The Case for Teak Oil

When finishing a wooden product, I know a coat or two of polyurethane is a standard sealant option.  And for good reason-it’s water-resistant, wipeable, and usually durable.  It’s the top coat I’ve used on several pieces I’ve refinished and they look just as good years later.


But polyurethane isn’t the only option, nor is it my favorite.  Over the years, in an experiment of sorts, I put several alternative products to the test: mineral oil, cutting board oil, Danish oil, butcher block oil, paste finishing wax, and Teak oil.


Why, you ask?  Well, because unlike a traditional poly, all the products mentioned above can be reapplied at any time.  But why would I want to recoat when I could just use poly and be done?  I’d love to explain.  Of all the options I’ve tried, Teak oil is my favorite, with Danish oil a close second.  The rest, well, they certainly have a use in the right application, like refreshing a cutting board.  For furniture purposes, mineral oil products just aren’t durable or long wearing enough.  Teak oil, however, penetrates and creates a long-lasting water-resistant surface.  It’s great for sealing furniture, as I did with my wood frame linen sofa.


Teak oil has also been my go to for sealing the walnut cabinetry we’ve made, both in the master bathroom and kitchen island.



So what’s so special about this?  First off, it enhances the grain of wood, bringing out the depth and character.  Look what a quick swipe will do:


From blah and ashen to bold and rich.


Application is also crazy easy and brush stroke free.  Simply pour a little on a scrap of an old t-shirt, rub on, and wipe off with a clean, lint free cloth.  That’s it.


Even better, oil can be reapplied over an old coat without sanding, which is not the case with polyurethane, making it ideal for wooden pieces in high traffic/use areas.  Have a scratch, gouge, or dent?  Don’t fret, just dab a little oil on and you’re set.  Ooh, rhyme time!  This finish won’t crack, peel, or flake off.


The only down side is that over time, water spots can appear.  Upon close inspection, the most often used kitchen drawers, mainly the utensil and trash, show signs of use.  It has been at least a year since the last application, so when I find the time, I’ll give each drawer a light sand and touch up coat for a quick refresh. Now, that’s something you can’t do with polyurethane finishes.

Mud Nook

Mud rooms are such a hard-working, often used (and abused!) space in homes.  In our last house, our front door opened directly into the living room, lacking space for any kind of mud room.  This house is better, with a 5 by 8 foot entry before an up or down stair choice.  Go down, and directly at the base is a door to the garage.  When our garage isn’t functioning as a main work shop, we park inside, come in, and usually the kids drop their stuff.  Blocking the walkway, whether coming in/going out of the garage, or doing laundry.  Here’s a reminder of the previous layout of the basement.


In addition to breaking the one big, open room into two, we’ve made several smaller tweaks to the layout.  A wider shower, slightly modified laundry configuration, and a mud nook carved out from an under stair storage area.


Right after move in, here’s what that under stair situation looked like:


An awkward, narrow, unfinished storage hidden behind a swinging door.  Used to store baby clothes, seasonal decor, and other infrequently used…stuff, we wanted to make that space work a little harder, but in a more convenient way.  Thus, the creation of the mud nook.  By straightening out the bedroom door, it left about six and a half feet of workable space.


With sheet rock finished and tile laid, the pieces were in place to get started on the mud nook.  Since the concrete floors are a bit uneven and slope slightly, Ben cut the tongue off of one board and secured it to the wall, making sure it was level.  Then he cut the framing pieces at seat height to create a seamless support systems on all sides.  A few more pieces of tongue and groove make it down to the floor.  Before installing the baseboards pieces, he set the center dividers in place, using the trim as a stabilizer.


Since the bench will get abused, we chose cheap, but durable pine two by twelves for the seat.  Before placing, Ben ran one side of each through the table saw to cut off the rounded edge, then tightly butted the two together before continuing up with the planks.


The front board notches around the wall, with the casement continuing after.


Adding the tongue and groove not only carries the stair accent wall around, but provides a durable surface for hooks and hanging items.


I stained the bench to bring a darker wood element in, and to contrast against what will become a white painted plank interior.


Dividing the six feet of space into three equal sections gives plenty of room for each cubby.


To keep the ceiling as high as possible, tongue and groove follows the angle of the stairs.


It’s hard to tell in the above photo, but the below photo shows that off better.


At 19 inches deep and 77 inches wide, this isn’t a huge space, but should positively impact our way of using this space.  Packing function into every possible corner will keep clutter at bay and frusteration (and stubbed toes) to a minimum.

Choosing Paint Colors (& Sheens)

Choosing paint colors can be difficult, with so many, many options.  A color that’s exactly what you want on the card in the store can look shockingly different once on the walls in your home.  It’s happened to me several times.  Landing on a not-as-bright-as-the-sun yellow for the guest room (before I repainted it) took at least six sample cans before landing on the right color.


After whittling down the options, we have chosen our winners.  I thought a room by room list of every paint color we’ve might be helpful to anyone looking at paint colors.  First up, let’s talk whites.  More often than not, I go the simple route and pick the most true white I can, since I’m using it on trim.  On walls, you may want a white that looks warmer or cooler, so you’ll need an undertone.  I prefer clean, pure white trim to contrast against my wall color.  Off the shelf, untinted paint is the easiest choice, which we’ve done in every bedroom and bathroom.  In rooms exposed to steam, sticky hands, or high traffic areas and trim, I generally stick with semi gloss paint for easy wiping and cleaning.


In the main areas of the house, including the living/dining rooms, kitchen, family room, and hall, I chose a warm, but light toned gray.  The color is Oyster Pearl by Clark + Kensington, color matched to Behr’s satin paint.


It’s kind of a chameleon of a color, looking warmer in the brighter front rooms, but a little more gray in the north facing kitchen and family rooms.


Sherwin Williams’ Snowbound is my go to tinted white, since it’s bright, clean, but with a slight bit of yellow to keep it from feeling too cool and stark.  The ceiling and kitchen cabinets are all painted this fresh white to balance the darker elements.


Neutrals are almost always my go to, as they create a good base to add other colors in.  For that reason, the main bathroom walls are painted Wood Smoke, by Glidden in a satin finish.  Contrasting color comes in through the vanity, painted Tate Olive by Benjamin Moore in their satin finish.

Our Humble Abode Blog Main Bathroom Vanity

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried what feels like every paint brand out there, but there are still plenty more out there.  Some with better success than others.  Glidden is fine for the upper wall sections and lower traffic areas.  In our guest room, painted Thicket, a Benjamin Moore color, I thought I might change my mind down the road, so I chose to have the color matched to the cheaper Glidden brand.


No sense in spending extra money on better paint in a low traffic, might be repainted room.


When using a cheaper brand of paint, I don’t feel as guilty about possibly painting over it.  Knowing the boys wanted a brighter color in their room (Anjou Pear from Ben Moore), I color matched it in a satin finish.


For the most part, I think eggshell or satin sheens are good for their cleanability.  However, when using dark colors, I feel the color is more chic and pure in a flat finish.  Both our master bedroom and bathroom are Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore.  Wanting to test out flat paint brands, our bathroom is the Ben brand.  I know a flat finish in the bath isn’t typical, but it has proven to be highly wipeable, without a color transference.  Master-Bathroom-Vanity-for-BHG

I read positive reviews of Behr’s flat paint, so I tried it out in the bedroom.  While the color match is great, anything that touches the paint leaves a mark.  Even a simple wipe with a dark, clean, wet rag leaves the wall slightly lighter and discolored.  Kind of a bummer, but it goes to show that a higher priced paint can and does perform better.


Valuable lessons learned, but I haven’t exhausted my options.  As I searched for paint samples for the dark theater/tv basement space, I talked to the Ace Hardware paint guys about their favorite brands.  Ben Moore is their go to, but they also said Valspar’s Optimus line has proven a worthy opponent so I might give it a try.  After I make my color selection, that is.  Currently, the walls are drywalled, primed, and ready for doors and trim.


Initially, I had a dark, nearly black navy in mind for the theater.  Ben picked out a light tan leather reclining sofa, so it’d pair nicely.  The three middle options (from left to right: Midnight, Regent Green, and Stone Cutter) are my favorites.


But then I thought, how pretty would a deep, still nearly black foresty green look?  So I picked up any cards that looked like noble contenders.  Once at home, even the deepest of these didn’t make the cut.


Though these still aren’t quite as dark as I’d like, I think there’s potential.


Particularly with these three, Weather the Storm by Valspar, Vintage Vogue from Benjamin Moore, and Spruce Peak by Clark + Kensington.


I might get a sample or two, test out the options, and maybe have it darkened to retest.  How are there so few super dark green paints?

Luck of the Irish

I may not have Irish heritage, but I undeniably love the color green.  As a kid, when coloring or painting, I didn’t consider my work done until I added a splash of green somewhere.  If you’re wondering, yes, I was a complete nerd who loved to draw, paint, build and decorate cardboard doll houses.  I remember making a yellow-backed floral wall paper by drawing on white printer paper.  It’s too bad I don’t have photos, because I’m sure it was just lovely-haha.

To me, green adds a vibrancy and lively element no other colors can.  Yes, yellow is bright and cheery, but it doesn’t add the right warmth.  Blues are beautiful and soothing, but can’t quite make the statement green can.  Green is so abundant in nature, whether light, fresh spring green, dark mid summer grass-green, or the muted tones found in fall and winter.  As a general green lover, I’ve incorporated some of each throughout my home and I urge you to do the same.

Some rooms have just a sprinkle (nothing too in your face) of green, such as our family room. In a mostly neutral space, nearly citron green pillows liven up the couch and add a jolt of color.


A brightly colored green and blue landscape painting perks up the mantle while the lumbar pillows pull the color down to the neutral chairs.  Just a few small green accessories like books, a small vase, and candles pepper the color around the rest of the room.


Our kitchen counters are dark, nearly black green soapstone that still reads as a neutral.


Small additions like towels, plants, dishes, even fruit are quick, zero commitment ways to add even more color.


Other rooms have a slightly bigger swath of green, like our living room.  Six sets of luscious grass-green velvet curtains flank the windows.


Cover the curtains with your hand and you’ll notice just how much life and personality they bring to the room.  When in doubt, always default to house plants to get that bit of color without overwhelming a room.  Bonus, you don’t have to deal with picking paint colors or fabrics.


Speaking of paint, sometimes a quart can make the biggest impact.  At less than $20, what do you have to lose by giving it a try?  Our main bathroom rocks an olive-green vanity, which has so much more character than any neutral ever will.


Toss a few more green accessories, in this case, hand towels and a nearly ugly 70’s landscape painting, around the room to complete the look.

Main Bathroom Overall

According to the color wheel, green is a cool color, but it certainly adds warmth to any space.  A muddy sagey olive acts as an almost neutral backdrop in our guest bedroom.


Pairing with bright white it feels so fresh, clean, and simple.  But greens really shine next to warm wood tones, much like a tree trunk and leaves.


By far the most overtly green room in the house is the boys’ bedroom.  Back when I gave their room a makeover, I asked each of them what color walls they wanted.  One said green and the other said yellow.  We compromised with this lemongrass yellow-green.  It’s fun and happy, but is tempered by white, gray, and navy.


Our master suite, though mostly white and black, has green tucked here and there.  More grass-green velvet wraps the headboard for a touch of color against an otherwise white wall.


Opposite the bed, a few bright green plants and (soon to be framed) landscape painting flank a dresser, bringing color around the room in a simple, easy-going way.


Even our master bathroom has touches of green via plants and a very abstract landscape.


Though we’re not quite at the point of the basement remodel to paint and add accessories, I’m trying to narrow down green paint options to use down there in a few ways.  I think we all have a color we naturally gravitate toward, right?  What’s yours, and more importantly, how do you use it in your decor?

Craigslist Dresser Score

In some ways, having a large-ish bedroom is nice, but the long layout is a little difficult to put to practical use.  For the last two or so years, we’ve had this mid-century bench against the wall opposite the bed.


It was fine, but we never hang out in our bedroom, sitting on a bench.  Mostly, the bench was a perch for a basket of clean, folded laundry before putting it away.  Over the last few years, I’ve been passively searching for the perfect dresser for this spot.  Something simple, with straight lines, at least six drawers, five or more feet long, and not crazy mid-century looking.  Something I could paint without feeling guilty, if necessary but a good wood tone was preferable.  Not having to refinish was an added bonus.

At long last, the search ended when I spied a dresser on Craigslist that checked each criteria box, listed at $300.  After a little arm twisting, Ben agreed to look at it with me to give his approval and help load, should he like it as much as I did.


Based on the fact that the dresser is in our bedroom, you can guess how that went.  It’s a vintage Kroehler and included a matching mirror.  Since we already have a large standing mirror in the room, I’m saving it to use above the basement bathroom vanity as I’ve done in our main bathroom.

Back to the dresser, I adore the simple detailing on the drawers.


The handles, well, I’m on the fence how I feel about those.  I mean, they’re fine and original to the dresser with a great shape, but the inside detail isn’t my favorite.  I don’t know, maybe a quick polish would help things?


That burl strip along the top is a lovely little detail.


Having two different widths of drawers breaks up the design nicely, but is also practical for storage purposes.


To add a lighter, taller element to this side of the room, I set the Schoolhouse Electric knock off white and linen lamp off to the side along with a stack of white books.  A crystal covered rock the boys found sits atop the stack for small sparkle.  I’m sure I’ll continue to change things around, but it’s a start.


Unlike the deeper bench, the 19 inch depth is perfect in this kind of walkway area.  Of course, it’s far more functional, offering storage for out of season clothes as well.


Having a little display area is stupidly exciting to me.  My only concern was how the dresser was going to look in such close proximity to the somewhat similar bathroom vanity.  Are they too similar?  Fortunately, I’m digging the look with the peek into the bathroom.


Eventually, hopefully sooner than later, I want to hang a 30 by 40 inch Emily Jeffords print above to round out the grouping.


Back when I ordered it, I intended for it to go above the bed in the future basement bedroom.  But I love it so much, the colors and size are perfect for our bedroom, so I’ve decided to enjoy waking up to it every morning.  Naturally, I taped it to the wall to see how it all works together and I’m quite pleased.


Now to figure out my framing situation and get it done.


After a little bargaining, Ben negotiated the price down to $240 and we’re all happy.  And that’s the tale of the Kroehler dresser coming into our lives.