Kitchen Cabinet Restaining…

12 May

I’m about all Java-gel stained out. Well, to be honest I finished back in October 2014, but I STARTED in May 2014. Took a bit of a hiatus while I settled into a new job over the summer, and feverishly worked in the fall in order to complete them by Eloise’s first birthday party. Task accomplished! But it wasn’t without some major burnout in the end.

This recap isn’t a how-to (you can find that here); it’s a before/after plethora of photos so you all can get a feel for what this technique can do for the look of your kitchen (since my bathroom redo is a much smaller space).

Here are a few before photos:



Notice the upper cabinets in the photo below – can you see how uneven the knobs are? Due to settling in our house (it’s over a half-century old), everything was a little crooked. I’ll address this issue toward the end of the post.


I just wasn’t into the honey-oak color, and honestly they were looking a little worse for wear over the past 60 years or so. I love white cabinets, but I didn’t want to paint them because I was afraid of chipping where the doors hit the cabinets, plus these are just so flat and smooth – not much margin of error for paint. Plus, I just like dark, especially with our light floors.

So, here are few “during” photos.

Getting started – there’s still life left in me. Dare I say it – I’m energetic about this project! The ol’ sock hand is back and rarin’ to go!


Just a reminder of the streaky ugliness of the first coat – this is normal.


Not a pretty picture of our kitchen while I did the lower cabinets.



This is me, in between complaints to my husband about how sick of this project I was.


But this story has a happy ending! As much as I complained about it, it was WORTH IT!




I used the same oil-rubbed bronze knobs from before. I wasn’t sure at first how the dark knobs would look against the dark stain, but I really think it turned out well.


We replaced all the hinges from the previous original copper-colored ones to these oil-rubbed bronze ones. They really blend in nicely since these old cabinets don’t use hidden hinges like most new cabinets.


I would be remiss if I did not mention the work that my husband, Ryan, put into these cabinets as well. If you recall that “before” photo from above – the uneven knobs – that issue would come to bite us in the behind at the end. We basically realized we’d have to refill the holes on the doors and the cabinets and rehang pretty much every single one of the 33 doors. Let’s just say I didn’t do it, so thank you Ryan, for rehanging the cabinet doors and for putting up with all my whining. Both were very challenging and annoying.

So, now that I’ve been officially done for 7 months, here are a few pros and cons for those of you thinking of doing this:


  • Beautiful! (If you like dark, rich cabinets. They’re not black – they’re dark brown.)
  • An easy, simple and pretty much foolproof process (here’s that link again)
  • Pretty durable so far. It’s gotten a couple knicks, but nothing I can’t touch up with a tiny paintbrush. And some of those knicks might have been due to the rehanging process.


  • Time-consuming when you’re working with a large area like this. I had a system down where I completed three coats of stain on one side, then turned them over to complete the other side. Be sure to put a towel down so the first side doesn’t get scratched while you’re doing the second side. Then repeat when you do the poly.
  • They’re a little shinier than I prefer (however, some of the photos look WAY shinier than they do in person). I used the General Finishes satin finish, and as far as I know they don’t offer any poly finishes that are less shiny than that. I wanted to use the General Finishes brand poly to match the gel stain (the guy I bought it from couldn’t guarantee how another poly would work with it), but I prefer a less-shiny finish. Maybe if I was doing a table or something small, I would try a different, more matte poly.
  • Fingerprints are more noticeable due to the finish and the dark color. I knew this going in and did it anyway because I didn’t care. I just wipe them around the knobs with a dishrag every now and again – it’s not that big of a deal. And it actually grosses me out to think about how dirty my cabinets were before I did this! 🙂

So, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Best of luck!



DIY Baby Mobile

2 Jun

…and seven months later, I’m baaaack! Wow – I just looked at the date of my last post which was October 22 – could it be? That was one day before this happened:


And here we are a half a year later:


Wow. Okay, moving along. Let’s talk mobiles! Back when I was still pregnant and LOVING putting together the nursery, I decided I wanted to try my hand at making a mobile for Eloise. Well, I didn’t know she was Eloise at the time – she was still just baby Rixen – gender unknown. Of course, not finding out the gender until birth meant keeping the nursery gender-neutral.

I didn’t have a theme per se, but after awhile a sort of “tree” feel emerged. I did some searching on Pinterest and decided to do a leaf mobile. Here’s how I did mine.


  • Three wooden embroidery hoops in different sizes
  • Fabric in several different patterns/colors
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Embroidery thread
  • Hot glue gun
  • Jute! (If you don’t know about my love for jute, click here)

My plan was to make make strings of falling leaves which might flutter easily. It looked great in my head, of course. Little did I know how much busy work it would be!

Here’s my fabric I chose (minus to reddish one second from the right):

photo 1

First, I pulled out the inside ring of the embroidery hoop. The inside ring is solid and complete – no hook to tighten.

photo 2 (1)

Next, I wrapped it in jute with the help of my sister, my mom and my niece one evening, securing the ends with a dab of hot glue. I toyed with painting the hoops, but I thought jute would give it a nice woodsy look. My name is Sarah, and I’m a jute addict.

Next – and this was easily the hardest part – I tied the hoops to each other with embroidery thread. Blegh – it was so hard to get them balanced perfectly. I ended up hanging them from our light fixture so I could adjust the different strings. I tied them in a single knot so they would slide (embroidery thread is pretty smooth) and adjust easily. When everything was balanced, I secured them with a spot of hot glue.


Next I cut out leaves. Lots and lots…and lots of leaves. I think I cut out at least 150. I learned quickly to fold the fabric like an accordion, then draw on the template and cut it out. Bam – like 10 leaves cut out at once.



I then started putting together my strings of leaves. It was sort of a leaf sandwich – leaf, interfacing, embroidery thread, leaf. Iron, repeat many times. I did half the strings with 5 leaves, half with 6 leaves.



The biggest problem with this is that the interfacing that poked out the sides kept gumming up my iron, so several times I had to turn it off, clean the glue off and start again.

Once I had all my strings of leaves complete, I started tying them to my hoops. To make sure it balanced out, if I added one to one side, I added the same to the opposite side, and so on. I just tied them once and secured the knot with a spot of hot glue.


Drumroll, please…the final product!



I am very, very pleased with how it turned out. I ended up putting this over the changing table instead of the crib because I had these visions of a leaf fluttering down and Eloise choking on it. Oh, the places my over-active mind goes. But she actually does like to look at it when getting those diapers changed, and when we hold her up to it, she practices her fine motor skills and tries to grab the leaves.


The whole thing was a challenge, both in getting it to balance right, and the amount of steps to cut everything out. I fully realize that now that I have a kid, this kind of project is a bit too intense to ever do again. So, let’s just say whenever second baby rolls around, he or she will be getting something either 1. more simple to make, or 2. store-bought. 🙂