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Art Therapy for Grown Ups

March 15, 2013

When I decided to start fixing up the Treehouse – before I’d even named it the Treehouse! – I started with paint.  Since there’s never a second chance to make a first impression, I began with the entrance hall.  Then my mom and I created the mural that ate my dining room.  Right smack in the middle of those two areas was the kitchen, so that seemed like the most logical next step.

My kitchen was the one room in the Treehouse I absolutely hated.  It was dark, pokey, long, and narrow.  I didn’t have any drawers.  The counters had been painted before I moved in, and were badly scratched and worn.  The walls were covered in awful flowered shelf-liner paper.  The floors didn’t look nice no matter how many times I cleaned them.  In 2004, I decided to see what could be done with it.


kitchen before 2005


My wonderful landlords offered me a new kitchen re-model, but when I saw that it would necessitate losing my mural, I had to take a pass.  But, since I knew they were going to rip out the kitchen after I moved out (a day that may now come only when I’m dead!), I decided to go to town with what I had.


Because I don’t own, I reasoned that all my changes should be reversible someday.  I covered the flowered shelf liner with grey “granite” shelf liner.  I installed a long shelf above the sink, and added some other organizing tools to make up for the lack of drawers.


kitchen before 2005


Then I chose three colours of paint – a lime green, an avocado, and a blue – and also had a white tinted ever so slightly with lime.  I used a similar oil-based melamine paint to what was already on the countertops.

The avocado went there first.  The slow drying time meant being unable to use the counters for about two weeks, but it was worth it:


kitchen counters 2005


Of course, while I was working on the second counter, kitten paw prints mysteriously appeared on the counter I had just finished.  I had to stop in the middle to chase down the little wretch and clean him up.


kitten george


Then came the sliding cabinet doors.

I gave the dark plywood panels two coats of lime-white, then set to work masking off the lines I wanted to stay lime-white. Getting the lines to curve required thin masking tape.  I used 1/8 inch, then made the lines thicker by curving a second piece of tape alongside each original strip.

I mixed each of my three colours with some of the lime-white, using a total of six colours to paint in the sections.


kitchen cabs 2005


I also decided to permanently remove one set of doors altogether, to open up the space.

With my mom there to teach and help me, I then covered the old floor in peel and stick vinyl tiles.  These can be removed with the heat from a hairdryer, with no damage to the floor underneath.  I chose a soft marbled grey, and used it through the entire entrance hall, kitchen, and dining room.


kitchen cabs 2005


At this point, I just wanted it all done (!!), especially since counters and cabinets had taken weeks with drying times.  So my mom also helped with the rest of the painting.


On my first and only trip to NYC (awesome city!  \m/), I noticed that small, narrow places like shops and restaurants would often have  one long wall painted black.  This had the effect of making the wall almost “disappear,” causing the room to appear less claustrophobic than it actually than it was.

I didn’t want to paint black in my kitchen, but since I’d already started using cool grey tones, charcoal grey seemed an obvious fit for the cinder-block wall, as well as the range hood and the underside of the bulkheads.


Right away, the grey broke up the long, narrow feel of the room, making it visually expand, and adding a slight industrial look.  Halfway between pure white and pure black (theoretically), grey also provides the truly neutral base for bright or vivid hues.

The rest of the walls and the ceiling got two coats of pure white.  Eight years later, this is how it looks today.  Like really today.  I took all these photos below today.  🙂


kitchen after 2005


I believe the way we shape our homes is a manifestation of who we are inside and how we live our lives.

I recently visited the home of a friend who just broke up with someone she’s been dating for almost a year.  I noticed the signs right away.  The objects she had once put out to accommodate his presence in her home had disappeared.  The missing objects, the empty armchair – they told the entire story.


kitchen 2013.

As we ate dinner and talked, it came out that my friend felt she had some anger she still wanted to express to the man in question.  I suggested writing everything out, without censoring or editing herself, and then seeing if she still felt she had anything to say to him.

Writing can be a great form of self-therapy.  So can drawing, painting, playing music, and even re-arranging your home.




I think decorating and renovations have become popular because they offer opportunities for ANYONE to get creative, in ways that directly affects their lives.  How we live in our homes, the surroundings we create around us – this is a huge and important form of self-expression, and possibly one of the most satisfying.  In a Zen Buddhist sort of way, we get to work out our problems and frustrations through working with our hands and bodies, with sledgehammers and power tools and paint.  The result is the creation of a sanctuary for ourselves.

It’s a form of art therapy for grown ups.


kitchen before 2005


Being creative is a way to discover who we are and what we are capable of.  Whether we put brush to canvas or to the wall, whether we do it as a business or only for ourselves, any time that we spend doing something creative improves our lives.  Anyone can be creative.  All we have to do is pick up our tools and get started.


kitchen 2013


Incidentally, never make the mistake of thinking you are finished your home!  This past winter, having touched my brush to every wall in the Treehouse, I started all over again in the entrance hall.  I can’t help myself.  It’s so therapeutic!


Dodie Goldney

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related posts by Dodie Goldney:

The Mural That Ate My Dining Room

After and Before

Manifest Headboard

Looking at the Overlooked

Kali the Destroyer

Women’s Work is in the Home (Renovations)


17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2013 7:41 am

    First I have to say your kitchen turned out amazing. It is so bright and cheerful! I am in in love the sliding cabinet doors. I would have never thought of something so colorful and fun! I have to say I agree with you about home renovations as a form of self expression- I also feel like it has a therapeutic affect on me.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • March 16, 2013 3:41 pm

      Well, thank you! I honestly hated those doors until I painted them. 🙂 And yep, there is definitely an emotional and spiritual value of improving the space one lives in. Improves your well-being, doesn’t it?

  2. March 17, 2013 2:46 pm

    Great!!! Job… You did good girl.

  3. Squeegee Girl permalink
    March 17, 2013 2:59 pm

    Wow!!! It looks great,,,Good job.

  4. thequietpages permalink
    March 17, 2013 7:51 pm

    We have really ugly kitchen counters and I’m thinking of painting them. How is the paint holding up in your kitchen? Is it chipping/staining? Did you use a sealant at all? Thanks!

    • March 17, 2013 9:23 pm

      Yeah, it’s totally not perfect! The counters did chip and scratch over time. It does get permanently marked by things like hot pans or wet grocery receipts. With all its imperfections, after eight years, it still looks better than it did before I painted it. It probably would look even better if I weren’t so brutal on my countertops, but being a gardener and a painter, I kind of am. 😉 I think what it needs is just a fresh coat of oil-based melamine paint every two or three years. And no, I didn’t seal it because melamine paint is actually very durable on its own. The same paint used on the cabinets doesn’t have a scratch or a mark! I’ve used the leftovers in all sorts of projects – it’s been pretty solid. Good luck!

      • Gina permalink
        July 21, 2014 6:44 am

        The most heavily used section of my ancient formica kitchen counter instantly stains upon contact with coffee, red wine, strawberries, etc. I applied two coats of paste car wax a few weeks ago, with gratifying results. Presumably it will need to be re-applied at regular intervals, but I’m okay with that. Maybe that could help your counters too?

        Of course I must add that I love your colorful, creative kitchen upgrades!

  5. Barbara ~ Ann White Bear permalink
    March 17, 2013 11:32 pm

    Love your Tree house! Brought back alot of memories of days gone by…..
    how I use to be. Early 1980s I would do the inside then the out! I always felt like a million bucks to step back an say “yes indeed…I did that myself!” No internet to share my master pieces with….to encourage others to go-for-it or get ideas from others.
    Today, I don’t have that getty-up go like I used to! I’ve been sidelined by Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia and a few others that followed. 2004 Hubby bought us a brand new home on a clean lot…..I thought….this is going to be so much fun. I had big ideas…..started doing and couldn’t get them to work out. It’s all ok….its been so much fun in your Tree House remembering all my past projects…how much fun it would be when the kids would see it for the 1st time or the look on Mommas face!
    Thank you for sharing your love of art. 🙂

    • March 22, 2013 5:27 am

      Thank you for your comment. I know FMS is a tough one – I have a few friends living with it. Good luck and good health to you. 🙂

  6. Bridget from Cali permalink
    January 8, 2015 1:25 pm

    Remarkable job with that tiny space. It went from depressing to cheerful.


  1. The Mural That Ate My Dining Room | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney
  2. After and Before | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney
  3. Women’s Work is in the Home…Renovations | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney
  4. Kali the Destroyer | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney
  5. Blood Sacrifice | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney

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