How to restore a cosmetically damaged wood finish

before and after wood scratches

Today I wanted to run through a list of tips and tricks we’ve found to work well when restoring cosmetic damage to furniture.  This content does contain affiliate links.–please see our privacy and disclosure page for more details.  I picked up this secretary desk which was actually in incredible condition except for the desk inside.

Secretary desk

When we went to pick it up Blake took a look at the inside and said “did they lock a cat in there?” ….sometimes you do wonder how some scratches happen….

Inside scratches on secretary desk

scratches on wooden desk

Anyways, along with fine scratches there was also nail polish smears all over and something that looked like a gold sharpie mark. I can just see a girl painting her nails here. It’s kind of fabulous really!

nail polish on wood

paint smear on wood
So the first thing I do is clean the furniture (and I mean put some muscle into) with Murphy’s oil. This is going to remove oils and grime that just build up over time. Especially if you’re cleaning up a table or something used in the kitchen!

Murphys Oil

Next I go after scratches with steel wool. The FINEST steel wool you can buy…anything coarse will do way too much damage. I go lightly over the scratches just to get things smooth. Now for the nail polish (or paint splatters too)… If it’s a big glob sometimes you can pick it off with your nail carefully. If it’s a smear that’s been there for who knows how long I use a citrus based cleaner (per lots of googling) and I let it sit for a few minutes. I come back and wipe it off and then immediately go behind with my steel wool. This takes some dedication and patience and some grit but it will slowly start to come loose. It shouldn’t take any of the color away but it will leave the spot looking a little dull & cloudy compared to the rest of the finish. Don’t fret! Polish will take care of that.

citrus based cleaner

nail polish removed from wood

I wipe down the piece again to get the dust the steel wool leaves behind. Then I use Old English for the shade of wood I’m working with (dark here). I first put it directly on my problem spots and let it sit for a few seconds. I use a clean rag and rub it in in a circular motion going out from the spots blending over the whole surface. I’ll apply this again to the whole piece until I’m satisfied with the color and cover up of the scratches.

after using old english

after wood scratch repair

After it dries for several hours I go over with a white rag just to see if I’ve left any residue. I complete things with a coat of furniture wax applied with a clean rag. This will help seal in my work and also protect the surface going forward.

I would of course recommend using a professional if you’re needing to rehab a several thousand dollar antique but for a quick makeover at home where you’re thinking paint may be your only option–it’s not!

Things that change your life

Hi Friends! It’s been a while. I have to report that not much in the way of projects has gone on around here.

We have had one very major life event though……


We invested in a Roomba! Are you underwhelmed? Don’t be.

This sort of happened on a whim although I guess not really because we had been in discussions about hiring someone to help keep the house clean anyway.

Sometimes just the smallest amount of dust can overwhelm me. It’s not the dust I can see that does it… it’s knowing that the dust I do see is the tip of a big invisible iceberg and thinking about dusting the iceberg really just makes me want to run outside screaming. Our last place did not make me feel this way. I guess it was smaller but it was also complete. When everything was put away it was done and I felt very satisfied. Living in a fixer upper has definitely impacted the cleaning realm because there is no feeling of complete satisfaction. In fact, if you clean something that is “under construction” (the term I like to use for something that is not entirely the way I want it to be… aka 85% of the house) you are left feeling blah about it because then you get reminded about what you meant to be doing to that particular area and if you are just ADD enough you will start that and then forget to ever finish cleaning.

I realized how first world problems this post is seeming right now. Sometimes you just have to be dramatic.

So anyways, back to the purchase. My friend Kelly told me one day she was working from home while her dog played in the back yard and her Roomba vacuumed the house for her. WHATTTTT. I immediately had to get on board. I did a little research (10 minutes worth) and decided I wanted the model made for pet hair then I told Blake that the Easter Bunny was SO thoughtful because he was bringing me a Roomba.

easter bunny

If you read this blog long enough you’ll start to notice that I like to pin a lot of purchases on holiday characters. If I ever do have the unfortunate mishap of losing a tooth you better believe the tooth fairy is coming to town!

(Also, if you google Roomba and are astounded at the price of them I realize it may seem conflicting as I am otherwise a ridiculously frugal person but it should be noted there is a busy season policy. We do not have time to spend money January-April and therefore the Easter Bunny likes to be generous each Spring) ….also I thought about how many times I’ve said to myself “I would pay someone $50 to suck up all the dust and dog hair in this house” and it was more than 8 times (in the past week) so therefore my valuation of said Roomba was deemed reasonable and appropriate.

WE LOVE IT. I mean we LOVE it. I think it works remarkably well and even if I do nothing all day and the Roomba runs I feel a sense of accomplishment. I also like that it goes under the furniture unlike a vacuum. It also makes me feel good that if we have someone coming over last minute we can start it to run and do other tasks while it’s getting that part done. We had some people ask us how it did on carpet and we think it did well but we also weren’t using a Dyson or anything before. The Roomba is a huge improvement over what was happening before….which was nothing. It motivates you to keep clutter off the floor so that it can get around which means more shoes back in the closet and less of me keeping two pairs in every room of the house just in case I need to go somewhere. (Really it just motivates your husband to remind you to put your shoes back in that sweet shoe china cabinet he built for you)

I think I might be the only one who laughs at this type of thing but I just crack up every time I see a video about a cat riding a Roomba. Hilarious.


This is the link to a funny one. I can see Lola sitting on the Roomba doing this to Finley while we are at work all day.

Anywayyyyssss, we are sort of getting back into the groove of things and I’ve been itching to make a giant to do list. I read Young House Love…if you don’t you should because they are cute. They keep a giant running to do list for each section of their house which they fondly call Listy McListerson (or some variation thereof). It has everything from tiny to dos to big renovations but it’s just a place they can go to check stuff off and remember their original goals. I hope to have that be my next post for here.

Lastly, if you watch The Voice, Delvin Choice is from Greenville and goes to our church so if you want to be cool and vote for him that would be great! 🙂 It’s on tonight so click here if you want to!

Pinterest can be Poisonous

I’m not sure what happened late Saturday night but I had just had it up to here with our pantry and decided that out of all the things I actually needed to be doing that I needed to be organizing the pantry. We had just arrived home from being out of town and I didn’t even take my bag to my room before I started in on it…I’m sort of ridiculous in that regard I suppose.

I think I’m on the eve of my crazy season at work and that sort of itch and squirming that settles in before you need to get responsible is happening. Doesn’t this happen to pregnant people? “Nesting” they call it…those last couple of weeks before you actually have to be in charge of your future lineage. Yes, well, I’m nesting to prepare for chaos. Sometimes our friends think we are crazy because we do sort of go under a rock for 4 months…we aren’t really good friends to anyone….we just try to at least feed the dogs…our phone bill goes to a whopping zero minutes used and we might as well cancel the cable bill. We also somehow manage to eat but I’m not exactly positive when/where/or how it happens. I know I’m making that sound awful and it’s NOT miserable (we wouldn’t do it) but it is just sort of this nonsensical chaos created by things other than work. I actually think the majority of time is spent just getting from point A to point B and trying to make sure shoes at least match before you leave in the morning. …this can be harder than one might think.


Anyways, the pantry. Here is before….please don’t judge me—contrary to this picture I was not raised by wolves.


I took absolutely everything out…

photo 2

Once everything was out I realized the walls were all dingy and scraped up (enter lack of self control)…I grabbed my leftover Anew Grey (bedroom and office color) and went to town. I just want for things to feel cleaner and cared about. I won’t say that the thought of crown moulding and a different light fixture didn’t cross my mind but I mean…I do like my husband and would like to remain married this year 🙂 so I kept those thoughts to myself.

photo 4

Next I felt really peeved by the wire shelving because half my stuff tips over and wobbles around causing domino effect around the pantry. MADNESS. I had this black bookshelf I found at an auction that has been tried out in practically every section of the house and never fit in. It’s perfect here!! Once I had that in I just started organizing spices and canned foods. From there I put back in the shelving and grouped like items together. We even have space leftover!!

photo 5

photo 3

I’m pretty obsessed with our pantry now because now I know what types of food we actually have 🙂 Looking back on the pantry if you’ve been with us a while you may remember it didn’t even have doors in the beginning…here is the post explaining the door addition. This pantry was actually an original entrance to the house so it was just closed in but never insulated. During the winter it’s actually like a second refrigerator.

Now, for the virtue of this story. Several months ago our preacher preached a sermon about comparison and how dangerous it can be for humans. Social media has made comparison almost completely unavoidable…and deceiving!! You start comparing your life to other people’s via facebook when you know people are probably only giving you the highlights. During this sermon he said “I want to speak to the ladies for a minute…” and he had us lean in closely. He said “Pinterest is poisonous!” Now, the crowd erupted in laughter but you know what? He was right. We pin all these home décor things that are either a) completely impractical b) COMPLETELY out of our price range or c) both

The past year I’ve been quietly giving our pantry the side eye because a long time ago I made the mistake of searching for pantries on pinterest. Worst. Idea. Ever. They are BEAUTIFUL. ….but the people who have these pantries in their home evidently starve. Redoing our pantry and realizing that it was absolutely perfect for us made me realize that our house isn’t ever going to look like a pinterest museum. Our pantry is not aesthetically pleasing at all but it’s organized and it is stocked which is a crazy crazy crazy huge blessing…pinterest almost let me miss that. So here I am….breaking up with the home décor category of pinterest (I’ll never give up the humor section…)

I hope that our blog will only be a source of inspiration for others and that people never lose sight of the fact that I can crop out the bad parts of pictures and trust me, I do.

In other more exciting news we moved the desk into the home office!! I am typing from it!! However, I am surrounded by a few boxes of things that need organizing and also I’ve run an extension cord to the desk because of course the room has two outlets on completely the wrong walls 🙂 ….ahhh the joy of 1941. So here is an in progress shot. Oh and now you know that I totally am only showing you the clear side of the room..ha!


the “Be Free” Challenge is over!

I can’t believe it’s been thirty days! To celebrate my challenge I decided to group together a few pictures of our accomplishments. We didn’t do 30 projects but we did twenty something and I feel really good about that! We are twenty something projects closer to our dream home and our pockets didn’t take a hit for it. At the beginning of the challenge I made a list of everything I could think of that we could do using materials we had already purchased or inherited. I crossed the items off as we went feeling so good about taking care of those “we really ought to do something about that but I will walk past it 1000 times and pretend it’s not there” items.

(this gallery is something new for me so I’m still figuring it out myself…if you click on an image it opens a slideshow type of deal where the pictures are bigger. I haven’t figured out how to link the picture to the post yet but …baby steps..)

There were some little things we took care of that didn’t make the blog either a) because they were so boring or b) I ran out of time.

Paint peg board
Add chalkboard to peg board area
Add chicken wire fencing
Paint those glass jugs
Repair or cover up hole around breaker box
Repair area around fire place
Painting chandelier
Hang chandelier (And rearrange the whole living room)
Hang foyer light from last house
Hang half door—use hinges from closet doors?
Get that dang wheel barrow off the porch
Pull up the weeds in my mulch bed
Get dead Christmas lights out of terrarium thing
Make something with my corks
Get rid of the Christmas candy by the front door
Rechannel dryer vent
Clean out radiator bench and find home?
Press and fold all of our fabric napkins and make a home for them
Paint pantry doors & use hardware I bought 10 years ago
Paint outlet covers in mancave
Cut back branches hanging over drive
Transplant some ivy
Cleaning out freezer
Reroute things in mancave so tv area looks cleaner

We still have a list that long we didn’t even get to.

I’m really proud of us for taking care of the details. Like I talked about in this post, projects are icing on the cake to jobs worked during the day and chores we have to take care of. So while you may only see 20 something projects (tiny to pretty big) know that each one has a layer of laundry, cutting the grass, dishes, accounting, dog parenting, traveling, and cleaning on top of it. It shall be called the life layer.

I’m so excited to share what the future holds. Here is a hint. It involves this:


And this:


There are certain things in life that make me feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury… Bath and Body Works foam handsoaps, my husband, and a china cabinet for shoes. 🙂

slowing down and cleaning up!


Confession. Numbering my be free challenge days is not “freeing” at all. I need less to think about, not more, so from here on out I’m just not numbering them. Cool I’m glad we can all agree on that 🙂

Ok, let me catch you up to speed. We’ve been stumbling along our little project list so I will now introduce you to the past few things we have done which include a chalkboard, chicken wire, a wheel barrow, and a car alternator…not free…but also not for the house. Ah-ha! Still in the game.

Before all that I came across a post today that nearly made me cry. I read Manhattan Nest and Daniel (foul mouthed and all) has to be one of the best writers I have come across. The way he interprets life is so inspiring. Anyways, he took in a dog off the street, Linus. Here is a link to the whole story but if you a) don’t have time b) don’t want to read the salty language here is a recap. Linus walked into Daniels life looking like this:


Daniel took him in at 10 years old and a mouth full of rotten teeth. Daniel had just won $5,000 dollars for a decorating contest and he used it to spare this dog and let him live out life the best way he could. What Daniel did I think few people would do. Here is Linus after:


Today is Linus’ “birthday” (here is a link to this one, no foul language today and I recommend the read) and this paragraph just caused such a swell in my heart for Lola.

“But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.”

Blake and I constantly find humor in how slow Lola is. She walks through the house at a turtle speed and always looks like she is walking on thin ice. She walks as if every step might be the one that finally causes the floor to fall through. We have no clue why she does it but it’s just so different from Finley. He bounces around the house in such a way that you can hear him move from anywhere in the house. Constantly charging around to the next best thing…meanwhile Lola is somewhere in a corner or under a table just soaking everything in. We’ve tried to get Lola to “come out of her shell” but this made me realize that we probably ought to just let her be.

I digress,

Here we talked about how we tidied up the peg board area going down to the basement. Now that it’s clean I don’t mind looking up when I come home from work and go into the house. I had Blake saw off a piece of that giant chalkboard I made and we hung it here. It’s just a sweet place to leave a little message or leave a reminder for yourself.


Secondly, whoever said white dogs can’t jump lied. Finley can just be sitting and out of nowhere leap out of the rock wall in the back. Blake and I just couldn’t bring ourselves to buy 2 more rows of pavers (34 pavers times 2 rows=68 pavers times probably $5 each….umm, NO.) So, we settled for some good old chicken wire or “poultry netting” as they class it up in the store to say so they can charge you more. Anyways, we lifted all of the pavers on the top row and rolled the wire our to leave about 6 inches hanging over into the yard…giving Fin a “ceiling”.


This was tough work. That’s 50 feet and there were scary bugs under some of the pavers. I had my bug killing boots on.


The worst part is that Fin came up to tell us we hadn’t done enough…sweet of him to let us know, right?


We realized we had to get the wire to tilt up and for whatever reason that changed the game for him. He doesn’t like it and won’t even try to get near it.


The best part is that you really can’t see this…it was a discreet and cost effective way to keep our furkid contained (no one likes getting that phone call that says “Hi, are you the owner of Finley? He’s in my yard…..”

Confession. Haha and I can’t wait to tell all of you this. Mostly because we have people tell us a lot “wow you guys just get so much stuff done!”. When we moved in we found a huge wheel barrow on the back patio filled to the brim with chips of concrete.


I haven’t posted about the mess on our back patio. I might do that tomorrow along with an entry form you can all fill out to submit us to HGTV for help. Until a few days ago that wheel barrow hadn’t been touched. It has two flat tires and 250lbs of mess. y’all. Y’ALL. While blake mowed the yard one day I lifted all those chips out, by hand, put them into like 35 walmart bags, prayed they wouldn’t bust, carried them down the stairs (one by one) and hauled them to the recycling center. I could start a workout class at our house. Saturday classes only…for free. Just show up 🙂 so that was free, and not that exciting for you but it’s a big deal to me. And I hope it makes you all feel better that it took us 8 months to deal with the wheel barrow. worst part…the wheel barrow is still there…but it’s empty. ha! feel better about your nagging projects now?

Blake’s old mustang is the best. He had to change the alternator Saturday and so I was lucky enough to catch a ride to the auto part store with him. And then he took me to Hardee’s. it was love….I even had a coupon for a 99 cent gravy biscuit. That Charlie Sheen, is winning. I just like to ride around in it.



There is this unspoken camaraderie between him and other classic car drivers. That sweet thumbs up they give you at an intersection makes me feel proud. It makes me feel like we are connecting to someone else in the world over the love of restoration…I suppose that’s pretty much what this blog is too.

Here’s a hint about what’s been going on the past two days.


I can’t wait to share. Newsflash, this wasn’t free  but it had to be done. Blake doesn’t feel “the challenge” is a good enough reason to ignore rotting wood…so practical, that one.

Longest post ever…anyone asleep yet? 🙂 good. go love on your “Linus” ps: Linus doesn’t have to be a dog…just that one person/thing that makes you stop and smell the roses.

“Be Free” Challenge Day 7

Day 7. In which I try to convince the world to use cloth napkins.

I always remember as a kid using cloth napkins. It’s funny how that is looked upon as a higher end, classy type of household item. It’s A LOT cheaper than ripping off a paper towel for each person at every meal. It’s also much more environmentally friendly! Also, when eating outdoors you don’t have to go chasing your “napkin” across the patio every time the wind blows.

So, when I first moved into my own place I went to world market and picked up two packs of cloth napkins or “table linen” as the yuppy world may say (I know, I know, I’m totally in the yuppy generation but I like using that word). You can get 6 for $10 there so 12 napkins was plenty. $20 may seem like a lot but I bet you earn it back in a year on less paper towels used. I’m sure if you can sew you could even make your own. I mean, let’s all agree that some things need to be soaked up with a paper towel and thrown in the trash never to be seen again. However, you don’t need to waste a paper towel every time some water is spilt. Or to wipe down the counter after a meal, etc.

For our wedding we got two sets of beautiful monogrammed napkins. I love them. Love them in a I will maybe cut your hand if I catch you using these while doing anything other than eating white rice or drinking water kind of way. I know I preach all the time about not being afraid to use your house but these are different.


The giver of these was so thoughtful in that we got the great white ones and then also got a set of this dark taupe color.


I’m much more lenient about using those but I still have boundaries. No spaghetti sauce or anything overly oily. Do I sound like a total control freak yet?

We do have 12 more (the originals from world market) that Blake and I are trying to use on a day to day basis (no rules!) and we like to save the wedding gift napkins for our guests. I call it compromising.



Since we moved I have been so bad about using these. They went into a box in our china cabinet and haven’t been pulled out other than when we have had guests over. Today I made them a home in the kitchen (see how they are stacked in order of use?).


More importantly I made a spot for the dirty ones about the washer and dryer. Without a designated “laundry basket” for these you will find them all over the house. Trust. Your husband will not go to the clothing closet to take a napkin. I mean, I’m sure mine would if I asked but I feel like it goes against the logic of man to take something from dinner to the closet. So, here we are. nice and tidy.



Here is a blog post I saw where someone made themselves a reusable roll of cloths. Looks cool if you know how to sew!

“Be Free” Challenge Day 3 & 4!

If I wasn’t titling these all the same I would definitely title Day 3 “HO HO NO”

If you are a CPA or you know a CPA you know we go under our rocks in January and come back up when the flowers do. Day 3 just consisted of a little de-Christmasing. Our front door rarely gets used and so of course I just let this Christmas candy hang out there until now. Out of site out of mind belly.


The Christmas lights I had in this terrarium/green house/white metal glass thing have been dead for 3 months.


I actually really liked having the light in here…it’s sort of like a lamp so I just decided to replace them. Of course I found a box of Christmas lights on day 1 of my be free challenge and of course they were in the right place now so I grabbed those. Unfortunately they aren’t white like the last ones so they don’t blend as well.



Oh well…it’s work with what you have month so for now they will just lay in here blending with the green trunk. I actually like it. Effortless mood light.

Ok, so onto Day 4. I have finally painted that brass chandelier I picked up a couple of weeks ago. And in the spirit of not buying a thing I settled on gray. (it’s actually just gray primer)


I love it. It’s so understated. I’ll share a pic when we finally hang it (one day at a time, right?)


I love that picture. It so perfectly captures my favorite things. I love those two.

Oh and where is Lola you ask?


Still don’t see her? Let me zoom in for you.


See…she is a cat.