House Tour

Recently my neighbor John and his brother Louie, who own, Apex Carpentry, finished building this gorgeous 8,000 square foot oceanfront home and were kind enough to let us take a little tour of this coastal beauty.


Before construction began the crew had to demolish the existing home on the property, which I never saw, but am told was a pristine shrine to the 1970’s—a vision in harvest gold.

It looked like a classic older home on the outside.


But inside it included some unique design features, like this tie dye-esque wall treatment and what we might call ‘decade-specific’ tile.


Believe it or not, John says it was actually more cost-effective to rip down the old house and replace it than it would have been to renovate it.

Once the disco era was officially ushered out with bulldozers and dump trucks, the Apex crew started building the new home in its place. The homeowners’ goal was to capture the beautiful views of the Boston skyline and local lighthouses.

And they are some views to behold.


The new exterior of the home is described by the architect (Walter Jacob Architects) as a traditional shingle-style home with modern detailing. The inside of the home also has a traditional look, but with clean lines and some modern elements, like this amazing floating staircase.


The Apex team had to haul in more than a thousand of pounds of steel to anchor the stair treads into the wall and to construct the treads themselves.


No easy task, but if you ask me, the result was definitely worth it.

Apex carpenters excel at detail work, the finish carpentry. Look at this gorgeous ceiling. I would love a ceiling like this. I would also love a ceiling that is more than 7.5 feet tall, but that’s a story for a different day…


Here’s the kitchen.


The homeowner loves to cook, so she wanted countertops that were not only beautiful, but functional. She opted for Quartzite, which is a natural-stone product created from sandstone. Quartzite is actually said to be harder than Quartz and it’s also spill, stain and heat-resistant, a good combo for a kitchen where people actually want to cook (unlike my own).

And of course the tour wouldn’t be complete without showing you my ultimate dream tub, which unfortunately may be bigger than my current master bathroom. This looks like stone in the photo, but it’s actually acrylic, which I’m imagining the Apex crew members were grateful for as they muscled it up the stairs.


In the photo below you can see one of the home’s fireplaces, which was crafted out of walnut. The artwork on the back is actually a painting created by a Salem, Mass. artist named Suzanne Vincent. Designer Kristina Crestin introduced the homeowners to her work.  Can you believe this is a painting and not a photo? My husband Paul, a photographer, was even fooled when he saw it. Amazing.

fireplace backoffireplace

While most of the features in the house are new and improved, the Apex team didn’t scrap everything from the old home. This door is being stripped down to its original mahogany finish and will find new life in the entrance to the wine cellar.


Hopefully we can get a look at it when it’s done.

So, that concludes the tour for now, but you can check out some more of Apex’s beautiful work on their Facebook page. Apex is also in the process of updating its webpage,, but it should be up and running soon.


My project list

I sat down yesterday to make a list of the projects I want to accomplish this spring. It’s long, and perhaps a little too ambitious…but here goes.

Update the doors

The doors in our house are old with a capital O. I already “handled” the knob situation. (Sorry for the pun, it’s Friday, I’m a little punchy.) But I also want to do a more extensive update using molding and paint. I love the look of black doors, but I’m tending toward something a little lighter. Maybe this color on the doors and windows below, called Urbane Bronze from Sherwin Williams.

My daughter’s room

My 7-year-old daughter’s room was in need of some organization. But now I’m focusing on updating her hand-me-down desk.


And upholstering this chair, which as you can see, has potential, but a looong way to go to realize it.


I also want to update her artwork. She was in a doctor phase for a while, so we’ve got all things medical on her walls right now.

I was a little hesitant to hang this art, because, well, it’s creepy. But she loved it. I tried to find pictures that were somewhat girly…at least the brain is pink. And the microscopic germ next to brain guy kind of reminded me of a balloon…

brainguy eyechart

Now she’s into puppies. I can’t say I’ll be too sad to see these guys go.


She’s still debating whether her new room should be a doctor/puppy room or just a puppy room. Guess what I’m voting for…

My son’s room

My 9-year-old son’s room has been on the list for a while. He wants a new color palette, and some new art. He also needs a new comforter, headboard and a furniture update. Okay, so apparently his room needs a complete overhaul.

I’m looking to make an upholstered headboard and give his current desk and dresser a makeover. Here they are now. As you can see they need a lot of refreshing.

desk dresser

I’ll also need to paint and add some artwork.

The Living Room

Number one on the list for this room is a fireplace makeover. Here’s the current fireplace.


I also need to address the aging ceiling and this  ugly mirror that I have painted too many times to count.

ceiling mirror

I also need to paint the room and add some new pillows–and hopefully get the couch finished.

So that’s the list for now. We’ve also got a kitchen makeover planned, but that’s a little ways down the road. Have a great weekend and stay tuned for updates…

Reining in the Chaos

I work as a freelance writer, so my work schedule varies. Some days it’s slow. Other days I have five deadlines. You can usually tell which by the state of my house.

But, in honor of the new year, I have made it my mission to get the house organized and keep it that way. My goal is to establish a place for everything so my family can assist in keeping things tidy.

Tidiness is apparently not their natural state of being.  I recently moved the trash can in the kids’ bathroom so I could wash it out. Everyone continued to throw trash on the floor where it used to be. That should paint a pretty clear picture of what I’m up against.

I recently tackled my daughter’s shoe situation, by adding under-bed storage. And the other day the organization train made its second stop- Sportsville.

We’ve got sports gear coming out our ears. Lacrosse sticks, baseball mitts, rollerblades, helmets. You name it, we had it all… piled on my basement floor.

When we did our recent family room makeover we took out the old bulky TV, so we no longer needed the armoire that housed it. I decided this cabinet would make the perfect spot to keep all the gear.

To start, I gave the armoire a quick coat of black paint and swapped the wooden knobs for antique brass. (I love the combination of black with the aged brass.)


Then I started working on the inside. I got some inexpensive Command hooks and stuck them along the inside to create a place to hang all of those baseball mitts.


I added a cloth baskets for balls, and other things like elbow pads, lacrosse gloves and jump ropes.


Rollerblades got a spot on the shelf along with my son’s bulky lacrosse bag and lacrosse sticks. Helmets got hooks on the inside of the door.


Assorted items of clothing, such as soccer shirts, and pinnies go in the bottom drawer.


Finished, it looks like this.


Yesterday my new system had its first test. The kids were finally able to get outside to rollerblade and, in what I consider a small victory, the rollerblades actually made it back into the cabinet at the end of the day. One helmet made it back onto the hook. The other was dumped on the floor. But the good news is that it was the floor right in front of the cabinet… Baby steps.

A $9.68 Table Update

I took some time this weekend to finally address the 1980’s orangey, pine, hand-me-down table that has been residing in my living room. It’s actually a great size for the room and it functions fine, but the look…


I think I’m being kind when I describe it as “uninspired.”

I was looking to do something a little different with the top of the table, when I came across this vintage surfboard.

Gorgeous, right? So I decided to see if I could replicate the look with my ever-growing wood stain collection in the basement.


First, I had to sand the top down.


Then I started measuring and taping off the stripes.


Some of the stripes had multiple layers of stain, so I started with a base layer of Minwax Natural. From there I created some wide stripes in Early American and finished up with some smaller stripes in an Ebony stain.


After the stain was on, I decided it was a little too high contrast. Yikes.


So I went over the top with another stain, a light gray called Rustoleum Sunbleached, to take the color down a few notches.

I finished it off with a semi-gloss polyurethane. I normally go for satin finish on furniture, but I thought this top should have a little more gloss like the surfboard that inspired it.


Once I finished the top, I focused my attention on the bottom of the table, covering the old stain with a fresh coat of white paint.


Then I replaced the wooden knobs with some $4-ish Martha Stewart cup pulls from Home Depot. And now for  a whopping $9.68, we have a brand new table for our living room.


Here’s the before and after.


So how about you guys, have you been working on any projects lately?

How Well Do Spray Painted Door Handles and Hinges Really Hold Up Over Time?

Two years ago I busted out a can of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint and painted every single mismatched, ugly, bright gold door knob and hinge in our house. Now that enough time has passed to really test them out, I can give you the lowdown on how they’ve held up if you’re considering a similar project.

My verdict: Thumbs up.

The handles have fared pretty well and shockingly, the news is absolutely stellar for the hinges.

First the hinges. Truth be told, I thought the hinges would be an abject failure. With all those moving parts I thought they’d be toast within a few months. But look at this….


Not a chip on them, any of them, aside from those little scrape marks from my installation (which I should have touched up, but didn’t).

Hinges are definitely a pain to paint. First you have to take the door off to remove the hardware. If you hinges are like ours they probably have five layers of paint on them that you’ll also need to remove. (I boiled ours in water and then scrubbed them with a toothbrush to get the paint off.) And then you’ll need to paint them and put them back on. It takes time.

But if you’re looking to save money, the results here show it’s definitely worth the elbow grease.

As for the knobs. The story is mixed.


Some handles have held up perfectly, some have small dings, others have major chips. It depended on how much use they got and also on the preparation process. Some of the knobs I sanded before spraying, others I just sprayed. I think the ones that I prepped more carefully held up better. No surprise there.

Laziness definitely does not reap rewards.

The bottom line: Spray painting door handles works well, but be prepared for a little maintenance.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Overall, most of the knobs have held up pretty well. When they do chip they’re easy to touch up. Just spray a little paint into a cup and dab it on with a Q-tip.

Every couple years you might need to give a few knobs a total refresh. I’m going to be respraying a few this weekend. (By the way, they don’t sell the paint I used originally anymore, but I switched to this brand.)

Respraying the knobs doesn’t take much time, and when you compare the cost to the price of replacing all your knobs, there’s no contest.

So, if you’re considering updating your hardware using paint the take-home message is prep well, but by all means, spray away!

Couch progress…

The couch upholstery project is progressing. The back and sides are done and I just need to finish the cushions.


The “fabric” is actually a drop cloth I picked up at Home Depot. I was a little hesitant to use a drop cloth, but when it came down to it, the price was right and so was the color after I bleached it for a few hours following Miss Mustard Seed’s directions.

I started by taking a good look at how the couch was initially put together. Then I removed the old fabric and got to work.

I’ll just say this up front, I had no idea what I was doing and experienced a moment of intense stomach-churning panic once I saw the naked couch.


But once I started attaching the fabric it was actually a pretty easy process. I used an electric staple gun secure the fabric to the back of the couch, stapling it behind the top edge. Then I worked on the arms and sides. The hardest parts were the “elephant ears,” as I like to call them…


and the little swirl detail on the arms.


Being new to upholstering I was  kind of surprised to find that these “swirls” were just pieces of cardboard cut to shape, covered with fabric and nailed onto the couch. I thought it would be something a little more substantial, like wood. But the fact that it was cardboard made it easy to work with. I just took off the old fabric and glued on the new fabric with a hot glue gun.


Then I removed the old fabric from the piping and stitched on the new fabric by hand and glued it behind the cardboard. Then I used the glue gun to secure the swirls back onto the couch.


It seemed daunting, but actually turned out to be pretty easy. I also used the glue gun to secure little loose spots where the staple gun couldn’t reach.

So now, the only thing standing between me and a finished couch is those cushions. I’m not exactly a seamstress so I’m debating bringing them to a local tailor to get them done. I might swing by today and get an estimate on price before I make my decision.

I’m also debating adding a nail-head trim detail. I ordered this trim online from Walmart and had it shipped to the store.


The “tacks” come in one long strip, which  I’ve heard makes it easier to tack on in a straight line. We’ll see. If I don’t use it on the couch, I’ll probably use it on the upholstered headboard I have planned for my son’s room.

I’ll keep you posted…

Beautiful artwork, great cause

Check out this beautiful painting.


It was painted by my friend Kate’s high school friend, Kendra Kurth Clinton. Kendra was a talented artist who died in 2012 leaving behind her husband and newborn son, Ewan. (You can read more about Kendra’s story here.)

After she died, Kate not only wanted to help keep Kendra’s memory alive but she also wanted to do something for Ewan. So she and another friend recently created the Ewan Clinton Trust. The trust has collected some of Kendra’s best artwork and is now selling high-quality prints to raise money for Ewan.

The money raised by the trust will be used to:

  • Establish a 529 College Fund for Ewan
  • Help pay for his childcare
  • Provide him with a secure trust when he turns 25

So, you can not only buy some beautiful prints, but get a dose of that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping out a good cause–this little guy.


Look at that face!  I saw him at a party recently and he’s just as cute in person.

Four prints are available for sale right now, you can check them out here. And new ones will be coming in the future, so be sure to keep checking the website for updates. Kate has one original painting over her fireplace that I’m hoping finds its way into the next round.

Prints start at $25, which is a huge bargain, especially when you consider you’re not only investing in something beautiful for your home, but in someone’s future.