Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Dainty Stool Goes From Plain to Sweet and Charming

vinatage step stool

A neighbor gave me this little stool. Plain. Early American. Kind of sad. It's been holding a stack of extra towels in the upstairs bathroom for the past few years. It kept telling me it wanted to be something else. Sometimes you have to wait for things (like ideas and materials) to come together.

I had a set of 3 of these little round pieces of needlepoint that I inherited. They were each in round little frames and I'm guessing they are about 50 years old. I'm saving the other two for the new guest cottage which I want to have a cozy cottage feel. And that gray burlap. Well, I'm just in love with that.

I started this project by attaching the needlepoint piece to the burlap, stitching it on with an upholstery needle.

After I started I thought it might be nice to stuff it a bit to give it a 3-D effect. I had some leftover batting so I tucked it inside and finished sewing it up.

I painted the legs with chalk paint and used a little aging wax to finish them off. Then I cut some batting to fit the top.

After the needlepoint was attached I was unhappy with how rough the edge looked.

I cut off the end of the burlap that had stitching to keep it from fraying. I cut it to make a bit of trim and attached it. Huge difference!

I couldn't put the burlap right over the batting so in between I used my favorite fabric for all kinds of projects, a painter's drop cloth. I tacked it under using upholstery tacks. Then I sprayed a little adhesive to hold the burlap in place and repeated the process.

That's it! a quick little project. Perfect for a hot afternoon when it's too hot to do anything big.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ten Dollar Picture Ledge

One project I've been meaning to try for a long time was building a picture ledge. I'm using the term "building" loosely. It is the easiest thing possible and doing it yourself means you can make the exact size you want. Plus you are saving a bundle because the ones from Pottery Barn regularly price out at way over 50 bucks.

You need 3 pieces of wood. There isn't even any cutting since these items are sold in 6, 8, and 12 foot lengths. You are looking for a small, medium, and wide width of board. I just played around with them at the store until I found the 3 I liked best together. The version I'm making is 6 feet long.

 You are placing the medium board on the back, this is to attach the ledge to the wall. The wide board on the bottom actually holds the photos, and the smallest board (or piece of decorative molding if you choose) on the front to create a lip to hold your pictures in place. I nailed it together using long finishing nails. I sunk them, and filled the holes with Spackle, since that's what I had on hand. In the back board drill holes to secure the ledge to the wall.

 I cut a notch out of the back board to create a space to run the cord for a picture light.

 I hung the light first, but was unhappy with the way it looked. The LED lighting was cold and harsh. I decided to forgo lighting for now and took it down. This room needs more light but I'm looking for something else. 

 I sanded and primed the wood before attaching it to the wall. Oops. Needs a bit more paint there! Once I painted over the filled nail holes on the front, they disappeared.

So there you have it! The hardest part of the whole project was getting it level on the wall. I'm still playing with what to put up here and how it's all going to work together.

Friday, August 22, 2014

All Things Great and Small Love a Potting Shed

Here's a picture of my potting shed. See the white shelf at the top? We'll get back to that.

We love little things around here. Yesterday I was positioning the concrete blocks that the rain barrel is going to go on and I kept having to stop to move baby toads so no one got smushed. Remember the movie, 7 Years in Tibet when the building of the movie theater came to a halt because of worms? It was like that. We'll get back to this project when the gutters are attached and the barrel is painted. You knew I was going to paint it, didn't you? I also think the window needs shutters. And maybe a window box.

I'm also being extremely quiet and cautious in my potting shed currently because we have baby Carolina wrens. They may be my favorite bird. Quick and curious, they are like the cats of birdom. They are very amusing and nest in unusual places. We've had them in a baseball cap my husband left hanging on a post. You can see it in this picture.

 This spring, we put off using the grill until the nest inside was empty. That was a particularly beautiful nest covered with moss.

 Our current residents are beginning life in a bee box. When you order bees they come in the mail in a screened wooden frame. This is what it looks like.

There is a large hole in the top where a can of syrup is placed to feed them in transit. In this photo it is covered by the label. You can't see the can because it is covered with bees.

I thought this box might be useful for something in the future so I put it on the shelf in the potting shed. A pair of Carolina wrens thought it was the perfect site for a nest. We had some build in it last year too. We've been hearing them but today the first brave one left the next only to find himself in a bird playpen. Mama wren is pretty smart.

Brave baby wren is in the bottom left corner. I know that lantern is in the way. I have a thing for rusty lanterns.

At one corner of the potting shed I have this out of control morning glory. So gorgeous early in the day.

At the other corner is the beagle. Baby birds and beagles. It's practically paradise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Yard Sale, Birthday, Idea Kind of Weekend.

After cleaning out my own mother's apartment in June when she went to assisted living I was stunned at how much one person could cram in a one bedroom apartment. Last week we started tackling the Mother-in-Law wing. You may recall that we lost his mom the week of Mother's Day. There wasn't a time limit on cleaning out the space so we put it off until now. The first step was emptying all the shelves and drawers so that the large pieces of furniture could be removed. Here's a pic of what it looked like once that happened. 


The hutch on the opposite side of the room is still available. The pic at the top of this blog is a detail. If it doesn't sell it's getting painted. Maple. Boo.

 These are gone...

A darling family with a little boy and another one on the way snapped up this chest of drawers and matching dresser from Craigslist.

 I was tempted to keep this retro set and stain it espresso.Those funky square knobs were really cool.

Saturday was my son's birthday so getting to help people load things was his present. I know. We are awesome parents. He also had some stuff to sell he'd scored big on at an estate sale, so he was pretty happy.

So now I'm waiting for my husband to sort out his mother's important papers and pictures, while I scour Pinterest for ideas for a guest cottage. But the other day he said "Hey I could move my games and stuff over there."

Let the man cave vs. guest cottage battle begin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mr. Snarky Graduates College

Mr. Snarky graduated from college. Let me tell you, if you can arrange it,  have your child graduate in the summer commencement. Parking was a cinch. There was no traffic. The restaurants surrounding the venue weren't even crowded. By comparison May and December are circuses. And I do not like circuses. But circus I will in December when our very own little Bossy will be getting her Masters.

Mr. Snarky walked because we made him. He would have been happier at the skatepark on Sunday, waiting for his diploma in the mail. His sister, whose favorite thing in life is graduating from things and being recognized as the over achiever she is, was in charge of making sure he didn't get away. Her husband was away on a camping trip so her brother spent the weekend with her at her downtown loft. On the phone she and I went over possible scenarios:

Me: He could go to a bar close by and watch the golf tournament.  I can imagine him saying to us later, "What you didn't see me? They called my name and everything!"
Bossy: Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I'll make sure he gets there.

When we met up with her for the ceremony she told this story:

He was exhausting. He's upset about his birthday this week. Who gets depressed over birthdays and graduations? I finally told him he should leave so he could get his cap and gown and line up. He threw his arms up and said "What? I have to go EARLY?"

Luckily for all of us she has the nickname Bossy for a reason. She's really good at making people do things. And this kid? She's been bossing this kid since day one.

My husband, daughter, and I arrived at the arena and started looking for his name in the program while we walked to our seats.  We didn't see it. We looked again. We looked at each other.

"You don't think he..."

"I'll bet he didn't fill something out he needed to."

"Isn't that just like him!"

We continued flipping pages and running our fingers down the lists of names.

"He's not here."

We signed, exasperated.

My phone buzzed with a text. 

"Just found out I got cum laude." 

I held up my phone for them to see. "Look at this! Maybe his name is in a special section or something."

We looked again and there it was.

We all just laughed and laughed.

You see The Kid worked really hard at school and never missed a class unless he was very sick, and then he still e-mailed professors to let them know he'd be absent. Or unless his dad booked a cruise that overlapped the beginning of the semester.  "You know I'm missing the first day of class." He would remind us while lounging by the pool. In an odd bit of role reversal we'd roll our eyes. Over a trip to the beach for fall break a couple of years ago we asked if he didn't want to go to the Flora-Bama with us. "Yeah, I really can't go out, I have to study for an Egyptology test." One semester he took 18 hours, held down 2 jobs, and coached his high school cross country team. 

But while he's fierce about working hard and learning as much as possible the ceremony didn't excite him so much. "Can't they just mail it to me?" he ventured a few weeks ago.

"And break your sister's heart? No." 

As soon as the ceremony ended my daughter and I started texting him to say "DO NOT TAKE OFF YOUR CAP AND GOWN, we want pictures!"

The reply came back. "Too late."

When we found him near the front entrance we all expressed our disappointment. "Yeah, we had to turn them in." He told us with a twinkle in his eye, while looking around at the 50 or so graduates in caps and gowns having pictures made with proud families. And what had he worn under his gown? The same soccer shirt he'd worn to breakfast with his sister at the Arcade. Here's the pic she had to settle for.

We laughed because, well...that is just so him.

And him just being him is what we all love most about him. He's just his own man and that's perfectly okay because he's so awesome at being himself that all we can do is laugh. When he was 3 we were in a bookstore and I said "Jared, it's time to go." The kid he'd been playing with looked at me and said "Jared? He told me his name was Picasso!" He's always been marching to the beat of a drum no one else could hear. So in a couple of weeks he leaves for Arizona for six months to volunteer with the American Conservation Experience. An adventure that he is hoping will be a first step in saving the planet, defending animals, and living out his own version of success that is likely to be just a little bit different than the standard version.

Who wants to be the standard version of anything anyway?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

From Yellow to Bright White: Living Room Reveal

Going from yellow to white was a big challenge. I looked at lots of whites but in the end went with Valspar High Hide White right off the shelf. The first swipe with the roller was terrifying. I was worried that it looked a bit sterile.  Did I own enough old books and travel mementos to keep it from looking like a doctor's office waiting room? As you can see nothing much changed except the wall color and furniture arrangement.

I wanted everything to tell a story and bring a memory. The icon of St. Francis and St. Clair I purchased on a lovely day in Assisi. The rosary is from The Vatican. 

I always struggle with finding the exact balance between clean, organized, functional, and warm, layered, interesting. 

I don't work at collecting many things. These cameras happen to be ones that have been in the family for years. The basket was brought home by my grandfather who was a missionary in New Guinea.

If there is anything I make a half hearted effort to collect it's Mexican blankets. I pick one up whenever I'm there. They're easy to find and extremely inexpensive. I don't have the shopping determination to collect anything that is expensive or hard to find.

Layering without having things look messy takes a lot of editing and rearranging.

The white on the walls generally looks like a crisp gray in the summer when this room gets no direct sunlight. I'll have to wait a few months to see if it is blinding in full sun on January afternoons.

One thing I decided while painting was that I was never going to buy another piece of mass produced art. Okay, maybe a vintage travel poster. Luckily having a son who is an artist and being someone who loves to take pictures means that won't be a problem. The three pieces below are by my son.

A glimpse of a bare wall in the dining room that I have plans for.

Below are two of my own photographs that I framed and hung up on the wall over the antique French bookcase. I wrote the location underneath each, on the mat, and signed them.


Home doesn't have to be a cookie cutter vision of anyone else's ideal decor. Making it personal means it reflects you and your family.