Category Archives: DIY Tips

Bye Bye, Builder Grade!

After spending the last five (!) years with a pair of light fixtures that was one brassiere short of family friendly, we finally kicked our builder-grade lights to the curb. Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief that our lights are no longer pushing for an R-rating, shall we?

To refresh your memory, here’s what we were working with. Small children, avert your eyes.

We started by removing the old lights (courtesy of yours truly. I was impressed with my own electrical skills; when I tried to get the hubby to echo the sentiment, he simply raised an eyebrow at me. Sigh).

Before we started installing the new lights, we added one more upgrade: a pair of ceiling medallions, inspired by an amazing office makeover from Emily A. Clark.

In addition to giving the ceiling a little bit of added interest, this step also saved us the trouble of having to touch up the paint, since the bases of the new lights were quite a bit smaller than the old. I found these 16-inch medallions at Lowe’s.

At $19 each, they definitely weren’t cheap – especially considering they are plastic, cringe – but I love the effect.

With the medallions in place, we were clear to install the new lights, made easier by a pair of ladders so we could use four hands for wiring, holding, and all the other fun of electrical work. Unfortunately, what should have been a snap installation ran into a snag, which resulted in installing and uninstalling the new lights THREE TIMES. Yuck. Long story short, and free of electrical terms that I obviously don’t know, the support bar in the j-box apparently couldn’t be doubled up with the support bar in the new light. So we pared it down to just the support bar in the new light, and luckily avoided burning the house down. There’s almost nothing as fun as trying to figure out why the breaker keeps tripping every tip you hit a light switch!

Anyhoo, with the crisis averted and our pretty new lights in place, we were ready to admire the brightly-lit hallway. Chalk this puppy up to done! And pardon the crazy coloring in the pictures – photographing lights is definitely not my forte.

Have you tackled any light switcheroos in your pad? Any electrical mishaps, or are we the only ones tripping breakers like it’s a form of art?



Filed under DIY Tips, Projects, The Lottery House

5 Amazing DIY Projects

It’s funny how life seems to get away from you – in between all the day-to-day activities, somehow each week seems to hustle by. And if the pace of life is frenzied during the week, weekends are on turbo. Which explains why I have a lot of fun projects on my to-do list that haven’t quite made the transition from “dying to do it” to “stick a fork in it, this thing is done”. It probably doesn’t help much that one of my New Year’s resolutions – a mini-makeover for our living room – has turned into the world’s most prolonged project. In any case, here are a few of the projects that I am dying to tackle, if I can just get the universe to stop moving quite so fast – for a couple of days, anyway!

A wreath for the front door. You know, because an empty wreath hanger probably isn’t going to win me any Good Housekeeping awards. This sweet, mossy version from Homemade Ginger is SO lovely.

While we’re on the subject of the front door, how about a fresh, shiny coat of black paint? The boring brown just isn’t doing it for me. And of course, seeing this picture reminds me that I’d better plant some more potato vines this spring. Add that to the list…

How about something a little more like this? (Yes, I know it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the house is also a-mazing. Must use imagination!!)

Crisp Architects traditional entry

Image via Houzz

My own spin on this insanely cute bulletin board, from the uber-talented Emily A. Clark.

I adore the burlap, but I also think it would be fun to jazz up my cubicle – which is currently a sea of greyish beige – with a version in this fabric from Premier Prints (Cadence in Deep Blue).

Since the dog thinks he owns the joint, and demonstrates that by dragging our blankets off the sofa arm and into the floor, I’d love to build a ladder to store our blankets on – inspired by a Brit of Happiness (check out her family room reveal for one of the most awe-inspiring rooms I’ve seen in ages).

Can you believe I’ve been hoping to recreate these stamped tea towels from the amazing Centsational Girl since JANUARY? Yeah. But, with Mother’s Day right around the corner, it actually seems like the perfect time to get busy making these!

So, spill the beans: are you way more efficient than me, or is your to-do list giving Pinocchio’s nose a run for its money (kinda like mine)? The weathermen are calling for a rainy Sunday this weekend in DFW – which might just mean that productivity is in the forecast!

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Butterflies On Display – A La Martha

In spite of her jailbird history, Martha Stewart is pretty much my idol. I mean, how much craftier could one human being BE? Anyhoo, since I started my new job, I’ve had the joy of reading Martha’s magazine every month, thanks to a coworker who brings her issues in after perusing them. When I stumbled across this image in a recent issue, I was instantly smitten and knew I had to recreate this amazing vignette. Sidenote: Allow me to apologize in advance. I finally bit the bullet and kicked my Zack Morris phone to the curb in favor of an iPhone – which means lots and lots of my pictures are from the uber-handy camera phone. Quality be darned!

Based on my highly technical assessment of the situation (read: after staring at the magazine for a few minutes), I came up with my list of supplies:

  • Glass cloche with wood base
  • Butterflies
  • Sticks
  • A rock
  • Bird’s nest with eggs

Since I already own a cloche (commonly referred to as “my precious”), plus a small nest and eggs that I put to work in a Christmas vignette, there were just a few things left to acquire. I started with sticks and rocks, and luckily, the great outdoors is stocked to the gills with rocks and sticks.

Next on the list: faux butterflies. Although you can purchase preserved real butterflies from numerous sources online, I knew that wasn’t for me. Instead, I stopped by my local Michael’s and picked up a few different packages of fake butterflies, sticking as closely to Martha’s gorgeous, neutral palette as I could.

I also snagged an 8-inch round, unfinished wood circle with some pretty routed edges, and some grey stain – new from our friends at Minwax.

With my small haul of goodies in tow, I headed home to get started. First up was staining the base – a coat of Minwax wood conditioner, followed by a single coat of grey stain, and then two light coats of whitewashing (while this sounds like a lot of work, I literally spent about 15 minutes on getting the base the perfect shade of aged grey).

My wrangled-from-the-yard rock got a shiny makeover with a little bit of gold Rub’N’Buff (the name gives you all the directions you need – seriously. Rub the gold finish on, and then use a clean cloth to buff it off, leaving the perfect glimmering golden sheen. It’s a-mazing).

To get my mini-tree to stand up properly, I cut a small circle of cardboard and hot-glued my branch directly on to it.

Once the hot glue had set, I proceeded to trim the “tree” until it fit neatly under my cloche.

Then I set the cardboard piece onto my wooden base, covered up the ugliness with some preserved moss, threw in my nest’n’eggs, topped it with the golden rock, and hot glued my butterflies to branches. Last step was enclosing it all under my precious, and parking it in the middle of our kitchen table. That Martha is a genius.

Recreating this project on your own? You can snap up most of the supplies you need at a local craft store, plus a quick trip to your local World Market should net you a pretty glass cloche. You can also snag yours online from World Market!

Am I the only one who’s forgiven Martha for being a little criminal? Or are y’all on the same Martha-lovin’ page as me?

Linking up to Remodelaholic!


Filed under DIY Tips, Projects, The Lottery House

Paint Tips From The Pros

A few weeks ago, a friend from work mentioned an upcoming color class at West Elm. Intrigued (and plagued by a serious case of color fright, as evidenced by our predominantly-white walls), I figured with a price tag of $0, it couldn’t hurt to broaden my off-white horizons. So my blogger friend (Abby of Peacock Pad – check out their mid-century home and all their amazing DIY projects here) and I headed down to West Elm after work to see what all the fuss was about. The class, put on by Benjamin Moore, was packed to the gills. We snagged a few seats in the back and pulled out our phones to take ample notes on share-able tips. So, without further adieu, here are my favorite paint tips from the pros, plus a few of my own that I threw in (you know, based on a few mistakes we’ve made in our own painting mis-adventures):

1. Choose your paint last. Know what’s staying in your space, and what you plan to add. Selecting your textiles is especially important – there are a finite number of choices when it comes to fabric, but the sky is the limit when you’re choosing paint colors, especially since most folks can match just about any color. Centsational Girl has a great post on this topic!

Courtesy of Centsational Girl

2. Swatch it up, baby. It’s worth the extra time and money to try several colors on your wall. The color will look different in different parts of the room, based on shadows and its proximity to light sources. Live with your swatches for several days before you make a decision – we nixed two shades in our kitchen before we landed on the current yellow color. Although I probably should have been smart enough to guess that human skin color and poop brown wouldn’t be winners on our walls, even without painting swatches.

3. Don’t forget to view your swatch in daylight, at night, and in artificial light. We learned this the hard way – our buttery yellow kitchen walls look distinctly highlighter-ish in the evening, when artificial light is the only option.

4. Try a painted ceiling to expand the feeling of your space. To keep the room feeling airy, rock some crisp crown molding. How’s this for gorgeous?

Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Courtesy of Your Decorating Hotline

5. For color-phobes like myself, here are 3 easy ways to incorporate a brighter shade: try a single vertical or horizontal stripe, some faux wainscotting (AKA a different shade on the bottom half of your walls – just tape and paint, no trim work necessary!), or super-trendy ombre – a gradation of 3 or more shades that give you a sense of movement.

Horizontal stripe, courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Insanely cool faux-wainscotting, courtesy of Apartment Therapy – love that they painted the door, too!

Ombre walls, courtesy of Canadian Living

6. The low-down on VOCs: if you want to keep harmful VOCs out of your paint, look for paint that uses water-borne colorants. A lot of paints claim to be low VOC, but adding the colorant can cause the amount of VOCs to seriously skyrocket.

7. Tips for choosing a paint finish: an eggshell finish for your walls will help you hide imperfections, but has just enough sheen to be scrubbable (double-check that your brand of paint can be scrubbed). Flat paint is perfect for ceilings, and for trim, doors, and cabinets, choose a super-scrubbable semi-gloss.

8. Choosing paint colors, the dummy edition. I’ll be frank: I pretty much suck at picking out paint colors. Before we landed on the beautiful sea glass shade we have in the guest bathroom, I chose a lovely jailhouse grey. Which eventually drove me to tears (and to repainting). So I adore tools that make it easier for a color-moron like myself to pick out winning combinations. Benjamin Moore has an Affinity color deck, and the value prop is that you can choose any 3 colors from the deck and they’ll work together. Presto, paint-o. They also have a Perfect Pairings color deck that already has colors paired together. Martha Stewart’s paint swatches also used to have recommended pairings listed on them, although I’m not sure if that’s still the case.

Perfect Pairings color deck, courtesy of Benjamin Moore

With a few more tips under your belt, do you feel more confident when it comes to painting? Post-class, I was feeling brash enough to throw some wild and crazy paint ideas out there in conversation with the hubby – we’ll see if I’m feeling brave when it comes to implementing these bold ideas!

Want to check out the lineup of free classes at West Elm? See it here.

*This post wasn’t sponsored by West Elm, Benjamin Moore, or any other business. Just wanted to share a few of the highlights, from one DIYer to another!


Filed under DIY Tips, The Lottery House

Curtain Call

Over the weekend, we had some gloomy weather here in North Texas. Luckily, I had a sewing project to keep me busy. And when I say luckily, I mean mostly for Tony, ’cause our new hall lights arrived last weekend, and if it hadn’t been for my curtains, we’d have been eradicating boob lights from our entry.

Anyhoo, I had my bright & airy curtains from Ikea, which were perfect, except for one thing: tab tops.

Since I already had ring clips, and generally prefer the look of clipped panels, I figured I could do a little trimming to remove the tab tops. I decided to do the things the slow (read: right) way for once, so I actually pre-washed and pressed my panels. Good thing, because they shrunk close to 10 inches. Which suddenly meant that my brilliant plan of simply lopping off the top few inches of the panel to get rid of the tab tops was no longer possible, since I needed every inch to cover the windows. Enter Plan B: I simply opened the top seam around each tab top, pulled them out…

And then ran a simple stitch along the top edge of the curtain to close it back up.

Next up was hemming the bottom, since Ikea curtains are un-hemmed so you can adjust them to the exact length of your window. I just measured the length of my old panels (104 inches) and measured the same length on my new panels, pinning it to the right length. I pressed my seam, and then used my handy dandy sewing machine to create my hem. A handy and super ghetto trick I tried was creating my own hem gauge on the sewing machine. The built-in plate didn’t have a measurement for a 2-inch hem, so I put a piece of tape onto the sewing machine at the appropriate hem length, and colored the left edge red to give myself a visible guide line. Expert sewers would be horrified, but I gave myself a pat on the back for being scrappy.

After another quick pass with the iron, my curtains were rod-ready. Please disregard what appears to be a ghost sitting on my sofa. Maybe that’s what Steve is always barking at.

Compared to my formal-feeling blue panels…

The new panels feel so much airier.

I wish that they were a bit fuller, but I’m still wracking my brain for a solution there, short of adding another pair of panels. Other projects on the list include a piece of artwork for over the sofa (more details on Thursday!), plus pillows to add some texture and color, and a makeover for my little side table.

In other news, I think the dog likes the new ottoman…

What’s your favorite way to pass a rainy day? Hope everyone had a great weekend!

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5 Things I Learned From An Ottoman

You might say that our DIY ottoman was a learning process. Other people might call it names that involve swear words. Either way, here are 5 things I learned from building our ottoman.

  1. Read the instructions. Then re-read them again. Choosing to ignore the well-placed instructions on the back of my first can of stain (well, stain + poly to be precise) literally cost me $60, because I ended up having to start over. Yup, we built this ottoman TWICE. Lesson learned.
  2. DIY doesn’t always mean cheap. Of course, #1 factored in to this, but even without my little screw up, the total tally for this project would have been $200. Still cheaper than my OKL inspiration piece, but about the same price as the Target version.
  3.  Measure twice. Cut once. Particularly when it comes to cutting foam. We cut our foam slightly bigger than necessary. No problem in the wood-working world, but apparently a big issue for foam because it just crumples on itself when you try to shave off ¼ inch.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A slightly imperfect finish or a little slack in your fabric does not a crisis make. Furniture you buy from a store has imperfections, too – it’s just easier to overlook minor problems when you aren’t scrutinizing your own handiwork.
  5. Kicking it with an upholstered ottoman rocks. No elaboration necessary, but this picture will do.

Once we had our ottoman frame built for the second time (get the ottoman tutorial here), I gave it a quick coat of Minwax wood conditioner to prevent blotchiness. Then I applied two coats of Minwax’s Dark Walnut, which is the perfect, chocolate-y shade. I finished the frame off with a coat of Minwax’s Polycrylic water-based clear coat, just for a little extra protection.

Then it was time to upholster our PureBond plywood tabletop. We cut our foam to size, or as close as we could muster, and then added a layer of batting. Trimming excess fabric from the corners was the most important part, so the table top would sit flush on the legs. With the batting in place, I ironed my fabric, and laid it face-down on the ground. We centered the tabletop on the fabric, and then put a single staple in the middle of each side after pulling the fabric taut. Then we stood the tabletop upright to do a little tweaking as we added several staples along each side. I folded the corners around to give me a straight seam, which is always the trickiest part. Here’s the back view.

The last step was setting the tabletop on the ottoman frame and screwing through the slats into the tabletop to keep it secure. We just used two, and it’s rock solid.

Next up: figuring out what the heck to accessorize this massive surface with, other than a pair of feet.

In spite of all the mis-steps along the way, I’m totally elated by the result. The fabric rocks my world, and the deep, dark color of the walnut finish is exactly what I envisioned. And yes, there are definitely some imperfections – but I’m still super proud of our handiwork.

If you’re planning to DIY your own ottoman, here are a few tips you could use to keep the cost down:

  1. Find a second-hand coffee table at a thrift store and upholster the top – just make sure the top of the table is removable before you attempt this!
  2. Use white pine if you plan to paint the wood. We used select pine for a few extra bucks per board since we were going to stain it.
  3. Swap 3-inch foam for 2-inch foam – at Jo Ann’s, it was $10 cheaper per yard for the thinner foam.
  4. Try a super cute fabric from Premier Prints to upholster the top. Most of their prints are less than $15 a yard!

Happy DIYing!

P.S. Bonus points if you noticed that we are currently rocking bi-color curtains, neither of which is the pair of panels I recently snagged from Ikea, which are in desperate need of some alterations… hoping to knock those out this weekend!

Linking to Remodelaholic!


Filed under DIY Tips, Projects, The Lottery House

Epic Fail & A Quick Fix

My Pottery Barn-knockoff numbered baskets were super cute, if I say so myself. There was just one problem.

Yep. After my trusty hot glue gun failed me, I resorted to Super Glue, which was also an epic fail. And all that fun with Super Glue left the satin nickel finish of my digits way less than pristine (in other news, I can affirm that it IS possible to glue your fingers together).

So I headed back to Home Depot to get another pair of numbers. While I was there, I spied a bigger, more modern set…

Which I loved, plus, they were even closer to my inspiration photo.

Since glue hadn’t exactly done its job, I resorted to a way more basic method of attaching my numbers: fishing line. I just looped it around the number and tied a knot on the inside of the basket. Done and done.

If you’re up close and personal with the numbers, you can vaguely make out the fishing line, but I’m pretty sure that dogs and babies are the only ones who’ll be seeing eye to eye with my baskets.

During my unplanned week-long blog vacation, I also added another item to my collection of white ceramics: this lovely apple, snagged on a recent trip to Michael’s for just 4 bones.

Gotta love a quick fix and a super cheap, fab find! Any epic fails, quick fixes, or fab finds in your world?

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