Tips for Removing Paint from Furniture

Finished Side Table

I’m going to be very honest. I messed up.

I got this awesome Mid Century modern table for $7, yes, seven dollars! And, I had the “fantastic” idea of painting it blue, because at some point I wad doing a glam pop art décor. Which, it is important to say because I changed my mind months later.

But, the damage was already done. I had spray painted that baby with enough paint to cover Yosemite’s Half Dome. For months I dreaded the idea of having to remove the paint, just because, this is a Mid Century Modern table, and I had to be done right, carefully.

However, it needed to be done, so it is done. I you have made the mistake of painting great furniture and want to retract, or, maybe you bought somebody else’s mistake. This is what you do.

Difficulty: Easy, but you have to be patient.

Time: Depends how many layers of paint you need to remove and the crevices.

Materials Paloma on the Hill


  • Eco-friendly paint remover or “stripper”
  • Regular stripper if the green product fails
  • A product applicator, read your product instructions.
  • Spatula
  • Clean rags
  • A bowl to pour the product
  • A bucket with water
  • Toothbrush – for difficult crevices
  • Brown paper and tape to cover surfaces
  • Quality gloves
  • Quality mask
  • Safety glasses
  • A well-ventilated area


1. Clean the surfaces with a damp rag in order to remove any gunk or dust. Let dry.

2. Prep your workspace and cover any areas of the furniture you wish to protect. Before handling the paint remover, make sure you are wearing your glasses, mask and gloves.

3. Pour the stripper in the bowl (see notes below) for ease of application. Apply the product as directed and let sit.

  • I always opt for the eco-friendly products and they usually work great. In this project, not so much. After various applications, it was obvious I was going to need a stronger one.
Paint Stripper Paloma on the hill

Pardon the mess…Yikes!

4. Once the “cooking” time has passed, with the scrapper test a small area and see if the paint comes off. If it does not come off easily, apply more product and let it sit.

  • The scrapper is not for scraping, just a tool to remove the paint, if you have to scrape, you need more time and product.

5. Once the paint starts to come easily (like peeling an onion), continue until the section is clean. You might have to use the toothbrush for joineries and crevices.


6. Once the paint has been removed, use a clean damp rag to remove any chemical residual. However, if the product you are using advises for something else, please follow those instructions.

7. Continue until you are done. Before you apply any topcoat product, please allow the wood to dry. I followed with a light sand before I applied any finishing products.

*Every product is different. I cannot stress enough the importance of following the instructions to the “T”. Apply, leave and remove as directed. Regardless of what product you choose, these are still chemicals and you can get burn.

Tips for Success:

  • I cannot stress enough how important ventilation is, even if you use the “green” stuff.
  • Please, use quality gloves and you might even want to wear two pairs at a time.
  • The breathing mask is super important. This stuff is nasty, please protect your lungs.
  • Don’t skip on the safety glasses!
  • Work one area at a time.
  • Use a toothbrush for crevices, motifs or any area that is difficult to reach.
  • Do not scratch the wood. Be very careful with the scrapper.
  • When selecting a bowl to pour the stripper in, follow the original product logic or read the instructions.
  • If you prefer to try a green product first and find out it does not work properly, make sure you remove all of it before you apply the new one. Mixing different chemical products is always a terrible idea.

Share with a friend if you found this useful! Why keep all the knowledge to yourself! 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Pallet Planter


What would a “do it yourself” blog be without a pallet or a reclaimed wood project.

A while back, we built some benches for our outdoor dining table. With the remaining wood we built this planter. This project has a double purpose. The first one to add some curb appeal, the second one, to protect the front window.

Paloma On The Hill Bench

Time: One day, including drying time.

Level of difficulty: Medium

Wood Remnats


  • Wood
  • Hammer and quality nails
  • Or drill and screws
  • Saw blade
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • T-square
  • Sander and sand paper
  • Paint or stain
  • Brush
  • Plastic bags
  • Soil
  • Rocks
  • Plants
  • Gloves

Let’s go!

  1. We started with the bottom part and frame, including the feet. If you have not included this on your design, it’s a good idea to have them. I will keep the bottom from rotting.Planter Base
  2. Then we built a center support. The center support is needed to support the “walls” and will keep them from warping. After that front and back boards were attached.Planter is built
  3. Once we tested the planter to make sure it was not wobbly, we painted the exterior as well as the interior.Painted Planter
  4. After the paint dried, we put the planter in place and made some drainage holes. We covered the interior with heavy-duty plastics bags. The lining will help keep the soil in place and protect the wood.
  5. We added rocks to the bottom to ensure proper drainage. Then came the soil and thorny plants.Planter with Rocks
  6. Voila, now we have a lovely planter, which serves as décor and barrier for the glass window.

Planter with Flowers

Tips for success:

  • Unless you are a master builder, you will need to do a quick sketch. How long, tall and wide. How much material will you need? If this is your first project, keep it simple.
  • Before you start cutting, review the steps in your head. You may even want to keep your sketch with measurements and steps visible. I always do.
  • Make sure your wood is straight. Make your marks and measure twice.
  • We usually “stage” our wood to see how all the pieces fit together.
  • Painting the interior is necessary if you have untreated wood. It will keep it from rotting. Plus it looks nice.

Hey, don’t forget to subscribe below! 🙂

The $3 Cute Nightstand

Room with $3 Night Stand

Do you need to spruce up a guest room without spending a lot of money? Do you have a piece of furniture that’s kind of ugly but it is still in good condition, has potential or you don’t want to part with it just yet?

I have a guest room that doubles as my office. Every year, we will host at least 5 to 10 visits. Stays range from a week to three at times. A Murphy bed (the one you pull from the wall) is on the pipeline of projects, as a result, I did not want to spend to much money on this room.

However, I still want it to look inviting and comfortable. Here is a fun, easy project that can save you some money.


  • Furniture
  • Stencils
  • Spray paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sanding paper
  • Painters or masking tape
  • Brown paper

Before doing anything, you must find out what the material is. This will tell you how to proceed. What is this made of? Is it wood, particle wood, a wood laminate perhaps? Does it have a coating?

The following procedure is for a particle wood nightstand. If you have wood and need to stain it, I suggest reading my post about kitchen cabinets and sanding.


  1. With a damp cloth, remove any dust or dirt. Do not soak!
  2. Allow to dry and sand a little bit. Enough to remove the upper layer of clear laminate (top coat, shellac, etc.). Remember, the purpose of sanding is to allow the new paint to stick. If you do not sand, the paint will not adhere properly and will peel very easily,
  3. Remove any dust from sanding with a clean brush. Wipe with a damp rag or denaturated alcohol. Use your judgment. Do not soak. Allow to dry.
  4. Paint a thin layer. It is better to do two thin layers than one thick one. Allow the first coat of paint to dry properly before doing the next one.Scattered Materials
  5. Play with the stencil placement. When you find the right spot, secure it with painters tape.There are two ways of painting with a stencil, you can paint it with a brush or spray paint it.- I chose to spray paint because I had left over gold spray paint. If you are choosing this method, remember to cover the rest of the furniture.-I you are using a brush, than all you need to do is secure the stencil and paint. Practice with the stencil in paper so that you get an idea of the technique.


Tips for buying “junk” furniture. Before you buy:

  • Inspect the exterior and the interior, including the bottom parts. Make sure there is no water damage, termites, and if there is damage, is it worth it? Can you really fix it? Is it sturdy?
  • How much are you willing to spend for that piece and how much will you have to invest to fix it? Maybe you have some materials floating around? Or will you have to invest too much money in fabric, paints, sanding machine, etc. for just one item?

Economics of my nightstand:

$3 for the night stand

$5 for stencils

I already had:

  • Paint
  • Spray paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sanding paper
  • Painters or masking tape
  • Brown paper

So my total for this Project was $8…All right, lets say $15 to include the use of materials I already had. Still, this is cheap and a good Saturday craft. Enjoy.

Subscribe below!

Artwork that Works


Media Room Paloma on the Hill Front View

When it comes to wall art, you are not confined to ready-made artwork, posters or canvas. Have you ever considered using objects that you find interesting? Perhaps beautiful fabric you bought, but you don’t have a use for? What about a family heirloom?

I am using three different items for my tv room wall art. Those are:

  • A disposable cotton tablecloth I acquired at a trade show, aka Valentina
  • Graphic placemats from a children’s store
  • Sections of a Nintendo inspired graphic

Life is boring without art, don’t you agree?

Media Room Paloma on the Hill Sans Artwork

Artwork makes a such difference!

If they are all different, why do they work together? They do because they all have graphic lines. Although they are not the same style there is a common theme.

The artwork becomes cohesive by using the same minimal frames and graphic pillows. The wall paint, coffee table and gray sofa pull it all together

Media Room Paloma on the Hill Side View

Choosing artwork that goes well with your décor is not an exact science, but they are indeed some rules that ensure success, such as:

  • Don’t go matchy matchy, but having similar tones helps. The image does not need to have your furniture, pillow or wall colors. However, they should either have the same tone or mood.
  • Play with it! You can have different styles of art or illustrations if you have similar frames. Or, you can have similar art and very different frames.
  • Not everything has to be perfectly aligned as long as there is symmetry.
  • Watch the size of the furniture, wall and artwork. Usually, a small picture frame will look silly on top of sofa or a big picture above an armchair. When these combinations do work, is because there are other elements that balance the composition, such as plants, shawls, lamps or sculptures.
  • Watch the scale of the artwork versus the room size. If you have a small room, it might better to have several small frames instead of a large one and vice versa. My tv room is small, but by combining sleek furniture, white light, colors and scale, it looks bigger than what it actually is.

Tells us about your favorite wall art or any interesting items you think might work!

Stay in touch! 


A Bit of Morocco in The House


Morrocan Vanity Closeup

Faux finishes are awesome but either you make it or break it. When done correctly they can add character to furniture, transport us to an age or create certain design, add ambiance or “make” styles such as French country.

There are many ways to recreate this look, including using a “crackle” product or thinning paint. I’m going to show two slightly different ways in which you can achieve this look by using paint.

One of them includes removing 60 % of a layer of paint for texture and the other one is layering at least two colors of paint. This tutorial was done on a bathroom cabinet, but you can use the same technique for most objects.

But before I do. Here is a little story.

Bad Paint Job

I am assuming the previous owner of the house decided to paint this vanity with the last ounce of paint they had left, probably purchased to refresh the crown moldings and doors prior to selling.

How do I know this? Hum, could it be because they did not paint the inner part of the doors and the side of the vanity was not painted entirely. In addition, you could see the last brush stroke where they ran out of paint? That has got to be the definition of a bad paint job.

Most people would have changed the vanity. However, I wanted to keep it for the following reasons:

  • It is wood. Most available bathroom furnishings nowadays are MDF.
  • I love projects…
  • We are almost sure that there is no tile under the vanity. I really like this floor tile. Moreover, I do not want to deal with another tile job right now.

My plan was to remove the hideous paint job, sand it nicely and apply a gray stain. I wanted it to look like beach wood. The concept was to have a Moroccan beach resort bathroom.

My Moroccan Bathroom Bells

Imagine this. You are in the spa located on a remote fishing village, and the building is at least 700 years old. This used to be a mansion but for the last 50 years it has been a quiet hotel. You can smell its history in the air; all the furnishings are original and they show its use. The décor is minimal and it does not scream “Moroccan”! It is serene, beautiful and you can see the ocean from the windows. Nice right!

I started the paint removal process with a trusted green paint removal…and after three applications it barely removed any paint. Not sure why because I use this product all the time! Hum…

Ok, so regular paint removal product then. Hum, it removed some of the white paint after hours and hours of struggle. Eventually I gave up and went to sleep frustrated, very tired and with an ugly bathroom.

Next morning, I woke with the idea of using the white crummy white layer to my advantage. Bought a blue paint sample from the store, did a test but the color was too saturated. I added a bit of the same white paint that I used to refresh my cabinet interiors, doors, molding, etc. It came out perfect!

This is how I do it:

Time: A weekend or maybe just a very long day. It really depends on how big your furniture is.


  1. Paint remover. I always try the “Green” products first. If not, a regular paint remover.
  2. A mask to protect yourself from VOC’s.
  3. Eye protection.
  4. Gloves
  5. Brush to apply the paint removal product or the specified product medium
  6. Spatula or blade to remove the paint
  7. Lint free clean rags
  8. Sanding paper, 220 grit or so.
  9. At least two colors.
  10. Paint brushes
  11. Surface covering (cardboard, brown paper, bags)
  12. Screwdriver
  13. Knobs
  14. Soapy water and a brush to clean or knob and hinges
  15. A well ventilated are to work

Materials for Morrocan Vanity

My lingo:

  • Layer #1 is the oldest layer and that would usually be your wood or actual furniture color.
  • Layer #2 is the middle layer. This layer will cover layer one and will be covered by layer #3
  • Layer #3 is the last layer applied. The older colors are exposed when this layer has faded.

The areas of the furniture that are touched / handled the most, should be the ones that show more age. Here, the wood color or layer #1 should be the one visible. For example, a cabinet door takes the beating where the hands are placed. This could be around or under the knob, on the sides of the door. The parts of the furniture that are barely touched will show the freshet layer of paint, layer #3.

Before you apply any paint, imagine how this furniture was used. How old is it? Where would it get knee banged? Did a cowboy close the bottom cabinet door with a muddy pointy boot? Did grandma put a hot pot on the corner top when she was in a hurry? Was it left outside for a very long time and the brought in. Make up your own story. It seems silly, but it works.

Process #1: When you want to have texture or the furniture is already painted.

  1. Remove dust or dirt from the furniture. Take the hinges out; clean them with warm soapy water and a brush. Let them dry.
  • If your furniture has two color layers (including the wood color), continue to step #2
  • If your furniture is bare, paint it with layer #2 color and let dry. Paint some parts of the hinges too.
  1. Do quick “hand” sand with sanding paper on all surfaces. Remove all dust. Wearing eye protection and a breathing mask is suggested.
  2. Apply your choice of paint remover and follow the instructions carefully. Wear gloves, a mask and eye protection. Even if you are using a green product. Let the product work, read the instructions for specific drying times.
  3. With a spatula, remove some of the paint. Do not ding the wood.
  4. Once you are happy the amount you have removed. Clean your surfaces again. Follow the manufacturers instructions. Let the furniture dry.Sanding a bit
  5. You may or may not want to sand. Your choice, you choose how distressed you want the final look to be.
  6. Dip the tip of the brush in the layer #3 color, which is the color you want in the middle. You want to cover some of layer #1 and some of layer #2, but no all. Do the same for the hinges.20170423_173621_HDR
  7. Let it dry
  8. Put it all back together!

Finished Morrocan Vanity

Process #2: When you want the “easy way out”

  1. Remove dust or dirt from the furniture. Take the knobs and hinges out. Clean the hinges with warm soapy water and a brush. Dry.
  2. Do quick “hand” sand with sanding paper. Remove all dust.
  3. If your furniture is bare, paint it with layer #2 color and let dry. Paint some parts of the hinges too.
  4. Dip the tip of the brush in the layer #3 color, which is the color you want in the middle. You want to cover some of layer #1 and some of layer #2, but not all. Same for the hinges.
  5. Let it dry
  6. Put back the doors and hinges

Tips for Success:

  • Are the hinges showing age to? They should.
  • Choose knobs that go with the style.
  • You can reuse your old knobs by painting them too.
  • My knobs and pulls do not match on purpose. In my story, at some point the pulls broke and they had to be replaced.
  • You can also use a rag instead of a brush or do a combination to get a variety of textures.
  • Build up the texture. Use a bit of wood filler to create it. Just remember to sand it before you paint it.
  • Do not make blobs of paint in an attempt to add texture. It would just look like blobs of paint.
  • Always fluff the brush to remove any loose hairs. I always seem to forget this.
  • By changing the colors this technique can be used for the following décor styles:
    • Farmhouse
    • French Cottage
    • Victorian
    • Beach House
    • Spanish
    • Vintage
    • Whenever you want nostalgia

Oliver and the Morrocan Vanity

Never miss a post! Subscribe below 🙂 

Orchids Everyday


Natural Orchids

I love plants and they make me quite happy. Often, they are the finishing detail to make a décor seem glamorous, warm, modern or relaxing. They add visual interest, clean the air and fill empty space.

However, sometimes the real thing can be a problem. Curious pets and hungry children can cause harm to these beauties or vice versa depending that you ask (dark humor here). Most of the plants that are used in interior design can be toxic. I have Areca and a ponytail palms, which at times have survived ferocious teeth attacks. Good thing I checked with ASPCA before bringing them in!

In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to make a beautiful and quality artificial floral arrangement. You can use any flowers or plants you want. Since my décor is happy glam, my arrangement called for white orchids and a silver hammered urn.

Why choose artificial over natural:

  • You forget to water natural plants or you travel often
  • Insufficient natural light
  • Curious children or pets
  • Allergies

You also have the option of buying pre-made arrangements, but where is the fun in that!

Level of difficulty: 1

Time: 30 minutes


  • Quality Artificial Plant (I used orchids)
  • Leaves, greenery or foliage (as needed)
  • Moss
  • Styrofoam, you can buy it but I rather reuse packaging remnants
  • Vase

This is how I do it:

1. Clean the urn and fill it with Styrofoam, not all the way to the top. You need enough to keep the plants in place. Leave room for the moss.

2. Add the moss and make sure you add enough. Styrofoam is not pretty. Why did I use two types of moss? I wanted to have the bright green one on top. You don’t have to do the same.

3. Add the plants, one at a time. Curve them if necessary to add a natural aspect. As you can see from the video, I curved the bottom parts when I wanted them shorter. You can cut them, but before doing so, make sure that is the length and placement you actually want.

I made different heights. Orchids stand upright when they are shorter but as the stems become longer and they produce more flowers , they tend to curve or cascade. The more detailed your arrangement the more natural it will look.

Finished! Nope! It looks kind of weird right? Is because the orchids have no leaves.


4. I bought leaves that are similar in shape and color to the real thing. Again, if you need to add leaves, they need to be placed in a natural manner.

5. Once you are done arranging the plants and greenery. Check too see if more moss if needed. I finished my arrangement by adding some succulents.

Final Orchid

I have a confession. I wasn’t super happy with the final look. I added an additional piece of greenery and know its rocking! Don’t be afraid to add or remove items as you see the need. When it comes to floral arrangements, there is not one perfect combination.

Orchid Finished

Pretty right? Don’t forget to follow us in Instagram and facebook. See you soon!

Tips for success:

  • The planet is full of junk. If you can, try to reuse some Styrofoam from packaging instead of buying new.
  • In order for artificial plants to look nice, they have to be good quality! Try to buy the highest quality you can, this makes a huge difference!
  • You could also use wood chips instead of moss.
  • Unless you are using extremely realistic artificial plants, it is better to stick to solid color urns. Fake stalks are not pretty.
  • You do not have to use a flower vase. The one I used is actually a punch bowl. You can use pitchers, handbags, cookie jars, wood boxes, etc.
  • The vase or urn you choose will make or break your design. Choose accordingly.
  • Balance is important. However, balance doesn’t always mean that everything should be in pairs, symmetrical or matching. In fact, asymmetrical can be perfectly balanced; it is a matter of finding equilibrium in space. Study Japanese floral arrangements.
  • Take cues from nature. See how plants curve or stand.
  • Some plants go better with certain décor. For example, roses tend to be considered classic but can also be used for romantic chic designs.
  • Colored crystals (or pebbles) and gel look cheap 99% of the time.

*Not into artificial plants? If you are bringing natural plants inside and have pets, a reliable source of information is the ASPCA website.

Never miss a project. Sign up below 🙂

A Cabinet Situation

If you are reading this, you probably have a “Cabinet Situation”. Either you just bought your first home (congratulations!) and it needs to be brought into the 21st century or you have been in your home for some time and might be experiencing some of the following:

  • Dated stain colors such as “Honey Oak” (sorry Hooter’s). Check!
  • Scratches and dents. Check!
  • A yellowed surface caused by an old oil based varnish. Check!
  • Ugly laminate such as Golden Girl pink, mint and oh no, mauve! Fake paneling from the 70’s.
  • Or just plain bored and looking for a new look. Perfectly acceptable around here!

Honey Oak cabinets, beige walls and ceiling, dated floor laminate, surgical light fixture. This is my original kitchen…Long way to go!

Level of Difficulty: 3

Refinishing cabinets is not hard, but it is time-consuming. Most importantly, you also need a surface that will take stain or paint. In other words, you need solid wood, wood veneer (in good shape) or good particle wood.

Oh oh, your cabinets are neither of? Don’t panic. I’m here to help. Scroll down to see some suggestions!

Time: One to two weekend project. It will all depend on how big your cabinetry is, the amount of sanding, the scale of repairs and the type of stain you want to achieve.

Find out your material before you start. I have wood, hence this tutorial applies to real wood. Wood veneer (real, thin pieces of wood on top of a lesser quality material) has a similar process. Please see notes below. Particle wood is treated differently and it requires a different post.

* When I completed this project, Paloma on the Hill was not conceived. All the pictures I have of this project and several others, I took to share our progress  (and adventures) with family and friends. Hence, I do not have a lot of images about the staining process or sanding. I also lost all of my phone pictures and all that remained from this project and others is from our little pocket camera.


  • Electric sander or sanding block
  • Lots of sand paper. Minimum of two different grits. I used 80 (extra coarse) and 220.
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Rags – preferably with no lint
  • Stain. I used Varathane, Ebony. The regular kind that builds the color up.
  • Topcoat such as polyurethane, varnish or shellac.
  • Proper applicators for both products (stain and topcoat)
  • Stainable wood filler
  • Spatula
  • Hand tools to remove cabinets, knobs etc., such as screwdrivers and such
  • A mask, breathing wood particles and chemicals is a big no-no
  • Eye protection
  • A well ventilated area and brown paper to protect your working surface

Lets get to work!

Part A: Prep work

  1. I am assuming you realize you have to bring your cabinets down and take the hinges out and that this includes the top and bottom of the cabinetry…. You may be able to sand the bottom part in the kitchen ( but be prepared for saw dust EVERYWHERE). Do not forget to prepare a work area with tables and some kind of cover (brown paper, old plastic bathroom curtains, tarp) . Try to anticipate needs. Including what will you eat..You know, because you will not have a kitchen…

2. Inspect the doors, sides and cabinetry. See how all the elements fit together as you may have to pull some parts apart. Look for scratches or dings that will need to be filled. This is a good time to repair the canals and anything that is loose.


Discolored wood, yellowed topcoat, dings, scratched and gunk. Yep, needs work!

3. Clean the surfaces. Remove any oil, green sauce from your vegan experiment, dust, etc. Actually, you have to clean the whole thing. Nope, no cleaning oils here, remember, we want a squeaky clean surface. A tiny bit of water and soap with a rag is ok. Do not soak the wood in water. Small annoying water bubbles may surface as you stain, even when dry.

It is actually best to wipe everything with a mineral spirits such a denatured alcohol. Do not pour directly on the wood but apply the spirit to the rag and the wipe. It will dry very quickly. Always test it in a hidden section. Regardless of what you end up using, make sure the wood is completely dry before you sand. And, no, you cannot drink this stuff!

4. Ready to fix cracks and sand my friend. But wait, if you have never, ever used a sander before read my earlier post about sanding.

5. I suggest you do the following. Sand, fix & fill any dents or deep scratches, sand again and then sand some more.

6. Repairing scratches and dings is not difficult. Use a quality stainable wood filler and fill the area you want to cover. Cover completely and allow to dry. After it has dried, sand it until it is perfectly aligned with the wood surface. Any imperfections or bumps will be even more visible when color / stain is applied. Sand perfectly.


Apply the wood filler with a spatula. Also, do not forget to wear gloves. This image is from the Golden Chair project, but it is the same technique.

7.  If you are happy with sanding and all the needed repairs you are ready to stain. But, before we continue, are you really sure you removed all of the old stain? Remember, failing to do so will prevent the new stain from absorbing properly. Little secret, inspect your cabinets and doors from an angle. The surface should be even, if you can still see a clear coat or darker spots (not a natural vein) you have to go back. Trust me, it beats having to re-stain in a year because the stain did not stick!

Pre-Staining trick. Soak a rag in denatured alcohol and remove all remaining dust. It cleans the surface and helps the wood achieve a nicer finish. Skip this step and risk dust trapped in the stain. You have been advised!


Of all the cabinets I sanded, which were most of them…I only have the picture where my husband is sanding. :/ Oh well, team work!

* Observe the following:

  • The part been sanded is the bottom part and it not solid wood. We were able to stain it, but I do not think it would stand to heavy use if it were a door.
  • Some areas look dull and other still have some sheen. Please make sure, there is 0 sheen / top coat left.

Part B: Stain

1. Deep breath and here we go! Dip a bit of your brush, lambskin or lint free rag into the stain. We are using a bit of stain at a time. When you become an expert, then you can start spilling stain on the surface. Until then, less is more.


This image is from another project but it shows how little you dip the brush/rag.

2. Start on a side and follow the grain of the wood. Work quickly and do not over-saturate. I cannot stress this enough, the wood only takes so much stain at a time. Be on the lookout for spotting and correct as soon as possible.


Follow the direction of the grain. Also, we had not planned in including this small piece of cabinetry but decided to later on. All the cabinets were stained with the regular stain that builds up the color. This one in particular is the kind that achieves a saturated color 3x faster.

3. As you stain try not to go over what is already covered. Stain starts to set fast (although it takes a while to dry). Once you are done with the first layer, leave it alone! The product label will specify the drying times.

4. Once the time is up, if it looks dry, proceed. If not, let it sit for a bit longer. Even if it’s still a bit wet, you can create mark the stain. Be patient. Also, weather conditions do have an effect on how low the stain will dry.


These guys are dry and ready. Topcoat should follow.

5. Repeat the steps above until a desired level of coverage is achieved. Our cabinets took 4 layers of Ebony stain.

Part C: Apply a protective topcoat. You will thank me for this!

Protect your work after the last layer of stain has dried! I applied three coats of water based Varathane polyurethane in a semi gloss finish and waited an hour in between coats. Make sure you have plenty of time to finish all required coats. Otherwise, you have to wait 24 hours or more to apply additional coats.

Because I had so many projects at the same time, it took me about a year to finally apply the clear coat. I do not recommend as the stain will get scratch and so on. You should do it right away.

Applying a top coat is very similar to applying a stain. Here is how I do it:

1. Stir the can and dip the tip of your brush. As with stain, try to follow the grain of the wood. Apply small amount at time.

dscn09122. The liquid is going to look a tad milky and that is ok. Once it dries, the color or stain beneath will be there. Did you see how I said a tad milky and not white? If it looks white or worst, a puddle of white has formed, you have applied to much. If it is still wet you can wipe it down with a lint free clean rag ( not a napkin please), otherwise wait for it to dry, sand and reapply.

3. Depending on the top coat you choose, you might have to do a soft sand in between layers. At the very least, you should at least apply two coats of poly, I prefer three. Again, read you product specifications.

And that is it, you are done! I bet you it wasn’t as hard as you though it was! I also painted the cabinets interior bright white and added a cute matt to protect the bottom of the cabinets…and because its cute. I kept the knobs I had because I liked them. Knobs can make a huge difference so choose accordingly. I you do not have the budget to get new ones, spray paint them! This is not a permanent solution but will get you by for a while.


That girl over there is Genoveva (Genevieve). In case you didn’t know, I grew up on a dairy farm. I never thought I was going to have a cow in my kitchen! she makes me smile!

Love it! Yes, I still have the ugly laminate countertop, could use a backsplash, get a better light fixture and so forth. But for now, compared to what is was, it’s an amazing transformation. Go ahead, scroll up!

Not bad for $150 right? Not including the appliances…The whooping $150 includes:

  • Stain, topcoat and applicators
  • Sanding machine and papers
  • The gray paint
  • Genoveva not included

Subscribe below to keep up with all the changes! Still ahead:

  • A new light fixture, because this one sucks
  • Backslash
  • Countertop

Tips for success when applying stains

  • Get some pieces of wood and practice to get an idea of how stain works.
  • Work quickly
  • Soaking the wood will not make the wood absorb more stain. The wood absorbs what it absorbs.
  • Apply stain and wipe
  • Follow the direction of the wood
  • Be patient and wait for each layer to dry before the next application. Applying more stain when is still damp will make a nice gooey mess! Think nail polish.
  • Wear quality gloves…or face yucky nails for a week.
  • Make sure you are following the manufacturers instructions. Always!
  • It matters how cold or humid the weather is!
  • Oh, don’t forget to shake the cans. Stain pigments will separate just like paint. So shake that can!
  • Use the correct applicator. Each manufacturer has different specifications.

Tips for success when applying topcoats

  • The brand you choose will tell you the brush or best application method. Pay attention to this because that will affect your end result.
  • Also, it is very important that you barely dip the brush. You should be applying very thin coats at a time.
  • A heavy coat does not equal three thin proper coats. I know what you are thinking!
  • Pay attention to the drying time in between coats.
  • Some products ask you to lightly sand between coats. Do a test run on an inconspicuous spot.
  • Do not shake the can! We are avoiding bubbles. Shaking = bubbles. Stir instead with a disposable utensil or clean piece of wood. Stir often. Shaking is for stains.
  • It does not matter which brand you use, but make sure you read the instructions carefully. Especially what it says about temperature and humidity levels. Please consider this for better results.
  • Do not rush this process. Remember, although this is a clear material the difference between a rushed application and a careful one is clearly visible. If you do not have enough time, wait until the next day. Applying the protective coat is as important and time-consuming as the stain.


Tips for choosing a stain

  • With regular stains you build the color and coverage up. What this means is that the wood will get darker as you apply layers. Remember that stains penetrate into the wood fiber unlike regular paint, which just “sits” on the wood. Use this kind of stain if you want a little color, medium coverage or to the point where you have more saturation but still want to see the wood grain. This is what I used on my kitchen cabinets, night stands and the back yard table top.
  • Use “one or faster applications stains” when you want to achieve full saturation. Use this type if you know you want a deeper coverage. The product label will say something such as “3x faster application”. This is the kind I used on the guest bathroom cabinet, kind size bed, planters and backyard table base projects.
  • Note on color stains: Not all “One Applications / 3x Faster” stains colors will achieve complete coverage such as Ebony. Please run a test to see if the stain you have selected works for you. Stain is not paint. For the most part, unless it is Ebony, the point of stain is to still see the wood grain.
  • Buyer beware. It is very easy to remove a light stain and go darker later. However, it is very difficult to remove a dark stain, such as ebony and then expect to successfully remove all the dark tint to achieve a much lighter wood shade. Okie docki?

Tips for choosing a stain color: 

  • Different wood types absorb at different rates and have different color / tone results. Stores usually have little pieces of stained wood to show the different results. If they do not have it posted on the shelves / walls, ask for a swatch card.

Choosing a top coat finish:

  • Water based is better. Oil based clear coats yellow over time.
  • See what the stain manufacturer recommends.
  • Polyurethane is either oil or water based. The oil option will add a tad of warm color while the water based will not. If you are using a yellow / amber stain such as honey oak, then an oil based top coat will not be a problem. For everything else, stick to a water base.
  • Shellac – The good part is that it is natural. The bad part is that it yellows over time, can get marked by hot items such as a warm pan or mug. Best suited for traditional furniture that will be minimally used.
  • Lacquer – It looks really fab! Use this if you want a super shine finish. Not a good option for traditional looks unless, for example, you are using paint instead of stain. Asian furniture is usually very glossy and will benefit from Shellac. This finish is applied as a spray. Can get damaged over time.
  • Varnish – Usually used for wood projects that have to tolerate UV rays and water.
  • Water based polycrylic is a great option for the kitchen as it does better with heat.

Topcoat finish types:

  • Gloss – Use for a glass like finish. I only use and recommend this kind for color painted furniture. It can look really tacky over grain wood. Unless, you have Asian furniture.
  • Semi Gloss – When you want some sheen, but not over the top. My cabinets were finished with this kind as I wanted some drama in my kitchen.
  • Satin – In my opinion this is better suited for wood. Very little shine.
  • For the most part you can buy some of these in a can or as a spay. I do not favor the spray as the nozzle can drip or spray bubbles. Been there done that.

Mid Century Modern Laminate.

Procedure for Wood Veneer Cabinets

  • You can follow the same procedure for wood cabinet described above with the following exceptions:
  • Light sand or hand sand as wood veneer is very thin and delicate, especially if it is vintage. I would not use an electrical sanding machine…I would patiently use a hand sander.
  • Damages to the veneer, such as dents and small missing pieces can be fixed with stainable wood filler. If your wood veneer has a lot of damage you might have to have new veneers installed or just go for a rustic look.
  • Filling (with wood filler) and staining wide gaps between veneers might look odd because the materials absorb product differently. You might want to mix wood dust with the wood filler for a more discrete fix.

Painting over laminate:

  • You might be tempted to paint over the laminate, but I am very sorry my friend. It will not stay and will probably not even dry. Laminate is not a natural surface. You can paint it, but you have to go through some prep work.
  • Before I give you ideas, promise me you will first try it on a small surface or in an area that is not visible. At the very least, try it on one door and see what the end-result is. Please.
  • Finished materials, of any kind, usually have a protective film or layer. Try removing some of this layer via a quick sand before attempting to paint. Paint needs to adhere, by sanding you are allowing the paint to do so.
  • Paint, not stain. Stains are for materials that are capable of absorbing pigments such as wood, laminate will not absorb. Paint covers. Laminate would have to be painted.
  • I would spray paint. And apply a topcoat.
  • This is how I would go about it. There is no guarantee this will work in your laminate cabinets.

Kicking the Laminate out!

  • You may be able to remove the laminate with a spatula. Before you do so, see if you can determine what material is underneath the laminate. Hint, look at the sides or the back.
  • With a spatula, try to lift the laminate up without removing the cabinet material ( body) from the door. Do this patiently. If a little bit comes off you can always use some wood filler (more here) and can paint over them.
  • Behind the laminate you probably have pine (good news), manufactured or particle wood (not so great).
  • I have painted particle wood with success. Now, it is not high-end look, but it will work, as long as you sand a bit and use quality paint. Stain is not an option here.

This is a particle wood nightstand. It was lightly sanded and painted with quality paint. I will do a post about this $5 find later.

  • Remember, particle and manufactured woods are basically pieces of wood, either tiny bit or pieces, compressed together with glue. Because of this composition it would take a tremendous amount of stain to look somewhat good. Also, there is the glue part.

Another option for ugly cabinets is to wrap them in paper. In my opinion,, this is the best solution if you are unable to remove the laminate or pulling the cabinetry from the wall. There is beautiful wall paper out there, lots to choose from. Who knows, you might fall in love with your funky cabinets!

And if this is still not an option from you, worst case scenario, you can have a professional re-finish you cabinets doors and sides. Not what you wanted to hear, I know, but it still beats a remodel budget!

Have a better idea? Please share so that we can learn! Don’t forget to subscribe below and share with a friend!

Dulce de Leche: A Tasty Treat for your Coworkers


What is Dulce de Leche? Milk and sugar cooked for a long time at a slow temperature., mostly recognized as Argentinean. Why slow? Because otherwise the milk gets burned, Yuk! The result, a glorious, brown, sweet cream.

Dulce the Leche has a very special place in my heart. My uncle who travelled all over the Americas for work, would always bring a huge can from Argentina. One of my favorite memories was my enormously pregnant mother sitting on her rocking chair, in front on the TV, savoring the yummy cream with a spoon.

Time: Ok, let’s be honest about something. Home made Dulce de Leche takes time. At least 3 hours of simmering plus 1 for cooling. Filling and decorating the cup, 10 minutes each. Of the 3 hours, it would be mostly checking everything is going according to plan with the Dulce. Just like when you do a roast. The short answer is about 3-1/2 hours.

However, if you do not have the time, go ahead and buy Dulce de Leche from the Hispanic section of your food market. Just buy a good quality one!



What you need to make a 16 oz cup (adjust as necessary):

  • 14 oz condense milk, good quality please.
  • 1 oz of sliced almonds
  • 1 oz Chocolate morsels or shavings (I like semi-sweet or dark)
  • You could also add peanut butter pieces, coconut flakes, a layer of Nutella. Endless combinations!
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Can opener
  • A big pot
  • Water
  • Décor for the cups (bows, ribbon, tape, scissors)
  • Optional – Make baggies of vanilla wafers or, even better, try to find Maria Cookies from the Hispanic section at the super market. These have a wider surface and aren’t super sweet. The perfect combination!


*If you are using the store-bought version, skip to step #4

Ah, so you are fearless huh? Lets make some Dulce de Leche! There are several ways to achieve this. I always used a classic shortcut, but if your are forgetful and clumsy, this one is not for you. But fear not, below is a link of less adventurous options .

The Shortcut Method: Involves cooking the cans of condensed milk in a large pot of water, at a low temperature (simmering) for three hours. The can must remain covered in water all the time.

How big of a pot? Well, it depends. Are you making one or six cans at a time? The cans can be vertical or horizontally. They need to have space between them and like and a least one inch of water on top.

1. Remove the label from the can and place in the pot. Fill with enough water to cover the can at least one inch from the top up. Why, because water evaporates. The cans need to be completely covered so that the milk can cook evenly.

2. Bring the water to a slow boil and immediately lower the temperature to medium – low (you know your stove, so adjust accordingly). Simmer for three hours, make sure there is always water on top of the can. Do not leave unattended for any reason. You do not have to be right next to the stove but please be around and check it often. Watch for bulging cans (more below).

3. After three hours, turn the stove off and let it cool for an hour. When the can is cool enough to handle, go ahead and open it. Oh la la. Your Dulce should be medium brown.

4. On a clean container, pour the Dulce.

5. Now, add the almonds

6. The chocolate morsels follow.

7. Cover and decorate!


Tips for success and important stuff:

  • Beware of bulging cans! If you see a can that is bulging, use a pair of kitchen tongs and set aside to cool down. With a clean nail, pierce a small hole on top of the can. Bring back to the pot, but now you will have to remove some water so that you do not get any on the top of the can. If you see any Dulce slipping through the hole, just remove it with a spoon.
  • If you need to add water, make sure it is warm or hot. Adding water that is cold will bring the temperature down.
  • Remember, you only boil for second. Three hours of slow simmering! Four if want a firmer Dulce.
  • Not brown but a dark beige? It happens sometimes, it is still good, the flavor is more mellow though. Go ahead, taste it!

Other Dulce de Leche uses:

  • On top of a warm pound cake, yummy!
  • Cake filling
  • Dulce de Leche ice cream
  • Ice Cream Topping
  • With a banana
  • As a pie
  • Crepe filling
  • Just eat it with a spoon!
  • And, let me blow your mind. Take a flour tortilla (burrito), lay some Dulce only on half of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla in half (half circle) and put on your electric griddle or pan at a medium temperature. Cook until the tortilla is crispy. Cut in half and let it cool down. Voila! Just be very careful, because the Dulce will be very, very hot!

Don’t forget to let us know your results and share the yummines with your friends!

Wikihow link to ” 8 Ways to Make Dulce de Leche”

A Christmas Family Project



About the Project: Do you love Christmas décor but want something different from your neighbor’s chubby inflatable and the big box store assortments of wire and glitter? Do you want something personal, hands on and fun? Well, then this project is for you! So grab your kiddos, a handsaw and get ready to have some fun.

Nope, this is not a new concept. But, it is cute, easy to make and you can customize it. Everyone can decorate his or her own arrow. You can do it by theme and adjust the color scheme to achieve different looks (old, retro, country).

Level of Difficulty: 2

Time: A weekend. Not because it takes long but because the paint takes time to dry.


  • Wood for the arrows. You can get them pre-made. Check your local craft store.
  • Wood for the pole / stake.
  • Handsaw or power tool.
  • Sand paper
  • Wood glue or a strong one such as epoxy.
  • Clamps or heavy books to hold pieces in place while drying.
  • Craft paint and brushes
  • Stencils for letter if you are a perfectionist
  • Décor pieces by theme (stars, sport theme, Santa’s face, etc.)
  • Light source
  • Drill, drill bits and screws
  • Sketch paper and pencil
  • Cardboard or brown paper to protect your furniture while you paint

How to:

  1. Decide where your arrow pole is going, so you can get your proportions right.
  2. Get some paper, draw your arrows and decide dimensions. Do a rough sketch to see how the colors will look together.
  3. Since you have your arrow dimensions, draw the arrows on the wood prior to cutting so you have a guide to cut them properly. Once the arrows are cut, sand the rough sides a bit.
  4. Cut the pole to the desired length and make a V shape at the bottom to create a stake. When choosing a pole length, remember you will need about 8 – 12 inches to go underground.
  5. Paint the back of the arrows and the pole. Allow to dry.
  6. You are ready to paint your arrows background color.
  7. Align the arrows pointing exactly how you want them. If you do not plan ahead, you could end up with all the arrows pointing to the same side. With a light pencil, draw the words (free hand or stencil). Before you paint, make sure the arrow is pointing to the right direction.
  8. Go ahead and paint those and the additional décor pieces.


9. Once everything is dry. You may start the gluing process. You can use wood glue or epoxy. I wouldn’t use hot glue since this is going to be outside. Regardless of medium ( your glue), you are going to have to either clamp or apply some weight on top of your glued items. Follow the manufacturers instructions and precautions please.

10. Once everything is glued you may proceed to bolt the arrows to the pole.

11. Make the hole for the pole and put in place. Don’t forget a light source. We used a solar spot light.

12. Enjoy!


I am a kid when it comes to Christmas décor. I love grown up, elegant decorations but just in somebody else’s house. I favor childish candy-land themes, elves, color! Color! Color!


Santa Claus town  – “Toy Warehouse”

Your families favorite sport teams – “To Yankee Stadium”

Hobbies – “To Grandpa’s Paint Room”

Locations you want to visit – “ To Machu Pichu”

A movie or game you all like – “ To Rivendell”

Christmas stuff – “ Bethlehem”

Something about each family member – “Dance Queen Quarters”

Make it look like Lego!

Just make it personal! Like my Corcovada arrow, my hometown. And it has a little cow!

– Make Your Numbers Count!


About the Project: As most homes, mine came with the basic “builder” numbers. Nothing wrong with those, but since we were giving our property some “curve appeal”, new ones were due. If you have been reading my blog, by now you should have noticed that I like different. The new numbers were no exception. Nothing on the hill ever stays as is.

My younger brother is a drummer and years back (8), when I was in design school, he had given me two broken cymbals. At the time, as I still do today, I was really into re-purposing material. At first, I wanted to make some brass bracelets, but I never got around it. And so, I hauled the cymbals all the way from Puerto Rico to Miami (school) and from Miami to the hill.

I like custom, but sometimes, shortcuts are your friend. We went to the big box store that starts with an L and bought these oversized numbers that fit the new house style. So, what are the cymbals for? The number back plate.

My idea, since the cymbals were made of brass, was to create a natural patina on them. I wanted them to be greenish and old looking. There are a couple of ways to achieve this, some involve chemicals, which I rather not use and some procedures that can be safely done with household items.

I did some research and found this good article at Wikihow ( I love this website!). After reading the different procedures, I decided to use the balsamic vinegar and salt formula.


1. Get your ruler and make the templates

2. Do a rough cut

3. Clean the brass pieces as directed by Wikihow

4. Trace the template shape and cut them with my jewelers saw-blade. Very bad idea because the metal is not even (cymbal shape). Scratch that.


5. Make the templates, in my case in Illustrator. Cut the paper templates and trace them again on the cymbals. Gave them to my husband to cut with the metal grinder. Much better.

6. Find the containers and ingredients.

7. Prepare the five parts vinegar and one salt mixture and submerge the brass pieces for at least one hour. Waited as indicated

8. Baked the pieces for an hour.

9. Submerged again for five minutes as directed.

10. Baked again for another thirty minutes.

11. Submerged again and let it air dry.

12. Voila…Ugh, not really. No Voila, nothing happened. Probably because the cymbals are an alloy of Brass with something else.

13. No worries, plan B. Although I really liked the burnt color it acquired, once I put the black numbers on top, you could not read them.

14. Spray paint is your friend. Used a “hammered” tin colored spray paint. It took like three layers for the hammered effect to show up, a bit.

15. So, when we were ( my husband, really) bolting the numbers and plates to the wall, the screws that came with the numbers broke like chalk. Two of them. So, you may want to have extra screws hanging around just in case. Bolted. And there you have it, from broken cymbals to awesome custom house numbers.