Friday, January 17, 2014

The Weekender: DIY Concrete Countertops Part II - 2.5 Year Update & Resealing How-To

Our resealed concrete counter!

Two and a half years ago, we embarked on our biggest DIY project - a concrete-topped kitchen island. From designing the island to building the frame to pouring the concrete, we did the whole thing ourselves. Talk about stress! I spent months researching concrete and trying to convince my husband that we really could do this on our own. After finally getting him to say yes, it was MY turn to freak out. What if the base we built wasn't strong enough and we ended up with 500lbs of concrete crashing through the floor? I'm pretty sure we'd lose our security deposit. Nonetheless, we dug in and after a few mistakes with the base (like screwing up the measurements and not realizing it until AFTER we finished building) and a lot of mistakes with the concrete finishing steps, we ended up with the island of our dreams!

>> Want to build your own countertop? Check out our concrete countertop DIY tips.

So after 2 1/2 years, how do we like the concrete? We LOVE it! It's just as beautiful as it was the first day and we couldn't be happier. If we weren't renters and I didn't already like the wood counters in the rest of the kitchen, I would do all the tops in concrete. As long as you're willing to do light maintenance and get rid of harsh cleaners, you'll love concrete too. Below are a few basic rules we follow.


Cleaning - Bleach, vinegar, and other harsh cleaners will eat through your sealer. Instead, stick with soapy water, gentle sprays like Clorox Anywhere Spray, and granite/stone cleaners. We generally do soapy water for daily cleaning and use the Anywhere Spray for disinfecting. I've cheated and used bleach kitchen cleaner a couple of times when we were out of Anywhere Spray. It won't immediately ruin your concrete but if you do it regularly, it will. We use the granite cleaner when we want to give the counter a little treat or when we're having guests over and we want it looking its absolute best. We also use it after waxing the counter. Our favorite is Method's Daily Granite. Like all their products, it's eco-friendly and smells AMAZING! They were sold out of it when we went to the store last month so we bought Zep CleanStone Plus Cleaner + Polish instead. Like Method, it's around $5. It smells good and I like that it's a foam.

Food & Drinks - No matter what you do, your concrete is going to patina so don't freak out too much if you notice something. Still, there are little things you can do when cooking to keep the wear to a minimum. Most things (use a cutting board when cutting, use trivets for hot pots and serving bowls) are pretty standard for any countertop surface. As for drinks, we rarely use coasters. Once, I left a glass of ice water on the counter and came back to find it dripping and sweating all over the concrete which left a ring. 15 minutes later, the ring had evaporated. If you're going to leave a glass of freezing cold water dripping on the counter, I'd say use a coaster just to be safe. If you're just having a cup of coffee or glass of water and it's not sweating like crazy, you're fine since most water rings will evaporate. Be careful with acidic foods and drinks because they can eat away at or penetrate the sealer. I left a jar of condiments on the counter (can't remember what it was) and it left a ring that took weeks to go away. Now if I look hard, I can still see a very faint ring.

Waxing - We waxed our countertop EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. like clockwork. We used paste wax but you could also use carnuba wax or beeswax if you want something more natural. The wax provides a barrier and helps the sealer last longer. A lot of websites suggest that you refinish your counters at the 1-year mark, but because we were faithful about waxing it every month, we were able to make it 1.5 years before we started seeing any wear to the sealer. 6 months later, we resealed the counter. To see if your sealer is on its way out, try the drop test: if a drop of water soaks into the counter, it's time to refinish. If it beads, you're good to go! I knew our sealer was worn when I left a damp towel on the counter for a minute and the water absorbed into the counter. This happened more and more as the sealer continued to wear. Once we decided to reseal, we stopped waxing so that the wax would have time to wear off.

Holes and Cracks - Another sign our sealer was worn was when I noticed all the little pinholes we'd left on the surface kept filling with flour every time I baked. They had partially filled with sealer when we first made the counter, but when the sealer wore down after a year and a half, the holes became deeper and began to hold flour and other particles. We were left using nails and toothpicks to clean them out. It made me hate cooking!

I learned during my research that hairline cracks are to be expected during the life of your counter but we've made it this long without seeing a single one. This past Christmas, we went to Ohio for a week and I absentmindedly turned off the heat while we were gone. Our landlord came in on the last day and turned the heat back on because they noticed our apartment was making theirs cold. He said it was 32 degrees in our apartment and that he could see their breath. When he told me this, I freaked out. Freezing temps don't exactly play well with concrete, just ask your tires! Thankfully, our counter remained in place and crack-free. Awesome! Still, if you see a hairline crack or two, it doesn't mean anything horrible is happening. Just fill the cracks like you would a hole and you're all set. (If it's a large crack, you may have something more serious happening in which case, feel free to freak out!)

Tiny holes filled with flour

And that's it! See, keeping up with concrete counters isn't that hard after all! Now it's time for the last maintenance step, resealing.


TIME: about 1 day
  • leftover cement color (optional; new - $5.17)
  • Sandpaper
  • Sander
  • Sealer (new - $18+)
  • Wax (new - $7+)
  • Grout/compound (new - $5)

2 MONTHS OUT - Stop waxing. The wax creates a barrier that you'll have to sand off in order to reseal the counter. Once you see your sealer is worn, stop waxing and make a plan to reseal the counter in 2-3 months. When it's time to reseal, you'll have a lot less work to do if you don't have wax to deal with. By the time we were ready to reseal, our counters were pretty much worn down to the bare concrete. 

SAND - If you recently applied wax to the counters and can't wait 2 months to reseal, you'll have to use a sander to cut through the wax and into the sealer. There are also etching products that can help if you have a lot to get through. You could even try using stripper, though I'd recommend using a less harsh citrus stripper. If you used a stain or cement color, you may want to stick with sanding so you don't eat through your color. If your counters are as worn as ours were, a quick sand by hand may be enough. After that, I washed the counters to get rid of dust.

FILL & SAND - After a mistake vibrating the bubbles out of the concrete the first time around (more on that here), we ended up with a lot of holes that we decided to leave unfilled because we liked the look. It was fine until the sealer started to wear and I was left with a bunch of tiny holes that filled with flour when I cooked. This time around, I decided the holes had to go. 

I tried using Quikrete's Concrete Filler, but the filler was very rocky and the holes in the counter were too small for it to work. So we headed to Home Depot to search for grout and instead came across Quikrete Paching Compound. It's the perfect consistency. It took me a couple of passes to make sure I got all the holes but it was easy to spread with a putty knife and the excess wiped off with a damp towel. We used charcoal grey concrete color to make our counter so after the compound dried, I put a little color on a paper towel and went over the holes a couple of times to die them the right color. After that, do another light sand to level off the grouted areas and clean once again to remove the dust. I mostly concentrated on the tiny pinholes in the middle since those are the most annoying. We still like the look of the rough edges so I didn't go too crazy filling the edge holes all the way.

Filling the holes with compound. I used a towel to add color to the grout after the compound dried.

SEAL - From here, I followed the same steps I did when I sealed the concrete the first time. I still had my spray bottle of sealer so I gave it a good shake, then sprayed it on the counters and used a big foam roller to even it out. Originally, I only did 3 coats but this time I went crazy and did like 4 or 5. There was no reasoning behind it, I just had a lot of fun spraying I guess! Unfortunately, I got distracted during the last coat and the sealer started to dry before I could roll it out which left me with faint marks where the foam sat too long. I didn't notice this till after I finished and applied the wax so now I'll have to lightly buff the spots out with 400 grit sandpaper. Thankfully you can only see them if all the lights are on and you stare at the right angle so t's not a huge deal.

Applying the sealer.

WAX & ENJOY! - Apply a coat of wax and resume your monthly waxing schedule like you normally would. Then you're finally ready to enjoy your newly sealed counters!

All done!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Living Room Color Change

So, it was bound to happen sometime. I'm bored with the living room and kitchen paint colors and ready for a change! Today, I figured I'd focus on my living room. Take a look and let me know what you think!


The color we wanted was a rich coral like the one on the left. What we got was pink.

The color currently on the wall was never what I wanted. The living room was supposed to be more of an orangy coral but came out a deep pink that looked red at night. I hated it. A year later, I decided to repaint and had a custom color mixed that I thought was going to be THE ONE! But as we finished the 2nd coat, we noticed it wasn't much different than the last color. Ugh. My husband gave me that "I told you so" look and I was forced to admit that, while the new color was slightly lighter, it still was too dark and too pink. So we were stuck with a color that I still didn't like. Now, I'm ready to change all that. Maybe my nesting instincts are kicking in since the weather is getting colder or maybe it's just that the upcoming holiday entertaining season has me wanting my house in tip-top shape. Either way, I'm ready for change. Below are quick mock-ups of the living room in various shades of gorgeous color, along with inspiration photos.

By the way, the green couch is the one we have now. I (quickly) Photoshoped it to make it orange in some of the pictures because we have an orange couch in storage that we're thinking of switching in to replace the green one. Sorry for the crappy editing...I just wanted something to give you a gist of what an orange couch would look like since I don't have any pics of it yet.

(For more gorgeous pictures and color inspiration, don't forget to follow us on Pinterest.)

I'm a HUGE fan of charcoal and grey. We did our last apartment in charcoal with black accent walls. Is it dark? Yes, but when the sun hits it during the day, it creates this gorgeous, stormy glow with pops of color splashed throughout and at night it feels sleek and swanky.


I'm a sucker for green. From avocado to olive to hunter, I can't get enough. Several of our apartments have had avocado green accent walls, but I have yet to pull the trigger and do a whole room green. Maybe now's my chance! We would of course switch out the green couch for the orange if we went with green paint.



I love me some teal. If you look at the top of the page, you'll see that teal and avocado is my go-to color combo. We did our dining room in Boston a dark teal blue, but this time I think I'd add a little more green to the teal and choose a lighter shade like the ones below. Though I love teal and green together, I actually think the orange couch looks better with the teal since it pops more.



Yellow is my absolute favorite color. In Boston, I did a yellow accent wall in our master bedroom and loved it, but it's a tricky color to do. Even on pinterest, I had a hard time finding just the right color for the inspiration photo. I want something vibrant and rich but also soft enough that I won't go blind. The yellow we used in our bedroom was perfect but sadly I don't have any pictures. Just look at the pictures below and imagine them about 2 or 3 shades lighter and you'll know what I'm talking about.


I suggested navy to my husband and he got super excited. He's a boy so of course his favorite colors are navy and grey. I like navy for the same reason I like grey and's moody and stormy and looks magical when the light hits. I like the dark, though I'm also thinking a softer, more dusty shade would be great as well.



So, which would YOU choose?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's Our Birthday!

Yay! Yahoo! Yippeeeeee!

It's been 4 years since we first opened our online doors and we're still here peddling handmade & vintage. As exciting as the first 4 years have been, we can't wait for what's to come. Be on the lookout for new designers, more furniture, a new in-house line of household essentials, and our first storefront!

To celebrate 4 years, take 28% off everything in the store, now thru Friday! Just enter promo code "BDAY28" at checkout.  >> SHOP NOW

Here's to an amazing year 5!
India & Jerome
Apartment 528

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

By the Book: Dining In

So I'm still flipping through my 1968 BH&G Decorating Book. I just can't get enough! Last time I was all about technicolor living rooms and this time I'm madly in love with this bold dining room. The table and chairs, the lighting, the credenza, the paneling, the art; it's all great! Even the checkerboard floor, which is normally reserved for casual kitchens and diners, seems perfectly at home here. Major swoon!

Image via Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book, 1968

Thursday, January 17, 2013

By the Book: 1968 BH&G Technicolor Livingrooms

I'm kind of addicted to vintage decorating & woodworking books. I've amassed quite a collection and am always on the lookout for more. They're not just a look back into the past, they're also full of amazing inspiration for modern decorating, especially if your taste leans towards retro modern or MCM like mine. Just look at the cover to the left...nix the green carpeting (and the green paneling if you're so inclined) and you've got a gorgeous modern room.

Since I can't possibly use all these awesome ideas in my apartment, I've decided to stop being selfish and share them with you! Every week I'll post some of my favorite pictures from a one of my books. Currently, I'm stuck on the Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book from 1968 so don't be surprised if all the pictures come from here the next few weeks! Out of all the books I have, this one has the largest amount of great pictures. It was a birthday present from Leilani of the Thriftaholic blog. It's nice to have awesome vintage-loving friends who will buy you retro goodies :)

All images via Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Book, 1968
I like the geometric prints on the rug and wall tapestry. I wish I could see what is in the lower right corner. Looks like some kind of platter with a tribal print.

This is one of my favorite rooms. The multi-colored pillows, blue rug, worn wood floors, and art on the walls are amazing. Oh, and look at those colorful bowls on the coffee table. I'm not a fan of the arm or rocking chairs, but other than that I'll take it!

Till next week...