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Decor Swap Party

15 Nov

From Apartment Therapy, one of my favorite blogs, comes this amazing idea of a Decor Swap Party. I LOVE this. Anyone game? The best thing about it is that at least you know everything will fit!


If you have ever been to a clothing swap party, you know how great it is to see your once favorite pieces begin their new life with a friend and also get to come home with the feeling that you just went shopping and got a really good bargain. Well, why let clothes have all the fun? Let’s get homes in on the action too!

A decor swap party is a great push to finally get to the things you have been needing to clear out from your space. I know I am always headed to Goodwill or the like to donate the things that I ‘just had to have’ way back when, or the stuff I bought thinking ‘this would make a great (fill in the blank) one day’ and just never got to it. Remember, just because you have outgrown something doesn’t mean someone else will view it in the same way.

You could make it general and bring whatever you want, or have a specific theme like ‘things that make you go hmmm’, ‘shabby chic’, ‘organize this’, ‘things that light up’, ‘everything chartreuse’, ‘have a seat’, ‘vessels’ or even ‘funky furniture’. If you want to swap larger furniture items, just bring pictures of all side of the piece along with the dimensions.

So now all you have to do is shuffle through your stuff, toss out an invite, throw together some wine and appetizers and start shopping. Whatever doesn’t get chosen can be brought to the thrift store the next day. Have fun!

(Image: from Pop of Sunshine: 10 Yellow Accessories For Under $50)


Reader Re-Do: Dresser Makeover or “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle?”

12 Nov

I have mentioned Brittany in the blog before, as she is one of the readers who sends me interesting mail from time to time.  I even did an inspiration board for her a while back.  Brittany said she was also inspired by Maeve’s dresser re-do and gave it a go herself.  The lovely Brittany below.  (And she’s married and a mother of Bayley, so don’t get any ideas.)

Which brings me to a slightly panicky email I received from her sharing the results and asking my opinion, which I of course love giving wholeheartedly.

I need your opinion on something. I’ve been pulling my hair out after I found an awesome MCM dresser on Craigslist and decided to refinish it. So, I refinished it and then realized it was way too orange. It’s hard to tell in the pics but it looked like a carrot. So, after much debate, I decided to get a good rest and then start all over. Well, I screwed up and sanded too far into the veneer. So, my only option was to go buy new walnut veneer or just paint the whole thing, which I did not want to do. I googled for a while and found some pretty cool before and after’s, so I thought I’d meet in the middle and paint half and veneer the other half. I picked the green from the Orla Kiely pear canister and stained the new veneer a dark walnut. I feel like I’ve ruined a good thing, now that I’m finally finished. I am one to NOT paint over perfectly good wood, but in this case, there was no way I was re-veneering the whole beast of a dresser. And plus, veneering is HARD and stinky.  I would love a second opinion. I know you did something similar recently with your daughter’s low boy dresser and I LOVE the results. But I am not sure what I think about mine. Maybe I have been staring at it too long?

Suffice it to say, I can see the carrot and understand the dilemma.  I asked her to share more about her experience with veneer, as this is something I have never been brave enough to attempt.

 It’s not too spendy, I went to Windsor Plywood and bought a 2×8 sheet of black walnut veneer that came to around $36. Cheap, considering I ruined the original veneer, which I can’t believe I did. But I was not going to just paint the whole dresser. It would’ve been a crime. So, I thought up re-veneering.

I traced out the dresser drawers on the back side of the veneer and then cut out the shapes with a really sharp pair of scissors. I cut it a tiny bit bigger than the size of the drawers so I could have some wiggle room when veneering. I painted a thin coat of contact cement onto the drawer fronts and then another thin, even coat onto the back of the veneer. It’s MESSY because the contact cement is drippy. So don’t do it in your bedroom like I did. Also make sure the room is well ventilated, or you’re going to faint from the fumes. Let the contact cement dry for about 15 minutes, until it looks like a satin finish and is tacky to the touch. I would suggest two people doing the laying of the veneer on the drawer fronts, because it must lay down properly, or it’s ruined. Once the veneer touches the drawer fronts, the contact cement automatically glues to itself, and the bond is strong, so make sure you have it exactly how you want it to lay. Have a rolling pin on hand and roll the veneer with force, to make sure there are no bubbles under the veneer. You can cut out any rough edges with one of those really sharp hobby knives that look like a surgical tool. And then sand on the edges to make sure they are even.

Then sand the veneer lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to prepare it for the stain you will use. It’s really not as hard as it sounds and is a cost effective way to keep wood grain in your piece instead of painting the whole thing. The green color I used is called “Olive tree” from Benjamin Moore. It is the closest match to the Orla Pears as I could find. The paint I used was water based, but I decided to use Minwax oil based wipe on poly in Satin, to get a really nice, hard and smooth finish. It gave the green color an even more mustardy look, which makes it look even more vintage. It definitely toned it down, which I like.

When I told Brittany I really liked it and thought it looked lovely in her Orla inspired bedroom, her response was…

Yay! So glad to hear you like it! I was staring at it going, “Did I just morph my dresser into a ninja turtle???”

I love the walnut and olive together.  I think it turned out to be a gorgeous piece.  What do you think?  Have you had any experience with ‘re-veneering’ something?

DIY Wood Wall Art

4 Nov

I love wood.  (Wait…let me start over.)  I love the warmth of wood in a home.  We have wood on the ceilings and floors.  One of my favorite pieces of art is by Parvez Taj painted on wood planks, so I particularly liked this post from on DIY wood artwork.  Enjoy.  And please share if you attempt one of these pieces!

Wood is much more versatile than one may think. We automatically relate wood to rustic, country flavored spaces instead of really taking a good look at everything we can do with the simple substance. It’s warm, it’s home, it’s funky, it’s eclectic. It can be so much more than just a part of a southern home or back wood cottage. Instead, you can use wood in more artistic ways. Dress your walls with this organic treat and try you hand at some type of new wooden wall art project. Here are some overheads of what you can do with wood!

1. Silhouettes.

Whether it’s on one slab of wood or several, drawing your own silhouettes atop a fresh wood piece can create a beautiful piece of simple art for the living room, above the mantle or in your home office or study.Flowers, landscapes, city skylines … the possibilities are endless. Visit DIYDiva to see how she made some of her own!

2. Recycled.

Create something like this from Thrifty Decor Chick with some recycled wood pieces. Keep them in their original shades or color them yourself to match your home’s decor. Sure, this piece is a bit rustic but with the color and design it’s quite the eclectic, cultural piece as well. Perfect for a home experimenting with different patterns and colors or inspired by a host of different cultures in design.

3. Slices.

For something incredibly beautiful, organic and homey, try a little something like this from Man Made. It’s a little masculine and blends well with a lot of different themes and room genres. And, it’s a lot easier to make than you may think!


Use wood scraps to create mini posters. Cover them with fabric and pop on a phrase. You may even want to add your name, initials or something cute and sweet like this from Make & Do Girl. Of course, you don’t always have to cover up the wood, instead you can paint right on it!

5. Words.

Then you can take the quotes to a whole new level. Turn the wood into a word! You can follow this tutorial from No. 2 Pencil and create something super retro for the kitchen or craft room! As long as you have the tools to get the job done, you’ll have a lot of fun putting this together.

New Door Part 1

2 Nov

This post has been a long time coming.  Remember my excitement at the ordering of my Crestview Door?  Well, it came.  And it sat in its box for a while.  After some cajoling, Brett and I went to buy a new door to get started.  As a reminder, this was the door and entry we started with:


According to Brett, installing the doorlite was not as easy as one might imagine. The fit was very tight because some of the wood had bowed which made the glass difficult to pop in. Regardless, he conquered and got it installed properly. He painted the door as we had planned, with Pumpkin Patch and Walnut Bark from Behr paints. However, this was nothing compared to installing the door in the original frame.

It just didn’t fit.  After almost 50 years, it’s not insane to imagine that it might not be completely square any more.  And it wasn’t.  At all.  Brett got the door in and then the damn thing wouldn’t close.  At all.

As you can see from the photo, the issue was at the top.  There was plenty of space at the bottom.  So, being us, we decided the most efficient way to deal with this (other than forcing it in and never being able to open it again) was to plane down the top and then sand.  The difference wasn’t incredibly significant so we thought we could do it.


And we did. However, not without a little damage, which we painted over and are currently deciding to live with. Imperfection is charming, right? Right.

This was it after the installation.  I love it.  But it’s still not quite right.  The white trim looks odd with the orange.  Maeve and I got on a tear one day and fixed that too.  Wait and see the final results with painted trim, etc. tomorrow!  (Apologies for the poor photo with the bright sunlight.)

DIY Marimekko

1 Oct

You all know about my unbridled affection for Marimekko so I had to share this via Remodelista.  I believe the first image may have been posted before, but I want to revisit it because I have some extra time this week.  After a few months of insane travel, I took some time off to reacquaint myself with my family (“Hello, girls.  Remember me?  I’m your mom.”)  I also plan do a little work around the house and the blog, which means the draught of the past few weeks is over.  Get your umbrellas friends, as it’s going to pour.

Are you an admirer of Marimekko’s graphic black and white ceramics? But don’t want to spend $22 for a mug? Read on for ideas on how to recreate the look for less.

Above: Plates and bowls painted by Jennifer Hagler (she writes the blog A Merry Mishap). Hagler used cheap white china and a porcelain pen from her local crafts store.

Above: Mugs painted by Abbey Hendrickson (of Aesthetic Outburst).

Above: A few more ideas, from Swedish ceramicist Kajsa Cramer.

DIY: Mad Men Dinner Party with Rachel Khoo

24 Aug

I love the very minimal and soft style of this Mad Men dinner party.  May need to throw one soon!

(Via Remodelista)

With her Mad Men inspired dinner party, rising culinary star and girl about Paris, Rachel Khoo demonstrates that a small space need not inhibit creativity. In her case, the two actually seem to be in inverse proportion.

Rachel Khoo arrived in Paris from London only six years ago not speaking a word of French and enrolled herself in a patisserie course at the Cordon Bleu culinary institute. Since then she has managed to write three cookbooks, the latest titled The Little Paris Kitchen, which refers to the restaurant she runs out of her 226-square-foot (21 square meters) apartment in the 19th arrondissment. With only two covers a service, the restaurant is wildly popular and the book has been made into a BBC television series, where we witness Khoo producing beautiful meals on two gas rings and a micro cooker.

Her creativity also extends into conceptualizing and art directing culinary events with intriguing themes like Edible Tales and Le Dernier Diner de Kennedy. I was recently inspired by Khoo’s transformation of a small Parisian apartment into a Mad Men dinner party, and decided to follow suit in London. Here’s how to get the look:

Above: Khoo in her tiny Parisian Moroccan tiled kitchen, where every inch of available space is used. Image via Kimberley Says OK.


Above: The cocktail hour is an integral part of the Mad Man’s work day. Photography by Christine Hanway.


Above: Following Khoo’s example, I fashioned a cocktail bar using my ironing bar draped with a linen tablecloth, ready to greet my guests with a drink in the narrow hallway of my London terraced house. (N.B. For more tips on small living , see Living Small in London.) Photography by Christine Hanway.


Above: A typical place setting at Khoo’s Mad Men dinner party. Photograph by Rachel Khoo.


Above: Khoo ironed the napkins to resemble stiff white shirts; the Mad Man’s uniform. Photograph by Rachel Khoo.

Above: Khoo’s arts background was useful in designing the Lucky Strike packaging, which she printed out on her home printer and then fashioned into little cigarette boxes filled with mini grissini sticks as edible cigarettes and dips served in ashtrays. Photograph by Rachel Khoo.

Orla Kiely RIP (Or Rant in Progress)

19 Aug

*No, she’s not dead.  She’s just dead to me.

Dear Orla,

Things have been rocky with us for a while.  This may (or may not…I’m mercurial that way) be my last Orla post.  I have been let down.  Again.  I am beginning to feel used and abused.  For me, there is nothing worse than a special lady like you who spreads herself to the masses in such a mercenary manner.  I thought you were the one.  Apparently, you want to be the one for everyone, you village bicycle, you.  When the scale tips from unique and special to mass reach in pursuit of profit, I’m out.  I’m sorry but this relationship has run its course.  It’s not me.  It’s you.

It was a great love while it lasted.  Awed by your whimsy and color and mid-century sensibility, I fell for you and fell hard.  Four years ago, I started my handbag collection.  In small boutiques tucked away in trendy little Seattle shopping areas, I would catch a glimpse of this eye-catching stem pattern on bags or wallets.  Rare enough to not be ubiquitous, but accessible enough to not be haute couture.  My obsession with you began.

Then of course, I saw you flaunting yourself at Tar-jay a few years ago and the canisters I bought have dictated the color scheme in my life.  When you designed for Target, I wasn’t as disappointed as I am now.  You were new.  You were fresh.  You were limited. You needed the exposure, I get it.  We all want to grow.  And even after the Target stint,  I didn’t see you hawking your wares everywhere, Roxanne.

I even put you on my walls.  Reminders of us as I walk through my home.  I turned our love into art.

Hello.  My name is Brandy.  I am was  an Orla-holic.  When times were easier and money less scarce than in today’s economy, I bought Orla bags with abandon.  Every fall and spring, I had to have the latest.  Last spring, I bought another at the Orla store in London.  I loved the size.  I love the olive pattern.  I hated that the leather shoulder strap split within a month.  My girlfriend bought a different bag and had the same thing happen to her. Sign number one that quality stops being the priority. (Mind you, these all sit at the top of my closet now.  I see them, growl, and threaten to sell them on eBay.  I do this with the children sometimes too.)

Then I had to live through the anticipation and let down of the Orla linens at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Such a disappointment.  You looked so cute in the photos.  Kind of like a profile.  Alas, when I met you for coffee, you were no different from the rest.  And you were so cheap, you made me pick up the tab.

Even after that, I gave you another chance.  Like a beaten wife, I just kept coming back for more.  So when I saw you had a new line of hand soaps for Method, I checked it out.  I love Method products.  Not in the way I loved you, of course.  Method products are non-toxic, environmentally friendly and they smell SO good!  But the two of you together with me all foamed up in soapy goodness, well, that could be memories in the making. 

Method Orla Kiely Gel Hand Wash - Primrose 12 oz.Opens in a new window

Method Orla Kiely Foaming Hand Wash - Vanilla Chai 10 oz.Opens in a new window

Sigh.  When I saw you there on the shelf, you were cheap and all tarted up in a flimsy plastic wrap around your bottle.  You didn’t look special.  And your scent?  Sheesh.  Vanilla chai so sickly it nauseated me.  Where has your class gone?  Has substance abandoned you?  I left you sitting there on the shelf.  I did.  I couldn’t even part with the $3.99 for you.

I will miss you, Orla.  I will always have fond memories of our time together. 

I leave you with a quote from another idol of mine who never lost her class.

“I have often observed that resignation is never so perfect as when the blessing denied begins to lose somewhat of its value in our estimation.” Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice.



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