Tag Archives: Before and After

Before and after pictures to brighten your day

Anyone in the mood for a little transformation?

In the months I neglected to blog this summer and in the recent days of historic news (i.e., Cubs, election), I realized I never shared the before-and-after pictures of my pantry-back entryway-laundry room that my Beloved and I made over this summer. Oh, I alluded to its transformation here in May, and I wrote a tribute to the threshold here (worth reading, I promise, especially if you’re trying to escape all things political) but I never finished the job. How unsatisfying. Let’s remedy that, shall we?

The room of 128 square feet needed attention in the biggest way. We’ve lived here nine years, and all I ever did was sweep the floor. So let’s begin there: The floor.


Flooring: Before

Yuck. Discolored linoleum. It looked like what it was: Cheap and ugly.

My Beloved and I installed premium interlocking vinyl slats that look like barn boards but wear like iron. It was a trick measuring and cutting (for my Beloved — I was just labor, not brains), but it actually installed pretty easily. Here’s the after shot:


Flooring: After

Let’s turn to the pantry.

pantry before

Pantry: Before

I’ve tried the organize the pantry in the past, but none of my bottles and boxes ever stayed organized. So I invested in a few baskets at the Container Store with labels, and I’m proud to say I’m having a lot more success keeping things presentable.


Pantry: After

It’s not perfect on any given day, but it’s immeasurably better.

Now twirl around and behold my laundry area:


Laundry: Before

How depressing, huh? The room is just off the kitchen, so it’s very handy, but it was just plain ugly. Plain and ugly.

The room makeover began with a paint job, from a yellowish gray to a bit brighter gray. It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it helped. Then, in stark relief, my Beloved installed new white cupboards to replace the shelving.

In a tiny bit of irony, we scored a deal on these cupboards from the former owner of the house, with whom we still socialize and now consider a friend. They should have been installed all along. They began with a dark cherry finish, but I repainted them with in a shiny white.


Laundry: After

Now I can hide all my laundry detergent and dog food. My Beloved also built three little shelves to connect the cupboards, and I painted them to match the cupboards and decorated them with laundry-room appropriate tchotchkes like a button jar and an old-fashioned iron.

Turn again and you’ll see the entryway from the garage.


Entryway: Before

Bor. Ing. The row of coat hooks was missing one, and check out that patched spot where the door knob once was jammed. This area was transformed with paint.


Entryway: After

Here’s a quick peek inside the closet (to the left of the coat hooks), which I painted yellow (leftover from my office makeover a few years ago) and made more efficient with a broom and umbrella organizer.


Closet: After

The footlocker was useful and effectively kept a lot of pairs of tennis shoes corralled. But it was beat up and too dark. Here’s another look at it before I painted it:


Footlocker: Before

Most of the locker was painted with a slightly darker gray than the walls. The lid and handles were painted bright blue, the leftovers from some other project. Then I  added a few aging details with some brown paint and stenciled a blue design on the front. As I’ve said before, paint fixes a lot of sins.


Footlocker: After

But the best part of this entire room makeover is that shelving unit above the footlocker. My father, a woodworking wizard, created this from only a set of measurements. He left it unfinished for me to paint to coordinate with the footlocker (that’s the same blue in the shelve backing). I decorated the top with a few items inspired by Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame, and I just love it.


Shelves & coat hooks: After

My Beloved did all the work ourselves, and the entire project took about two months (the cupboards alone required four coats of paint and three coats of polyurethane — that’s a lot of waiting for things to dry!). But the results are worth it, even if we can only enjoy it a few more weeks or months until we sell this place. Every time I walk in the back door, I appreciate the view.


How I painted my kitchen table (with before and afters!)

While everyone else is transforming themselves from “everyday” to “Halloween scary,” I’m sharing a transformation of my own: My kitchen table.

Let’s begin with the “Before Before” shot:

Kitchen Table: Ancient History

Kitchen Table: Ancient History

Here’s my kitchen in 2012 after we finished painting the walls. The 42-inch round table had served us well, especially considering it cost $6.

That’s no typo.

My Beloved picked it up at a second-hand shop in 2007 when he was living in a three-bedroom condo in Minnesota. The table even came with four matching chairs. Marked price was $100, but he had a $100 coupon so all he paid was the sales tax.

We moved it to Illinois with us and ate literally thousands of meals at it over the past eight years. Note the use of the tablecloth in the image above: The wooden table-top was in the condition you might expect for $6. Then at some point, one of the chairs broke in such an irreversible way, even my handy Beloved couldn’t repair it. We decided we had extracted our $6 in value from the set and pondered an upgrade.

We began with the chairs. I decided I wanted something a bit more comfortable (read: padded), and we found a deal on a set of taupe fabric-covered chairs with brass-nail head accents. Unfortunately, the brownishness of the chairs didn’t coordinate with the grayness of the rug, so I decided to create a table to bring things together. My Beloved found a beautiful table with good bones on Craigslist for $200. So here’s the real Before shot:

Table Before

Kitchen Table: Before (accented by small dog who seems to sneak into every shot)

It was a nice table (with an extra six inches of diameter) but very dark brown.

I’m not into re-staining furniture, but I love painting it (click here for the super cool creation of which I’m most proud).

I used a combination of colors in Pale Smoke, Silver Threads, Milk Paint, Stony Fields and Pine Whisper from Pittsburgh Paints to achieve this result:

Kitchen Table: After

Kitchen Table: After

A transformation from “everyday” to “one-of-a-kind”! Given how often we use this table, we invested in a piece of quarter-inch glass to protect the tabletop (so I could put away the tablecloths forever!).

Here’s a closer look at the table legs:

Legs: Closeup

Legs: Closeup

I used Soft Gold to soften the visual edges by painting it on and wiping it off so it only filled the crevices. I love the effect.

Table edge: Closeup

Table edge: Closeup

To be honest, this project isn’t completely finished (I just couldn’t wait to share it here). I plan to put some sort of swirly design on the table top in the form of a sticker-type decal (protected by the glass, of course). When I accomplish that task, I’ll share that, too!

Hung up on hangers

It’s the little things.

In conversation with a professional organizer I know, she mentioned she uses Costco Non-Slip Hangers whenever she organizes a closet. She argued with conviction that a closet wasn’t organized until all the hangers are the same. Well, I thought, a professional organizer ought to know good hangers when she sees them, right? So I invested in a box, and changed out some of the old hangers in my closet.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Costco’s Non-Slip Hangers are amazeballs! They’re strong, thin and covered in a black felt-like substance that truly is non-slip. And they’re only $9.99 for a box of 35! After I used up the first box, I went back to Costco and got three more boxes, which is still less than I’d pay for a nice pair of pants.

You’ve got to see these for yourself.

Closet Before 2

Clothes closet before.

Clothes Closet After

Clothes Closet After

I am now addicted to my closet. Every time I’m upstairs for any reason, I walk into my closet, flip on the light and bask in the order of it.


(By the way, I recycled my old wire hangers at the dry cleaners. Check with your local cleaner to see if they accept hangers — giving those hangers a new life is better than filling a landfill!)

Form follows function

“Ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts.”

~ Serge Gainsbourg

As with all things, the steps along side our house have been in a state of decline for a while. I maintain the previous homeowner did a fantastic job on our home’s landscaping, but nothing lasts forever, and so it is with the railroad timber steps.

Here’s the backstory: Our house is the only house on the block with a walk-out basement. In order to have such an amenity, the elevation of the yard in the front of the house is one story higher than the yard in back. This means, one’s side yards are steep hills. Our side yards used to look like this:

For many years, these steps were as functional as they were attractive, but as you can see, the steps began disintegrating in the past year or two.

My Beloved recoiled at the quotes he received for having the steps replaced by pros so he decided to do it himself. Or, at least, he decided to put himself in charge.

With the help of a strong-backed young relative and a couple of his friends, our side yards have been transformed over the past couple of weeks. [To be perfectly clear, I am neither the gardener nor the landscaper nor the carpenter nor the manual labor when it comes to all things yard. I am only the lawnmower, and I refuse to whack weeds so I’ve been replaced by an eager-to-earn neighbor boy who also contributed to the steps project by planting seedlings and soon, painting.]

Here’s how our side yards look now:

The steps on the north side will be stained but you can see now exactly which steps were replaced. Infinitely better structure! As you can see, terraces have replaced the steps on the south side. My Beloved intends to install walking steps as some point.

My back hurts just looking at it, but it wouldn’t be so satisfying to admire if it wasn’t because of hard work.

“Life is too complicated not to be orderly.”

~ Martha Stewart

Does this work of art make my front door look like a lush?

Oh, my god, has it been three years already?!

Yes, it’s been three years since we painted the dining room (and the living room and the kitchen).


Time flies when you’re … um … not painting every wall on the main floor of your house.

In any case, when I showed off the before-and-after pictures of the dining room following that transformation, I left out the north wall, which has looked pretty much like this for three years:

entry way before

A little naked. It’s an expanse deserving of something dramatic, so my Beloved and I have looked for that Something Dramatic for a while now (I still can’t believe it’s been three years of dithering–I could have had a Mona Lisa commissioned, painted and paid for in that time). For a while, we were looking for something gnarly (as in literally gnarled) or possibly a unique piece of driftwood.

No dice.

This week, my Beloved painted the front door. What possessed him to do this, I don’t know, but I can attest it was not me who put it on his Honey Do list. It used to be a sort of tired pine green. Now it’s a lovely shade of Pinot Noir.

He apparently also got tired of waiting for the perfect Something Dramatic to show up unbidden at our front door so he went trolling on the internet to find something to adorn the spot above the church bench. He found Something Dramatic, and it arrived at our front door today:

entry way after

I think it’s cool. If you stare at it long enough, it feels like you’re traveling through the galaxy in hyperdrive.

Hey, wine has an other worldly lure. Maybe we should have gone with Pinot Noir three years ago.

Close-up view from the edge of the universe.

Close-up view from the edge of the universe.

For before-and-after addicts only

I’m addicted to before-and-after transformations. Lately, my guilty pleasure is “Chopped,” the Food Network TV show that features chefs turning strange baskets of ingredients into gourmet meals. Deep-fried shrimp heads as a garnish on a fresh mango-and-beet-greens salad? Bring it on! Let’s see how it’s done.

On the theory that other people find before-and-after photos interesting, I’m sharing a few today.

For the past two months, my Beloved and I have been powering through closets (as opposed to shrimp heads). I’ve been to Goodwill at least three times, dropping off all manner of unworn clothes and boom boxes (really? we had three stereos we weren’t using? what has this digital device universe come to?).

Most of those closet transformations haven’t warranted a picture but I sleep better at night knowing the basement furnace room now has labeled plastic bins for all the remotes and USB cords we’ve collected over the years and the bedroom closet in my Adored stepson’s room now has enough room for a mattress (to be retrieved by the Adored stepson again at some future date).

The drive to streamline began with the kitchen pantry, which my mother helped me tackle during a visit in April:

pantry before

Pantry: Before

Pantry: After

Pantry: After

Other pain points in the kitchen included the junk drawer. Everyone has a junk drawer, right? Filled with weird gadgets, bits of garbage and loose screws? Well, my junk drawer had enough batteries to power the lighting on the Eiffel Tower for a week and enough hooks to hang King Henry’s harem. So I found boxes for them and labeled them (love my label maker!):

Junk drawer: After

Junk drawer: After

It helped that I threw away an ocean of rubber bands, used twist ties and all those loose screws (why did we keep old screws?). But organizing similar stuff in containers helps a lot. With that in mind, I tackled the cupboard above my kitchen desk, which was more like a junk cupboard than a cookbook case:

Kitchen desk cupboard: After

Kitchen desk cupboard: After

Meanwhile, my Beloved tackled the water filtration system under the kitchen sink. Thanks to a slow leak that softened the particle board base, the water tank crushed it:

Under-the-kitchen-sink: Before

Under-the-kitchen-sink: Before

Reminds me of quick sand. Yuck.

After diagnosing more than one weak, leaky point requiring several visits to Home Depot, my Beloved invested in a new system altogether. He also removed the cupboard floor and put in a new kick-plate. Ta, da! The new system filters delicious water:

Under-the-kitchen-sink: After

Under-the-kitchen-sink: After

As the weather improves (marginally), we are tackling outdoor projects. I would show you my awesome diagonally mowed lawn, but only a Californian on water restrictions can appreciate it. So instead, I’ll show you the deck steps I painted over Memorial Day weekend:

Deck steps: Before

Deck steps: Before

Deck steps: After

Deck steps: After

Paint cures a lot of ills. Meanwhile, my Beloved has taken on a project for which the only power I’m providing is cheerleading. He’s replacing the disintegrating railroad tie steps on the side of the house:

steps before

Landscape steps: Before

Unfortunately, I don’t have an after for you yet (but I have a guaranteed post when my Beloved and his crack team of manual laborers complete the task).

Cheekbone collagen contrasts

Let’s discuss cheekbones, shall we?

Cheekbones are the gift God gives 40-year-olds.

Loni Anderson recalled in her memoir “My Life in High Heels” how her cheekbones became more prominent in her 40s.

Remember Loni Anderson’s cheekbones? The woman who played buxom blonde receptionist on “WKRP in Cincinnati” had great bone structure to begin with, but she was in her mid-30s when she was on TV; she wasn’t some 20-year-old flavor of eye candy.  (What? You don’t remember WKRP? It was a sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1982, OK? Anderson was married once to Burt Reynolds, too, for the record.)

Another example: Have you seen that commercial for Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty skin care line? (Yes, I’ve been watching too much HGTV this weekend.) Images of Crawford at 28 and 45 clearly show the contrast in her cheekbones.

A woman’s cheekbones emerge as she ages because she loses her baby fat. Well, actually it’s collagen. That stuff that makes a 20-year-old look fresh-faced and well-fed diminishes as we age, causing fine lines and loss of volume. On the wrinkle front, loss of collagen is a bad thing. But those of us who had fat faces in our teenage years, loss of collagen is a gift (at least until we get that hollow-cheeked look of an old crone).

Thirty years ago, I had my high school graduation photos taken, and I hated the result. I looked like a bloated 30-year-old housewife. I got my hair cut short on an impulse about a week before the shoot, and it was horrible; I endured a Bad Hair Year after that hatchet job. I hated the photos so much, I still hate my high school graduation photo and I therefore refuse to show you the whole thing.

But I will show you my cheekbones:

cheeks in 30 years - Page 002


You might consider this navel gazing, but I can assure you: I won’t be showing off pictures of my belly button.

I weigh about 15 pounds more now than I did in 1984 (that fact that I know that stat points to an obsession, but facts is facts), and I’m not wearing makeup today. I think you still see more cheekbones in today’s photo (more freckles, too, but at least those owl glasses are gone — another benefit of aging! The shape of my eyeballs has changed so much I no longer need glasses for close work). My cheekbones aren’t Loni Anderson cheekbones, but hey, they’re there.

I often lament this business of aging, but today I’m embracing the contrasts.

Fairest mirror on the wall

In the vein of my continued fascination with paint and its transformative effects, here’s a look at the dresser mirror I upcycled for my Adored stepson’s bedroom makeover:

dresser after

You can see the matching nightstand across the room in the mirror reflection (you can see a little picture-taking hand, too).

mirror close upThe first three coats of the mirror were in Shalestone (same shade at the dresser drawers). The final coat came from a bit of leftover Pumpernickel from the dining room downstairs (remember that makeover? here’s a peek). I brushed it on and then immediately wiped it off with a paper towel. I was attempting to replicate the look of the floor lamp in the room, and I’m not sure I completely succeeded, but I like it a lot better than it looked before. The finishing touch was three coats of polyurethane, so the mirror is a bit shinier than the dresser, which received only a wax coating.

Here’s how the dresser and mirror looked before (no, I take no ownership of the empty Fireball bottles on the dresser in the before shot):

Let there be light: Nightstand transformation

As happens with home improvement projects, one thing leads to another and a single project turns into a dozen projects.

Longtime readers will recall the project my Beloved and I undertook two years ago that began with a wish for new curtains and ended with six colors of paint on every wall on the main floor, new carpeting and a new sofa (read about the beginning of that project here, and for your complete satisfaction, check out the before-and-after shots here, here, here, here and here).

So it went with repainting my Adored stepson’s bedroom.

His grandmother painted his bedroom when we moved in 2007. The room formerly belonged to a 3-year-old, and baby blue was not what my then-13-year-old stepson wanted, so Grandma repainted it in Chicago Bears blue and orange. Very dark blue. And very bright orange.

Alas, I don’t have a before picture, so you’ll just have to imagine its perfect garishness.

Adored stepson now attends college, so we decided a new paint job was in order. Well, I decided. My Beloved adores the Chicago Bears, so he probably would have tolerated it, but me? Not so much.

Still, Adored stepson comes home often so I couldn’t convince anyone to repaint the room in a nice coral (orange-ish, see?). Oh, well. So we repainted one of the very dark blue walls a slightly lighter shade of dark blue (Pittsburgh Paints’ Calvary if you must know). And the other dark blue wall and the two orange walls were transformed with Silver Blueberry, a smoky medium blue.

And as along as we were repainting the walls, well, the headboard would really pop against the dark blue wall if it were white instead of black, right? And, gee, the nightstand was just too dark, too, right? And if we brightened up the nightstand, we better repaint the dresser, too, huh? And get new lamps?


Today, I share with you the results of the nightstand makeover. I’ve discovered I love painting furniture. When one starts with a beat-up, unloved piece of wood, the payoff is enormous. Very satisfying.

Here’s the nightstand before:

Nightstand: Before

Nightstand: Before

The top is formica, not wood, so that required a coat of primer first and a couple of coats of Milk Paint (regular readers may recall I painted the body of another piece of furniture in Milk Paint, and if you’re interested in seeing that incredible transformation, click here).

I settled on painting the body of the nightstand in Ashen, sort of a grayish cream. The drawers are a bit lighter with Shalestone. Going from dark to light makes for a dramatic transformation. Here’s how it looks after:

Nightstand: After

Nightstand: After

I hated those clunky drawer pulls, so I invested in sleek new ones in a wavy brushed chrome. It required filling the old holes, with which I had uneven success, but I’m still happy with the results:

And check out those legs: A little Milk Paint accents the embellishment that was already there:

Nightstand leg: Close-up

Nightstand leg: Close-up

As long as I was already painting the nightstand, I also painted the dresser (twice as wide) in the same colors. And the mirror that hung above it now needs a shot of paint, too. I’ll share the dresser transformation as soon as I finish the mirror (later this week, I hope). And tomorrow, I’ll share the after photos of the repainted bedroom. Stay tuned.

Pantry makeover beats reality TV

I don’t know what it is about my personality type that I adore before-and-after pictures so much, but I must not be the only one because room/closet/hair/body makeover photos can be found everywhere.

I found myself staying up late last night waiting for the after images of the conjoined twins on the latest episode of Oprah’s “Where Are They Now,” and I don’t know why I was so entranced. I’m not a conjoined twin. I don’t have a conjoined twin. I don’t even know a conjoined twin. Why did I feel compelled to see these strangers made famous by Oprah?

I don’t know. I guess I’m a sicko.

Apparently, TLC is making lots of money off this rubbernecking fascination. When I was checking on OWN’s TV offerings tonight, I happen to notice tonight’s TLC lineup includes “900 Pound Man: The Race Against Time,” “The Man with the 132-lb Scrotum” and “40 Year Old Child: A New Case.”


Instead of indulging in TLC’s car accidents, I worked on one of my own today: My pantry.

Pantry: Before

Pantry: Before

It was such a disaster area that when I resorted to “storing” my latest Costco staples on the floor, I knew I had to do something. What’s worse is that this pantry is in an often-used entryway to our home, so it was an eyesore to guests, too. How embarrassing (not as awkward as a 132-pound scrotum, I’m guessing, but still, it’s unseemly).

I removed absolutely everything, washed the floor (yes! the woman who doesn’t mop floors! swept and mopped! I know!), dumped most packages less than half full (I did keep a half-dozen well-wrapped Thin Mints, however) and replaced everything by theme: Cleaning supplies, paper products, breakfast foods, crackers, pasta, chips, sweets, coffee, dog food, etc.

Pantry: After

Pantry: After

I discovered I have enough aluminum foil, quart-size storage bags and paper plates to last a lifetime, but at least they’re all in one place now. I need to get a few organizing devices, but I made vast improvements without spending a cent (and no surgery either!). I’m left with a pile of paper bags, which I think I’ll just toss, and a bunch of kitchen linens for which I need to find a home.

Perhaps my before-and-after photos here will satisfy your rubbernecking inclinations and you can ignore TLC tonight in favor of something more redeeming. Like Oprah’s highly anticipated interview with Lindsay Lohan.