A Little Weekend Office Painting

We did it. Completely out of order. Yup, we finally decided what color to paint the office and went for it. Which would have been a lot easier if we had pinned down our color pick before we built our wall-to-wall two person desk. Oh well, such is DIY life. We didn’t want to rush into choosing a wall color and then hate it after we built the desk (which would have meant having to repaint everything again after the desk was built anyway). So we waited. And waited. And discussed. And rediscussed. And waffled.

And it’s a good thing that we actually did wait. Because before the desk was completed we were considering some dark muddy colors (which you might have seen on the wall here). And after the desk was built we were both 100% sure that we wanted the dark wood desktop to really pop (a dark color on the walls would just make it all blendy and muddy in there), so back to something light and airy we waffled again…

Here’s a brief synopsis of our thought pattern:

So we actually ended up exactly where we initially were six months ago: Benjamin Moore’s Moonshine (color matched to Olympic No-VOC paint in a satin finish). That’s the same soft gray that we have (and LOVE) in the living room, dining room, and hallway. Allow me to expand upon those weird stream of consciousness bullets above. We thought about going just a shade darker than Moonshine in here, but realized that we like light and bright workspaces (plus once we convert the carport into a garage – even though we plan to add windows to the exterior walls and door – we might lose a little light).

Some of you might be yawning because you were imagining something like sunny yellow (to tie in the front door)…

… or green (to tie in some of the tones in the living room curtains) or blue (again, to pick up on the dining room built-ins and curtains)…

… but after thoughtfully considering belaboring all of those options, we finally decided that going soft gray with the walls will really give us the freedom to bring in some seriously fun brightly colored & boldly patterned fabric (for the two desk chairs and the window treatments) along with some punchy art, bright lamp shades, and even in fresh paint for our desk chairs. We definitely like the idea of some fun cheerful pops of color in the accessories as opposed to all over the walls since we don’t want the room to feel too chaotic/hard to concentrate.

Besides, since we already have such a bright greeny-yellow tone in the middle of the house (the kitchen and laundry nook)…

… we kind of love the idea that all of the soft gray rooms lead to the cheerful kitchen in the heart of the house. So we decided that we didn’t want some other bright color competing with it since they’re next-door neighbors. There’s something kind of nice about a burst of happy color in the center of our home with three soft platinum gray rooms around the perimeter (with pops of color in the accessories like the art/rug in the living room and the curtains/built-ins in the dining room):

The funniest thing to us is that we only have a few unpainted rooms remaining (the playroom, sunroom, hall bathroom, master bathroom, and guest bathroom). And since those spaces aren’t ones that we spend the majority of our time in (meanwhile we practically live in the office), it’s kind of ironic that it was one of the last few that we got to. I wholeheartedly admit that the whole house color scheme above might not make much sense to you now, but hopefully once we paint those last few spaces and add touches like wainscoting in the hallway and other major furnishings/accessories that are still woefully missing (window treatments, lighting, rugs, furniture in the playroom instead of junk, etc) it’ll make a lot more sense. One step at a time.

Speaking of which, our office painting method was slow & steady. First we cleared the room.

Which of course meant the dining room got full of offset office stuff:

Oh and while the office was cleared we snapped some pics of the desktop since so many of you wondered where the seams fell. We had to highlight them with a white line in photoshop to help you out (they’re actually really subtle in real life, so they were impossible to see from this distance without some white-line help):

As you might notice, to the right of both of our laptops (when they’re actually on the desk) there aren’t any seams, so we don’t have any lumpy-bumpy seam-related writing issues (we write on pads and notebooks anyway, so I don’t think it would matter).

Oh and didja notice the holes in the back of the desktop behind both of our computer areas? Let’s have a little side chat about those, shall we? First we made a pilot hole where we wanted them to be (John used a paper template so they were both spaced the same distance from the wall):

Then John used a 1 1/2″ bit…

… to drill a nice ol’ hole for all of our cords (for desk lamps, computers, the home phone, etc):

And John was a smartie pants and taped a cup under the hole to catch shavings, which was a huge time saver when it came to clean-up:

But of course the wood was unstained, so I used a little craft brush to get in there with some dark walnut Minwax to blend the hole in a bit better (we sanded things first, just to keep them nice and smooth so we don’t get splinters while retrieving cords):

So that’s how those handy holes came to be. As for how we painted the wall behind the built-in desk, the entire thing actually slides away from the back wall, so we slowly slid it out towards the middle of the room…

… and covered it with a giant drop cloth to protect our beloved dark wood desktop. That way we could roll/cut in behind it and then later push it back into place and paint the two sides of the wall that it blocked while it was pulled forward.

As is our tradition, John got his roll on while I did tons of cutting in (thanks to that chair rail, two doorways, and two windows). About two coats and four hours later she was looking like a soft fluffy cloud. Ugh, but ignore the light fixture. That thing’s having surgery as we speak- er, write. More on that soon.

Then we just pushed the desk back against the wall and loaded everything back in there. The walls look a smidge blue-gray in these pics, but in real life they’re a true gray color (not icy blue or anything close to purple at all). Oh yeah but remember that everything on the desk is just sort of tossed there, so the leaning frames won’t stay (we need height, so we’ll probably hang some over-sized art on the walls) and everything else will likely evolve as we settle in a bit more.

The lamps are from HomeGoods but we’re not sold so they might go back. We’re thinking we may use new lamp bases or shades as a place to add color along with art, paint on those desk chairs, patterned window treatments, etc. But thankfully we’re still as enamored with the wall color as we were when we chose it for the hallway frame gallery (the color reads more true to life in this pic)…

… and we definitely still love it in the dining room

… and the living room too…

We especially appreciate how it makes the super thick crown molding and the nice chunky chair rail pop without being too high-contrast (which would also compete with our big beautiful desktop). Of course the chair rail will make a lot more sense when we hang proper art instead of leaning too-small stuff it in front of it.

And we love that this phase of the office upgrade was $0 since we still had a bunch of paint leftover from painting the dining room (we bought three cans back in January when we initially planned to paint the living room, hallway, dining room, and office all that color – and finally completed that initial plan this weekend). Only seven months later. Haha. Oh and we owe you a wide shot from the dining room of the fresh paint job, but since we’re making those aforementioned light fixture tweaks, we can’t shoot one quite yet. Soon!

But wait, there’s more than just a paint plan in here. We actually love the idea of adding a subtle tone on tone stencil around the entire room above the chair rail (hooray, no more desk shimmying necessary). We don’t want anything with too much contrast since it’ll compete with the dark teal built-ins and the fun curtains in the nearby dining room, but we’re seriously considering something like this with just a softer gray color for the feather part over our Moonshine walls (although I love the pop of yellow, so we might try it and bag it if we step back and it’s too much):

At 54 honking dollars it’s hardly a drop in the bucket (the stencil is over two feet tall and almost two feet wide to hopefully make the project go faster/smoother), but we figure that we did snag six cabinets for $6 and we built a 13 foot counter for $27… so maybe we should just bite the bullet and spend $54 for something we love. Any type of wallpaper (even the cheap stuff at Lowe’s and Home Depot) would be way more than $54 for the entire room above the chair rail, so I guess that’s another way that we’re rationalizing our possible purchase. Haha. We shall see. You know we’ll let you know when we make a final decision. We’ve never done a giant repeating stencil like this on a wall (we did stencil the floor of our first house’s sunroom) so that should be interesting too. And who knows, maybe I’ll find it as soothing as my little potato stamp project in Clara’s closet (I enjoyed that repetitive motion more than a person probably should).

Did anyone else paint their walls or drill holes into something this weekend? Or move a giant 13 foot desk? Or figure that we might be painting or drilling holes? Or dream that we had a secret son that we never told anyone about (two different commenters had that dream last week – crazy!). Oh and we painted this room four hours before my mom came to town for the weekend from NY. Nothing like a little en-route visitor to light a fire under ya.

Psst- You can see some mom-visit pics over on Young House Life today. Clara does not have a healthy fear of alligators. At all.



Cabinet Painting Prep

We were humming along on our way to updating our $6 cabinets with some primer and glossy white paint until the whole hurricane thing took out our power (update: miracle of all miracles, it’s back on, and we’ve never loved electricity more). So the three day outage robbed us of our cabinet mojo since John has some building to do (which necessitates the use of a few electric tools like drills and saws) before we paint and reassemble everything in the office.

Thankfully we did get to tackle all of the prepping and priming before the outage, and took about a million photos of the process (who’s surprised?). So we figured that part of the makeover is worth a big ol’ wordy explanation for anyone at home who might want to follow along in detail, whether you’re also refinishing wood cabinets to make a wall to wall built-in desk or you’re just interested in refinishing your wood kitchen cabinets (which we also did back in the day). Note: this method sadly won’t work on laminate cabs – so it’s just for solid wood.

First, we removed all of the hardware on the doors along with the doors themselves (and the door hinges). Oh and we used two plastic drop cloths to create a Dexter-ish setup to protect the floor/walls from primer drips, paint splatter, and sanding dust – just so we wouldn’t have to worry as much about keeping the sunroom pristine.

Then we put the door handles and accompanying screws into a plastic bag and all the hinge parts from each of the six cabinets into another bag. Two bags are key so you know which screws go with what (no mixing up handle screws with hinge screws), and can put everything back together in the end and hopefully not have an extra screw or part that you have no idea about (which is pretty much the story of our life whenever we assemble Ikea furniture for some reason- do they toss extra things into each box just to freak you out?).

Then I got ready to sand each door down by hand with some low grit paper (50) followed by higher grit sandpaper (200), just to cut the glossiness so the primer and paint would grab on and hold for the long haul.

After one good round of low grit stuff, I myself experienced a makeover. I went from a dorky but normal-ish gal to a sweaty heavy-breathing mess. Seriously, I wasn’t ready for that jelly. Speaking of which, who else is freakishly excited about Beyonce being prego?

So then I opted to break out the big guns (aka: our little Black & Decker electric sander). Thank goodness this was back before we lost power.

Little man got it done for me. It still took a while to sand down each door with low grit and then higher grit paper, and I did end up with a weird numb right hand from all the vibration, but I was happy to have help (as opposed to the grass roots manpowered method that I started out with). The entire door-sanding step probably took me a good hour to do each of the six doors twice (with low and then high grit paper).

As for the backs of the doors and the cabinet interiors, from day one we decided that we wanted a nice clean glossy front for our wall to wall built-ins, but to keep the backs and the interiors (and slide out interior fittings) of the cabinets the same natural wood tone that they were to begin with. I bet you’re wondering why, or doubting this’ll look good, am I right? Well, we certainly know that not everyone would go that route, but the new KraftMaid drawers that we installed in our first house’s kitchen renovation had wood interiors and we really liked them (you can actually see some of them here full of tools:

They had glossy white drawer fronts, but inside they held up a lot better to natural wear and tear than anything painted (since we’re weirdos who will stash hammers and screwdrivers almost anywhere). And we actually don’t mind the whole wood + white look (sort of like the dresser we refinished for Clara). Although in this case we decided from the outside that the cabinets would look entirely crisp and white (no contrasting top color), and only when you swing them open will you see the wood tone.

So here’s a shot of three doors face up (all sanded and ready for primer) and three face down (with Frog Tape carefully applied around the edges so we’d end up with a nice clean line between the painted fronts/sides and the natural wood finish on the back). We also considered doing both sides of the door white and just leaving the cabinet interiors wood, but decided that durable unpainted backs-of-doors was a better decision for us – but some folks might opt to paint the front & back of the cabinet doors a color and leave only the cabinet interiors unpainted, and that works too. It just comes down to personal preference.

But back to the whole prep process. Next I took Señor Sander to the fronts and sides of the cabinets (which would also be getting a coat of primer followed by some glossy white paint so the entire exterior of the cabinets would look seamless and white). In contrast to the door-sanding part, this was a sanding step that I couldn’t do outside. Well, I guess I could have carried all six cabinets outside, but instead I just relied on our Dexter-tastic dropcloth setup (and the suction bag thingie on the back of my sander). It actually wasn’t too dusty. See, no smoke cloud (which I totally expected to see):

It was important to me that I got a nice roughed up edge around the cabinet frame, since the door would constantly be banging against it, and I wanted my paint-job to stick like glue for a nice long time (we had really great luck painting the original cabinets in our first house’s kitchen about two years before taking on a full kitchen renovation, and they looked mint for that entire time – which definitely gives us some confidence in this method).

Then it was primer time. We opted to go with Kilz Clean Start, which was the same No-VOC primer that we used on our kitchen paneling with success (after trying two other low/no VOC options without much at all). I applied it with a small foam roller for a nice paper-thin coat without having to worry about brushstrokes.

Primer always looks pretty rough when it goes on (since it’s just one thin coat, and isn’t meant to sit smoothly, it’s meant to be kind of roughed up so it can grab paint and hold it tight). I thought sharing this photo might help anyone who applies primer and then wonders if they did it wrong if it looks uneven and imperfect. Chances are you did it perfectly, that’s just how it looks.

Of course I had to use a brush to get into the frame around the edge that my roller couldn’t quite squeeze into. But notice how my brush isn’t dripping with paint in this pic. I wiped it firmly along the edge of the paint can on both sides, so there wasn’t any gunky drippy issue. Just a thin coat of paint applied around that frame. And then I picked up my foam roller again and rolled the door one last time to smooth everything out so there weren’t any rogue brush strokes around the front of the frame.

Oh but do each door one at a time (roll the sides, the front, brush the cracks, and reroll the front one last time). Because if you roll all of your doors and then go in with a brush on each frame and then try to reroll everything after that it’ll be a lot of time between those steps and it might not look as smooth (the roller could even pull up half-dry paint, so doing one door at a time keeps the paint wet enough to be “worked with” for a little bit).

Next it was on to the sides and frames of the cabinets that I sanded down about an hour before. John was going to tape off the entire interior frame of the cabinets so we’d have a nice clean line between the white paint and the wood finish just like the doors, but being ever so cocky confident in my rolling ability, I knew I could lightly roll the frames (without too much paint on the roller- this is key!) to achieve just as clean of a line as tape, and it would save us time (and Frog Tape, which is like currency at our house).

Thank goodness I was right. It looked nice and smooth. Well, as smooth as one coat of primer can look (remember, primer is meant to look uneven and kind of disastrous by nature – so fret not if your priming step doesn’t look perfectly even and smooth since a few thin and even layers of paint on top of it should get you there).

So here’s what the room was left looking like after all that hardware & hinge removal followed by door and frame sanding, and door and frame priming. Oh and see how some of the doors look whiter in certain areas? Some of them had little scratches or imperfections in certain spots, so I sanded them down slightly longer in those areas. This means the primer reads a bit more white on those spots just because the darker wood finish was removed and then primer was layered on. The good news is that doesn’t matter in the end because once a few thin and even coats of paint are applied it’ll all look seamless and bright white. At least that’s always been our experience. Probably shouldn’t count my chickens just yet though…

Now we just have to fire up the saw and build up the cabinets about three inches. Then we’re planning to assemble them in the office (they’ll be way too heavy/awkward to carry into the office after we screw them together to create three double cabinet bases) and I’ll apply those last 2-3 thin and even coats of paint when they’re in place (since painting them before assembling/moving them makes us fear scratches and dings that could occur when we move/assemble them). But by assemble them I just mean screwing them together to create those three pairs of double cabinets (not putting the doors and hardware back on – which we’ll definitely do after painting them, as usual).

Then it’s onto the counter. We’re still completely undecided on what we’re going to use (assembled planks of wood, one giant piece of wood or even some other material like an Ikea countertop, etc), but we’re planning to do some legwork so we can hurry up and work at our new built-in desk. We’ll keep you posted. If one things for sure it’s that we take great pleasure in over-sharing.

Psst- Speaking of over-sharing, we’re spilling all of the names that we considered when I was pregnant with Clara (including the boy ones we debated, and all of the other girl ones we tossed out) over on BabyCenter. And of course we’d love to hear any naming faves on your list. Or stories of epic naming disagreements. Those are fun too.