bits of inspiration – #100.

Valentine’s Day is coming up next week and if you don’t have any special plans (or even if you do) you should check out the Handmade Valentine Exchange project. The exchange encourages people from all over the world to participate in creating and sending handmade valentines to strangers across the globe. The project was started by photographer and art director, Julia Parris, in 2011 and has been going strong since. I love a good craft project and I also really love the nostalgia of creating and receiving valentines like grade-school children (an aside: do kids still do this?). This would be a perfect girls’ night or snow day activity. Some of my favorite featured valentines are below. Enjoy!

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bits of inspiration – #96.

Sharing a slightly different kind of home tour today.. A cookie company in London has created what is arguably the most incredible gingerbread house of all time. The gingerbread architects as Biscuiteers Baking Company spent 500 hours creating  this 6ft-tall edible mansion, inspired by the the real-life Waddesdon Manor in the U.K. Watch the video below to see some of the work that went into this project, along with some really remarkable comparisons to the actual mansion.


video courtesy of Biscuiteers Baking Company


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photo via @biscuiteersltd


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photo via @biscuiteersltd

a few of my favorite things – Etsy gift guide.

You know it’s officially the pre-holiday season when Etsy releases their annual gift guides. These lists can be super helpful but also a little overwhelming because they have sooooo many sub-categories. It’s really easy to go deep into the rabbit hole of looking through suggested list after list around this time of year. From tea towels to tech accessories, these Etsy collections literally include something for everyone on your list. Below I’ve selected some of my favorite items. Hope you enjoy!

caosters
Gold Rimmed Agate Coasters
$115.00

etsy
Kitchen Towels, set of 3
$34.00

necklace
Letter Necklaces, set of 3
$20.50

notebooks
Minimalist Marble Notebook
11.43

popcorn
Gourmet popcorn and seasoning kit
$30.00

bath
Eucalyptus Bath Bombs
$5.00

case
iPad mini leather folio
$123.00+

bits of inspiration #84. – Maylee’s Little Country Playhouse 

Oirignally featured on May Me and Mom.

This would have seriously been my dream as a child (and maybe still as an adult). Maylee is lucky to have such a crafty mom with great taste!

May Me and Mom

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We have been working on this project for awhile now and have been so excited to finish it so we could share it with everyone. Earlier this summer my mom had a neighbor move and they were selling their play set. Right away my mom had a vision of making it into an adorable Playhouse for Maylee so she decided to buy it. She ended up getting it at a great price! Below is how we got it. There was some wood missing from places and had just been worn from weather a little bit. There wasn’t much that needed fixed just cosmetic fixes.


The first thing we did was remove the divider  in the bottom of the playhouse. We wanted to create a larger room for kids to play in. We then added mini shiplap boards  to enclose the back to make it seem more like a house. We…

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bits of inspiration – #60.

It would seem that the theme of this week (or at least the last couple days) is hanging floral installations! In a moment of serendipity, I saw today that @leslievilleflea tweeted an article where lifestyle blogger Anne Sage breaks down how to create these whimsical hanging floral pieces. The article suggests creating a hanging installation in place of cut flowers on a table to free up more space for food. I have to say I really love this idea for anyone who has exposed beams in their home. And incidentally, this perfectly reflects back on my last post about floral installation artist Rebecca Louise Law.

See the full DIY tutorial on Design Sponge.

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Photography by Carley Rudd, courtesy of designsponge.com

metallic seashell candleholders.

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.
― John F. Kennedy

Like a lot of people, I compulsively collect seashells (and interesting rocks) whenever I go to the beach. Because this habit is so common though, I’m often disappointed with the number of collectible artifacts I’m able to collect. While visiting Great Island at the end of the summer I was really excited to find that this particular beach was in fact full of beautiful intact shells.

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This one was too small for this projects but still one of my favorites

The thing about collecting seashells and rocks is that even though I feel compelled to do it, I’m never quite sure what to do with them afterward. I had seen a few tutorials around the internet lately where people had painted shells with gold leaf or gold spray paint and then repurposed them as vessels for jewelry or salt. Being that I’m already a big fan of gold leaf I thought I would give this a try.

It turns out there were A LOT of tutorials for painting seashells. In the end, I ultimately combined a couple ideas from a few different resources. At one point I came across this tutorial by the godmother of DIY, Martha Stewart. I really liked the idea of using the painted shells as candles so that’s what I decided to do (and realistically, I was never going to convince Jared that spooning salt out of a shell was a practical alternative to our salt shaker).

I decided I would paint the shells using gold leaf paint rather than spray paint – primarily because I don’t have any outdoor space and indoor spray painting is not great for your health. I bought this gold leaf paint on Amazon and used a small paintbrush I already owned to start.

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First I scrubbed the seashells to remove any remaining sand or dirt and then left them to dry overnight. The next day I got to gold leafing. The paint went on pretty easily and only required a single coat to cover the shells surface and leave them looking super metallic. I noticed that at times the paint would become too settled in the container and I’d start to see a pink-ish tint to it as I was painting. Whenever this happened I’d just stir up the gold leaf a bit and repaint the area that had been effected. I painted the tops first and then the bottoms once they were dry enough to be flipped over. The gold leaf paint only took about 30 minutes to dry completely so this was pretty quick. After the paint had dried on both sides I sprayed the seashells with some clear shellac. I’m not sure that this was even necessary but but I wanted to make sure the gold paint wouldn’t come up when I eventually poured the wax into the shells.

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Now that the shells were looking really glam it was time to get to the wax. I’ve never made candles before so I followed Martha’s instructions more closely here. I had bought some household paraffin wax and a spool of braided wick from Amazon. Melting the wax was surprisingly simple. I took one of the blocks of wax, placed it inside of a metal bowl and then placed the bowl inside of a pot of water and boiled the water over the stove. The wax melted into liquid in just a few minutes.

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While the wax melted I cut a few pieces of braided wick and took out a few sets of chopsticks so that I could hold them in the shells while the wax hardened. Martha’s tutorial recommends using candlewicks that already have metal tabs attached to them, which eliminates the need for chopsticks. This would have saved a little effort but you get a lot more wick for your money if you just buy a spool of it.

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Next I poured the wax into the candles and set the chopsticks to hold the pre-cut candlewick.

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And voila! It’s that easy. Honestly the most challenging aspect of this whole project was trying to clean the excess wax out of the metal bowl. For the most part though this was remarkably simple. Had I put more forethought into the candle process I would have liked to add some other ingredients to the wax to give it color and fragrance. It’s something I definitely want to try again, especially since I have a lot of leftover wax and candlewick.

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These really aren’t the most practical candles in terms of actually providing light. There’s such a small amount of wax in each one that they really can’t burn for more than a few minutes. However, I think they make for really charming decorative accents. I really like the idea of using them as décor on a tablescape for a dinner party. Because I don’t have that kind of space (or table) for entertaining I’ve placed mine on my windowsill and end tables in my living room.

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I think they look pretty cute 🙂

upcycling – an introduction to power tools.

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.”

― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Two months ago I moved for the fourth time in four years. Since college I’ve lived in many apartments with many configurations of many roommates. This most recent move was significant because it is the first time I have ever lived with a boyfriend. As always, I was excited at the chance to define a new aesthetic in a new space and was intent on making sure our little apartment would embody that intangible quality of feeling, truly, like “home”. The overall experience of merging two lives into a one-bedroom apartment is something I will speak to in another post. For now I want to share another new experience this move has brought – my first venture into refinishing furniture!

My aunt lives in the home that used to belong to my grandparents. Behind her house there is a structure we all affectionately refer to as “the barn” which effectively stores all of the furniture discarded by anyone in my family for the past 40 years. Naturally, when preparing to move in with my boyfriend, I went “shopping” in the barn. I really wanted two end tables for our living room and was excited to stumble upon two of these Ethan Allen drop-leaf tables that had previously belonged to my parents and before that, to my grandparents.

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As you can see, they were not in great shape after years of neglect in a dusty storage space. I wanted to sand them down and repaint them in a more matte finish rather than the high-gloss stain they had worn in their first life. For reference, I found the same tables for sale and in better shape on ancientpoint.com:

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I had refinished another table about a month earlier and the original stain on that table had sanded off pretty easily so I wasn’t expecting the project to be especially difficult. It quickly became apparent that top sides of the tables had been sealed with a varnish. Varnish – it turns out – is basically impossible to sand down by hand. So we went to HomeDepot and bought an electric sander.

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The sander ended up being very easy to use and really helped on the legs and underside of the tables where there was no varnish to remove. On the varnish sides the sander certainly helped but it still took quite a while to get the stain off. In retrospect, I should have stripped the wood first and saved myself a lot of time sanding. Eventually though, I got the stain off (mostly).

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Around the edges of the tops of the tables there was ridged area that was too small for the electric sander. I tried for quite a while to sand it down by hand but couldn’t get through the varnish and stain. I had heard that chalk paint would cover any old stain and would give me the matte finish I was looking for. I went on Amzon and bought two jars of Americana Chalky Finish Paint in Carbon finish. The chalk paint is so opaque it only required one coat to completely cover the tables and hide any remaining stain.

I wanted give the tables a little more visual interest so I opted to paint the drawers in a dark grey wood stain. Since the rest of the tables would be matte, I didn’t want to the drawers looking too transparent. It took about 3 coats of stain to reach the desired effect since the stain is meant to let the natural wood show through. I really liked this weathered grey stain I got at Home Depot and will definitely be using it again in a future project.

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Finally, I changed out the hardware with something less brassy to better fit the new look and ultimately they look like this:

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For a novice upcycler, I think the finished product looks pretty good.