Thursday, July 19, 2018

How I Redid My Rental Kitchen For Under $200

When Sean and I were apartment hunting, we fell in love with this little condo. The only thing that really gave me pause was the kitchen (see before picture at the bottom of this post). It was very dark, outdated, and the countertop had a big burn mark that made me cringe every time I saw it. I didn't mind the dark oak stain, but it just didn't go with the light, breezy way we decorated the place.

My landlord said the cabinets needed to be sanded and painted, but didn't really offer a timeline for when it could get done, so I asked if she minded if I did it myself. I got the green light, and we were off to the races. I read up quite a bit on how to paint kitchen cabinets, and according to the internet, it's insanely hard. Take them all down, remove hardware, wipe everything down, sand them, paint the primer on the backs, let it dry, prime the front, and then repeat on the other side.
I turned my research toward how I could cut down on some of those steps. First, did I really care about the back of the doors? I don't, and it is a rental, so skip. I also decided I was willing to spend a little more money to skip the sanding step, my least favorite part. I found Valspar Cabinet Enamel Paint at Lowe's for $50 for a gallon. This paint can be mixed in any color, just like regular paint, and is designed to go over existing finishes. Score! I bought a gallon in CafĂ© Blue.

First step was to take down all of the cabinet doors from the frame...I think what was bothering me the most about the existing cabinetry was the hardware, which had been stained over once already and was clunky looking. I removed all of the knobs and filled the holes with wood filler, then sanded those over for a smooth surface. I got new handles that fit into the existing holes for the drawers. I had plans to drill holes in the corners and add new knobs, but I decided I liked the plain, minimal look best, and the cabinets have little lips on the bottom to grab anyway. Another step skipped!
In one long afternoon (that stretched into the evening), I was able to paint all the cabinets and the frame. I did one coat with a brush and a second with a small roller. It wasn't easy, and by the end I was all blistered and covered in blue, but I did it! After I rehung them the next day, I used a teeny brush to touch up any dings or missing spots that occurred in the process.
For the countertops, I used marble contact paper to cover the entire surface, which is completely removable on laminate. Read: You don't have to ask your landlord! I read up a lot on this process as well, and knew although the material was temperamental, I could make it work. (You can too! It just takes a little lot of patience.) I followed the advice from Make Do and DIY on this post and bought DC Fix paper on Amazon, as Linda recommended. Since her post explains things pretty well, I just have a few extra pieces of advice to add from my experience: 
  • Buy more paper than you think you need—I had to go back and order a second set of three rolls. (Thank you Prime and two-day shipping.) If you have extra, you can keep it on hand to replace any spots that need to be redone down the road. 
  • Get a wide, flat spatula intended for spackle. A lot of posts recommend using a credit card to smooth the paper, but the spatula is only a few dollars and makes it much easier to smooth a larger surface area.
  • Don't get hung up on matching the seams perfectly. They really aren't that noticeable, as long as everything's covered, so let the edges overlap a bit. It's easier than trying to get the seams to line up exactly. 
  • Be okay with imperfection. In the end, I did have a few bubbles, but they aren't a big deal. It's pretty near impossible to make these 100-percent perfect, but if your countertops are like mine, anything is an improvement on the original! And the overall result has a big "wow" factor.
In my family, no home is complete without a braided rug. My mom handmakes them, and the craft was passed down from my Grandmother (who hand-painted the little toleware dish I use to hold my rings while washing dishes, below). My mom made this one for our Upper West Side apartment, but it fits perfectly in our new space. And, of course, Truman approves. If you're interested, you can shop my mom's braided rugs in Etsy or order a custom design!
The best part about our new space is being able to enjoy all of the wonderful gifts we received for our shower and present them in the best light. It warms my heart every time I use them to think about all the great people in our life and such a beautiful time. Most pieces are from our Crate & Barrel registry, but if there is anything you are curious about in particular, ask me in the comments!
Last, but not least, the before

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Seaside Style in the Perfect Summer Jumper

Head to Toe: Jumper, Marshall's  (similar) // Sandals, Melissa // Sunnies, Izipizi // Bag, J.McLaughlin
Friends, I had a realization the other day. The consensus on Instagram was that everyone should drop what they're doing and run to the nearest Nordstrom for the anniversary sale. And I just thought, I don't give a crap about the Nordstrom sale. I've actually only purchased one thing at Nordstrom (a pair of wedges), ever. And then my next thought was, Am I really a fashion blogger?

When I started this blog seven years ago, the landscape was pretty different. Fashion blogs were just about girls taking photos of their outfits, sharing styling tips, and getting creative. But in today's Instagram world, fashion blogging seems to be more and more about selling things (looking at you Like It To Know It), and that's honestly just not something I'm interested in doing. Most of my clothes are found at Marshall's, secondhand, or vintage. Other times, it's swag I'm lucky enough to inherit as an editor. So that "where did you get that" question can be hard to answer.

Getting older has also made me more interested in spending my money on other pursuits than just my closet, like things for my apartment or a nice dinner out. I think, as a consequence of that, you've seen my blog drift more into the lifestyle realm, and that's where I think it will continue to go. This week, I'll be sharing my DIY kitchen "remodel," and I hope to write more about our new place and how it's coming together.

Overall, I think it fits. Because #LivingMyBestLife can mean a new outfit or a new kitchen or a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe. My friend Alexis of Cheese & Weim was feeling similarly as a food blogger and being limited to posting about recipes, and we both decided branching out was a good move. But for me, outfit posts will never go away entirely, which is why I had her take these photos—crowded restaurant patrons watching be damned.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Festive Fourth Barbecue

Happy Fourth, fashionistas!  Our new apartment as a pretty spacious balcony, so I scanned Offerup for a few weeks before we found a steal—a large gas grill, only two years old, for $100. We've been firing it up ever since and wanted to celebrate the Fourth with an intimate barbecue. We had my parents and a few friends over for burgers, kabobs, and corn on the cob. Sean loves blueberry pie, so I took my first stab at making one with this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction (although I used Pillsbury crust, I'm only human people). I rolled out the dough and cut into stars for the top, which was actually incredibly easy and made it so much more festive!

For drinks, I had to make this Watermelon Punch I stumbled across on Suburban Simplicity's Instagram. I hollowed out a watermelon for the punch bowl and blended with pineapple juice, frozen lemonade, and vodka. It was a messy, sticky project, but came out delicious and super pretty on my tabletop. I'd recommend for any summer soiree you have this season if you're up for some serious counter wiping.

For decorations, Sean and I found everything we needed at Dollar Tree! We were actually trying to head into TJ Maxx but it wasn't open yet, so we went into the dollar store to kill time. Why do I not shop these stores more frequently?? It had a ton of cute entertaining stuff for, yup, $1. We got a tablecloth, lanterns, plates and napkins, and little flag decorations to set the scene. It was a great afternoon; I hope everyone had a happy Fourth full of food and friends. #MERICA!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tying the Knot: Nautical Bridal Shower Ideas

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I threw a shower for my bestie Lei, who is getting married this August. Party planning is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was thrilled to be able to help out. The venue had a waterside location and she loves the beach, so we decided to go with a nautical theme and a blue-and-white color palette with dashes of pink.

I loved the idea of a "Tie the Knot" banner but couldn't find one anywhere. An online search yielded a cheap-looking version for $20. Instead, I went to Michael's and got patterned pennants, some twine, and sparkly letters that added up to less than $10. I was able to make two banners: "Tie The Knot" and "Lei's A Catch" from the supplies. Pardon the puns, but I recommend this craft for any party—so cheap and easy, all you need is a hole punch!

Another bridesmaid's mom made two mason jar trophies containing taffy and goldfish for a fun guessing game. Aside from the winners, all guests got to take some sweets home from our DIY candy bar, featuring glass vases and "Love is Sweet" gift bags found by the Maid of Honor. We also crafted a little message stand for guests to share romantic weekend ideas with the bride and put advice coasters (found at Marshall's) at each place setting.

The MOH, also the bride's sister, made the cutest favors from little jars filled with bath salts and a sign that read "From Our Shower to Yours." Shells, starfish, and beachy knick-knacks completed the scene, along with a delicious nautical cake from the mother of the bride. 

Lei loved it and everyone had the best afternoon. I got to take home a few decorations that transformed my bathroom into a beachy oasis, and it makes me smile and think of her every time I look at them.