Fall seemed to have come and gone in a flash this year… It’s mid November and we’ve already had our first snow! And yes, although I live in Canada we don’t typically get snow until at least December sometimes even January and it only lasts a few days usually. About a month ago I “fall-ified” our house a bit and thought I’d share what I did (even though I’ve already moved onto a Christmas mindset/planning already).
For seasonal decorating, I like to pay extra close attention to our entry area partly because that’s the first impression people have and partly because it’s an area in our house that I don’t have a set of “favourites” that I keep out year round. As you can see in our floor plans, our entry way is pretty small. But we’ve recently added a shoe storage piece from Ikea, the STÄLL shoe cabinet to be specific, which we LOVE. It holds about eight pairs of men’s shoes (but in our case, four pairs of men’s shoes and at least eight pairs of mine – gotta love how compact flats are!) and sits fairly flush against the wall – perfect for our tiny entry way. It also adds a nice little surface for some treasures!
For our anniversary last year, I gave the boyfriend some old letterpress printing blocks that spelled out the word Swoon (found on Etsy in Handmade by Alison’s shop) in dark rich colours. And because the colours are so rich and warm, I thought they’d be perfect for fall. The shape the blocks made also led me to add a vintage, rusty old key I picked up from an adorable shop in Paris called Au Petit Bonheur La Chance back in May.
On the same shoe cabinet I also have my little iron Scotty dog that I picked up at a little local shop (behind him sits our jar of love notes that we write to each other).
Next to our entryway is our dining area, which is my favourite to dress up for a season. We have a few pyracantha bushes outside our patio with the most beautifully vibrant orange berries. Um, hello free table arrangement? Heck yes. All I did was snip a few sprigs of the same bush and added some of the orange pyracantha berries to the water in the vase. Shazzam! Instant fall decor.
And if you haven’t already spotted it in the background of the previous photo, how could I resist adding a white ceramic pumpkin to the mix? Plus my beloved nest bowl (which is currently holding some ceramic nuts – more on that soon!)
And lastly, I always have some topical magazines sitting out in our living room area. Since we live in Canada, the magazines printed around our Thanksgiving usually aren’t very autumny looking (our Thanksgiving falls in October), so I like to save magazines from previous years to display. Last year’s Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living made it into the livingroom serving tray this year. It’s kind of a big honour… Heehee.
And there you have it! Our place has been fallified. Now to get started on bringing a little holiday cheer to our place!
So I mentioned the other day that I was feeling crafty and got inspired to decorate some Easter eggs. I rounded up a few Easter egg how-to’s on MarthaStewart.com and got cracking. (Heck yes cornfest.) Anyway, I hit up our local Real Canadian Superstore and got all the necessary ingredients for natural dying: white eggs, spinach, red cabbage, and coffee (for green, blue, and brown eggs). I went with the cheapest options for all ingredients since I wouldn’t actually be consuming them. Perhaps that was the problem…
The instructions tell you to chop up about 4 cups of the dye material (cabbage, spinach, etc.) and add 1 quart (approx a litre) of water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 30 minutes. The cabbage seemed to be doing its thing just fine turning a deep purple as time went by, but the spinach… Well it definitely strengthened my feelings about cheap “produce” – granted it was frozen spinach, but I was still expecting it to be green! It ended up being a foamy, murky, putrid greenish colour. Not really what I was going for. But I though “Maybe it’ll still work!” and kept trucking.
I strained the dye, popped my raw eggs in, brought them to a boil in the dye and then let them sit for 30 min according to the instructions. Not much colour there. Since the dark blue colour calls for an overnight soak, I figured I’d leave them be and went to bed.
For the “dark, rich brown” colour, Martha recommends using 1 quart of dark black coffee in place of water and using the cold-dipping method. So after letting them sit in the coffee for 30 min, they were lighter than regular old brown eggs… So they got the overnight treatment too.
After a solid 8 hours of rest, the eggs and I reunited:
I first took the blue eggs out of the cabbage solution. They have a bit of a film on them, which I scrubbed off of two of them (revealing a lighter blue) and left on the other three. I let them dry and the film seemed to set, giving me a rich, dark blue colour. Overall I’m pretty happy with the blue eggs.
The coffee eggs really didn’t look like much, still! So I left the coffee eggs soaking for more than 24 hours. And they’re still not even as dark as brown eggs, which I probably should have started with rather than trying to dye white eggs brown. Oh well. I ended up not using the “brown” ones.
Then I checked out the “green” eggs only to find that they weren’t necessarily dyed… but were covered in a thick fuzzy film of guk (technical term). Not the look I was going for. So I took them out, scrubbed them off, and attempted to save the “green” eggs by using good ol’ food colouring. I used 20 drops of food colouring (2 green + 18 yellow) and about 1 teaspoon of vinegar for every cup of hot water (use enough to cover the eggs in a bowl) and let them sit for about an hour while I got ready for work (stirring occasionally so I didn’t end up with uneven colour).
Here are all three sets of finished eggs:
The blue’s not bad. The brown isn’t what I was hoping for at all. The green aren’t exactly perfect, but I assume that has something to do with the nasty spinach treatment they received all night long. Oh well! I ditched the brown and arranged the rest in that perfect bowl I hinted at in my last post. I chose not to bother trying to hollow out any eggs to hang from the branches (the ones I already have are hard boiled so I couldn’t use those ones even if I wanted to), but I’m quite happy with how the bowl looks! Now my nest has its own colourful little nest on the dining room table.
Happy Easter, everyone!
Easter is fast approaching and although we don’t have any kiddies running around this nest, I think I might actually do some decorating this year. Maybe a grown-up version of Easter? So I started looking around for some fun ideas on the interwebs and thought I’d share.
Of course I turned to Martha Stewart, who has an endless list of Easter crafts available on her website – some great ones and some a little too cutesy for my taste. I think my fav of the bunch has to be the Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs because of their beautifully rich colours and their green factor. They even offer an egg glossary, showing the different colours that can be achieved with different natural dye ingredients. I think my colour choices will be light blue (soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 minutes), royal blue (soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution overnight), dark rich brown (boil eggs in black coffee, 30 minutes), and chartreuse (soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes) or green (using spinach as suggested here).
I’m thinking I might display them in a bowl as a centerpiece on the dining room table (I have the perfect one in mind too… more on that later) and even string them from big vase of branches that sits nearby (taking inspiration from this Martha Stewart Easter egg tree). You can catch a sneak peek of the table/branches scene pre-eggs in my previous post on the dining room chairs makeover.
Another craft that caught my eye but seems way too ambitious for me right now is the pussy-willow wreath/balls. I have always loved how soft and shimmery pussy willows are – they seem so glamorous! However my current schedule doesn’t have a lot of room in it for 5 hours of hot gluing.
I probably won’t get to any of these ideas this year, but I’m keeping them in my back pocket for next year! First up, glittered eggs! Who said glittered ornaments had to be for Halloween or Christmas only? I think these eggs lend themselves perfectly to the glitzy glam.
Not promising anything (it’s a bit of a crazy week ahead of me), but I’ll keep you posted on how far I get with these Easter crafts! Better hop to it! (Smirk.)
Sourcey Goodness: All photos from MarthaStewart.com
When the boyfriend and I moved in together, we were lucky enough to receive quite a few hand-me-down furniture pieces. Among this awesome collection of freebies was a teak dining table (yes, I said teak and freebie in the same sentence) and four chairs. The chairs are not teak, but that only meant I didn’t feel guilty about painting them! So here’s how it all went down.
First, a look at some lovely before/during shots. These chairs started out with a puke honey-coloured stain, not my cup of tea. (Sorry giver of said chairs, you know I love them now!) And what made them even more retrotastic was the orange surprise under those tie-on, floral seat covers. Holy vintage.
These chairs were pretty easy to makeover. First thing I did was take off the seat portion of each chair – a piece of plywood covered with foam and orange fabric that was attached to the chair frame with 4 screws underneath. One thing I must say when dealing with hand-me-down or thrift store finds like this is be careful with the screws! Older screws are definitely easier to strip and with the power of time on their side, they’ll be impossible to get out if stripped. So make sure you have the right sized screwdriver for the job and be careful.
So once I had the seats off, I glued any joints that had loosened over time. For this I used some basic wood glue that you can pick up at any hardware store. I rocked the joints as far apart as I could, basically far enough to squeeze some glue deep enough into the cracks, clamped it all together, and then wiped up any extra glue with a damp cloth (make sure you do this before it dries!). These chairs have mortise and tenon joints, so with a bit of glue and some pressure a la gigantic clamps, these babies are now perdy sturdy.
Next up, sanding! If you’re going to paint old furniture rather than stain, don’t bother sanding to the point where there isn’t a trace of the old stain left. Waste of time! Basically all you need to do is prep the surface so that the paint can stick to it. I used some medium grit sandpaper (what I had on hand, probably somewhere around a 60 grit) with an electric sander and went over all the chairs. I used a small mouse sander, a lot like this one but ours is by Jobmate, which is perfect for jobs like these where there are some tight corners that you need to squeeze into. Once I quickly went over the chairs with a medium grit paper, I then followed up with a finer grit (again whatever I had on hand, probably around a 120 to 180) just to make sure everything was nice and smooth. But again, don’t spend a whole day doing this. You just need to rough up the surface.
After a thin primer coat (I used a Krylon spray primer) on each chair and some drying time, I finally broke out the paint. I wanted these chairs to go with whatever other furniture we’d end up with plus I hadn’t actually picked out seat fabric yet (I usually recommend starting with fabric, then finding paint that goes with it – far more paint choices out there than fabric, especially if you’re tinting paint rather than buying off the shelf). So I decided to paint these bad boys satin black, again with Krylon spray paint. I chose a satin finish because I wanted it to contrast the glossy pieces in our place, plus it still gives the illusion of a matte finish but without all the potential scratches and scuffs that a dining room chair would definitely collect in a short amount of time.
I ended up doing three to four very thin coats of paint on each chair. The thinner the coat, the less likely your paint will run and drip. So patience is key here! And in between coats I worked on the seat cushions. First you have to rip off the old stuff. Tools = pliers for ripping out staples + gloves to decrease the chances of scrapes or blisters + a TONNE of elbow grease. Then I picked up some cotton batting (used for quilting, etc.) from Fabricland for a few dollars thanks to sale and then dropped by our local recycling depot in search for some foam. And check it: I scored a big piece of what looked like brand new 2.5″ thick super squishy foam for $2. I had enough to make four seat cushions AND kept the rest as a double-wide foamy for guests or camping. Woot!
Basically I traced the shape of the plywood seat onto the foam (add about half an inch extra on each side to accommodate squishage – technical term) and then did the same with the cotton batting and fabric (add about 4 inches to each side to accommodate for the foam and wrapping). Then you make a seat sandwich! First lay out your cotton batting square and place your foam piece in the centre. Next, line up your plywood piece on the foam (make sure you’re putting the squishy seat on the right side of the plywood, mine was curved so it could only go on one side). Next, wrap the extra cotton batting to the underside of the seat and secure in place using a staple gun. I always put one staple in the middle of each side (do one side then it’s opposite side before moving onto an adjacent side). Now you’ve got a naked seat! Next, take your fabric square (making sure any patterns on the fabric are lined up or placed correctly) and repeat what you did with your cotton batting. The bottom doesn’t have to look pretty or anything, because who’s going to see them?
Even the little notches where the tops of the front legs fit weren’t that hard. And again, not that attractive from the bottom, but look how neat and tidy it looks when in place. Screw the seats back on and voilà! C’est fini!
I think the black will go really well with the teak once I get around to refinishing it too. And gotta love that Stockholm Blad fabric from Ikea. I know it’s everywhere these days, but I still love it. Plus I used the leftover material to sew a throw pillow cover for our living room couch.
Alright, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for (hats off to you if you actually read through this entire wordy post – I’m just so jazzed about the chairs, it’s hard to shut up about them!)… Ta-da! The finished product:
So I’ve mentioned that we’re doing the condo thing right now, but I thought I’d give you a better idea of how everything is laid out. Not only is it neat to see how other people live (I’m kind of nosy like that), floor plans can be a super handy tool when organizing your own space. By laying out what goes where, you’ll get a better idea whether the couch would work on a different wall or not on a wall at all without all the heavy lifting. So enough chit chat, here’s the whole shebang!
So here’s the first floor where we spend most of our waking hours. We’re lucky enough to have found a new two-level condo with lots of windows and a loft layout. Our front door opens into an entryway where we’ve got a spot for shoes, a big mirror, and a “sit down to put your shoes on” chair that adds a punch of colour.
The loft style means lots of natural light and LOTS of room to breathe. However, it also means very little storage. The “coat closet” leaves you wanting more. That white box shown in the plan is actually a wire shelf that also functions as the hanging rod. Throw in all of our mixed recycling, shoes, coats, spray paint stash, scarves & mitts, workout gear, and a big bulky hot water tank and it’s pretty hard to find anything in there.
I think our round teak table is the perfect size and shape for our tiny dining nook. We have a leaf for the table, but it doesn’t come out very often. We actually use the three counter-height stools that tuck under our island more than we use the table. And our kitchen has a good layout for its size, something that our last place definitely could not boast about. I love having an island to stretch out all my baking or crafting projects across.
The living room has been a bit of a challenge because of the size of the furniture we have (yay hand-me-downs!) and the fact that we have to work around French doors that open onto the patio and an electric fireplace that juts out from the wall. Doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for anything else. But we’ve made an effort to define that space with a grey graphic rug that we scored on sale.
The boyfriend’s office is in the back corner of our place, so it’s close enough to be our sound system (his computer) but separate enough from the living space that it doesn’t feel like it intrudes on the entertaining areas of the house (dining/kitchen/living).
I don’t think I drew that linen closet to size, because it’s teeny. And I mean teeeeeny. We’re talking four towels can fit on one shelf and there aren’t many shelves. So right now it’s
well organized crammed to the brim in order to fit an extra set of bedding and some towels (oh, and perhaps a small collection of board games because we’re cool like that).
OK, back up and head up those stairs. It’s time for level two!
As you can see, a good portion of our upstairs is open to below (those grey walls are actually half walls) and we don’t actually have any “rooms” besides the two bathrooms. Everything is just open space with different functions, which can be challenging when it comes to containing messes, sounds, and light when you need to (in other words when I got up early this morning to make some delicious pumpkin bread, it made it rather hard for the boyfriend to sleep in – oops).
My office is located upstairs and doubles as a big closet. The one closet that’s meant for our clothes doesn’t even fit all of mine (and I’m really not that bad when it comes to clothes). So we have a dresser and cheap-o bamboo and linen armoire to house the rest of our clothes, linens, shoes, and tools (yes it’s odd storage combo, but we don’t have many choices). Add two bookshelves, a drying rack for our clothes, two laundry baskets, my desk, and a filing cabinet and you have one big mishmash of stuff. Hence the upstairs designation – out of sight when company comes calling.
One thing I definitely took for granted in past abodes was bathroom storage. And the fact that two vanity sinks with no counters/storage in either bathroom would be a problem didn’t really cross my mind until after we moved in. You see, I’m a bargain shopper and that means I’m often stocking up on things. I mean, how can I turn down a BOGO event on shampoo? Seriously. Anyway, more to come on bathroom storage solutions in a future post.
Lastly we have our “bedroom” (the part of the big open room that our bed is in). When we first moved in we honestly thought we were going to put our bed in the now office/dressing area. That quickly changed after realizing that our bedroom would then be a fairly high-traffic area (I work from home, so every time I walk to my “office” I’d be walking through our bedroom).
Well, there you have it! Now I’ll be able to link back to this post when pointing out where we’re putting new furniture or hanging art. Like back when I installed my beloved Umbra Magnetter (magnetic key hanger/mail holder that mounts on the wall) that I got for Christmas! Check out where it lives:
Psst… If you’re wondering how I made my floor plan, the short answer is that I’m crazy. I had the actual floor plan of our unit (a few changes happened during the building process though, so it wasn’t exact) and actually created a Photoshop file that uses the real textures of each room (carpet on the stairs, etc.). I wanted my floor plan to look a bit different from the average, so I went a bit overboard. But you can do the same thing in way less time using a free site like Floorplanner.
Yup, you heard me. I love me some Nood (that’s New Objects of Desire, so no need to shield your eyes from the photos below). And you know what I love even more than Nood? Nood on sale! I feel like streamers and balloons should be falling from my ceiling right now. I’m just that excited!
Nood is known for their mid-century?modern furniture reproductions and funky home accents/gadgets. And boy, do they know how to do a sale. We took a mini road trip down to Victoria, BC and stopped in to see if Nood was partaking in the Boxing Week madness – sure enough, just about EVERYTHING in the store was marked down. Sorry when I say marked down, I mean prices were brutally murdered and chopped to little bits with a gigantic axe. Too much? Hmm. Well, you get the point.
After two hours of looking through the store I walked away with an armload of goodies for the house and even some late Christmas presents for friends.
First I must share my strange love obsession with this white cotton blanket that regularly goes for $59.95, but I snagged for…(drum roll please)…EIGHT DOLLARS! Yup, that’s a whopping 87% off! And it’s been at the foot of our bed ever since. I see it being the perfect addition to a spare bedroom someday (like, when we actually have a spare room), but for now it’s all mine. It’s 100% cotton, quite thick, uber cozy, and is made with a simple weave (basket weave maybe?) that reminds me of a sunny beach cottage. Glorious. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out it fits quite nicely on our queen-size bed. Perfect timing too, since our cold, wet winter weather seems to have hit us at full strength this week.
One thing (among many) that Nood is really great for is kitchen gadgetry. Since we are currently living the condo life, I don’t have a lot of room for kitchen gadgets that I will only use once a year. We have one (yes one) small kitchen drawer for all of our cutlery, serving utensils, and gadgets. We’ve made use of a tiny counter cranny and thrown some of our bigger pieces in a stainless canister, but for the most part it has to fit in the drawer or it’s out the door. But there were two tools we actually “needed” several times a week and didn’t own yet: a handheld juicer and zester. And I scored these bad boys for a mere $2 a pop. They work like a charm and have very sturdy handles on them. So if you’re mid-use and need to set it down you can just stand them up on their handles – you don’t need to lay the sticky business end on your nice clean counter.
Next up in the haul are these gloriously soft Bamboo Washers (or facecloths for us non-fancy folk) in a dusty eggplant colour. These babies exceeded my expectations by a long shot. They’re so plush and wonderful and after a few washes they still look and feel brand new (way more than I can say for many other washcloths in that price range). I’m pretty sure they were $8 for the four pack on sale ($14.95 regular price), which works out to $2 a piece. Not bad for these purple clouds of joy!
I’ve been on the hunt for a glossy white cake stand that wasn’t too fussy looking for months and months now. Well you can imagine the big cheesy grin that spread across my face when I spotted this gem on one of the tables. Of course I rushed right home, took it out of its packaging, and tossed the receipt, forgetting to jot down the price. And it’s no longer available on the website so I can’t scope out its regular price either. Oops. But I’m pretty sure I paid around $15-$20 for it. So not the craziest of bargains, but still worth it in my books. Check out that criss-crossy detail in the glossy glaze. Reminds me of a chocolate drizzle on a cake. Mmm!
And because the pre-Christmas season can be a total spazfest (a festive one though), we actually exchange gifts and get together with some of our friends after Christmas. Which means I can hold off on gift buying a bit longer and score really great things that I know my friends will love for a bargain. Shift your eyes thataway to Exhibit A: The Virgo Metal Wall Organizer. It’s a big, white, glossy magnetic board with a few pegs for hanging keys and photo slots along the top. Regular price $59.95 and on sale for only $17.50! Seeing that the recipient of this sleek piece of organizational goodness is a list-making social butterfly, this seemed perfect. And I’m happy to report that it was a hit!
Another of my good friends teaches grade one and since we gave her boyfriend (a photographer) this snazzy Nikon lens travel mug (yes, it even zooms), it was only fitting that we give her a career-appropriate hot beverage vessel too! Thank noodness for this doodle mug, which comes complete with two pieces of white chalk. I took it out of the box and wrote a little personalized Christmas message. And that’s about when I realized that the mug is definitely a novelty, not ranking so high on the practicality scale. In turning the mug over to continue my little note, I accidentally rubbed off the first half… So a few rewrites later, I quickly shoved it back in the box to avoid any further smudging. Oh well, I think she appreciated the cuteness of it!
And there you have it! The full Nood haul. Overall I think I saved about $130 – not bad when I only spent about $60!
Sourcey Goodness: Virgo Metal Wall Organizer & Doodle Mug from NoodDesign.ca (Silly me, I forgot to snap some photos before wrapping them up and giving them away!)
That jolly old guy struck a home run this year and made this nester one very happy lady! Remember the sheer joy that unwrapping a new toy, putting it together, and playing with it all day long brought you back when you were just a wee thing? Well I was all squeals again this year.
The place we’re renting right now is the first place that has really felt like home – a space that feels more and more like ours every day. It’s a two-level, loft-style condo in a fairly new building (about two years old) right downtown. So the 20 vertical feet of windows and the openness of the whole unit is definitely something I dig (mmm airiness). Of course it comes with it challenges, but that’s a topic for another day. Right now, it’s all about goodies and gifts!
Our family has some newish additions to it (boyfriends, girlfriends, and the like) and so we’ve been doing our family dinners on Christmas Eve for a few years now. After all, spending time together is really what Christmas is about – no matter what day it is. Well, we do a small gift exchange after dinner between everyone and look what my brother’s darling girlfriend gave me. Sigh! Never have I seen a more attractive alarm clock.
Almost makes waking up less painful? No, but close!
The boyfriend is definitely catchin’ on to the fact that I love drooling over interior design mags and the like. So this Christmas I was very lucky to wake up to a deliciously crisp issue of Dwell in my stocking!
Highlight of the issue for me had to be the charming article about two photographers who converted an ancient schoolhouse into a modern masterpiece (with the help of their architects buds). Definitely fell in love with the “circles & lines” aluminum screen that acts as a divider between the staircase and kitchen area. What a beaut!
I also scored this delicate yet skookum glass decanter from Pier 1 Imports (ps If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m Canadian… But for the folks across the border, you can find it here!) That centre hole makes it appear so light, yet pick it up and it feels so solid in your hand. Plus the glass is quite thick so I think it might take a few drops before it sees a crack. Score one for balance and durability.
One of my big goals for 2011 is to get organized (original, I know). Well I guess someone noticed (or got sick of watching me search for my lost keys day after day) and gave me the Magnetter by Umbra! This snazzy key hanger slash letter holder has super clean lines and hidden magic… magnets!
Super simple to install, it comes ready with two screws and plastic drywall anchors. Just add
water, err, tools! So I hopped to it, measured out the distance between the two holes on the back of the Magnetter, made my necessary pencil marks on the wall next to our front door (making sure they were level of course), and drilled my holes for the drywall anchors (if you’re brand new to the world of home improvement and wondering how that’s done exactly, check out this WikiHow article). Time for the screws – cue action shot! DONE. Look at it in all its magnetty glory!
And last but most certainly not least, I am the lucky new owner of these peaceful and girly lotus tealight holders from Urban Barn. It’s a well-known fact that I’m drawn to anything ceramic and white, so these babies fit the bill perfectly! I love how they add a feminine charm to the room without being frilly and over the top (read: offensive).
Tealightful! (Yes, I’m all about the puns.) Woo Santa! Call me Miss Grateful.
Sourcey Goodness: Dwell Dec 2010/Jan 2011 cover image from Dwell.com