SLP Office Reno: Before and After!


This project, for a home business office in St. Louis Park, was a challenge and a pleasure!

It was done in a little more than a month’s time, on a $1,000 materials budget, and as a surprise for one of its occupants!

Linden Hills Florist co-owner Anne Schultz wanted to redo this office as a surprise for her Mom, Susanne, with whom she runs the business. The plan was to get this all finished while Susanne was out of town for 10 days.

Susanne had NO idea this was in the works.

Stealth was called for! (You can find more about the paint and fabric choices here, from an earlier post!)

Here’s the basement office, “before” — Anne and Susanne run the their floral business out of studio space, so they took over a basement room at Anne’s as an office. It was a mad jumble, not only of their stuff, but also the detritus that Anne’s family had crammed into storage.anne2

The first item to be addressed was lighting. Ordinarily, we would have removed the textured ceiling, too, but the budget did not stretch to that. A fresh coat of paint and an updated fixture with three times the wattage was a major improvement.

The old office had a desk for one. This new desk — a fabricated top from Home Depot and set atop three scavenged filing cabinets — provided room for two. A new, textured area rug grounded the space, and a pair of Ikea lamps provided task lighting.


A tiny window screamed “basement.” Before, a vintage desk was used as a tabletop to store vases, and a closet, right, was covered with a castoff purple drapery panel (Behind it was a closet stuffed with junk.)anne50

A spot right inside the doorway housed filing cabinets and a jumble of loose paperwork.


This bookcase replaced all of that. The case was the only piece of furniture retained from the room’s previous furnishings. It holds file boxes in gray and purple, and photos of LHF client work.
anne32The small window was disguised with a floor-length panel, set partially to the left of the window, to give the illusion of a larger opening.

By removing the vintage desk, we created a space for a table from Anne’s garage (painted the same neutral gray-beige as the walls) where Anne and Susanne could meet with potential clients as needed, or enjoy a coffee break away from their desks.


Love this fabric, “Sangria,” for the vibrancy it brought to this space!


This is the closet area, before. While placing a curtain panel near the window, I removed the one that hung over the closet.



By removing the rod and adding adjustable shelving, Anne and Susanne can move the shelves as needed for whatever vases and stock they have on hand at any given time. Open storage also encourages them to keep the shelves neat and tidy!


This is the “before” wall to the left of the door. It is where the black bookcase previously stood, along with a lineup of pieces that served mainly as a resting space for clutter.


Now the wall is home to an oversize fabric “inspiration” board. This board was designed to hang vertically, but Anne was sure her Mom would prefer a horizontal presentation. She was right! I had also chosen a larger, more ornate moulding, but Anne knew her mother would like a cleaner, less fussy look. My photo skills are sub par; the moulding is plum gloss enamel and contrasts nicely with the hot pink fabric.


The paint color was chosen to match the existing carpet, and the fabrics and accents were chosen in Susanne’s favorite bright colors: purple, pink, lime green and orange. The filing cabinets were free castoffs in perfect condition, courtesy of the Richfield Chamber of Commerce, which was remodeling its offices.

They were perfect for our needs. By supporting the desktop, they replaced the existing rickety black file cabinets and provided even more storage.

ascollage1Glossy plum enamel dressed up the clipboards for daily orders, as well as the LHF letters from the store’s old workroom, now redeployed on the office door. Decorative paper provided colorful labels for the gray Ikea storage boxes.

ascollage2Mindful of the budget, we used chairs on hand for this project. Two of these for the desk…

ascollage4…and two of these, for the client consult area.

ascollage5Orange pieces from West Elm provided a pop of color; the plum file boxes were ordered online.

This budget-conscious red0 scored a lot of impact for a relatively small price: it brought in more light without needing to create an egress window or recessing can lights, both of which would have been great, but costlier, solutions.

Lark Nest is a fan of small changes that score big improvements!


Basement Project Update 2!


So, that’s not an arty angle, just my particular take on the world these days. Home from the Junk Bonanza with a bodacious head cold, so everything is tilting somewhat!


Look what has gone on in the last few weeks!

You’ll remember what it looked like during the last update!

And what it looked like when we started, after a water line backup! Here’s a brief reminder:


Scary!base15Ah, much better! All of the pipes that were visible on the wall (for the laundry in the upstairs, walk-in closet) have been recessed, creating much more usable space. The ceiling has been drywalled, too!

Cabinet and base moulding has been painted. Note in the picture at the top of this post that I placed a few boxes on the shelf to see how they fit. Can’t wait to have all the stuff that is reposing in the rest of the basement snuggled neatly into this storage space!


Maple plywood cabinet bases have been installed! (Skip back to the first shot to see the full framing on top of these units. Looks swell!)


The drop ceiling has been replaced with drywall, and studded with four recessed can lights. The walls have been painted…base11

…as has the window frame. The outside, lower window was replaced.base9

The concrete double sink (used perhaps twice a year) is gone! This wall is adjacent to a powder room in case water is needed for anything.


The corner unit is in!

The Karndean loose-lay floor is partially installed in this picture.

It went down and is adhering like a dream!


Still loving its bleached, driftwood-y look!

This week should see the finished cabinet doors go on. Work continues on maple shelves for the furnace room across the other end of the basement.

More photos to come as this onetime laundry room turned junk pile is reshaped for storage!


Inspiring Color in an Inspiring Reference Guide!


DD1Talented friend and decorative painter Debbie Dion Hayes of has compiled “Color Inspiration Notebook for Creating Gorgeous Painted Furniture.”

The name says it all!

bluetableLark Nest Design is honored to have a piece included in her color reference guide! You might remember this periwinkle and jade coffee table from my website, in the Interiors/Refurbished section!


This is one of my favorite paint jobs!

Front Fan1Debbie, whose studio is in Greensboro, NC, created this 6-by-9-inch notebook to spark ideas about paint treatments in different colors.  Who among us isn’t inspired by seeing the work of others?


The coffee table resides on the Blue page! It began its journey when, while junking, I unearthed it from the farthest reaches of a St. Vincent DePaul shop. It was a $2 rescue and its two leatherette panels on top were scarred with a few cigarette burns and deep scratches. Filler, paint, sanding and a few other treatments remedied those situations!

DD4The photos, of work by Debbie and many of her painter friends, are rich and luscious. My iPhone photos don’t do them justice.

DD5Blue-Green is a great page! Debbie is a stencil artist, too, and many of these pieces showcase her skills.


The Grey page is one of my favorites. Love the treatments on these two chests!


The Black page has a great vibe, too! Debbie’s fan deck is 48 pages on heavy coated stock, with blank pages in the back for adding notes, fabric samples and other bits of ephemera that inspire! Debbie’s book can be found at several retailers; it’s also available for purchase on her site sidebar via PayPal for $19.95 plus shipping.

Lark Nest is thrilled to be included with such august company, and thankful for Debbie’s generosity in including this piece in her work!

What colors are inspiring you this morning?!


Another Reclaim Piece Gets Started!


Each new custom piece is an adventure!

There’s a lovely process that spans from the client’s first fond wish, spoken aloud, to a tangible result.

In between comes lots of talking, planning, dreaming and the work of skilled artisans. (At Lark Nest, there is usually a fair amount of scavenging involved as well!)

beck1 Today’s post documents the start of another journey, this time for the creation of a console that is destined for the client’s Arizona vacation home, filled with beautiful pieces that pay homage to the American West. Here’s  a snap of the amazing salvaged barn wood —  in rare, 22-inch-wide pieces! — that will form this piece, which will repose between soaring windows with a killer view!

beck3A trip to the salvager’s has already yielded a great and rusty hasp closure for the doors, and a search is underway for the metal strapping that will make this piece fit perfectly with its surroundings.

Most days I think I have, quite possibly, the world’s best job! Here’s to the start of another swell project!


Bookshelves for Baby!

nurseryThis beautiful nursery is standing at the ready for Leslie and Jamie, who await impending parenthood by the day!

Lark Nest was honored to finish this sweet bookshelf for the nursery, which is done in cool gray, white trim, and, for an accent, “Belafonte Yellow.”nurs1

Here’s what it looked like just a few days ago, before it was loaded up with fabulous tomes for soon-to-arrive baby!nurs8

Here’s what it looked like for most of its life! Dark wood, stubby and fairly unattractive, despite its pedigree, which I pegged to be a cute 1940s piece. Leslie had purchased it for pennies at a rummage sale. She had dragged it from dwelling to dwelling; most recently, it was languishing in her office.


Cottage Paint, a self-priming, clay-based paint with very low VOCs, seemed a natural choice for this job. I also love the matte finish you achieve with this kind of paint. It seemed perfect for this vintage home, and on an example such as this, with such sweet detailing around the feet.

After scrupulously cleaning the piece, I tested the top for any trace of shellac, which would require a different “stripping” process.nurs7

Finding no shellac present when I tested, I used a sander deglosser to remove any finish, then moved on to the first coats. I knew it would take a fair amount of work to cover the wood.nurs3

Here’s what I learned, and what I am compelled to share:

Testing the top wasn’t enough. Because while there was no shellac on the top and sides, clearly there was a finish of some sort on the three recessed panels, all of which “crazed,” or cracked, once the paint dried!

(Clients sometimes request this kind of finish, but this is NOT how you get it when you are purposefully creating it!)

Crazing is evidence of either human oils or some kind of a finish, usually shellac or a mill wax. I knew I had prepped the piece well. So it had some kind of undetermined finish on the three recessed panels. Enter Zinzzer’s Smart Prime (Thank you, Drew, at Hirshfield’s Plaster Center!), with which I coated the panels thickly, to try, try again!

It provided great coverage. The crazing was gone, though I was in for multiple coats of the yellow to make it look spectacular!

I finished it with Annie Sloan Soft Wax, which gives an amazing finish to clay-based paints. It’s also very baby-friendly.


I wanted the piece to be beautiful for Leslie and Jamie. They will be great and arty parents; it’s not every Mom and Dad who mount a “Vampire Weekend” band poster on their child’s nursery wall!


Leslie is a skilled shooter (who handles everything from studio work to rock band concert coverage through her business, Shuttersmack Photography). So I wanted to give her a gift for the nursery that would pay homage to who she is. That’s how this mirror, made from a slide carousel, came to be!

She is grooving on it, big time!nursery

I love that she mounted it at eye level for “Junior,”  once he or she motors about on two feet!

You can read Leslie’s post, and see more pictures of this fab and welcoming space, on her blog, here. With any luck, Kid Plesser may be arriving about the time you read this post! (Yes, keep your jokes about just-in-time inventory to yourselves. We really did press a deadline on this job!)


UPDATE: Retro Chairs at Home!

ajc44-569x425Ah, Labor Day!

While many Minnesotans are getting in their lake time, this seemed like a good time for a lake-themed update!

 When I first wrote about this “Durachrome Do-Over” for Retro-Loving Client’s vacation spot at Loveless Lake, I promised an eventual photo of the revamped and dressed chairs, above, “in situ” !

lovelesschairHere they are!

Happily ensconced, RLC’s ’50s Durachrome dinette set is rocking her lakeside weeHouse (from the Twin Cities’ own Alchemy Architects)!

You can read her blog post about it here; check out her blog on creating a vacation retreat at!

Enjoy your day! Lark Nest is sourcing Carerra for a new St. Paul project!


Basement Project Update 1!


Here’s  a quick update on the basement storage room project that is getting the great LooseLay flooring, as chronicled earlier in the New Take on Tile post!

basecollage1.jpg All of the pipes on the back and side wall of this former laundry room are now buried or recessed.

The suspended ceiling has been replaced with a real ceiling. Recessed can lighting replaced fluorescent ceiling panels.

storageThe electrical panel will stay where it is; it can be accessed inside the storage doors!

Thie horizontal lines on the far left of this rendering are shelves, the inside view of the fifth storage locker. It forms an “L” at the corner.


These 13-inch handles will be placed vertically on the five sets of double doors.


This pattern will face the fronts of the storage cabinets. The contractor is fabricating those boxes now. It is a great fit with the “Ashland” LooseLay flooring from the earlier post.

“White Drops”  is a newer, matte Formica pattern. It is perfect for this storage-only room. Playful, but not screamingly so!

Look closely;  you’ll see the “white drops” are the dominant pattern, surrounding the smaller gray dots.

Love that!


A cool neutral, gray-brown paint, Sherwin Williams “Collonade Gray” — SW7641, will look great on the walls. It won’t be too dark in the small space, either, as the recessed lighting — and one egress window — flood the room with light.

More updates as the work progresses!



Carolina Collaboration!


Love the look of this footstool? It’s proof that long-distance collaborations do work!
footstoolHere’s the “Before” — a rickety footstool unearthed from my garage stash. Its leather upholstery job was fairly shot. It needed regluing, some tightening, and a total redo from the stuffing on out.

DDHmugEnter Debbie Dion Hayes, a fab faux finisher from Greensboro, NC, whom I met a few Junk Bonanzas ago. She was part of the team helping introduce Bonanza attendees to the wonders of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan! The team stayed over after the Bonanza for breakfast at the Zumbro Cafe  in Linden Hills and a tour of the Twin Cities!

anniefun(That’s Debbie, Teryl Flettrich and  Lisa Rickert, chief of Annie Sloan Unfolded, outside the Zumbro after breakfast!)

ddh2Debbie had the idea for us to work on a piece together.

She is always checking out new techniques through her business, My Patch of Blue Sky, and decided she wanted to stencil an old hide, using Chalk Paint®,foot14Here’s what the hide looked like when it arrived at my house via the U.S. Postal Service. Her challenge to me?

Do something fun with it!

foot1One fun footstool, coming up! This one was more than ready for a refresh!

footcollage1 I removed the old leather — those tacks were a bear! Underneath, it was full of old muslin and even a more disreputable stuffing.

foot6I wanted to maintain the piece’s rustic look, so a dry brush technique was the way to go. After deglossing and repair, a light dry brush application of  Old White Chalk Paint® was a perfect complement to the stenciled hide. I shot these photos before waxing the frame.

lndHIDEI love how the stenciling shows light variations on the hide. I briefly considered waxing the hide, too,  but opted to leave it as is

foot10My specs called for gorgeous caramel upholstery tacks – I ordered a box especially for this project – and Amazing Upholsterer made them shine over a line of welting!


foot12 Now what? We’ll display this piece in the Annie Sloan Unfolded booth at Junk Bonanza Sept. 25-27 in Shakopee. Our pal Amanda Ficek of Mama’s Happy – an Annie Sloan stockist — will demonstrate several painting techniques there, including dry brush!foot13Debbie and I are happy our footstool found a purpose beyond our collaboration across the miles!

(You can read Debbie’s take on our project here!)

Hope to see you in September at the Bonanza, the rockin’-est junk round-up in the nation!


A New Take on Tile!

karndeanlooselaySummer continues to rampage forward — I liken it to having my arms around the neck of a speeding cheetah: Exhilarating ride, but really, moving way too fast!

All of those ongoing Lark Nest projects have made for a dearth of blog posts. One of those projects is  an experiment of sorts in my basement!

We’re reclaiming a former laundry room, which up until now has been the purview of haphazard piles of castoffs and the cat’s litter box. This room has been unused and, truthfully, unloved, for years, since we built our master bedroom on the second floor and installed a washer and dryer in the walk-in closet.

I’ll do a proper post on this (the Before pictures are frightening!) but wanted to share this photo of the flooring that is going into this space.

The color is “Ashland” and it mimics limed, weathered wood. This is a relatively new product from Karndean Designer Flooring, part of the genre newly known as “luxury vinyl”.

(I know, sounds like an oxymoron!)

These are called LooseLay tiles, and they are applied without interlocking or adhesive. A special coating causes a friction hold to keep them gripped tight. Individual planks can be removed and replaced, and they are entirely recyclable.

The buzz from contractors and users of this product (commercial and residential) has been pretty positive. One discussion thread on a forum for flooring pros noted they are using this product at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. So…

It is going into this very small room — the rest of the basement flooring is all heated slate.

That’s the experimental part. I want to know if  LooseLay lives up to the hype and wears well. I can’t recommend products for clients without knowing how they work!

Stand by for photos on this project next month. We’re building two walls of doored storage and carving out a nice place for painting during the winter!


Reclaim Cabinet 2: The Console!


 Remember my earlier post on a reclaim entertainment cabinet for a Minneapolis client?

That project is still on the workbench, but this one — a family room console — is another reclaim project for the same client. And it was finished first!


The client’s family/sunroom is long and narrow, and has an oversized coffee table that belonged to her mother. Its sentimental value rules,  but it meant we needed a fairly shallow piece on the wall across from the table in order to hold her plasma-screen TV. While a wall-mounted version would have been optimal, the existing model was a fairly new purchase. So we needed to work with it!

My specs for Alan, the reclaim carpenter, called for adjustable shelves, and room on the bottom for the client’s file boxes. My ulterior motive? To get the collection of files out of her built-in bookcases, which I had already edited severely! That’s another post!


The client has a lot of inherited Frenchy furniture with curves (we’ve reupholstered with fairly modern fabrics as a counterpoint), so I wanted reclaim wood to balance some of the fussiness. Enter a pile of wainscoting that Alan salvaged from an old hotel in Duluth!

He pulled it out for inspection. Its raised areas would make for a beautiful cabinet casing! A heat gun stripped the peeling paint to reveal this gorgeous wood! I knew the curves would look like a vertical version of Barbara Barry’s gorgeous fluted cabinet for Baker Furniture. Love!MEcab16Sleek Ikea “Orrnas” handles ($12.99 for two!) would update the wood, and look great with the modern fabrics, as well.

 A coat of gel stain provided the base coat. Check out the wainscoting on the far left of the left side of this cabinet. That’s liming wax, one of my favorite finishes for open-grained wood. The lighter finish was the right choice for the other pieces in the client’s room, and I previously limed her mantel. (Again, that’s another post, yet to be written!)


Inside are adjustable shelves. The top compartment will hold the Wii.console5

Love the utility!console6Even the hinges are reclaim!


 Here’s the amazing Alan, whose work has been featured in previous posts. Check out the armoire-from-a-vintage door project, my favorite! That big smile is quite possibly thanks to the six of Fulton Brewing’s  “Lonely Blonde” that rode along from Minneapolis. Alan likes his project tips in the form of craft beer!

The client’s family room is a long way from finished. Recently, we replaced an old and worn floor covering with a luxe and neutral-colored Hibernia wool carpet. I’ll shoot a picture of the console “in situ” once we’re done. Meanwhile, hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek. Happy Junking!