A Painted Piano: Before and After

Something that’s been bothering me for a while in our piano room is the piano itself.  I love that we have a piano and it gets used a lot, but it’s quite old (60+ years) and isn’t that great of a quality (Acrosonic) and we haven’t tuned it in almost 10 years.  So for a long time I have debated the idea of painting it.

piano before

As a (former) professional musician this seemed a little bit sacrilegious but the giant dark hole it was creating in this semi-dark room finally bothered me enough that I went for it.  I also read that as long as you don’t paint the sound boards, it won’t affect the tone.  Not that that would have really mattered with this piano anyway…

first coat

After the first coat is when I always say to myself “I’ve made a horrible mistake…”


Client Sneak Peek: Living Room Before and After

For a lot of my clients who are new to using a designer, the transformation is a slow process.  Also, a lot of people want to have a general plan that they can implement over time as money becomes available.  That’s actually how we do it in our family most of the time too unless it’s a big construction project.

I’ve been really excited about a couple’s beautiful downtown Oakland Victorian condo that I’ve been working with them on since late summer/early fall.  We have been ordering furniture and fabric and getting things framed and it’s starting to come together.  We’ve been focusing on the living room but the rest of the house is starting to get transformed as well.  Although we are still awaiting several items in the LR, here’s a sneak peek of their sofa area.

First the Before (aren’t the windows gorgeous?):

M & G sofa before


And now the After:


What We Did Over The Weekend

Besides watching the 49ers lose the super bowl :( John, the kids and I tackled a big project this weekend.   Dealing with a camellia bush was a task I have been putting off for a while but wanted to get done before the spring.  This gigantic tree is one of four that have massively grown up around the house.  This one in particular was blocking light and damaging the paint and shingles on the front of our house.

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It was also spaced far enough out from the house that it was taking up some valuable real estate.  We don’t have a huge yard and we want to make every bit of it usable that we can.  So last fall I had the camellia “pruned”:

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 9.26.36 PMI know, it’s pathetic–poor camellia.  But it really opened up our yard so much and made our living room so much brighter.   I knew after a few months we had to get it taken out.  So about a week ago we did:

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Which left us with a 12 x 12 patch of dirt.  But oh the possibilities!

(By the way, looking at these pictures I think of all of us bloggers who were over the moon about our hydrangeas 5 months ago and look at them now!  They look like a garden Morticia would have from the Addams Family.  Just a bunch of brown sticks.  I knew it would look like this for the winter but seeing the contrast in the pictures above makes me realize how dramatic the change is).

But I digress.  We had a bunch of large (24×24) pavers and gravel that we pulled up when we added the lawn on this side of the house so we decided to use some of them for a patio eating area here.  John got back to work laying them and making them perfect just like he did on the brick path.

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Then we assembled this arbor and anchored to the ground with concrete.  Added some sod and mulch, a climbing rose and here we are:

arbor after 1 edt

The arbor is redwood so it will fade to gray like the fence has.  Plus we planted a climbing rose next to it which I hope will grow quickly.

arbor after 4 edt

arbor after 3 edt

Below you can see the lavender border I planted too.  I’m hoping it will get enough sun there to do OK.  Not sure once that big tree gets all its leaves again.

arbor after 2 edt

I’ll be sure to do some real afters when everything is blooming in the spring and we get those raised planters full of summer veggies again.  This really is our urban oasis so I plan to work hard to get it looking good.

By the way, has anyone grown Japanese Boxwood before?  We have this low hedge that I planted last year and I know they are slow growers, but how slow?  Will they get noticeably taller in the next couple of years?  Hoping to have a few feet before too terribly long…

Are you doing anything to prepare your garden for spring?

PS-I realized this weekend watching the Super Bowl that my 7 year old thought that Baltimore was Boldemort–like Voldemort.  I guess he thought they were true evil. :)

Office Refresh-Sneak Peek

I spent the morning working in a client’s office in downtown Oakland today.  He had wanted a little refresh to his space which is an office in a large financial institution with strict rules about uniformity.  For instance, we can’t paint, change out the furniture, alter the furniture, etc.  Also, there are no windows or any natural light so it’s a toughie.  And the client wants to be sure that whatever we buy for the space can be used in another office in the future if he ever changes jobs.

So today I got started.  I had bought a few accessories and the client had brought in a table and bookshelf from home.  I also planned to paint both the book shelf and the table but only got the bookshelf done today.  He still plans to buy some art for the walls and a mirror he purchased hadn’t arrived yet so there is still plenty more to be done.  But just the little changes made today are starting to make a big difference.  Here is the before:


And here is the (preliminary) after:

Justin's office sneak peek 2 edt

(Please forgive the iphone pics).  When the table gets painted and the mirror goes in on that wall I think it will make such a difference (as will the art).  It’s been interesting designing a space and trying to keep it somewhat impersonal which is the opposite of what I do when working in someone’s home.  Also, designing around that orange veneered desk has been a fun challenge.    :)

Making The Living Room More Livable

I’ve been on a picture taking binge lately so I thought I would go ahead and share the updates I’ve made to our tv and living rooms as part of the house tour.  They run together as one big room so doing them together makes sense.

First, from a year or two ago here is our old set up in the living room.  You can see the walls are a soft yellow and the trim is white–this was actually a nice little sitting area but the whole space needed an update.  Also, what you can’t see to the right is a long console table that divided the two rooms.  So this is the before:

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And here is the after:


piano room chair detail 2 wtrmrk


Here is a before from a year or two ago.  In morning light the room was not bad but in bad light, that yellow drove me crazy.  A few befores:

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And after the updates over the holiday:

tv room 1 wtrmrk

Another before of the old not well-planned gallery wall:

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And now after:

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Now the display has many more personal pieces and family photos.

tv room gallery wall wtrmrk

This antique waterfall cabinet now holds my McCoy pottery collection.  The blues and greens helped inspire the palette.

tv room cabinet 1 wtrmrk

And the handsome fellow in the photograph above it was John’s grandfather, my oldest’s namesake, Hart Shoemaker.  The other side has photos of my grandparents.


I had to do a close up of some of these frames.  I used Rub N Buff for the first time ever to give some gold accents to this wall and I’m totally addicted.  It is so easy and absolutely transforms them.  In this photo the watercolor has RNB but looks so much like the one above and to the right of it.  Such a quick and inexpensive way to transform an in expensive frame.

I’ll do a post in the coming days to detail all the changes.  I bet you can spot most of them!

HouseTour: Boys Bedroom

Just a quick addition of an update of the boys’ room to my house tour.  I still have things to do in here but realistically, I’m done for now. :)

Their room has a little entryway before you actually turn right and enter it.  It’s been a wasted space but it’s just large enough for their little chair.  It’s a good quiet place for reading so I gave them my Elvis Reads print–and their metal initials hang on the wall.  I also have corkboards to add here for art, homework, etc., but want to cover them with fabric first.


And you walk in and turn right:


Below is the little entryway looking from their room:


And here’s the updated art wall.  These are vintage prints of The Hobbit from a 1970s calendar.  I went to the dollar store and got these frames:

Here’s a close up–I love these prints!

And here’s a close up of their shelf.  The brass dinosaur is my FIL’s from when he was a kid.  The plant is a carnivore–like a Venus Flytrap but called a Saracenia I think.   My mom got it for the boys and it was fun to watch it eat flies over the summer.

And here’s an art project the boys and I did last week.  It was fun to all work together on it. I drew the lines and the boys colored them in.

Another shot of the dresser with the vintage and antique maps:

And here are the boys beds a bit more made up.  I still need to work on bedding but I do like these wool blankets I got for $15 a piece at the army surplus store.  They are very warm but a bit scratchy.  They would be good to go on top of another comforter or something like that…

And the bay window with the light fixture and more pillows:

I love these ticking stripe pillows from Ikea.

They are called the Margareta and with a down insert they are great.

I paired the gray one with these called the Sanela:

It’s a faux velvet but is really nice.

Here’s a detail of the pillows:

And because I love a good before and after, here is the before:

And After:

And finally, thank you so much to everyone who left such sweet and touching comments on my last post.  I am so often amazed and honored by the compassion and friendships I have found through blogging.  It is an unexpected benefit of joining the blogging world but has quickly become the most important to me.  I hope one day to actually “meet” all the wonderful people I have gotten to know through this blog and say thank you in person!  Our family is starting a new chapter without Uncle James and although we miss him, the busy-ness of our lives at this stage brings into stark relief the fact that life really does go on.  I know it will be a very different one for the Stalters though.  Thanks again to all my blog-friends for your kindness!

Boys’ Room Progress

A couple of weeks ago I posted about some changes I had made to the boys’ bedroom.  Some paint, some new window treatments, etc and it was starting to look better.  I added some more updates–throw pillows, a light fixture and made a new cushion for the window seat–and it’s coming together even more.  Here’s where I started a month or so ago (these before photos are pretty embarrassing!  I wish I could say their room wasn’t always this messy–but it basically was):

And here’s the bay window now:

In addition to the window seat, I framed the vintage Hobbit prints and painted the back of the bookshelf.  I’ll get some more pics of progress soon.  Also, check me out on Twitter to see a fun art project the boys and I did on the chalkboard wall–it was so fun and turned out pretty cool!  Just click here or on the Twitter link on my sidebar and check out my recent tweets.

I have some sick kids and John is out of town so I might be away from blogging this weekend.   Hope everyone has a good Veteran’s Day and thank you to all our veterans!

Before and After: Tiger Oak Buffet

I’ve been storing this piece outside for the last couple of months and the rain is coming so it was time to photograph it before I store it for the flea market in November.  I found this gorgeous large buffet that was just in need of some TLC.  Here is the before:

After some refinishing and 3 layers of ASCP (Primer Red, Old White and Chateau Grey), here is the after:

This would definitely be a statement piece in someone’s home.  It’s big and has beautiful lines.

I love the top!  This wood grain is so amazing and makes this piece so special–That, and the thickness of the wood block top.

And look how substantial and beautiful these corbel scrolls are!  They also have that beautiful graining pattern.

This piece will be for sale at the flea market or if you are local and want to pre-order it, check out my shop page.  The same is true for anything listed there.  If it’s not listed as sold, it will be going to the Alameda Pointe Antiques Faire with me on November 4th.  Camille, Wendy and I will be hosting another booth and I’m so looking forward to it!

Boys’ Bedroom Redo Sneak Peek

The boys’ room has needed help for a while.  It’s a great room with great bones (probably the best bedroom in the house) but basically always looked like a toy store exploded in it.  I definitely needed to get in there and clean out old toys but the set up in general just wasn’t conducive to play either.  Also, the blue (a color my oldest chose when he was three) made a room with big windows and plenty of light feel dark.  Here are the befores:

The mural was cute a few years ago but now just felt sloppy and dated.

So, after donating a bunch of old toys, painting and rearranging things, Things are starting to look better.  I still have several projects to finish–painting a bookshelf, getting new duvets, making a new cushion for the bay window, but here’s where we are now:

The curtains over the bay window serve several purposes; They block out light.  They close to make the bench a little stage.  And they also close to give a little privacy for two boys sharing the same room.  One can sit in the window and read a book and close the curtain and feel a little more separated from his brother.  Privacy and providing a way to get a break from each other was a big concern for this redo.  I plan to make a new seat cushion for the bay window too of black ticking stripe and then add some throw pillows.

The art above the bookshelf are pages from a vintage 1970s calendar featuring scenes from The Hobbit.

The vintage/antique maps are of various CA and Bay Area locations.  The dresser looks so much better now!  I kind of hated it in the old room but now I actually think it’s pretty…

The chalkboard paint on the walls was barely dry before they started writing on it!  What is it about writing on walls?  I just love chalkboard paint for how much depth it adds to a space.  The table and chairs are vintage school chairs that I painted.  I did the metal of the chairs in ASCP Graphite and the table in BM Agave.  The stripes on the wall are Agave too.

The bed area still needs work.  I moved their tall bookshelf to the end of the bed–I still need to paint the back of it.  I like that it creates a little cave out of the beds as well as an entryway to the room.  I also need to get some bedding to cover those comforters and some lighting.  We’ve used baskets under the bed for years as extra clothes storage and love it.  It’s easy for them to get to and I don’t have to have another dresser in the room to store all the clothes.

That’s it so far.  I’ll post more photos when I get it really finished and styled.  I’m just happy I can walk across the floor in there now without breaking my neck!

Birds Eye Maple Dresser

I was lucky enough to have a friend give me a beautiful dresser recently that someone she knew was getting rid of.  It’s an antique birdseye maple with beautiful lines and claw feet but as usual, the finish had seen better days.

The top was in the worst condition but the sides were also stained and peeling.  The drawers however, looked pretty good–except for an interesting choice for pulls and some damage they had caused:

After refinishing the top and repairing the finish on the drawers, I painted the frame in ASCP graphite and replaced the lion pulls with some antiqued brass button knobs.  I just couldn’t paint over the maple on those drawers!  Here is the after:



I’ll be listing this one for sale on my shop page as well.  I love the masculine feel of the maple and graphite with the soft lines on the top and drawers.

I hope it finds a special home!