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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

67 Cottage8: Cinder Block Wall Reveal

Thanks for joining me here today. I just love a good reveal don’t you! All the drama, and the excitement. And the nail-biting anxiety that folks are hopefully going to like it. But enough about me. Allow me to turn your attention to exhibit A, below. I figure if I’m going to make this a good reveal, I’m going to go full monty and show you not how our living room looked last month, but how it looked the day we bought this house, 2 1/2 years ago:

Cinder Block Wall, Living Room Before:


Good-Bye Cinder Block Wall, Living Room After:


Truth be told, we didn’t actually tear any of the cinderblock down, we simply covered it in 1/4” drywall, secured with construction adhesive. We may be insanely passionate about remodeling, but we’re not crazy. And it would have taken crazy money to take on that kind of major renovation. We’re saving up all our pennies for a new roof. So that means creativity and thinking outside the box is the vehicle that allows me to continue to fix up our house, while keeping us on budget.


On the side of the wall that faces directly out, I decided to cover it in chalk board paint, right over the drywall. It was so easy and quick. The hardest part was convincing Adam that it would look good. Funny thing is, after I painted it we both loved the clean black wall so much, we dragged our heels a bit before actually using it as a chalk board. But after I bought this fabulous old frame from my friend Debra, we were finally ready to break it in. Inside the frame I wrote my favorite quote…

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And wouldn’t you know it, the ledge of the frame makes it the perfect spot to hold my chalk!

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Beneath the old frame are a couple of large glass jars I bought at Restoration Hardware. I filled them with fun and curious objects, and I plan on changing out this jar area often. Currently in my jars are rolled copies of documents tied with twine (left) and cactus skeletons (right). For those that are curious, apparently the cactus sheds its skin and leaves behind its skeleton. I just loved the texture and quickly grabbed them up when I spotted them at a flea market one day.

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On to the fireplace wall, did you notice the new mantel? Our handyman, the one who built the floating shelves in our dining room, built this mantel for me. I love collaborating with him on projects. He listens very closely to what my “vision” is, never questions my ideas no matter how silly or strange, and we work seamlessly together to achieve the final product.

For the mantel, I told him I wanted simple, easy, clean lines. No fuss…


Did you also notice I painted the inside of my fireplace black? It used to be gray (well it was originally orange when we first bought this place), then I painted it gray, then I realized…ooops! I used regular latex paint, not special heat resistant paint. What was I thinking. So I bought a great product specially for high heat areas, and I’m so loving the black!


A few of my favorite flea market finds: a vintage suitcase, an old clam basket, and a bundle of old document ledgers rolled up inside…


The thick black frame above the mantel was something I’d found at a flea market several years ago and just had lying around somewhere in the back of a closet. So my friend Laurie took one of my old french documents from the late 1800’s and had it blown up and printed right onto canvas. I carefully placed it inside the black frame…


I so love the strike-through at the very bottom…

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I can honestly say that for the first time I’m truly happy with the look of the bookshelves on the right side…


I found a huge collection of vintage encyclopedias, but wasn’t thrilled with the gold writing on the spines. So I simply turned the books around, and it gives off a great looking black and white vertical striped vibe which I’m completely loving…


It’s really hard to pull me out of this chair sometimes. I love sitting in this very spot more now than ever!


Okay, quick funny thing….see the silver champagne bucket on the right, which I bought at an estate sale…   


Well, if look closely at the engraving…it says “Happiness Forever. Love, Burt Reynolds”. I highly doubt it’s Cannonball Run’s very own Burt Reynolds, but every time I look at this silver bucket it makes me chuckle…


This is an old photo of our dining room. Since we already had a chalkboard on the right side our dining room, we decided having a chalkboard and a painted chalk board wall was just too much. So we recently decided to ditch the chalkboard and we redid this wall, which I am totally loving! I just have to take some pics and show you what we did in here…


A note about chalk board paint:

I did a lot of research about chalk board painted walls, and how you are supposed to “condition” them before use, and clean them afterwards. There was a lot of different information out there, but I met a friendly blogger named Kristin who worked at a coffeehouse and regularly had to clean the black boards. She changed my entire school of thought on the subject. It’s simple: if you want to keep your chalk board black and clean (not hazy with eraser swirls) simply wet a towel (wet enough so it’s soaked through but not dripping) wipe over chalk and let air dry. She recommended a chamois, but a wet towel worked just fine for me. And I didn’t condition the painted chalk board wall either! (Conditioning is when you rub the entire surface with the side of the chalk before you start using it, thus creating instant haze). And for those of you worrying about the dust, I used dust-free chalk and there was hardly any mess at all.

.     .     .     .     .

I took a bunch of pictures before and after the drywall installation, how we built out the wall around the sides of the fireplace opening, the mantel before I painted it and stained it, and how it all came together. Since this was such a big post, I’ll share all the before’s and during's in my next post. Plus I will also share the changes on our dining room wall. Whew! Stay tuned!

I’m joining Jennifer Rizzo’s “Refreshing our Rooms” Party:

Hope you’ll join me over there!



  1. Gee, what a transformation! Just gorgeous. The details are perfect, too. Congrats, Jennifer!

  2. very cool...love the frame/chalkboard wall!
    everything else looks gorgeous as well...a beautiful transformation!

  3. Jennifer, the chalkboard wall looks fantastic. The French document in the black frame is stunning, too. Your cottage is completely adorable. You would never know that all that cinderblock is behind your fireplace wall. Kudos to you!!! :D

    Ricki Jill

  4. Jennifer~
    There's only ONE Burt Reynolds!!! I think you found a treasure!

  5. Everything is fabulous! I love looking at every detail in the rooms.
    Rita @May Days

  6. Jennifer I'm a new follower and I just love the update. Great idea for the chalkboard wall. I want to add one to my kitchen now more than ever. Turning the encyclopedias around really makes it easy on the eyes.

  7. What a huge difference. Love all the changes. Did you change up the hearth too? It looks like wood but I would think that would catch on fire! At least in our house it would :) And you never know, it could be the one and only Burt!

  8. I just want to send you an airplane ticket to come see me and help me redecorate my house. I love your style.

    We did a big cosmetic redo on our circa 1976 house when we moved in 10 years ago and one of the projects was covering up the faux brick fireplace wall. It was ACRES of thin brick veneer. We did the same thing - slap up some drywall and put up a beautiful mantel. What a huge difference it made to the entire feel of the house.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise and being such an inspiration.

  9. Hi Jen, I tried the windex, but the crystals were gooey, with old cigarette smoke, kitchen grease and dust. Hot, hot water and soap did the trip.

  10. Positively beautiful! It doesn't even look like the same space. Wouldn't you love to invite back the former inhabitants to show them how you turned that horrid cinderblock wall into something gorgeous?

  11. Your house is beautiful! I'm enjoying your blog and can't wait to see what's next.

  12. Totally Amazing!!! Loving everything about the remodel! I would love to curl up in that cozy chair too! Fantabulous Job!

  13. I was pretty excited when I saw your post title! I couldn't wait to see how you eliminated the cinder block-iness.

    Love everything about your new look but especially the coziness of the new mantle. Bravo!

  14. Oh Jen~You have amazing style.I would love for you to come to my house and help me.~Cheers Kim

  15. It's so gorgeous! I can't blame you for not wanting to leave your chair....I wouldn't either!

  16. WOW! I first started following your blog a couple of months ago so I remember the first pics you posted. And as you have posted updates it just keeps getting better and better! Love it!

  17. I love so much about your changes, I don't even know where to start. The wood mantle and hearth with all the white is inspired though, as it adds so much warmth and character. What a great find in the champagne holder!

  18. Things just keep getting more beautiful, you are amazing!

  19. I absolutely LOVE it!!!!! You guys did such an amazing job! I especially love the chalkboard wall with the frame!

  20. Every time I come over here and see one of your transformations I'm simply stunned. You'd think by now I'd be used to your fabulousness, but apparently not. You still manage to surprise me. This is a fantastic makeover.

  21. Perfect fix up! Love the chandy and books backwards.

  22. This turned out FABULOUS~I love it! ;-)

  23. Jennifer,

    Your transformations never disappoint. This is absolutely stunning. What a wonderful, cost effective fix to hide the exposed cinder blocks. Love your current framed quote but it's a bonus being able to change it at a whim or listing a menu when hosting a gathering. I love it! Question: What did you do with the amazing chalk board you had in your dining room? If it's still available, I'm interested.


  24. Beautiful transformation!!!... and I made a similar chalkboard in an antique frame with the paint..I also cut a teacup in half and glued it to the chalkboard..where it holds my chalk! The wet towel works great.

  25. I didn't think your home could look any better than what it did, but you continue to wow me! I love the new fireplace, it is absolutely beautiful.

  26. I love everything! It's fantastic, right down to the books turned backwards and the Burt Reynolds item! Thanks so much for sharing your home. So much inspiration in every inch of that place! :-)

  27. Oh man...that is so super fantsatsic! I absolutely LOVE it! I am hoping to do a wall in my home with black chalkboard paint.

  28. I love your cozy cottage, it's elegant. I would have never thought to turn the books the other way, what a great idea. Thanks for sharing and giving me hope that any home can be fabulous :)

  29. jennifer, it looks fabulous as we all knew it would! i love the chalkboard wall! i remember when i painted my kitchen wall in chalkboard paint, how afraid i was that i wouldn't like it. well, i love it and it made my kitchen one of my fav rooms in my house! everything looks fabulous! you've got the touch girl!



  30. Hi Jennifer,\
    Oh my goodness-things just keep getting better and better at your cottage- the chalkboard wall is stunning and the perfect addition. I love the old frame and quote (also one of my favorite quotes).
    Thank you for sharing. P.S. You and your husband should start a design consulting business on repurposing on a budget - you all have done a fabulous job.
    Have a lovely day.

  31. What a wonderful transformation! I just love all the rich colors and your impecable taste in found objects.

  32. This looks absolutely fabulous! You have wonderful vision. Great execution.

  33. Beautiful! I hope the home renovation we are in the middle of turns out as well. Blessings!

  34. This is an amazing transformation - so skillfully put together and yet such a simply beautiful look throughout. What an inspiration you are to all of us.

  35. Wow is all I can say. You did a beautiful job on the whole room. Not over done, so classy and homey feeling.

  36. It looks great! You two did a fantastic job and I love the chalkboard wall. I noticed you have new barstools too. Where did you get them?

  37. Oh!! I can see why you are loving all of the changes. Your "new" fireplace is gorgeous! How nice to find a carpenter who will listen to you. Everything is perfect and so tasteful, I adore your little house!
    Hugs, Cindy

  38. G O R G E O U S!!!
    I just wish you would have thrown that chalk board you got rid of my way. I LOVE IT!!

  39. WOW, there is nothing I do not love about these rooms. BEAUTIFUL!

  40. This is so awesome, I don't know what to do...
    you continue to just knock my sox right off my feet with your awesome and unique decorating.
    Love this.

  41. I love it! I really like your new mantel design...I wonder will your other piece (that was over the fireplace) find its home in a new room?

    Beautiful beautiful job!

  42. When you contacted me about the chalkboard wall I had no idea it was going to be a part of such an incredible room! I'm so happy I could help :) You have some fantastic ideas in this small space. It's just gorgeous.

    Thanks for mentioning me :) I appreciated it!
    Kristin - The Goat

  43. So glad I found you! I am now a new follower. Your home is so beautiful. Looking forward to seeling more!

  44. what an amazing transformation. love it

  45. Greetings from Southern California

    I am your newest follower.
    I invite you to visit my blog.
    And become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You :-)

  46. You, and your fireplace, are AWESOME!
    Love EVERYTHING you do!


  47. Looks fantastic!! What a creative method of dealing with that cinderblock.

  48. Jennifer, your home is a perfect example of what a person with a good vision can do and still keep on a budget. Your renovations are fantastic, warm and charming. Thanks so much for sharing.

  49. Everything looks so beautiful! I can't emphasize enough how much I love your style and your ideas!

  50. This turned out so amazing - I've been anxiously awaiting this reveal!

  51. Amazing results! Love the large document in black frame!

  52. I never, ever, tire of looking at your gorgeous house. It makes my jaw drop.

  53. Jennifer,

    This looks just gorgeous! There are so many things about it that are great, i don't even know where to start. You know, it's funny, but the encyclopedia set turned backwards and making vertical stripes is one of my favorites. It all looks amazing, but coming from you, that's certainly no surprise.


  54. It. Is. So. Pretty! You have a beautiful decorating style. If I ever get to really re-do my home I WILL be browsing through the pictures of your home for inspiration.

  55. I am so in love with your dining room! I told my husband MUST MAKE THAT TABLE MUST MAKE THOSE SHELVES! I would love to see more of it =)

  56. I am so in L.O.V.E. with everything you have done in your house. I have been waiting for the "reveal" of the cinder block wall. When I saw it for the first time, I gasped. I said "no way"!! I'm not sure how your house keeps getting better and better, but I second the motion that you and your husband should have your own show on HGTV.

    ~Becky H.

  57. This is SERIOUSLY incredible. Great work by you. And does your friend Debra have any other frames she'd like to get rid of? ;-)

  58. Beautiful! So thrilled to find you blog! Love your style.

  59. Hi Jennifer-

    What a lovely home - all of your spaces are just beautiful - dreamy. I am your newest follower.
    My best- Diane

  60. holy moly, that all looks amazing! i love your new fireplace mantle and the open shelves in the dining room. fantastic!

  61. Your home is beautiful and I love watching it evolve as you make it your own.

  62. I love what you did to your home, and every change you make is more and more amazing. Thank you so much for linking up to the party! I have to find a vintage champagne like that. FYI.. my MIL insists that my SIL is Burt Reynold's love-child. That gave me a laugh...

  63. Your home is absolutely gorgeous! What an inspiration. I adore (it all) the super gigantic mirror. You've done a beautiful job.

  64. I LOVE your whole house! Or a least what I've seen of it... You are so very creative and inspire me to be a bit more. I have to say you've got me wanting to do a similar project with the chalkboard paint, I've got the itch... I will post the completed project on my blog when it is complete. And I must say that your favorite quote... is now one of mine. I will be back often. -Anna

  65. Hi Jennifer!
    Just got my copy of Romantic Prairie Style and your home looks amazing in it! Congraulations!
    I got to meet a few other featured gals too.
    You have such a unique style. Love it!

  66. Amazing!! when can you come over and fix my house?


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