Last week, a reader left a comment asking for me to show more behind-the-scenes pictures.  It was a simple, polite request and it made me realize I don’t do that as much as I used to.  I think I always feel like the pictures have to be pretty, “Pin-worthy” images that will be liked and shared.  Pinterest, Instagram and the infamous Facebook algorithm really changed what bloggers (on the whole) share and how they share it and I am not an exception.

But, that comment got me thinking.  As a DIYer myself, I love looking at the before and afters and inspirational pictures, but I also want to know the HOW behind it.  While I’ve written hundreds of how-oriented, tutorial posts, it doesn’t mean I can’t share the latest “hows” behind what I’m working on.

For those who are new, it might be new information and, for those who have been with me for a long time, you can see what’s changed and what has worked for me for years.  So, I’ll be sharing more of the hows, whys and process pictures.

Let’s start with this pretty (and old) oak buffet…


The wood has gorgeous graining, so I didn’t want to cover it up entirely with paint.  It was looking a little dark and heavy, so it needed some brightening, but I didn’t want to lose all of the wood.  I decided to strip the top to remove the dulled finish that was sporting some water rings, scratches. etc.  I started doing this years ago and it’s become one of my signatures.  I like the play of paint and wood and I also like how a wood surface wears better than a painted one.  It’s just a preference thing, though!

I like to use a gentle chemical stripper that doesn’t have to be disposed of in special ways.  There are a few I like, but Citri-Strip is easy to find, works well and isn’t expensive.  SmartStrip is probably my favorite, since it’s a paste, but it’s not as easy to find (usually I get it from Sherwin Williams) and it’s more expensive.


Since I’m working on a flat, horizontal surface, I just pour some on and spread it around with an natural-bristle chip brush.  You don’t want to use a synthetic-bristle brush, because the stripper can dissolve the bristles.


I let it sit for a good, long while…maybe 30-45 minutes as I work on something else.  I want to give it time to work, but not so long that it dries out.

I’ll then use a metal scraper/putty knife to scrape off the finish and chemical stripper, disposing of the “goo” in a lidded container.  The “goo” in this case looked like chocolate ganache.

No lie.

Sometimes it takes two or three applications.  Once the finish is completely removed, I wipe it down with mineral spirits, scrubbing the surface with steel wool.  Then, I let it dry overnight.

A little tip – if you wipe a raw or stained wood surface with mineral spirits, it shows what the surface will look like with an oil or poly finish.  The mineral spirits will then evaporate, leaving the surface clean and dry.

See how glossy and hydrated the surface looks…?


It’s pretty amazing how the dark stain really hid the beautiful movement in that graining.

Here’s how it looked once it dried out…


I’m just going to hydrate and seal it with Hemp Oil and call it a day.

I painted the base of the piece in Farmhouse White that was mixed with a little bit of Mora and Grain Sack.  I painted a piece in Grain Sack and, instead of wasting the little bit left in the cup, I mixed Mora with it to paint the next thing and then did the same when I painted this piece in Farmhouse White.  The colors aren’t high contrast, so it doesn’t dramatically change the colors I’m mixing and prevents waste.

It does lead to a lot of shoulder shrugging when Kriste asks me what’s in a particular cup, however.


The first coat, as usual, looked pretty awful.  But it improved after the second coat.  And this piece really chipped and flaked.  It’s a pretty dramatic look and some people are going to love it and other people are going to hate it.

I’m in the “love it” camp, but you can decide when I share how it turned out tomorrow.


Speak of the “how” of getting things done, Thursday was such an awesome day, because I had a studio full of people helping me.





…and my mom…


…were all painting.  We had furniture everywhere!

My dad and Jeff were working on fixing things, like the rotted boards on the bottom of one of the hardware cabinets and the dry sink, cutting shelves for the wardrobe, and putting the finishing touches on the counter and “shoe carts” Jeff and a former youth student at our church, Charles, built for me last week.


When people do things for me and with me, especially DIY projects, it makes me feel so loved.  So, I was feeling a lot of love last week!

More on those projects and everything else to come…


  1. Hannah

    The thought of having a shop full of people I love working on projects together makes my heart swell. I hope to be there someday. I can’t wait to see how the buffet turned out. I’ve passed up pieces like that before (only for lack of transportation) and always wonder what lies beneath their ugly finishes.

  2. Merry

    Great to see you getting back to your roots! On another note, any updates in the house hunting area?

  3. Sarah

    A very timely post as I eye up an old buffet waiting for me out on the veranda. When you strip the top, do you also strip its edges? Thanks

    • Emily Davis

      I was wondering the same thing! 🙂

  4. Lynda Brandly

    Thanks, Marian! I loved seeing the ‘how-to’ and think the chest turned out beautifully! What a blessing to have everyone there and working! It makes the work so much fun! Love your blog!
    Lynda @ Gates of Crystal

  5. Mandy

    I love the how-to’s. Thanks for sharing.
    I’d also be interested in any advise you can give on mixing old and new to achieve a nice balance that doesn’t look to themed. And light fittings! I live in Scotland so we have no need for ceiling fans but I’m really struggling to pick fittings or shades for my ceiling lights, style and scale cause paralysis! Please help ?

  6. Pamela

    Sometimes being a DIY blogger can be so isolating so I am sure having so many there helping prevents that syndrome. Looks like all were having fun and I still am so envious of that work space you have. 🙂

  7. Iris

    Ohhhhh, I love it! Besides the beauty that we readers always find here, the action shots ‘breath life’ into the post. If there are just pretty shots, I find myself scrolling through it quicker, almost as if I was flipping through a catalogue. But this engages me as a reader, and it makes me look closer. Thanks for posting this!

    • Gloria M.

      Very well said, Iris!!! Yay, Marian, for the how-to’s and real life, behind-the-scene shots!

      If I may be very candid and honest….this is just my own humble opinion and not meant to be abrasive, derogatory, or judgemental toward any decor, diy, or home blogger: while the “pretty pictures” from bloggers are truly gorgeous, they sometimes make me feel like they are so staged, contrived, and unauthentic, and I wonder how encumbering that must be for the blogger to attempt the ‘perfect’ shot?…that only exists in magazines/catalogs and truly isnt representational of real life. An occasional smattering of pretty shots is fine, but, as Iris noted, I feel more engaged, as a reader, with the behind the scenes, how-to, action shots that ultimately lead to the pretty pictures? Oh, and I’m still very much swooning over that pastoral scene dresser!

      Thank you, immensely, for stepping out of the norm to notice what your readers want and relate to, and sincerest gratitude for being your genuine and authentic self by capturing real-life and behind the scenes photos….it’s what endears us to you!

      • marian

        Very well put, Gloria! Thanks so much for the feedback. 🙂

  8. Krista

    The buffet/cabinet looks amazing. I love the contrast of the bare wood top and painted bottom. Love. Love.

  9. Christina

    Hi Marian,
    Thank you for showing us your before, during and after shots. I think it’s great to see the work that goes into creating such beautiful pieces. I do pin almost all of your pictures but I will hopefully be a new home owner in the future and I love to learn ways to create unique pieces for my home. You always have such helpful tips and tutorials. When I first discovered your site, I watched as many of your videos as possible. Thank you Marian and for all those that help you! You encourage me and help me believe that one day I may be able to do some of the projects you have shared.

  10. Debra

    Really great advice and information on rehabbing old casework! I understand the impulse to limit your post to pretty pictures. If nothing else, it takes time to stop work to take those in-progress shots. But they are much appreciated.
    How lucky you are to have such an extensive support team at hand. It’s lovely to see.

  11. April

    Great post. Love the before and durings. That top is gorgeous! I would have painted it for sure, but it will be so much better without paint!

  12. Jean

    This post came at just the right time. I bought a dining table on Craigslist that needs HELP and now I know what to do. I’m going to strip the top and paint the base. And I love the trick about mineral spirits. And the Citri-Strip. Thanks for all your inspiration.

  13. Celeste

    I’m one of those people who appreciates the “how to”. Nothing is more frustrating than phrases like “So, I attached the trim to the curtains.” or “So, I hung the wreath on the armoire.” I just want to shout “HOW!” Did you glue it, sew it, use wire? Inquiring minds want to know. So thank you for bucking the trend to just produce pretty pictures and giving up some meat and potatoes information. I think a lot of blog readers would rather have more information than not enough.
    p.s. If I lived anywhere near you, I’d buy those green chairs you had in your family room in a heart beat.

  14. leonor

    Its a really good idea to see your lovely work step-by-step !!

  15. Cheryl

    BEAUTIFUL!!! And what fun to have a group painting/working extravaganza?.
    I’m having a blast with your milk paint. Just finished two bedside tables in shudder grey/ slightly distressed with hemp oil finish. Love how they turned out. And an ornate mirror done in ironstone/ hemp finish. I’m eyeing the brass bed now, thinking I’d like it done in ironstone or grain sack. Will milkpaint work on brass? I know you often paint hardware so I’m figuring it will be ok?
    I look forward to your blog each day! Thanks so much❤️??!

  16. Tanya

    Would have been hard for me to paint that beautiful piece. Would have wanted to restore but not paint. 🙁 Just me though.. some pieces are paint worthy, to me this one wasn’t.Love you though.

  17. Nancy

    This post got me to look around my own house, and of all the pieces I have painted, most of them have had the tops refinished rather than painted. And, I am always amazed how nice Kristen looks while painting. I am probaby about the same age as your mom, and her picture most reflects my painting attire and look. I may have more paint in my hair and hands though .☺

  18. Laurie

    I love it when people help me too! It looks like a great time, everybody working together!

  19. Holly

    Yes! Thank you for sharing more behind-the-scenes glimpses of your process. It’s so helpful for all of us beginner DIYers.

  20. Beth

    I love the how-to’s.too!!! I was wishing for more instruction without really being aware of my desire. As I read your post I though “yes – that is what I would like”. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Ruth

    What a refreshing and helpful post. Awesome. Thank you for sharing this behind the scenes look!

  22. Roseann D'Elia

    Great! Did you see my post yesterday…The buffet I must have it.

  23. Karen

    Thanks for showing the “how”!! I love the pretty pictures, but really enjoy seeing the nitty-gritty as well!

  24. Kathryn Leigh

    What a beautiful cast of helpers!

  25. Donna Doble-Brown

    Marian, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to 2:00PM everyday when I know your post will have entered my email just waiting for me! I love all the how to, pictures and stories you share . . .

    Thanks for being a bright spot in my day!

  26. Robin

    I love Citristrip! It does a wonderful job of getting down to the bare wood! Many hands make light work! It’s wonderful that you have so many helpers!

  27. Mouse

    Loved this post. A little step-by-step instruction is really inspiring for many of us. Mouse

  28. Sue Pagels

    Thanks for the tips – I usually use a very light liquid stripper but I will sure try this from now on – mine is just too much work!

  29. Erika

    Ah Citristrip. I spent an entire summer in college redoing a very very abused and old desk top and dresser bottom to turn into a new secretary desk (I had to go through 20 coats of paint and then about five coats of really heavy varnish. It was a lot of work) and I went through so much of that stuff.. I can still smell that stuff in memory after all these years *laugh*.

    Thanks for the tip on the mineral spirits. If (and when) I end up having to redo some of the wood furniture around here I’ll definitely keep that in mind as it’s a great trick to know!

  30. Laurie

    Cute picture of your mom, her eyes are smiling!

  31. Denise

    Perhaps your Dad and Jeff could start a segment sharing how to do some of the carpentry work and repairs on furniture. I am currently trying to learn how to build my own furniture after being inspired with a Kreg Jig set up that I was given last Christmas. I think many of us could use some help with reinforcing, repairs and how to modify items.

  32. Heidi

    As others mentioned, I love before and after photos but what really makes the story (and keeps us learning) is the during. Thanks for letting us in the workshop!

  33. Patricia Baker

    Hi! Where did you get the small metal stool on wheels that Kriste is sitting on? I need one!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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