Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A kitchen linens basket

There's a spot in our kitchen that's been bugging me for quite a while.  Ever since we switched to using only cloth napkins, we've been piling the dirty ones on top of the microwave.  The result?

Nice.  No small child home is complete without tomato sauce stains.  Basically, it made that whole side of the kitchen look like a dumping ground.  I've tried a few things to corral the unsightly mess, but nothing was really doing it for me.  After a few bowls and other things from around the house failed the prettiness test, I decided to find a basket to fill the spot.  Most unfortunately, the one I fell in love with was, umm, too tall to fit.  Guess I should have measured before buying.  Oops!

After returning the original basket, I found this one at 40% off at Michael's (ended up being about $8):

A perfect fit for the space, but it felt a little drab.  Let the fix up begin!

I love baskets made from natural materials, but the sea grass of this one was a bit too bright and shiny for my taste.  To solve that problem, I did a light wash of AS Chalk Paint in French Linen.  I didn't want to turn this into a painted basket, so I really watered the paint down.  Maybe equal parts water to paint.  The look is very subtle, so I had a hard time capturing it in pictures.  These shots show the difference between the finished and unfinished parts of the inside of the basket.

Doesn't that look nice?  I love the soft grey over the natural sea grass!  It cuts down the yellow tint without taking away all the grass's warmth.  Perfect.

To finish out this mini makeover, I wanted to dress up the front of the basket, too.  There's a line of baskets at Target by Smith&Hawken that have little slate chalkboards tied to the front that I've been drooling over, so I decided to give that a try.  Being fresh out of small slate chalkboards around here, I used a little piece of 1/4 inch plywood to fake it!

After cutting it to size and drilling holes in each end, I painted the plywood (with the same paint I used on our bedroom sign) and then traced my chosen lettering.  After all the painstaking labor of my last lettering effort, I tried a new (and much better) method this time around.  I printed out the word "linens" (in the font Lavenderia) onto some regular computer paper, and once I covered the backside in pencil lead, it worked just like carbon paper!  I simply lined the paper up over the piece of plywood and wrote over the lettering with a pen, which left a perfect outline on the the wood.  See?

I decided to simply use chalk to fill in the letters, and much to my surprise, it worked perfectly and comes off easily, too!  My handwriting is atrocious, so it took a few tries to get it just how I wanted, but the chalk came right off with a damp cloth.  After getting the lettering just right, I tied the sign to the front of the basket with a bit of jute twine.

I'm completely in love with how this turned out!  The basket fits perfectly in the space and even looks pretty while doing its job :)

Hooray for quick and lovely fixes to annoying problems! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A sorta chalkboard sign

Hi there!  I'm so excited to share this project today!  I finally tried my hand at making a chalkboard-ish sign, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  I've been needing something substantial to put on the wall next to our bed for a while, so I thought a hand-painted sign might fit the bill nicely. As I've worked on the main living spaces of our home, our master bedroom has been sadly neglected.  I've been needing to work in there for a while, but since pretty much no one but our family ever sees it it always gets shunted to the back of the decorating line.  No more, I say!  This chalkboard sign is stage one of project "Make Our Bedroom Look Less Crappy" (no, I probably won't continue calling it that).  Here's how the headboard wall looked before this project:

Pretty uninspired, huh?  I love the side tables and the lamps that I made to go on them, but they really get lost in the vacuum of those blank walls.  Oh, and I'm not even going to show you the other side of the room.  Total. Disaster.  That's for another time, people.

Since the sign was going in our room, I decided to make it a little mushy and use it as my Valentine's Day present for Stephen.  I went with a quote from my all time favorite book, Wuthering Heights.  Funnily enough, he kinda hates that book and thinks it's way too depressing.  Whatever, I'm making the sign so I get to choose!  I've seen other signs with this particular quote, but Jennifer from Dear Lillie's is definitely my favorite.  So, without further ado (sorry for all the lead in!), here's the sign:

Isn't she perdy?  I love her!  I'll get to the book page pieces in a minute, but first let me tell you about how I made the sign.  Be warned: there has to be an easier way to make one of these, but you're on MY blog so you get to see my way :)  If you're looking for easy, go with someone else's tutorial.  Seriously, you'll thank me.

To start I grabbed a 24 inch square piece of precut 1/2 inch plywood from Lowe's.  I didn't want a square sign, so I had them cut it down to 20x24 for me.  Once I got it home I chose the smoother side and sanded it to within an inch of my hand's life.  I used some 80 grit sandpaper first and finished it off with some 220, just to give myself the smoothest surface I could.  I'm calling this a "chalkboard-ish" sign since I didn't really use chalkboard paint, but rather just some dark charcoal grey flat latex.  Since I have no plans to alter the design in the future, though, that part doesn't really matter.  Here's what it looked like after 2 coats of the paint

Holy wood grain, Batman!  That's what happens when you use the cheapest plywood you can find.  For under $5, though, I was willing to find a solution.  After this coat dried completely, I applied one more coat going against the grain and that made a very big difference.  Another quick sanding with the 220 grit sandpaper and the wood grain was really reduced.  Another way to have (properly) gotten rid of the grain would have been to sand more initially and use primer.  But who has time for proper?  Not this girl!

The next part was absolutely the most painful.  I don't have any sort of stencil-making or overhead projector type device, so I had to do it the very slow and old fashioned way: with an X-acto knife.  Ugh.

That's right.  I had to trace every letter with a blade to create my "stencils" for the lettering.  I had simply printed the lettering out on plain computer paper in the fonts I wanted.  This would have been infinitely easier if I had access to a projector and could have just traced the projected lettering.  But...I don't, so I had to suck it up.  I have to admit that it worked out just fine (even if my hand was absolutely killing me after all that cutting!).  After making the stencils, I arranged the words how I wanted them and taped them to the prepared board.

Once I had them arranged to my liking, I simply traced inside the letters with a pencil.  After that was done I went back with a fine paintbrush and painted in the lettering with some Pure White AS Chalk Paint.

I love how the imperfections in my painting just add to the handmade feel of the sign.  Embrace the imperfections, tell people you did them on purpose, and you'll be like a real life artist!  It really looks hand-lettered, don't you think?  I'm totally sold on this technique.  I definitely see more chalkboard art in our home's near future.

After I finished the sign and hung it on the wall in our room, I felt like it needed a bit more heft.  Enter the ever-versatile vintage book page.  I really can't say enough about how wonderfully easy book pages are for making simple, high impact decorations for your home.  Seriously!  That vine and little bunch of leaves took maybe 20 minutes to make, but they make such a huge difference in how the sign looks in the room.

I love the depth and texture they add to the sign, too.  The leaves in the corner are hot glued to a small scrap of cardboard that I used a little Command strip to stick to the bottom corner of the sign itself.  The vine and rosette up above the sign are just leaves that I glued successively onto an L-shaped piece of cardboard, starting from the outer edges and working my way in towards the center.  (I had intended to use more Command strips to stick the vine to the wall, but it kept falling down so I ended up nailing it up there.)  I decided that the middle looked a little wonky without anything in there, so I made that little flower at the last minute.

The center of the flower is just some crumpled up scraps, but I think they look just right.

So there you have it!  A chalkboard-ish sign with some pretty book page embellishments that really help our bedroom look much less sad.  Here's a (totally un-prettified) picture of how the room looks now:

So much better already!  I had 2 very persistent photo bombers running around that morning, so there was no way I was going to be able to make the bed AND get a picture.  Clearly, I just went for the picture :)  I'll do a post about the picture on the other side of the bed soon, but for now I need to head to bed!  Thanks for stopping by, and please let me know if you make a sign of your own!

** I'm submitting this project to the Creating with the Stars contest!  Woo hoo!**

Monday, February 4, 2013

Spring Entry 2013!

Good morning!  Hope you had a great weekend and ate lots of unhealthy snacky food during the game yesterday.  I know I did.

So, is it spring yet?  No, but I just can't contain myself on the decorating front.  We've had some freakishly warm weather this winter, so all the azaleas are already in full bloom, despite its being only February 4.  That makes it not entirely my fault, right?  Just say yes and we'll move on.  Thank you.

I'm really excited about how my entry table turned out this spring!  It's such a fun little area to style.  I used lots of paper and mossy greens this year, which I'm really loving.

I kept a couple elements for the Christmas display (which I completely forgot to photograph!  Oops!), but mostly this is all new for spring.  Up on the window I kept my brown paper bag flower and added a super simple garland of book page pinwheels.

Aren't those pinwheels fun?  They're from one of my old thrifted books, and took about 2 minutes to make.  Confession: they were all twirly and didn't hang quite how I wanted them to, so I used a little sticky tack on the bottom of each to anchor them to the window.  When gravity doesn't work in your favor, just out smart it, I say!

The center section of the table is probably my favorite.

It's a very simple vignette, but I think all the elements play off each other beautifully.  I got that tray for 50 cents a few months ago, and just carefully taped off the pretty detailing on the edges before hitting it with some chalkboard spray paint.  So easy and pretty!  I've had that little stone vase/candle holder for years and years and just love how it looks with the little mossy ball nestled into it.  Moss is one of my favorite decorating elements at the moment.  It has such amazing color and texture, and can be used almost anywhere.  Oh, and isn't that little jello mold peaking out from behind the book so cute?  I bought a handful of those at a little antique store in Tennessee last summer and have been propping them up allover the house since then.

The left side of the table houses my big chunk of driftwood along with a couple other treasures.

The mercury glass candle holder (its mate is on the other end of the table) is from PB several years ago, and I still love it.  To go under my chunky glass cheese dome, I made a little nest of spanish mossy stuff (that's its technical name), plunked another little moss ball into it.  By the way, I got a 6 pack of those preserved moss balls from Michael's (with a coupon) for about $3.  Lastly over here, that little stained glass art piece is another awesome thrift store find.  It has a couple chips, but I still think it's wonderful!

Finally, the right side of the table has my little mushroom terrarium with a beautiful sky blue metal birdcage I got in college (I think).

I put a fern frond in the birdcage to give it some extra color, and also to tie it visually to the little creamer (another recent Etsy find) standing next to it.  It's almost a perfect match to the teacup and saucer sitting on my window shelf.  (Oh, and all that greenery is fake.  Shh, don't tell!)

Isn't that gold pattern on the white bone china stunning?  That combination makes my heart flutter a little bit. 

Well, there you have it!  My entryway, all dolled up for spring!  Hope you like it, and I hope you have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, February 1, 2013

A quick window shelf

Hello there!  I hope your Christmas and New Year's were both wonderful.  I was so swamped with burlap stocking orders on Etsy that this is the first chance I've had to write a blog post since back in September!  Whew, I was busy!  I made well over 200 stockings from Sept-Dec.

Anyway, today I'm showing you a fun, super quick project I worked on back in the fall.  It's styled for springtime in these pictures, though!  I just can't wait until real springtime to put up my spring stuff.  This is Florida after all, so I think I'm entitled to a little early decorating (no matter how much it makes my husband roll his eyes, thank you very much).

To make this shelf I just used an old window I found at our Habitat ReStore and attached a piece of 1x4 with a couple metal brackets from Lowes (I think they're something like $3 for a 4 pack).  The wood came from a neighbor's scrap pile and I think the window cost $10, so this project cost about $11.50 total, since I'll be able to use the other pair of brackets for something else.  On a side note, $10 is more than I'd usually pay for an old window, but this one was in really nice shape and had a pretty little piece of original hardware so I just couldn't resist.  Here's the finished product:

How cute is that?  The thing that actually took the longest was the whitewash I did on the window itself.  It was unpainted wood when I bought it, and it was in pretty sad shape, so I gave it a quick wash with some white primer (I like the chalkiness that gives the finish), and that was that.  The board is painted Annie Sloan's Pure White and I didn't seal it all, just gave it a quick sanding with some fine sandpaper to smooth it.  Miraculously, the board was actually the exact size I needed, so I didn't even have to cut it!  Ha!  I just drilled pilot holes into the window frame and 1x4 and attached them using the brackets.  

If you decide to do this project yourself, I have 2 suggestions: be sure to put the bracket near the outside edge of the window frame in order to avoid drilling into (and breaking) the glass.  Also, I wanted my shelf to be as low as possible on the frame so I attached my brackets to the top of the shelf, rather than mounting them underneath.  This works just fine for my purposes, but if you do that be sure not to put anything too heavy on the shelf.  Gravity is not on your side when you mount them this way, so it's theoretically possible for the screws to strip out if too much weight was put on the shelf.  Mine's purely for display, though, so I'm not worried at all!  Here's a close-up of one of the brackets: 

You may notice that my little birdy has a new home in a nest in the teacup now.  I did that after taking the first batch of pictures.  Oh well!  He's a part of one of my favorite Etsy purchases ever.  Red Hot Pottery makes these precious birds in either this turquoise (which I adore) or in black, and they come in sets of 5.

Ok, I can't resist including a few more quick pictures!

That little frog is actually a vintage magnifying glass I found on Etsy (of course), and oh my goodness, I can't even tell you how much I love him!  He's just the cutest thing!  The book page ornaments hanging from the twigs are actually from my Christmas decorating, but I just couldn't bring myself to take them down.  They're not too Christmasy, right?

For the bunting I just looped little scraps of fabric over a piece of twine.  Ridiculously easy and so pretty!  I attached it to the top of the window with clear pushpins, which you can just see in this picture:

So there it is!  A super quick project that provides major charm and much needed decorating space.  Much needed for me, anyway, since I don't have a mantle!  I'm off to pick up my sweet Lily from school now.  Have a fabulous weekend!

**I'm linking this post up with Thrifty Decor Chick's February Before & After Party!