Refresh a Time-Worn Dining Set: 3 Simple Steps

Know someone who’s on a tight budget and in search of a new look for the kitchen or dining area? Not only could this particular set use a nice home, but it also can be easily replicated if you do it yourself.

Like many DIYers, I learn by doing. Therefore, I looked up a tutorial about how to properly reupholster seat cushions, and I found it was easier than writing a blog post! Read on if you’d like to learn the three simple steps.

What you’ll need:

  • Staple gun
  • Arrow JT21 5/16″ 8 mm staples
  • Sandpaper (not rough)
  • Soap, water, paper towels
  • Matte black spray paint with built-in enamel/sealer
  • Fabric of your choice (bring a seat cushion into the store to be sure you’re buying enough fabric for the whole project!)
  • Screwdriver

First, the before photos…

I found this old Ethan Allen dining set on Craigslist for $50, and fell in love with the farmhouse-style legs and apron it had.

The chairs at first glance were incredibly worn and dated (like something I’d expect to see in a ’70s sitcom… or along the side of an alley for that matter). Too harsh? At least I realized they had some potential with those gorgeous spindles and removable chair cushions.   

1) Prep the Chairs

The first thing I did was remove the seat cushions from underneath using a screwdriver (each one was held in place with only two screws). Once all the seats were off, I lightly sanded the wood all over the chair to make it nice and smooth after all those years of wear. Then I took a warm, soapy paper tower and wiped all the residue and debris off. Since paint won’t stick where there’s oil (from fingers) or soap, I then ran over the chairs with a few warm, damp, sans-soap paper towels. Let the chairs fully dry before moving to step two.

2) Reupholster the Chairs

Cut your fabric into four equal sections. Make sure that the pattern lays the same way on each seat cushion. Since the seats’ fabric was a solid, neutral color already, I purchased a thick (non-see-through) fabric and simply stapled it on over the existing fabric. Of course, vacuum the original cushions before stapling new fabric over them. There’s a method to stapling fabric onto chairs, though, so pay attention here. 

I’ve read that you’re supposed to pull opposite ends taut until there’s no middle area left to staple, but in my experience, that technique led to some ripples in my fabric. Instead, I did the four edges first (top, bottom, left, then right), making sure to pull the fabric taut before stapling, but then I worked my way around to the corners. For each corner, I treated it like I was wrapping a gift (fold, fold, staple) rather than pulling it tight and stapling it until there was no more slack. I also made it difficult on myself by choosing a striped fabric, so I was constantly flipping the seat back over to make sure my lines were still straight. 

Once I had repeated this process four times and all the seat cushions were finished, I took the chairs outside and spray painted the bases black. The look I was going for was one I had seen on Fixer Upper (the Nut-House episode)…  

…so I painted the chairs black but left the table wood. (Many people opt to paint the legs and apron of the table to match the chairs, but I wanted to be like Jo, I suppose.) Leave the chairs out to dry, then place the seat cushions back on and screw them into place.

3) Clean up the Table

Since the table was already in pretty good shape, all I needed to do to it was sand down the legs a little to take away some of the sticky-looking shine. I wiped over them with a damp paper towel and set them out to dry. 

Here are some of the “after” pictures:

If you try it, let me know how it went!

Easy, 6-Step DIY Floating Shelves

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It’s no secret that the median home price in the Denver area has risen quite rapidly these past few years. Moving from Illinois to the Denver suburb of Arvada had my husband Jason and I scrambling to find a home we loved in a price range we were comfortable with. We seemed to only be able to find fixer-upper homes, or tiny little condos for the price at which we always thought we’d purchase our first home. In Illinois, my childhood home sold for a little more than what Jason and I needed to spend here in Colorado if we wanted a detached single-family home with a yard. And let me tell you, that home was twice the square footage of the one we eventually bought — and built.

Once we learned that building new was our best option, we decided to opt for only a couple structural upgrades from the plethora of options the builder offered. We opted to put money upfront into things that would be difficult or super costly to change down the road, such as nine-foot ceilings, kitchen cabinetry, and a gas fireplace. Everything else came builder-grade.

We’re both pretty crafty people, so we knew it would be fun to leave our mark on our home by coming up with our own unique ideas and doing our best to implement them ourselves. I like to think of myself as a thrifty shopper (although the less I can spend on one item, the more items I tend to buy). Jason is incredibly supportive, as he trusts that whatever I buy will make our home feel more and more like “us.”

That being said, when it came to the empty cubby spaces flanking the fireplace…

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…we toiled with the thought of installing built-in shelves, buying tall book-cases to push into those nooks, and finally, throwing some floating shelves in there. Option three was the winner, as it was the most cost-effective option (and it was a new learning opportunity! We love those.).

I’ve seen plenty of tutorials where the shelves were built as narrow boxes, with pipes protruding from the wall and into the cavities of these wood boxes. I wanted a different, sleeker, more streamlined look for our space. No thick shelves for me.

Jason measured out the nooks, only to discover that they were not entirely uniform. The drywall seemed to widen marginally at the back of the nooks, and that measurement changed as he moved up the wall. He had to be very calculated when it came to cutting boards that would fill the spaces where they were needed.

Eventually, the proper pieces were cut and stained, and we were ready to begin the fun part — making the shelves appear as though they were floating.

Supplies you will need if you’d like to achieve this same look are:

  • Six #2 pine boards, 1/2 inch thick, measured to the depth of your shelving nook
  • 12 furring strips, 1/4 inch, measured 1 inch shy of the depth of your pine boards
  • Hammer and nails
  • Stud finder
  • A tape measure
  • A level
  • Paint to match the wall color (you’ll paint the furring strips to blend in with the wall)
  • Wood stain (we used Minwax Wood Finish in Ipswich Pine, and did not seal it)

Step 1: Measure your nooks and cut the boards to fill the space, wall to wall. To determine how much space should go between your shelves, remember the rule of thirds. With interior decorating, aim to use odd numbers to create a sense of imbalance and intrigue. We measured the nooks top to bottom, then divided the space into three relatively even sections. The top cubby was intentionally made a little smaller than the lower two sections. You also want the wood to fall short of the edge of the nook by one-to-two inches.

Step 2: Stain your cut boards (top, front, and bottom) and set them out to dry.

Step 3: Using your stud finder, locate the studs and mark them with a pencil. Then, use your handy hammer, some sturdy nails and your level to hang the furring strips. Check and double-check to make sure they are even and level on both sides, or else your shelves will appear crooked.

Step 4: Paint the furring strips the same color as the walls behind them (no need to paint the top of the strips, as the shelves will be resting on this part).

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View from below one of the shelves. Notice the furring strip.

Step 5: Rest the stained shelves on the dried furring strips.

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Step 6: Decorate! Have fun :)

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Making Our [Builder Grade] House a Home

Our living room after decorating for Christmas

When Jason and I made the decision to build a new house instead of buying one, we were ecstatic. The housing market in the Denver area was — and still is — booming, and the median home price was rapidly rising. We felt blessed that this opportunity fell into our laps, as well as into our budget. Yet, a little piece of our hearts broke when we realized how little character comes with a brand new, builder grade house.

We were not at all unappreciative of the work that went into building our first home, but to be honest, it’s a tract home. That means there were five-to-seven models to choose from, and we picked one. In no way was this a custom home that we could put together with the builder.

While I was hoping I could see what the model home version of our house looked like, there wasn’t one. Therefore, we had to learn to make due with what was built. The living room felt like a big white box with some wall cubbies and some windows. The original floors were carpeted, so the first thing Jason and I (and a handful of our amazing friends and family members) did was tear out that builder grade carpet and install locking hardwood floors. To save money (and because we have a very energetic puppy), we actually went with a Pergo Max laminate flooring because it is more durable than hardwood and engineered hardwood. This is the only photo of our living room I have from before we installed the hardwood:


…and this was what our living room looked like once the floors were installed:

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Let’s briefly go back to before ground was broken. I immediately began scouring Pinterest, Houzz, and HGTV for ideas that would help Jason and me add some warmth and style to our cookie-cutter house.

Mostly inspired by three of my favorite designers (Joanna Gaines, Becki Owens, and Studio McGee), I pieced together a plethora of style ideas to form what is now our living room. I didn’t care if the looks didn’t all come from one design theme; I went with what I liked and figured out how to make it blend together. Some might call our style “transitional,” but I like to call it “Modern Bohemian Farmhouse.” Most of my pins were, after all, Modern, or Bohemian, or Farmhouse style ;)

I love having natural colors and varying the textures in our home. From the faux fur cowhide pillow and wood accents, to the leather pouf and warm mixed-metal accents, I’ve learned that if you love it, you should find a way to make it work.

Here’s a picture of our living room concoction, taken from the same angle as the first picture.

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My handy husband Jason built the mantel and installed our floating shelves. He also stained and hung the wood feature on the wall above the fireplace. This isn’t part of the living room, but Jason also built that beautiful cedar and iron dining table.

When I decided to do a gallery wall, I wanted it to be not only symmetrical, but also personal. Jason and I are both photographers, so we wanted the art in the frames to be original works that we shot and edited.

Here are some more shots from other angles:

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Jason’s mom was kind enough to offer her superb painting skills a couple weeks after we moved in. She painted our entire great room (living and kitchen/dining)! The paint color on the accent wall is called “Carbonized,” by Sherwin Williams, which is a dark matte grey (basically black). The light grey/hardly off-white paint color on the other walls is called “Basalt Powder,” by Sherwin Williams.

Anyways, now that Christmas is quickly approaching, we’ve decorated a little bit. We are both excited for future projects, and I’m looking forward to sharing our progress as we take our new home from builder grade to beautiful!

Stores where we purchased many of our accents:

West Elm (Urban sofa with chaise)

World Market (chandelier, candle sticks, wall sconces, geometric terrarium, faux cowhide pillow)

Target (wood vase, mirror, fur mini-stockings, gold frames)

T.J. Maxx & HomeGoods (club chair, end tables, burlap stockings, throw blanket, decorative tray)

Bed, Bath and Beyond (natural fiber blinds, curtains) (coffee table, poufs) (area rug)