A E I O U sometimes D.I.Y.

As newlyweds we were given two bookshelves.  My mom describes them as rustic and quirky.  My dad calls them failed shop class final projects.  One of my parents is an optimist while the other is a realist but I’ll let you decide which is which.

Puts a whole new meaning on restoration hardware
Puts a whole new meaning on restoration hardware

They don’t have the same number of shelves.  They don’t have the same stain color.  They have uneven nails clearly visible.


But they hold books – which is what we need right now.

I was thinking about painting them both white.  My mom pointed out I could paint them white but that would be a vain attempt to cover their quirky mismatchy feel.  Or I could use them to incorporate my color palette into the dull corner of the living room and unapologetically give them some pizzazz.

Yup, these little beauties will soon be glowing green and proud.

I went with that top color called lime green.
I went with that top color called lime green.

These bookshelves are my first big step into D.I.Y.dome and I couldn’t wait to see my awesome D.I.Y. self at work!  (Oh how pride comes before the slip on the paint can lid.)

I had read all the blogs, pinned all the pins, and talked to the friendly employees at Lowes.

I was set and ready.

Oh yeah, sooooooo prepared
Oh yeah, sooooooo prepared

With phrases like “it couldn’t be simpler” “just so easy-peasy” and “barely takes long at all” dancing in my head I started out with vigor.

Did you know it takes longer to sand, dust/clean, prime, dry, sand, dust, paint, dry, and add a second coat on a bookshelf than it does to read about it?

It does.

Much longer.

On the first evening I spent a pleasant few minutes filling in all the various nail holes and cracks with wood putty and smoothing it down with a putty knife.  I felt confident and secure, the putty filled in just like it should and I left it to dry overnight.

Wood putty and putty knife to fill in holes really helped the bookshelf look better.
Wood putty and putty knife to fill in holes really helped the bookshelf look better.

The sanding was great.  Hummingbird had slipped off to sleep easily, the dishes were done and laundry going, what else could I do with such an evening?  After sanding everything down lickety-split, I wiped it all off and even vacuumed it, just to be sure the sawdust was off.

This whole D.I.Y. thing was going as planned and I was enjoying doing something to fill our house with fun colorful things.  I had tapped into that vibe that all those D.I.Y.ers rave about, all that “watching things unfold before your very eyes thanks to your very own hard sweat and labor” goodness.  So far I hadn’t sweated and a light sawdusting didn’t seem like labor, but I was really ok with that.  Then a day or so later during nap time I thought, oh I’ll just pop out and slap some primer on. Easy peasy.

That was going really well, until the baby woke up.

Now in my mind I had a slew of great exist strategies, but they all involved the minor detail of the bookshelf primer process being at a good stopping point. (Ok ok fine, I’ll admit it – in my mind somehow I had primed, dried, painted, and put on a pristine second coat all in the length of one afternoon nap.)  The exit strategy certainly wasn’t midway through with half the backs of the shelves partially painted.  I had a thingy half-full with primer that I managed to mostly dump back into the can.  All that was left was to doff the socks and clean the brush.

I had read a tip on YoungHouseLove for wearing socks while painting so that you don’t have to deal with getting paint on your shoes or scrubbing it off your feet.  I thought this was such a clever idea!  But Sherry probably didn’t slip on the lid of a primer can while heading down the garage stairs to the basement, successfully leaving a crescent moon mark down the first few steps.  Actually when I checked that blog post to make sure that hadn’t happened to her I realized that it was a trick for spray painting.  Ah well, it certainly made me feel prepared.

Also attempting to rinse an oil based primer paintbrush in water is futile.

Then trying to squeeze it clean with your hands as the toddler’s seeking cries crescendo is a disaster.

Thankfully I remembered that the helpful Lowes paint lady had added mineral spirits to my cart near the end saying I’d need it to clean the brushes.  This must be what she was talking about.

And it worked like a dream.

Classic ah ha moment
Classic ah ha moment

A good kitchen scrubby sponge and Dawn soap also got the paint off my hands.

By the time I dashed up to the waiting toddler, having created scenes of despair and all that mama guilt mumbo jumbo, she was happily crooing a book aloud to teddies.

A tip I had not read anywhere, probably because it is such basic common sense that even people who have been kind enough to dumb down every step omitted it, is to not wear your intricate wedding ring while trying to squeeze paint out of a brush with your bare hands.  Don’t do it.

The next day with the prospect of finishing the priming step dampening my mood I had to give myself a bit of a pep talk.

The thing is, people who say it’s simple and easy peasy and a piece of cake are not lying.  They are experienced.  They know what to expect, what to do, and how to do it.  It is a skill and you have to build and develop skills.  You may be inherently gifted in different areas, but to really be good at anything you have to commit the time and practice.

I have dedicated a lot of time to developing cooking and baking skills.  I feel at home in the kitchen and can wing things fairly intuitively.  If I rattled off a recipe, with details such as “when the oil begins to shimmer but not smoke” and “add a pinch of nutmeg, not too much, then remove from heat immediately when it has a toasty fragrance ” or “you want it to feel resilient, not rough, or rubbery” to someone who has never prepared anything other than Kraft MacnCheese and instant pancakes, they might have two things occur simultaneously.  One – their eyes might glaze over with the details, and Two – they might walk away thinking that it is so easy, it will just take a minute, and come out all gooey glossy goodness.  That is what had happened with these bookshelves.  I had glazed over and also thought erroneously that I knew it all.

So this primer experience was exactly that, a primer for me.  An introduction into the flow and feeling of this new skill.

It's nice to have little milestone accomplishments during this whole D.I.Y. process.
It’s nice to have little milestone accomplishments during this whole D.I.Y. process.

These bookshelves are probably not going to be magazine cover worthy.  There will be a few visible brush strokes, despite all the different suggestions I read on how to avoid the dreaded brush strokes.  If you stood and looked at it under a magnifying glass, you would see flaws.  Honestly if you stand three feet away and look at it with both eyes shut you could pick out the amateur attempt.

But that’s all ok.  This isn’t a glossy magazine, those brush strokes are from my own work, and the flaws are simply learning and living this life of mine.

In the end these bookshelves will grace the walls of the living room, throb with lime green hues, and be just right for what we need right now, which is a bookshelf that will hold books.


4 comments on “A E I O U sometimes D.I.Y.

  1. Oh, Hannah. I loved every bit of this. Minus the blood, sweat, tears and paint-streaks-of-shame down the stairs. But still.

    • Thank you! Very grateful that there was actually no blood. And during the whole paint-steaks-of-shame stairs episode I thought “this could be a hilarious blog post”

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