Making an Entrance

It’s been a while since I’ve taken you to Mom’s house, and there is always so much to see there.  My mom, Erika, bought her mid century rambler about a decade ago, and she has been improving it ever since.  Notice that I didn’t say slowly improving it.  No, Mom likes to hit the ground running.

A Bland Impression

When Mom moved in, the house lacked curb appeal.  There was dark brown siding above a white brick facade.  The front entry was tidy but nondescript .  The overly-pruned evergreen shrubs made the garden look dated.

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

A boring cement walkway angled in from the garage.

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

And something else wasn’t quite right – the windows to the right of the front door.  “I hated those high little bedroom windows,” says Mom. “They made the rooms dark.”

Phase 1:  Lightening Up

So shortly after Mom moved in, she had the small bedroom windows replaced with larger ones that matched the living room windows.

Of course installing larger windows meant cutting into walls – and into the brick siding.  Mom was surprised to discover that the bricks were actually white all the way through.

She replaced the front door and had the dark brown siding painted a light, elegant color.

Adding curb appeal - new windows

She replaced the large shrubs near the entry with a brick cobblestone patio.

Adding curb appeal - new patio

She had the cement walkway removed and replaced with brick cobblestone.  And she added a new walkway from the street to the front door.

Adding curb appeal - new walkways

So now the house looked much more inviting from the street.  But there was still more to do.

Phase 2 – A Welcoming Entry

The front entry was really just a stoop and a front door with little protection from the elements.  A front porch, however small, would really bring character to the house’s exterior.

So when the house needed a new roof, Mom saw an opportunity for an upgrade.

She had her carpenter extend the roofline over the front door to create a portico.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Her carpenter built a seamless addition, including a cedar plank ceiling stained to match the 50-year-old cedar boards under the eaves.

It’s amazing how much impact this small addition has on the home’s exterior.  It breaks up the long, straight roofline and gives the house a focal point.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Now the look is warm and inviting.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Before and After Recap

The house went from this . . .

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

To this.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Mom has done so many tasteful upgrades to her house.  I especially want to show you her amazing backyard transformation (once we locate the “before” photos).

As you might have guessed, she has many talents.  Mom has published two books – one of them based on her very interesting childhood.  So if you get a chance visit her Amazon author’s page or her website.

Disclosure: Affiliate links were used in this post.


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Simple Summer Decor Tips

In this post, we have a fun mix of things:  An elegant budget floral arrangement, a small DIY decor project, and some new decor inspiration for outdoor spaces.

Making Street Market Flowers Look Elegant

Last Sunday at our neighborhood street market, my husband, Chris, offered to buy me a bunch of locally-grown flowers from a vendor.

A $5 bunch seemed large enough.  Curious to see what he would choose, I asked Chris to pick out the flowers.  He chose a colorful bunch of assorted flowers and a single stem each of allium and foxtail lily.

Summer decor: Street market flowers

I wanted to arrange them in a tall fluted glass vase that I found a while back at a vintage market.  I love the simple elegance of the vase.  But when a vase is wider at the top than at the bottom, it’s sometimes hard to get the flowers to stand straight.

So it helps to create a simple tape grid at the top of the vase.

Tip:  Put the water in the vase before creating the tape grid.

vase with tape grid

The grid didn’t need to be very elaborate.  I added decorative rocks to the bottom because the flower stems would be too short otherwise.  (That and it makes the vase more difficult for my cats to tip over.)

The foxtail lily went in the middle as the tallest stem – with other tall stems surrounding it.  Next came larger-diameter blossoms (iris, peony, the allium), and then the filler blossoms and the greens.

Fluted vase with street market flowers

Easy and elegant.

Summer decor: street market flowers

By the way, as some of the flower vendors pointed out, it’s almost time to say goodbye to the beautiful peony until next year.  But is it?  As mentioned in Sunset Magazine and on Sunset’s blog, some farmers in Alaska are growing July-blooming peonies.  So maybe there is a chance that we will be seeing these beauties in the lower 48 and other locations later this summer.

DIY Outdoor Placemats

This project didn’t turn out quite as planned, but I think it’s still worth sharing.

One nice feature of a round table is that it is often easier to add extra place settings than it would be with a rectangular or square table.  Even so, when more place settings are added, the space between them becomes tighter.

So I decided to make some simple placemats for our round patio table.  I wanted to make enough to seat six, so the placemats couldn’t be too large.  And to follow the curve of the round table, the placemats should also be round.  And since they would be used outside, they could look rustic.

Warning:  Weird burlap project ahead!

I had a roll of burlap fabric and some liquid fabric stiffener (which I had never tried before) in my craft room.  So I used a 13-inch platter as a template and cut the burlap.  Of course, as burlap does, it immediately began to fray.

Burlap for placemats

Then, using a painting pad, I saturated each round piece of burlap front and back with the fabric stiffener and laid them flat on parchment paper to dry.

At first I was disappointed to see that the burlap frayed even more after it was saturated.  But then I realized that it was actually kind of a cool look.

The burlap wanted to curl and buckle a bit when wet, so from time to time while it was drying, I pressed it back into place.  I couldn’t wait to see how the pieces looked when they dried.

So of course they took forever to dry.

And when they did, the burlap was indeed very stiff.  No more fraying.  That fabric was not going anywhere now!  I cut off any strands that were sticking out funny or looking too crazy, but I left most of it.

burlap placemats after drying

It does make for an interesting look under outdoor plates, but I should have made them bigger.  And using colored burlap might have been fun for this project.  But here it is.

Summer decor: burlap placements in setting

There was some fabric stiffener left in the tray and I hated to waste it, so I also made some simple napkin rings using rope ribbon and some vintage buttons.

Summer decor: rope napkin rings

Summer decor: summer place setting closeup

A fun (if slightly weird) result for my first experiment with fabric stiffener.

Introducing My New Summer Style Boards

Are you planning a new outdoor space? Or maybe just looking for fresh ideas?

Sometimes it’s easier to be inspired if you have a good visual.  Visit my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page and set the right mood for your outdoor space.

2016 Summer Style Boards


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A Bench for Priscilla

An aging pet, an art deco bench, Shutterfly, bedroom design tips, and Pinterest color boards.  How do they all fit together?   Well . . . very loosely in this rambling post.

I have a lot to share with you this time, so let’s start connecting the dots.

An Aging Pet

A few months ago, I shared my little Downton Abbey-inspired master bedroom refresh.  Aside from needing some better bedside lamps, I thought that the project was finished.

But then 15-year-old Priscilla started having trouble jumping up onto the bed.  She tried, only to fall back to the floor.  This girl never used to miss her mark, but now she needed a little help.

Black cat
My loyal buddy.

So I searched for something she could use as a halfway point between the floor and the top of the bed.

An Art Deco Bench

I came across a small art deco bench at a consignment shop.  It was half price in the markdown room, piled so high with other merchandise that I almost missed it.

The upholstery was interesting.

Art Deco Bench as found
Bench as found

But the wood was in excellent condition.

With its rounded edges, the bench could have originally been paired with a waterfall bedroom vanity.  So it was appropriate for a bedroom.  And its small scale was perfect for the limited space I had to work with.

I put it at the foot of the bed, and Priscilla immediately saw the advantage and starting using it to climb up to her favorite napping spot.

Burkedecor.com is all new

I didn’t want her to be without it for long, so I decided to just do a quick reupholster and call it good.

I couldn’t wait to see what was under the purple fabric.  Was the original upholstery still there?  Something beautiful and interesting?

No such luck.

Old upholstery

And it looks better in the photo than it did in real life.

So I removed both fabric layers but kept the padding since it was in surprisingly good condition.

With Priscilla lounging on the front porch, I raced to the fabric store. A floral fabric would look sweet on the bench, so that is what I was after.

And this is what I came home with.

fabric closeup

It is “Avondale Vintage” by Covington Fabric and Design. It reminded me of an antique tapestry.  The pattern depicts old-world hunting and fishing scenes.  I’m a pushover for this sort of thing. And, I reasoned, this was in keeping the bedroom’s Downton Abbey-esque vibe.

I only needed an 18-inch cut, but I asked for 2/3 yard so I could center the scene that I liked the most – which turned out to be the hunting scene.

I spruced up the wood with Howard Restor-A-Finish in Golden Oak.

And then I put the bench back.

fabric detail - art deco bench

Art Deco Bench

Including the sprint to the fabric store, the project took one afternoon.

art deco bench

And Priscilla never missed her bench.

Cat with art deco bench

You may have guessed from the photos that our master bedroom is not huge.  I would still like to find ways to make better use of the space.  And my idea file just got a boost from Shutterfly.

Bedroom Design Tips from Shutterfly

Recently, the folks at Shutterfly reached out to me asking to use some of the images from my master bathroom remodel in a blog post that they are creating.

And they gave me this gorgeous bedroom design guide to share with my readers.   Full of  simple and practical advice, the guide focuses on working with a small space.  But I think most of the tips can be applied to bedrooms of any size – or even rooms other than bedrooms.

Clicking on the summary image below will take you to the full version of this guide

25 Easy Ways to Make a Bedroom Look Bigger
Image courtesy of Shutterfly

Pinterest Color Boards

The folks at Shutterfly also invited me to populate a few of the home decor color boards that they have on Pinterest as part of their post 200 Inspiring Color Schemes for the Home.

White is hot right now.  My Pinterest and Instagram feeds are awash with white rooms.  And recently barely-there pastels have started to cautiously creep onto the scene.

Done right, these trendy wall and trim colors are gorgeous, and they definitely have their place in interior decor (see hints 20 and 21 above).  I’ll probably be using white in our upcoming laundry room remodel.

But I must admit that I’m often drawn to the drama and romance of rich colors.  So I loved it that the colors that Shutterfly gave me to work with were unapologetically rich.

One argument for whites is that richer, deeper wall colors are not neutral enough to support changes in art and decor, but I don’t agree. Many rich colors can serve as neutrals. They just have to be chosen carefully.

So if you get a chance, check out these Pinterest boards for some design inspiration ranging from the trendy to the classic.  Some of the images I used were my own, but many were borrowed from other sources.

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Keeping it Simple: DIY Garden Edging

The simple DIY projects always seem to turn out best for me.  It’s when I overthink things that I run into trouble.  So today, I am sharing one of the simplest and prettiest landscaping projects I have ever tried.

For the backstory, we look to my post Improvements in the Garden, where I shared a project months in the making:  Our new bluestone walkway.

The walkway connected the back porch to the greenhouse, the garden shed, and the back patio.

Bluestone garden pathway

Beautiful as it was, it still looked unfinished to me.  As you can see, we needed some sort of transition between the flowerbeds and the walkway.

bluestone garden pathway

And I worried about the soil from the flowerbeds eroding into the walkway.

Garden edging was in order here – something rustic and natural-looking so that it would look good with the bluestone and also with the old drystack wall in our patio area.

drystack wall
Back patio drystack wall.

Chris and I kicked around the idea of a similar but shorter drystack wall for the garden edging.  Getting just the right look would be tricky, but we could have Carlos (the landscaper who did our bluestone path) come back.  He would probably do a wonderful job.

But of course we were overthinking it.  And it sounded expensive.  I knew if we could just get some big, pretty rocks, I could do the edging  myself.

Finding Big, Pretty Rocks

I really think that rocks should be free – like air.  But they are actually kind of expensive, especially big, pretty rocks.

The big box home stores near us didn’t carry what we wanted, so we wound up driving to a large stone yard out in the country.

There, we found a huge variety of stones.  We quickly eliminated river rocks as an option – too round.  We needed something kind of square-ish but still natural-looking.

It didn’t take us long to settle on Eagle Mountain ledge stone, which comes from Montana.

At the stone yard

Chris and I loaded a pallet.  (Well, he did most of the loading while I wielded the camera.)

The stones were irregular in dimension.  We only had a vague idea of which size or thickness would work best, so we just got a mix.  We got a half ton, which turned out to be just enough.  The cost:  A little over $200.

Installing the Stones

My plan was very simple.  I hoped it would work.  First, I dug a shallow trench for the stones between the bluestone walkway and the flowerbeds.  The trench was at most an inch and a half deep.

DIY garden edging: valley carved for stones

Then I added a thin layer of sand for good luck.  I’m not sure the sand was even necessary.

Then the fun started. I placed the stones in the trench.   I made sure the prettiest stones were placed somewhere obvious.

DIY garden edging: stones set in valley

And I placed the taller stones where the soil was high to keep the soil from crumbling into the walkway.

DIY garden edging: stones set

I trundled 1,000 pounds of stone into place.  I spent so much time finding the right stone for the right location that I almost started giving them names.

I tapped each one with rubber mallet to make sure it was secure. These guys were heavy, which worked in my favor since once they were put in place, they didn’t want to move.

Burkedecor.com is all new

Then after the stones were set, I simply backfilled the flowerbeds behind the stones with soil and swept sand into the crack between the stones and the walkway.  Voila!

DIY garden edging: Eagle Mountain ledge stone

The stones already look like they have always been here.

DIY garden edging: Eagle Mountain ledge stone closeup

I strive for an old-world look in the garden and I think these stones fit the bill.

DIY garden edging with birdbath

DIY garden edging near shed

greenhouse and hardscaping

In fact, if I’ve had a glass of wine and the light is right, they kind of look like the remains of an ancient rock wall.  Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.

path leading to patio

DIY garden edging: center planter

All in all, a labor-intensive but satisfying project.

DIY garden edging: patio entry


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A Lapse in Judgment Becomes Garden Art

In a recent post, An Old Stereo Cabinet is Transformed, I picked on my long-suffering husband, Chris, because he brought home an abandoned piece of furniture that didn’t seem to be worth the trouble of rehabbing.  But what I didn’t mention is that, around the same time, I did the exact same thing.

Only what I brought home was too icky to even bring into the house.

On the Curb for a Reason

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I have a hard time ignoring any piece of interesting furniture that has been kicked to the curb, like this dresser.

One of my hard-learned lessons is that I really should ignore any discarded piece of furniture that has upholstery, cushions, foam – in short, soft surfaces that more often than not harbor bad smells, mold, and even cooties.

But this chair.  Sure it had upholstery and foam, but it also had fun lines.  At one time, I reasoned, this chair must have really been something.  And I could bring it back to its former glory.

Chair as found on curb

My inner voice was screaming “You idiot!” as I packed it into my car.

When I got it home, Chris’s only comment was, “Looks like it’s been sitting outside for a while.”

I was already planning to replace every soft surface, but now the wood was also in question.  What kind of wood-eating insects were living in there?

I was tempted to take it back to the curb where I found it, but it was too late now, and someone might see me.

But no way was this cootie-laden white elephant coming into the house.  I would have to turn it into garden art.

Garden Art and Spider’s Nests

The seat of the chair would become a shallow planter, and the chair would be placed in the shade garden.

Preparing for Paint

I started by removing the upholstery and foam padding.  The chair had been poorly reupholstered with a lavender-colored faux-leather fabric fastened by a million tiny exposed staples.

Removing all the staples was time consuming but it gave me a chance to obsess over my poor judgment.

Allsop Home & Garden

I uncovered a sturdy set of metal springs in the seat.  They were fastened so well that I decided not to remove them.  I had already been through enough.

I scrubbed the chair clean – what was left of it.  All I had at this point was the wooden frame and an interesting set of seat springs.  Kind of cool!

Choosing the Paint

The lines of the chair would really pop with the right color.  But this chair was large.  If I painted it a bright color, it would look gaudy – like a clown throne at a circus.

So I needed a strong yet quiet color – something that would look nice in the shade garden.  I decided on a satin Valspar outdoor paint in “Oceanic” – a dignified shade of blue.

I masked off the seat springs before painting.

Garden art: Chair ready for paint

When I turned the chair upside down to paint the underside, I discovered a spider’s nest.  Since I was leaving the chair outside, I just left the nest and avoided spray painting it.  Let the little guys hatch.

Creating a Planting Area

The frame of the seat was about four inches deep, so Chris built a bottom for the frame out of plywood and drilled in a few drain holes.

Now the seat was a shallow planter with a set of springs at the top for interest.

Garden art: chair converted to planter

Planting the Seat

I filled the seat/planting area with good soil and planted a common ground cover – golden creeping Jenny – between the seat springs.   The plants could wind around the springs to create a fun look.

Garden art: Chair with creeping jenny winding around metal springs

Garden art: chair with creeping Jenny winding around springs

In the Shade Garden

My garden is very colorful, especially my back patio.  So I would probably have done this chair differently if it was going to be somewhere other than the shade garden.

But the shade garden is where I can rest my eyes.  It’s filled mostly with greens, whites, and blues – cool colors.  I didn’t want an accent piece that interrupted that quietness.

The chair, large as it is, is understated enough to fit in, yet it still catches the eye.

Garden art: chair converted to planter

Chair as garden art - arm detail

Chair as garden art

The golden creeping Jenny, recently planted, is just starting to spill over the sides of the frame.

I always have a lot to do in the garden, so I wanted a plant for this chair that would be low maintenance.  The creeping Jenny fits the bill.  I just need to cut it back once a year.  And once trimmed back, the metal springs can take over with their structural interest until the plants emerge again.

I played with the idea of fastening chicken wire to the back of the chair so that vines could creep up the back.  But the chair has such fun lines that I didn’t want it to be overpowered by plants.

So the back of the chair is left open to “frame” the ferns behind it.

Garden art - back of chair as frame

Baby Spiders

A few days ago, I was weeding around the chair.  And when I bumped it, dozens of tiny baby spiders cascaded from the arm on a delicate web chain.  The nest had hatched – luckily outside!


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April Floral Inspiration: Silver Dollar Eucalyptus

One of my favorite fillers for floral arrangements is silver dollar eucalyptus.  This airy, showy species of eucalyptus adds a casual elegance to any floral arrangement.

A small grocery store bunch costs around $5, so I was very pleased when my neighbor gave away the branches of the silver dollar eucalyptus tree that she had cut down.

I made off with a couple of large branches.  By then, the tree had been cut down for several days.  But the branches still smelled fresh and wonderful, and the large, round, blue-silver leaves were still gorgeous.

I cut the the branches into smaller sections to use in floral arrangements.

Silver dollar eucalyptus

Drying the Eucalyptus – The Easy Way

I had more eucalyptus than I could use at any given time.  So I wanted to try drying it.

I learned that eucalyptus can be preserved by placing the stems in a combination of water and glycerin – if the stems are fresh enough to absorb the mixture.

But these stems were starting to dry out.  There was no way that they were going to absorb anything.

I read that eucalyptus could be air dried if placed in a warm, dry, and dark location.  So for lack of a better place, I put them in my little greenhouse.  It was bright in there, but still warm and dry.  And I figured that two out of three wasn’t bad.

greenhouse full of eucalyptus

After several days, it seemed the eucalyptus had dried, and I needed to take back the greenhouse for other things.

I left one small bunch in the greenhouse, and it has done fairly well although withering a bit from the bright exposure.

Silver dollar eucalyptus

Alone or With Flowers

The rest I stashed around the house.  It looks elegant all by itself, whether in a large bunch or just one sprig.

Silver dollar eucalyptus in an ice bucket

Silver dollar eucalyptus in a vignette

The eucalyptus has been dried for at least a month now, and while the leaves have curled a little and the color has changed from silver-blue to more of a green, it’s still very beautiful.

And it still makes a lovely filler.  Here, leaves are simply tucked in where needed to conceal a tape grid at the mouth of this vase.

Silver dollar eucalyptus with carnations

And here, branches add interest to a pitcher of lilacs.

Silver dollar eucalyptus with lilacs

Of course it is brittle now and needs to be handled carefully. And the fresh eucalyptus scent is gone.

But it’s good to know that this beautiful floral filler really does dry nicely even without the glycerin mixture.



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An Old Stereo Cabinet is Transformed

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


A while back, while driving to an appointment, I noticed that someone had left two unwanted pieces of furniture out on the curb.

One piece was a cute older dresser that I knew I could bring back to life with the right paint treatment.

I didn’t pay much attention to the other piece.  I didn’t really know what it was other than a plain and ugly old cabinet.

I texted my husband, Chris, asking if he could bring the truck and pick up the dresser.  Then I scurried off to my appointment.

Later I saw a text from Chris saying that he had picked up both pieces.

From Music to Spirits

The ugly cabinet was a mid century stereo cabinet. Chris wanted to convert it to a liquor cabinet.

I was a little skeptical.   Was this piece really worth the trouble?

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Cabinet before restoration

At least the legs were unique.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: the legs

Finding the Look

To me, the wood didn’t look like anything special.  I assumed it was either cheap wood or a cheap veneer over some sort of plywood.  I have seen some fun transformations of mid century furniture using paint, and I thought that paint was the perfect option for this piece.

But a little sanding revealed that the cabinet was actually solid mahogany.  So there would be no paint going on here. Chris loves the look of quality wood.

Bringing the Original Beauty Back

The first thing Chris did was remove the flimsy pegboard back.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: The back of the cabinet

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: removing the back of the cabinet

He used an orbital sander with 40-grit sandpaper to strip off the original finish – and decades of gunk.  Then he used 120-grit sandpaper to bring out the grain.

He repaired the dings and gouges in the wood using Wunderfil Walnut Wood Filler.  He let that dry and then sanded it.

Then, using a rag,  he applied Daly’s #288 Analine Dye. Over that, also using a rag, he applied a layer of Daly’s dark mahogany wood stain. He left the stain on for only 15 seconds and then wiped it off.


Finally, he applied thee coats of General Finishes Oil & Urethane in Satin using a Verathane applicator for oil-based finishes.  (The applicator is really for finishing wood floors, and it’s larger than Chris needed.  So he just cut it into smaller pieces and made sure he vacuumed away any lint before using it.)

Using 400-grit sandpaper, he hand sanded between each coat.

Damage Control

Now the cabinet was gorgeous, but one thing was still bothering Chris: The hinged lid to the turntable compartment. It was made up of two pieces of heavy mahogany that were joined together only by glue.  And with all the sanding, the glued seam was starting to separate.

So he separated the two pieces and re-joined them using wood dowels and fresh glue.  He set the seam to dry using these huge clamps.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Clamps for repairing turntable top

Now the seam is stronger and barely noticeable.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: repaired turntable top
Can you find the glued seam in this photo?

A New Back

Since the cabinet is already very heavy, he used lightweight but durable tempered hardboard for the  back.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: New Hardboard Back

Happy Hour!

What was once the turntable compartment is now a great place to store bottles and ice buckets.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Interior of turntable compartment

One of my favorite features of this piece is the long brass hinge in this compartment.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Turntable compartment hinge

Chris removed one interior shelf to make room for a wine rack.

Wine rack

So with a few refinements, an obsolete piece of furniture was transformed into something useful.

From this . . .

Mahogany stereo cabinet before

To this.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Mahogany cabinet after

And the piece is still true to its original form, although I can’t help wondering if it even looked this good when it was brand new.

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: Mahogany cabinet after, doors open

 

Mid Century Furniture Restoration: cabinet from side

Mid Century Furniture Restoration
It’s five o’clock somewhere!

I underestimated this little stereo cabinet.

Lessons learned:  Before I dismiss an old piece of furniture, I will take a closer look, and I won’t assume anything.

So what about the dresser I found on the curb with this cabinet? It’s still in the basement awaiting my attention.

This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.


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Outfitting a liquor cabinet can be as fun and affordable as you want to make it.

The copper cocktail mugs are high on my wish list.


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DIY Soup Can Planters: An Experiment in Rust

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


The project that I’m about to share is not for everyone.  But if you like rusty things, then this one’s for you.

A couple of months back, while at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I noticed this cute little planter at one of the booths in the marketplace.

inspiration
Cute planter as found at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I just loved the rustic patina and wondered if I could duplicate it.

So for fun, I saved a few empty soup cans.  I removed the labels and cleaned them.

before

The Experiment Begins

The patina I wanted to copy looked like a mixture of paint and rust. The paint part was easy enough, but what about the rust?

There are some wonderful rust accelerators on the market, but I wanted to keep this experiment low-budget since, after all, it was only an experiment.

My husband, Chris, offered to whip up a rust accelerator for me using simple household ingredients.  So while he searched Google, I searched through our spray paint cans.

The paint

Since I wanted to experiment with different results, I thinly sprayed the soup cans with random combinations of Rust-Oleum Heirloom White and Rust-Oleum Matte Citron – both paints that I already hand on hand.

I sprayed some cans with only the Heirloom White, some with only the Matte Citron, and some with both colors.  I made sure to leave a few unpainted patches of raw metal – mostly at the top of each can.

Then I rubbed each can with steel wool, especially on the horizontal ribs, to expose even more metal.  The photo below shows it better than I can explain it.

DIY Rusty Patina - partially painted first

You can see that I wasn’t going for accuracy here, which is what is so fun about this project.

The rust

Meanwhile, Chris was mixing up his special batch of rust accelerator in a spray bottle, using a formula he found on this website.

The formula, which should be mixed in a certain order, calls for white vinegar, salt, and hydrogen peroxide.  All fairly innocent ingredients on their own.  But combined, they become a strong, wicked acid. Wear eye protection and gloves when mixing or handling.  Use this mixture in a well-ventilated area and away from anything that you don’t want to rust, stain, or inadvertently kill (sorry lawn). For more safety information, head back to this website.

Before I applied this mixture, I saturated each can with white vinegar. This etches the metal so it will better absorb the mixture.  Then I let the cans dry completely.

Now it was time to apply the magic mixture.  Using a spray bottle, I saturated each can.

It didn’t seem to work – at first.  Then after a few minutes the rust started.  I let each soup can dry, and then I reapplied the mixture.

Soon I just filled a shallow plastic pan with about 1/8-inch of the rust mixture and rolled the cans in the mixture, let them dry, then rolled them again.

I rolled the cans about four times.  It seemed that the mixture was starting to eat through the spray paint a bit.

Finally I was happy with the patina, although I might have overdone it.  The cans did turn out rustier than my original example.

The finish coat

I rinsed each can off with water.  I noticed that if I rubbed the cans at all, the paint would flake off and expose the un-rusted metal underneath.  Not good.

So once the cans were dry, I applied two coats of a clear, flat acrylic finish by Krylon to stabilize the patina and prevent any more paint from flaking off.

All done!  I love the rustic results.

DIY rusty patina

A Planter or a Vase

My cans look like a vintage find from Grandpa’s tool shed.

DIY rusty patina - planter

Since some plants don’t take well to being planted directly into metal containers, I plant them in small plastic pots and then set those pots inside the cans.

The cans also make cute vases.  I think they would be fun as table decor for a rustic-themed reception.

DIY rusty patina - vase

I could also see using cans of varying sizes in groups as a centerpiece.

To avoid having the cans leave a rust stain on any surface, I will use little coasters under them.

This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial.


Resources:


Love rusty metal?  Check out the huge supply of rusty things on Etsy.

I especially love these cute industrial planters from Mike and Art Design.

rusty planter
Photo courtesy of Mike and Art Design.

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Improvements in The Garden

To mark my 100th post, I’m writing about something important to me – something months in the making:  Our backyard re-landscape.

Like most projects, this one started out as a small repair job that grew.

If It’s Broken, Fix It.  Then Keep Going.

Part of a narrow walkway made of broken Pennsylvania bluestone had been torn up to make way for our little greenhouse.  The walkway needed to be repaired, and things were a real mess.

New garden walkway: before
Our walkway in pieces after the greenhouse installation.

The little walkway ambled behind a large circular planting area and led into our back patio.

Old garden walkway

Cute but very impractical as this was never how we accessed the patio.  No, to get to the patio from our back porch, Chris and I – and guests – had to trudge through the lawn.

Getting to the tool shed also meant walking through a sometimes soggy or muddy lawn.

Before the new walkway
The tool shed (left) and patio (center) could only be accessed by walking through the grass.

Same story with the new greenhouse.

Greenhouse before the new garden walkway

So we decided to expand the bluestone walkway so that it connected everything – the back porch, the greenhouse, the patio, and the shed.  Hooray!

Designing the New Walkway

I wanted to keep an informal feel to the new walkway so that it complemented our cottage-style garden and house.  That meant curves instead of straight lines.

We could have drafted up a blueprint or scale drawing, but instead we simply laid out our garden hose in different configurations until we had an idea of what we wanted – sweeping lines, generous proportions.

Planning the new garden walkway

This was an easy and accurate visual aid.  Now we just had to find someone to show it to.  We decided to hire a professional landscaper since the bluestone slabs would be huge and heavy, and they would need to be cut properly to look right.

Finding Help

We met with several landscaping companies that specialized in this kind of hardscaping.  But in the end, we went with a landscaper we met during a walk in the neighborhood. Carlos was doing a beautiful walkway replacement for a neighbor so we got a firsthand look at his work.

The Project Begins

The project started last fall.  Chris and Carlos marked the outline of the new walkway.

New garden walkway: marking the path

Then the grass was removed and a gravel bed was poured as a foundation.

New garden walkway: gravel poured

Sand was poured over the gravel.  Then it was leveled and compacted.

New garden walkway: leveling the sand

We also took this opportunity to do something about the tool shed. It had begun to settle and was sinking on one side.

shed on rollers

So the shed was lifted, put up on rollers, and then set back down onto a better foundation.

Then the huge stone slabs arrived.

New garden walkway: bluestone slabs

They were cut and set into place.

New garden walkway: cutting the stones

New garden walkway: partially done

Carlos did a terrific job of cutting the stones.

new garden walkway: stones in place

The existing walkway and patio had mortar joints between the pavers.  But every landscaper we talked to advised against using mortar on the new portion because the mortar would eventually crack.

So we decided to use polymeric sand instead.  It is said to be more stable than regular landscaping sand but more flexible than mortar.

We needed a certain temperature and several days of dry weather to install the sand.  With the holidays almost upon us at this point,  the project was put on hold.

But recently, the weather cooperated – and we were able get back on Carlos’s busy schedule.   It took him just a few hours to pour the sand into the joints.  Then it had to sit and dry for a few days.

New garden walkway: facing south from in front of greenhouse

New garden walkway from back porch

New garden walkway: flower bed and greenhouse

New garden walkway: connecting shed to greenhouse

 

New garden walkway connecting to old patio work
The old and new bluestone work connects here.
New garden walkway leading to existing patio
New garden walkway leading to existing patio

It looks so new now, but over time I think it will blend well with the older patio work, especially once more of the perennials emerge and soften the look.

More Improvements Coming

I just love how our new walkway turned out, but there is still much to do.

Garden Edging

We want to put in some sort of edging between the flower beds and the walkway.  This will give the new walkway a softer look and also keep the soil from eroding into it.

New garden walkway

I want to keep it charming – nothing that looks too man-made.  We are hoping to just use natural stones.

The Greenhouse Foundation

I also want to do something about the greenhouse foundation. To me, the bare pressure-treated wood makes it look unfinished.

Sunglo greenhouse foundation

Maybe I’ll stain or paint it, or maybe we’ll do some kind of stone facade.  I’m not sure yet, but of course I will keep you updated.

Thanks for 100 Posts

My readers mean a lot to me.  Some of you have been with me from the start (hi Mom), but if you have just found me, I hope you will continue to visit.

Many bloggers map out their posts months in advance, but I usually just write about what is interesting and share-worthy to me at the moment.   Most times, even I don’t know what is coming next.  So thank you for putting up with that!

For a look at my previous posts, check out my photo gallery.


Want some fresh ideas for your outdoor space?  Visit my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page.

2016 Summer Style Boards

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March Floral Inspiration: The Skagit Valley Daffodil Fields

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


Last month’s floral inspiration post featured a stunning floral sculpture – the result of one artist’s fanciful, intricate interpretation of a flowering tree. This month, we spin the dial in the opposite direction and visit the humble field daffodil before it is even plucked from the earth.  Well, not just one daffodil – fields and fields of them.

Yes, we are headed to Washington State’s Skagit Valley – home to some of the most prolific bulb farms in the U.S.  Most of these farms are owned by families that originated in Holland.

In April, many Washingtonians (including me) look forward to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when the valley floor comes alive with colorful bands of blooming tulips.

tulips just starting to bloom - skagit valley
Tulips just starting to bloom in the Skagit Valley

Beating the Crowds

This popular attraction, now in its 33rd year, can get crowded.  So this year, I wanted to get ahead of the crowd and instead check out the La Conner Daffodil Festival, which takes place in March.  The driving route is almost identical to the tulip festival route, but the earlier-blooming daffodils are the main attraction.  Three major varieties of daffodils are grown in the fields.

Now, to convince my husband, Chris, to tiptoe through the, uh, daffodils with me, I had to throw in an element of adventure.

So I told him we could bike the daffodil route.

Heidi and Bikes - Daffodil fields of the Skagit Valley
Me with our bikes in the Skagit Valley

Our Day Among The Daffodils

We parked the car in La Conner, a quaint little town on the Swinomish Channel, and hopped on our bikes.

There was so much to see that it seemed we stopped every mile or so.

Red barn and daffodil fields
Chris in front of the red barn.

pastures, daffodil fields, and mountains

daffodil fields

Country setting

Biking the route was better than driving it because we really felt connected to the valley.  We could hear bird songs and see snow geese in the fields and hawks hovering overhead.

The Big Attractions

Our first big stop was Roozengaarde, a huge bulb farm with over 1,000 acres of fields growing tulips, daffodils and irises. Roozengaarde has a gift shop and a beautiful display garden.

Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Roozengaarde pink tulip
A short-stemmed tulip at Roozengaarde

Daffodils under a tree in Roozengaarde garden

Roozengaarde hyacynths
Hyacynths in the Roozengaarde display garden

And beyond the lawn behind the display garden, fields of daffodils seemed to stretch to the mountains.

Daffodil fields at RoozenGaarde with Mt. Baker in the background.
Roozengaarde daffodil field with Mt. Baker in the background

Next we rode to Tulip Town, another large farm that grows and sells bulbs and other perennials.  The fields of Tulip Town were starting to show signs of spectacular color to come.

Tulip Town ulip fields
Tulip fields at Tulip Town

By now we were starting to feel pressed for time, so we didn’t linger in Tulip Town as long as I would have liked.

Getting Distracted

We hit the road again.  And not that this has anything to do with daffodils, but we happened upon the cutest unexpected sight: Miniature donkeys!

miniature donkeys

The next stop was Christianson’s Nursery. This place really speaks to me because they have several historic structures on the nursery grounds that the owners have rescued from other locations.

My favorite is the Meadow School, built in 1888. It is still used for classes – gardening classes, that is, held by the nursery.

Meadow Schoolhouse Interior
Meadow School interior

I could have spent hours in their quaint gift shop.

Christianson's nursery gift shop
A gift shop at Christianson’s Nursery

And I also fell in love with their many vintage greenhouses, especially this one from the 1940s.

Christianson's nursery old greenhose

Christianson's nursery greenhouse interior

But we were getting hungry.  It was time to wrap up the 16-mile ride and head back to La Conner to find food.

Daffodils in the City

Flower vendors in Seattle’s Pike Place Market sell the fancier filled daffodils which come mostly from farms near the city of Carnation.

Pike Place Market flowers
Pike Place Market, Seattle

To me, their soft beauty rivals any peony or rose.

Filled daffodils

But I wanted to use regular field daffodils to fill this French pitcher* that Chris gave me for Christmas.

Field daffodils in blue pitcher

It took two grocery store bundles to fill the pitcher – $4 well spent.


*The blue pitcher is by Emile Henry.  This company specializes in kitchenware and bakeware.  For Christmas, Chris gave me a mix of vintage and new Emile Henry bakeware.  I love the look, the quality, and how easy the pieces are to clean.

Emile Henry is a French company, and most of their items are made in France.

A nice assortment of vintage Emile Henry can be found on Etsy.

orange emile henry
Photo courtesy of Coastal Maison



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CREATIVE HOME AND GARDEN IDEAS FROM THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET