Category Archives: Refinishing

Staining the Fireplace


Remember our beige-pink fireplace? Quite bland, especially with the maple colored mantle against the white wall. After debating whether to paint it white, faux-paint it like rock, or stain it, I decided to try Minwax mahogany stain. First I applied it with a rag, but it took a long time, didn’t get into the cracks, and applied very thinly. I ended up using an old paintbrush which worked like a charm. The stain has a naturally oily finish, giving it a slight sheen.


The mantle went white with Olympic Premium’s zero VOC primer and 3 coats of Olympic Premium paint, and the fireplace cover went to the dump. I also scrubbed the inside of the fireplace with Trader Joe’s Peppermint Castile Soap mixed with water.


The rag-painted left side will get another coat of stain, since it wiped away and is considerably less sheen-y. And yes, the right side of the fireplace is still a good nine inches wider than the left side. Maybe someday we’ll remedy that. But for now, we love how the brick ties in with our dining room table and leather sofa. Another view:

My sister and I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore’s Fantasy Blue color matched in Olympic Premium by the good people at Lowe’s. (Actually the guy who worked with me to color match asked me 5 minutes later if he could help me when I came back to collect my paint. Apparently a pregnant Asian woman is hard to remember.) We also removed the old drapes and sagging rods complete with their greasy looped pulls. New window coverings pending!

Total cost of the fireplace project:
$5  for the mini can of stain I bought to finish the left side of the fireplace (yet to be done)
$3 for the dropcloth
Total: $8. I had the paint and larger can of stain on hand from other projects. The paintbrush had to be thrown away, so maybe the cost of the project in damages comes to a bit more.


Campaign Desk Part 2, Priming

Since I’m especially taking my time on painting the campaign desk from Goodwill, I am only to the priming stage. The first stage was to Safely Remove all of the Hardware. My goal was to prime the whole desk in 30 minutes and that is about all the time it took! Priming should be fast, simple and not messy. My painting project is located in our second bedroom of our apartment. Tricky, but possible! All you need is a wide paint brush, quart of primer, and a sheet to set the furniture piece on. I tried to not let any drips occur to save me the hassle of sanding them out later. By storing my paintbrush in a plastic bag, the paintbrush will stay moist if I need to do touch ups or so I can wash it right before I start my new color. This way I won’t have to deal with a crunchy, crisp brush.

Part of the reason the painting is delayed is because I can’t decide what color the campaign desk should be! Gray, white and other variations of the two seem to be all great options! Hopefully within the next few days I will have a color picked out.

Nightstand Makeover

Since we live in a two-bedroom apartment, our small spaces become as multi-functional as possible. Our home office resides in our master bedroom, and Hailey’s nursery functions as our guest bedroom. When in search for a nightstand to not only hold toys and look cute, but also serve as a bedside table for guests, Craigslist was my go-to source. It really is the best place to find quality pieces for cheap, and I’m loving the vintage look of this nightstand I found for $15.


It wasn’t in the best of shape, and I had to do something about the laminate top with marble design… (see the knicks in the surface of the finish below):

Step 1: The Decision. I toyed with the idea of painting the whole nightstand white, but in the end I decided to stain the piece.

Step 2: Strip the finish. I applied stripper to the nightstand, waited 15 minutes, and tried to scrape. I didn’t get much of the finish off (see the picture below), so I reapplied the stripper MUCH thicker (like the consistency of frosting), let it sit, and rescraped. That worked much better.

Step 3: Sand remaining finish down. With a fine grit sandpaper I sanded in the direction of the wood grain to get the remaining finish off the wood. I loved seeing the original wood of the piece in it’s original state. It made me feel like a carpenter or something.

Step 3: Staining. I applied two coats of mahogany stain to the nightstand. I didn’t think I could go wrong with stain, it is very easy to apply with a foam brush and to wipe off with rags (I use old t-shirts cut into squares). However, I did not realize that different woods soak up stain differently. Apparently the best way to avoid uneven stain is to sand it down using finer and finer grits of sandpaper, then to treat it with a wood conditioner. Check out Ask the Builder for complete instructions.

When I wiped off the stain, I had a blotchy mess on the inside of the nightstand.

The outside looked blotchy too, but I thought once the poly went on it might look better, and I was right.

Step 4: Poly the wood. I covered the wood with Minwax Water-Based Polyurethane.

Step 5: Prime the top and inside. One of my original ideas for this nightstand was to paint the inside white. So to cover up the icky stain job, I decided to follow my original instincts and I primed the inside of the nightstand as well as the laminate top, which I had given a light sanding to help the primer to stick.

Step 6: Paint and poly the top and inside. I used more of my Salt Glaze from Behr’s Martha Stewart line, leftover from many previous projects now. Both the inside and the laminate took several coats of paint (as in four) to cover and give it a crisp look. Once it was dry, I coated the white with two coats of poly.

Step 7: Painting feet. I decided to paint the feet white as well. I didn’t poly over them, and just gave them a quick coat of primer and paint since they don’t attract attention to them.

I’m very happy with the result over all!