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Kid’s Bathroom Update With A Gel Stain Vanity

Have I mentioned how much I love General Finishes Gel Stain? Because I love it. I’ve already shown you how I transformed my kitchen cabinets and my staircase with it. But the very first project I did was my upstairs hall bathroom vanity. That is technically the kid’s bathroom so I figured if I screwed it up too badly then it wouldn’t really matter. I wanted to perfect my technique before tackling the kitchen cabinets. Smart, yes? I thought so too.
I don’t have many before pictures of the bathroom vanity because it’s so small that it’s nearly impossible to get a decent picture of it. You can see a small part of it in the picture below. It’s the same builder grade oak that was in my kitchen and still exists (momentarily) in my master bathroom.
Can I just tell you how tired of the green and burgundy I was? Seriously. I had not touched this bathroom in the 8 years we have lived in this house. Well I added new towels but that was it. The shower curtain, the decor, the colors….all the same. It’s okay, you can wince. I am.
I wanted something totally different, much younger to appeal to the kids but still mature because this serves a guest bathroom when we have overnight guests. I know, I don’t ask for much do I? The very first thing I changed after I stained the vanity was the yellow walls. Oh the yellow walls. They look almost cream in the pictures above but trust me, they were very yellow. I went with the same color that I used in the living room and hallways- Cafe Latte by Glidden. I found the perfect shower curtain and the room really came together from there. I’m super pleased with how it turned out and how little I spent to transform the space.


I found this absolutely perfect ticket print- I mean the colors and shapes in the print match the shower curtain like they were made as a set! Those two pieces tied in with the stamp tin I already owned. I spray painted the door hardware, shower curtain rod and curtain hooks to cut down on some of the gold. At some point I’ll spray paint the mirror frame too. I found these awesome free bathroom printables HERE and they matched the colors I needed exactly. I told you, this bathroom decor just seemed to fall right into place for me!




A big problem we have in this small bathroom is storage and clutter. I made the decision to take the kids towels out of the bathroom space. Now each kid has a different color towel that hangs on a hook inside their closet door. Bonus- if someone leaves a towel lying around I know immediately who did it! One other solution I came up with was the addition of these hanging containers to hold each child’s toothpaste and toothbrush. It’s helped so much- I haven’t had to replace anyone’s toothbrush because someone knocked it in the toilet since. That’s a win.





I am so in love with this vanity now. I hated it before, the ugly builder grade oak was just so old fashioned and outdated. The darker color really fits with the vision I have for my home. And let me tell you- this gel stain holds up when done properly. I finished the final topcoat well over 7 weeks ago and the kids have bashed it with the step stool, kicked it climbing on top of the sink, spilled nail polish remover down the front and it has not one chip or scrape in the stain!



That is a thing of beauty, my friends. This bathroom feels at least a decade younger and so much brighter. I love it. The kids feel like it’s really their space now instead of just a guest bathroom.
The Details:
Shower Curtain // Wal*Mart $14.88
Ticket Print // IKEA $10
Black frame // IKEA $4.99
3 small black frames // recycled from old family room
Hanging Rail & 4 black buckets // IKEA $7 total
TDC Before and After

Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, Transformation Thursday, The 36th Party, Pity Party, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Terrific Tuesdays, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday

Updating A Painted Banister With Gel Stain


I told you yesterday that I stained my stair banisters. Man that was a project. It took me a full month from start to finish- mainly because I chose to tackle this project in the middle of the summer during high heat and humidity. It would have taken considerably less time had I waited until it cooled down to start. Unfortunately I do not possess such patience. I wanted it done and I wanted it done now. It’s a curse.


The original banisters were an ugly builder basic oak with painted white rails. I hated them. The varnish was all rubbing off and chipped and the paint was scraped up and chipped. It needed help desperately. After the success of staining my kitchen cabinets I decided to use the same General Finishes Gel Stain in Java color to do the banisters too. I was unsure how the stain would work over the white paint of the rails and it was a little different than staining the banister.



I did the same prep work as in the kitchen– washed and lightly sanded every surface then taped the carpet and walls around the banister and rails. I used white thick masking tape on the carpets and it worked fine. I did the first coat of stain using the same white athletic sock method I used in the kitchen and then using a small foam brush to get in the grooves of the rails. Oh my gosh, y’all. Those rails were the worst part. I was so tempted to sledgehammer them and replace them with straight bars. The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t find my sledgehammer in the messy garage. Matt will never again complain about the mess in the garage, I assure you. The first coat took me about an hour to complete. And then it took forever to dry. Because our city was in the middle of a heat wave, of course. Murphy and his stupid law.


After the first coat I broke it up into chunks. The rails were dry after 3 days but the banisters were still sticky to the touch. I went ahead and did the second coat on the rails and waited another 2 days to do the second coat on the banisters. I knew after the second coat on the rails that it was going to take at least 4 coats to cover the white paint entirely. I let the banisters dry for a full week after the second coat before starting the third coat but the rails were again dry sooner. Knowing I was going to need 4 coats on the rails I went ahead and did the third coat on the rails while waiting for the banisters to dry.


2 days after doing the third coat on the rails I went ahead and added a fourth coat. I probably could’ve gotten away with just 3 coats but after all that work I tend to subscribe to the better safe now than sorry later theory. I let the rails and the banisters dry for a full week before adding 2 coats of the General Finishes satin poly/acrylic top coat that I used on the kitchen cabinets. Again, a little of this stuff goes a long way. I used a clean white athletic sock to apply the top coat and allowed it to dry for 6 hours in between each coat.


I’m amazed at the difference it made in our entry way. I think it updated our house by at least a decade, maybe even more.



How’s that for a cheap way to update your house? I used the same can of stain and top coat that I used to do my kitchen so it didn’t cost me anything additional. I’m in love with my staircase and banister again. It’s amazing what you can do to update your house when you’re willing to get your hands dirty!


TDC Before and After

Shared with Craft-o-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Monday Funday, Made By You Monday, Make the Scene Monday, Give Me The Goods, Project Inspired, Mix It Up Monday, Show Me What Ya Got, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, From Dream to Reality, One Project At A Time, Tutorials and Tips, Tuesday Treasures, Whatever Goes Wednesday, The Inspiration Exchange, Thursdays Are Your Days, Transformation Thursday, The 36th Party, Pity Party, Link Party Palooza, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, That DIY Party, Inspire Me Please, Terrific Tuesdays, Work It Wednesday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Take a Look Tuesday, Live Laugh Linky, The Weekly Creative, Wow Us Wednesday


How To Gel Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets

I’ve been whining about my horrible builder grade oak cabinets for years. Years. Matt was tired of hearing about them. He hated them too but not enough to shell out the cash to replace them. I know, hypocritical. Men.
Originally I planned to paint them but seeing how quickly my neighbor’s painted cabinets got scratched and dinged I re-evaluated. Stain seemed like the only option for my limited budget. I researched and decided on get stain- specifically General Finishes gel stain. I chose the color Java for the dark, almost black, appearance. I bought the stain from Amazon because I could not find it in a store near me {not an affiliate link}. I bought the quart size because I knew I had a few different projects in mind and it was enough to do 3 coats on the kitchen cabinets, 3 coats on a bathroom vanity, and 3 coats on my stairway rails. A little goes a long way!
I learned a whole lot throughout this process and today I’m going to share my newly found wisdom with the masses. You’re welcome. There was a bit of trial and error involved in this process and it took longer than I imagined, of course. If you’re looking for a quick weekend project, this is not for you. But if you’re looking to totally update your kitchen for under $100 then read on, my friends!
As you can see from the picture below, my builder grade oak cabinets were looking rough. The varnish was rubbing off in places and they just looked old and worn out.
I will tell you up front, the worst part of this whole process was the prep work. It took the longest amount of time and was the most labor intensive part. The first step was to remove all the handles and clean the cabinets. I used Lysol scrubbing wipes for the first cleaning then I used a de-greasing spray cleaner to make sure all the built up grease was gone.
Then I sanded. Barely. I used a sanding block and did a really quick and rough sanding on every surface. Be sure to sand with the grain so you don’t scratch the wood. If you have cabinets with the cheap particle board sides like I did, sand them the same way you sand the real wood. I spent maybe a minute per drawer and 3 minutes per door. You don’t need to sand down to the bare wood, just enough to scuff the gloss a bit.
After sanding all of the wood surfaces, it’s time to protect everything around the cabinets. I used wide painters tape to protect the walls and floor. I know a lot of people use plastic tarps and paper to cover every surface but honestly that’s overkill for this project. I did drip a few times onto the hardwoods and it wiped right off with no problem. I also dripped in the bathroom on the ceramic tile and it also wiped right off. So don’t feel like you have to go crazy with covering everything up.
Now, if you are a super Type A personality who must have everything perfect then you will want to take off all the cabinet doors. I, fortunately, am not afflicted with the Type A gene. I did not remove the cabinet doors. In fact I stained right over the hinges- I know, gasp. In my defense, they were a brass turned rusted bronze color anyway so there was really nothing that could make them look worse. I also didn’t stain the inside of my cabinet doors. That’s because I’m lazy. If your little Type A heart is gasping in horror right now then you should probably plan to stain the inside too.
The secret to gel staining is to do a very light coat, allow it to dry completely, and repeat. And repeat. If you use a thick layer of stain, you’re going to end up with a clumpy, streaky, mess. I used a combination of a white athletic sock and a foam brush to apply the stain. Please learn from me and use a double layer of vinyl or latex disposable gloves underneath your white athletic sock. Trust me. For a week I looked like I was afflicted by some sort of rare, exotic disease that turned my fingers brown.
Apply a thin layer of stain all over your cabinets- even the particle board parts. Wipe with the grain. It takes very little stain to cover so don’t glob it on there. Unlike with other stains, you do not need to wipe this layer off after you’re done. I have 19 cabinets, 4 drawers, and 2 faux drawer fronts to stain. It took me about 2 hours to stain all of them. I was impressed even after just one light coat, the difference was amazing.
Granted it’s all streaky and doesn’t look good at all, but don’t worry. It will get better, I promise. Don’t freak out. Resist the urge to add another layer of stain, you will regret it. Just walk away and allow it to dry completely. Now I started this project in the middle of the summer with high humidity so I let the first coat dry for a full 24 hours before applying the second coat. In the winter when the humidity is lower it would have dried much faster. Now for the second coat, grab another athletic sock. Don’t use the same one.
It started looking really good after the second coat. I was getting excited, envisioning the final product! I let the second coat dry for a full 48 hours. If you touch the cabinet and it’s still a little sticky or tacky to the touch, wait. If you try and stain it while it’s still sticky the stain will just wipe right off and you’ll have to start over.
After I applied the third coat with my trusty athletic sock- again, grab another clean one- I busted out a small paintbrush and made sure to get in all the small corners and crevices. The third coat took the longest because I was meticulous in making sure every single small area was fully covered with stain. It was worth the effort, I promise.
I allowed the third coat to dry for a full 48 hours before closing the cabinet doors.
It was so nice to have the cabinets closed for the first time in over a week. Side note- this is a perfect time to clean out your cabinets. I cleaned out every single cabinet and drawer while waiting for the stain to dry. I found that I could only look at the mess inside for so long before it started to really bug me. Apparently I have a clutter limit, who knew? Once the doors were closed I could see some spots that I missed or that needed to be touched up. So once again I used a small art paintbrush- I stole it from my kids- to do those touch ups. If you see any streaks, now is the time to fix them.
I let the cabinets dry for another full 48 hours after the last touch up, just to be safe. They have to be completely dry before you start sealing them with the top coat. I bought the General Finishes satin poly/acrylic top coat from Amazon {not an affiliate link}. I didn’t want a high gloss finish but if you want high gloss then make sure you choose the correct top coat.
Again, I just used a white athletic sock to apply the top coat. Don’t forget to double glove under the sock though. It takes very little to cover a large area and it goes on easily and smooth. It took me under an hour to do the first coat of the top coat. I could see a big difference in the finish after just one coat.
I let the first top coat dry for 12 hours before applying the last top coat. The last one really made the cabinets pop and shine. It was amazing! I only let it dry for a few hours before I couldn’t wait anymore and I took off the protective tape.
I let the final top coat dry for a full 24 hours before I put the hardware back on the doors, just in case. Once I had all the handles back on the doors I just stood back and gawked at my kitchen. The transformation cannot be explained in mere words.
You can see the full kitchen tour HERE if you missed it the first time.
I had a lot of questions from friends and family about the durability of the stain- if it chips or scratches. Well let me tell you, I accidentally had a screwdriver slip while putting on the handle of one of the cabinets. It scraped across the front of one of the cabinets. I held my breath and was afraid to look but it didn’t make one mark! The cabinets have been done for a few weeks now and again- not one mark, scratch, or chip.
If you’re wanting a cheap way to update your kitchen and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty- this is a fantastic DIY project! Final tip- be patient and don’t rush the process. Oh, and be prepared to live in clutter and chaos for a couple of weeks. Just keep chanting- it won’t last forever, it won’t last forever. I promise, it won’t last forever and it will be totally worth it! If I can manage this project during the middle of the summer with 4 kids home all day every day then anyone can do it! I still find myself yelling out “Don’t touch the cabinets” whenever one of the kids goes into the kitchen. It’s a reflex now.

Before/After: Kitchen Remodel For Under $65

 After nearly a month of renovations, I have finally completed my kitchen remodel. And holy cow- what a difference! I almost don’t believe I’m in the same house. I don’t think I truly realized just how dramatic the difference would be but it’s spectacular! I’ve been dying to reno this kitchen for years but it just wasn’t in our budget. When I finally made plans to go ahead and start a mini reno I knew I had to find ways to cut the cost and save some money. Mission accomplished. The whole reno cost me $65, y’all!

 This is the kitchen before I started the remodel:

You can see the whole kitchen tour HERE if you’d like to refresh your memory. Personally I’d like to forget what the kitchen looked like before. Just sayin’. All that builder grade oak makes me twitchy.

I had so many ideas rolling around in my head about how to transform this space. The biggest one was what to do with the aforementioned builder grade oak cabinets. For one tiny minute I envisioned replacing them. Until I priced what it would cost to replace them with the ones I wanted. After I recovered from the sticker shock, I started researching more budget friendly options. I thought about painting them but our neighbor painted hers and after a few months they are all chipped and scratched. And she only has 2 kids. Imagine what my 5 kids would do to them. I shudder. Option B was to stain them. I decided to use General Finishes Gel Stain in the color Java. I dedicated a whole post to a tutorial on how to stain your cabinets with gel stain– including the prep, the materials needed, the during, and the finish. I learned a whole lot through trial and error and if I can save someone a little time by sharing what I learned then it’s worth a separate post.

 Here is the after:

 Stunning difference, isn’t it? Take a look at the before/after comparison:

I’m in love with my kitchen again. Can you believe this entire remodel cost me less than $65? I used the same paint from my Breakfast Nook remodel that I shared with you a couple of days ago. I already shared where I found the fruit bowl on the island and the turquoise tray displayed on the counter. I’ll share the rest of the item details at the bottom of this post. But first, let’s take a little tour.

The island got a mini-makeover too. I painted the top black and the base ivory and sealed it with the same sealer I used on the cabinets. I love the contrast. I hadn’t originally planned to do anything to the island but after seeing the finished cabinets the island looked wrong in the space. I also spray painted the soap pump on the kitchen counter. I had a plastic soap pump that I picked up at the $1 store but it was yellow. Two coats of nickel spray paint and it matches the kitchen faucet perfectly. I debated whether or not to add curtains or a valance over the windows but I couldn’t bring myself to cover up all that fabulous natural light. Luckily we don’t have neighbors directly behind us who will be peeking in our windows.

The only thing left to do in this space for now is the pantry door. I already gave the inside of the pantry a complete makeover, which I’ll be sharing soon. Right now I’m trying to decide if I should paint the pantry door or replace it with a vintage screen door.

I have plans for stainless steel appliances in the next year or so but I can’t justify replacing the current ones until one of them breaks. Then we’ll switch them all out at once and be done with it. We also have plans for granite or solid surface counter tops too but there are some other projects higher up on the to-do list first. And truthfully- now that the cabinets are darker and the walls are a better color I don’t really mind the counters. They’re light, neutral, and they blend well in the space. Don’t tell Matt I said that…I’ve been bugging him for new counter tops for 5 years. Shhhh……

The Details:
Orange Canister Set // $14.99 IKEA
Rooster Hand Towels // $1.99ea Wal*Mart
General Finishes Java Gel Stain // $19.99 Amazon
General Finishes Poly/Acrylic Satin Sealer // $19.99 Amazon
Glidden Plus Paint + Primer {Color- Misty Aqua} // From Nook Remodel
Glidden Plus Paint + Primer {Color- Sahara Desert Sand} // From Nook Remodel