my painting workshop in the sunroom. In there, I was guaranteed sufficient ventilation with shelter from potential rain. Note the mild discolorations:

Note: Mild rings and splatters from encounters with wetness.

Because most of my rollers had been used several times each already, and I wanted to work with brand new clean tools to help provide a great result, I splurged on a set of new 6″ high density foam rollers for the job.

Ultra Smooth High Density Foam Rollers.

While they were clearly categorized as the “BETTER” rollers in the good-better-best sequencing at Home Depot, I was more confident that I’d achieve a sleek, blemish-free paint surface with the high-density foam instead of the “BEST” premium microfiber rollers. I bought some of those rollers last winter when I got busy painting the open kitchen shelves, and while the paint did apply smoothly, I recalled the roller getting bogged with paint and not rolling perfectly at times.

The foam rollers claimed to be best suited for gloss paints and smooth surfaces, which was the real seller for me. The hardwood surface was already very smooth – Smoother even than my Pier 1 laminate dining room table. Great writing surface, although a softer wood than you’d want to be writing on all day long. To prep, I went over the desktop with a medium sandpaper to create a better surface for the first coat, the primer, to adhere to.

Because it was a natural wood surface, I used a basic primer that I generally use on walls. If it had been a laminate surface or melamine (like most IKEA finishes), I would have splurged on a high-adhesion primer.

Steps 1 and 2: Sanded, and primed the desktop.

My research indicated that oil-based paint was a must-have for furniture of this type; latex would have remained tacky and peeled up with use, and considering it was going to be a heavily used, banged against, surface with a purpose, the $9 cost of a quart of the glossy white Rustoleum paint (the same kind of paint that I used when I painted the radiator) was totally worth it.

The first coat of paint went on after the primer was dry; the high-density foam roller made the first coat thin, smooth, and even. I planned all along on doing 2-3 coats to ensure a perfectly smooth, even coat, and doing so required me to allow the paint to dry a minimum of 12-hours between each coat. Tick, tock. Yes, this took several days to complete.

It was fantastically glossy after the second coat.

Glossy desktop after the second coat of paint.

To even out any inevitable drips, which mostly happened along the edges where I was also painting the edges of the desktop, I very lightly sanded the entire paint surface inbetween each of the three coats (yes, I went back in for a third and it was worth it). Very shiny, very smooth.

New, painted, closer to CB2 desk.

The rest of the office is still coming together, hence the limited photos of the desk in space (who really wants to look at more pictures with all of my junk smooshed against a wall?).

In any case, the desk progress already makes a big impact and helps me begin to see the overall plan beginning to take effect.

Little Blue Cottage

August 22, 2011   //  Posted in: Other Pads   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

I noticed on Saturday afternoon that my favorite beach cottage in the neighborhood had made it to market. Exciting, because it’s totally within budget. Sad, because I’m nowhere close to being able to buy again. Still, Sunday happened to be it’s first open house so we stopped in to walk around. I only had my iPhone, so the photos don’t do it justice, but it was lovely.

It’s on a small lot. Even smaller than mine, but loaded with mature gardens and oozing curb appeal. Porches. Bright, light blue cedar shingles. Original storm windows all around. And paned diamond glass that makes my heart thump.

Blue paint, diamond panes. The front porch opened through french doors into a living room with a pretty mantle. We loved how all of the doors and storm windows were propped; so welcoming, breezy, and cozy.

Entryway and front living room.From the same place I stood to take that last photo, I could 180-it and snap a picture of the large dining area. No pictures of the kitchen (which was small and charming, although not modern whatsoever), but it’s off through a doorway to the left.

A vintage (and rusty, but charming) chandelier hung in the dining room.Love the ceiling details in the dining room. Love the natural light. And love the built in hot-water heating baseboards that flowed from room-to-room. It was like nothing I had actually seen in person before.

Pete investigated the basement Mike Holmes-style while I checked out the three upstairs bedrooms and bathroom. Question: Do they actually make and install wall-mounted toilets? Or would someone be stuck with this mauve station until the bathroom was gutted and replumbed? Is it secure, as in, could I stand on it to fix the light bulb? I have lots of questions. Including, who would buy a mauve toilet, even in 1960? 1960’s a total guess, by the way. Wall-mounted seems futuristic to me.

Mauve wall-mounted toilet. I have lots of questions surrounding this.I should mention that the ceiling height was easily 9-10 feet on both the first and second floors, which was impressive in and of itself. At the top of the stairs, antique lighting and built-in storage complimented original trim and doors.

Me, upstairs in the blue cottage. Tall ceilings, built-ins, refinished railings, and antique light fixtures.

Better yet, which you can start to see over my shoulder, they have shared access to an enclosed porch through more matchy-matchy french doors. The porch itself was nicely staged with a sweet woven carpet, table, and hanging baskets. I’m already calculating how much it would cost to add this to my house.

Two upstairs bedrooms open to a shared, enclosed porch.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m satisfied. It’s always great to see the inside of a home you admire from afar.

As I said, it’s totally affordable compared to most other homes in the area. Like… <$130K. According to the realtor, it has actually been vacant for most of the last 3 years with the owners only fixing it up and using it as a when-we-feel-like-it summer house. I actually had noted on my dog walks that the same bottle of Windex sat on a windowsill for 1.5 years, so I’m sure it was mostly unoccupied, which is a shame for such a lovely home. That I would have bought if they decided to sell 2.5 years earlier. Damn it.

If you want to move to Rochester, or move within Rochester, I’ll send you more listing information. Just drop a comment on the post or send an email to

Exploring Shades Of White Paint

August 22, 2011   //  Posted in: Office Space   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses

I sifted through a nice little collection of white paint chips last week as I prepared our guest room-turned-office for a new coat of paint. Did you know Pantone’s inspirational white collection rolls 68 swatches deep?

Where’s a girl to start when, in addition to those 68, every one of my go-to brands also provides dozens of “white” options?

I had to keep it easy, so I only came home with 7. All Behr so that I wouldn’t drive myself crazy comparing white to white to white across brands. Or moreso, so I wouldn’t drive Pete crazy, since he told me he didn’t care what type of white it was, as long as it was white. BAH.

White samples by Behr.

For two years, the walk-in-closet has been white. This, you know.

Before that, it was the previous owner’s nursery, complete with illustrated zoo animals and coordinating wallpaper. But when I decided to brighten it up, I chose a straight-out-of-the-can white, and a cheap can at that. Mr. Seconds for $6.99-a-gallon cheap. The room was home to shoes and clothes, not heavily trafficked, and not a haven for overnight guests, so I didn’t put too much into it.

Walk-in Closet: Before + After

The inexpensive color had begun to look a little dirty, or faded, or dull compared to the trim, which, while also straight-out-of-the-can white, was a more premium paint with a nice satin sheen that had held up supremely. Having painted the ceiling blue probably helped distract you from the wall state… it fooled me, anyways.

Although in the vein of being transparent, the blue was painted after the walls, and a little sloppily at that. I had been needing to touch up the upper edge for awhile. This I knew. And ignored.

Sloppy paint job. The blue cut-in wasn't done very well.

The white I finally landed on was a Behr color; Powdered Snow (or W-D-700 if you appreciate details like that). I had it mixed with a satin base, much like the rest of the paint in my house.

It’s the swatch shown at the top of the post on the right. Creamy, with no obvious tints.

I hadn’t wanted to sway too white-blue, or white-pink, or white-yellow, all of which were also in my swatch mix, so my options were pretty quickly narrowed down. The Powdered Snow was a white tied to the tan/almond/brown family, so it still had an air of warmth to it… sort of like a very soft ivory.

I assumed that painting white on white was going to be a challenge, as if I wouldn’t easily be able to see which areas I had already painted.

White on white. I was clearly wrong in thinking that it was going to be hard to do.

I was clearly wrong. My whites were considerably distinct in hue.

See what I was talking about when I said the walls seemed dingy?

I left these necklaces and hooks in place until I was right up beside them with the roller, and decided that I’d remove them entirely and patch the holes. Before I did, I snapped this shot. The contrast between the old and new paint was astonishing. Old, inexpensive paint clearly had blue-gray undertones compared to my new, freshly fallen Powdered Snow. Also, the old must have been a flat or eggshell finish; the satin coat is much brighter and reflecting than it’s predecessor.

Variance in the bright new white, and the old white.

Two coats of paint (including edging around the whole room a second time) did the job and completely covered up the old paint. I find with most light colored Behr paint that I usually need two coats, but wasn’t sure if that would be the case with “white”-on-“white”. It was. And for the record, if it’s dark paint, I plan on 3, even if I’m starting with a tinted primer.

Clean paint makes me feel like I just took a shower. All’s good, except now my previously nice trim looks like the ugly stepsister of the white paint chips.

Fresh paint. Clean walls are as satisfying as a cleansing shower.And, well, it’s bright and clean but obviously still a mess. The other guest room is also loaded with office materials waiting for a home, so I’ll be working hard on this over the next few weeks starting with the desk and chair.

Stay tuned for change.

P.S. Never whip around too quickly with a roller. I did just that and knocked into a new pair of suede boots. Most of the paint has come out with bar soap and water which I’m sure is totally not kosher with leather material manufacturers, but if anyone’s a miracle worker out there, please share your secrets.

P.P.S. Also, probably not a good idea to paint a room and leave most of your shoes including a new pair of black suede boots in the line of fire. Don’t be an idiot like me. Just move your shoes.