DIY Upholstered Headboard


To add a personal touch to our bedroom, we decided to make our own upholstered headboard.

Want to learn how we did it in one afternoon?  Read on to find out.

1.  Know your dimensions.  We got a new king-sized bed, so that determined the width we needed.  We also planned to hang it on the wall (rather than try to attach it to the bed) so we then figured out how high we needed it.

2.  Get your board.  Get a piece of 1/2-inch plywood cut to size at a big-box hardware store (they usually cut it for free).

3.  Choose your fabric.  You’ll want something rather weighty that will stand the test of time.  We chose this one from a book of fabrics in a design store.  It was expensive, but overall much less expensive than buying a finished headboard, so we decided to splurge.

Creating the basis for a beautiful palette with so many colors to choose from

Oh, and choose a pattern you won’t get sick of!  Timeless is preferable to trendy – unless you plan on starting this whole process over really soon 😉

4.  Add depth.  We added a 1/2-inch trim on the back to make the whole thing appear thicker.  (We didn’t want super thick board because it would have been too heavy to hang).



5.  Glue your foam padding.  We got 3/4-inch foam from an upholstery store (they sell it in giant rolls).  We gave the guy our dimensions and they cut it to size, and even offered to do a (free!) diagonal cut along the edges to give us a smoother finish.  Cool.  Secure it in place with spray glue.  (Use spray glue outside if you can – it stinks!)

Foam padding with a diagonal cut

6.  Tack on your batting.  The batting is the white cushy fabric that makes it all work, smooth and uniform.  Without it, the edges would be too sharp, and could wear down and fray your pretty finish.  Also sold in rolls, just get the amount you need to extend maybe 6 inches larger than your board.

Start in the middle and pull it taught but not too tight, tacking with a staple gun every few inches.  Work your way toward the corners, and finally, tack down the corners.

We have an air gun but a manual staple gun will do a great job too.

See what works for you.  We tried hospital corners, and diagonal corners.

We ended up with excess fabric to snip away.

It ain’t pretty, but it works!

7.  Tack on your fabric finish.  Repeat Step 6, but with your nice fabric.

work in progress…  fabric is tacked and we’ve got two out of three buttons done.

8.  Make it your own.  We added 3 handmade buttons for a tufted look, and nailhead trim.  We made the buttons with a $3 button-maker from Fabricville (so cool!)


Making buttons out of pieces of scrap fabric

Coolest gadget ever!
The button is threaded through a loop and pulled into the board, then you tie the string in the back.

don’t tell anyone but this was super easy for such a professional finish 😉

We ordered the nailhead tacks from the same place we got the foam and the batting.  Adding the nailhead was really fun and super satisfying.  Now I’m always looking for more stuff to trim with nailhead.

They’re not super straight, but that’s part of the charm.  It’s not made by machine 🙂

9.  Hang it and you’re done!  Make sure you get heavy-duty hardware designed for the heaviest of artwork, and look for the studs in your walls for added security.

 
For the full story on this bedroom makeover, please check out Part 1 and Part 2.  Enjoy!  xo

Dreamy Bedroom Makeover – Part 2


Welcome back!  So here the Master Bedroom story continues.  You can catch Part 1 right here.

How did we get from the Before to the After?  Read on to find out!

In this post, we’ll share our homemade DIY headboard, new furniture additions and updates to older pieces, our sneaky crown moulding secret, the chosen color scheme and how we tied it all together.

The Bed
 
First things first, we needed a new bed.  Well, need is a strong word.  More like longed for.  It turns out, while we’d just assumed we could never fit a King size bed in our smallish room, once we actually measured the space, the bigger bed was only going to take an extra 3 inches on each side.

For nights when our two dogs climb into bed while we sleep and then proceed to takeover the entire space, and now that baby makes three, I was definitely willing to sacrifice those three inches of walking space!  It’s not like I wake up and do jumping jacks by the bed each morning – what do I need the space for?

Story of my life
So here she is in all her glory…  Cue the angel voices.  Our brand new King-sized 100% natural latex foam mattress from Stearns & Foster.  It’s the ZenBody Pure Collection – check this out:
It’s anti-microbial and resists dust mites, allergens and microbes. Free of CFC’s and other ozone-depleting chemicals, its proprietary design allows for more breathability for a cooler, more comfortable rest.

We slept so deeply the first night, we actually woke up disoriented.

Bedding and reversible blanket found @ Target.  We heart Tar-jay.

This sweet, sweet shrine of sleep sits on a standard-issue metal frame.  So next, we needed to address the headboard.

The Headboard 

We’d been watching inordinate amounts of design shows, so we decided to build our own.  Anything we hadn’t pieced together from the TV shows, we supplemented at the mighty home-based University known as Youtube.

We found a wonderful decorator’s store not far from our house, and they stock gorgeous fabrics.  This is when I learned the hard way how expensive fabric is and it really burst my bubble.  Luckily, I bounce back quickly.

We went through many sample books and settled in this one, because it’s elegant and brings together lots of pretty colors to work with.

We like its timelessness
It also pairs nicely with bold two-toned graphic prints like this one
We didn’t work from a pattern, we just calculated how wide we’d need it to be for the new King mattress, and how high up the wall we wanted it to go.   
We also wanted to try some new crafty things, so we made three matching buttons for a tufted look and finished it with nailhead trim.

Almost finished…  We love it!
For the full story on the headboard, check out this How-To post.
The Bedside Tables
Who could have guessed that the hardest part of this room redo would have been finding the right bedside tables.  
We were hoping for something round, preferably with some drawer space, a matching set, and the right proportions for the tight space.  We could have settled on a mismatch, as long as both the sizes/styles worked together.  We planned to repaint anyway, so the color didn’t matter.  
Add to that our budget cap at $100 each (I mean come on, $300 for a nightstand?  They’re just so little!) and for a while we held out for eco-friendly choices like reclaimed wood…  but we didn’t have much luck on that front.
The search continued for weeks!


Finally, it was at Bed, Bath and Beyond that we stumbled upon this pair of roundies, at a 100 smackeroos for both!  What a score!

Sprayed to match the color scheme and enjoying a new drawer pull…

The Dressers

Our his-and-hers dressers were recent purchases, so we were happy with them.   We thought about repainting them, but settled on leaving them their rich mocha color.

We did decide to customize them with new Asian-style drawer pulls, which helps them be a little more unique and ties the space together.

These are available through Richelieu Hardware.
New drawer pulls.  Vintage chair used to belong to my parents.

Picture rail is a nice perch for sweet photos

His items corralled in a vintage silver tray from Value Village.

Her items corralled in a repainted mirror tray, also from Value Village.

The Rug, Curtains and Lamps

We searched for a long time for something that could feel luxurious underfoot, with some kind of pattern, but also that would not compete with everything else going on.  And damn, rugs are expensive!

We finally found this velvety little beauty at Winners/HomeSense for around two hunny.  Not bad, not bad. 

Our room is above the garage, so this really helps warm the floors in winter

Coincidentally, the rug gives a shout-out to the pattern on the walls, found in the wallpaper.  Cool.

The curtains are from Tar-jay.  They’re lovely to look at but quite stiff.  I prefer flowy to buckle-y, but the colors all work together, so we’re pretty happy.

The rod, with its lovely mother-of-pearl detailing, is from Lowe’s.

Curtains and rod work within the overall scheme but aren’t too matchy.

Lamps are Debbie Travis @ Canadian Tire.

A note on the lamps:  although we love them, they came with drama.  We bought a pair.  At home, we opened the box to discover that the ceramic base was cracked (even all sealed up in its styrofoam shipper).  But a few weeks had passed, so we had a really hard time exchanging it. 

When we brought the next one home, there was a part missing!  Back to the store we went.

I’ll spare you the rest because ultimately we decided to keep them, but I wonder if after all that we’re the lucky ones with the only two complete, unbroken lamps in this model!

 Faux Crown Moulding & Architectural Detail

Shhh!  Don’t tell.  This faux crown moulding is actually base moulding.

We’re going to post a full tutorial very soon on how we installed faux crown moulding using much-more-user-friendly base moulding (the kind that’s flat in the back).

A shot of our new “architectural detail”

Want to know how we created this look on the walls?  Read all about it right here.

The Final Result

Lush, warm, inviting and supremely comfortable.  What more can a girl ask for?

The final result.


We love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment and let us know what you think!  xo




How To Make the Kitchen (Seem) Larger


We are trying to expand our 10×10 kitchen not by building outward, but by combining our kitchen and dining areas into one large space.  
In the original floorplan of the house they were two separate rooms, divided by a wall and door.   It remained that way for 50+ years, until we came along.
Here’s what we needed to do:
  1. Demo the wall between the kitchen & dining room, having it evaluated first to learn whether it was a supporting load-bearing wall or not.  Turns out no.  Yay!
  2. Have the electrical switch & wiring for the dining room light moved elsewhere.
  3. Address the flooring, having created a big gap in the floor by removing the wall.
  4. Come up with ways to tie the spaces together (matching cupboards?  Paint colors?  etc.)
  5. Add more lighting
  6. Change the dining room window into a patio door leading to a deck of some kind.
First, the wall came down between the two rooms.
This wall used to separate the kitchen & dining areas.
We tore it down as soon as we moved in.  But hints of it remained exposed for years…  What an eyesore.
Baby makes a big show of leaping over this hole.
But then there was still a smaller remaining piece of the wall, and it blocked our view to the outside world which a) sucks and b) is unsafe with little kiddies playing in the yard.
The Little Troublesome Wall.
So we decided it needed to go too.
Daddy and Baby check out where the wall will be cut out

Yay!  We can finally see outside!!

Open space?  Check.  Now, to make use of that space, we decided to make a shelf to sit on top of the opening.

We can use it not only as a small bar-height sitting area, but also as a platform for dishes coming and going to the backyard patio.

We opted to make the shelf out of MDF because it’s a smooth and strong material to work with, and quite easy to handle.

Here’s how we did it:

Measure it

Mark it

Cut ‘er up

We had to go in manually to finish because the MDF cut-out broke off

Checking the fit!

Looking good!

This was the surface of the hole; a 2×4 was added to fill so we could drill in a shelf

we opted to drill, but not glue

Countersinking the holes, so the screws sit below the surface. Holes are filled for a smooth finish.

Adding moulding to round off the edges

And some brackets we had lying around for extra stability

First coat of paint, done while the hole-filler was still drying!

So…  Remember the wall dividing the kitchen and dining room?  Gone. 
 
Before

After…  Ahhh, open space!

Remember the Little Troublesome Wall?

Gone!  And now there’s a nicer and brighter new range hood.
And there you have it!

We are so happy with our decision to open up the space.  Making two rooms into one was an easy decision, but cutting out the small wall was a last-minute add-on.  Sometimes it’s the small things that can have the greatest impact.

Now we can see outside, the space lets in much more light, and there is no more visual barrier between the rooms.  Plus, we have a handy shelf and sitting area.

There are many more changes coming to the kitchen/dining area, so stay tuned!

We love to hear what you think, so please feel free to comment.  xo

House Tour – Before


Hey all,

A bunch of you have asked what our house looked like before we started working on it.  So here is the tour of our home before any projects began, on Day 1.  These photos were taken the day we got the keys to the front door.

The trick here is to see her good bones, because she’s not much of a looker…  yet.

In the coming weeks, we’ll show you the room-by-room improvements we’ve done to bring this 1950’s split-level house to the 21st century.

Our first house!!  Yay!

Our goals when redoing any room are:

1.  Keep costs down.  Money is tight, so sometimes we make do with an improvement that will make things better for a few years until we get to do it the way we’d really like it to be.

2.  Be as eco-friendly as possible.  Whether it’s a choice of materials (like low-to-no-VOC paint) or processes (like having our floors refinished with water-based products instead of harsh toxic chemicals) or product selection (like Energy Star machines instead of the alternative) we try to make the world a healthier place one decision at a time.

3.  Start with a vision and carry it through to the end.  This can mean lots of magazine research, and lots of discussions about what hubby and I both want before we begin a new room.  If we’re not sure yet, we don’t touch it!

Moving Day

Sheer ice outside – no fun for the movers!

Front Hall


Main Floor – Living Room


What lurks beneath this old carpeting?
View toward kitchen and entryway


Dining Room

View towards the kitchen

Kitchen

Guest Bathroom

Guest Bathroom

Upstairs – Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

 Baby’s Room

Baby’s Room, view 1

Baby’s Room, view 2 – no closet door, it was replaced by blinds.  Why?  Dunno.

 3rd Bedroom

Not the day we moved in, but one of the only pix I have of this small 3rd room

 To see the whole story on this room, check out Project Dream Closet:  How to Turn a Junk room into Paradise Without Spending a Bundle!

Master Bathroom

Street Level – Long Narrow Room (aka the office)

View to front

View to the back

Basement, Unfinished

That’s not mold on the walls, thank goodness, and we have the certificate to prove it…  Phew!

Future guestroom?  That will be our more elaborate redo yet!

Perhaps a Home Theater one day?

Outside

This pic is more recent, but the outside is still pretty much the same

Snowy Backyard


 Garage

View to font
View to the back

Well, there she is.  We love her, and are slowly and steadily leaving our mark on this old house.

As I mentioned, in the coming weeks we’ll be posting photos of the updates and improvements we’ve done room by room, so be sure to come back and check it out.  

To see some pictures of inspiration of the look and feel we’re trying to achieve, check out Our Dream Home…  isn’t really a home.


What do you think?  Have we bitten off more than we can chew?

Dreamy Bedroom Makeover – Part 1


We are working our way through our home pretty much redoing every room.

Although many more people see the main part of the house, we decided to start with our bedroom because it was smaller and more manageable and because, let’s face it, it needed the most help:

The Master Bedroom was just a sitting room when we visited.
And not a very nice one, might I add.

  • It was orange.  It wasn’t the color in itself that was the problem, it was that the walls were all dirty and hastily patched over.  That, and we were seeking a slightly more restful color scheme in the boudoir.
  • The floors were a mess.  Once-beautiful-50-years-ago, the floors were now worn down thin oak planks with mysterious and creepy stains all over.
  • Room itself was just a rectangular shoebox.  Absolutely snoresville.  No architectural detail, nothing to look at.
We made do with this arrangement for about 48 hours.
Hubby felt these mirrored cupboard doors made our room feel like a dorm room, so out they went.

Wall Color

First:  we painted the room a nice, calm, Dove Grey.

Cut to: Two Years Later.  With the exception of the floors, the three images below show what the space looked like for the next two years. 

Nice.  Simple.  No fuss.  We made do with stuff from our other apartments.
We worked All.  The.  Time.  So it didn’t bother us much.

 We put up some photos and tried to make the space ours.  But still…  Not all that exciting.

Matching his-and-hers dressers bring a touch of grown-up glamour.

Floors

During that time, we cleared out all the rooms upstairs to have the floors refinished.  We had a team come in to sand, stain and varnish the floors.  That’s a project this humble DIYer wasn’t ready to undertake!  We’re proud to have kept the whole process as eco-friendly as possible by choosing water-based stain as well as varnish.

Instead of going the route of popular super-dark mocha brown, which we’d had in our previous condo and was a nightmare to maintain because of our shedding dogs, we decided to go with a charcoal grey.  And we’re so happy with our decision!!  The woodgrain really popped and we love the feel these floors bring.

puuurdy grey floors!

Add some personality to the walls

We struggled to figure out what to do with the walls to inject a little visual interest.  Wallpaper?  A new color?  Maybe some moulding?

As it turns out, we kind of did all three.  How?

We set out to create wall panels (basically rectangles made out of moulding) with some textured wallpaper inside of them.  We’d add a chair rail at some point halfway up the wall, and paint everything underneath it white.

Not knowing what the heck to do first, we set off on our adventure.

We stumbled upon some pre-made moulded rectangles at Home Depot, so those were the dimensions we worked with. We could have crafted them ourselves, but that seemed like a lot of extra work when the finished product was already right in our hands.

Tip: To save money and cheat the system, we put them lengthwise to trick the eye into thinking there were more panels.

  • Measure your space very carefully to figure out how many rectangles you can fit.  Tip: Symmetry is the main goal here.  Make sure opposing walls have the same number of panels on each.  For example, our room is a perfect rectangle so it was 5 on each long wall, and 4 on each short wall.  All with perfectly even spacing for the wall they’re on.

  • Figure out how high up you want your chair-rail to go.  (Chair-rail is that line of moulding that cuts across the middle of a wall, often used in dining rooms to protect walls from chairs backing into them, hence the name).  We decided to put ours at 3 feet, and taped up the room accordingly.  Tip:  We also added some base mouldings to equalize the height of the radiator all around the room, and it looks elegant too.

  • Mark the walls where the rectangles will go.  I can’t say this enough:  make sure you measure well!  Tip:  Use a measuring tape and a laser line level for your markings…  Do not use the walls themselves, especially in older homes, as they may not be straight and your angles may not be a perfect 90 degrees.  We learned this the hard way.
Your friend, the Laser Line Level device (it has little tacky bits on the back that stick to the wall)

  • Cut rectangles out of textured wallpaper (aka paintable wallpaper) and apply them to the walls, following the product instructions.  Let dry.

We measured not once, not twice, but thrice!  It took forever!  If you can make it to the end of the measuring process with your spouse and still agree on the plan, you’ve got yourself a solid marriage.

Here’s a close-up on paintable wallpaper.  Big box stores usually have lots of models to choose from.

Pretty!  Reminds me of those vintage ceiling tiles in a Parisian restaurant.
  • Install mouldings around the wallpaper, base moulding and chair rail with either glue (can get messy, not recommended), hammer and nails, or the fastest method: a nail gun!  Nail guns are fun 🙂 

Note:  People who write sentences like that and put smiley faces at the end probably shouldn’t be trusted with nail guns.

You’ll need to get creative around obstacles like door frames, wall outlets, wall panels, windows, etc.
  • Tip:  For a professional seamless finish, fill up all the nail-gun holes with a white putty pencil and seal everything up with paintable caulking.
  • Then, to complete the look and highlight all the new architecture, paint it all white with a high-traffic trim and moulding low-VOC paint, which is a great choice when you have kids and dogs!

Ta-Da!

Pheew!  That was a lot of work.  Now the stage is set to fill this room up with pretty and, most importantly for us, comfortable things.

Check out Part 2 to learn about our homemade DIY headboard, new furniture additions and updates to older pieces, our sneaky crown moulding secret, the chosen color scheme and how we tied it all together.

See you there!

Inexpensive DIY Walk-in Closet




So we have this little extra room in our house, just outside our bedroom.  When we first moved in, it just collected junk.

We’d clear it out, and it would mysteriously fill up again.  I blame the Night Gnomes.

I swear I just cleaned the floor.

Random homeless items collect here.

The flower wreath is a nice touch to the room void of purpose, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, we struggled with putting our clothes away in our too-small 1950’s master closet.  Back then, I can only assume, women owned 3.5 dresses, 1 sweater and 1 skirt, and men owned 4 shirts and 2 pants.  That’s the roundup of what fits in our bedroom closet.

One day, we started eyeing that extra room and daydreaming about turning it into a walk-in closet.  Even if it may not last forever, at that time we had no kids and the room really didn’t serve any purpose.  It wasn’t long before Project Dream Closet was launched.

Here’s how we did it… on the cheap!

First, we measured all the wall space and got creative envisioning where we’d put shelves, rods, drawers and shoes.  We assigned his & hers sides of the room to simplify things.

Then, we bought adjustable wire rack shelving at Home Depot, and had the shelves cut to size.  There’s no charge for that service, which is great because you can have custom-fitting things for your space at no additional cost.

Visions of well-ironed pastel clothes danced in our heads

Next, we headed over to Ikea to buy some inexpensive clothing racks to use as hanging rods.

This one is close to what we have, called the Mulig.  And 12 bucks!  Woohoo!

Next, we pulled in some elements from elsewhere in the house, to warm up the space.  A velvety soft rug underfoot makes for better dressing on a cold winter’s morning!  Also, a little cushioned bench to perch on to pull on socks or act as a folding surface is always handy.

The final touch?  A nice chandelier lamp, for a touch of glamour.  I believe we spent about $60 on this one at a big box store, and chose this timeless style because we can repurpose it pretty much anywhere in the house at a later time.

So here she is…

Project Dream Closet was completed in one weekend!  There’s even enough room for off-season storage up top, which was a happy surprise.

What do you think?

With a little spackle and some new paint, all this can be taken down and this room can be repurposed back into a bedroom if and when needed.  But for now, this is a fantastic solution for having the space to get ready for work in the morning.
What do you think?  Does this inspire you to rethink any space in your home to a better use?

DIY Kitchen Hutch/Buffet Redo


Hi all,

I wanted to share another redo project with you, this one is an old buffet/hutch for our kitchen. 
We were on the hunt for a piece like this for a while, since lots of them are turning up everywhere.  I guess people are getting rid of them because they can be boxy and imposing in a dining room, where they are usually found, but we had a blank wall in the kitchen we wanted to fill with cupboards or storage of some kind on the cheap. (Even though they’re out of fashion – whatever that means! – people are still trying to sell them for several hundred dollars.)

The key is finding one that works for your budget (or non-budget, as was the case for us) and has the right proportions for your space, not to mention is as simple or as ornate as you like.  Note:  Some of the buffets out there are pretty heinous.  It may take some time to find a good one.

This was the wall in our kitchen before we cleared it.  Everything you see here was in-the-meantime.  (Funny how that state can last for years!)  The three square cupboards stood in for a messy pantry, and the butcher block-topped island (although we love the piece!) was just a catch-all for junk.

We actually got our hands on this really nice buffet/hutch from friends by trading it for a couch we no longer needed.  They had inherited the buffet but had no need for it, and it was sitting in their shed.

Trading is a great way of doing things, because everybody wins and ‘unwanted’ things stay out of landfills…  This also avoids stuff getting parked indefinitely in garden sheds, basements and garages.  Do you have anything you’d be willing to trade for something you need more?

Not bad, not bad at all!

We loved the size and shape, and knew that with some fresh paint and new handles, this could work well in our small kitchen.  However, it did need some TLC.  Because it was built old-school, the middle bottom door was bolted into place, as were the two upper glass doors on the sides.  Not so handy.  We figured we could easily update it and make all the doors open independently.

that’s not dust…

First things first, the clean-up.  There was just a smidge of mildew on the lower doors (a side-effect of being kept in a humid shed).  It looked like dust, but didn’t wipe away.  To eliminate it, a scrub of warm water with baking soda and bleach did the trick.  (If you have allergies, best to have someone else do this.)

We cleaned the rest, removed the back panel and handles (carefully filling the holes) and were ready to begin painting.

This time, we used our spray gun attached to an air compressor, which is a thousand times more fun (and satisfying) than painting by hand.  We chose a glossy white for the outside and a gorgeous turquoise called Jamaican Sea (yes please!) for a pop of color in the background.

Behr ‘Jamaican Sea’

Here is the final result:

For the bottom doors, we swapped the medieval-looking handles for some white knobs with a cute crackle-y effect.

I love how the lines really come out beautifully in white

Turquoise makes the white dishes really pop!

I have to say, we were happy with the overall effect.  It’s light and airy, and offers lots of storage right where we need it.  Also, having dishes and glassware behind glass doors is really awesome when you have people over because they can find things really easily!

A few challenges…

The rejigging of the doors proved to be much more of a challenge for us than we anticipated.  We had to get extra crafty… and the project fell into that gray area somewhere between fun and when-did-this-get-so-frustrating?

On the bottom part, because the three panels were so close together, it was too tight to add hinges anywhere to make the middle door swing open.  Trust us: we tried every which way.  Maybe we could just leave the door bolted into place and reach in behind it?  Or perhaps craft a door-within-a-door?  Or have it swing out from the top or bottom?  Folks, this stumped us for days on end.

Finally, a flash: why not join two doors together to make one large, folding double-door, like a bifold door?  And so that’s what we did.  (We also added a simple cabinet-door magnet from Home Depot to help secure it in place, because it’s quite heavy.)

On the upper part of the hutch, the challenge was not only the lack of space between the doors, but also locating just the right hinges to join the doors to the frame.  It was hard because they’re old, so matching the style as well as finding the right mechanism was especially difficult.  (The glass panels were never intended to function as doors, so they were inset into the frame).

We searched for weeks, tried (and failed with) many different models, and finally succeeded when we went to Lee Valley.  They carry all kinds of specialty items, and had in-stock what we needed to match older methods of furniture-making: hinges made for inset doors/panels.  In the end, we learned that really specific parts may be tough to find, but with a little patience you can find just about anything on the internet.

All that to say, if you’re feeling cocky about how easy it will be to make structural changes to the architecture of a piece, either take a minute to bring ‘er down a notch, or make sure you leave yourself a whole lot of extra time… because you’re probably going to run into a bunch of problems!

The only thing left is to add two more handles to the doors on top.  But otherwise, we’re happy with our handiwork!

What do you think?

Backyard Makeover, Part 1


When we moved into our home three years ago, we were blessed to find a giant corner lot with pretty garden beds and lots of open space in the backyard.  It sits at the curved end of a crescent, so we have a big pie-shaped yard.  Coming from apartment living, our dogs were ecstatic!  And we were too.  We finally had our own little slice of heaven to call home.  
Naive as we were, we didn’t think much of those garden beds in terms of upkeep, since everything living in them was “low-maintenance”.  We figured we had time to get to them eventually.  But in our neighborhood, something evil and mysterious took hold that first summer: and they called it Rye Grass.
Before long, all our beds were overtaken with a hideous, destructive and rampant grass hearty enough to survive a nuclear holocaust.  Soon it was coming up through the patio stones, and was choking out the existing healthy plants.  No matter how much of it we pulled out by the roots (back-breaking work, I can assure you) it seemed as if we’d won the battle… but in the end, we lost the war.  Within two or three days it was back with a vengeance.
Finally in the summer of 2011 we had to call in the experts.  We had the beds excavated completely, and had new soil put in.  We decided that sodding over most of the beds was the best answer for us right now, and it certainly makes for a more peaceful and zen yard.
 
Right off the patio, the grassed-in area makes for easy mowing and puts a spotlight on a pretty miniature maple tree.  Plus, the absence of the bed-o’-weeds makes for easy breathing for those of us with seasonal allergies!
The side walkway, which formally joins the front of the house to the backyard, is now free from its rye grass invasion.  I planted six beautiful lime-colored hydrangeas and, in between each of them, I put in solar-powered garden lights, which cast a lovely glow in the evening.  I also put in black cedar mulch (also called cedar chips) which not only helps keep weeds at bay but also gives the appearance of rich, healthy black earth.
 
The addition of the pool was the pièce-de-résistance in this spacious backyard.  We had it installed the first summer after we moved in, and planted our own version of a rock garden around the pool’s edge.  Unfortunately, we lined the bed with the most inexpensive weed barrier cloth (also called geo-textile) we could find.  That was a mistake.  Three years later, weeds and grasses of every description crept their way through and destroyed all the work we had done.  Then we had to pay professionals a lot of money to have it all removed.  Next time, we won’t opt for the cheapest solution!  
 

On the far side of the house, our landscaping company recommended installing a Celtic border, which helps water drain away from the foundation.  It’s basically a bed made of river rocks, about 1.5 feet wide.  It’s nice and tidy: the perfect solution for a mostly-shady side of the house which tends to stay a little wet.

Now the backyard is welcoming and neat, not a eyesore and source of endless work.  There are quite a few phases left until its transformation is complete, which include the addition of a patio door into the house and a new patio, building a pergola/poolhouse, creating and decorating an outdoor living space, and landscaping with large potted plants (elevated plants are a bonus when you have dogs!).  But for now, we are definitely one step closer to our little slice of heaven.




Front Hall Dresser Redo


One of my favorite things is a good furniture redo.  There’s something so extremely satisfying about finding something tired, ugly, even broken, and seeing its good bones…  its new life just waiting to come out.
There’s an obscene delight in finding such a treasure cast off by the side of the road, obviously.  But a close second is a place I discovered by accident that I affectionately call The Junk Shop.  At the Junk Shop, all the roadside treasures come to you.  Everything is covered in an inch of dust, and everything is gloriously cheap.  The first redo I want to share with you comes from this heavenly place.  It’s a dresser that was buried under a whole bunch of crap, not to mention under another dresser.
Once I got a good look at it and checked it out (nothing broken, everything is accounted for, solidly built, even dovetail joints in the drawers! sweet!) I immediately got the sweats — made a beeline for the guy in charge of the place, knocking people out of the way, stealing glances over my shoulder.  Make it mine!!  In that instant, it became the thing I coveted most in the whole world.  You know this feeling.  I know you do.  (Note:  When you get the nervous sweats and the stink eye comes out, you know you’ve got yourself a good find.)
So here we go.  Here’s what it looked like after I hauled it home for a mere 30 bucks.
Visions of dove gray drawers and a custom white marble top danced in my head.
Pffff.  Yeah.  Marble costs money, apparently!
So, first I cleaned it.  Eww. 30 year-old congealed dust bunnies in the bottom.
 Then I removed all the gnarly old handles and filled the holes.
 Then came the sanding.
 So here it is below with the lovely dove gray color.  It took many coats of hand painting.  It really is… lovely.   But to be honest, it’s just so drab.  And I say this as a lover of gray, as a happy dweller of my comfort zone which consists of whites and grays and (gasp!) sometimes a splash of beige.
So ultimately I decided I needed to kick it up notch.  I always loved those Asian pieces in wowie bold colors like cherry red, aged yellow, bright turquoise and even orange.  Lots of them have black in them too.  Thing is, I’ve never been able to afford a real one, and the color commitment kinda frightened me.
But, once I found these neato-mosquito Asian-style drawer pulls I knew I had to pull the trigger on a wowie color.  
So voila, here it is in all its cherry lacquered glory.  The paint is Behr Interior/Exterior hi-gloss enamel, which I had color-matched to a sample I brought in.  It has a nice rich finish to it.
 
The handles are from Richelieu hardware.  I did the top in a glossy black, just to see what it would look like.  Well, if I’m telling the truth, I tested it out beforehand in a quick Illustrator sketch, cause after the botched dove gray jobbie I didn’t want to repaint this sucker again.  Here is the sketch with a matching red top, and a black top for comparison.  Black won.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of a custom-cut marble or granite piece in the future, that would be pretty cool.  But not very wallet-friendly.  I’m also an eco-friendly kind of gal, so I’m always on the lookout for green alternatives.  There is a product called ECO by Cosentino, which is a countertop material made from recycled Porcelain, Mirror, Glass, Corn Based Resin, Crystallized Ash, and Stone Scraps.  It’s goooorgeous!  I hearts it and wants it for a someday kitchen redo.  Check this out:
Anyway, that’s about it for the red dresser.   It enjoys its primo real estate in the front hall but who knows where it can end up (or what color!) in the future. 
We had a brunch party this weekend and had many leftover chocolate croissants.  I had some for breakfast…  and for dinner.  Since it’s past one AM, I should really get to bed and pretend the whole chocolate croissant thing never happened.  Stay tuned for many, many more projects and home updates, as well as a few random musings I’m sure.  Till next time, xo
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