Saturday, October 11, 2014

USAA Movers Advantage Program & a Dining Chair Dilemma

Good morning!

USAA members (or those interested in becoming a member) - this post is for you!

As I was researching dining chair options online this morning, I realized that I recently utilized a very handy resource that I haven't shared much about - until today!

Have you heard of the USAA Movers Advantage Program? I'd never heard of it until my sister and brother-in-law told us about it a few months ago when we began our Kansas home search.

In a nutshell, members who are looking to buy or sell a home can call USAA, request a USAA-preferred real estate agent, and then expect to be assigned a local agent to work with. Jamie and I were assigned one particular agent to help us with our home-buying search, while my sister and BIL were recently given a list of several agents to pick from to help sell their home.

We all found two primary benefits for using this program -

1.) We had no clue where to start when it came to finding an agent. We ended up being assigned a realtor with 30+ years of experience in the Manhattan area who works for (what we now know is) the most reputable agency in town (Coldwell Banker). My sister ended up picking an agent (from the list she received) that landed her and Josh an very-to-close full-price offer within 24 hours of their house going on the market! After a few counter offers, they were under contract in four days. Incredible!

2.) About two weeks after closing, we received a fairly hefty Visa gift card for using their USAA services. The gift card came with a list of over 100 stores that we can spend it at, and the amount we received depended on how much we purchased our home for (or how much one sells it for). Pretty sweet deal!

Because we'd never heard of this program until recently, I figured that many of you had never heard of it either! If you're going to buy or sell a home in the first place, being rewarded with an experienced realtor and a little bit of moolah never hurts.

If you'd like to hear more about our experience with this program, feel free to get in touch!

But back to those dining chairs...

I'd love to find four identical chairs from a thrift shop that I could jazz up with some Annie Sloan chalk paint, but good thrift stores are tough to find around here. I'm also not having much luck on Craigslist because everyone wants to sell their table with the chairs (I don't blame them).

I have my eye on a few that look like this -

Ikea Kaustby Chair - $49 each
I've never purchased anything from Ikea, and I've always heard mixed reviews about their furniture. I obviously love their price, but we want chairs that will be durable for maybe 10 years. Is this a case of you get what you pay for or are they actually great chairs? If they're awesome, I'm sold. Somebody tell me!

World Market Garner Dining Chair - $130 + 25% off today
I've seen these chairs in person and love them! I'm also loving the percentage off today, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to buy them today. Ah.

West Elm Degraw Chair  - $148 per chair + 20% off today only
I love this chair, and I'm not sure why I haven't pressed "complete order" yet. I wish they were a tad cheaper, but I know West Elm is known to carry long-lasting furniture. Sigh.

Pottery Barn Metropolitan Dining Chair - $149 a piece + 15% off coupon (valid for a while)
This style is different than the aforementioned, but I love that it has a comfy shape for somebody's behind (ha) and is simple enough where I could throw some fun seat cushions on it to add a pop of color if I wanted to. Pottery Barn, like West Elm, is obviously know for their many, many, many years of quality, so I'm torn again.

Thoughts? I'm trying to wait until I find chairs that I'm obsessed with that also carry a price or a sale that's a no-brainer. I really like all of these chairs and can live with all of their prices, but I'm just not completely sold. I want to be confident when I'm spending this kind of money on something we want to last a while.

Here's what my table looks like. I self-admittedly have zero design knowledge, so if you design-savvy folks have any suggestions for seating, I'd love them!

Have a great weekend, friends! And to my hubby surely reading this, good luck in DC at the Army 10-mile race tomorrow! We're missing you big this weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Brass, Be Gone! Our Fireplace Update

Our living room fireplace, easily one of the biggest eyesores in our home, took all of three hours to update, and I couldn't be happier with the finished product!

Ever since we started looking at purchasing this home I had issues with the fireplace. It's location is bizarre (it's all the way to the right of the living room and edges the kitchen) and has a unique shape (notice how the left side is deeper than the right).

Though updating it wasn't at the top of my priority list, I started realizing just how fast and cheap I could put a checkmark in this box.

So I got to work.

For the mantel, I purchased a quart of Sherwin Williams Pure White in a semi-gloss finish. I taped off the sides (where I needed to paint vertically) with green FrogTape, and got out my two painting tools - my "cut in" go-to brush (Premium XL Tight Spots 2") and a mini-roller designed for cabinets and doors. That's it! After a couple of quick coats, I stepped back and was satisfied.

After I pealed off the FrogTape, a little bit of paint had gotten on the tile (I hate tape for this reason), so I used a box cutter to flake off the extra paint.

After reading a couple of "how-to" posts regarding the brass, I swung over to Menards and picked up a quart of Rustoleum's High Heat specialty paint in black.

When I got home, I did a quick wipe down of the whole fireplace to remove a ton of excess dirt and dust. Once it was completely dry, I painted one coat on the entire fireplace. Though I originally planned to just paint the brass portions, I decided to paint the whole thing to freshen up the entire space. Below are some of the before pics.

The only portion that got two coats was the brass section. I waited about four hours before applying the second coat.

The total cost for this update came in around $35 ($20ish for the white SW paint and $14 for the Rustoleum paint). I still have three quarters of a quart left of the white paint and the black paint doesn't even look touched, so I'll be adding them to our quickly-growing paint selection in the basement.

Also, I mentioned in my previous post that the paint we used for the living room/fireplace is Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige.

So now that we have the boring fireplace update out of the way (maybe it was helpful to somebody?), I hope you don't mind if I show off a few pics of our fam at the pumpkin patch this weekend. We met my sister and BIL at Britt's Farm here in Manhattan around 11 and enjoyed playing for about an hour. The wind was whippin' so we skipped the hayride, but everything else was really fun. Going to the pumpkin patch as a kid with my family was always really fun, so I was overly excited to take Hadley.

Hadley's mind is such a sponge, so Jamie and I really enjoy watching her take in every little thing she sees. Holidays and festive things are so much more fun with her around.

and my favorite picture of the day...
Pure joy, folks!

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Goodbye Marble Top, Hello Farmhouse!

Good morning from the freeeeezing Midwest! It's rainy and super windy here this morning, and it felt every bit of 46 degrees outside when I let Teddy out. Happy to be enjoying a rare quiet moment on the couch with a blanket while Hadley takes nap numero uno.

This week, after eating a month's worth of meals on the living room couch, we finally filled up our dining space with a kitchen table.

We sold our eight-top marble kitchen table a couple months ago in Arizona, and our main reasons for selling it included its bulky size, difficulty to move around the country (the top always required a custom-built crate), it's much too tall for children, and overall our style has changed. It sure was great for entertaining though. We definitely agree that we got our money's worth out of this table! Lots of good times were had sitting around it.

I'd had my eye on a farmhouse table since June when I went to visit one of my best friends Mary Elizabeth who'd just received her custom-built table. It looked SO beautiful in her dining room, and I knew that a farmhouse style would be our next table.

My brother-in-law is very handy, and after telling him about my dreams of a farmhouse table but my woes of the store-bought price, he agreed to build one for us with Jamie's help! Shweet.

I picked these plans from because they were less complicated than many but still thorough with a shopping list, cut list, and step-by-step directions. I also love that she features other tables built by her readers using the same plans (labeled under her user brag posts).

With his shopping list in hand, Jamie went to Home Depot and True Value last Friday and got all of the supplies. The only table legs Home Depot sold were some very thin legs, so we opted to go with two 4x4x8 FIR pieces (cut to 29" each) to use as legs. I absolutely loved these Osbourne legs, but we didn't have the time to order them or room in our budget for them. No regrets here!

Shopping List: 
4 legs (we used two 4x4x8 fir pieces of wood)2 - 2x4 @ 8 feet long
2 - 1x2 @ 8 feet long
7 - 2x6 @ 72" long
2 1/2" pocket hole screws
2" finish nails
wood glue
wood biscuits to connect top boards (not in Ana's directions but my BIL knew this would increase the life and sturdiness of the table)
measuring tape
safety glasses
hearing protection
circular saw

Josh had most of the power tools, but he and Jamie did end up renting a couple tools for the day. They worked on and off all day Saturday and then again for a few hours on Sunday.

We didn't have time Sunday to stain and paint the table, so once the construction was done we laid down a cloth tarp and a plastic tarp in the kitchen so that I could do the staining and painting later in the week.


Well done gentlemen!

Besides a couple of boards snapping and needing to be replaced, the boys ran into no problems or frustrations while building the table. The biggest frustration they experienced throughout the day had nothing to do with the table but everything to do with Army football giving up their lead, missing way too many field goals, and losing in overtime. This is how I found them at one point when I came out to check on them - listening to the game and wallowing in sorrow as usual.

With the windows open, I stained the table Monday morning during Had's nap. I used painting rags to apply three coats on Minwax Dark Walnut, and I could not be happier with how the stain turned out.

After I finished with the stain I applied three coats of Minwix Clear Gloss Fast-Drying Polyurethane.

After I finished the top, I used Home Depot's chalk paint (Americana Décor Crème in white) and gave the legs two coats.

Then things got hairy.

I'd read that a wax paste was the best follow-up product to use on chalk paint, so I picked up a can of Mixwax Paste Finishing Wax.

In hindsight I'm sure I wasn't applying it right, but I hated how it was leaving an orange tint and was thick and goopy.

Here's where I took a major turn for the worst. I wiped off the wax and applied a coat of  the Polyurethane.

News flash to the clueless like me. ;) You can't just "wipe off" wax, and wax rejects anything you put on top of it. When I woke up Tuesday morning, but legs were even more sticky than they were the night before. I immediately took a light sanding block to try to get the stickiness off of it, and within five minutes my table leg looked like this.

Of course I called my sister flipping out that I'd just ruined our brand new table, and she confirmed that yes you have a big mess! I was so mad at myself.

Since I figured things couldn't get worse for that one poor leg, I continued to sand by hand until all of the poly was off and I had a smooth leg. The paint looked like it had been through war though. I had a little bit of chalk paint left, so I painted another coat right back on.

After letting it dry, I realized that I loved how it looked. The imperfections actually gave the table a rustic feel and semi-matched the rest of the distressing that I'd done to the rest of the legs the night before. (When Jennifer and Josh came over later that night, I asked them to pick out which leg I'd messed up, and neither of them could tell. Victory.)

I still had three more legs that were a sticky disaster though. After a quick google search, I grabbed some baby powder from under Hadley's sink and poured nearly a whole bottle of it all of the legs. I then took a hand towel and smoothed out the powder. Within seconds my legs went from a sticky polyurethane disaster to smooth as a baby's butt and just perfect. Crisis averted and table complete!

We sold our marble top table for $700, so we set that money aside as our budget for this table. The materials, rentals, paint, and stain all cost right at $200, leaving us with a $500 budget for chairs. I found this bench at World Market yesterday for $273 with tax, and somehow my mother-in-law was able to squeeze it into the back of the Jeep! I gave it a couple coats of Scotch Guard last night, so hopefully it's good to go.

Next I'll be on the lookout for four simple matching chairs to complete the table. At $60ish bucks a chair, I have my work cut out for me, but I'm really in no rush for now.

As for the weekend, we don't have too much planned. Quiet weekends are always welcomed around here though! :)

Hope you have a fun one yourself, and as usual thanks for reading. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Painting Tales from Someone Who Doesn't Know How to Paint

I've learned a couple things about myself throughout the last couple of weeks: I love painting walls (the trim in particular - I'm a freak!) and I should never DIY anything without someone's help (who knows what they're doing) or very specific, detailed instructions.

Before I attacked my first room with paint, my mom was a wreck and rightfully so. She knows that I'm often not the most patient human being and that I also semi-destroyed our old office in Tennessee by getting paint all over the trim and ceiling. Jamie's grandmother (Mamaw) had quite the time (and many laughs) trying to fix all of my painting errors when she came to turn the room into Hadley's nursery last summer. When Jamie told her that I was about to start painting various rooms in our new house, she picked up the phone to give me all of her sweet tips so that she would not have to come from Indiana to fix my accidents. ;)

I was determined to show my family that I, Erica DeSpain, who has no crafty/handy talents whatsoever, could do this.

Fast forward to today, and the following rooms are successfully (I think) painted (whew):

Our master bath (Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams)

Our living room/entry way/hallway (Balanced Beige by Sherwin Williams)
Excuse the little bit on the trim. That oak is being painted very soon, so I wasn't overly perfect with it.

Our sunroom (Glidden's color-matched version of Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue)

Let's talk about the living room and it's original green accent wall. So bad. SO BAD.

Our living room is where we play, occasionally eat (keepin' it real), watch TV, take naps (yeah right), work out, read, and hang out. It's literally where we do life, and I'd been looking for the perfect paint color for it for months. I was finally sold on Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl" thanks to one of my friends who used and loved it, but the nearest Benjamin Moore paint store is over an hour away. I did the color matching thing at Home Depot for the sunroom and was very pleased (though the picture above does nothing for the true color), so I figured I'd try it again for the Gray Owl paint.

After one thin coat of primer and two very carefully painted coats of the Gray Owl, we had this STARK WHITE WALL. Forget the fireplace accent wall, which I hated from the second I finished it. I was so upset about how this wall turned out. The lighting made it look 85 different colors, and none of them were Gray Owl. Color-matching FAIL.

After taking a couple days off from painting to see if I could live with it, I decided I couldn't. Jamie, who is usually super easy to please, also agreed that this white wall had to go.

I also decided that I absolutely, positively cannot live with the oak trim, windows, and doors. I also have zero desire whatsoever to paint those myself. I am excited to use my time and energy on a number of big and small projects around here, but painting that oak is surely not one of them.

All of this took place about 10 days ago, and today I'm over the moon excited that we now have a fab handyman who is giving us a killer price to come in the end of October and repaint every inch of oak trim and windows and replace every single door (20!!) with a six-panel white door. The previous owners put all new hardware on every door upstairs, but we'll also be putting in new hardware in the basement.

I know the living room and sunroom paint colors are just going to pop and look so much better with the glossy white trim and windows. So pumped! Crossing our fingers that this improvement will not only make our interior much more bright and beautiful but that we'll also see this money back when we sell it in a few years.

A few tools that I'm in love with -

This brush has changed my life forever (sorry that I only have a pic of the packaging). John from Young House Love swears by it, and I'd buy any tool that couple tells me to buy! I found it at Sherwin Williams, and it's definitely worth the money (I think I remember it being right around $13). It makes cutting in at the trim, windows, and ceilings a breeze.

I picked up this roller before I tackled the bathroom, and I really just got lucky with this one. I knew nothing about rollers, but I accidentally picked up one that extends to three different heights. Besides getting on the ladder to cut in where the wall meets the ceiling, I haven't had to use a ladder. This bad boy extends all the way up to the ceiling. I wish I knew what it was called, but look for it at Sherwin Williams.

Finally, I'm in love with the simplicity and ease of this step ladder. I borrowed it from my sister, and I'm hoping she forgets I have it. ;) It's incredibly sturdy but lightweight enough for me to maneuver all around the room. Two thumbs up. It's called "Skinny Mini", but I have no clue where she bought it. I'll ask and let ya know!

Finally, if you follow me on Instagram than you may have seen our new kitchen farmhouse table. I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!

My husband and brother-in-law built it this weekend and I stained and painted it all day yesterday. More on the table later this week.

My motto with this house is to be content with letting each room evolve over time and not rush and settle with just throwing things up on the walls. Of course I have a wish list of furniture and décor for each room, but for now I'm just happy that we've started slowly chipping away at making this place our own. It's fun!

See ya later this week!