Refinishing Old Wood Floors

How to restore old wood floorsWood floors. You either hate them or love them. We love them here at ABM, and were so excited when we pulled back the gross carpet in the Habitat house to reveal the house had (possibly original) wood floors in OK shape. Refinishing them was added to the list of to-dos. It was a project I was looking forward to tackling. I had never restored old wood floors before and had only a slight notion of the process from watching HGTV. 

We could have hired a pro, they would have done a good job, and the floors would have looked great. But where's the fun in that? (And it would have added more to our budget.) We're really happy that we decided to do it ourselves. Plus, learning new skills is always a mega plus if you ask me.

How to refinish old hardwood floorsLet's get to the process. Like everything else, there are so many different resources for refinishing wood floors. This post is a jumping off point. The one thing I want you to take from this is, don't be afraid of the sanding process. It's not as scary or challenging as everybody (including me) seems to perceive it as. Here are the steps I took.

Living room floors beforeHere's what the floors looked like just after the old, stained carpet was removed.

The first thing I did was sweep and vacuum the entire house. I hadn't covered the floors completely when we painted, so there were portions of floor covered in paint. I wasn't worried about it then, because I figured I was sanding the floor anyway.

Sanding off paint or stainsI rented a machine called a square buff floor sander on the advice from friends and the rental guy. Until then I was under the impression that other sanders were squirrelly and only pros used them. I sanded the entire house with the square sander. I didn't really know what to expect. It took most of the paint off, and kind of made the color look more uniform, but I wasn't impressed. But, they were old floors, so I thought it was as good as it was going to get. Not having a reference for how they should have turned out was an issue. Still, I decided to see if I could improve the floors.

I returned the sander and rented a super duty orbital sander for the edges. As soon as I started sanding with that thing, I knew that I was going to need to resand the entire house. That sander was so aggressive, it sanded down to bare wood with no problem. I realized I hadn't even sanded past the sealer with the square buffer. My eyes had been opened to the potential of those floors! I went ahead and sanded the entire house from the baseboard to about a foot out. It took some strength to keep that sander under control, but it wasn't too bad. Seeing it remove all the dirt, paint, sealer, and stain was so satisfying! 

Best type of sander to use for refinishing old hardwood floorsAs soon as I was done doing the edges, I rushed back to rentals, anxious to get the right tool and get the floors done right. I rented a drum floor sander and brought it back to the house. I was apprehensive about using it. but as soon as it kicked on and I saw bare wood appearing, I knew I was on the right path.  In a couple of hours I had the entire floor down to bare wood. It looked so good! Sanding that floor felt great.  Here are some tips for sanding I picked up:

-A square sander is for newer unfinished floors! If you are redoing a crappy old stained floor, rent a drum sander!

-The drum sander does not take much to control. They are not hard to work with! You work your way backwards. Start moving even before you start the machine, and you wont get indentions. Turn off the machine before you stop moving. In other word, don't let the thing sand in one place for even a second, keep moving!

-The drum sander can't get reach all the way to the wall. That's what the edger is for. By edging a foot from the baseboard all the way around, I got most of the surface sanded. but I did miss a couple places. That can be avoided by renting the edger after you sand. Or even better, rent both at the same time. 

Man, I was so stoked when I had the entire floor down to bare wood. There are some water stains here and there, especially by the door and kitchen sink. But those could only be fixed by replacing the hardwood, and we didn't want to take the project that far.

It was time to stain the floors. I chose to stain the floor Special Walnut because it was a good medium shade between the raw wood and the dark water stains. It made the stains less obvious, and gave the floors an overall even color. I applied the stain by hand with a lambswool applicator and rag. If I were to do it again, like in a bigger space, I would just use a mop. 

How we refinished our old hardwood floorsAfter letting the stain dry overnight, it was time to seal her up. First I swept the entire floor again to get rid of dust or particles that might have snuck in overnight. Then working from the back room toward the front door I rolled on the polyurethane. Rolling the sealer on worked great. The only thing I had to watch out for were air bubbles forming. I did two coats of sealer, letting the first one dry overnight, sanding, then applying the 2nd coat. To sand, I used a pole sander that is used for sheet rock sanding. 

Tips to restore old hardwood floorsThat's it! Not so bad, right? The entire process cost about $350, which included the rentals (could have done without the square sander), sanding pads, stain, and sealer. One thing I did was remove all of the old quarter round molding before doing the floors. Replacing that throughout the house, cost about $165. So for about $500 we had close to new looking floors throughout the entire house. Not too shabby! -Josh

Credits // Author: Josh Rhodes, Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

DIY Quilted Laptop Sleeve

Make this simple and stylish laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!I remember when I got my first laptop—I was pretty paranoid about denting or scratching it, but I couldn't find a case cute enough to bring to design classes. Well, none in my price range anyway! (Ah, college student budgets—Some things never change after graduation!) I ended up scoring a great vintage leather briefcase that was the perfect size at the thrift store and bought an ugly foam sleeve for added protection inside the briefcase.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Well it's been almost ten years since I first stepped foot in college (Yikes!), and my ripped up leather briefcase says I'm ready for something new. I wanted a laptop case that would look more like a fashion accessory this time around. Something cute, compact, and padded. After just about an hour of sewing, I had this great little laptop sleeve, plus the itch to make ten more!

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Materials:
-patterned fabric- I bought one yard of indoor/outdoor upholstery fabric.
-nylon or water resistant material in same yardage
-quilt batting
-interfacing (medium-weight, sew-in, not fusible)
-snap kit
-bias tape (I only used one pack, though two are shown.)


-straight pins (quilting pins work the easiest for this project)
-fabric scissors
-sewing machine
-pen (not shown)

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step One: Cut a piece of your patterned fabric similarly as shown above, being able to wrap all the way around your laptop plus some extra fabric, and also about a two inch border on each side. I cut the end of the fabric into a point, but if you wanted, you could do a different shape or round off the point.

Step Two: Cut out a piece of batting and your lining fabric the same size and shape as your patterned fabric.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step Three: Pin together the layers of fabric, sandwiching the batting in between the fabric as shown above. Wrap the pinned layers around your laptop to get a better sense of how it will fit. Trim off excess fabric from the length, leaving about an inch and a half of extra length. Mark where your snaps will line up and then take apart the layers of fabric.

Step Four: Stitch interfacing behind where you marked the points for the snaps. Cut out the slits that you marked in the above step (see image 3) and slip the snap through the holes, folding down the tongs of the snap onto the back piece of the snap.

Note: Attaching the snaps might seem intimidating, but is much easier for me than doing zippers, and it's a pretty fast step— really!

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step Five: After you've added the snaps to the lining and exterior fabric, pin the layers of fabric together again, making sure the right sides of the fabric (with the snaps) are facing outward.

Step Six: Use the pattern of your fabric as a guide to sew quilt lines across the width of your fabric. If you don't have a horizontal pattern to follow, you will want to sketch lines with a fabric pencil as I did in this quilted project.

Note: This quilting step will secure the batting which pads your laptop sleeve, and it also adds to the style of the case. You could technically skip this step, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step Seven: Now that your layers are all connected from the quilting lines, you'll want to trim away the excess fabric. I left about 3/4" on either side of the laptop, but trimmed up the length of the fabric so that it stopped right at the top of the laptop. See the image above for a reference.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step Eight: Pin a strip of bias tape to the flat end of the fabric layers (opposite of the pointed end).

Step Nine: Stitch the bias tape, pulling away the pins as you go along. Keep your needle very close to the inside edge of the bias tape.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!Step Ten: Fold the laptop sleeve as shown above, making sure the pocket of the laptop sleeve fits the laptop perfectly. Pin the edges into place, then stitch them together. Make sure you keep the stitching pretty close to the edge of the fabric. The bias tape needs to cover the stitches.

Step Eleven: Pin bias tape all around the sides and flap of the laptop sleeve, covering the stitching from the previous step. The bias tape can bend around curves, but at the points and ends, you'll need to trim it, leaving about a half inch overhang to flip underneath before stitching the tape into place.

Make this simple and fashionable laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!I know the directions can get a little wordy, which might be intimidating, but anyone with beginner sewing skills should be able to just look at the pictures to see what to do. If you need more in-depth visuals on the snap part of the process, check out this purse project I shared recently.

Make this simple and stylish laptop sleeve- it's even padded and water resistant!I'm really pleased with how this laptop sleeve turned out! I'll probably spray it with Scotchgard for added protection when the weather warms up (man, those fumes!), but for now at least I know it's a bit water resistant with the nylon lining. Peace of mind for your prized technology and a fashion statement! Not too bad for an hour with my sewing machine, eh? -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn

A Beautiful Mess Brooklyn guideVisiting New York City can feel overwhelming, especially when you don't have friends or family letting you know about all the real deal spots to visit. I might be a bit biased, but as a Brooklynite, I think Brooklyn should always be first on the visiting list! There are so many layered pockets to visit and explore here. 
I have so many favorites. One thing is for sure, you won't get bored when you visit! 
Places I normally visit and love:
A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)I will be the first to admit, I'm not much of a tea drinker. Well, unless I am sick, pregnant, and or trying to be super cool. Bellocq is a go-to for many visitors and locals who want to sit back and relax in their beautifully decorated fern room. It's lush and always camera-ready. If you are a tea drinker, then you'll like this atelier even more. 
A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more) There's no shortage of coffee here in the city. And with each person you meet, you will get a different coffee recommendation. I have many favorites, but one that stands out is Blue Bottle Coffee. On any summer day, I suggest you grab the New Orleans. 
A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)  We have a few favorite brunch spots here in Brooklyn, but anytime I really want to sit and enjoy a delicious homestyle brunch, I visit Egg. We try and go during the week, as it's a hot spot during the weekend. 
A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)   We love watching movies, plays, talks, and shows at BAM. There is always something happening there, and usually everything is fairly priced. It's a Brooklyn arts must. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)    A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)    I love how every little neighborhood in Brooklyn has it's own character and style. One minute you are surrounded by factories, next you're amongst colorful row houses, and within a few minutes, you'll be wrapped up in mansions that go back to the early 1800s. It's what I love most about living here. There's constantly so much to take in, and you're never given the chance to really get bored. If you happen to get bored, just hop on over to another neighborhood and explore. Things are always changing. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)      Dough. This place has the best donuts in Brooklyn. Hands down! A lot of cafes sell their donuts now, but you're missing out if you don't go to their first location right in Bedstuy Brooklyn. Everything is made there and is always fresh! 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)       I absolutely love going thrifting here. It's more expensive than leaving town to go thrifting, that's for sure. But still, there are so many little shops, and so much to purchase secondhand and love. I feel like the list for kids' clothing is pretty short though. I adore Lulu's Then and Now. If you're here and need to purchase a few things, I highly suggest shopping here. There are lots of new things plus some vintage. And usually everything is in pristine condition. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)        Momufuku has delicious ice cream, great coffee, and weird (good weird) tasty pastries.

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)          I can always count on Black Forest for a delicious meal and beer with kids or without. It's huge and spacious. Plus, it's located right next to Atlantic Terminal, where you will find just about every reliable train. So it's a go-to if you want to enjoy a meal, but don't want to veer too far off. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)           As a plant lover, I think I enjoy the purchasing portion of owning a plant the most. Homecoming effortlessly mixes my love for coffee, flowers, and plants. They also have a well-curated home knick knack section as well. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)            (source:

Habana Outpost is a hot spot for the warmer months. If you're visiting Brooklyn during that time, then you have to grab a bite here. Even though I love the food, it's not really the food you come for. It's decked out in everything yellow, orange, green and blue. It's a complete splash of color, true eye candy. This is a picture of their eco bathroom. They have outdoor movie night, kids' events, and they're always playing good music. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)             Places I highly recommend:

Prospect Park- It's like Central Park, but for Brooklyn. Maybe even better? Depends on who you ask. 

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens- Visit in the spring when the blossoms are blooming. 

Ample Hills Creamery- My husband thinks it's the best ice cream in Brooklyn. I kind of agree. 

L Train Vintage- Super duper inexpensive vintage pieces located in a warehouse. You will thank me!

Baby's All Right- A chill venue that hosts some of the best artists and events in New York. 

East River Ferry-  Perfect for a day trip. 

Jane's Carousel- Carousels aren't just for kids. 

Madiba- Best and only South African food I've had in New York. 

The Brooklyn Children's Museum- So many great rooms and activities for little hands. 

A Beautiful Mess Guide to Brooklyn (click through for more)         I really have so many great things to do and see in New York! I feel like I'm just tapping the ice with this list. But I hope if you do visit, you will find this list helpful, also delicious and fun, depending on what you're doing. Enjoy! LaTonya

Credits: Author: LaTonya Staubs, Photography: Peter Staubs (unless otherwise noted). Photos edited with The Signature Collection

Josh's Famous Sweet Potato + Bacon Hash

Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)  Sarah and I love having people over for breakfast. We call it Breakfast at the Rhodes because that's how witty we are. It's a good way to get a Saturday rolling right and I love cooking up some goodness for people. If you ever come over for breakfast (or brunch if you're a late riser like some people we know), 9 times out of 10 I will make my sweet potato hash. I love a good savory breakfast, and since I'm cooking, that's what gets made! It's easy, so so good, and gets you amped for the day. The sweet potato is less starchy than your regular ol' spud, which makes you feel good about eating three servings of it. ;) In fact, this dish is 100% Whole30 approved (if you're into that type of thing). I just went through about 40 days of the program, and I feel great! The fact that I could eat this dish every now and then is what kept me going.

Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)    Sweet potato hash, serves 2-3.

-1-2 sweet potatoes
-fresh rosemary 
-4-5 fresh garlic cloves
-6-8 pieces of bacon (I use Applegate uncured Sunday bacon.)
-steak seasoning
-2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
-serve with fresh tomato, avocado, and a couple of fried eggs

The first thing you're going to do is quarter up the bacon slices and throw them into the heated pan. Let them sizzle and cook and smell up your place real good. While the bacon is doing its thing, you can chop the sweet potato down to bite size pieces. When the bacon is cooked through (not all the way crispy yet) drain the grease and add a couple tablespoons of coconut oil or butter. Toss in the sweet potatoes and cover.

Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)     Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)       At this point, cut up the garlic, onion, and rosemary sprigs.

Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe)       I like the potatoes to cook till they brown, which can take about 15-20 minutes. It depends on how many potatoes you used/heat/pan. When everything is looking good and close to being finished is when you'll throw in the rosemary, onions, garlic, and seasoning. Let this cook for a couple minutes. Oh man, it smells so good at this point! In a separate pan, you can get your eggs going, so everything is ready at once. 

I like to put the sunny side up eggs on top of everything so I get yolky business over everything, but do what you want!

Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe) Gimmie! Sweet potato + bacon breakfast hash (click through for recipe) For me, pretty much every breakfast must include fresh sliced tomato and avocado, no exception here. Don't forget the coffee!  -Josh

P.S. Today is Josh's last official day at ABM. (Insert crying sounds here). We'll still hear from him from time to time as we have a few more HFHS project posts scheduled throughout this spring. But be sure to wish Josh well as he pursues other dreams and warmer climates with his family. We'll miss you Josh—You're a good egg. :) 

Credits // Author Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Joshua Rhodes and Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Pajama Party Livestream Tonight 8pm CST

Hi!Hey, friends! Just wanted to post a quick reminder that tonight we'll be doing a livestream here at 8pm CST. Tonight's theme is pajama party! So wear your pjs, wine is optional, and we'll be playing with the new Messy Box as we answer your questions! This week Trey is joining us to moderate your comments (so we're not answering questions 30 minutes late like last time—haha!). 

How to chat: If you just want to watch, you can view the whole thing on our livestream page starting at 8pm CST. We'll chat for one hour. 

If you want to be able to interact by asking questions, you'll need to create a Livestream account and go to the Livestream event page. Easy as that.

If you miss the chat, we'll throw the recorded version up on the livestream page tomorrow. 

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