Weekend Project: New Bathroom Floors!

I just finished installing TrafficMaster Allure Ultra vinyl tile flooring in my bathrooms! Here’s the before & after of the master bath—pretty nifty, eh?





There are loads of helpful youtube videos on installation of this material so I won’t be providing step-by-step instructions here. What I will do is share a list of things you might want to know before installing these tiles.

  1. Order ahead. Boxes of the ceramic tiles aren’t typically carried in stores (I got mine through Home Depot), so you’ll need to check out samples in stores, then order them online. It takes about 5-10 days for the products to come in (they were shipped to Home Depot, then I got an email telling me they were ready for pick up)—so plan to order these a few weeks before you’re ready to install them (they also need to sit out for 48 hours to acclimate to the room temperature that they’ll be installed in).
  2. Color may vary. There are different dye lots, so even if you order the same color/pattern, each box may be a slightly different shade. You can specify in your order that all boxes should come from the same dye lot.
  3. Buy more than you need. You’ll be cutting apart large pieces to make small end pieces to fit your rows, and before you know it, you’ll have planks in all sizes. If you want a consistent pattern, buy extra to use for ends.
  4. The planks are tough to cut. The “tile” version of this flooring is thicker and tougher than the “wooden plank” version that’s in stores. It still works the same, but be prepared to put some major elbow grease into scoring these puppies—very sharp, heavy-duty box cutters are a must.
  5. Get intimate with your toilet. You’ll need to remove the toilet, and before removing it, it’ll need to be empty of water. Be prepared to bail excess water out of the tank and bowl and come face to face with the spooky sewer pipe beneath it (stick an old rag in the pipe while you work).
  6. That toilet might need some TLC. If you put your new floor down on top of your existing one (which I did, since the previous floor was just a sheet of ugly vinyl), your toilet will sit higher up from the sewer pipe and might need an extra wax ring underneath it to seal it tightly (these are cheap and available at most places that sell general hardware/home improvement stuff).
  7. Doorways are tricky. The installation directions say to start fitting your planks together from the back of the room, then moving towards and ending at the doorway. That’s really hard to do when you have doorway trim that the plank needs to fit under. Because the planks need to be angled to “snap” together tightly, and you can’t get that angle under the door frame, well…you can see where this is headed. I ended up cutting and laying out all the planks, then doing the final fitting together starting at the door frame and working towards the back wall where there were no obstructions and I could angle the pieces properly to get a tight seam.

Here are the tools I found necessary for this project:

  1. Tape measure & pencil: to measure the floor and mark measurements on the planks
  2. Metal ruler or T-square: to guide your score marks and cut straight lines
  3. Box cutter with sharp blades
  4. Mini handsaw: to trim door frames so new flooring fits underneath
  5. Prybar & pliers: for removing your baseboards/trim and any caulk prior to floor installation
  6. New wax toilet ring(s): it’s recommended to replace these each time you take up your toilet

I think that’s all you need to know. It took me 2 days to do both bathrooms, and though it was a bit more challenging than I initially expected, I do love the outcome! The floors look really nice (I chose the shade “Carrara Oyster”), and the vinyl planks feel really good underfoot. And, if you want to redo your floors down the road, the planks are fairly easy to remove since they “float” and aren’t nailed or glued down.

If you’re thinking of installing this material, I’d love to hear about your experience or answer any questions you may have. Good luck!


Instant Kitchen Facelift: Removing Cabinet Doors

Maybe it’s the darker winter days making everything a bit gloomy, or my tacky kitchen cabinets that make that space overwhelmingly…brown–whatever the reason, I recently decided my kitchen wasn’t bright enough and could stand a facelift. The cabinets could certainly stand to be painted a lighter color, or completely removed and replaced with floating shelves, but I don’t have that kind of time or energy at the moment. Another easy way to open up the space in your kitchen, but without having to do a lot? Remove the cabinet doors!

This is relatively easy to do, and lets you make a minor change that can have a big impact. It’s also a good project for folks on a budget, or for renters who aren’t allowed to make drastic changes to their kitchen.

A few tips:

  1. You can do this alone, but if your cabinet doors are heavy, proceed with caution–nobody wants you to get bonked on the head with that door, and holding it steady while removing the hinges can be tricky (I used an electric screwdriver and made sure to move breakable things out of the way).
  2. Once the inside cabinet is revealed, you might want to spruce it up with some contact paper (easy to find–check out the links in my post on contact paper projects), or a contrasting shade of paint.
  3. Because the cabinet contents are now on display, group things in like colors so it doesn’t look too cluttered (I opted to keep a few doors on, in order to hide my mismatched items), or employ some baskets or storage bins to keep things tidy.
  4. Make sure you have a good kitchen exhaust/vent if you remove cabinet doors near your stove–airborne oil particles from frying stuff may travel and cling to exposed items.

And there you have it–a more open space that looks lighter and brighter! It’s also much easier now for guests to find things and to put things away. Some inspiration:


from Apartment Therapy


from Emily Ann Interiors


from Houzz


from In Your Back Pocket


My own work in progress. Next up–covering the interior with contact paper!

Contact Paper: The Lazy Decorator’s Best Friend

I’ve been thinking about updating my kitchen cabinets. And lining the insides of my bookshelves. And putting a large-scale silhouette on one of my walls. Guess what product does all of those things? Contact paper! Not only is it easy to apply, it’s also easy to remove or rearrange (for any commitment-phobes like me who like to change their minds a lot). And, because you’re basically applying a big sticker to something, prep, application, and clean-up is fairly easy and offers near-instant gratification.

Contact paper has come a long way since Mom installed the orange & yellow flowered variety in her kitchen cabinets in the 70s. Places like Home Depot, Target, Michael’s, and JoAnn carry patterns that mimic trendy fabric designs, realistic marble, and wood grain.

A few things to note about contact paper before launching into a project: it typically features a plastic coating so is easy to wipe clean, but may not adhere well in moist environments such as steamy bathrooms and above a kitchen stovetop. Contact paper can get air bubbles trapped under it when you apply it, so it’s helpful to have a squeegee, ruler, or hardcover book to smooth it down with as you go. Most contact paper has a grid on the back of it to help you make straight cuts, but it helps to have a separate ruler and pencil, as well as a measuring tape to make sure you’re cutting the paper to fit perfectly.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it! Measure, cut, apply, and voila! Now for some inspiration:


Birch tree wall decals


Chevron striped walls


A dresser dressed up with stencils


Snazzy ceiling fan blades


Frosted glass


Zebra stairs

Silhouette Art

fox-faceI’ve already noted my fondness for tree silhouettes, but I recently discovered how easy (and neat-looking) framed silhouettes are. If you’re a Photoshop user, you can open an image and adjust the brightness and contrast until it’s a silhouette, then print it out, or simply sketch one onto paper or canvas, and color it in with paint, pastels or colored pencil. If you prefer not to draw freehand, print out a copy of a picture, lay it on top of carbon paper, then lay both on top of a canvas. Trace along the outside of the silhouette, and the carbon paper will copy the outline to your canvas.

If you use a flat canvas, it’s fairly easy to find a cheap picture frame to go with it, and thicker stretched canvases look nice hanging unframed–just paint the sides so it looks uniform around the edges. If you go the frame route, check out local Goodwill and second-hand stores and give that frame a new coat of paint (or not, if you like it as-is), and your homemade art instantly looks legit! Here are some silhouettes that inspired me:
bear-silhouette deer-silhouette dog-silhouette foxy oh-dear


found this nice silhouette online…


…so I painted a copy for myself!

Repainting a Mirror

Finally made some time to repaint my recent estate sale finds! Repainting the headboard was a bit of a headache since I was too lazy to detach it from my bed frame prior to slapping on the paint, but the mirror repaint was a cinch–see walk-through below.

Things you’ll need:

  1. Spraypaint — I used a glossy black interior/exterior can of paint from Rust-Oleum
  2. Medium-grit sandpaper — to provide a rough surface for the new paint to stick to
  3. Newspapers or dropcloths — to protect the surface you spray on
  4. Painter’s tape and paper — to cover the mirror if it can’t be detached from the frame
  5. Screwdriver — to remove the mirror if it can be detached from the frame
  6. Rubber gloves (optional) — to protect your hands from the spray paint nozzle
Step 1: remove the mirror from the frame (for mirrors that don’t come apart, you’ll need to cover the glass with paper and secure in place with painter’s tape after step 2).
Step 2: Lightly sand the frame to provide a rough surface for the paint to stick to. Do this outside if you can so you don’t have sandpaper dust flying all over the place.


This is also a good time to clean the mirror glass.

Step 3: On a flat surface outside (preferably someplace out of the wind), spread out papers or dropcloth so it’s a foot or so wider than the object you’re painting. I had to anchor my paper with a few rocks so the breeze wouldn’t flip the pages up onto my frame.

Step 4: Spray away! Most spray-paint cans advise you do this in a well-ventilated area, holding the can about ten inches away from the surface you’re painting, and moving the can in overlapping strokes. The type of paint I used covered very thoroughly on the first pass, but you can do a second coat as needed.
Step 5: The paint I used was dry to the touch in about 20 minutes, but wouldn’t fully dry for a few hours, so I moved the frame indoors (with the windows open), where it could dry peacefully without being exposed to dust and dirt blowing around outside.
Step 6: Once the frame is dry, remove the paper & tape protecting the glass, or replace the glass and backing you removed. Hang your mirror, and enjoy!

Before: antique gold


After: glossy black

Estate Sale Finds

Picked up some neat stuff from an estate sale last weekend. Estate sales are not only a free way to poke around inside fancy houses in neighborhoods you like, they’re also great opportunities to find old treasures that you can keep as-is, or fix up and re-sell. The two pieces below actually go with the grandma-chic/Anthropologie vibe in my place, but come summer, I’ll probably take ’em outside and give them a coat of glossy black or espresso brown paint to make them a little more contemporary.

Estate sales are often listed in local newspaper classified ads, or online on places like estatesales.net. Since estate sales are often in an “everything must go” situation, feel free to haggle on pricing, and if you’re looking for furniture or fixtures, bring some tools like a wrench and screwdriver set in case you need to dismantle stuff. Happy treasure hunting!

Wall Tree Silhouettes

I’m currently obsessed with silhouettes (like the headboard stickers I mentioned recently), for the way they instantly add interest and drama to a space without requiring a lot of effort. If you’re wary of trying to paint something precisely (and who isn’t?), the sticker/decal options out there are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. If you do go the paint route, make sure you use a wall paint (I typically use Behr from Home Depot), and primer the wall/surface first if it’s unpainted.

If you’re afraid of commitment, check out wall decals from Dali, Etsy, and Amazon.com. Some of my favorites, below:

Floating Shelves

Ever wondered what to do with a lonely stretch of wall space, or how to store stuff in a corner that doesn’t accommodate a standard bookshelf? Floating shelves solve both problems easily and beautifully. There are tons of options out there, depending on how heavy the items are you’re going to store on the shelf, what sort of look you’re going for, and how much room you’ve got.

Some good places to browse are the modern options from West Elm, the mix & match shelf and bracket options from IKEA, and the variety of designs (such as sets of boxes, invisible book holders, and neat shapes) from Amazon.com. Make sure you check out the specs for the shelves you buy, since most have a weight limit, and may require you to do a little drilling. Lighter, decorative shelves can often be hung more easily from attached brackets like picture frames.

Shelves painted to match wall color let your accessories have the spotlight

Breaking up the lines of your shelves creates some interest (and is a nice-looking cheat if the shelves aren't exactly the right width for your space)

A small row of objects above a bed, sofa, or mantel makes an easy-to-update display

Extending shelves across an entire wall makes your space look larger

Ditch cabinets in favor of an airier display for cool kitchenware

Another kitchen display with an amazing backdrop color

Lastly, if you adore the idea of floating shelves in the kitchen but don’t have the gumption to replace your cabinets, consider just removing a few of the cabinet doors and wallpapering or painting the exposed insides for an easier, less permanent option.

Remove some of the cabinet doors to add depth to your kitchen space

Another view of orderly exposed cabinets

Grouping Picture Frames

Ever wondered how to display your motley crew of photos or artwork? Having framed photos strewn about can create a comforting atmosphere, but sometimes border on looking too cluttered. I love putting things in frames and arranging them on a wall so they become the focal point in a room or hallway. Some people have a knack for assembling varieties of frames, but an easy way out is to buy a bunch of varying shapes and sizes, then painting them all the same color (black, white, fuschia perhaps…).

Even easier is to buy a set of frames all the same size and color, but these look best hung up with equal spacing and in even rows, which can be a pain unless you love rulers and levels (if you’re set on doing it this way, I recommend laying the frames out on the floor on top of a large piece of butcher paper, tracing around the frames, then hanging the paper on the wall with tape and hammering in nails right through the paper). Some ideas to inspire, below:

White and brown frames hung in a repeating pattern

Another grouping of neutral-colored frames

Frames in the same color and style arranged on a line

A great collection of greens

DIY Headboards

Lately I’ve been thinking of putting a headboard in my bedroom, but want to avoid the cost of anything too fancy or the effort of actually building something from scratch. There are lots of options out there, such as painting a headboard design directly on the wall, using a wall decal, or painting a piece of salvaged wood or a door (you’ll just need hardware to secure it to the wall).

Most big cities have salvage stores where you can find old doors (and so much more) worth re-purposing. In Seattle, I like Earthwise Architectural Salvage, and Second Use. If you’re in Portland, OR, definitely check out Hippo Hardware.

A few inspiring ideas:

Wall decal from whatisblik.com

Wall decal from whatisblik.com

Wicker spray-painted fuschia

Salvaged door painted and attached to wall

Salvaged wood propped against wall