Category Archives: house and home

Fridays at Home: Dresser Makeover

5th December 2014

This is the tale of an ugly duckling. A very ugly duckling (and please excuse the awful quality of the photos):


A decade ago, I really disliked mid century modern furniture. Of course, much of what I had seen was in really bad condition, with really bad colors. But in recent years, I’ve fallen hard. But I’ve also been on a budget, and mcm furniture usually isn’t cheap. So when I found this beast at a local vintage place for $50, I snapped a photo, sent it to my vintage-shopping partner in crime for approval and felt like a criminal when I left with it. I was in the midst of painting and updating my guest bedroom/office and knew I wanted something with a bit of storage.

It was in bad shape. Baaaaad shape. The veneer was ripped off in lots of places, and I considered just painting it as is. But then I came across this post on repairing damaged or missing veneer, and I knew I was down to try this with some Bondo.


This Bondo is messy stuff, but it’s also pretty miraculous. (And no, they aren’t paying me to say that.) I Bondoed like crazy. This stuff dries pretty quickly and makes a huge mess…er, actually that was me making the mess…but it was worth it. After I sanded it down and started to paint, I knew I had made the right decision.


I boldly went where I never thought I would go – fuschia. And not just fuschia, but high gloss fuschia. I’m not a pink girl, but I had just repainted the front bedroom/office bright white and knew I needed to inject a good bit of color in that space. Well, look no further. I used Clark & Kensington’s Calypso Beat in high gloss.

I tried primer on one of the drawers, but it didn’t make much difference. The key to a high-gloss finish is patience. Of which I have little. But I did it! I painted three coats in all, waiting 24 hours between each one, and I absolutely love the finished product.



I also spray painted the pulls. They’re brass, but cleaning ten of them proved to be a ridiculous amount of effort, and they would eventually just tarnish again.

So this was my most recent house update, and I love it. I painted the room bright white, and now it’s a room I love going into (which is always a plus).

Fridays at Home: Tree Branch Coat Rack

3rd January 2014

So my brother and his fiance both came in for Christmas, and I wanted to give them a different sort of present. Even though they are both dapper dressers, there are only so many scarves a guy can wear. I remembered that a couple of years ago, my brother posted this image on his Pinterest page:


At the time, the rack was available on Etsy, but the price was well over $200, and I just couldn’t swing it. This year, when I went to have a look, the product was no longer available, and a quick search of Cantilever and Press didn’t leave me much hope for finding this product in my price range. There were a couple of mimics on Etsy, but unfortunately, they were just nowhere near the original. Now I’m not advocating ripping off someone’s ideas, and I certainly wouldn’t do this to profit from it, but I was dead set on making this as Matt and Christopher’s Christmas present. When my neighbor put out a really clean pallet the week after Thanksgiving, I decided I was all in. The boyfriend helped pry off the boards I would need, but the rest of the project was all me.

First, I knocked out the stubborn wood nails and sanded down the pieces I planned to use. Then I eyeballed the original image and the space next to my front door to get an idea for size – 2 feet by 6 inches, if you’re curious. I measured (Measure twice! Cut once!), made my marks and began sawing. Yes, with a hand saw. Not that tough once you get into it.


When I finished, I made sure my edges weren’t too warped to work with and sanded some more before putting a very light coat of Minwax Special Walnut on, then sanding again. I didn’t want a super dark stain, but I did want the frame to look aged.


Putting the frame together was the toughest part. If I ever do this again, I’d likely use wood glue first, but after a lot of stop and starts and a few obscenities thrown in, I went to the expert, aka my neighbor across the street. He has every tool known to man, so I brought my project over and asked for help. He handed over a Riyobi impact drill, one I definitely want. That sucker has some power. I drilled starter holes, two at each joint, then drilled my screws in. Some people build frames with nails, but since this is intended to bear weight, I used screws.

You can see below that I already cut my branches. Big mistake. Even though I measured twice, once the box was actually together, there was a slight deviation in the measurement. More on that in a minute.


I had collected branches for a few weeks, attempting to dry them out and make sure they were bug free. Then I just used my large clippers to make a clean cut along my measurements, though this sounds easier than it is, as they are not straight. Therefore, you have to measure carefully to get the angles right. Sometimes it worked beautifully, sometimes not. The trick for the “rack” part of this is finding branches that have additional branches sturdy enough to bear weight as well. Plus, placing the branches inside the box is tricky. You want the “hook” to stick out enough to be useful, but you also want to make sure it’s inside the box enough to, again, be sturdy. Here, I’m just playing with placement:


I drilled starter holes and screwed these branches in for durability and strength. It’s tricky, but you can eyeball pretty easily. For the additional “filler” branches, I just used nails.


Unfortunately, as you can see below, some of the nails were visible once I’d started. Cue Angry Jenn. If I’m going to make something, I want it to look professional, especially if it’s a gift. And those nails were glaring at me. So I went back to Home Depot to look at trim. But the beauty of this project is its raw nature. Box it up too much, and it’s just not the same. So I called my aunt who is a true artist when it comes to woodworking, and we brainstormed. But when I got home, I remembered…I had moss. Lots of it. So I pulled out some moss and my glue gun and went to town covering the places where the nails showed.


And bingo. No nails show. It still looks natural, and to be honest, the moss is barely noticeable. Win, win.


Once I finished, I sprayed four coats of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurathane to seal the wood. I really doused the branches themselves as I had sanded the “hooks” and wanted to make sure they were as sturdy as possible.


Last, I added two hangers on the back and wiped everything down before hunting for a box big enough to house my gift.


In the end, I was really pleased with the way it turned out, and it was so worth it to see the shock on my brother’s face when he realized I had made this myself. I absolutely love giving gifts, but giving someone a gift you’ve made that they’ve wanted is just a fantastic feeling. I hope they enjoy it for years to come.

Did you make any gifts for Christmas this year? This was so fun, I’m already trying to figure out what other gifts I can make.

P.S. Minwax in no way asked or paid for me to mention their products, I was just really pleased with the cost and quality of both the stain and poly.

Fridays at Home: Making a decorative pillow

18th October 2013

My friend Brandy recently sold her house and moved into an apartment. She was ready for more flexibility and to be closer to the big city where I live (Ha!). Fortunately, the apartment she rented allows tenants to paint the walls, so she and I picked out paint colors for each room, and the apartment dragged their feet eventually painted it.

She’s done an amazing job downsizing and making her apartment one of the coziest I’ve seen in quite some time, but she still wanted some accents. For her birthday, I decided to whip up a pillow for her bed. I came across some fabric I love and had had for ages in hopes of it matching something in my house. It didn’t, but when I pulled it out, I realized the two colors were exactly the colors of Brandy’s bedroom!

A quick trip to the fabric store for a pillow insert, contrasting fabric, and trim led to this project last Sunday. And for those of you who have never sewn or are afraid to venture away from handsewing, give this a try.

1. Mom and I measured the pillow and allowed an additional quarter inch for the seam allowance (the portion of the fabric that will be sewn together, like a ditch of sorts).

2. I’m lucky that my mom has an amazing embroidery machine. She was so sweet and embroidered Brandy’s initial on the silk contrast fabric for some added oomph. [Side note: I adore the tone-on-tone embroidery. So nice.]

3. I laid out my pillow fabric, measured, and placed my contrast fabric on top in the center. I finger pressed the edges before using a pressing cloth to iron them more accurately. [An iron is one of THE best tools when it comes to sewing. My mom keeps one next to her machine.]


4. I pinned the trim between the pillow fabric and the contrast fabric. The trim has a lip that slid underneath the contrast fabric easily. Use your pins horizontally for ease in removal.



5. Mom helped me change out the presser foot (the part that guides the fabric and holds the needle in place) with a zipper foot to allow for the bulk of the trim. Here she is getting it started. The trim made it really simple to follow a straight line all the way down. [When sewing bulky trim, it is helpful to guide it with your fingers or a pencil to keep it from expanding.]


6. We switched the zipper foot back to the regular presser foot. Then you flip right sides together, and sew up three sides. Since I was using a pillow insert, I needed to leave one of the shorter ends open so the insert could fit it.


7. Once you insert the pillow, you have to sew up that last side. We tucked the fabric in, and I used a slip stitch to close it up. Mom embroidered another project while I did this step, and we talked about the joy of handstitching. I forgot how calming it is to sit and work with fabric, watching something you made come together.


Voila! Ok, so these are really crappy iPhone photos, and it was dark out, but you get the idea. This project was super simple but turned out great, and Brandy loved it. πŸ™‚


Homemade gifts are so fun and customizable. It’s also nice because if you look for monogrammed pillows or pillows made from decorator fabric online, they are incredibly pricey. Pillows aren’t inexpensive to make, but they certainly shouldn’t cost what some vendors charge. And you guys know I love the DIY life (…mostly).

Happy Friday!


Fridays at Home: If you give a girl…

9th August 2013

If you give a girl a warped and cracking deck, she will eventually realize (or be told by a friend) that she needs help tearing it down.


If the girl admits she needs help and asks for it, several buff and selfless men* will jump to her aid.


If said men jump to her aid, the deck will come down quickly and with little difficulty. (And I promise the girl did work. There was a system. They used power tools; she carried the boards out.)



If the deck has been in place for years, it may just cover up some creepy crawlies – namely snakes and poison vines (seriously, it was like Sleeping Beauty under there).

If the girl were picky (which she is) and stubborn (which she also is), she may just insist the vine isn’t poisonous and that she can haul it all up to the street…in her arms. [Note: I am aware this isn’t a vine. The stupidity was not documented.]


All that to say, if a girl decides to rip down her deck, it may end up in a snake bite, two minor care visits and poison ivy, as well as rashes and blisters best hidden in long sleeves and pants in Texas. In August.


If you give a girl a warped and cracking deck…expect doom. πŸ˜‰


*I’m so grateful for these guys, and though I’m uncomfortable, I’m also grateful these things happened to me and not them.

Fridays at Home: West Elm Under $20

14th June 2013

I’m not big on catalogs. For the most part, they clog up the mailbox and require a trip to the recycling center. But each month when my West Elm catalog comes, I stash it away with my Real Simple and wait for a lazy afternoon by the pool. Even though West Elm is, for the most part, way out of my budget range, it still gives me crazy good ideas. Plus, when they have sales, I play “catch and release” online, adding items to my shopping cart only to usually close out the page, convincing myself I don’t really need that gorgeous throw.

But today! Today I got an email that they’re having a sale, and on top of that sale, if you use the promotion code JUNE15, you get an extra 15% off. So I’ll just share some of the great sale items that have popped out at me.


The favorite throw – depending on the color or stripe variation you want this throw is on sale for $19.99. I love having a throw on my reading sofas in case it’s chilly or I’m in need of a reading nap. πŸ™‚ Plus, they look nice and can cover all manner of sins, ahem, a stack of books or papers on a chair if company drops in.


I love this outdoor pillow for $19.99 in Sunburst/lemon curry. In fact, I really want it for the bed in my guest room/office. Pillows can be so expensive, but they can also make a great difference on a bed, chair, or sofa. One thing I’m super strict about is my bed. I make it every morning. In fact, I won’t get into bed at night if I haven’t first made my bed. Strange, I know, but part of that is the pillows. I love my decorative pillows and don’t feel the bed looks “finished” without them.


One of the things I’ve learned through many trips and the big purses I like to carry is that smaller bags to corral like items are essential. Depending on the size these Metallic Zipper Cases range from $5.99 to $7.99, and you can add a monogram for $7. These are extra great for moving lotions, sunscreens, etc. from a purse to a beach bag for an afternoon poolside. They make my organized self happy.


These Bright Shapes Melamine Plates in orange, fuschia, and yellow are only $2.99 and great for rounding up earrings, bobby pins, ponytail holders or whatever. I keep pretty bowls or plates on my nightstand, on the edge of my tub, in my favorite reading places. I find the places where I naturally remove those things and stick a bowl there. Makes it much easier to locate errant knick knacks. we2 we1

The Belize Stripe Hand Towel and Hammam Stripe Hand Towel are both $7.99 (you can add the monogram for an additional $7) and really lovely. These would be great in a kitchen or bathroom and would look nice sitting on an island or countertop. Though I use heavy duty, relatively inexpensive towels for heavy use in my kitchen (I don’t use paper towels for environmental reasons), I love having pretty hand towels as well. These are great!


This Owl String Holder is so cute for $9.99. Even if you’re not crafty, I think he’d be adorable on a collage wall. Plus, I love white ceramic animals.

The best part of all these? Free shipping! And don’t forget the JUNE15 code for an additional 15% off. Also, please know West Elm isn’t paying me. I’m sure they don’t even know who I am. I just love a good sale and thought I’d share!

So do you see anything you have to have, or will you just play catch and release? Hope you had fun window shopping. πŸ™‚