Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Small Spaces Don't have to be Crowded Spaces

Small spaces are a challenge for anyone when it comes to not only decorating them but making them functional as well as pretty.  

If you're a renter, you can't really grab a sledgehammer and start knocking out can, but your landlord will probably not be happy.

Dining rooms seem to be the most sacrificed when builders construct houses and/or apartments.  You don't really get an actual dining room, you get a dining nook or corner.

This month's post will be full of tips and pictorials to give you a few idea's on how to make your dining area both functional and pretty.  

My very favorite thing to do in a small dining nook is banquets.  If you're wood working savvy, then go all out with it.  But, if you're not, then you can either build a simple box design or you can purchase a few benches and throw some comfy cushions on them.  

Trust me folks, this is a simple and easy design.  All you have to do is built a box out of sturdy lumber that you can have the big box store cut to your measurements.  Once you get it home, nail it together and slap it in place.  Add a small table and some cushions and you have a great, comfy dining nook.

Better Homes & Gardens had this great idea.  Get a couple of kitchen cabinets that match the rest of your cabinets.  Cut some plywood to fit on the top, nail it down, add cushions, a small table, a couple of small chairs and you're ready to eat.

Notice that this is monochromatic?  The color uniformity will trick the eye into believing there's more room than there is.

The key to making your nook feel larger than it is?  Minimize the number of colors and textures.  The more colors and textures, the more it clutters the eye.  It doesn't have to be ugly to be spare.

If you don't have an actual nook, try putting a small table and a couple of chairs beneath the windows.

Notice in this nook they've kept the walls white and added pops of color here and there?  It looks inviting but clean.

Now that you've been introduced to banquets, go out and try it!  I promise, it's not expensive and it's not hard.  

As always, enjoy your space!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Books, Books and More Books!

Ever browse the thrift stores and see all of those hardback books on sale for $.50 a piece and wish you had a use for them?  I do.  I love hardback books and own approximately 200 of them.  For book lovers the natural thing to decorate with?  Books!

Let's look at a few ideas that you can incorporate into your home with books.

Need a "safe" to keep your valuables, keys, change, jewelry or even old love letters?  Using an Exacto knife, hollow out a book, glue some pretty fabric to cover the raw edges left from cutting the hole, and add a clasp or a chain that can be bought at any crafts store and you have a book safe!

What about an IPad cover, a picture frame, a desk organizer or even a book purse?  

What about a book lamp?  I love this idea!  Stack your books to suit your vision, drill a hole all the way through them so you can fish the cord in there, glue the books together so they are stable and add the light kit.  So easy and so dramatic!

Book tables and book desks are another way to utilize old books.  Follow the same basics as the book lamps and you have a conversation piece that is truly one of a kind.  You can get as fancy and complicated as you wish on this one, or you can keep it simple.  Whatever your heart desires.  Tip:  The taller the project the more important it is to run a strong dowel through the books in addition to gluing them in order to keep them from toppling over.

How about a "book" shelf?  

Step by step instructions:

Lastly, what about a book planter?  Be sure to line the inside with heavy plastic to keep the water from soaking through the book.

That about wraps up this edition of decorating with books!  Now head to the thrift store or garage sales and grab some books!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hot house? Cold House? Loud Neighbors?

Is your house cold in the winter, hot in the summer?  Are your neighbors or their dogs loud?  This post will show you one incredibly easy and inexpensive (or free) way to warm your house in the winter, cool your house in the summer and muffle the sounds of your neighbors (and their dogs).

By now everyone....well...the two people who read this blog....should know that I love to upcycle.  Wooden pallets, scrap fabrics and cardboard are my go to's so it should be only natural that I share some ideas involving cardboard, again.

A few years back I bought an old house.  I would venture to say that there was not one drop or piece of insulation in the entire joint.  So in the summer, I could feel the heat radiating through the exterior walls and in the winter I felt cold coming through the walls.  Since it wasn't a huge house, I had limited options as to furniture placement.  The only wall that would work for my bed was an exterior wall.  Same thing for the placement of my sofa in the living room.  Super uncomfortable in all kinds of weather.

Another downside to no insulation is the fact that I could hear every car that drove by, every bark of every dog in the neighborhood and sometimes I could even hear the neighbor's conversations when they sat on their front porch.  Believe it or not, cardboard saved both my sanity and my bank account.

Initially, I had estimates done to get insulation put in the house by professionals.....more money than I had to spend.  My solution?  Cardboard and fabric.

It should also be noted that I hate, loathe and detest white walls and/or plain walls.  I love color and I love texture so this idea was pure perfection for me.  Another great thing about this solution is the fact that if/when I tire of it, I rip it off and put the whole thing on the curb and replace it with whatever my mood dictates at that moment.  But the best thing about it (other than it's gorgeous and easy) is the fact that it's FREE.  That so works for me!  Free is my favorite word.  I love it even more than "cheap".

You can get fancy with this if you want.  You can pad the cardboard and make the finished look tufted as the picture below.

You can cut the cardboard into strips, roll it and affix it to the walls showing the cut ends.....only do this if you have the time and patience of a Saint.  

It should also be noted that if you choose to go this route, you will have to first cover your wall in flattened cardboard or instead of insulating and soundproofing, it will actually magnify any outside sounds and incoming air.

The picture below shows raw cardboard but since it's flat and not rolled, the application is quick and easy.

This one is a bit more involved but still not as complicated as the version involving rolling and cutting the cardboard.

The one below creates almost a brick or stacked stone texture.  While it is a bit more involved than simply covering the cardboard with fabric, it is an easy installation.  Cut the cardboard in rectangles of various sizes, affix them to the walls and randomly place other rectangles on top to form a stacked effect.  Once done, paint and the finished product will be gorgeous.

To cover the cardboard in fabric all you have to do is cut your fabric to fit the cardboard and tape it to the cardboard.  Once that's done, figure out your placement and using a small nail, nail the cardboard in place.  Don't worry too much about your choice of tape because once the piece is nailed securely to the wall, the pressure will keep the fabric in place.  You can also staple the fabric in place or you can get fancy and trim it out with molding to make a picture effect.

I am not a fan of flat sheets but for some reason, I buy a lot of sheet sets throughout the year.  My children think I have a sheet set addiction.  Sheet sets all come with both fitted and flat sheets and before I realize it, my linen closet is crammed full of flat sheets that I never ever use.  Well, I never use them on my bed.

To get these out of my closet, I use some of my flat sheets for curtain panels and I use them to cover cardboard to put on my walls.  Great solutions!

To make a stacked wall, cut the cardboard into various sizes, pad a few, and then place them randomly on the wall.

This wall below is perhaps the easiest of them all.  Tape several boxes together to get the height that you need, cover them in fabric and nail them to the wall.  I love the simplicity of it.

Love maps?  Try using crafting glue to put your favorite maps on the cardboard instead of fabric.

If you don't have a super large map like the one above, print off smaller maps that you can find for free on the internet, glue them to smaller cardboard pieces and nail those to your walls.

Here's another example of covered cardboard.  

A lot of houses have those horribly ugly ceiling tiles.  Sometimes they are used to cover up a ceiling that was damaged by an old leak or cracks and sometimes they are used to lower the ceiling height.  Whatever reason, they are so incredibly ugly.

Try using this technique to cover them.  I would recommend not using a pattern but rather using a solid fabric but if pattern is what you love, go for it!

Don't worry about covering a drafty window when using this technique.  My bedroom had 2 west facing windows that were protected by shrubbery and were on the side of the house so I didn't get a lot of drafts from those.  But I had a north facing window that was unprotected by shrubbery and in the winter time standing by that window was like being outside.  It was also exactly where I wanted to place my bed.

My solution?  I covered both sides of the cardboard that I placed over this window.  When you stood outside, you saw what appeared to be curtains.  It looked great inside and out AND it stopped the drafts and outside noises from coming into my bedroom.

I hope this post has given you some creative and pretty solutions to your drafty house. It should also be noted that this is a technique that can easily be done to a rental since it doesn't involve defacing the walls.  The brad nails will leave tiny holes that will be easy to cover once the panels are removed.  As a huge bonus, covering the walls will prevent dirt, grime, and dust from gathering on the walls so when you pull them down, your landlord will think you have scrubbed the walls.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Anyone for Dessert?

Christmas is right around the corner!  As such, I thought I'd dedicate this month's blog to desserts fit for a Christmas dinner but super quick and easy.

If you're pressed for time, try making a Trifle.  Easy, fast and oh so delicious.  Trifle in English cuisine is a dessert made with fruit, a thin layer of sponge fingers soaked in sherry or another fortified wine, and custard. It can be topped with whipped cream

The beauty of this dessert is the fact that you can customize it to suit the taste of you and your family.  Love strawberries, banana's - use those!  Want a more wintery dessert?  Then try a cookie trifle using gingerbread and pumpkin pudding.  The variations are endless.

Another fast and easy dessert is the ever popular chocolate cake.  How about dressing it up a bit for Christmas by drizzling caramel sauce over it?  You can, of course, make your own sauce from scratch....or you can buy caramel sauce in a jar and drizzle it to make a beautiful cake that folks will think you spent hours creating.

How about making a Christmas Tree for dessert?  Buy some shortbread cookies, royal icing in a tube and some edible beads.   Put a layer of cookies, a few drops of icing, more cookies (the icing acts as an edible glue of sorts) and continue until you have a tree.  Then a few drops of icing on the "limbs" of the tree and place your beads there to act as ornaments.  Done!

How about a tree made from Hershey's Kisses and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups?  Too cute!

The next cake is a real show stopper.  You can google "Malteser Cake" and do it the hard can make your favorite chocolate cake and buy your favorite frosting and then stick malted milk balls on the outside.  Once you have your malted balls all in place, heat frosting on your stove until it's nice and loose.  It should have the consistency of a thin gravy so if you need it to be thinner, add a couple of pats of butter (not margarine) and a teaspoon of water at a time until you get it just right.  Never more than a teaspoon of water at a time.  It's always easier to thin it than it is to thicken it.  Allow it to cool down a bit so it won't melt your malted milk balls and then drizzle it over them.

Now you have quick and easy desserts that will please the entire family!  Christmas is about so much more than standing over the stove!  Enjoy your family! after all, that's what Christmas get-togethers are really all about.