Picture Frame UpCycles

Thrift stores, garage sales, heck even your basement, picture frames are everywhere! You can make so many different things with photo frames. In fact, it’s a good starter project for learning DIY painting. They are typically pretty inexpensive, if you don’t like it you can just give it back to a resale shop without guilt! I just scored 10 picture frames for 10 cents a piece; so awesome!

Here are some basic supplies that you could use:

  • Wood glue
  • Shellac
  • Paint
  • Decor (flower, burlap, hardware, cork, etc.)
  • Hot Glue Gun with extra glue sticks
  • Sandpaper (Learn more about sandpaper here)

I love to make these little flower holder photo frames. Each one I make is uniquely different and finding each piece is also fun!

Chalk board signs are some of our favorites, too! Frames can make perfect displays for short messages or even business cards!

And why not a cork board message board! The possibilities are endless!

We did a photo transfer on wood and put it inside these frames. You can see these in person at The Mineral Point Hotel.

Here we added a small vase for holding flowers or greenery, interchangeable with the seasons.

So, these are just a few ideas I have. But there are so many more ideas I cannot wait to do and share with you. We do want to know what you have done, please share with us!

Thanks for reading this weeks blog and happy junking,

Tara and Becca


Buying Used Furniture to Paint

Recently I (Tara) found an awesome dresser from a thrift store for a STEAL. But after bringing it home, I got to thinking and realized the draw of the beauty and the bargain distracted me from following some of my own rules. This dresser was old and was layered in multiple coats of old paint (One of which I am fairly certain contained lead!). If you are new to furniture painting or want to start a new DIY project, we have some tips on looking for the perfect piece to paint.

The Check List

  1. Inspect the Structure Check the condition of the joints and material. You don’t want to be worrying about making a ton of repairs, especially if you are inexperienced. Wiggle it, push on it a bit. Gently push and pull on the legs or joints. If there is a lot of give you might want to consider passing this one up unless you are prepared to disassemble, clean joints, re-assemble, glue, and clamp.
  2. Check the Drawers If you are buying a piece with drawers, pull them out to check the condition of the assembly, including the slides.
  3. Is it painted? If the piece has old paint on it and you are not equipped to strip that paint off, this too might be better to pass up. You don’t want to sand old paint off if you don’t know what it is; you could put yourself and family at risk of lead poisoning. To test for lead quickly you can use this.
  4. Is it veneered? If the piece is wrapped in veneer and the veneer is chipping or pealing off, are you ok with that look or will you try to patch the missing veneer? Do you know how to do that? Do you want to do that? If you are up for the veneer challenge you can get a variety of veneers here.
  5. Measure it! A lot of listings I see do not include measurements. Measurements are always the first thing I ask for. If I am looking for a larger piece I tape out the floor of the area where I want to put it. I will also take the tape measure right to the area to see how high it is and if it will flow with the other piece(s) in the space.
  6. Consider Style More ornate pieces tend to look better distressed and glazed than a minimalist piece would. Is the style dated? Standard oak pieces can look super dated, but something as simple as removing the doors might provide a drastic update. See out blog here on what we did with some standard oak side tables.


This desk was in great condition when I got it, but after I finished working on it I noticed that it had become quite wobbly! Thankfully I was able to secure the back panel and that’s all it needed!


This one is perfect – I even have the glass top! No gluing or repairs were necessary, and finish is in good enough shape. A good cleaning and scuff will do great as a simple prep before painting.


This cabinet is structurally sound, but it is bare with no shelf and unattractive brackets. It will need some cabinetry detailing to make it useful again. (Maybe a wine rack?)


This chest is completely functional. All the parts are there and the top moves great. However, the finish on top is very old and is soft (Could be from exposure to products with oils). Even if I sand before painting the wrinkles will probably show up. Plus, whatever oils are on there will be soft under the paint which means it will break down; So this top will absolutely need to be stripped before I can do anything to it.

We have made our fair share of “Oh man, what was I thinking???” mistakes when buying furniture. We wanted to pass on our knowledge on furniture junking with you so you can learn from our mistakes and feel confident about selecting that perfect conversation piece for your home.

Becca and I have one more valuable list for you! Here is a list junking tag-alongs. We literally dug through our purses to share with you what we take with us everyday when looking for junk… ok, in all honesty it’s just everyday, because you never know when that “side-of-the-road gold” will show up! ūüėā

  1. Tape Mesure we use something super simple. Tara keeps heres on her key chain like this one.
  2. Eye Scope / Magnifying glass
  3. List of measurements for pieces you are looking for or spaces you want to fill (always in our recycled notebook!)
  4. Moving blankets (even if you are planning on painting the piece, make sure it is protected)
  5. Phone/camera to take pictures in case you don’t plan on purchasing right away
  6. Cash! Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet in case you find that perfect piece at a place that doesn’t accept other forms of payment. Some places will even let you leave a deposit to hold the piece until you can come back for the rest!



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

How to Achieve a Flat Finish

One of the biggest trends in this era of DIY and shabby chic are silky-smooth flat finishes.¬† The most common way to achieve those flat/matte sheens is wax.¬† See our previous post for a deeper look into why we are opposed to this solution for most projects.¬† Basically we know it’s gorgeous (we agree), but the cons far outweigh the pros.

  1. Wax is not a long-term, durable finish.
  2. Wax required annual maintenance and reapplication.
  3. Refinishing a surface that has been finished with wax in nearly impossible without a tedious full strip

…But the UpCycle Girls are solution seekers!¬† We are here today to be the bearers of good news – You CAN achieve a long-lasting finish with a beautiful matte sheen.

Recently, we were working on a table and agreed the top would be stunning with a suede-like sheen. To achieve that look, we would need to utilize a flat finish. However just a flat finish on this table would not hold up to everyday use; Remember table tops are high traffic, and flat finishes are more absorbent and susceptible to marking than a glossier sheen. We always strive to ensure whatever we create will survive for a long time!  Our solution was to first apply a couple of base layers of pre-catalyzed water base finish in satin, and then General Finishes Flat Out Flat.  This finish is one of our absolute favorites out there.  This stuff is not only FLAT FLAT FLAT, but it is velvety smooth to the touch Рmuch like wax!  Sometimes you can hardly tell there is even a finish on the project at all.  If you are looking for a that perfect matte sheen FOF is the man for the job!

Here are a few pros and cons for your various sheen options, to help you decide if “flat” truly is the way you want to go…

Flat РAttractive, but not durable.  More absorbant, and easily scuffed and scratched.  Dust can be seen at every direction when using a darker color. Cleaning or rubbing can result in unintentional buffing, which will heighten the sheen and may appear to be imperfections in the finish.  While the above mentioned Flat Out Flat is stunning, and a fantastic option for your matte projects, the formula includes a matting agent which makes it less durable than higher sheen clear coats.

Eggshell РSlightly more durable than flat.  Very soft appearance.  Common on living area walls.

Satin¬†– Most common furniture finish.¬† Not too glossy, but still a bit of glare for that true finished look.¬† Not idea if you want the look of “no finish,” like chalk type paint.¬† Higher sheen makes it more durable and easier to clean than flat or eggshell.

Gloss РVery durable finish, but will easily show imperfections like scratches.

We hope you found these tips and tricks helpful, and encourage you to see options for battling your own DIY woes.  We want to hear about them, too!  Pass them on!

Junk on,

Tara and Becca


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

What does “Low VOCs” Mean?

Today’s topic: VOCs! You often see “Low VOCs”, or “No VOCs” on paint and finish labels, which you know must mean something good, but what does it actually mean?


Volitile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the solvents that evaporate into the air while the product is drying. Some of the solvents that evaporate can have an odor to them and will effect the quality of the air in your home.

Some paint companies will claim to have no VOCs, which may be true for the base of the paint. However if you add pigments to the paint the pigments are what  contain the VOCs. There are still companies out there that claim to use NO VOC pigments.

Sources of VOCs

What products around our homes have VOCs?

  • Paints
  • Spray paint cans
  • Strippers
  • House hold cleaners and disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Pest Repellents
  • Automotive fuels
  • Hobby Supplies
  • Dry-Cleaned Clothes
  • Pesticides
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Markers
  • Printers inks

Health Risks 

Short Term Exposure Symptoms:

  • Eye, nose throat irritation
  • Headache and or nausea
  • Skin reaction
  • Dyspnea
  • Emesis
  • Epistaxis
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

How To Lower Your Risk Of Exposure:

  • Keep paint cans closed tight and use lower VOC products in your home.
  • If you can, wait until you can open windows and doors to circulate air flow in the home when you are using high VOC products.
  • Wear a mask, read more on our safety when DIYing here and our mask recommendations.
  • Dispose and clean up rags, and brushes properly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Don’t mix products! If you don’t know what is in the product don’t start a chemistry lab.
  • Make sure your kids and fur babies can’t get into your products!

Other things you can do:

  • Don’t buy more paint than you need, you would be surprised as to how far a pint of paint will go!
  • Contact your local waste company before disposing of any paint. Hint: Some other DIYer or Upcycler might be interested in a good quality paint so you can give it away too!¬† Better yet, host a paint swap!
  • Share this information!!!

Some additional stats for nerds like us! 

The federal government regulations are 250 grams per liter for flat finishes and 380 per liter for higher gloss finishes. However many companies have chosen to lower their numbers.

In 2007 the EPA estimated that about 65-69 gallons of paint was discarded!  That statistic is alarming; We need to be more conscious of our paint uses! Do you have any ideas on what we can do with left over paint?  Watch for a future post with our thoughts!

Worried about the air quality in your home and want to know how bad it is? There are products that will be able to tell you. Foobot will track the air quality along with humidity and temperature. You can also test your VOC levels with this bad boy.




We have decided to do a series of blogs this summer to really dive in deep on a few topics that we feel need to be explained in more detail.  We are going to try to cover everything from industry standards from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacture Association to Green Guard Certification.

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

Tune in next week we will show you how to get a durable flat finish.

A Special Mother’s Day

#fostercare #fostermom #adoption #gotchaday #firstmothersday


We are going to break away this week and get personal.¬† Tara and I (Becca) both have “wear your heart on your sleeve” kind of personalities.¬† What you see is what you get, and what you get is always our best.¬† So we decided to treat our blog the same way, and open up about something very big happening in our private lives.¬† This past year behind all the scenes of The Upcycle Girls, I have been going through an extraordinary adventure.¬† Tara, being not only a co-worker, but also a close friend and confidant, has witnessed the many phases of this process.¬† So we decided together that we would like to share with our readers in order connect with you on a new level.

I will keep this as brief as I can, although I could talk for hours about everything I know and have experienced.¬† If you have questions about foster parenting, adoption, or my story, please ask!¬† However, please be mindful of my desire to protect my kids’ privacy as they are still too young to make decisions themselves about sharing their stories.

My husband and I had decided to become foster parents toward the end of the summer, 2016, after much discussion and a ton of prayer.¬† We truly felt it was where we were being led, and still feel that way.¬† We began the certification process in a southeastern county of Wisconsin, and during our training were repeatedly told not to get our hopes up for adoption.¬† The purpose of foster care, after all, is reunification.¬† That is always the first goal, as it should be.¬† Healing a family and the individuals in it must be maintained as a primary goal for foster care in order for it to be carried out properly.¬† This was a fact that I struggled with at first, but came to understand and strongly agree with.¬† (This is one of those things I could talk your ear off about…)¬† Thus, we emotionally and mentally prepared for our first placement as we started down this new path.


Fast forward to the second week of January, 2017.¬† I will always remember every detail of this moment.¬† I was standing tall on a ladder, putting a coat of white paint on a built-in cabinet for an on-site project we had in progress.¬† My phone rang, and I recognized it immediately as the county.¬† I answered, and sure enough it was our licencor.¬† She asked me if we were still interested in adoption, to which I simply replied “yes,” with hardly a breath.¬† I was informed that there were two children, ages 2 & 3, who needed a foster placement with potential to adopt.¬† In basic terms: Due to the current status of the case, the county only wanted to place the children with foster parents who were open to ultimately adopting them in order to maintain as much consistency for the kids as possible.¬† Awestruck (remember, we thought it was unlikely that we’d be able to adopt any kids…), I said I needed to talk to my husband and would need to call them back.¬† Matt and I talked and knew we had to at least meet the kids.¬† We did, felt an instant connection, and agreed to accept our first (and only) placement.¬† Shortly after, we learned that their birth mother was pregnant.¬† So quite quickly we went from zero, to a third on the way!

The next year was kind of a blur as the kids, Matt and I, developed new relationships and navigated life’s phases as a new unit.¬† As you may guess, learning how to parent two toddlers overnight: NOT EASY.¬† Our lifestyle changed REAL quick.¬† That kind of shock puts a strain on everything and everyone involved.¬† And then when our baby girl came in July, things took their biggest shift.¬† While it got crazier and busier, and Matt and I were all of a sudden sleep deprived in addition to everything else, we felt settled; complete. Life was now a very loud, very messy continuous loop of crayons, diapers, stickers, tissues, cheerios, and PJ Masks (anyone else with me on that last one?).¬† Chaotic, stressful, and perfect.


Earlier this year, parental rights for the kids’ birth parents were officially terminated, and we began the process of adoption.¬† This month, that adoption became final and our family is finally legally in one piece.¬† We are very open with our kids about their adoption.¬† We talk about it, read about it, and celebrate it together every day!¬† Our hope is that as each of them gets older, they feel comfortable and confident telling their friends and peers about their story.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever be a mom.¬† I knew I wanted to be a mom.¬† I knew I could be a mom.¬† I just didn’t know how or when it would happen.¬† Now, I know that this was always the path I was meant to take to reach that destination.¬† These kids were always going to be mine.

adult, affection, baby

Learning to parent each of my three kids separately has been a challenge, each in its own special way.¬† I am grateful for that, as it will always help us learn and grow together.¬† My four-year-old “M” has a crazy spirit.¬† She is one of the most interesting people I know.¬† She pushes me to my limits, but the same characteristics that push my buttons are what I know will take her far.¬† She is adventurous, passionate, and so clever.¬† Three-year-old “R” is a spitfire.¬† He is impulsive, affectionate, and hilarious.¬† There is never a dull moment with him, and I am excited to see how his personality both changes and stays the same as he gets older.¬† Baby “L” is simply a doll.¬† She is sweet and beautiful.¬† She is feisty, cheery, and curious.¬† To have been able to watch her develop from birth has been a gift, and to witness her strength through such a tough beginning to her tiny little life has been humbling.¬† I can’t imagine my life without these three little trouble-makers.¬† They make me laugh, cry, and dream.¬† They make me work harder.¬† I hope for their best future.¬† I wish for their pain to vanish.¬† I look forward to many years of teaching them about “side-of-the-road gold.”¬† And I will never stop loving them as if they had come from me.

“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own.¬† Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”¬† #AdoptionCreed


At this point, I do feel the need to note a couple of things:

  1.  Our story is NOT typical.  If you have plans to become a foster parent, work hard on maintaining a realistic and prioritized mindset to focus on the true purpose of foster parenting.  But also be open with your case leads about your hope to adopt.
  2. The fact that we were given three kids so quickly is a testament in my eyes to the great need for foster parents.  If you are interested in fostering a child who needs a home, www.fosterparentsrock.org is a GREAT place to start.  You should also call your local county Health and Human Services for options and direction on what you can do.  If you want to help through other means, send food, clothes, and toys to foster families you know or through your county HHS office РThey can also tell you if there is a need for anything specific.  You can also donate to The Coalition, which is a locally based organization who is very involved in the support of foster and adoptive families:  https://coalitionforcyf.org/  And finally, feel free to ask me questions, or talk to me about your feelings on this post!  I would love to hear your own stories, and connect with you in a new way.


Happy Mothers Day to ALL mamas today:  Biological moms, foster moms, adoptive moms, fur mommies, hopeful moms-to-be, and moms who have experienced loss.  Tara and I are thinking of all of you today.  We are grateful for you, and we admire you.


Junk on,

Becca & Tara


Tune in next week we are going to give you the low down on VOCs.

Picking Neutral Wall Colors

Picking out wall colors can feel just completely overwhelming. Your safest bet for versatility in future redecorating is always neutrals, but there are so many shades of neutrals; Where do you even start? Lucky for you, the UpCycle Girls are here to help! Becca has a background in tbe field of design and has some pointers to help guide you!

What you will need:
Paint book or color swatches
Accent pieces (either picked out or online) that are staples to the space

Tips for narrowing down your options:

Stand in the middle of your space, in natural light if possible. Flip through your options, and pull 5-10 swatches that catch your eye. Hold the colors you like up against a wall. Follow these rules to get the best idea of what the color will look like:

  • Use a white background to help you see the true color. You can use a plain sheet of copy paper if your walls aren’t white.
  • Hold the colors against each wall that will be painted, as the light hits each plain differently.
  • Check the same colors both during the day in natural light, and at night in artificial light. The difference may surprise you!
  • Be mindful of undertones, as they can work to your advantage but also tend to be distracting. The key is knowing what undertones are. When you hold swatches within a book next to each other, it is easier to see these. For example, a simple gray may look more blue or green when held up to another gray. This can help you coordinate with other accent colors within the space. However, be sure to also follow the white background rule above and focus on that, isolating the color(s) you choose when making your final decision. Remember, while a gray tone may look blue next to another gray, it probably won’t look so blue when it stands alone.

You can start eliminating the color chips you don’t like from here. Once you have narrowed it down to less then five, ask your paint store about getting samples.

Paint squares on the wall large enough to get a good idea of the color in the room.  Make sure you walk away and come back to look at the colors through out the day!

More tips…

-Most paint stores carry multiple different paint books. Ask to see a paint book and if you can take it home. You can even buy a book on Amazon!

– Most paint stores can also match colors from other companies. Make sure you use a brand and sheen that you have researched and feel confident about, and then choose the color separately.

-If you have your own paint swatch book, use a rubber band or paper clips to section off the neutrals for easy grabbing each time you need a frame if reference!

You are not alone in feeling confused when choosing a neutral that is perfect for your room. There are endless options, and at some point they tend to all look the same. But if you follow the rules above, you can quickly make a decision and move forward confidently!

And of course, you are welcome to give us a call if you need further assistance. ūüėČ

Junk on,

Tara & Becca


Tune in next week we will be explaining VOCs.

ReStyled Buffet



We were honored when we were approached by a repeat customer to refinish this stunning buffet.¬† The intricate details adorning the mirror and face frames were begging to be enhanced, and the original hardware was lovely but dull with age.¬† Becca couldn’t wait to get her hands on this piece!

Our customer originally bought the piece with the intent to refinish it herself.¬† She got as far as disassembly and stripping before the project got pushed to the back-burner amidst her long list of other to-do’s (We get it, sister! #momlife).¬† It sat in her pole barn for a bit and then she decided to give the UpCycle Girls a call!

Since the project had already been stripped, we started with some repair, general toning and conditioning.  Check out the miter repair Tara did РFlawless!

The top surface of the chest needed some extra cleaning and conditioning from years of wear, exposure, and overall damage.  But once the wood tone had been evened out, she was ready to go!  We chose Golden Oak water-based Wood Stain by General Finishes for the faces of doors and drawers, work surface, and the adornment on the mirror frame, as well as the original wooden drawer handles.

Once the new stain had set in, we prepared for painting to achieve the two-toned look the customer was aiming for.  First we used General Finishes Stain Blocker to prevent any bleed-through from wood tannins and remnants of old finish.  Next we applied a couple layers of Linen Milk Paint for a soft, clean palette.

The finishing touch was the newly cleaned and sealed set of brass handles on the long drawer.¬† In the middle of a hectic main floor home remodel, the customer was so excited to see this piece beautifully refinished come back into her home.¬† And we couldn’t have been more thrilled to do the job for her.¬† We hope her family enjoys it for years to come!


What pending projects do you have buried in your garage or barn?¬† What do you plan to do with them?¬† How can we help?¬† Ask us about our very affordable design consultations!¬† Please also send us your before and after shots – we love seeing your “side-of-the-road gold” turn shiny and new again!


Junk on,

Tara and Becca


Next week we will be talking about picking neutral paint colors for your home.



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.


Next week we will be giving you insight on picking neutral wall colors.

Sandpaper 101

PSA:  Not all sandpaper is created equal. Today we are going to dive into the different types of sandpaper and abrasives, focusing on what to look for and when to use each kind!

Sandpaper/Abrasive Grits

When talking about sandpaper, woodworkers will mention a number РThis refers to the level of grit.  More specifically, the grit indicates the number of particles that are in a square inch of the sandpaper.  The higher the number, the finer the grit.  So 60 grit sandpaper will be much rougher than 220 grit.  The highest we use are our sponge discs that are 5,000, but even higher levels are available.

The level of grit on the sandpaper you choose and how you choose to sand will make a difference on how a finish will take to the wood.¬† Experienced woodworkers will start with a lower grit and work their way up as part of a multi-step process to properly prep the piece.¬† For example, one could start with a 80-100 grit, go to 120-150.¬† If you were to finish it off with too low of a grit and then apply your stain, the wood could absorb more than expected making it harder to manipulate the finish to the desired level of intensity. On the flip side if you sand with too fine of a grit you will close the wood up too tight that it won’t absorb enough of the stain and could become blotchy. The type of wood you are staining will change the grit of sandpaper you use. ¬†Keep in mind that a well used 120 grit sandpaper may act more like a 220 grit.

Prep Sanding

After stripping, it is essential to prep sand before applying your new finish!¬† Depending on your piece of furniture orbital sanding may make your task easier.¬† We recommend using 120 grit, and follow up by hand with 220. (also keep in mind the type of wood you are refinishing may change the grit of sandpaper you use) ¬†If you are looking to purchase your first electric sander,¬†Ryobi¬†is Tara’s “go-to” brand for many reasons.¬† They must develop their products keeping women in mind, because they tend to be lighter weight and fit nicely in our smaller hands!¬† Ryobi is also more affordable and durable.

Finish Sanding

Finish sanding is also an essential part of your finish work. Scuffing between coats of paint to ensures two things:¬† First, the latter coat will adhere much better; Second, it is an opportunity to lessen or eliminate the appearance of minor blemishes, peaks or brushstrokes from your former coat so that you are keeping your layers as smooth as possible.¬† You will also want to do this between topcoat layers for the same reasons, even if you’re spraying as this will even out any off-spray. (Learn more about top coats here) ¬†Aiming to achieve a finish as smooth as possible is just as important to the feel of the end result as the look.¬† For finish sanding, pads are best; Use fine grit for between paint coats and super-fine for between finish coats. We also love to use Mirka¬†scuff pads or sanding discs between coats, which are long-lasting and a better alternative to using steel wool on a water-based finish.

Types of Sheet Sandpaper/Abrasive  (most commonly used for woodworking) 

  • Garnet¬†– This red-hued gem used to make sheet sandpaper. This type of sandpaper is¬†used for scuff and finish sanding. Garnet comes in a variety of grits depending on the manufacturer. ¬†The abrasive on this sandpaper is easily fractured, continuously forming new cutting edges.¬† This is our personal favorite.¬† We buy the¬†Norton brand, which is very durable – One piece can last me through most of our projects and then some.¬† Even after decent use of a square of 100 grit, it can perform as a second act like a 180 grit or as a heavy duty cleanup tool for things like putty (… because hey, we’re The UpCycle Girls after all!).¬† Norton is a little bit pricier than other sandpapers, but the durability makes it worth every penny.
  • Aluminum Oxide¬†–¬†Aluminum oxide is a very common abrasive for wood, and very easy to find.¬† But it doesn’t fracture off like garnet sandpaper, and tends to wear down a bit quicker with use.
  • Silicon Carbide¬†Silicon Carbide is sharper and harder than some types of aluminum oxide. The particles on silicon carbide resemble broken glass. Because it is not a very tough and durable material it is not typically used for raw wood sanding but instead used for finish sanding. Some manufactured types have waterproof backing for wet or oil sanding.

UG Tip!  Folding Sandpaper 

If you are new to our blog, you might not know that Tara’s dad Pete has been refinishing furniture for a LOOONG time!¬† As Tara tells it:¬† “One thing he still tells me is ‘Make sure you fold the sandpaper right!’¬† This is a special little secret of ours, that we have decided to share with you.¬† Believe it or not, you can get 8 usable sanding surfaces out of a single sheet of sandpaper!

Simply fold the sheet into quarters to create seams, and rip into four equal pieces.  Take each piece and fold them all in half till you have a total of eight pieces.  Trifold each piece with the grit facing out.  This results in an ergonomic piece of sandpaper that will easily fit in your hand with good grip.  Additionally, folding the sandpaper this way prevents it from slipping around on itself.  And bonus:  Each folded edge has sandpaper wrapped around for getting into crevices!

That’s it for today.¬† Thanks for stopping by!¬† We want to know:¬† What type of sandpaper do you use? Did you learn anything new from this post?

Happy Sanding,

Tara and Becca

Tune in next week and see what we do to a buffet!

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

China Cabinet Restored to Original

White Cropped Photo Baking Bread Pinterest Graphic-5



Although we get asked to restore a lot of antiques and vintage furniture, we do get a little giddy about some projects in particular. This China cabinet was one of them, with it’s curved glass sides and quarter sawn oak frame. Over the years, this old girl seemed to have lost her luster… But we were honored and able to bring her back!

Stripping is messy but it is a necessary evil. Sometimes an old finish will come off easy, as it will already be chipping or peeling… This wasn’t the case in this instance.¬† Removing the old shellac could not be done efficiently with a simple sanding.

There was also extensive water damage to the top, so bleaching was the next step.¬† Wood bleach is awesome – the frothy white foam shows you that it’s working.

After sanding and bleaching prep was done and the piece was COMPLETELY dry, it was finally time for the fun part: staining!

To enhance the depth with the use of color we settled on a combination of both golden oak and early American General Finishes water-based stains, in addition to an amber shellac. Shellac is one of Tara’s favorite finishes. It brings a sense of age and a certain luster to a piece. If you want to learn more about different types of finishes go here.


There she is, gorgeous as she was in her hay day! The owner plans to pass her down to his kids and grandkids. This stunning piece is sure to last many more generations.


We always give credit where credit is due.¬† For this post we need to send a big thanks to the “UpCycle Guy” Theron (Tara’s brother), who makes himself available to help us from time to time. Tara let him put the nails back in on the curved glass for this project!¬† ūüôā


Thanks for reading! Have you restored for a family heirloom? Send us some pictures – we would love to see them!

Tara and Becca

Be sure to check in next week when  we will be teaching all there is to know about sandpaper!


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.





Why “One Step” is a Myth


In a culture that demands both speed and efficiency, convenience is key for consumers.¬† People want quick; People want easy; People want affordable.¬† So manufacturers unfortunately are pressured to market and sell products that aren’t necessarily ready to roll out, products that will typically fail sooner than when would be considered ideal.

The furniture industry is no exception – This goes for both building new, and refinishing old.¬† The reason we ramble on about this is because we are constantly fielding questions about products that are currently available claiming to be “one step” or “all in one.”¬† Read on to find out why we have made the conscious and educated decision NOT to use or sell these products, and how those extra steps will be your best option in the long run.

Free stock photo of hand, dark, display, overview

The Importance of Prep Work

One of our most frequently asked questions is “Do I really have to do the prep work?”¬† By prep work, these questions refer to the “clean & scuff-sand” step before applying the new finish.¬† The answer is a resounding YES!¬† Why?¬† Ask yourself the following questions.¬† Unless you answer “yes” to every single one, you will surely be gambling with the effectiveness of your new finish, and the durability of the hard work you are about to take on.

  • Have you been with that specific piece of furniture through its whole life?
  • Do you know every purpose that piece was used for?
  • Do you know what was used to clean it?
  • Do you know what finish was used on it originally?
  • Do you know if it has been touched up or restored, and which products were used?

Prep work is essential to ensuring the success of your project; It cleans off years of grease, fingerprints, and damaging cleaning products.  Properly preparing your piece also helps secure the original finish. All finishes inevitably break down through the years, and if the existing finish is flaking or cracking you need to secure or remove it before painting anything over the top of it.  Additionally, the scuff-sand step will smooth out any imperfections you are looking to correct, such as scratches and blemishes, or drip marks from a previous finish.

This picture above shows a prime example of why we need prep work. This end table had consistent drip marks down the side. Natural wood can often camouflage defects like this. The drip marks on this particular piece were hardly visible until the piece was scuffed. If paint had just been applied directly over the top with out scuffing, these drips would likely have become very noticeable.

Why not one coat?

In all honesty, we have yet to find a product that – when applied properly – really does only need “one coat.”¬† You see the commercials, read the ads, and believe the tag lines.¬† But applying just one coat usually turns out to be just as it sounds:¬† Too good to be true.¬† In our experience, at the very least a second coat was needed for adequate coverage.¬† If you do think you have found that magic product that covers fully with a single application, be sure to check all planes in multiple versions of lighting as this can make a huge difference.

Also, while you may seem to achieve full coverage with one layer, the color of the product may not be reaching it’s maximum intensity.¬† Often you will see the truer version of the color with more than one coat.

And obviously more coats can mean better protection, but not too many or you could potentially have finish failure. (We will have a blog on this coming up)

A Topcoat’s Duty

With most “all in one” products the top coat is part of the recipe, along with the primer and paint. However since all of the products are mixed together, each layer isn’t allowed to cure separately.¬† The formulas for primer, paint, and top coat are specifically developed for a purpose, and if they aren’t allowed to cure on their own, they may not be reaching their full potential.¬† Keep this in mind when considering the future use and traffic of your project.¬† The primer prevents previous finishes and wood tannins from being pulled through the new paint; The top coats protect against various wear and tear, airborne elements, and sometimes UV rays.¬† Finish will also protect the wood underneath from getting dry and brittle.¬† Check out our previous post to learn more about Top Coats.

All of that said, while we are BIG advocates for using topcoats and rarely complete projects without them, we do acknowledge for low traffic items (like picture frames or other decorative items) a product like General Finishes Milk Paint may be suitable without a top coat.

In short, yes, the factors contributing to the demand for speedy results puts a lot of pressure on all of us.¬† However, as Tara’s mama says, “Better to do it right the first time so that¬†you don’t have to do it a second time!”¬† That’s the voice we choose to follow, and we believe that’s what will help us stand behind our work for years to come.

Blue Wood

What are your thoughts on All in One products? Have you tried them? Share your successes and failures with us – We want to hear from you!

Happy Junking,

Becca and Tara


Next week we so you step by step restoring a China cabinet.


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

Meet UpCycle Girl #2!

Earlier this year, you had the opportunity to meet the ORIGINAL UpCycle Girl, Tara!¬† This duo wouldn’t exist without her kick-starting the work back in 2013.¬† Now, you can meet Becca: the girl Tara took under her wing, the addition to the team that changed the name from “The UpCycle Girl” to “The UpCycle Girls!”

A lover of all things creative while growing up, Becca opted to get her bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point between 2004 & 2008.¬† Fresh out of college, she dove head first into the corporate world designing stores for a large retail chain.¬† After 5 years, Becca knew that retail design and the large corporate atmosphere weren’t going to work for her long-term.¬† She took a couple months off (to get married!), and then started dabbling in some other curiosities until she was connected with Tara through mutual friends at the beginning of 2014.¬† Becca missed working with her hands, and face-to-face customer interaction, and Tara needed someone for design input.¬† It couldn’t have been a better fit.¬† And as they say, the rest is history!

In her personal world, Becca is in the process of becoming an adoptive mother.¬† She loves living in the country with her husband Matt, their rescued Boxer mix Lola, and their crazy kids.¬† She does the majority of her UG work out of a relocated 60-year old barn (yep, even her workshop is repurposed!).¬† A true Wisconsin girl at heart, Becca enjoys doing almost anything outside (fishing, hunting, hiking, campfires…), constantly evolving the decor in her home, going on adventures to new places (especially if they have a great flea market or vintage shop), listening to country music (Sunny Sweeney is her current fave), and spending quality time with family and friends.

Unapologetically passionate about everything she loves and always wishing she could “do it all,” Becca survives on staying busy, fueling herself with cappuccino from local coffee shops.¬† Good thing she has Tara to keep her on target!¬† ūüôā¬† While both girls contribute to all areas of The UpCycle Girls, Becca is the driving force behind the design end of the business.¬† So if you have a design related request, she is your girl.

Note from Becca:

“I couldn’t be more honored to be the other half of the UpCycle Girls, and love every day that Tara and I get to keep creating new and beautiful things for our amazing customers.¬† We love doing what we do, and I know what a gift that is.¬† Thanks for following us, and keep the requests coming!¬† We are here to share both our skills and knowledge with you – It’s part of our mission!”¬† #thesumofitsparts¬† #wemakeagreatteam¬† #girlswithtools¬† #upcyclegirlswi¬† #keeptheold

Junk on,

Tara & Becca

Coming up next week we restyle a buffet.

Safety for DIYing and Refinishing

I (Tara) have been refinishing furniture for 18 years now.¬† I have experienced my fair share of “oopses” due to failed protection.¬† I have done everything from stabbing myself with chisels to melting my gloves in stripper.¬† Proper precautions are no joke in this industry, and quality of protective gear DOES matter.¬† Becca and I feel that we are among those whose duty it is to encourage this in order to continue encouraging others to do their work efficiently and safely!

First I’d like to share some of my favorite protective wear with you so you can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.

First up… eyewear.¬† I personally don’t wear protective eyewear.¬† Before you say anything, have you seen these giant glasses I wear?!¬† I’m probably going to look back in photos and make fun of myself someday.¬† In my case, if I doubled up on my eyewear I wouldn’t be able to see what I am doing.¬† So common sense plays a key factor here.¬† If you don’t wear glasses (like Becca) get some standard safety glasses. My husband likes these.

Above: Becca’s Safety Girl boots

Next is footwear.¬† Some people think that this isn’t as important if you aren’t working on heavy construction sites, or if your work is all at table height.¬† That is a myth.¬† In a workshop setting (even in your basement or garage) you can step on nails, staples, or large splinters, which will go through most everyday-shoe soles.¬† You can also drop tools or pieces of furniture on your toes (we have done this many times…). You don’t necessarily need steel-toed boots, although some on-site jobs will require them.¬† Personally, I just like my Ariat¬†hiking boots¬†– they have a thick sole, I can wear them for days, and they are a little taller with ankle protection for when I’m climbing through junk!¬† Becca really likes her Ariats and Safety Girl boots.¬† The Ariats are much more comfortable, but the Safety Girls offer a little more protection (plus, they’re pink… and Becca likes a lot of pink in her life).

Masks!  So, important from sanding to spraying wear your mask. I just bought an Elispe half mask which I must say is suprisingly comfortable! I typically get somewhat claustrophobic in masks, but this one I could leave on all day. I highly recommend it. It also comes with a great plastic bag to prevent contamination when your not using it. What a great idea!  Becca also likes the disposable respiration masks, which are a very affordable option that is efficient enough for most jobs.

Stripping gloves are SUPER important.  When you use lacquer thinners, you need a real chemical-resistant pair of gloves.  The risk in not wearing them?  You could literally melt your gloves right off your hands РImagine what that could do to your skin!  We used to double up on gloves when I owned my refinishing shop. We even had those gloves that tied all the way up to the neck and a full plastic apron (talk about neck pain). Your best bet would be a lined plastic glove like this.

Staining Gloves: Ok, so unless I am using oil stain I don’t wear gloves (Becca doesn’t either).¬† Unless you are a clean freak (which is fine!) it’s a bit of a waste since I can just wash my hands with a heavy hand soap.¬† In our opinion, there is no need to fill up a land fill with unnecessary plastic gloves.¬† To each his own, though!¬† So if you do prefer to use gloves for staining,¬†these are the best. If you have a latex allergy, use these.

We hope this has been helpful!  Feel free to message us for more recommendations!

Junk on (safely)!¬† ūüôā

Tara & Becca

Coming up next week read all about The Upcycle Girl #2 Becca!



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 

Vanity Transformations

Over the years we have built quite a portfolio of work. We wanted to start sharing some of them with you to hopefully help get your gears turning on what you might want to do on YOUR next project.  We will share the color of paints used for each project, which you can purchase online by clicking the links or contact us directly and we will get you a DIY kit of your own!


Emerald Vanity: mixed 50:50 Emerald Green and Lime Green. Glazed with Bronze Pearl Effects. Top is stained Brown Mahogany.


Buttermilk Vanity: Base and mirror are painted Buttermilk and heavily distressed. Top is stained Antique Cherry Wood Stain.


Art Decor Vanity: painted Seagull Grey and distressed. Top was sprayed with Mohawk Vandyke Brown and Dark Walnut Toning Sprays.


Patina Vanity: Layer 1 is Patina Green, Layer 2 is an off-brand water-based teal. Glazed with Van Dyke Brown. Top is Antique Walnut Gel Stain.

We always top coat our painted and refinished work with either a¬†polyurethane or pre-cat waterborne finish. ¬†We only wax when a specific look is desired. To find out more about why we don’t wax go here.

Thanks for reading this weeks blog! Have you restored or flipped a vanity recently we would love to see it!

Happy Junking!

Tara and Becca

Stay tuned in for next weeks blog all about Safety! What the Upcycle Girls recommend for protection when refinishing and painting furniture.



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves. 


How to Shop for Painted Furniture

There is a huge trend right now toward painting furniture (as you probably already know if you follow us ‚ėļÔłŹ). As avid dealers in multiple areas of the industry, we come across work of varying degrees of professionalism. And obviously, no one aims to buy furniture that will break down or require frequent maintenance shortly after purchasing. So, we put together a comprehensive guide to give you some insight on how to shop for WELL-painted furniture.

1. The Scratch Test: Softly rub the edge of your nail across a flat surface on the piece, and then do the same on the inside of a leg or in a less noticeable area. The paint and finish should NOT budge. This is especially important on worksurfaces (like a tabletop) where extra measures should be taken to increase durability. If your simple, GENTLE test in the store doesn’t pass, it will be even worse when you bring it home.

2. Feel It: Feel the surfaces – they should be smooth as a baby’s bottom! Tacky is NOT good, and is usually indicative of a finish, adhesive or curing problem. Rough (similar to sand paper) could mean that dust particles settled in the finish, or the finish didn’t cure properly.

3. Check ALL Surface: It’s always good to inspect the inside and the back of any piece of furniture your thinking about purchasing. How will the cabinet look if the doors are going to be used and possibly left open often? Is the inside of the cabinet painted or at least the inside of the doors? Check the back make sure that all the pieces are attached properly. If the dresser has a mirror attached, make sure it is VERY secure. Review how it’s put together – Are all the necessary pieces there?

4. The “Pretty” Test: Lastly Becca has some design-related things to keep in mind to to help you feel confident about making the right purchase.

– Bring coordinating color swatches for the space the piece will be in. Colors change with lighting, but will stay in the same palette.

– Take measurements! Take 5 minutes one day when you are at home and measure any areas where you are looking to add furniture or decor. Write these down on a notecard to keep in your wallet, or type them into your phone! Then, when you unexpectedly stumble upon that buried gem in a thrift store, you know if it will fit! You can also tape the area off on your floor at home to get a better idea if how the new piece will effect the flow of your space and you will have maximum measurements to work with.

– ALWAYS carry a tape measure with you. Becca keeps on in her purse AND her car. And it has come in handy many, many times!

– Gather a couple of old blankets from home, or consider investing in a couple of padded moving blankets. If you plan to haul your awesome new find yourself, you are going to want to take proper precautions en route to prevent damage.

Thanks for reading this weeks blog we hope that it will help you find the perfect piece for your home!

Tara and Becca


Photos:  Karen at Cattywampus Design in Wauwatosa provide the photos in the blog. Cattywampus has 80 different artists, you are sure to find a spectacular conversation piece there.


Next week we will show your some vanities we have restored! Check back with us!

Upcycle Doors and Drawers!

As avid junkers, we have acquired decently sized stashes of salvaged home interior components over the years. This may sound relatable to many of you. ūüėČ The most common among the pieces we are talking about are discarded cabinet doors, drawer faces, and windows.

Do you have some leftover junk in your garage or basement, too? Here are some fun ideas for bringing life back to those dusty boards!

Let’s start with cabinet doors. We come across these ALL. THE. TIME! Here are a few projects we have done with them…


*Remove the center panel, add some chicken wire and chalkboard paint, and use S-hooks to hang mugs or clothespins for photos or notes!


* Finished the frame panels with Patina Green and glazed with Van Dyke brown. Painted center panel with chalkboard paint. Voila!



As you can tell, we LOVE the idea of upcycling these doors into writable surfaces. That’s because chalkboard signs can serve MANY different purposes! In addition to offering versatility and flexibility with decorating (change the design with the season!), you can use them for weekly menus, motivational quotes, or special notes to other household members or office mates!


* God Bless America – holiday red Trash to Treasure –¬†¬†persimmon (General Finishes Milk Paints)


Add a clothespin or cup handle to hold your chalk! ‚úÖ ūüíĮ



They also make GREAT wedding decor or gifts!



*This project ( finished in Bone white – General Finishes chalk style paint) is actually a glass paneled cabinet door, but can be completed just as effectively with a window!




Sometimes you have more than just the drawer face… You can do some awesome things with recovered FULL drawers, too!


* This drawer table was made for a very special client to hold all of her paints and sits right next to her canvases. Finished in General Finishes Milk Paint; Drawer is Halcyon Blue, bottom legs and shelf finished in Linen


*  Finished with General Finishes Milk Paint; Top is Queenstown Grey, legs and shelf are Lamp Black.

Another SUPER fun idea for repurposing drawers into tables, is to make a planter! We will show you some of these in a future post. Check back in soon!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog! We would love to see what other fun ideas you all have come up with for your rescued home interior pieces!

Happy Junking,

Tara and Becca

One last note…

We will be featuring info on many of the photos we post going forward so that you know which colors we used to achieve each look. You can purchase from the link, or head over to our Shop tab to see where to pick up paints for your next salvage project!

Tune in next week on The Upcycle Girls tips on shopping for painted furniture.


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.