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Dreaming of a White (and Silver) Christmas

So… we’re not going to do a tree this year for a variety of reasons: including a ninja-fast 4-year-old with a penchant for breakable objects & a cat who we’re pretty sure descends from schizophrenic mountain lions. But mostly it’s because we’ll be out of town for most of the holiday season & couldn’t justify spending big $$ on a tree that our house sitter would get to look at more than we would.

Fortunately, we DO have a fireplace with a mantle. I’ve somehow never had a mantle to decorate before. So, of course I had to play!

I decided on a simple theme: White and silver.

First, I sprayed some pine cones I bought a while back (as autumn decor for the porch) with some white spray paint I had lying around. Then I coupled them with jingle bells in glass vases to create a cheap, easy grouping with both texture & bling.

I also thought that since we weren’t doing a tree, it would be nice to honor the age-old tradition that led to modern-day Christmas trees: Bringing evergreen branches into the house. So when Dan went over to his folks’ house last weekend, I asked him to bring back some clippings from their many, many pine trees.

I just nestled them loosely in a large vase I have with some rocks & water in the bottom for counterbalance. (Plus, maybe the water will help keep the branches fresh longer. I’m not sure if works the same with sticks as with flowers…) Then, just to be doubly sure they wouldn’t fall prey to our cat, I stuck the vase to the mantle with some double-sided tape.

I totally dig the way the vase of boughs turned out. Very natural. And it smells great!

But I needed to balance out the other side of the mantle with a little height of its own. So when I saw these candlesticks at the local thrift store, I snapped them right up. They weren’t originally silver — and frankly, I was not at all fond of their weird, swirly finish but that was easily remedied with a little spray paint.

Once they were silver, I topped them with white pillar candles in varying heights for an understated visual appeal that easily holds its ground against the largesse  of the evergreen branches.

Then, to represent our AZ roots, I tucked a bare wreath behind a cool little bird ornament I picked up recently. It’s actually a dove, but to us it calls to mind a Cactus Wren, the state bird of Arizona.

(Cactus Wren photo taken just outside of Tucson by Terry Sohl. Courtesy of South Dakota

And to represent where we are now, I centered the entire mantle with a small pewter piece that features the three rivers of Allegheny County, PA.

Finally, I put a wedding photo we love & a portrait of Sonia — both black & white — into silver frames I had around the house. The family pics personalize & soften the potentially stark look of my silver & white theme. Plus, when it’s time to hang the stockings, they’ll serve as identifiers… kind of like photographic place cards.

Overall, the mantle is more of a seasonal look than a holiday look, which we appreciate because we can keep it up until spring if we want.

And working on it inspired me to gussy up the front porch a little, too.

(Stay tuned — that post is coming up very soon!)

So how about you guys? How’s your seasonal decor coming along? Are you going for broke or keeping it simple? Where do you stand on themed -vs- free form holiday decor? Did you trick out your mantle this year? We’d love to hear what you guys are up to!!!

So Crafty

Rather than fighting the crowds (sometimes literally) on Black Friday, we here at Rental House Rules chose to participate in Small Business Saturday.

We headed out to Creative Reuse Pittsburgh, a very cool shop that sells reclaimed arts & crafts supplies at major discounts.

Could? I? Love? It? More? Not likely.

It’s so very up my alley. And kind of in an alley. Which makes it even cooler.

Inside, it’s like a craft store & a thrift store shacked up together.

They’ve got sewing stuff…

Art supplies & paper…

Prints, canvases and original art…

Censored for your pleasure

They also had a super-rad selection of old magazines…

Perfect for collages… and ransom notes.

Does anyone else feel a little dirty when they see a stack of Nat Geos? Naked tribesmen. Heh, heh.

There were also tons of old LPs & encyclopedias and such.

And I can’t wait to surprise Dan with a “World’s Greatest Lover” trophy…

I was headed over to check out the selection of beads…

… but Sonia vetoed the idea.

Instead, we went on a “treasure hunt” in the fill-a-bag bulk section…

And I did manage to sneak away long enough to document some of CRP’s more… unique… offerings.

Like a plethora of syringes… um… yikes…

And a drawer full of doll heads… double yikes!!

Overall, CRP was awesome. While you probably wouldn’t want to go there on a hard-target search, it’s fantastic for browsing & fortifying your craft supplies closet. Plus, the staff was incredibly friendly & helpful.

We totally recommend checking it out!!

Excuse Our Dust

You might have noticed that something about RHR is different today.
No, you’re not losing it… we’re trying out a new look!
So far, we dig it.

Sure, there will be a little backtracking to do — some of our photos got all outta line during the switch — but overall, we think the clean, modern look is worth it.

We’ll be trying it out for a week or so. If it works out as well as we hope it will, the change will be permanent.
What do you guys think so far???
(Just scroll down to see our old posts in an all new way.)
Seriously — we want your feedback!

Before Tour — Kitchen

OK, so now that you’ve seen the splendor that is our bathroom, let’s move on to the kitchen.

(After we wash our hands. Because eeew.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… our kitchen!


Tip: If you’re going to introduce something mediocre, try saying “Ta da!!!” first — it tricks people into thinking they’re impressed ;->

Above is the straight-ahead-view from the kitchen doorway. The room itself is long & narrow… not exactly a galley kitchen, but similarly shaped.

Here’s what you’d see if you stood in the doorway & looked to your right:

Recycle much? Yes. Yes we do.

And here’s what you’d see if you stood in the same spot & looked to your left:

Actually, I hope you’d see it much more clearly in person — if not, it might be time to make an appointment with your eye doctor. The blurriness & weird colors are because the lighting is awful. And my camera is only OK. (Ta da?) 

We’re adding a bunch of lamps as part of our makeover. Until then, I’ll do the best I can :-/ Sorry :-\

Anyway… above is the view you’d have if you were standing in front of the doorway to the basement. (On the opposite end of the kitchen. See the doorway on the left? That was where I was standing when I took the first couple of shots.)

And if you stood in the same spot & looked right:

And looking straight ahead from the basement-door spot, you’d see:

And that’s pretty much it.

Frankly, we don’t hate our kitchen per se… we just hate aspects of it.

Our main issues have been of the storage and function variety. The built-in cabinets are… well… how do I say this politely?… junk.

They’re crazy shallow. The shelves are oddly positioned. The hardware is unspeakably ugly (Actually, that’s not true. I will speak about the ugliness plenty in an separate post soon…) and the drawers are falling apart.


If you pull on the handle, the faceplate just falls off. Plus, even if they stayed together they still wouldn’t move right, because the little wheels on the drawers don’t fit well into their guide rails… which are, themselves, dented. Wow.

Poor Dan spent two days positioning & repositioning child safety latches on those jacked-up drawers & they still won’t catch. Don’t mention it to him. Unless you’d like to see his head explode.

So… we don’t use our kitchen drawers. Instead, we keep all of our utensils in big plastic bins inside our upper cabinets. Which really cuts down on available storage space…

Hence, all the shelves:

We store everything on them.

Canned goods, appliances, cutting boards, pots and pans, dry goods, beverages, etc.

It may not be terribly attractive, but it provides us with places to, you know… put stuff. Which is nice.

And once we put our minds to it, we’ll be able to make them look a lot better by moving things around & upgrading our storage apparatuses (aparati?).

We also put in a free-standing dishwasher. You can’t tell from this pic, but it’s on wheels. When we need to use it, we just roll it over to the sink and hook it up. Awesome. Highly recommend. Because life is just too short, man.

So — we’ve managed to make our kitchen somewhat functional. Aesthetically, well… we’re gaining on it.

But really, I shouldn’t complain. I mean, how many people have a bejeweled garbage can? And I guess the force field of cleanliness around our kitchen sink is pretty cool. (Even though it doesn’t protect against cartoon characters.)

Still… we definitely have things we want to accomplish:

Punch List: Kitchen

1) Do something about look of cabinets

2) Make cabinets more functional & try to solve drawer dilemma

3) Do something cool with the wall behind the stove

4) Maybe put in a garbage disposal… still going back & forth on that.

5) Replace broken spray nozzle on sink

6) Update light fixture

Of course, there are some things we’re just going to have to live with. For example…

We don’t love the linoleum, but it isn’t horrid or anything. And putting in new, removable flooring (Yes, it exists!) would be a real pain, since we’d have to deconstruct the entire kitchen — ie: remove all the big, heavy kitchen appliances —  in order to do it right. Plus, the floor is pretty uneven, which could further complicate things. So, we’ll probably just leave the floor alone & design around it.

And yes, we’re quite aware that the cabinets would look SOOOOOO much better if they weren’t so dark. Unfortunately, there are feasibility issues with painting them (post on that soon), so we’ll have to find a way to work with them too. No worries. I’m sure we’ll come up with something.

So stay tuned! Since we’ve already — out of sheer necessity — done a lot in the kitchen, we’ll make sure to go back over everything we’ve done so far. And, of course, fill you in on all of our upcoming projects 🙂


Before Tour — Bathroom

So, the past week has been chaos — Sonia’s big 4th birthday party was derailed by a veritable plague. Dan had a chest cold, Sonia had an ear infection & I had a sinus infection.

Sonia & Dan on bed rest (right)

Actually, I still have a sinus infection. Bleeech. Off to the doc tomorrow…

But, weak as I am, I shall not neglect you, dear reader. I shall soldier on, battling the throes of this wretched malaise — for such is my devotion to you. For ’tis an unflagging passion, and indeed my highest duty, to bestow wisdom and enlightenment unto all those who call me blogstress…

OK, better make this quick. The cold medicine is obviously kicking in.

Heh, hem. So…

We figured out that the best way to approach moving our DIY extravaganza inside was to begin with a basic overview of what we’re working with. We like the room-by-room strategy, but doing one giant post that included every room, along with before photos & punch lists seemed…. AAARARGAHHH!! Overwhelming! There’s just too much to show.

So instead, we’ll bring you one room per post for the next little while, thereby introducing you slowly to the project & allowing us to keep the greater portion of our sanity. Win/win!

We’ll include a basic punch list (a.k.a. “to-do” list) with each room intro, so you’re more or less up to speed with our plans & can start envisioning. And coming up with compliments ;->

So, without further ado — Welcome to the Before Tour!!

We’ll be starting with the bathroom:

From the hall (above)

Also from the hall (above)

From the window, looking left (Actually, I had to crouch in the shower to get this angle… small room…)

From the window, looking right (Had to sit on the can to get this one. Eeew…. not like that McNasty! Lid closed!)

Ceiling from hallway (above)

Tub & shower (above)

Notice the circa 1980 linoleum? Foxy.

How about the fine cabinetry? That must have cost tens of dollars.

(We do have to take responsibility for the tres chic padlock, though. Autistic kid = seemingly insane safety measures. Whaddya gonna do?)

The seamless paint job? The quality materials and professional repairs? Well, let’s just say that this kind of craftsmanship is really… something to behold.

(Yes, that’s a crack in our shower wall. “Repaired” with a smear of plaster. Plaster. Really?)

But, all the luxury aside, my favorite design choice our landlord made in the bathroom was this:

Oddly, this isn’t the first rental property we’ve lived in that has this kind of deep, narrow “closet” directly behind the shower. They’re awful. Awful.

How is a person supposed to access anything in a closet that’s twice the depth of the average human arm?

Oh no!!! Heeeeellllpppp!!!!!

Stuff just gets pushed to the back, thrown to the back and generally lost in the back. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tear apart that whole dang closet just to find my Midol.

Bad scene, man. Bad scene.

So… given what we’re workin’ with, I feel a little less bad about my TO-tal lack of effort in terms of decor. Really, every aspect of the room is just awful, from a design standpoint. It’s like making over Sasquatch — where do you even start? (Maybe conditioner? A cute A-line dress?)

Frankly, I’ve been so put off by the whole room, I just tossed some old painted wicker shelves & accessories around & called it a day. Hanging a piece of artwork has been my only attempt at classin’ up the joint so far.

Also, the shower curtain is an online shopping FAIL. I swear, the pic on the website made it look so much cooler — like a sepia-toned print of a nature photo. So imagine my disappointment when I tore into my long-awaited parcel to find… this

Gag. It looks like a Rorschach test. Try relaxing on the throne while looking at that.

Why would they put a picture of my mom killing an octopus with a sausage on a shower curtain?  ;->

But for some reason I didn’t return it. I convinced myself I could make it work. I wish I could tell you why. It’s horrid. It dominates the whole room. It must go.

OK, OK, we get it. You hate your bathroom. So what are you gonna do about it?

Lemme tell ya!

Rough Bathroom Punch List (Not necessarily in order):

1) Install new floor tile

2) Rehab the sink vanity

3) Improve the paint job

4) Repair/obscure the toilet tank lid

5) Caulk the tub & address the plaster-crack situation

6) Obscure the wet wall access panel

7) Fix closet problem

8) Axe the painted-wicker stuff

9) Figure out why the number eight keeps coming out as a smiley-face emoticon instead of a numeral on our blog.

10) Add new decor & storage/organization stuff

11) Address the shower curtain situation

I’m sure I’m forgetting something. But that gives you a basic idea of what we’ve got & what we wanna do with it. 🙂

So stay close, especially if you’ve got a bathroom you don’t know what to do with!! The bathroom is one of the first rooms we’ll conquer –right after I slay this three-headed dragon with my slingshot of fire.

OK. The medicine has definitely kicked in now. Better sign off. TTYS.


Porch Wrap Up

Here I am takin’ a porch chill while I write this quick curb-appeal-project-wrap-up post 🙂

See the whole makeover, with pics & links to each project here.

It’s just so lovely out here now. I can’t begin to describe.

So I figured this was the best place for me to look back over the time we spent on the project.

(Cue “The Way We Were”)

Let’s start with a budget estimate, since I’m no good at math:

Porch, Gate & Steps — paint, supplies, etc.   = $100

One of the costlier projects we tackled, but well worth it. Plus, you might be able to get the $$ taken out of your rent if you choose to stick with your landlord’s color/manufacturer choice.

Flower bed — flowers & tools  = $100

I admit it. I WAY overspent on this. I bought a bunch of pricey perennials, when I should have opted for all annuals. I could have spent far, far less & still come away with a perfectly lovely garden. Lesson learned. (I blame my desert roots for going all batsh*t with the flower buying.)

Rehabbed furniture — paint, stain, rope, glue = $75

While the table in particular was a lengthy redo — because of all the drying time between steps — everyone seems to agree that it looks brand new now. And it’s sturdier!!

Details — Starburst wall art; mailbox; address sign; mail caddy; lighting (fixture, string lights, candle lanterns); flowerpot storage; marigold ornaments; watering can; seasonal items = $100ish

The detail-y stuff ran about $25 per project, with some being far less (flower pots, candle lanterns) because we tend to use repurposed materials & leftover supplies.

So, overall, for the most part, generally speaking, looking at the big picture… We went from this to this:

for about


Not bad.

Especially considering that replacing the furniture alone would have cost more than that.

Plus, if I hadn’t gone all nutzo with the flowers, we could have brought it in well under $3-hunny.

And the above pics don’t even demonstrate the beauteousness that is goin’ on up on the porch:

But, of course, there were obstacles.

Which leads me to our soon-to-be-famous (ha ha) Cheers & Jeers feature!


The gate

Is it the prettiest feature of our makeover? No. But it’s functional properties make it far & away our MVP.


The squirrel

I think once we started the makeover, he realized that we’re not, in fact, hillbillies & he lost all fear of ending up in our stew pot.

Cheeky little bastard.

I thought his hijinks were cute until he made off with ALL of my decorative squash and chomped my pumpkins…

See him? Right there in my mail caddy.

Seriously, he has NO fear. He actually takes hostages. For real — he wouldn’t let Sonia’s speech therapist off the porch!!

He’s also eaten ALL of the bird seed out of our pretty feeder. I wish I had a pic of him swinging on that thing. Hilarious!

On the up side, we’re pretty sure that we can take full credit for his successful hibernation this winter — he must have at least a dozen squash & two pounds of all-season bird seed stashed in his little tree house by now, courtesy of Chez Glor.


Our porch stencil & jam jar lanterns

For almost nothing, we created a nice little sitting area just by defining the space with our version of a porch rug & then echoing that space above with our jam jar lanterns.

We don’t like porch rugs anyway. They slip around, curl up at the edges & generally look ratty pretty quick. This alternative gives us the same effect without the hassle. And it was at least $100 cheaper! And the lanterns are just quirky & fun 🙂


Light fixture

I thought this would look much better than it does. I just hated the old light SO much. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, our budget was pretty tight the week I lost my patience with the old “fixture” and I chose to go with a simple $5 replacement just to get the old one outta there.

And while Dan is rightfully proud of his install job (see details here), the fixture itself does nothing for us. It does not make us all warm & tingly. It is not our dream light.

We’ll live with it for now & try frosting the glass & adding some sort of decorative backing or something to obscure the leftover caulk and just give the fixture more overall… presence.


Climbing flowers

I can’t tell you how many compliments we’ve gotten on this simple, simple element of our makeover.

If you’ve got an area you want to obscure or add height to, I can’t recommend Morning Glories & Nasturtium enough. Just give them something to climb on & tend to your Nasturtium. It’s beautiful, but it will take over the whole garden if you let it.


The rain

Nothing, nothing was more problematic than the weather when it came to our Curb Appeal makeover. In fact, I imagine the whole thing would have taken half the time if we’d had good weather all along.

Still, it did make our garden blow up. So maybe our area’s penchant for precipitation isn’t such a bad thing…


Our readers!!!!!!

That would be you!!! I don’t have a pic of y’all, but I wanted to give you guys a quick “ups” for tuning in — honestly, your response to our new blog has been SO encouraging. When we decided to give this DIY blogging thing a try, we weren’t sure that there was an audience out there for us.

But thanks to you guys, we’re actually pretty stoked about moving onward & upward with Rental House Rules and we have tons of ideas for the inside of the house that we probably would procrastinate if it weren’t for you being out there pulling for us 🙂

So please, give yourselves a hand. We’ll wait 🙂

Good job!

And now that all the pennies are counted & the backs are patted, we can move on. No more porch stuff for a while!!!!

But be sure to check back in soon — we’re moving inside & we have so many great projects coming up!

In the meantime, let us know what you think!!!!! We’d love to hear from you! What was your favorite part of our Curb Appeal Project? Have you tried any of our tips? What would you like to do with YOUR rental property? Any projects to brag about? Have you ever spent WAAAAY too much on flowers?

Seriously, we want to know!!! Spill it!!!!


Curb Appeal REVEAL

This was our rental house before:

And this is our home today:

OMG, Amy! You’re our new design guru! We’ve never seen such a stunning transformation!

I know, I know. It’s hard to be humble when you’re just so very awesome.

Before (above); After (below)

Wow! We’re just blown away! This must have cost you thousands of dollars!

No, no. As a matter of fact, it was quite inexpensive.

What?!? But the lush, lush garden! And the chandeliers! It’s like Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous!!!

Yes. (Sighs and looks wistfully to the West) My genius is both a gift and a burden…

But seriously, better right???

We certainly think so!

Plus, no fewer than 6 neighbors have stopped by to thank us for putting a little TLC into our curb appeal. There’s a 50/50 split of homeowners & renters on our block, and, well… you can tell which are which. The rentals have long suffered neglect & it shows. And if the word of everyone in the neighborhood is accurate, ours had long been among the sorest of the block’s rental-property eyesores.

Not anymore!!

We’re not gonna say it’s the nicest looking property in the neighborhood, but we do receive plenty of compliments. And putting forth the effort seems to have endeared us to our previously (rightfully) skeptical neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all very nice people & were always polite… but let’s just say that since the Curb Appeal Project began, we’re receiving more cookout invitations than we used to. Which is awesome.

Rental House Rule #17: It’s your home, even if it’s somebody else’s house. Take some pride in it.

So… How did we go from eyesore to eye candy?

Not necessarily in this order, we: (Click on headings for links to individual project posts)

1) Installed a gate: 

We can’t describe how functional this simple fix has been. Honestly, while hardly the showpiece of our CAP (Curb Appeal Project), it has easily had the most impact upon our lives — in a good way!! Being able to corral the kiddo & dog has turned what was once merely a throughway into an outdoor room.

Highly suggest!

2) Put in a flower bed:

Before (left) ;

Today (center) 

3) Painted the porch and put facings on the steps:

Porch paint before (left); Two-tone lattice (right)

BTW — We also sprinkled the front porch steps with a little sand immediately after painting, to give them traction during rainy and snowy months.

Porch steps before paint & facings (left); traction sand (center); steps with paint and facings (right); porch paint after (center, large)

4) Added a “rug” stencil:

5) Rehabbed our old patio furniture and shelves:

Shelves before (left); Table and chairs before (right)

We went with a “coordinate, don’t match” philosophy…

…to create a cohesive look.

The shelves are done in a Dark Walnut stain.

The table is a combo of Espresso paint and Dark Walnut & Golden oak stains.

6) Gave the entry area some visual appeal by adding wall art:

… and other DIY decor touches.

Like a modern twist on toll painting above our front door… 

… a rehabbed wreath

… and some decorative storage.

7) Added a faux patina to our new mailbox:

8) Made a new address plaque & switched out the old porch light:

Before (left); After (right)

Note: We still plan to frost the glass on the new porch light, but didn’t want to hold up the big CAP reveal over a minor detail. Stay tuned!

9) Added string lights, a roll-down shade & DIY candle lanterns:

10) Added a few other finishing touches:

Like a wrought-iron chair for our flowering flowers to climb…

A cute watering can…

… a new doormat…

… a few pumpkins…

… painted flowerpots filled with squash and pine cones…

… a basket of mums…

… and my fave, a cobalt-blue bird feeder…

So, that’s our Curb Appeal Reveal!!

Come on back next week for more before/after pics, a more-or-less budget breakdown & “Rants & Raves” — a rundown of which projects we most enjoyed… and which we… well… didn’t.


Wrap Artist — Wicker Rehab Part 2

So, when we last joined in Amy’s adventure, she had stripped the worn rattan from a patio set, taped off the newly exposed bamboo and spray-painted the rest of the wicker a rich espresso brown… This is after 3 coats

But there was still a little work to do…

Because some of the rattan I’d unwrapped was of the load-bearing-or-at-least-load-stabilizing variety, I needed to replace it with something similar. So people don’t, you know, fall flat on their keesters when they try to sit down.

I chose rope.

Yes, rope.

(Trust me, it’s gonna look so much better than you think it will.)

I started by wrapping the rope around the cross bars on the bottom of each chair & the table…

I tied the bars together, making sure to leave myself a little extra rope on the end. Then I wrapped in a criss-cross pattern, looping the rope around each individual bar as I went.

And because I wanted to make sure that these load-bearing bars were really secure, I hit each knot with a little Gorilla Glue:

Tip: Gorilla glue expands to at least 3x its original size. A little goes a looooong way.

I chose to use original Gorilla Glue to secure the load-bearing spots, because:

a) I want to know they’ll stay put

b) They don’t show

So when this happens…

It’s a good thing!

But for the areas that will show — like the decorative detail I added to make the load-bearing rope less sore-thumby — I used “super” glue. (I still went with the Gorilla brand… because I like it.)

The fun part about decorative detail is that YOU get to make ALL the decisions!!

I chose to wrap the feet of the table/chairs because there was some obvious splintering…

To do so, I measured off a length of rope that was long enough to wrap around the foot of the chair 4 times (my choice!), then used that section of rope as a template to cut 15 more of the same length.

That way, all of my rope sections were the same & I wouldn’t have trouble creating a consistent look on all of the chair/table legs.

But before I applied the decorative rope sections, I sanded all the legs with 220-grit sandpaper. (This helps to rough up the surface, so the glue will adhere better.) Then I wiped them down with a clean rag to remove any sawdust.

IMPORTANT: At this juncture, I tore off & set aside a few generous lengths of low-tack painter’s tape so they’d be at the ready when I needed them — because the next couple of steps of this process take both hands & go kinda quickly…

Step 1: I applied super glue to both sides of the legs as far up as I wanted the rope to go.

Step 2: I carefully wrapped the rope around the glue-y section of chair leg, pressing down on the rope to ensure that as much of it was in contact with the glue as possible I also made sure that my start & end points were both behind the leg so they weren’t as obvious.

Step 3:  I grabbed one of the pre-ripped-tape strips and wrapped it around the outside of the rope to hold everything in place while the glue dried.

Tip: To get super glue off your fingertips, use a little 220-grit sandpaper. It works & actually feels kinda nice — like a facial scrub for grimy DIY hands.

I also added a little decorative rope trim to the inside lip of the table…

I made sure to run the rope UNDERNEATH the original tack nails that hold the table-top glass in place.

Besides adding a custom-look & continuing the rope detail up to the surface of the piece, it also provides a second line of defense against the glass slipping past the tack nails & falling through the tabletop.

So now, we can offer our guests a little more “Set a spell…” & a little less “Ack! Don’t lean on the glass!!” Which is nice.

Once all of my decorative rope was in place, I let the glue dry overnight, then removed the tape & trimmed back the loose ends. (I just used good, sharp utility scissors.)

Then, I ran some low-grit sandpaper over whatever bamboo was still exposed, wiped it down with a clean rag & applied a thin coat of Golden Oak sealing stain to give the bamboo a nice shine.

Once that had dried — I gave it half a day — I added a second coat, this time using Dark Walnut stain & a “stippling” brush technique. (Stippling is essentially dabbing…)

The two stain gives the bamboo some dimension & makes it look like much higher-quality wood than it actually is.

I also brushed a little of the Dark Walnut stain onto the rope to take its look from “hardware store” to “decorator outlet.”

I was a little concerned that the stain would compromise the adhesive properties of the glue — in other words, that the rope would come unstuck — but I figured I’d give it a try nonetheless. Knock wood, it’s holding fine…

Then I let all of the stain dry overnight (See why this makeover took so long? Not difficult, just a lot of drying time.) & hit the entire piece with clear acrylic sealer.

When that was dry, I cleaned & replaced the glass with a little help from Dan, Dan the glass-replacin’-man and…

Viola!!! (Finally.)

Our “new” wicker furniture!!!!

We couldn’t be happier with it.

It’s updated-looking, but still has unique touches, so it doesn’t look just like everyone else’s.

It’s as sturdy as it was before the makeover & blends SO nicely with the rest of our porch.

The color is so much less shouty than the white was.

We especially like the rope trim detail inside the tabletop…

… and how well the table & chairs coordinate with our recently rehabbed wicker shelves

As far as cost… I don’t keep receipts. I HATE math. But I can tell you that I used 8 cans of spray paint at $5 each; 2 bags of rope at $8 each; one bottle of Gorilla Super Glue at $5; and two small cans of stain (with plenty left over) at $5 each.

I also used a few general DIY supplies that I always have around the house, like a $1 “throw away” paintbrush (stain ruins brushes — don’t use your good brush); some painter’s tape; sandpaper, a drop cloth & a safety mask.

So, how much is that? About $75? More or less? Yeah, that sounds right.

And considering that buying a new, comparable set would run us about $600…

we think I done good.

These images are from the Pier One website. They are of the Azteca Coffee Table (left) and Coco Cove outdoor wicker chair (right).

They’re both great collections. Check them out at

Of course, ours doesn’t look exactly like this season’s hottest, but for $525 less? We think it comes pretty darn close!

Let’s take another gander, ’cause she’s just so darn purdy!!!


Thanks again, MIL!


We here at Rental House Rules would like to thank the good people at Pier One for the use of their online images. Pier One did not solicit our recommendation, nor did Pier One pay or compensate us in any way.

Editor’s Note: Sorry about the inconsistent look of the espresso paint color in some of the reveal photos. Some of them were taken in the morning, some in the afternoon. In real life, under most conditions, it’s a rich, dark brown. (Like an espresso bean.)

All In The Details

OK, so the wicker furniture makeover is going to take just a little while longer — we were abducted by family fun yesterday & instead of going to the Home Depot for more rope, we ended up at a nearby farm petting baby ducks!!

Ultimate Rental House Rule: Paint and pillows are fine, but your family is what makes your house a home.

So, we still have to hit the Depot. Then I have just a weeeeee bit more touching up on the table & chairs. And just generally futzing around to get the porch & yard ready for our BIG CURB APPEAL REVEAL!!!

But, I know I like a little light Sunday blog-reading, and I imagine you’re no different. It’s a lovely way to relax 🙂

So, I’m gonna throw up a quick little post about some of the “finishing touches” we’ve done on the porch.

‘Cause I’m easy like Sunday bloggin’…

Some of you might remember this post about how I added a large mail receptacle to the inside of our porch gate…

And how I promised to switch out the original pine cones for new and different items to turn what could be an awkward-looking, purely functional item into a unique visual draw?

Well, viola! Autumn gourds! Simple, cheap, big visual impact.

Also cheap & easy? Flower pot decor!

I spray painted a few flower pots in bright, solid colors. Now I can use them to house stray objects I need/want on the porch…

Like candles…

And pine cones to throw at a particularly brazen and pesky squirrel…


The cones are just for decor. But that squirrel IS a complete pain in the patootie.

I also tossed some leftover gourds into one of the flowerpots for a casual piece of fall decor. I also plan to use another flower pot to create a discreet outdoor ashtray. (I’ll do a full how-to on that one soon!)

Flower pots! They’re not just for flowers anymore!

The mums pictured above were a simple solution to an ugly old stump that was uglying up our yard.

I also placed a bright, eye-catching accent piece nearby — in this case a cobalt blue bird feeder — to further distract from the stump.

The flower bed was another place where I worked a little slight-of-the-eye magic to distract from a hole in my climbing vines…

Tip: Is your natural foliage looking a little wobbly or patchy? Use some potted plants or flowers to draw the eye to strong spots & “cover up” holes.

I chose a tall, leafy purple plant that contrasts nicely & has enough height to not look dwarfed next to the climbing vines.

So… there you go! Just a couple of quick visual fixes that anyone can accomplish.

Now we’re off to the Home Depot now for more rope. Yes, I said rope. You’ll see! (Wink!)


Wrap Artist — Wicker Rehab Part 1

So, now that our wicker shelves look so nice…

it’s time to do something about our patio furniture.

This set once belonged to Dan’s Nana, and tons of happy family moments were had around it before it was relegated to my mother-in-law’s basement.

When we moved to PA a couple of years back, we snagged it as kind of a place-keeper until we found a set of our own.

But as time has worn on, we’ve become attached to it. Despite it’s in-need-of-some-serious-TLC condition. It fits our space perfectly, we like the shape & the chairs are surprisingly comfortable.

Fortunately, MIL is willing to let us have it for keepsies! And for, like, one-tenth the price of replacing it, I can totally bring this family heirloom into the new millennium. Score!

The first issue to be addressed was the worn rattan (ratty-tat-tan?) on the bottom of the chair legs. This kind of deterioration is inevitable when you’re talking about natural fibers.

Fortunately, as I mentioned in the wicker shelf makeover post, often, rattan is mostly decorative. Meaning it can be removed without affecting the structural integrity of the piece.

However, some sections of the rattan wrapping do help secure the piece, so thoroughly inspect your furniture before you go all ‘Imma cut’choo, man!” It’s pretty easy to tell what’s critical & what’s not.

Once I’d figured out what was safe to cut, I got out the ole box cutter & had at it. I tried to make my cuts as straight as possible. I also tried not to cut too deep, so as not to ding up the bamboo underneath too much. Then I just peeled it off bit by bit.

I ain’t gonna lie. This was a time-consuming, not-particularly-fun process.

Oh, and I wore a mask while removing the rattan because we have no idea how old the white paint on the furniture is, meaning it could be a lead-based paint. (As a general rule of thumb, I consider all pre-1980s furniture suspect.) And it was kickin’ out mad dust, yo. So better safe than sorry.

Tip: Always err on the side of caution when working with old paint. That stuff’ll pump you full of lead as soon as look at you.

I didn’t get a pic of myself in the mask. I know, you’re disappointed. It was pretty sexy.

Anyhoo — I cut & peeled away the rattan in several areas to expose the bamboo in a pattern that Dan & I liked.

PLEASE be careful if you repeat this process. Box cutters are serious business. You can really, really hurt yourself by not being extremely careful.

The bamboo under the rattan is actually in really good shape & quite attractive.

To maintain its natural beauty during the spray-painting process, I re-wrapped the exposed parts with painter’s tape.

In order to get to all of the areas I needed to unwrap/rewrap, I took the glass out of the table & set it aside in a safe place on a soft little nest. In this case, a cheap plastic drop cloth all bundled up.

(Now for the best part…)


What is it about spray paint that’s just so darn fun? Just don’t get carried away with the fun. Thin, even coats are the key to success.

I usually try to contain my enthusiasm by allowing myself the satisfaction of a long, steady spray right off the bat. I just make sure I continually move around the piece & always keep my can in motion. If you’re doing it right (ie: not laying it on too thick) you should kind of look like a very mellow, one-armed orchestra conductor. Big, sweeping motions.

Don’t worry about coverage at this point. Just get all that spray lust out of your system. I’ll wait.

There. Better? Ready to proceed like a mature adult? Cool.

Now… it’s time to break one of the cardinal rules of spray painting, “Don’t get too close.”

Yes, you heard right. You have my permission to bring the nozzle to a mere 4 inches from your surface!!! Because I believe you can handle the responsibility. Don’t disappoint me. ;->

Naw… it’s just that wicker woven & you need to get paint in all the little nooks & crannies. Don’t worry. IF YOU KEEP YOUR MELLOW CONDUCTOR ACTION GOING, ALL WILL BE FINE. If, however, you just gob it on there, it’ll show on your finished piece. It’s OK to work section by section, but seriously. Keep your spraying arm moving at all times.

It took me 3 coats to get a nice, even coverage. And even then, there were a few touch-up areas to hit.

My point? Spray paint can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It’s all in how you handle it.

After second coat

Tip: When painting furniture (with spray or otherwise), start on the bottom. That way — hopefully — you can flip it to stand on its legs as usual & let the bottom side dry while you work on the top.

After coat number 3 — Lookin’ SO much better already!

Now I need to let ‘er dry, but stay tuned, because I’ve got more magic in store for this gorgeous-in-training patio set…

Next post, I’ll use a creative solution to reinforce some of the areas where the rattan I removed was helping hold the whole pile of sticks together. Then I’ll sand/stain the bamboo & also add a little decorative detail 🙂

I’ll be back soon with the reveal tomorrow morning 🙂


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