Tag Archives: anthropologie

Katie’s House: Progress in the Laundry Room and a DIY Concrete Backsplash

I’m excited to show you the progress we’ve made so far in the laundry room! Covering the dingy yellow walls with bright white paint ranks as one of my most satisfying home projects, even if it was among the easiest. Please keep in mind that this is a ‘progress’ post, not an ‘after’ post. There is still a lot to be done in this room, but take a look at how far it has come.

From before:

Laundry Room light bulb with text

To now:

Laundry Room Progress with DIY Concrete Backsplash

Much lighter and brighter, right? More of a place that feels like you can clean some things, rather than a room that needs to be cleaned? Here’s the list I shared when I posted about my plans for this room, with the things we’ve already completed crossed out:

  • Tear up the yellow linoleum and replace it with VCT tiles in a deep blue
  • Replace the open shelving over the washing machine with a cupboard
  • Make a backsplash for behind the washing machine (I’m fine-tuning a way to DIY something similar to the encaustic tiles. Failure or not, I’ll let you know here).
  • Paint the walls white
  • Create some kind of closed storage for shoes, grocery bags, hats, mittens, etc.
  • Relocate table to somewhere else and move the bench under the windows

I decided to wait a little longer on the floors.  The shade of blue in my head doesn’t exist in the VCT tile world, so I’m going to do some more research and see if I can find something comparably priced (though it’s not likely, at $0.79 a square foot) that I like.  The other uncompleted item on the list – creating closed storage for shoes, bags and sundries – is actually underway (the top of it is visible in the picture below), but there’s quite a bit of work to do before it’s ready to share here.

Laundry Room Progress with DIY Concrete Backsplash

In the way of all lists (and all home projects), for every item crossed off there is at least one new one to take its place.  Here are a couple of things missing from that first list:

  • Hang hooks for jackets
  • Replace utility sink or aesthetically improve the existing one (the hunt continues)
  • New light fixture
  • Change light switch toggles to white ones (there is a mix of beige and white ones and, even though it’s a laundry room and I don’t overall mind it a little mismatched and funky, I’d rather have them be white to blend in with the walls).

It’s more fun to talk about what we did get done though!  I painted the walls Pure White by Valspar and gave the door into the garage a couple coats of Newburyport Blue paint by Benjamin Moore.  Cameron built the cupboard with materials we already had (Cameron hoards construction materials like I hoard beautiful, broken chairs) using this Ikea one as loose inspiration. The main element we liked was the slatted doors, which I – much like Mera with the bead board in her bathroom renovation – thought would give some visual interest to a wall of white.  The pretty hardware is from Anthropologie, and I love the size and color of the knobs.

cupboard hardware detail

Now for the backsplash:

There has been a spate of recent online tutorials about using a concrete product called Ardex Feather Finish to cover outdated kitchen counters (you can see some great examples over at Kara Paslay Designs, Little Green Notebook and Young House Love).  If we still lived in our old house, with its bilious Formica countertops, I would be all over it.  As it was, I hoped to use it to imitate the encaustic cement tiles I so adore:

I found the Ardex Feather Finish at our local hardware store.  It came in a ten pound bag and cost $18.99.  I have lots left over (if not quite a literal ton, certainly a figurative one), and my brain is teeming with ideas of other things to make.  As a base for the backsplash, I used a piece of cement board – which is usually used as a tile backer – that we had already (see parenthetical note about Cameron hoarding construction materials above).  Before I applied the cement, we cut two holes in the board where the washing machine hoses would go, so we wouldn’t have to drill those out later.  I laid it out on two saw horses – this project was made easier because I was able to work entirely on a horizontal surface and entirely outside, making clean up much easier – and mixed up the concrete following directions on the package (a roughly 2:1 ratio of water to powder).

No need for buckets and trowels; I used a plastic container and spoon.

No need for buckets and trowels; I used a plastic container and spoon.

Though I was nervous at first, applying the concrete was straightforward and went very quickly.  I applied a thin coat (it took less than ten minutes) then washed out my supplies and let it dry overnight.

A process so easy you can do it while drinking a beer! (and dressing like a schlub)

A process so easy you can do it while drinking a beer! (Or awkwardly holding one to illustrate a point*)
*Mera called to ask whether Cameron was wearing the Carhartts she gave me ten years ago.  Folks, that is ME.  Schlubby clothes, massive forearm muscles and all.

The next day I sanded it down and then applied a second layer, being more careful this time to make it as smooth as possible.

sanding the concrete

Applying the second coat of concrete

Applying the second coat of concrete

And that’s it!  When the second coat was dry, I just sanded it smooth and wiped it off so I’d have a clean surface for stenciling.  The entire process took about half an hour of work time, including clean-up, and – seriously – a monkey holding a beer could do it.

Before I made the stencil I spent some time wandering around the Internet, looking at tiles and envisioning how I could recreate them.  Then I drew up a pattern and tried out different colors using Powerpoint.  I’m sure there are lots of programs better suited to this kind of thing, but I have spent an inordinate amount of time making Powerpoint presentations and so for me this was by far the quickest, easiest option.

ppt slide patterns

Because the area I was covering was relatively small, I cut just a single pattern piece, rather than rows of them like in the computer image above.  I made the stencil using a piece of a plastic sheet I got at the craft store (I don’t remember the particular name of the plastic, but if you are interested leave a note in the comments and I’ll track it down) for less than $3.  It worked perfectly; it was stiff enough to make crisp lines but still pliable, strong but not brittle.

I used the tape to stick the stencil to the board when I was painting so it wouldn't move around

I used the tape to stick the stencil to the board when I was painting so it wouldn’t move around

I used blue paint I already had around – Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore – and just made my way from left to right along the length of the board.  At the end of each row I washed the stencil with soap and water and then blotted it with a towel before beginning the next one.  When the blue had dried (it didn’t take long), I used a square stencil and white paint (the same shade I used on the walls – Valspar’s Pure White) and filled in the centers.

blue stencil down

I didn't have a stencil-specific brush, so I used this thick-bristled kid's one ($1.50 at the craft store) and trimmed all the bristles to the same length.

I didn’t have a stencil brush, so I used this thick-bristled kid’s one ($1.50 at the craft store) and trimmed all the bristles to the same length.

After the paint was completely dry, I applied two coats of Minwax Polycrylic in clear satin to protect it from water.  It was just what we had around, and I’ll let you know down the road how everything is holding up. I have already splashed water on it, as well as paint when I was doing some touch-ups, and it wiped right up and looks just fine.

We installed the backsplash by screwing strips of wood the same depth as the board into the wall below and above it, and then nailing trim pieces that overlapped the backsplash into those strips.  That way we didn’t have to drill directly into it and risk cracking the concrete.

DIY concrete backsplash

Holy cow that faucet is heinous – BUT – after doing all this painting/cementing without having the utility sink operational, I’m grateful for it. In this case, function > form, though I’m hoping to find a sink and faucet that have both.

DIY concrete backsplash

So let’s just take one more quick trip down memory lane:

Laundry Room before cropped


And then marvel at how far we’ve come:

Laundry Room Progress with DIY backsplash

Thanks for reading this post!  Please feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments.  Come back on Friday when Mera and I will be doing a round-up of DIYs we’re dying to try and, though we’re taking a break from the Good Score post this week, don’t forget to submit your own Good Scores (either to redhousewest@gmail.com or by using the hashtag #rhwgoodscore) so you’ll be eligible for the giveaway!

Katie’s House: brightening up the upstairs bathroom

A few weeks ago I set out to brighten up our upstairs bathroom. Fortunately the previous owners had done the hard (and expensive) work for us – they hired terrific local contractors to add the bathroom to the house in 2006 – so I didn’t need to tear anything out or build anything up (which, considering the piles of construction debris in our laundry room and guest room right now, was a huge relief).

The bathroom with its original yellow paint job

The original paint was called ‘Suntan Yellow’ which is among the worst color names I can think of. Sunshine Yellow, yes. But Suntan? Pretty sure if your skin is this color it’s called jaundice, not suntan.

The angles of this bathroom, with its window seat and skylight, are beautiful. I really like the materials they used in the room – the slate has lovely texture and color variation – but the combination of grey tiles with the fir built-ins and trim made the room skew pretty masculine and serious, and I felt like the yellow walls competed with the color of the wood and tiles.

The skylight is north-facing and the window faces west

The skylight is north-facing and the window faces west, so though there is natural light it’s pretty diffuse

My goal was simple: to make the space lighter and brighter without spending much money. The first thing I did was polish up the cabinetry and trim with my favorite combination of neutral Restor-A-Finish and Howard Feed & Wax. Then I painted the walls white (Mountain Peak White by Benjamin Moore), which brightened things up immediately and really highlighted the beautiful clear grain fir woodwork.
This room was a bear to paint. The high ceiling and multiple angles meant that my wildly optimistic estimate of a half day project (which impossibly included dry times, mind you) extended out to two and a half days. By the time I was finished my painting hoodie had Mt Peak White on every side because I couldn’t seem to turn around (or move a ladder) in that room without brushing up against a freshly-painted wall. It took three coats of paint to cover up the yellow, and even now I obsessively run my eyes over the walls looking for any hint of that ‘suntan yellow’ trying to make its jaundiced escape.

wide view of windowseat
window seat close up

We have a lot of plants in our house, if they ever go all ‘Day of the Triffids‘ on us, we won’t stand a chance. Laughing in the face of danger, I brought a number of plants into this room too. I love plants in a bathroom! It’s easy to water them and they bring such a fresh and vibrant feel to the room.

I got the two hanging planters at a thrift store, but they are originally from Ikea

I got the two planters hanging from the towel bar at a thrift store, but they are originally from Ikea

Oh those tassels! If you remember, I had fallen hard for this Anthropologie shower curtain that I couldn’t afford. My version lacks the elegance and *ahem* uniformity of the Anthro curtain, but it’s festive and playful – just look at those riotously colored ghosts marching cheerfully along – and that suits me fine. My shower curtain knock-off – after purchasing the plain white curtain and the embroidery thread – rang in at about $30, a savings (spend to save folks, spend to save) of almost $90.

from behind pink curtain

long view of room This room has plenty of storage, so it’s nice to use the open shelves to display a few of my favorite treasures, relatively safe from the destructive and ardent affections of Fat Bunny (Dean) and Tiny Tiger (Carl). The little clay box is vintage, my friend John carved the raven for me and those are shells from a gumboot chiton taking wing up the wall The little clay box is vintage, my friend John carved the raven for me and those are shells from a gumboot chiton taking wing up the wall The striped planter, the little yellow vessel and the fish plate are all vintage from the thrift store.  I have mixed feelings about the fact that one of my favorite vignettes in our whole house is on the back of a toilet. The striped planter, the little yellow vessel and the weirdo hand-painted fish plate are all vintage from the thrift store.
yellow ceramics


succulents and turtle goddess The succulent planter is from a thrift store and the turtle goddess was a gift from my mom when she and I took a trip to Crete together last year.window seat curtain I sewed this curtain from a curtain I hijacked from our guest room which in turn was made from a shower curtain we used at our previous house. Who knows what its next incarnation will be? Probably something with tassels.

Toward door

All the light fixtures and hardware in this room were installed by the previous owners and are from Restoration Hardware

I’ve been coveting these towels for a while, for reasons both aesthetic and ascetic. You see, because we’re cheap (thrifty) – and also because most of our living takes place downstairs – we pretty much refuse to heat the upstairs of our home. Now, I can bravely soldier on through brushing my teeth while standing on glacial tiles, but I can’t abide a towel that doesn’t dry out all the way between uses. These Turkish towels – called peshtemals – are, despite their thinness, very absorbent, yet they dry really quickly. They aren’t inexpensive, but we’ve been using them about a month now and I’m a total convert.
window seat with curtain

Thanks for reading this post! Have any of you given a room a little facelift recently? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Forbidden [shower curtain] Love, or Why I Tied 100 Tassels (and how you can do it too)

Two weeks ago I found myself inspired by Mera’s cheerful bathroom update, and I set out to do a little bathroom makeover of my own. The first thing I did was buy a gallon of paint. The second thing I did was fall in desperate, blind love with a shower curtain (I had no idea it was possible either) that I couldn’t afford.

Look how pretty it is! Those colors! Those tassels! I wanted it so badly I called both Mera and my mom from the Anthropologie store (they have really comfortable chairs and the salespeople loved me sitting there talking on my phone) asking them to talk me out of buying it. That I chose to call them is telling – I actually wanted them to convince me to buy it of course; to say that if I loved it, it was worth it. If I had truly not wanted to buy it I would have called Cameron, the frugal pragmatist, who would have asked whether – with a price tag of more than a hundred dollars – the tassels had a utilitarian function, like reducing shower steam or deploying as little tub scrubbers.

Alas, the tassels' only function is looking really really really good.

Close up view of the Anthropologie shower curtain. Alas, the tassels’ only function is looking really really really good.

Ultimately my own frugal pragmatism prevailed, and I came home determined to make a tassel-bedecked shower curtain I could afford. I took advantage of a family trip (and my nimble-fingered family) to get everyone on board with making tassels. Once I worked out some of the production kinks, tassel tying became addictive. It’s the perfect mindless busywork, similar to knitting or crocheting but requiring less skill. Best of all you can do it while watching crappy television and at the end you have a pile of shiny little darlings to show for the hours you spent, instead of just self-loathing.

It's an addiction

I am unstoppable. I’m considering an art installation in which I cover my entire house in tassels, just so I can keep tying them.

I’ve put together a tutorial for tying a two-tone tassel like the ones I made for the tulip chair pillow last week. Remember those?

A coy little tassel playing peekaboo

A coy little tassel playing peekaboo

Let’s get started:

Tools of the tassel tying trade

Tools of the tassel tying trade


Embroidery thread or yarn

A chopstick (a bamboo skewer or knitting needle would work well too)

An embroidery needle (with a big eye)

An index card

A fine tooth comb (optional)

wrapping string

Step One:

Fold the index card in half. The length of the folded card will be the length of your finished tassel. Put the loose ends of your threads at the folded end of the index card and continue wrapping (I used about half a skein of thread per tassel)

inserting chopstick

Step Two:

Turn the card so the open end is at the top and gently insert the chopstick so it is under the thread

tying and wrapping

Step Three:

Gently slide the looped thread off of the card (but not off the chopstick) and tie a knot right under the chopstick and then give the thread a few more tight wraps

tying the knot

Step Four:

Cut the thread and use an embroidery needle to push the thread up through the neck of the tassel, then tie a knot and bring the needle back down through the neck to become part of the tassel

Does everybody's thumb bend back like mine??

Everyone’s thumb bends like mine, right?

Step Five:

Use scissors to cut the looped ends at the bottom

combing the tassel

Step Six:

Use your comb to separate the threads (combing the tassel hair was my favorite part). If you don’t have a comb you can use the needle to separate threads, but it’s neither as effective nor as fun.

tassel trimming

Step Seven:

Trim tassel to desired length



I’ve used tassels on a pillow, a shower curtain (which I’ll show you next week, along with the updated bathroom) and on my cat. What else should I be-tassel? Are you planning to do any projects with tassels soon? Let us know in the comments!