Brick Fireplace Makeover

From dark and dreary to bright and cozy.

I guess back in 1972 this dark brick fireplace was pretty cool. Today, not so much. That dreary brick just sucked the light right out of our living room. So, after much research on Pinterest and many YouTube DIY videos, we decided to go for the gusto and paint it white.

A gallon of Behr white semi-gloss paint (we used the kind with built-in primer), a lot of elbow grease and, presto, our fireplace looks like a million bucks! By the way, we did use a wire brush to clean any dust off the bricks, but other than that, we just painted. One more tip: our brick is extremely rough and jagged and it took special effort to get full coverage. A paint brush worked fine for the grout lines, but the only thing that worked for the brick was a sponge…pound, squish, pound…that’s the technique…seriously.

Here are the before and after photos. By the way, we put up the mantel a couple of years ago at a cost of about $250; the paint job came to about $100 for paint and supplies–that’s what I call sticking to my shoestring budget.





style=”text-align: left;”>I hired a contractor to build in a bookcase to the right of the fireplace and a bookcase that wraps around under the corner window.



Th-th-th-that’s all for now, folks. Please drop in again, soon, for more shoestring reno ideas.


What do Home Depot and Murphy’s Law have in Common?

What do Home Depot and Murphy’s Law have in Common? Well, in our life, everything!

It all started when we moved into this 1972 bungalow. The house definitely has “good bones,” to use  designer lingo, but it also has some quirky (nice word for “ugly”) features, too. But, Peter and I are motivated and fairly handy, so we took on the challenge of turning this old house into a charming and comfortable home.

The two-hour bookcase project that took eight days.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “I spent a week there one afternoon.” That pretty much describes our bookcase-building experience. Before I begin my story, though, let me show you a photo. Notice the space to the right of the fireplace? That’s now the home of our new hand-made bookcase. but, I’m getting ahead of myself…here’s the before photo.

Frame_13 Tripp-Before (6)Of course, before we could tackle any DIY projects, we had to put first things, first. Unpack. Get organized. In the meantime, we put our old tall and skinny IKEA bookcase next to the fireplace. It was definitely too small. Puny, in fact.

Frame_Mantel before staining (3)

After considering the long the list of DIY projects posted on our refrigerator door, we thought we’d take a shortcut and build the bookcase out of laminated MDF board. Our rationale was that it would be quick and easy, with no painting required. It would match the white wood trim in the living room. And, we would save time and money! (OMG, what were we thinking?)

Trip Number One to Home Depot.

Instead of waiting around for the. Home Depot Guy to cut our 1″x12″x12′ MDF boards into the exact sizes we needed for the bookcase, we decided we would just do it ourselves. After all, I do own a 10″ compound miter saw. That said, meet Mr. Murphy. Problem #1: a 10″ compound miter saw cannot cut all the way across a 12″ board. Problem #2: the laminated melamine coating on the MDF cracks and chips like crazy if you don’t have the right blade…which we didn’t. And it did!

Trip Number Two to Home Depot.

Back to Home Depot to buy more MDF. “Please Home Depot Guy, can you cut these boards for us? Sure, we would be glad to wait.”

And so, we begin the second iteration of our two-hour DIY bookcase. Nice new MDF boards all cut to the right length. Awesome! All we have to do is screw them together, right? Uh, no! We screw the first shelf to the sideboard–yes, we did pre-drill the holes–but as soon as the screw breaks the surface of the MDF, crack, chip, crack. Stupid MDF board! We carry on, hoping that we will find a way to disguise the chips around each screw. When we finally get it finished and into place, we HATE IT! It’s too white. It’s too deep. It’s too chipped!


“Let’s live with it overnight,” says Peter, with his usual wisdom. And, we do.

Day Two-8 a.m.: Peter and I head straight to the living room to see if somehow, overnight, the Big Ugly has somehow become beautiful. It hasn’t. Surprise!

Trip Number Three to Home Depot.

Wood. It’s the only way to go. We need to build this bookcase out of wood. We should have done it right, in the first place.

Back to Home Depot. “Hi, Home Depot Guy. Can you please cut this nice wood for us. We would be happy to wait.”

Ah, the wonderful smell of wood. I was itching to get my hands on it. But, it’s Sunday and my mom always has Sunday dinner with us. So, my beautiful wood will have to wait until tomorrow.

Day Three: stain one side of the boards. Let them dry. Stain the other side.

Day Four: Clear coat one side of the boards. Let them dry for 24 hours.

Day Five. Clear coat the other side of the boards.

Day Six. Do a second clear coat on one side of the boards.

Day Seven: Apply a second clear coat. Let them dry for 24 hours.

Day Eight: Assemble the bookcase. No chipping. No cracking. No crying. Stand back and admire our creation. So beautiful..I guess. Really, after what we’ve been through, cardboard boxes would look good!

LR-1-Frame_DSCF1079I have more books that will go on the bottom shelf–as soon as I get around to unpacking them. As Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well.”  As I say, “I’ve built my last bookcase!”

Out of Africa

Hi, this is me, Globug.

Hi, this is me, Globug.

Many years ago–41, to be exact, I was a “Brown Owl.” My daughter, Angie, was just seven years old and she was a Brownie. One of my other little Brownies, Tracey, was the daughter of a diplomatic courier. Her mom, Gail, volunteered to be my “Tawny Owl” and we quickly became good friends. She told me fascinating stories about her life and travels in places like Germany and Africa.

One day she showed me some of the beautiful artifacts she had collected from around the world. One of them was a beautiful chess set, hand-carved in Africa, which she had purchased for the ridiculously low price of one Canadian dollar (for a whole set!). I was very taken by the beauty and artistry of these unique chess pieces and, unbeknownst to me, Gail had another set tucked away, which she generously handed over to me as a gift.

I was very excited with my treasure, not because I was a chess player, but because I knew it would be a wonderful gift for my dad. Dad loved the chess set as much as I did, but my mom, in her usual fashion, wrapped it up a tucked it away so “nothing would happen to it.” And there it stayed, deep in the back of a drawer, until my father passed away in 1995. About a year later, I asked my mother if I could take it back. Today, my hand-carved African chess set lives in bamboo bowl on an antique table in my living room, right out in plain site, where it can be seen, touched, admired and enjoyed!


During my big photography kick in the mid-nineties, I snapped this shot of the chess set and framed it. Here it is, as it hangs in my living room, today.

Chessmen photo Frame_IMG_3654

Just for the sake of interest, the two photos below it are little home-made masterpieces, too. The one on the left is a close-up of a gorgeous iron gate that I took in Quebec City. The one on the right is a melted crayon project that I got to make in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class on Grandparents’ Day (17 years ago). I think her teacher gave me an A+ on it, so I framed it.

Photos near shelves Frame_IMG_3645

I guess it’s safe to say that I’m sentimental. And, I LOVE things that are hand-made and/or have stories behind them. There’s lots more to come, so please come back for my next story, which will be about my fight with a shark while deep sea diving off the coast of Africa. Hah! Just kidding…my next post will be about the make-over I’m doing in my bathroom. Doesn’t get any more exciting than that around here, these days!! 🙂

The mantle…it’s crooked, but it’s up!

It’s been like a beehive at our house, lately, as we try to settle in and lead normal lives. Hah, like that’s actually happening!  But, we are making progress, even if it is a a snail’s pace.

The fireplace from HELL

This week’s project was to install a mantel on our 42-year-old-and-very-boring-brick-wall-fireplace. Weren’t we surprised to discover that the bricklayer must have forgotten his level at home the day he built our fireplace. The bricks are  very noticeably slanted to the right. Yikes! We didn’t see it until we tried to level the new mantel. When we would get the mantel straight with the bricks, it would be so slanted that we could imagine our candle sticks sliding right off and crashing to the floor. But, when we leveled the mantel to a perfect 180, the whole fireplace looked tilted. Quick, give me a couple of Aspirins–and some for Peter, too! But, we stay calm and carried on.

Here is the fireplace before the mantel. We find it hard to understand why, in 42 years, one of the previous owners didn’t install a mantel. Oh, well, whatever.

Here is the mantel, as we saw it when we first came to see the house. I could see it had potential…but I didn’t see how crooked the bricks had been laid! It looks straight to the eye, right? (This is before we moved in…not our furniture).

Frame_13_tripp_crescent_MLS_HID746807_ROOMlivingroom1This next photo shows the mantel installed, but not stained. This is when we could really see how that drunken bricklayer worked. Notice the mortar line under the mantel…see how it gets lower, and lower and lower as it moves to the right? It would be even more noticeable if we had installed the mantel at a perfect 180.

Mantel before staining (3)

We had only one choice: split the difference. So, we installed the mantel a little crooked, in the hope that we would minimize the discrepancy. It sort of worked. Here it is..I still can’t decide what to put on it (decor is an evolutionary process in this house). I expect one day I will come across the perfect picture or vintage something-or-other that will be the icing on my crooked cake.

mantel after Frame_IMG_3634

And one more, just for fun…

mantel with flower pic Frame_IMG_3635

Okay, so it’s a beginning. I guarantee you that, over the next few months, the mantel decorations will change as often as a teenage girl getting ready for a big date.

Stick around, if you have time…I’m working on a post that will showcase all the cheap…err…inexpensive and ever so creative stuff I’ve made for our home.

Thanks, for reading, and happy decorating!