New Year, New Place, New Projects

What's handmade? That banquette bench and those pillows, that's what!

What’s handmade? That banquette bench and those pillows, that’s what!

Hey there! It’s been a while. How were your holidays? Is the new year shaping up the way you’d hoped so far?

I’m finally starting to feel settled in at the new place — it took forever. You’d think that since I was in the last place for 18 months I wouldn’t have forgotten how stressful moving is, but yep — totally forgot. Little things like misplacing the cam locks and shelf brackets for my bookshelves meant living with stacks of boxes for much longer than anticipated. I still have a box situation in some rooms (I mostly pretend the second bedroom doesn’t exist), but I’ve also managed to do a lot to make this place feel like home.

As I’ve been working on that though, I’ve had time to think about the blog in general, and I’ve decided to refocus some of my efforts here. Namely, to narrow down what I share. See, the thing is, I’m not a decorator or designer. A DIY-er for sure. A cook, definitely. But not a very good interior decorator by any stretch. Plus, I live in apartments and am more concerned with what works for me, for now, instead of what makes a great design. I should leave that area to the experts, because I think the blogosphere is already filled to the brim with amateur home decorators.

So I’m going to turn the focus back to where the blog started — homemade and handmade items and food. I might occasionally show a room or the garden if it’s relevant to a project (for instance, I built a really awesome three-piece banquette for the new kitchen!). But I hope you’ll stick around and enjoy some fun projects with me.


30 Days of Spring Cleaning

I’ve noticed a lot of blogs doing monthly challenges and I’ve decided to give myself one, similar to the monthly cleaning challenge at IHeart Organizing. Why? First, because it’s spring cleaning time and my house definitely needs a good scrub-down, especially after being shut up tight all winter. And having the icky slushy salty stains of winter weather being tracked in. Second, because I am a total clutter bug. I live amongst piles. My mother thinks I’m going to end up on Hoarders or die under a pile of books or something along those tragic lines. So I really need to clear out some of this junk. Since there are 30 days in April, I’ve come up with a list of 30, but I doubt I’ll do a thing a day (and not just because it’s April 2nd already!). Here’s my list:

  1. Dining room – Clean off the table and clear out the hutch/drawers/cupboards
  2. Living room – Clean out all the drawers, shelves, baskets and other cubbies
  3. Front Hall closet – Do I wear all these coats? What’s in that box on the top shelf? This is prime storage space — I should be using it better
  4. Bookshelves – Organize and donate
  5. Desk Drawers – Figure out which papers I actually still need on file and which I can shred. Do I need those pay stubs from 2003?
  6. Office closet – What actually belongs in here? This is where all the random stuff ended up when I moved
  7. Office desk top organizers – How do I set this space up so that I actually use it?
  8. Linen closet – Organize, get rid of expired stuff, etc.
  9. Bedroom closet – Switch over to spring summer clothes and get rid of stuff I no longer wear
  10. Bedroom dresser – Same as the closet, but with more foldy-type clothes
  11. Shoe closet, aka the back closet — Reorganize this so I can reach my spring shoes more easily. Take a good look at winter shoes and have the ones that didn’t survive the season repaired or replaced
  12. Pantry – Pull everything out and give it a thorough scrub down. Toss expired food.
  13. Dish shelves – Give everything a wipe down
  14. Cooking utensils and cook wear — Clean out all drawers and cupboards. Donate stuff I never use.
  15. Fridge – Scrub it out and check all the dates on condiments
  16. Junk Drawer – What is even in here?
  17. Shampoo all the carpets – Living room, dining room, hall, back hall, bed and office
  18. Craft supplies – Organize them so that I can pull out and finish one project at a time
  19. Kitchen stove/oven – Clean the oven
  20. Laundry room – Vacuum. Hope the spiders don’t get me.
  21. Email – Go through and delete as many old emails as I can. Especially ads
  22. Old computer – Finish migrating old files to the cloud or to my new computer (before old computer finally croaks)
  23. Photos – Organize my photos in folders so I can find them
  24. Car – Detail it, inside and out!
  25. Dog – Give her a bath and get her a pedicure
  26. Storage unit – Inspect for water damage and other possible issues. Get rid of anything that’s not needed.
  27. Garden – Rack through and pull all last year’s dead plants in preparation for spring
  28. Alley – Get out there and pull out the dead poisonous weeds before they come back to life!
  29. Back yard – Find all the presents that Bronwen left back there that have been covered by snow till now
  30. Front porch – Sweep it clean and clear any dead plants out of flower boxes

Do you have a spring cleaning list? How do you tackle it? Anything big that you think I missed?

Living Room: Hanging mismatched art

This “final” living room post has been rather difficult to write. I started with the idea that I’d talk about hanging the art around the room, but something about it keeps rubbing me the wrong way. Maybe it’s that there’s really no homemade or handmade element to what I’ve done (well, there is to two of the art pieces, but I’ll share those later), or maybe it’s that the whole discussion feels kind of privileged. Compared to the budget I had when I started this blog, this room was furnished in absolute luxury. Feels kind of like cheating. And it’s not say that the room is phenomenal either. It feels like home and I love a lot of individual elements in it, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything that shows I have an eye for design or anything. I think it’s pretty average for what a person can pull together with a little bit of money and a few decent pieces of furniture and art. So with that, I want to say, I am totally open to suggestions. Anything striking you as off? Any ideas for what would pull the room together a bit more? I’m fairly happy with the side by the windows, but the other half of the room doesn’t have the same “put together” feel.

Hanging art on the walls made a huge difference in making the living room feel cozier after I repainted it a light icy blue.

Some of the walls needed little to no art, mostly due to huge windows and big pieces of furniture.

TV corner after

While all the others were in need of something.

I had a hard time deciding what to do on the opposite side of the french doors, especially since I normally leave that door open all the time. I could have left it blank, I suppose, but it’s very visible when you are sitting on the couch or the green chair and it just looked empty. In the end, I decided to go with one mid-sized picture and treat the wall as though the door wasn’t there. Here’s what it looks like from the couch at night. 

painting behind french door

I actually could have gone a little bigger, but I had already decided to buy a big piece for the adjacent wall. It’s not ideal to have a picture partially obstructed, but it look better than it did with a blank wall—and it gave me an excuse to order a print that I’d been wanting for a while (Autumn in Orillia by Franklin Carmichael. I ordered the print from and LOVE the paper it was printed on. It was heavy and matte and textured – perfect for a water color print. I got the frame at Michaels after quite the hunt for a frame the correct size.)

On the wall opposite the windows, I chose to go big and bold, yet simple with one gigantic painting that I’d been lusting after for two years. (To give you an idea of the scale, that painting is 48 inches by 48 inches and about two inches deep.)


And on the wall next to that, you can see the start of my art collage project for the remaining wall. See, those first two walls were easy. I invested a some money in two pieces I really liked and had been wanting for a while. But if you’ve been reading for a while, you know I love collecting artwork that speaks to me, so it should be a surprise that I had quite a few framed pieces and bits of brick a brack sitting around waiting to be hung in the perfect spot.

The big challenge of the living room was the wall opposite the french doors: A row of high windows, a low couch and two big blank patches of wall. (Ignore the paint color, of course. I neglected to take a proper “before” pic.)


I had around a dozen pieces to play with, including framed photos, prints, some fun fabric pieces, a tortoise shell (faux, from Target) and a carved mirror. Almost none of the frames matched and the orientations went both ways. I followed the Young House Love paper-template approach to planning and traced the outlines of all the objects onto pieces of paper (I used a lot of packing paper I had laying around – a nice non-destracting neutral to play with, but it tended to be wrinkly). Then I used painters tape to play around with the different options.

big wall after

After a few days of hemming, hawing and rearranging, I finally got bold and started nailing. I started with the largest objects on each wall, and did a little rearranging after each additional object was added. And here’s where it ended up.



When it comes to hanging a gallery wall, I highly recommend the paper template approach. It made it so fast and easy and I knew exactly where to put all the nails. I really like how the arrangements came together on either side of the windows.

The things I’m still considering: Let’s see…should I expand the gallery wall and flow things under the windows? Should I put shelving or something in the two empty corners of the room? Get a longer sideboard instead of the dresser that’s under the horse painting? An actual table between the two refinished chairs? For now, I’m calling it done, but if I find a great piece that I think will help tie it all together a bit better, I may make some changes down the road.

Living Room: A Paint Saga in Three Acts

When I first moved into my new apartment, I showed you all this picture of my living room:


A dark room with sage green walls with a nice dented texture that you can see on the left. Since I was sticking with light gray for most of the rest of the apartment (Burnished metal in the foyer, dining room and back hall and French Silver in the bedroom), and this was one of the few rooms that was open, but separated from the other rooms by wood trim (the halls, kitchen and dining room all flow together with plaster archways), I thought it was an opportunity to add another color to the house. I know some people like to use one continuous color when rooms are open to each other, but I really like the effect of looking from one room to another and seeing a touch of something different – as long as it works together! (My disastrous interim kitchen color did not, which is a story for another blog entry.) With all the wood accents throughout the apartment, I thought brown would work really well and would make the room feel warm and snug. I’d planned to get a light gray couch, a gray patterned rug, a light-colored ottoman coffee table, and then I was finally going to recover those estate sale chairs in a light/neutral fabric and paint them white.

But, where I ended up was this:

Brown Living room

As I mentioned before, I ended up getting a brown leather couch. I’d spent hours and hours looking at couches online and reading reviews. I didn’t really want an IKEA couch (the reviews for long-term wearability are mixed, plus I’d have to rent a truck and spent over 3 hours driving to get one), but I was considering a Karlstad with the gray cover, because I thought it was the only new couch I could afford. I also considered a fake-leather/bonded leather couch in light gray from an online site, but I was really leery of buying something that big sight unseen and cushion un-sat-upon. Leather would have been my first choice because of the dog—when we were upstairs her hair was constantly getting woven into the upholstery of the gold love seat. I was spending a ridiculous amount of time vacuuming, lint-brushing and tweezing the hair out of the furniture, even with protective throws in constant rotation. (I did try banning her from the furniture, but that made both of us unhappy.)

I really wanted to invest in the couch as my first piece of real, honest-to-goodness-grown-up furniture I picked out myself. I was 33. It was time. I went to JCPenny to look check out the gray fabric version of their Darrin couch and it turned out they were clearing out ALL the furniture. The floor models were going for insanely cheap (50% off list price, and this was when JCPenny was doing the no-sales, low price all the time thing). And suddenly, I had the opportunity to get a gorgeous, real-leather, mid-century style, ridiculously comfortable couch. A leather couch had previously been way, way, way outside my budget, but combined with the credit card deal they were running, I ended up paying $750 for a very high quality piece of furniture. I know that still seems like a lot of money to some people (it did to me – the couch is officially the most expensive thing I own aside from my car), but I think I’ll have this couch for a long long time. And I love it. More than one person can sit comfortably on it! I can stretch out and nap on it! People sit on it and comment how comfy it is. And the dog hair comes right off with a brush of the hand or a light vacuum. So, so happy with the couch. But it meant the brown paint on the walls and the wood trim was causing brown overload.

And it only got worse with each additional piece of furniture, like this:

brown living 1

Let’s add a big wood dresser to the back wall, shall we? Because there’s not enough brown in here yet. In this picture you can see how I desperately attempted to lighten up the room with the light-colored chairs (and we will talk about the chairs soon—didn’t they turn out great? My mom basically did them for me) and the light pillows and light rug. And then added a giant horse painting, which just made it even less cohesive.

Basically, the only part of the room that was even remotely working was the window wall, and that was mostly due to the long white curtains I added:

Living before

There were light-colored curtains, and the light rug, and the cream ottoman and light-green chair. I even had a plant. The whole brown-on-brown-on-brown thing wasn’t bugging me as much on this side of the room. But it’s pretty sad when you only like one corner of your living room. So…

paint supplies

It was time to haul the painting supplies back out (keep in mind that I spent the first month living here painting every single wall and much of the trim. It was ridiculous.). I decided to go completely in the other direction and do a light, airy almost-white blue. I settled on Fresh Day by Behr (which almost looked like a neutral instead of a blue). It took about three coats of Behr’s paint and primer in one to get a clean covering of the brown — the plaster walls in this place just suck the paint up.

And the end result:

TV corner after

Same corner as before, but doesn’t it look so much lighter and happier? Now, the other corners of the room actually wound up looking a little sterile with the lighter color:

IMG_0585 big wall after

So I was a bit desperate to get some art on the walls to warm it up. We’ll talk about art next time, because I have had so much fun finding new pieces for the new place and figuring out how to get them all hung!

(In this picture you can also see that I replaced the too-short coffee table I originally purchased off Craigslist with a larger, taller table from Potter Barn. After trying to live with it for a few weeks—because it was really cute—I realized that in order to be comfortable I needed the table to be at least an inch taller than the couch seat cushions. I tend to have a cup on the coffee table and constantly reaching way, way down for my beverages was driving me crazy.)

But that’s it: The color evolution of the living room. Have you ever made a big color mistake? How long did it take you to give in and repaint? It took me about two months for the living room, but I redid the kitchen about halfway through the first coat of the first color.

Making something old look…older

When I moved into my new place, I was seriously lacking in furniture. It wasn’t like I didn’t have any furniture—I had a few very nice pieces actually—but the square footage I was trying to furnish had expanded and the space was oriented very differently. I had a dining room, and an extra bedroom, and just a whole bunch more space. So with all the extra space, I was grateful for any extra furniture that came my way, even if it was something I never would have picked out myself.

Enter this little three-tier stand/table:

tiered stand before

(Apologies for the awful picture. This is project is pre-new-camera.)

Another random Mom gift. She picked it up at a rummage sale. It kind of screamed 1980s plant stand. Or maybe something you’d put in a bathroom. In any case, it was bright and brassy in the most cheap-yellow way.  But, as with the lamp, Mom saw the potential hidden by the ugly and suggested I paint it or something.

Now, I’ve been eyeing brass for awhile. I usually associate it with really horrible cheap light fixtures. (I’ve been an apartment dweller for over a decade now. I know cheap brass light fixtures.) But it seems to be making a comeback, especially when it comes to true vintage brass. Look at this beautiful antique bar cart:


I mean, I know they are worlds apart, but the dark brass is gorgeous and it has three levels. So I decided to go for the antique look with my little ugly stand, mostly because I was desperate for a little table for the living room.

The first step was to dress up the garish bathroom-appropriate mirrored shelves. I used Krylon Looking Glass spray and a water vinegar mixture to get an antique mirror finish.

tiered stand during

Luckily, this project took place when it was still warm because this stuff is smelly. I worked out on the front porch. First I cleaned each shelf, then I lightly sprayed with the vinegar/water mixture, and followed that with a light spray of the Looking Glass. I let it sit a few minutes, then I blotted gently with a paper towel. Then I sprayed even more lightly with the vinegar mixture and more heavily with the Looking Glass. It took a few more repetitions before I felt the glass looked suitably antiqued. I recommend using the layered approach—you can always add more patina, but it’s hard to get it off. I blotted one last time, let it air dry for a few hours, then very gently buffed it with a paper towel before I reassembled the stand.

tiered stand glazing

While that was drying, I tackled the job of making the bright brass look a little more antiqued. I used a Martha Stewart metallic glaze in bronze, a sponge paint brush and a paper towel. I was pretty generous with my glaze applications (just light enough to keep it from dripping). I’d let it dry a few minutes, then wipe off the excess with the paper towel. Then, after it dried a few more minutes, I did another coat. The glaze is very transparent, and it took me between three and four coats to get the effect I wanted. Those twisted wire legs were quite a pain! But, you can see in this picture that after a few coats the brass was starting to look more like dark antiqued brass.

I let that dry for a few hours as well, then brought it in and reassembled it:

tiered stand finished

Voila! It’s not the antique bar cart of my dreams, but it’s a cute little table that’s perfect for holding a candle, picture, or drink. I love how the antiqued mirrors turned out. They’re mottled, but still pretty reflective (as you can see by the upside down horse head).

Some updates

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that! It turns out that managing three blogs at work means that I’m less inclined to work on my own blog at home (go figure). But that’s going to change in 2014, I swear!

Some exciting changes here. For one, I got a new camera! It’s a Sony Cybershot Mark 100, which is a compact, fixed-lens camera, but with an incredibly powerful lens and sensor. I wanted a small camera for travel, but didn’t want a mediocre point and shoot. So far, I’m really happy with the purchase. I took it with me on my recent vacation (I went to Paris. Everything people say about it is true.) and got some great pictures with it. I do have a few catch-up posts to share, which will still feature less-than-perfect, step-by-step iPhone pictures, but after that you should see a noticeable improvement in photo quality. If anyone is interested in how I went about choosing my camera, leave a comment and I’ll do a post. I did a lot of research ahead of time and went to about 5 stores to look at cameras in person (I research things to death when I make a large purchase). Otherwise, I’ll assume you get your camera advise from a camera expert!

Some other exciting things you missed:

I made this cake for my sister’s birthday. It was ridiculously good and impressed everyone who ate it, even those who ate smooshed leftovers out of a tupperware three days after her birthday.

susan's birthday cake

At one point my vegetable garden was producing crops like this on a daily basis (this is my share, after giving the upstairs neighbors their share):

veggies from garden

I can’t wait to start planning for next year’s garden, and I’m hoping to share some of the stuff I learned having a vegetable garden for the first time.

And at one point, my living room looked like this:

Brown Living room

In an attempt to try something new, I painted the living room a nice cozy brown (Basketry, by Behr). I actually still really like this color. It’s a great mid-tone neutral—not too green or too red, in my opinion. But, with the wood trim and floors it was a lot of brown. Then I bought a brown couch (not what I intended at all—I’ll definitely share my couch saga soon!), and a too low coffee table and the room slid into a horrible state of Not Working At All. So, aside from the couch (which I LOVE), it’s completely different!

Oh, and I bought these insanely girly hooks for $2 each at Anthropologie. Everyone who saw them on my counter said they were really flowery and looked like they belonged in a little girl’s room. Everyone who’s seen them on the wall  (they  in my back hallway next to the door) has complimented them. Girly can totally work in a grown up house.

girly hooks

So that’s what’s been happening here. More to come soon!

Covered lampshade

A few weeks ago, I came home to find a surprise lamp in my living room. A really (hate to say it) ugly surprise lamp.

For years, my mother has said that she disliked the carved milkglass lamp I’ve had in the living room. I like it—it’s classic.  But mom didn’t like it, so she dropped off a surprise lamp. It was beige, with a dirty cylindrical shade. There were chips in the side and it was oddly spongey looking. And I transformed it into a really cute lamp using just a little craft paint, some fabric, and ribbon.


I used Martha Stewart craft paint in basic black to to paint the base. It took about four light coats with a foam brush to get full coverage. Then, I used a bold indoor/outdoor fabric to cover the shade following these instructions from the blog House of Fifty. It wasn’t too hard, but I really don’t recommend indoor/outdoor fabric for this project—It doesn’t stick well to the glue or the tape, making the project more difficult than it should be.


I’m really happy with the results. It’s dramatic, and looks a lot more upscale than it really is. Not bad for a free rummage sale lamp and $15 in paint and fabric.

Packing it all in

So, I’m getting married.

That’s exciting.

Also, I have to live with a boy. That’s….different. I love my fiance and I can’t wait to start a life together. But I own my place (and love it) so we’ll be starting life here. In a one bedroom condo. With two people.

And 2.5 closets.

And two adults worth of stuff.

The biggest win we were going to get was squeaking out some more storage from the hall closet…which is the only real closet, other than the bedroom.*

Its in the middle of the house, in the teal hallway between the bathroom and dining room doors. It used to hold all my sheets and towels, before this happened. Plus all my coats, and extra craft supplies, and cereal when I buy too much. Winter boots. My sleeping bag. Randomness. But all of it–there’s nowhere else to go. And it was in pretty rough shape:

Hall Closet old

(That was embarassing). After I found new homes for the linens, I never really figured out a good or efficient use of the shelves. Everything in there was just the leftover random stuff from when my sister and I both moved (I got all of both of our stuff). So it wasn’t being used very efficiently. And now that there are two of us, we have more storage needs:

  • my crafting supplies
  • his suitcase (he travels several times a month, this has to be very easily accessible–not the basement or a top shelf)
  • his tools (he’s got way more than I do)
  • cleaning supplies (realistically, these are his. I’m a terrible housekeeper)
  • extra shoes (realistically mine. I think he has like four pairs. I have…more than that.)
  • all the random stuff listed above, like pantry supplies, extra paper towels when we buy in bulk, sleeping bags

And of course, this is still both the coat closet and the broom closet so we need to keep that space too.

No biggie right?

The junk in there wasn’t going to cut it; we needed real shelves. Sturdy ones. And a spot for the suitcase. Oh, and this closet is only 29.5 inches wide. We didn’t want to waste an inch, so our solution wasn’t going to come off the shelf. So we decided to build it out ourselves (Boyfriend finished his whole basement in his old house, so he was ready to go for this project).

We talked and I made lists, we talked some more and I made sketches. We measured, and measured again, and made more sketches. We pulled everything out, til we were left with this:

Hall closet old empty

Two shelves, a broom organizer, a rod, and a ribbon hanger. (Believe it or not, this closet was even worse when I moved in. There was a single 24 inch deep shelf and a hanging rod in the back.)

The good news is, this closet is DEEP, so there is enough room for some pretty substantial shelves, even with coats hanging in the front part of the closet. After all our sketches, and lots of math on my part, we felt pretty good about our plans. So we finished ripping everything out of the closet, and then I got to work with a tape measure.

We scoped out Home Depot and found 2 x 4 sheets of laminate (we went to the city Home Depot, which has a smaller selection, because they also have a Home Decorators Collection). And then we finalized our plan, and headed for the bigger Home Depot–our design would require SEVEN sheets of laminate, with more than a third as scrap because of our 29.5 width. Luckily, they sold 4×8 sheets, meaning we would need only one, plus a smaller sheet to make all six shelves, plus two half shelves and the center support.

Since we were using irregular measurements (to accommodate all the things listed above) and wanted to permanently install the shelves (no adjusting), I wanted to be sure they matched what we wanted. In addition to remeasuring a whole lot of cereal boxes and various tools, I did this:

Hall Closet Taped Shelves

The shelf at the top was placed on the only existing supports we were keeping so we wanted to make sure there was enough space at that top shelf. The tall shelf near the bottom is the sturdiest one since it goes above the half shelf at the bottom (making room for the suitcase) and is for tools. The other tall shelf is for cereal and other pantry goods.

Those were my key contributions to the closet. I started unpacking some of the boxes (the movers don’t come until next week but we’d been bringing over boxes of stuff weekly to start moving him in) and organizing the kitchen–its a one person closet, and this was Mike’s deal now.

He got it to here:

Hall Closet Shelves

And then it was time to paint. It was dingy and ugly, and also kind of cream, which looked even worse with white melamine shelves. So we primed it (with, um, oil based primer because I can’t read and then we didn’t have mineral spirits so we had to go to the store with me covered in paint because I had no way to get it off BUT) and then talked paint. Since we had to go to the hardware store, I really wanted to paint the back of the closet a fun color. I thought it would be cool. And its a small wall, so a test pot would get us there. Except not at the true value, where they sell only itty-bitty testers and in tiny little pots. I was thinking of buying a quart, but really, so not worth it. Its for a closet. And then the salesman was all, can I help you, we have oops paint. So we got a $5 oops GALLON of this:

Hall Closet Painted

He was against it, then offered to paint the whole thing that color (yikes!), and now thinks its fun too. Win! We also got iron-on edging for the laminate so it looks more finished, and he wanted electricity (to charge all his tools) so he did this:

Hall Closet Light

Its an adapter for the light that includes outlets, so you leave the fixture always on, and then put the bulb below with a second string so the light isn’t always on. Then he tacked an extension cord into place. It isn’t in the back because we’re too short to reach the back corner (ever. You should have seen us trying to paint).

Then in went the broom holder and the coat rod, and we started to load stuff back in:

Hall Closet New

The suitcase fits perfectly, the little shelves next to it are for extra shoes, the bottom is for boots, then we have tools, food and cleaning supplies, more food, picnic stuff. All sorts of fun. It doesn’t look this empty anymore; we’ve moved in more boxes, and its filling up (although not packed). And the rod has coats on it, because we have nowhere else to put our coats.

I’m sure those of you with houses (and lots of closets) feel sorry for us right now, but we’re really proud of how well we’ve made the space we do have work for us. This closet now packs a huge storage punch, holds brooms and dustbusters (you can’t see it in pictures, but on the left side where the brooms are, he wall mounted the dustbuster above the door, where it charges too), has his suitcase easily accessible, holds all of our coats and plenty of extra stuff. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually but right now I keep opening the closet and looking.

We made a few small-but-awesome tweaks to our bedroom closet too, which I’ll share once the house calms down enough to accomplish anything.

*I have a front hall closet, but it only looks real:

Stenciled Hallway from living room

It’s actually only about 9 inches deep. It has hooks inside. I’ll share it sometime, because I think I’ve packed a lot into it. But it isn’t even deep enough for hangers, let alone lots of stuff.

How many closets do you have? Do you love organizing closets as much as I do?

Pinterest Challenge: Herringbone Art


It’s Pinterest Challenge time*! This great opportunity to stop pinning and start doing is hosted by Sherry and Katie and is always a ton of fun.

Apparently DIY art is my favorite thing, and I needed something big to fill the wall in my dining room…here’s what I came up with:

DR Birthday Art

There’s a very popular pin of a painting all over Pinterest….I thought it was ok, but the colors aren’t really my first choice. Herringbone Art

The first DIY spin on this I saw  was Amanda’s using art by her kids:

I just had to do one of my own. I’ve been looking for something to replace my large/boring/generic/beige hand-me-down art from my dad in the dining room and this seemed like the perfect choice. Plus, she did it with her kids—so cute.

Then I remembered I don’t have kids. First I thought about getting some of my students to make me art, but I didn’t get around to it. Then I realized it could be my activity at my birthday party! (You know how when you’re a kid you have an activity at your party? And then you grow up and you mostly just drink? I missed that memo. I don’t drink, but I have to have an activity.)

  1. As soon as people finish their ice cream, tell them, “Now you have to make my birthday present!”
  2. Give them watercolors that your mom brought and some paper. Show them the picture above. Tell them you are going to cut it up and that you’d like them to use colors that match your curtains (only three people will actually listen, but its still worth a try).
  3. Have them paint.

4.   Let paintings dry. Ideally for a month. You want to make sure they are really, really dry. (You may also just be disorganized.)

5.   Figure out what size you want your pieces to be. Especially if people drew actual pictures, smaller is probably better.

3 sizes I considered. A 1:3 ratio looked best to me.

6.   Once you decide on your pieces (I did 1×3), measure out on the backs where to cut. Set aside any that you will not want uniform pieces of—basically anything that was a thing (like a tree) and not abstract.

7.   SPECIAL CUTTING TIP: I measured out one inch increments on one side and three inch on the other. If you have extra on one side, which you likely will, make your marks there and DON’T cut all the way through. You’ll end up with strips attached across the top. Then you can line it up and cut once to get several pieces, which saves a ton of time.

Measure the dimensions along two edges. If you use a paper cutter, you won’t need to extend the lines. Cut MOST (but not all) of the way across, so you have a fringe.

When you slice across the mostly-cut strips, you’ll get your pieces. Much faster than cutting strips into individual pieces.

8. Cut, cut, cut.

9.  Start playing. Lesley did this while I was still cutting and measuring.

10. Get ready to do this for real. My mat left a space that was 19.25”x27.25”, so I measured out a 20”x28” box on a large piece of white paper. I also sorted the pieces a little bit, mostly by color intensity.

Ruler, pencil, scissors, strips. And, um, toes.

In retrospect, I wish I had set aside a piece or two of everyone’s to make sure they all made it in. Pretty sure I was successful, but not positive.

11. Decision time: Do I want to orient the herringbone vertically or horizontally? (Horizontally. It’s a big wall)

12. What angle looks right? (I’m using math in real life! First I measured everything and now I need to find an angle!!!) [Spoiler: its 45 degrees. Lame. Although sensible.]

13. Play.  Lesley’s playing above helped a lot here. It was also interesting to see how the art changed when I was looking at a photo instead of the real thing.

14. Once I had a layout I liked, I needed to stick it down. It will be behind glass, so I was hoping I could just double sided tape. I used American Crafts tape runners, which I very highly DON’T recommend. Very annoying.

15. Leave it on your floor while you go on vacation.

16. Restick some pieces because you used cheap adhesive (thanks AC), stick it behind glass, and get it on a wall! Everyone loves it and I love that so many people who are important to me are represented in all the pictures.

DR Birthday Art

I’ve seen other cool takes where you use one large piece of art and cut it in that pattern and then restick it, or where you use a pre-existing painting and tape out the herringbones. Just look for herringbone art on pinterest for some other equally-awesome takes.

Check out the other projects linked up by the hosts Emily, Katie, Sherry and Renee:


And my other Pinterest Challenge Projects:

Circle Art: Framed

Ring Around the Artwork

Storybook Final

Childhood Favorites Art

Finished Drawer

Map-Lined Drawer

What did you do? Do you share my desire for making tons of homemade art (there is tons more that weren’t Pinterest Challenges…I don’t know what’s wrong with me!)

Trading Spaces

Ok, not actually trading spaces…just adding another person.

Mike’s moving in. Furniture drama aside (we have WAY too much stuff), we are in mostly good shape. I’m sad that my mantel won’t look like this much longer:

Living Room Mantel

The mirror will be moving above the console, replaced by a (gulp) 58 inch TV. For a girl who doesn’t actually watch tv at all. But stuff we’re ok with. We can combine, and weed out and all that with technology (mostly his) and office supplies (mostly mine) and kitchen stuff (a mix). But not clothes. I do the whole sweatshirt-stealing thing sometimes, but for the most part we can’t share that stuff. And we have different interests, and other stuff that needs to share space.

And 2.5 closets. Total. (We’re working on that one, and I’ve got some great progress to share.)

Mike’s a consultant, which means he travels fairly frequently, and his suitcase needs to be accessible. He’s a pretty handy guy (lucky me!) and he’s got a good number of tools. Many of them can go in the basement, but not everything. Oh, and he’s in computers (well, networking) and so has a ton of cables and cords and the like. And I could be way more efficient with my craft supplies. Enter:



Sigh. Be still my heart. And if that’s not enough, we paired it with this:


It’s awesome. We got the flat file cabinet the day before we got engaged (and he made me put most of it together by myself, telling me he had “errands”), and the hutch the following weekend. They’re amazing. So amazing I will obviously talk more about them later.

So, for now at least, forgive me for being scattered. I’m hoping to get it together this week, but if not, next week for sure. This Friday my students have their AP Exam (I teach an AP class) and then the following Friday is moving-in day (although we’ve already done a lot, its mostly just the movers dealing with actual furniture). But then? Down to two preps without much to do in AP, and for the next three weeks mostly out of the room while my resident (student teacher) has his final training wheels go at things. Although the camera just went to Hawaii on a 2 week vacation with my photographer, so quality is probably going to suffer here.

Any big changes for you? Do you know anyone who has my awesome cabinet? I’ve been visiting them in the store for a year now, and was so excited to justify it!