Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Playing Dress Up

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my den re-do has been this wall:

It’s a focal point in the room—directly across from the windows and fireplace, and there were so many things wrong with it that it gave me hives every time I walked into the room. The mirror was too big. The table was too small. The lamp was not working at.all. But it was a collection of things we had when we moved into this house so we lived with it. We lived with it until I just couldn’t live with it anymore. Something had to be done. So I called up my good friend Craig and asked him if he had anything that might be of interest on his list. And boy did he come through.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve been stalking  checking Craiglist for  the perfect piece to go in this space. I knew I wanted a dresser- something solid with storage. I also knew that it needed to be a little bit longer than what we already had to help balance out the size of the mirror. So I searched. And I searched. I inquired about a few pieces, but nothing was quite right.
Then one day, when I least expected it—there she was. The perfect size and shape and for only $30! I could not respond to that Craigslist ad fast enough! The seller listed that the only thing wrong with the piece was that it was missing a knob on the far right side. Since I was planning to replace the hardware myself anyway, I figured that wasn’t a problem.

Excuse me while I laugh maniacally in the corner. Apparently the seller does not have a keen attention to detail. Or eyesight. Let’s just say you get what you pay for. But I digress. Since I was going to sand it and paint it, and there didn’t appear to be any structural issues, I handed over my 30 pesos and went on my way.


After I removed the hardware I spent the following Saturday’s naptime getting acquainted with the sander I borrowed from my dad.  And can I just say Holy Arm workout Batman!

I used some leftover white paint that we already had and set to work giving this baby a new life. Three coats later and things were looking good.

I grabbed some hardware for half off from Hobby Lobby. The knobs are a perfect fit but the drawer pulls have been a little harder to match up, so I’m still on the lookout for those.
I dressed up my new and improved dresser with a tray I picked up from TJ Maxx awhile back with accessories I gathered from around the house, a new lamp from Walmart, and I gave an old frame and picture a little boost by adding a simple white mat.

I am IN LOVE with how this simple, $30 find transformed this space. It has brightened our den and made this focal point something I actually WANT to see. And suddenly, that giant mirror seems less imposing and more like a part of the space.

Let’s see that before & after again, shall we?

Total cost for this project:
Dresser: $30
Lamp: $30 ($15/piece for the shade and base)
Mat for Frame: .75
Total: $60.75

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Built-Ins: The Biggest (Toughest) Puzzle You'll Ever Piece Together

After the pillows set my world on fire, I spent many a night staring down the built-ins in our den wondering just what in the world I was going to do about them. You see, I suffer from this strange affliction when it comes to decorating and thus have a love/hate relationship with any type of shelf/surface/nook.

Don't you like how I used this dark picture for dramatic effect? (It has nothing to do with the fact that I didn't change my camera settings and also only took one before pic. Oops.)

On the one hand I LOVE figuring out the perfect combination of decor items; when a frame is turned just so and the balance is right and I can step back and feel that *click* of recognition that I've nailed it. LOVE.

Seeing Red....Literally. Its time to say "bye-bye" to the darker hues of 2007.

On the other hand, the interim is a hair-pulling, head-banging-against-the-wall frustrating dance of twisting, placing, removing, replacing, switching out, switching back, stacking, unstacking, shuffleshuffleshuffle of items. I literally stayed up a few nights well past my bedtime staring at these shelves. I wanted desperately to work with what I already had, and that made this challenge that much harder for me.

I started by ridding the shelf of anything that didn't go with the new color scheme and feel of the room (unless it was something I was planning to re-purpose with spray paint so that I could re-use it). Then I started shuffling. And tweaking. And shuffling some more. I took pictures and emailed them to my trusty gurus (Nat & Kelly, holla!) with desperate subject lines like "WHAT'S MISSING?!" or "WHY ISN'T THIS RIGHT?" but mostly just, "HALP!"

Finally, FINALLY we found the right balance. We shopped this house like nobody's business and came up with what has become on of my most favorite places in my home. It is the perfect blend of old and new, of new and re-purposed; and it epitomizes our family in a subtle way that I just love. While in the middle of this project, I searched the internet high and low for pictures of other people's built-ins for inspiration on what exactly one would use to fill shelves without making them fill heavy, dark, or cluttered. I thought it might be helpful to share what I ended up with here, in case someone else is stuck in the same predicament!

In the end, I think we ended up with a space that represents us and also makes the room feel a little bit lighter.

A few favorite pieces:

The glass jar of wine corks that we add to each weekend (and some weeknights!):

This "jar" was actually part of a more elaborate candle holder we got as a wedding gift 3 years ago. I just took it apart and voila!

The worn and tattered copy of Gone With the Wind that belonged to my husband's grandmother (no Southern home is complete without a copy of GWTW):

The juxtaposition of these two photos (placed beside a blue vase from Ikea): our first kiss as husband and wife (bliss) and the look of pure joy on our toddler's face as she swings high (also bliss).

A run-of-the-mill mason jar transformed with a little glass paint. (Yes, we MADE our own blue Mason jars! Hopefully posting a tutorial soon!):

A few other pieces of note:

I used spray paint to re-purpose a few pieces I already had so that they would work in this new space (and so I wouldn't have to spend any moo-lah!). The red vase, the two red crosses (both purchased years ago at Kirkland's) got a new life with coats of glossy white and avacado green.

The white and black metal sign (from Hobby Lobby awhile back, seen below with the newly painted green cross) got a coat of chalkboard paint on its back side, so I now have the option of using either side!

We shopped this house like crazy and found a few pieces that were so-so in other places, but became the perfect finishing touches for our den:

The white cup (sitting on a white flower dish I got on clearance at Pier 1 a few weeks ago) is actually one of the coffee cups that came with the place settings we registered for when we got married. We do not use these on a regular basis (if ever) so this one found a new home on the shelf.

I am embarrassed at the amount of Nicholas Sparks books that I own. But they are some of the prettiest uncovered volumes we have so my secret love for sappy love stories is not so secret anymore.

 I picked up those 3 white floral dishes at Pier 1 on a whim a few weeks back, because I loved the shape and they were super cheap on clearance. They sat in a cabinet for awhile but really came in handy during this re-do! In addition to becoming the saucer-to-my-re-purposed-cup, they now also nestle a white teapot I picked up at TJ Maxx ($4!) and this sweet gray candle from Ikea.

This glass jar was a leftover from our 2008 wedding's candy buffet. We dug it out of my basement cabinets, dusted it off, and filled it with some homemade jute decor balls and these AWESOME split pea decor balls that we made using a recent tutorial from Allison over at House of Hepworth's.

I am LOVING the pop of green from the split peas. Perfect!

Twine-tied books make a simple statement (an idea I stole out of Pottery Barn)  and leftover fabric from my pillows made the perfect covering for a gift box I had leftover from Christmas and worked to tie-in to the new colors.

This re-do taught me a lot of lessons about making a space feel fresh and new without buying all new items to fill it. It also re-affirmed what I've been hearing from all the crafty-decor greats out in blogland. Buy things you love as you see them, because you love them. They will find a home eventually. Do NOT buy things just because you need to fill a space. Patience really does pay off in the long run.

Want to know how much I spent on this? $5.88. For serious. Cheapest. Re-do. Ever. The only things I had to buy were the teapot and the split peas. Everything else had been previously purchased and placed away in a cabinet or in another room of the house just waiting for its perfect spot.

Above all I'm learning how to "live with it". These shelves are a constant work in progress. They may never be finished or "complete" (a thought that gives the type-A crazy in me hives to think about). I would still like to try covering the backs of the shelves with fabric or paper to make them feel even brighter. And I'm sure that a future trip to TJ Maxx or Home Goods will bear a treasure that is just right for this space as well. But I'm learning to love the evolution of it all-- how simple changes can make a room feel fresh over an over again. And the more I think about it, them more I know, yeah, I can live with that. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

It all started with the pillows...

Over the past month or so (emphasis on the OR SO) I've been slowly working my way through a little makeover in our den. You see, its the heart of this house--its where we spend most of our time--and lately, it had been feeling a little too...dark? There are only windows on one end of this room, and even in the full sun of the daytime I felt the need to turn on lamps and I always found myself gravitating over towards the natural light in the room. And the black-white-and red motif I had going on wasn't helping matters. And honestly, that red tuscan style is more the me of 2006 than the me of 2011. These days I find myself craving the crispness of white, the coolness of blue, and I prefer to find my warmths in a warm chocolate brown than a dark shade of red.

So I set out dreeaming up ways to lighten this room up a bit without lightening up my wallet too much. You know how we roll. :) Since the sewing machine Santa gifted me back in December was still just collecting dust down on my craft table, I decided it was time to finally FINALLY get my sewing feet wet with some simple pillow covers. I spent a rainy afternoon at Hancock fabrics browsing for inspiration when I came across a gorgeous blue print in the upholstery section. It also just so happened to be right next to an even more gorgeous 50% of sign. :)

I carried my yard of inspriation around and chose two coordinating fabrics (also on sale!) and my new throw pillows--and the inspiration for my den's transformation was born:

A fun floral print paired with a coordinating stripe makes the room look fresh without being overly girly, since my husband has to live in this room too.

I fell in love with this creamy quilted fabric and so it became the big pillow for our big chair!

Looking lighter and brigther already! You can tell this was early on in the makeover as there are still touches of red peeking out!

Its been said a million times, but it is SO true: throw pillows, particularly ones you sew yourself, are a great way to get a lot of decor bang for your buck. If you want to make a change without spending a lot of, well, change, this is the way to go! In total, the fabric for the pillows cost around $20 and the pillow forms I already had, but were bought on sale at Ikea for around $3/piece. So in total, for 4 new throw pillows, I only spent around $35. You just can't beat that price!

So this was phase one! And it just snowballed from here...check back in tomorrow for more!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Change of Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day, internet!  I hope your day is filled with copious amounts of chocolate and plenty of X’s and O’s. On this day of love, I feel that its time I make a confession.

I’ve had, as they say, a change of heart.
Hi, my name is Heather and I am having a full-blown love affair with Valentines decorations. As a former red-and-pink décor cynic, I have found myself completely and utterly smitten with crafting heart-and-love themed décor in honor of the fourteenth of February. And I’ll be completely heartbroken when I have to take it down this week. Or next. (Shhh, don’t tell) 

From my Be Mine platter, to my Love Letters—I’ve find myself gazing lovingly at my Valentine’s vignettes as I walk through the rooms in my house each day.

Candy hearts as vase filler are so sweet.

And tissue paper rosette kissing balls? My heart may burst. (Tutorial coming soon, these babies are sticking around for spring!)

Until next year, my pretties. And fear not—my love for you will only grow in your absence. Making next year just as lovely as the one before it.

Your Copy Cat Crafting Cupid

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Magic of Mama's Kitchen

Is it just me, or does the food your mom made as a kid seem magical? Anytime I eat something my mom makes I’m instantly transported to a time when I sat around her kitchen table and my feet didn’t quite touch the floor. When boo-boos were kissed and tears were wiped away around a table where love, not just food, was served.
My mom is an amazing cook. There are MANY nights when I say a silent prayer that God will throw me half the culinary talent she has (and those are the nights her phone rings to me on the other line asking if the casserole should really look like that? Bless her.) And she still knows how to serve love on a plate. One of my most cherished recipes from my childhood may sound a little odd to some, but it is utterly delicious. It was the first thing I learned to master when I moved away to college and to this day when I take my very first bite I am instantly reminded of snow days at home sitting in front of a steaming bowl and feeling inexorably happy. Yes, I’m talking about macaroni and tomatoes.
If you’re reading this and thinking I’m crazy, bear with me. I promise that this dish, while a seemingly strange combination to some, is both delicious and easy to make. Its comfort food the way God intended it.
To make this, you’ll need the following:

Start by boiling your macaroni until its tender. I add a dash of salt to my boiling water for flavor. I use a 16 oz box (or in this case, half of a 32 oz box).

Once its cooked, make sure to drain your macaroni well and give it just a minute to cool. You’ll want it to be warm when you eat it, but it can’t be too hot or the milk will curdle.

Pour your macaroni back into the pot and stir in your butter. I use about 2 tbsp, but you just want enough to coat all the macaroni once it melts.

Then you add in your tomatoes. I used two 14.5 oz cans of petite diced tomatoes.

Mix it well. I was trying to use up what was left of my box of macaroni, so you will should have a slightly greater tomato to macaroni ratio that I have here:

Then you pour in your milk. Just pour until you get a light red “sauce”and give it one last final mixing. Salt to taste.

It’s a delicious stand-alone dish or with some cheese toast or crackers on the side. And of course, sweet tea is the perfect compliment.

It also makes great leftovers the next day. I love nothing more than making a batch to take for lunch at work the next day! It’s a tradition I’m hoping to pass along to my own kids. So far it seems to be working:

While it’s not the most impressive thing my mom cooks (by far!) it’s still one of my favorites.
Thanks, Mom!