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A New Journey: Our New House!

It’s been quiet on the blog for several months now. Life got very busy, and craft and decor projects halted as we started what turned out to be a very emotional six-month search for a new house. We’re scheduled to close in less than three weeks, so it’s time to spill the beans and start sharing my ideas for making this house our home!

Why in the world did it take six months to find a house?

  1. We are picky. This will be our forever home and it had to meet a long list of criteria.
  2. We want a prime location. Our target town is highly desirable for its excellent school system, reasonable tax rate (relative to nearby towns), proximity to Boston, and numerous train stops for commuters. This means that prices are incredibly high and loads of people want to live there.
  3. There’s lack of inventory and steep competition. Even at the height of the spring real estate market there were very few homes listed for less than $1M. Yes, that’s right. Finding a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with a two-car garage and air conditioning for less than $1,000,000 was ridiculously hard.
  4. We had six offers declined. Even the house we ultimately got! Some of our offers were tens of thousands of dollars over asking and we didn’t even come close to winning. One house we looked at, but decided not to make an offer on, sold for $200,000 over asking. Insane.

garrison colonial exterior with red shutters
So this is our new, very humble abode. It could easily be an episode of “Property Brothers”. I can see the preview now…

Young family searching for their forever home can’t afford their dream house in their ideal neighborhood. After many months of searching and six failed offers, the family settles for a fixer-upper in a fantastic location. With champagne taste and a beer budget, can they complete their renovations on time without breaking the bank?

Where, oh where, are Drew and Jonathan Scott when I need them?

new house backyard_journeychic
When I first saw the listing, I immediately thought “This is the house!” based on the one lonely available picture. After all, it’s a little over 2,000 square feet, has 4 bedrooms all on the second floor, 2.5 bathrooms, a two-car garage, central air conditioning, a partially finished basement and even a screened-in porch. More importantly, it’s in a nice residential neighborhood in our target town, and walking distance to the train to Boston (very important for my husband’s commute), the elementary school, a nice playground, a dry cleaner and Dunkin’ Donuts. All of the essentials.

Yet when we went to the open house, we were incredibly unimpressed. The house was built in the mid 1960’s and the same family has owned it for the past 40 years. While they’ve maintained it quite well, nothing has been updated since an addition was put on in the mid 1990’s. As we walked around the small rooms with their low ceilings and lack of lighting, the choppy layout, and sloping backyard we could not imagine our little family living there. Coming from a home built in 2004 with huge windows, high ceilings, and a granite-filled kitchen, we felt like this little colonial was not a good fit.

Throughout the following week the house kept popping into my mind. There had to be a way to work for us. It was perfect on paper, but how could we make it perfect for us? I talked my husband into dragging the kids to another open house. We brought an architect with us, and the next day he and our agent went back with a builder. We made a low-ball offer and ended up in a bidding war with another couple. We lost.

I was devastated. Mentally decorating and getting attached to six houses, only to lose out in bidding war after bidding war, took a huge toll on me. It was all I could do to keep from losing it in front of the kids when I got the call that our offer hadn’t won.

Then a few days later, our agent called with interesting news: the other party had backed out, and if we wanted the house we could have it! So we jumped on it, and now we find ourselves leaving city life in Boston for a much quieter, family-friendly suburb and a house that needs work in every single room.

I hope you’ll join me as I chronicle our renovation and share my design ideas and projects along the way!



Glossy Black Dresser Makeover

Hello there, everyone! For those of you in the US, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday! Today I’m back to share the story of a plain, little dresser with big dreams, and a wannabe DIY-er who has much to learn about painting.

Many moons ago my grandmother (aka Nanny) was gifted a simple pine dresser to use for extra storage. After she moved into a nursing home the dresser was evicted from Nanny’s room to my parents’ basement, where it sat for a few years doing nothing but collecting dust. Then one day I got the itch to makeover some furniture. You know how that happens, right? So after giving it a good sanding, my dad sent the little dresser over to my house, where it sat neglected in my garage for months.

And months.

And perhaps a year.

plain dresser makeover tips

Then one day this summer I said “Enough is enough! I shall turn that little dresser into storage for all my craft supplies!”

I fully intended to get all fancy with that dresser. I bought some awesome brown snakeskin embossed wrapping paper and was gifted glorious brushed brass hardware from D. Lawless Hardware. The plan was to paint the dresser semi-gloss white using paint I already had on hand, then decoupage the top and drawer fronts using the same process that I used for my son’s bookcase.

So I primed the dresser with Zinsser’s and rolled on a coat of white paint. It looked TERRIBLE with the wrapping paper. Just awful. All wrong. So bad I didn’t even take a picture of it.

Okay, not a tragedy. I dragged both children to the local hardware store to pick up some black semi-gloss paint, which should have been my first choice all along. One problem: they only had black glossy paint in stock. Seriously? Oy….up until this point I had never worked with glossy paint before, and now I know why.

Back in my garage, and over several nights after the kids went to bed (10pm painting sessions and then getting up for work the next day at 5:30am after inhaling paint fumes), my little dresser started to take shape.

My biggest mistake was painting over the semi-gloss paint without priming it with tinted primer. I did sand it first before rolling on the black paint (I’m not that much of a novice), but glossy paint desperately needs primer, and black paint definitely needs tinted primer. It took me three coats to cover up all the white paint, and the paint didn’t stick at all to the spots that were not well-sanded. Glossy paint also shows every flaw in the wood and highlights poor painting skills. For this reason, I am not keen to use it again.

After the paint dried thoroughly I attempted to decoupage the drawer fronts with my pretty paper. FAIL. Here’s why:

  1. Mod Podge doesn’t take well to glossy paint. It would have been better to just leave the drawer fronts primed but not painted to give the glue something to grab onto.
  2. The drawer fronts’ edges are curved; it would be much easier to apply the paper to flat fronts (think the IKEA Rast dresser)
  3. Heavy-weight wrapping paper is best for decoupage, and my pretty paper was simply too thin.

After several attempts (and even more curse words) to apply the wrapping paper neatly, I cried uncle. The good news is that the glue was easy to clean off my glossy paint job; a damp sponge did the trick. In the end, I wound up with this, which is far fancier than it’s plain-jane previous life.

glossy black dresser makeover This hallway is tough to photograph – very narrow and very little light. You can see how glossy the paint is – just check out the baseboard’s reflection!

Although this dresser makeover isn’t nearly as artsy-craftsy as I intended it to be, it’s still a refreshing change from the piece’s former state. The drawer liner is wrapping paper from Target’s dollar section.

dresser drawer craft storage I’m declaring 2014 the year I finally learn how to use my Silhouette Cameo. Look at all those rolls of vinyl still in their wrappers!

It doesn’t fit all of my craft supplies, but definitely enough of them. Eventually I’ll get around to organizing the drawers. Maybe in 2014. :)

As for that brushed brass hardware (courtesy of D. Lawless), I’m in love with it. The new knobs definitely add a little hint of glam, right?

diy black dresser with brushed brass hardware

At the end of this dresser makeover I learned some tips about working with glossy paint that I hope will help you with your next furniture makeover:

tips for painting furniture with high-gloss paint What are your painting tips for ensuring a fabulously shiny finish? Have you ever  Mod-Podged a dresser?

A Knobby Nightstand Update

When we purchased our home back in 2008, we came from a tiny apartment where we used my husband’s old bachelor bedroom set. We were both dying to upgrade to a king-size bed and wanted to invest in furniture that we’d love for a long time. That was before I realized it wasn’t “in” to have a matching bedroom set.

I will tell you a secret: I like matching bedroom sets. Not all, of course, but I do like ours (Valencia by Pottery Barn). What can I say, it makes me feel like a grown-up!

Yet, after a few years of living with it I craved a little change – something temporary and easily removed. Upgrading the nightstand knobs from the simple original design (below) to something with a little more sparkle was an inexpensive update that was relatively simple to do – but not as simple as we thought.

pottery barn valencia nightstand

I hit up Pottery Barn again and ordered two of their Vintage Glass Knobs in the bronze finish for just $7 each with free shipping. Perhaps foolishly, I thought that ordering knobs from the same place I bought the furniture would mean that they’d be easy to install. WRONG. The screws were much too long, and the knob only had two or three threads to connect to the screw. The screws that the knobs came with have spots along them where you can cut them, but those spots didn’t correspond with the knob. So, Mr. JC used the original knob’s screws plus the washers that came with the new and old knobs. He said it was “just luck” that they fit. So that was disappointing, but I’m glad he made it work.

JourneyChic nightstand update It’s not a terribly noticeable change, but it sure does make me smile when I crawl into bed at night and reach into the drawer for my lip balm.

Please pardon the dust:

nightstand updated with glass knobs

Our nightstand lamps are from HomeGoods and were a fabulous find at the time. I think I paid $80 for both, and the shades are very high quality. As much as I like them, I’m interested in finding something a bit more colorful. Perhaps a gourd lamp?

Shop our bedroom’s look:


Where are your favorite places to purchase knobs? What solutions have you come up with to make knobs fit better? Are you a fan of mix-and-match or matchy-matchy bedroom sets?