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(For Part 1 go here.)

Sometimes I feel sorry for people who have big houses.  You know, the houses with a designated room for every activity: the workout room, the office, the guest bedroom… the foyer.  That’s right, some people have a WHOLE ROOM just for coming inside the house.

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You see, the people in these spacious houses with bonus rooms never have to tackle the character-building creative challenges of small house design.  Take, for example, when your front door opens directly into the living room.  When you walk in straight onto the sofa, you need to do some creative furniture placement to give your homecoming a little more cushion.

So let’s recap – here’s what I started with.  That segment of wall behind the front door was acting as a semi functional entryway with some hooks and a place for my purse, but I knew I could do a lot better.

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My idea was to get a large dresser for that spot and paint it green.  This would anchor the wall and make everything look a lot less cluttered, while giving me plenty of new storage space.

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A few weeks back I shared my dresser find and transformation, leaving you with this lovely lovely image.

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I’ve been working on the rest of the details and I’ve finally got it completed!

Now when I show you the afters, be aware that I had to leave a big blank space on the surface of the dresser.  Besides carving out a defined entry, I had an additional challenge – I have no nursery for Miss E and I needed a changing station other than the floor.  Remember this?

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Well, enough of that!  A small gateleg table I already owned folded up small enough to tuck in at one end of the dresser to keep the diapering stash handy.  I do cloth diapers, so I have a basket full of prefolds and Thirsties Duo wraps, plus a container of cloth wipes. (For those who are interested, I tried pocket diapers and haaaaated stuffing them and laundering them.  I love my old fashioned prefolds so much more.)  My changing pad folds up between the diaper basket and the dresser when not in use.

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Under the table is a wet bag for used diapers.  The upper right hand dresser drawers hold supplies for the occasional disposable diaper.  It’s as inconspicuous as I could hope for a changing station in the living room.

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On top of the dresser and on the wall above it, I basically rearranged the art and brought in some new items from around the house.  The tray is one I already had and I spray painted it hammered bronze, then did the edges silver with rub n’ buff.

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The art is a couple favorite pieces I though we’d want to see every day.  There’s the collage presented to The Chief as a gift – Amy Adams is saying “My car won’t start.  It’s broken.  Who will fix it?  Who will fix it??”  He fixes cars as a ministry to friends in need :)  The colorful coastal watercolor is my very favorite piece of art, found on Etsy a while back.  I wish the glare on the glass weren’t so visible!  Don’t know how to avoid that at this point in my photography skills.

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Clearly my tray is not styled – that’s what you see in real life, friends.  I do love a beautifully styled tray but I just don’t have space for a tray full of pretty things you can’t use, only look at.  This one corrals my clutter and gives it some boundaries!

Up on the wall shelf we have a photo of the vintage Ferrari dashboard that the Chief was hired to restore (the dash, not the whole Ferrari).  The Ferrari won second best in show at the major international show it was subsequently entered in!

I made the little blue pottery vase, and also the aqua print sunhat for Miss E.

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Ready for the full reveal?

Before

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During

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After

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I think the straw hat hanging on the wall really helps to balance the necessary blank spot on top of the dresser where the changing pad goes.

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Here you can get a good idea of the entryway as a whole.  The back of the armchair creates a nice “‘hallway” with the dresser for coming into the house without walking between people having a conversation.  Painting that front door white is on my list for this week!  I’ve had enough of the bluish primed steel door look.

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So there you have it – one more area of the living room is tweaked to perfection.  I didn’t spend any money on this part of things, so the running total for the living room is still $118.

Do you live in a house with the entry straight into the living room?  How have you handled that?

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This post could have had a number of titles…. perhaps It’s Not Easy Being Green, or My First Encounter With Chalk Paint, maybe Let’s Talk About Painting Over Wood, or, Chalk Paint & Wax: Opinions Vary.

In the end, I went with the big picture when I titled it because although this post is about refinishing a dresser, it’s really about getting our entryway into a state of grace.

One of the biggest changes I want to make in our living room is to improve the entryway wall.  Previously cluttered with too many small pieces of furniture, it needed something large and multi-functional there, and I decided to consolidate everything into one large dresser.

After a couple weeks of watching Craigslist for deals I found a sturdy old mahogany dresser (with dovetailed joints!) selling for $50.  I offered them $60 to beat out any other potentially interested parties and the Chief brought it home in his pickup truck.  Sometimes you can meet really nice people while buying furniture on Craigslist – he got the back story on the dresser while chatting with the husband over their antique Ferrari.  It had been the wife’s when she was a girl, then her daughter’s, and now the granddaughter was using the bed from that furniture set but not the dresser.  So it came home with us.  Somehow knowing it’s been well loved gives it a bit more warmth and character.

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As I expected, the veneered top was pretty wrecked from nail polish spills and various large scrapes and dings, but no worries because I bought this piece to paint it!  Chalk paint – the magical substance that covers almost any surface without needing to sand or prime.  It was finally time for me to give it a whirl.  I used the DIY chalk paint recipe using plaster of paris that I found on this wonderfully exhaustive post about making chalk paint with various recipes.

Ingredients: 1 part plaster of paris, 3 parts latex paint, and water.

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I had the recipe, now I just needed to choose the color.  My photoshopped inspiration piece was a slightly brighter green than I wanted but definitely heading in the right direction.  Remember this mock-up?

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I taped a dozen paint chips to the dresser and brooded over which one would be right.

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I narrowed it down to my three faves and bought the trial size pots to create large samples, something I always do with color because I am not one of those people who can tell what color something will actually be from a 2″ square digitally inked chip!  Neither are you :)

Then I did that thing where I should have known better. I went to the paint store and got a quart of paint that was not any of my samples.   ((ducks))  So the color seduced me, okay?  Also it had a wonderful name… China Green Marble by Martha Stewart.  It was this beautiful shade of verdigris blue-green, somewhere between how it looks in the next two photos.IMG_1061 (600x800)

I merrily painted away, telling myself to wait till it dried to decide how it looked, but after the first coat it was pretty clear this color was not going to work.  Spread out on the big surface of my dresser, it was pretty much the color of the Statue of Liberty, and in my room it was just Screaming Bright.

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So I used my sample paint pots that I’d originally started with to make my paint darker and more muted, then repainted.  Even that was too light and bright.  I ended up making a fresh batch of paint using my sample pot of Rainforest Fern by Glidden.  One sample pot made plenty for one coat but not enough for two, but the coverage was good enough and the color close enough to the previous coat that it worked out great.

Here’s my paint color sequence.  You can see how I ended up with a more muted and less blue shade of green.

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Yup. Sucker got three coats of paint, all different colors.

I knew it was the right shade of green when looking at it made me smile and relax instead of breathe too shallowly and feel anxious about the whole living room!

Next step: wax.

Wax is the normal way to finish off chalk paint.  I read a ton of stuff on how to wax and whether or not to wax.  It seems like this chalk paint/wax thing is a trend in the truest sense of the word.  The pros talking on the forums – and I mean crafters, not those snobby woodworkers – mostly felt that waxing was an inferior sealant and they preferred using polycrylic or wipe-on poly over chalk paint.  Some people swore that if you use wax, you can never refinish it without sanding every bit of wax off, but enough people said they had indeed successfully refinished directly over the wax that I felt safe going ahead with it.  I’m not sold on wax’s durability for the top of this dresser, but I should be able to apply wipe-on poly over the wax if I need to down the road.  And I really wanted to try it out.

I didn’t have a fancy wax brush so I tried various methods of application.  I liked rubbing in the wax (I used Johnson’s brand) with a plastic baggie over my hand because it didn’t leave fibers behind when rubbing the rough paint, then I wiped off the extra, then buffed it when dry with a square of t-shirt material.

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Lastly, I needed to re-attach the handles.  They were an uneven black-brown faded color that needed spiffing up and I wasn’t sure whether to go black or gold.  So I cut out cardstock the size of the oval handles and colored one of each.

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The glossy black was just too drab a choice for me so I went with a light coating of Grecian Gold Rub N’ Buff on all the handles.  I didn’t try too hard to get it into every little corner but left the crevices darker to give them extra depth.  I’m going to spray them with a couple coats of clear spray paint to guard against wear just as soon as I get to the store to pick some up.

IMG_1104 (800x599)Yes that is our crazy carpeting in the back room, with bits of concrete in it from the granny flat remodel.  It’s a good place to do messy, smelly DIY work.

At last I give you… the final product!  (ooohhh… ahhhh….!)

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As  reminder, here’s what it looked like before.

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The entryway part 2 will be about making this baby a model of attractive functionality.  It’s going to have to fill in as a changing station, key/purse/daily detritus receptacle, and graciously inviting entry definer (is that a word?).  CAN IT BE DONE.  Here’s what I have to work with right now – it definitely has some potential.

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And now a word for our better half.  This was not the Chief’s favorite project.  Regarding its size, he thought it was too large (and it did look huge sitting in the middle of the room getting refinished, but I swear it’s not.).  Also he, like many men, has a hard time seeing wood get painted over.  After I was done painting his careful comment was “I believe it’s a sin to paint over beautiful mahogany like that.”  As for his thoughts on the choice of color, well, “Are you sure you don’t want me to spray paint some army stars on the sides before you seal it?”  Ha ha ha!  Um, no thanks, love.   I’m not sure why such a broad range of greens – leaf, pine, olive, bottle green – scream Army Green to him.  Too many years playing with those little plastic soldiers?  So this is the project he worked hard to bite his tongue about.  I appreciate it :)

I love the final product!  Like I said I’m a little dubious about the wax finish’s durability and may end up doing a coat of wipe on poly over the wax, which the Internet says is indeed possible.  Only two drawers have anything in them at this point so I am excited about the storage possibilities.

So far the running total for the living room tweak (budget: $200 or less) is $118.69.

  • Lamp project: $28.45
  • Dresser project – paint samples, quart of paint, plaster of paris, dresser, wax:  $90.24

More coming soon on our entryway area and the entire living room adjustment so stay tuned!

Over to you, have you ever done chalk paint?  How does it compare to painting furniture with regular latex paint?  What do you think of my NOT army green dresser and my entryway ambitions?