Emily vs. Barn, The Makeover Story

April 28, 2017   //  Posted in: Barn   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

I mean, I’ll be damned if staining the barn didn’t add a few $$$$ to our property’s value. Not that we’re planning to sell, but if it’s going to be more than just for looks, it’s wise to direct efforts into DIY projects that would be worthy of a good return, right?


Like I mentioned when I kicked off the project last week, and as you can see above, the barn on our property has been a big eyesore as long as we’ve lived here, and probably for a few decades before that. Check out the original tour of the barn in this separate post (it has stables!).

I didn’t have to make a huge investment for this project to happen–that was part of the appeal–and that’s because we had a lot of the things we needed. A full list of materials that I used, excluding building materials like extra pieces of cedar shake shingle and nails:

  • 5-gallon bucket of stain: Olympic Maximum water-based stain in Oxford Brown ($166 + tax)
  • water (used to dilute the stain to around 40-water/60-stain or 50ish/50ish)
  • a paint/stain sprayer (I’m not really an expert on the types of sprayers for sale; we already owned two models from Black & Decker)
    • This HVLP sprayer priced at $100 was a real workhorse. It was good in the sense that I could fill up the reservoir and angle it up towards the soffits. Good target. It didn’t have broad or particularly heavy-coating spray, so I had to hold it much closer to the surface and spent more time spraying up and down and back and forth across the area. It worked best when I rinsed the nozzle in water during each refill. However slow it was though, it was steady because…
    • This was the other sprayer. That’s an affiliate link. The sprayer burned out on us on its first day of use. I have lots of great B+D tools and I’ll be the first to admit that it was my user error, not an issue of product quality. It had tremendous strength compared to the tortoise cited above–I could have refinished the entire barn in 8 hours if I had used it start-to-finish–but when I tipped it downward to reach a spot at knee-level the stain drained out the nozzle… and then I overcorrected and reached up to a high part on the wall, and the stain drained out the back of the gun (and down my jacket sleeve to my armpit, and definitely down into the motor, and then the damaged tool gently zapped (yeah, electrocuted) my trigger finger when I went to climb up a metal ladder, and to hell with that. Pete was able to make it work again for a short while after a good cleaning, but then it just stopped running for us all together.
  • new paint for the doors (honestly, I had 1/2 of a quart of Edamame green from when I painted our front door and side door, and painting the barn doors the same color was both logical and more cost effective, so I rolled with it (pun!). I ran out when I was almost done with the second door, and just bought one of those tiny sample containers for $3 tinted to match.)
  • and rollers and paint brushes. All the ones I employed were previously used. There’s some appeal in using the gunkiest supplies you still have on hand for projects that don’t really matter, like the stiffened rollers never cleaned perfectly, and the brushes that have bristles splayed in all directions…. you can let them do their job one last time before chucking them right into the garbage.

Beginning-to-end, this project only needs to take a couple of days. It took us 4 days, in between work and other things. It was a good opportunity to let our older girls participate, too. Julia, who’s 10, was able to test out the spray gun and learn how it worked. Hattie, who’s 3, helped me paint the doors. And we found that sometimes painting at 7:30am on a Saturday is just the zen we need to add to our routine.

Painting doors with a toddler.

Painting doors with a toddler.

While you’re checking out some of these before and after photos, I’ll mention that the only thing we’re really mildly disappointed about is that we chose a gray shingle when the barn was roofed. That decision was made so that the barn would match the house, and now we’re curiously asking ourselves if it would look super dumb to spray stain our shingles to be brown… yes? no? yes? I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, and if it continues to bother me I might be inclined to correct it.

We started with a couple must-do repairs – scraping bubbled paint and some green, thriving moss off the bottom of the garage door so that the surface was smoother (still totally imperfect, we’ll have to replace the door if we expect it to look better), and replacing cedar shakes that were missing, loose, or rotten on the front and sides of the barn. We found a box of the original shakes at the house when we moved in, which was handy.

Replacing missing and damaged cedar shake shingles on our midcentury barn.

The angle that I showed you last week got a lot better, really fast:

Our really, really ugly barn, pre-stain makeover.

Staining a midcentury cedar shake garage a dark brown to blend in to its environment.

I wasn’t sure how well the stain was going to adhere and cover when I started, so I began on a wall that’s out of my daily line of sight. I blocked off the windows with newspaper and painter’s tape (and evidently forgot to remove it from one window when I snapped the “after” photo) and applied the spray in a thin coat. It was really drippy, but more so than I attribute that to the water-to-stain ratio, it didn’t help that the cedar shakes have natural vertical grooves that welcome runny stain, and the surface had been painted and unprepped for stain adhesion (other than me lazily blasting it with a leaf blower to remove any cobwebs and dust). For what it’s worth, I used a 50/50 mixture of the stain and water, stirred it well in a container, and then poured the mixture into the paint gun reservoir. You can get away with a 70-stain/30-water ratio if you are going to clean the nozzle pieces at each refill, which is probably the #1 tip written in the “get to know your paint sprayer before using it” pamphlet. Didn’t read it, and you probably won’t either.

What I’m saying is, the combo of vertical grooves + painted surface + diluted stain wasn’t the perfect recipe for stain to soak in on contact, so it probably took a bit more product to get the coverage we expected. Nonetheless, with a few hours of dry time between coats, the layers of stain did result in a nice, rich chocolate finish.

I mean, look at that!

Our barn, a mid-century cedar shingled and semi-abandoned structure receives a facelift.

Our barn, a mid-century cedar shingled and semi-abandoned structure receives a facelift.

The lesser photographed barn entrance leads down a hill to the lower level, built on a hillside. The path was virtually non-existent for a long time, but Pete has spent a lot of time clearing brush to create our ability to see through the woods, and removed a lot of trees and bushes that cluttered the path.

Access to the barn's lower level through a stable door.

A little bit closer now (evidently I was so horrified of documenting how bad it looked… I only have a few photos of it):

Access to the barn's lower level through a stable door.

I shared a photo of Pete on Instagram while he was up on the ladder reaching some high spots, but the barn finished from this angle really makes the whole project feel worthwhile.

A few things to note:

  • We had enough stain leftover after doing all four walls–yesincluding the backside that no one really cares about–that we also sprayed the stain onto the visible foundation to help it blend in even more. I was going buy recommended cement paint for that surface, but I’m happy we saved $30 and just went with the stain. It looks just fine.
  • I didn’t tape off the windows on this side. We had gotten pretty good aim with the gun by this point. If you do this too, you can remove the dried stain from the glass super easily with a little elbow grease; the stain was water-based.
  • Try to overlook the fact that I haven’t cleaned up the window panes effected by some of the Edamame green paint. If the main house is any indication, cleaning panes is my least favorite DIY chore. If you look really, really closely you’ll be able to see that some of the panes are broken, so addressing that is part of phase 2.
  • I’m testing out some leftover pieces of flagstone on the retaining wall that Pete rebuilt last summer; I never went into much detail about how he rebuilt it or why, and in short it was being pushed over slowly so he disassembled it, and used the same blocks to correct it but reinforced with adhesives and rebar to make it last a long time. If we decide to keep the flagstones on top of it, more will need to be cut to size. For now, I stained the retaining wall too, it’s so matchy-matchy ’round here.
  • Phase 2 might also involve transplanting some lush greenery above the retaining wall. How pretty do the tiny leaves on our trees look in contrast to the dark brown?

Barn, refinished siding with a dark brown stain. The rolling barn door, original to the structure, was painted green.

Recap: If you’re planning on a quick makeover, I highly recommend a paint sprayer. Minimal effort payed off here, but keep in mind that you’ll want to do an appropriate amount of prep work to the underlying surface… the better the prep, the longer the new finish is going to hold up to the elements.

Emily vs. Barn

April 20, 2017   //  Posted in: Barn   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

I just set out to update the look of our barn, referring to it as my “lipstick on a pig” project. The barn–which looks like a garage but isn’t a garage since the real garage is attached to the house where we park our cars–rests at the back of our property, and for awhile was well-disguised by excessive brush. Every year we clear and prune back more and more of those weed trees, creating a cleaner line of sight to the disheveled structure, and it looks pretty bad, I’m well-aware. We’re even rocking the classy combo of rusty fence + old lawn chairs + an old gas mower held together with metal tape.

Our really, really ugly barn, pre-stain makeover.

You can barely tell from the above picture, but barn’s been a WIP since we moved in; we started in on maintaining our back acre immediately upon moving in, and now can hardly remember a time when the barn was so surrounded by leafy overgrowth that it was invisible. It’s times like this that I’m glad I photo-document all of the things.

  • In our first summer here, we rebuilt/re-shingled the roof. We meaning Pete; I was pregnant for the first time and was cool to take pictures from ground-level. The new roof was necessary as the old one had been punctured by fallen branches, consequently rotted away (an IG image from way-back!), which also left us with a rotting floor on the inside, and crumbling roof beam structure. We also evicted some vultures which gained access through that large roof hole, taking back their barn-nest.
  • In our second summer here, Pete rebuilt the floor that was rotting away, the area that had been damaged due to the holes in the roof. In the year since covering it, the subfloor and joists had a chance to dry which was helpful because we could really see ID what needed to be repaired vs. what was still structurally sound.
  • Did we do anything in our third summer? No. A mini-patio which evidenced by the above photo, really isn’t much of anything.
  • We schemed plans to completely replace the exterior of the barn during our fourth summer, but at that point I was pregnant again and it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be much help lifting 4×8 sheets of T1-11 (which is what we used on the treehouse). Plus, vultures returned through a broken window and we were advised to leave their nest and eggs alone. Avoiding anything disruptive, Pete redirected his efforts to rebuilding a retaining wall, which was the project he was sweating to mere hours before I delivered our son. Yes, I snapped this a minute before I told him it was time to go to the hospital.

Rebuilding a retaining wall near our two-story barn.

Back to the pig. In an ideal DIY world, we’d spend a few days replacing shingles that are damaged or missing, replacing both doors on the upper level, repairing trim (I’m not exaggerating when I say that 99% of it needs to be replaced), and installing gutters prior to staining and painting. In our world, we’re embarking on the fifth summer in our home, and I just recently noticed that the neighbor’s beautiful patio and fire pit stare directly at our haphazardly maintained barn; oh, the horror. I’m going at it the easy route with a few gallons of stain and paint to 1) make it tolerable and borderline pretty; 2) camouflage minor issues; 3) and do a deep assessment of what actually needs to be replaced so I can tackle it slowly in coming months or years.

I’m using the same opaque stain that we used on our backyard treehouse, Oxford Brown by Olympic. It has held up really well on the treehouse, and it’ll help the now pastel yellow-colored structure blend in more to the earthy surroundings. All that’s to explain why I brought home a big 5-gallon jug of the stuff this week, which cost around $180 if you’re keeping tallies on how much it might cost to do a cheap-o makeover like this one, and insisted on getting started on this project while I had a few rain-free hours this morning. If Day 1 was any indication, I’ll need a couple of coats.

Painting a cedar shingled barn with oxford brown olympic opaque stain.

Time to get busy.



Be My Boucherouite

February 21, 2017   //  Posted in: Decor, Flooring   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

We took a week-long vacation in Casablanca, Morocco for a wedding – that was more than 4 years ago – and ever since I’ve been searching for my own moroccan area rug inspired directly by the ones we had adorning our hotel room.

The Moroccan influence was just kicking off in the states at the time, but prices on quality vintage products quickly climbed, climbed, climbed as the demand increased. Rugs priced out of my range quickly on ebay, and were priced much too high by US/Canadian/Australian resellers trying to make a quick buck off the boucherouites, beni ouarain, and azilal rugs and other vintage home textiles. Sourcing the larger sized rugs, which are hard enough to find in good condition, became like hunting for the golden ticket. Mass production seemed to take over, with manufacturers like West Elm and NuLoom producing designs intended to mimic the patterns and colors the design community was demanding, but I’ve looked at many of those, read reviews, and decided against in hopes that I’d eventually find something authentic.

When our friends returned to Morocco last year I asked them to search, sending them off with general size guidelines and promises to PayPal them cash as fast as could be, but even within local souks and with their plethora of connections, these friends had a hard time finding exactly what we were looking for – a few cool options, but not quite the coloring or scale I wanted. I continued my search online.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon by chance–I think via Instagram–and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical about buying overseas from a website that wasn’t mainstream, but I took a chance. The shop, which is based in Marrakech, London and Barcelona, has a limited inventory of unique, authentic rugs available for sale, but the products listed were well-photographed, well-described, and priced affordably compared to all other sources I’ve been monitoring. This was exciting! Many of the rugs were larger in scale too, which is what I wanted – here’s the listing for one I chose. Shortly after I placed my order I received an email directly from a guy named Marc confirming that they received my order, and he sent me the tracking info for my package – totally at ease.

Good things come in small packages; my wedding dress (j.crew via ebay) arrived in a box that was smaller than a toaster (yes, really), and I was just as surprised when the 4.5′ x 7.5′ vintage rug showed up on our porch wrapped into a bundle the size of my torso.

A vintage moroccan rug bundled in the mail.

Good packing job, Marc.

A vintage moroccan rug bundled in the mail.

The price of the rug was £310.00 or ~$375 USD + shipping, and… total heart-eyes. Perfectly imperfect, which is what you expect with a “rag rug” made of scrap fibers hand-woven into an intricate, free flowing and casually asymmetrical pattern.

Our new-to-us vintage moroccan boucherouite rug from

I’ve rotated it around into different spots in our house to see where it works best; it’s definitely at home in the bedroom, in a low-traffic spot that I still intend to accessorize with new dressers and a killer floor lamp, but until I get that space adorned it lives in front of our fireplace, serving as a soft little play area for the kids.

Our new-to-us vintage moroccan boucherouite rug from

The hunt is real, but if you’re also looking for a moroccan rug I definitely recommend looking at, as well as ebay (worth noting that US-based and well-respected sfgirlbybay has her own ebay storefront of boucherouites too). The Etsy shop BOUCHEROUITE was also one I kept a close eye on.

P.S. Here’s a quick centimeter to inches conversion tool.