Home Sweet Farmhouse Home, Episode 6: Fireplace reveal!

Hi dear friends! Thank you for stopping to read this final episode of this summer, and part 2 of last week’s Home Sweet Farmhouse Home.

(For all the episodes of Home Sweet Farmhouse Home click here.)

If you remember, last week I showed the first stages of our fireplace surround makeover. It was a nice fireplace, but it was ten years old. Besides that, I’m FREAKING OUT because my firstborn is going to COLLEGE in less than a month and so I’m redecorating my house to cope. (Because nothing helps stress like adding more stress, right?)

Also, because my third novel is set on a farm, I want to pretend I live on one, too.

Here are three more of the inspiration photos I found on Pinterest. You can see all my decorating pins by clicking here.

Dream fireplace #1:


Dream fireplace #2:


Dream fireplace #3:


Those are some lofty goals right there.

But I love a challenge.

Last week I showed you how I chose the river rock for the bottom of the surround.

Below is the wood planking I found at Lowe’s to use for the shiplap.

While it would be an expensive product for covering an entire room, it was perfect for the tiny space above the mantel. I only had to use one and one-half packs. The pieces are pre-cut into various sizes and they fit together tongue-and-groove style.

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I didn’t have to make any cuts to these planks because I got lucky and they fit the space I needed them to perfectly.

And I used basic trim nails to hang them.

See how they come in different sized pieces so that a staggered look is made simple, too?

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The other thing I love about these planks is that they are really thin.

This helped the 1×3 poplar I chose to frame them compliment them perfectly.


All up and caulked.

I love caulk.

Caulk makes everything better.

Even amateur carpentry.


Because the planks I used are not traditional shiplap and I wanted to create a patina of age and wear, I painted the grooves with plain black acrylic paint.

Then when I painted over with white, I purposely left imperfections.


But before I show you that…

…on to the grout.

I was terrified to put the grout on the stones. I was afraid it would run all over the carpet or that I’d picked the wrong color or that the stones would “get lost” in it and I’d never be able to wipe it off right.

I didn’t need to be skeered, though.

The Kind Man from Lowe’s and the directions on the back of the stone tile were most helpful. Here are some of the products and tools I used.

NOTE: Make sure you get SANDED GROUT. There’s a HUGE difference between this and the un-sanded variety and take it from me, it’s not pretty.



Here’s the grout, all mixed up.

The consistency reminded me of cake batter.


Below is a shot of the first stages of grout application.

This is when I started to get skeered again.

The rocks disappeared!

It was so messy!

I had it in my hair and in my teeth and all over the dogs.

I felt like I was a little kid who got out of the ocean and rolled in the sand.

That’s how messy it got.


Lots of wiping and sponging is involved.

And more wiping and sponging after that.


But finally, I started feeling like I was getting someplace.

Someplace wonderful.





This whole project reminds me so much of the way my novel-writing goes.

I get inspired.

I dig in.

I freak out.

And somehow, after the giant mess of it all…

…something beautiful emerges.



Here’s the before picture again:



And here’s the after.

I thought I might need a new piece of art to hang in the middle of the shiplap, but I really love this print of the man and woman praying.

On a farm.

So I kept it.



Now I have a farmhouse-ish fireplace to match my farm-inspired book. (Have you read it yet?🙂 )


What about you?

What inspires you and your creativity?

What DIY projects are you working on at your place?


Thank you for reading this fun little Home Sweet Farmhouse Home blog series. I’m taking the rest of the summer off of projects so I can finish my fourth novel and carve my heart out of my chest get my firstborn off to college. But after that, I may have some more projects to share with you. Would you like that?


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17


Home Sweet Farmhouse Home Episode 2: Settee remake

Did y’all like the first episode about the kitchen table remake? That was so much fun!

I thought I’d follow that up this week with another furniture re-do, or upcycling, as I like to call it. (I promise to show you the overall room one day, but right now the house is a disaster because we’re having a big ol’ bash for my oldest son who’s GRADUATING from high school! I think I might have mentioned that once or twice…#proudmama)

So here’s the piece I started with.

This settee is so charming and I loved the colors in it when this room (and much of my house) was more of a french country cottage feel. But alas, yellow and green and red don’t work with farmhouse style.

(Big white dogs evidently do…)

Now I’m no Joanna Gaines, but my theory about farmhouse/industrial style decorating is that it’s simple (because there’s too many chores on a farm to be fancy), it’s cheap (because there’s too many mouths–human and otherwise–to feed), and it uses what’s around.

That’s why I try to stick with these three tools and a glue gun.

(Never mind that I can’t sew and have destroyed three machines trying to learn.)


The only thing I bought for this project was a few yards of white cotton duck/canvas from Hobby Lobby. I doubled the thickness of the material to make sure the old pattern doesn’t show through.

I left the original bottom cushion on as it was, fabric and everything, and stapled the new fabric to the sides, careful to keep the material pulled tight as I worked my way around. To help the fabric stay more even,  staple in the middle of one side, then the opposite side, then the two ends. Then staple everything in between.


The back of the settee features a post running down the middle, and of course on all four corners. In these spots, I used the scissors to split the fabric, folded the rough edges under, and stapled some more.


Once the big piece was in place, I used the leftover fabric remnants to make the little skirt, which is cute (IMHO), but serves a larger purpose in covering up all the staples. 

First I cut four strips from the leftover fabric.


Then I ironed a little pleat along one side of each fabric strip so that the top of the ruffle is smooth and won’t fray.

The bottom of the ruffle was left with raw edges because it’s kinda farmhouse style (IMHO) and I think a frayed edge adds charm and a bit of an “aged” or at least “well-loved” appearance.

(Also, if my cows dogs rough it up it will look like it’s supposed to be that way. )


After ironing the fabric for the pleat, I grabbed my glue gun and stuck it on, pausing ever couple of inches to fold the fabric back onto itself to create each little pleat. You could measure out the spots where you want the ruffles if you want to be precise, but I just eyeball it because I don’t have time to be precise. I have a herd of cows dogs to tend.


Here’s the end result.

I did fold the side edge of the ruffle where it met the arm/leg of the settee so that the vertical edges would be clean.


Another view of the back ruffle.


And here’s the finished bench.

I’m so thrilled with how it turned out.

And I really need to go get some Scotch Guard. Because of the cows dogs.

I’m using it in my dining room at the dining room table, which I’ll show you once the grad party is done and my house is clean again. But I just love the look of a cozy chair or two pulled up to a country table.


I hope you liked this episode of Home Sweet Farmhouse Home!

Now for the contest!

To be eligible for a chance to win a prize package like this, including a signed copy of Lead Me Home and a milk bottle full of candy, make sure you:

  1. Repost and share this blog post on your social media sites, along with the hashtag #LeadMeHomeNovel.
  2. Leave a comment here on the site, below. Feel free to share and/or link back to a farmhouse project or something farmhouse that you really like!

I’ll let the post and contest run through Friday and notify a winner Saturday, when I’ll put everyone’s names into a computerized random name chooser.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)


Thank you so much for stopping by today.

Stay tuned for a more episodes of Home Sweet Farmhouse Home this spring and summer.



And the winner of the first signed copy of #HowSweettheSoundNovel is……..

20140212-073817.jpgOn Wednesday, I opened up the first of a handful of opportunities for folks to win a signed copy of How Sweet the Sound here at my blog.

And the winner is….

Heather Day Gilbert!!!!!

Congratulations to Heather, a self-described, “a Southern/Appalachian gal,” who loves to be an influencer for books she enjoys. I sure hope she enjoys my Southern tale. Be sure to stop by her amazing blog some time.

And HUGE thanks to all who commented and asked questions. Here they are, along with the answers for you.


Q: Heather says, “I know I’ve read one of your posts about the wait to get picked up as an author. What did you do to get through that waiting time? And I’m so excited for your book, being a Southern/Appalachian gal myself.”

A: It took me approximately eight years from the time I decided to actively pursue traditional publication until now. I did a lot of things during that time, which I blogged about here. Querying agents and landing a publishing house require patience, because it can feel like all you’re doing is waiting. You get to the point where you’re even grateful for rejections, because at least you’ve heard SOMETHING. But I’d say by far the two most helpful things I did to get me through the waiting were: 1) I wrote a weekly newspaper column–for three years, and for no pay. Sometimes I spat the 500 word article out in an hour. Other times, it took me 3-4 grueling days. But it kept me writing, and kept me humble, and kept me aware of just how much work–albeit fabulous work–writing really is. The second thing I did was focus other hobbies. I believe “art feeds art,” not to mention keeps a dull writer a little more well-rounded, so painting and upcycling furniture on days when the waiting felt particularly painful were great helps to me.

Q:  Cynthia Herron asks, “I’m wondering, how much input were you allowed on the cover of How Sweet the Sound? (I love it BTW!)”

A: The cover design process is pretty fascinating to me, especially as someone who used to work as a graphic designer. First, I collected a bunch of images of currently published book covers I felt resembled the theme and feel of my story, and submitted those to the AMAZING designers at David C. Cook who took it from there. They presented me with three absolutely breathtaking–and completely different–cover options. Seriously, they were each impossibly, incredibly, out-of-this world exquisite. I asked close friends which they preferred, and talked to the design team about my thoughts about each one, and in the end, they chose the current cover from those three designs. I actually preferred a different one, but in the end, I am SOOOO glad they chose this one. I couldn’t have asked for or imagined a more beautiful visual representation of my words.

Q: Kathleen asks, “Will you consider taking up your column again?”

A: I so cherished the opportunity to write my weekly column, Life with a Twist, while it lasted! Finding the blessings and twists of hope in everyday life and finding ways to make social justice issues applicable to suburbanites was a great gift. However, creating and self-editing those seemingly brief, 500 words a week took a lot more time than it appeared. I stopped writing column to focus on my novels, and since my heart–and current workload–remain with novels, that’s where I continue to focus, too. Sometimes I do consider writing columns for a newspaper again, especially when there are down times in the editing process. And I did cut my teeth in journalism. Never say never, as they say!

Q: Alyssa Faith asks, “When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?”

A: Great question, Alyssa. I wish I had a definite answer. The more I’m asked this question, and the more I read other author’s responses to it, the more I’m convinced no one really wants to become a writer–not exactly. I think perhaps when a child first learns that a crayon or a pencil can move along the surface of something … when certain souls learn that the images, then letters, then words of the heart can be pushed out through the hand and appear as tangible color and text … that for certain people, that means of expression becomes a need. Not a decision, but a need, something like breathing for the introvert who holds emotions so tightly within that only the gentle scratchings of a pen can free them to live.

Q: Molly asks, “Where you raised in Alabama? If not why a book set in the South? I will say it’s one of my favorite settings for a book!”

A: I was not raised in Alabama, nor anywhere close to the Mason-Dixon line or I-10. I have great insecurity and anxiety about this fact, that I am a Yankee writing a story about the South. I have vacationed in the area for over two decades, but I am aware this does not count. However, Alabama (the gulf coast, in particular) was where this story had to be told. Only in the ocean air, where the moon tugs relentless against the tide, and where the heat of the day blurs the hard and the concrete could such deep pain and redemption within a story like How Sweet the Sound occur. So, I hope true Southerners will forgive me for barging in to their neck of the woods. Y’all are welcome here in Indiana any time.🙂

Q: Debbie asks, “Question, where did the unique names for characters come from?”

Oh, I’m so glad you asked about names! Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. I spend a lot of time researching the origins of names, looking at surname lists from setting regions, and discovering the ancient meanings of names. Sometimes a name on those lists immediately catches my eye, like “Princella.” Other times, I’m surprised when I like a name, and then learn by accident the meaning precisely fits the character, like “Anniston,” named after the town where the Freedom Riders stopped (a fact I learned well after I named her). Every single character I’ve ever named in this novel, and in my second (coming 2015), have deep and rich significance. Not everyone will know this or bother to look up the meanings of those names, but it helps me define and develop the characters as I write. I also believe names empower the characters as a story–and their role in it–unfolds. This reminds me of Isaiah 62:2-3,

“…And you will be called by a new name
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate.
You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord…”


Thanks again to everyone who commented and asked these fabulous questions.

And again, CONGRATULATIONS to HEATHER DAY GILBERT for winning the very first signed copy of How Sweet the Sound!