Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

June 30, 2016

Colourful Mix and Match Bedding from bedface

When bedface (an online bed linen company headquartered in Vancouver, BC) reached out, I was excited to try the "best damn sheets on the internet".

I am deeply committed to all white bedding and although I've replaced the sheets often, the pin tucked duvet cover in the bedroom is the same one we've had for years.  I wasn't ready to explore non-white duvet covers, but I welcomed the opportunity to try some brighter sheets.  The "Bed Maker" lets you test out different colour combinations and add friends (I chose sheep).  I opted for a duvet cover and flat sheet in white, but went wild with Alarm Clock Orange for the fitted sheet and Aqua for the pillow cases.  Hubby is thrilled that the bedroom has another secret shot of orange and I'm a lot more relaxed about getting turquoise hair dye on the pillows.  You can also shop by popular sheet sets if picking and choosing is too much pressure (it took me an hour!).
One thing to think about is washing:  I washed the orange sheet and aqua pillow cases separately to avoid bleeding.  It's not a problem, because I just divided the bedding among my other laundry loads, but if you like doing the sheets in one big load, consider putting together a set in similar colours for easier laundering. 

My bedface bedding arrived quickly, with a bag of popcorn to boot!  I was bummed when one of the pillowcases was sewn wonky, but bedface promptly shipped over another pair.

At first the cotton felt very stiff - I immediately thought: hospital linens - but the linens softened up after the first wash.  Now they feel soft and smooth, with substance - which I've grown to like!  The premium, breathable long staple cotton feels like a really durable, high quality cotton that should wear very well.  Thread count isn't the best way to assess sheets so I usually slide my hand in the packaging and go for the smoothest, silkiest cotton I can afford, and this cotton feels more sturdy than what I normally gravitate toward.  But bedface is so confident in the quality of their product that they offer a 100 Night Guarantee!  These sheets are supposedly very breathable, thanks to their looser weave, so I'm looking forward to sleeping on them during the hotter summer months.   

I love how the pillow case has a flap to completely envelope the pillow and the snaps on the bottom of the duvet are nice - the button holes enlarged on my other duvet cover, so sometimes it comes undone.  I didn't realize, though, how much I rely on the ties inside my duvet cover to keep the corners of the duvet firmly in place - I might have to add some to my bedface duvet cover.  The flat sheet is generously sized - in length and width - which I love!  Too many times I've splurged on expensive sheets, only to find that the flat sheet is super short, or weirdly wide - the variation in sizing for bedding drives me bonkers. 

My only complaint is that the fitted sheet is not designed to fit very snugly.  Our mattress is fairly old and not one of those envelop-you-in-pillowy-softness-pillow-tops, but it still felt like there was just barely enough fabric to cover the width of the mattress.  The elastic is somewhat loose, making it a struggle to fit in snugly on the mattress.  But we eventually got it all tucked under!  Many of the colours have sold out, though, and the reviews from customers are glowing, so it's entirely possible that I have unusually rigorous expectations of a fitted sheet.  The return policy is outstanding, so I think you can shop with confidence from bedface.

If you want to try sleeping on the best damn sheets on the internet, use "danslelakehouse" at the checkout to receive 15% off your order - the coupon code will be good for two months.

Two months bring us to back-to-school shopping, and I keep thinking that these sheets would be a really perfect gift for a student heading off to college or their first apartment.  The packaging and branding is fun and youthful, so they don't feel like a boring gift - it was fun to receive my parcel in the mail.  More importantly, the sturdy cotton will surely hold up to the rigors of college life, where the bedding sees a lot more wear as the bed becomes a place to study, eat pizza, and watch movies!

June 29, 2016

How to Remove Lacquer From Brass to Reveal a Brushed Finish: An Experiment

Remove Lacquer From Brass with Acetone

I am going to finally let you in on a secret: my Mom and I have been hard at work, giving her kitchen a budget-friendly makeover!  I'm sharing a little project from the makeover - how to remove lacquer from old brass and reveal a brushed gold finish - but there will be a ton of inexpensive DIY projects to share soon.  Get ready for: Painted cabinets! Repaired and refinished laminate counters! The tulip table finding a home after 6 years!  Something with gold tweed!  So much peel and stick tile...

But right now everything's drying, curing, in transit, or some sort of limbo.  I'll have more photos soon, but for now here's a sneak peek of our brass knob refurbishing experiment.

My Mom's cabinetry had the original brass knobs from the 1980s.  They are solid and she likes the shape but, after 30 years, she was tired of the lacquered finish.  From wear and use, some of the brass had started to develop a gorgeous patina that matched that of the original brass door knobs that were installed by my Great-Grandfather in the 1950s:

1950s Brass Door Knob

Infuriatingly, some of the kitchen knobs were still very glossy 80s brass and looked brand new My Mom hated the unintentionally mismatched look of old brass/new brass.

Brass Knobs

She loved how my brass knobs looked after I sanded them for painting, so we tried to achieve a similar brushed brass look with less elbow grease.  Here's what we did - and what products we used - to turn lacquered brass knobs into brushed gold.  The difference is so striking!

How to Remove Lacquer From Brass and Reveal a Brushed Gold Finish:

First we soaked the knobs in an old metal baking pan filled with acetone for a couple of hours:

How to Age Brass Knobs
Clean Brass Knobs with Acetone
How to Turn Lacquered Brass into Brushed

Then, wearing rubber gloves and working outside (a face mask isn't a bad idea), we gave the brass knobs a good, thorough scrub with a scouring pad.

DIY Brushed Brass Knobs

The glossy finish - and years of grime - came off with a bit of coaxing, leaving behind a really, really gorgeous brushed brass finish, that's lighter and brighter than the formerly yellowy brass.

We successfully turned lacquered brass into brushed!

Best of all, they are all uniformly brushed, with some minimal patina, here and there - much better than the former mix of brassy new and totally worn out.  Plus, it's a fresh change for my Mom, who is thrilled with the results.  It's like getting all new knobs for a couple of bucks!

Remove Shine and Wear from Brass Knobs

Now the plan is to let them age naturally and develop a more even patina.  Should they turn out weird, we'll just strip them down again and create a faux patina, or apply a clear coat to bring back some shine and protect against wear.

Right now we both loved the brushed, but not too perfect look - they look like they've been here for years and suit the age of the house.

DIY Brushed Brass Cabinet Knobs
Turn Shiny Brass into Brushed Gold
Clean Gold Knobs with Acetone

We're looking forward to seeing this experiment take shape.  For now, Mom loves the brushed brass as a fresh alternative to the formerly glossy lacquered look - plus they look stellar with the newly painted (spoiler alert) fog grey cabinetry!

How to remove lacquer from brass for a softer brushed finish

I'm so excited to share some more updates as we check items off our to-to list.  This kitchen makeover is making me really weepy and goofy, and I wanted to explain why!

The Back Story to The Budget-Friendly Makeover of Mom's Kitchen

For years, my parents' 1980s kitchen has needed an update.  At first, it just needed a little tweak here or there, but every budget-friendly solution I proposed (Paint the floors! We should try concrete coated counters! Let's paint the cabinets!) was squashed.  In Mom's defense, many of these suggestions were proposed years ago, when I was into budget-friendly makeovers in the townhouse, but not design on a dime.  In the townhouse kitchen we had good bones to work with, but we still dropped about $1000 on new counters and tile.  We updated the whole upstairs pretty extensively, with all new bathrooms, hardwood flooring, and brand new ceiling fans.  Mom wasn't convinced a really budget-friendly spruce could look good. 

Then she saw me work some magic in the lakehouse - especially the temporary bathroom spruce, which was all achieved with paint!  She started to see the value in a cheap little makeover to tide her over while she saved for a renovation.  But by this point, I was less confident because her kitchen had seen more wear and was looking rough.  I told her to just continue putting away money for a renovation and not divert any funds to quick fixes.

Life, however, had other plans for my parents.  The last few years have been really difficult for them - I don't want to go into detail because it's just too sad.  But they've both put on a brave face and continued to be the giving, kind-hearted people they've always been, putting themselves last while continuing to help others even when they have nothing left to give.  This last year was an especially trying one for all of us and, if I'm being honest, at times I've found it difficult to make peace with what happened last spring.  But I've found refuge in my beautiful home.  I'm so grateful we found this place because I feel safe and at peace here; I'm happy when I'm at home. 

My parents, on the other hand - especially my Mom - haven't been able to find that kind of peace in their home and that has made me really sad for them.  With a major, to-the-studs reno planned for the kitchen "someday," but not today, I teamed up with Pfister  and Rust-Oleum to give my Mom's kitchen a cheery look she can love right now.  We didn't want to tear anything out, because that's the kind of domino effect that just escalates into a major project.  Instead, Mom and I have logged long hours working with what we have, trying to create something that will look good for a couple of years.

I'm especially antsy for the final "before" and "after" - I'm amazed already at how much fresher and brighter her kitchen looks! 
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June 23, 2016

Make Your Own DIY Citronella Candles for Summer

When I made my first batch of DIY poured soy candles, I didn't add any essential oils because I was addicted to the clean smell of the soy wax.  It was such a nice break from the heavily perfumed candles I had purchased in the past.  But then I made an Earl Grey tea scented candle that had such a fabulously light and delicate scent, so I started thinking about making some other scented candles.  While perusing Amazon, a bottle of citronella oil caught my eye and it dawned on me that I could make my own citronella candles for summer!

How to Make Citronella Candles

Full disclosure: we don't often get a lot of bugs living beside Lake Superior.  So far I've only seen - and been bitten by - one mosquito this year.  We sometimes get a couple of buggy weeks, but usually the breeze from the lake keeps them at bay (pun intended).  Out of habit, I like to light a citronella candle in the evening anyway, largely because I love the smell - it reminds me of summer!  Plus it does deter the occasional mosquito from snacking on us.  Because I tend to...burn through them (I'm on fire with the puns today), I thought it would be fun, and cost-effective, to make my own.

DIY Citronella Candles

Candle-making requires some precision and patience, but after making a few batches, I have to say that it is incredibly fun!  Being able to turn random, discarded kitchen wares into useful, beautiful candles is really satisfying.  Once you have the supplies rounded up, it becomes easier - and cheaper - to keep churning out homemade candles.


I won't bore you by repeating the candle-making instructions because my post about the Earl Grey Tea scented soy candle has step-by-step photos and instructions.  I followed those instructions to the letter.  Once the wax had been heated to 185F, I let it cool to about 135F before adding the citronella essential oil.  It's important to let the wax cool because if the essential oil is added when the wax is too hot, it can just evaporate!

I have read that the general guide for making scented candles is about 75 drops of essential oil per pound of wax.  I think that with citronella candles, it's better to be more generous!  I almost doubled that guideline, but you can experiment with an amount that's effective but not overpowering for you.  If you've been underwhelmed by store bought citronella candles before, check the labels.  It turns out that some store bought candles are simply scented with citronella and do not actually contain the essential oil, which is the key ingredient for keeping those mosquitoes away. 

Homemade Citronella Candles
DIY Citronella Oil Poured Soy Candles
Poured Soy Candles in French Onion Soup Pots
Easy Poured Soy Candles
Summer Soy Citronella Candles

I absolutely love the citronella candles I made because I re-purposed little French Onion soup bowls I found at the municipal landfill and the handles make them perfect for moving them around.  I'm so happy I saves these little bowls from being thrown away!

DIY poured soy tea cup candle

If you want to make your own citronella candles, check out my tutorial for making soy candles and just swap out the bergamot essential oil (in my tea cup candle, above) for citronella

How to make soy candles

And check out this post about my other batch of DIY poured soy candles for more inspiration for upcycling old glassware into sparkling new candles!

DIY Poured Soy + Citronella Oil Candles for Summer // Summer DIY Projects
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June 20, 2016

I'm Giving Away a BLACK+DECKER 20V Cordless Drill and Circular Saw!

I spent the weekend at my parents' place, helping them with some budget-friendly home improvements as my Father's Day gift.  I have to laugh because last night, right before I was about the head home, there was a severe thunderstorm warning.  My weather app sent a warning to my phone about the possibility of golf ball sized hail, lightning, 100km/hr winds that could "push a large vehicle off the road" - even the possibility of tornadoes.  Hubby and I agreed that the weather looked too dicey for my hour long drive home, especially because it was getting dark.  I borrowed some pajamas and spent the night in town with my parents.  But first we darted out for some sundaes.  Lightning, shmightning.  Living by Lake Superior, you don't waste a single non-winter day!

Besides, we earned it!  We painted the kitchen walls and trim a beautiful blush pink, plus we prepped the cabinets for painting and got three coats of a gorgeous pale grey on the lower kitchen cabinets.  We still have to paint the uppers but, for a bonus round, we even installed curtain rods my Mom has been wanting to hang up for three years!  We were seriously productive.

BLACK+DECKER sent me their new 20V MAX 1 Speed Cordless Drill and my Dad and I were both anxious to try it out.  Did you know that BLACK+DECKER invented cordless drills in 1961?  I thought that was a neat bit of history!

Black + Decker 20V Cordless Drill Review

My Dad was thrilled to try a new tool and eagerly unwrapped the BLACK+DECKER drill immediately.  It's lightweight and compact, so it was really easy to use.  We decided to install the curtain rods pretty close to the ceiling and it was perfect because his old drill wouldn't have fit! 

Black + Decker 20V Cordless Drill Review + Giveaway
Black + Decker 20V Cordless Drill Review // Compact Lightweight Drill
Black + Decker 20V Cordless Drill Review

My Dad loved the BLACK+DECKER 20V Cordless Drill and was SO pumped when I said he could keep it.  

There is a lot to like about this drill, in addition to its compact size.  It's lightweight, which makes it easier to get more done before needing that sundae break!  It's a 20 volt, which has more torque than my Dad's previous drill, a 14.4 volt (which is actually an older BLACK+DECKER model).  You can easily buy a second battery for this drill and charge one while using the other - which is awesome for those DIY projects that drag on forever.  There's a light which shines on the task at hand, which helps illuminate in dim lighting conditions; sounds like a corny thing until you try it - it quickly becomes an indispensable feature!   There's also a two-speed available.  I had to take my photos quickly because my Dad swiftly absconded with this drill, excitedly chatting about how well it fits in a compact toolbox for jobs on the go.

My Mom was just thrilled with how quickly her curtain rods were hung up.  We worked quickly and now all three windows in the second story of my parents small, postwar home wear these beautiful French rods: 

French Curtain Rod
Brushed Nickel French Rod

We still have some work to do!  My parents have beautiful woodwork throughout the home that my great-grandfather, who built the house in the 1950s, crafted by hand.  On the main floor it still looks good, but upstairs the window trim has seen better days so my Mom and I are thinking about painting it a creamy white (the walls are freshly painted a light grey).  Then we're sewing softly gathered sheers from this mod fabric:

Mod Sheer Fabric

We're planning to tackle a lot of projects this summer!  I'm hoping for one of those delightfully long summers that stretches on into the fall.  Is that too much to ask for?

If you're keeping busy too, you might want a couple of new tools to add to your toolbox!  I'm giving away a BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Lithium Cordless Drill AND a BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Circular Saw to one lucky Dans le Lakehouse reader!

Entering is easy!  Take a peek at the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Drill and let me know what project you'd want to tackle with it first!  Leave a comment below - that's it!


Congratulations, Amy!!  I'll be sending you an email shortly.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered!  I really wish I had a 100 of these to giveaway, so you could all win.  But I loved reading about all of your summer projects - thanks so much for sharing and entering.  If you've left your email or any personal info, you're welcome to remove your comment.

This post is sponsored by BLACK+DECKER but all content and opinions expressed are my own.
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June 14, 2016

Rearranging the Living Room with Our Modern White Leather Sectional

The sectional sofa we ordered back in March was delivered and the living room looks completely different now!   I rambled on in this post about how we wanted to start capitalizing on our view of Lake Superior.  The furniture placement wasn't thought out for the space because we just moved everything from the townhouse living room and plonked it down.  The sofa faced away from the window and although the setup was nice for watching movies with the fireplace roaring, it wasn't inviting for just sitting around, chatting or reading - and you couldn't see the lake very well from the living room.  One day we'll renovate the fireplace and put the television above it (maybe hidden behind art?), but for now we disassembled our old Besta unit, bought prettier "greyed walnut" Ikea legs, and shoved it in the corner to make room for the combined 20 feet of lounge space our new, modern leather sectional offers.

Ta Da!

Canadian Lake House Living Room Tour
Lakehouse Living Room: Cream Leather Sofa, Black Fireplace, MCM Accents

Even though we added way more seating, somehow the room feels airier and more spacious to me because the windows are now largely unobstructed.  As well, instead of a hodgepodge of furniture (the velvet chair, the mint chair, three teak tables, mismatched sofa and dark ottoman, wall unit, plant stand), we have a more streamlined furniture arrangement: big cream sofa with matching ottoman, accent chair, pair of end tables with matching lamps, and the TV stand.  It's simpler!  We had to move the teal velvet chair to my office, but I kept the Mingo chair and positioned it with one of the teak tables beside the television.  Once again, I'm blocking windows with furniture, but you can still easily see the lake around the delicate frame of the mint chair and it just feels a little more balanced.  With just a naked row of windows, the living room felt lopsided, but my biggest motivator is that I have literally nowhere else to put my favorite chair in this small home.  It has to live there - or someone else's living room (cue the sad trombone). 

Two of our three teak side tables stayed, as did my beloved blue Lotte lamps (I bought a pair of Canadian-made linen pillow covers that are an exact match!).  I'm not convinced that I like the scale of the teak table with the Mingo, so we might be swapping it out, but I don't want to build/buy anything until this layout has gelled a little.  Besides, I'm too busy loading up the sofa with an abundance of throw pillows, wheeeeeeeeee.

Mint Mingo Chair
Blue Lotte Lamp in MCM Inspired Living Room
Tour a Modern Living Room with TV in the Corner
Look at how insanely long this sofa is...
Fireplace Painted Dark Grey with Rock Collection on Display
Yngve Ekstrom Mingo Chair Reupholstered in Mint Fabric

Living Room Before and Afters:

Here's a reminder of the living room when we bought the lakehouse:

Here's a comparison of our old arrangement with how the room looks now:

Lake House Living Room
Lake House on Lake Superior Decorated in Blues and Greens
Wall of Windows
Lake House Living Room with Vaulted Ceiling and Wall of Windows
Triple Bubble Fixture Light from Modernica
MCM Teak Dining Table with Modern Teal Tweed Chairs
Choosing the colour for our sofa was tricky.  I considered many different leather samples, including a beautiful caramel (not pictured), a metallic silver (so expensive), a really worn, bitter chocolate (too rustic), a forest green (what was I thinking?), and a blindingly bright white (not pictured).

Leather Samples

In the end, I really waffled between a couple of grey leather swatches (one matched the fireplace perfectly, the other was a medium grey) and a creamy white.  I kept thinking grey would be practical, but everyone I polled voted white.  My friend Ashley said it best: "in a lakehouse, with no kids, go with the white - it's perfect".

I'm so thrilled with the light leather.  It's what we'd grown accustomed to with our old sofa (although this sofa is a much lighter/brighter shade) and I think that with a sofa this ginormous, a grey or caramel leather would have looked too heavy.

From the sample though, I couldn't tell how creamy the leather would be and I was shocked when it arrived - certain we'd been sold the wrong colour.  It felt too yellow when it was unwrapped on the deck, with the sun beating down on it.  But once we hung the artwork and added the throw pillows, I immediately appreciated its softness.  A white leather as bright as our walls might have looked too stark and cold, especially with my cool color palette.  The creamy white has a natural feel and plays well with Hubby's Grandpa's paintings (I moved the creamy diptych from my office, although it used to hang in the townhouse living room).

Lake House Living Room Decorated in Turquoise and Blue
Marimekko Luminara Pillows with Blue and Aqua
Bright White and Turquoise Living Room

This sofa is manufactured in Canada, which makes me happy.  I love the chunky arms (there was an option for narrower arms, but I think these look more modern).  I sit on the edge when I'm on the phone; it's a peaceful place to perch and take in the view.  The sofa is too comfy for things like that, because I tend to fall asleep, curled up in the corner ("my" spot), within minutes.

We had the choice of "walnut," "espresso," or "chrome" legs and we chose the walnut:

Full Grown Komondor with Short Hair

As an added bonus, we finally replaced our disintegrating ottoman!  We bought the matching storage ottoman, and it's every bit as awesome as I hoped.  I've wanted a new ottoman forever and I'm so happy we kept putting it off. 

White Leather Storage Ottoman

Unfortunately, we think the sofa was dropped during shipping because the arm by the fireplace is really pushed out and wonky.  We're still waiting to hear back on a replacement/repair, but hopefully that doesn't create a headache.

Modern Canadian Lake House Living Room in Blue, Turquoise and Mint Colour Palette
Bright and Modern Lake House Decor

I lowered the exposure a lot so you could see the view outside the living room window.  Having the sofa against the window was a real shame, because this is the view we were obscuring:

I've been watching the sunset from the sofa every night and it's a beautiful way to end the day.

Once I've done a little more tinkering with the room, I'll share a tour of the whole living/dining/kitchen space. You can see I'm still working, because in some photos the McCoy planter on the hearth is empty, but in others it has my new eucalyptus planted.  I'm sure I'll be fussing with things all week.

In between naps.

I've been asked by many readers to create a page where I list everything in the lakehouse - a "shop the look" kind of idea, but that's so tricky because a lot of what I buy is vintage, on clearance, or custom-made.  I am slowly putting together a list, going room by room, searching for alternatives that closely resemble my best finds.   In the meantime, here are some links for the living room, with similar items if I couldn't track down links for the exact pieces.


Triple Bubble Light Fixture with Three Saucer Pendants - Modernica
Teak Dining Table - Vintage (this round West Elm table is similar but this rectangular walnut table from West Elm is more spacious)
Blue Tweed Dining Chairs - HomeSense (the "Sabrina," the "Tufted Hourglass," and the "Savafieh" are similar)
TV Stand - Ikea (Besta Cabinet with Grey Walnut Legs)
Case Study Planter - Modernica
Turquoise Velvet Pillows - Ikea (here's a similar aqua velvet pillow, Made in USA)
Blue Tweed Pillows - Sears
Patterned Throw Pillows - Marimekko
Turquoise Planters - Vintage, McCoy (I'm swooning for this turquoise bullet planter, and this aqua ceramic planter on solid wood legs from West Elm is just as stunning!)
Blue Lamps - Vintage Lotte, still produced today (see here for a really affordable aqua lamp with a similar vibe and here for really cool, coastal modern lamp)
Mint Chair - Vintage (see here for a cute MCM-style mint accent chair and here for a gorgeous turquoise MCM arm chair)
Leather Sofa and Ottoman - Barewood Furniture (local furniture store)
Krenit Bowl - Vintage (see here for modern reproduction in turquoise!)
Modern White Ceiling Fan - Kichler Ferron (can't find it in white anymore, but there is a polished nickel)
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