Super talented? Check. Beautiful home in California wine country? Check. Totally adorable? Check. Kate of Centsational Girl goes three for three, and it’s why I’m just kind of obsessed with her! I mean, her blog. Yes, that sounds less creepy…
In all seriousness, when Leslie of The DIY Diaries introduced us to Kate’s site, it quickly became one of our favorites because quite simply, she is incredibly creative. Though she is very crafty with her smaller DIY projects (these paper mache eggs are a recent favorite), it’s Kate’s simple and easy furniture renovations and redecoration projects that keep us coming back.
Kate was kind enough to talk with us on how you too can cast a discerning eye on flea market finds, how she learned to refurbish, and how she finds the time to do it all.
1. Your simple and easy ideas for restoring furniture is one of our favorite things on your blog. Do you have any training in this at all? If not, how do you wrap your brain around what to do?
I believe in following your passion even if that means teaching yourself what you need to know, and I am completely self taught. I started out with smaller projects and worked my way up from there. When it comes to products I use in refurbishing, I always read the back of the can and the product brochure to figure out just how a product is supposed to work before I use it. I allow myself plenty of room to experiment as well. Sometimes I’ll just know the look I’m going for and then try different ways to achieve it. It’s all part of the fun and I’m still learning.
I also study high-end furniture up close. Inspecting high end furniture will teach you a lot about high-gloss finishes, metallic finishes, applying nail head trim or tufting a piece of furniture. For example, I made this tufted headboard myself and added silver leaf to a standard bronze lamp.
DIY books on upholstery and refinishing are a helpful treatises, as well as online resources like HGTV, DIY Network or One Project Closer. Other blogs are another wealth of information seeing how others achieve a certain look and following their step by step.
2. You live in a beautiful area of our country, Northern California and Wine Country. How does this environment inspire you?
Constantly. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful area, full of bounty. We’re also pretty lucky with the weather. Spring comes earlier for us than the rest of the country, so we get a lot of botanical beauty early on. I love anything nature inspired and find myself trying to bring it indoors all the time, whether its cut branches from the grapevines or cherry blossom trees.
The Wine Country lifestyle is pretty laid back. We have a lot of European influences here as far as architecture and décor which makes sense when so much of the terrain is covered in vineyard. Yet we still keep a low key California attitude. You’ll find a lot of old barns and rustic country furnishings at most of the wineries which adds to the casual relaxing feel of the region. And the free flowing abundant wine helps keep everyone mellowed out and enjoying the simple pleasures of life !
3. Subtle but effective use of color is also one of the things we like best about your projects. What advice would you give to DIY’ers who might struggle a bit more in this area?
I would advise anyone not to pick a paint color from a sample under the florescent light at a home improvement store. Pick up a few tiny samples and try them on the wall and study them in different light.
Lately, I’ve started collecting paint decks from favorite paint companies like Benjamin Moore. That way, I can instantly compare colors rather than having to make a special trip for swatches to the home improvement store. But I still do that too, all the time. I must have hundreds and hundreds of paint samples in my inspiration binder and I won’t part with them. Crazy, but true !
When I’m getting ready to paint, especially walls, often I will muddy it up meaning I’ve added a bit of gray or burntumber in the paint to reduce the saturation. The less saturated the color, the more likely it is to act as a neutral, like a really gray blue or khaki green, and the more likely you’ll be delighted with it over time.
I started taking art classes a few years ago, and that helped me understand color a lot more and how different shades look good with other different shades, and how a hue and saturation are affected by lighting and other surrounding shadows and colors. I’ve made mistakes, but I’m getting better at recognizing what works and what doesn’t.
4. Do you have any tricks from identifying a good fixer-upper from a piece of junk when combing the thrift stores?
I keep a huge inspiration file of designer furniture which inspires me whenever I go out hunting for pieces to refurbish. My best piece of advice is to give a thorough inspection and be willing to walk away if the piece is beyond repair. I always examine furniture top to bottom, pulling every drawer, opening every door, checking drawer guides and hinges, and even looking underneath to inspect the construction. Many times I’ve passed pieces up because they are not stable or sturdy enough to last.
I insist on really great lines and pretty good design since most bad finishes can be either covered in paint or sanded and restained. Small defects, like broken molding or missing hardware can be easily fixed. Often I’ll replace the hardware after I refurbish and that goes a long way to modernize what was once a dowdy piece.
5. In the same vein, I know I always struggle in finding a good thrift store or vintage shop. It’s an easy trap to think you’re getting a bargain. Do you have any hard and fast rules when you enter a store for the first time and are trying to determine if you’re seeing treasure or trash and if the prices are fair?
It all depends on the thrift store. If I find a piece that I’ve inspected and think is worthy of fixing up, but the price is too high, I have no problem approaching the manager and asking for a discount. Sometimes they say ‘Yes’, sometimes they decline, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Bottom line, thrift stores are charity run organizations, so whatever you buy you know you will be benefiting your community and saving a piece from a landfill.
6. What are some of your favorite major chain stores for the little touches – like tassels, dresser knobs and the like?
Anthropologie rocks my socks as far as knobs and hardware. Te-Ma.com has some really beautiful original knobs. TopKnobs.com also has great selection. For more basic knobs and pulls, the local Home Depot or Lowes is a good start. Often they have books for special order hardware, so I’ll look there. Ebay is a great resource for specialty or vintage hard to find pieces. And my local salvage yard is often where I hunt down truly unique pulls.
7. Do you have any favorite online stores that you frequent for your projects?
I’m pretty tight with purchases online, but now and then I do splurge. The sites that inspire me the most as far as styling are Brocade Home, Urban Outfitters, Grandinroad, Horchow, Ballard Designs, Crate & Barrel, Wisteria, Serena & Lily, West Elm, and Pottery Barn.
8. What are some easy projects that moms and kids can do together that can double as truly beautiful decor?
Anything that involves a little craft paint or glitter seems to work well in my house. Painting a birdhouse, or dipping figurines or letters in glue and sprinkling with glitter is a great way to involve your wee ones in crafts and have something you made together that is pretty for a mantle display. Banners are a fun way to add an important word to your home and involve your children in the creative process.
My daughter is just learning to wield a hot glue gun, so the possibilities are endless when they master that tool.
9. You mention on your site that you’ve always had a love of DIY – but what started it? And by the same token, what finally prompted you to start blogging about your projects?
We survived a major home remodel and then I was just itching for more projects to finish. I stumbled across some other home improvement blogs and that inspired me to start one of my own.
10. For the busy working girl, what projects do you recommend that aren’t too hard on the wallet and don’t take too much time to complete?
11. How do you find the time to blog, work do all these amazing crafts and be a mom? Are you secretly hammering at 3 a.m.?
I am on the go, sunup to sundown. I send my kids off to school by 8 in the morning, check emails, clean house and run errands. My big secret? I never turn the TV on during the day. Never. I prefer when my house is quiet with just soft music or silence. I can think that way, and not get distracted by the tube. Sometimes I’ll record Oprah or Ellen, and I record all the HGTV shows I like and watch them later at night after my kids go to bed, while I sit and blog. We’re just not big TV watchers around here, except for a few cable news shows at night. Sometimes I feel out of touch by not watching ‘The Bachelor’ or some of those more popular shows, but I’m just not really interested. Even American Idol is kind of boring to me this season! I figure if something really amazing happens on TV it will be all over the internet the next day and I can catch it on YouTube.
I like to do my projects in the afternoon when my kids are home and I can keep an eye on them while they play. After I put my kids to bed, that’s when I sit and write my articles. Sometimes hub will watch a show in the background, and we’re fine being ‘together’ while I’m on my laptop on the couch and he flips through the channels or reads. But I have a strict policy to be in bed by midnight. I absolutely need those 7 hours of sleep or I am a complete grouch !