Little Treasures in the Park

I love it when I stumble upon beautiful architecture in unlikely places.

In my last post, I talked about our vintage Airstream, which we took on a camping trip to Deception Pass State Park.  We camped in the park so that my husband, Chris, could be close to his volunteer work helping with a fish count in Bowman Bay.

Chris at fish count

And while he worked, I explored the bay.  As expected, I found tide pools, sweeping water vistas, seals, and birds.

But I wasn’t expecting stunning architecture with a link to the past. Right there among the clam shells and the picnic benches, a little window into the Great Depression opened for me.  And although I don’t usually post about U.S. history, I hope you’ll indulge me this time.

Hard Times, Strong People

My discovery began with this sign.

CCC Interpretive Center Sign

The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is a nice mini-museum that, in a nutshell, tells a story of human resilience and of how beautiful things can come from desperate times.

It’s located in a former bathhouse built during the Great Depression.

CCC Interpretive Center

Its construction was part of a public work relief program under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Young men who joined the CCC worked on improving and developing government lands all across the country.  They stocked lakes and planted trees.  They learned valuable skills while constructing roads, canals, and bridges.

Beautiful Reminders

They also constructed recreational buildings like this one.  They built them with style, and they built them to last.  I love the heavy stone exterior of this building and the extra little detail of having the stones curve in before they meet the wooden crossbeam.

CCC Picnic Shelter

There were a few other gems sitting quietly among the trees.

My favorite was this recently restored – and pretty spectacular- picnic shelter.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The amount and the quality of the wood used in this place is staggering.  I can’t image a public picnic shelter like this being built today.

CCC Picnic Shelter

Family reunion in here?  Sign me up.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

For a young man trying to weather the Great Depression, a CCC camp must have been a very desirable possibility indeed.  Workers were given wages, food, lodging, and medical care.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

Most of the men working in the CCC were young – under 29 years of age.  Apparently they were quick studies because their craftsmanship was amazing.  At another nearby picnic shelter, stonework is the star of the show.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The CCC program only lasted about a decade, but it gave us so many little national treasures.  I see structures like these sprinkled in parks all over my home state of Washington, and I always find them intriguing.  Some are just restrooms, but they are the cutest and sturdiest restrooms you’ll ever see.

The best thing about these treasures is that they are accessible to all of us.   So next time you’re in a park, take a second look and see what little gem you find.


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A Makeover for a Vintage Airstream

As a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors with my family enjoying the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  We just didn’t sleep there. Our days of exploring usually ended in the comfort of a cabin or a lodge.

But Chris’s childhood excursions were all about camping.  His parents owned many travel trailers over the years, and they took their kids camping almost every weekend in the summer.  In contrast, my first and last camping experience involved an old saggy cot slowly unraveling beneath me while I listened to cows stomping and snorting just outside of the tent all night.  Good times!

So I was a little apprehensive when, several years ago, Chris wanted to buy a travel trailer.  He was interested in a 1966 Airstream Caravel.  Oh boy.

Meet The June Bug

Vintage Airstream 1966 Caravel

The trailer, dubbed the June Bug by her former owner (yes, the trailer is a “she”), lived in Texas.  Chris took a leap of faith and purchased her based only on photos and information from the owner.  The owner graciously offered to tow her to Salt Lake City and leave her in a storage yard for us.

I was worried about what such an old trailer would smell like.  Mold? Mildew?  It was probably pretty gross.

Chris unlocked the trailer for the first time and stepped inside while I hovered safely outside.

My first question was, “How does it smell?”

“Smells pretty good,” he said.  And he was right.  The trailer really didn’t smell like anything.  And it seemed nice and clean.

I was sure that hooking the trailer up would be a huge project.  I settled in for a long wait.

But Chris had the trailer ready to go in 15 minutes.

And we were off on a trip to the Four Corners area.  It was one of the most carefree vacations we ever had.  Having the trailer seemed to give us so much freedom and so many options.

So now I love our little June Bug.  And this year is a big one for her:    She turned 50.  And like most 50-year-olds, she had a few character lines.

Vintage Airstream - damage

So we treated her to a little makeover.  We had the damaged aluminum panels replaced, and we had the exterior professionally polished.

Polished vintage Airstream

Camping in the June Bug had been a fair weather activity as the windows always leaked a little in the rain.  So we also had aluminum rain guards installed over the windows.

polished airstream window cover

Rain guards like these were standard issue on many Airstreams older than the June Bug, but by 1966 the design had changed.  So I love how these rain guards add to the vintage charm by making her look like an even older model.

polished airstream

Why Choose a Small Trailer?

Our Airstream is only 17 feet long, so we are able to camp in campgrounds and sites that prohibit longer trailers.  It’s easy to maneuver and easy to hook up to the truck and tow – no extra sway bars needed.

But having a tiny trailer also means having to be very organized.  I still have a lot to learn, but I will share with you what I have learned so far about tiny vintage trailers.

Her New Look

Recently we took the June Bug on her first excursion since her makeover.  We camped at the beautiful Deception Pass State Park.

There were a few bugs to work out at first.  Remarks like “Look at those tall trees!” quickly turned into “Do you smell propane?” and “Why is that leaking?”  Apparently a few things had rattled loose during the makeover.

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Always bring your toolbox.

But soon we were able to get to the really important task:  Dressing up the the June Bug.

1966 Airstream Caravel

I was worried that the trailer might look too flashy and obvious after being polished.  But in fact the opposite has happened:  The polished aluminum is so reflective that she almost disappears into her surroundings.

Vintage Airstream

Vintage 1966 Airstream Caravel

Vintage Airstream
Polished body with original Airstream emblem

Come Inside

Want to see the inside?  Come on in.

1966 Airstream Caravel

But first please take your shoes off.

Airstream entrance

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Tiny trailers can get dirty fast.  For the campground, bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and leave your shoes outside the entrance on a large indoor-outdoor mat.  But also bring a broom for the inevitable sand, dirt, or pine needles.

The Floor Plan

Except for a few minor tweaks, the June Bug’s floor plan is pretty original.  A pullout table went missing somewhere along the way, but there is still a small dinette table.

There is plenty of storage space in this little trailer – more than we actually use.

Floor Plan
Floor Plan – 1966 Airstream Caravel

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Clean the trailer thoroughly before storing it at the end of each camping season.

Still worried about hidden molds, I once scrubbed every inch of the trailer interior.  And I give the interior a thorough cleaning at the end of each season so it’s ready to go for the next season.

The Kitchen

We haven’t made any huge improvements to the interior.   The previous owner revamped the tiny kitchen to resemble a rustic cabin kitchen.  It’s cute but I’m torn.  We need to either take the look further or revert to a classic vintage trailer vibe.

Airstream kitchen

We want to refinish the wood underneath the upper cabinets and on the wall – and elevate the microwave to gain more counter space.  And speaking of counter space . . .

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Do as much food prep as possible at home in advance, and store the food in stackable containers to save fridge space.

I plan ahead and chop, dice, even cook whole meals at home in advance.  The tiny trailer kitchen is really best for storing food and heating it up, not for creating meals from scratch.  Plus once I’m there, I’d rather be hiking than cooking.

The kitchen had a tiny bar sink, making it difficult to wash dishes, so we installed a larger sink.

Trailer sink

But we still want to replace the faucet with a larger one that has a sprayer.

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Bring easy-to-clean cookware. “Roughing it” doesn’t need to include scrubbing baked-on food over a tiny sink.

The “Bedroom”

One of our improvements was this couch, which pulls out to an almost-queen-sized bed.

Vintage Airstream interior

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Skip the high-thread-count sheets, but bring good pillows.

Glamping is all the rage, and I’m always tempted to bring nice sheets for the bed.  But with this bed/couch setup, I would be spending way too much time fussing with sheets.  Here again, I’d rather be hiking. So I bring sleeping bags instead – and really comfy pillows.

The “Dining Room”

We like to eat outside and rarely use the little dinette area. But occasionally it comes in handy.  At some point I will make new curtains  – ones that look more cheerful and let in more light.

Vintage airstream interior

You can see here some of the overhead storage and also the under-bench storage.

The Bathroom

It’s a real bathroom, but it’s pretty tiny. There is nothing glamorous to show you here. It’s nice to have a bathroom in such a tiny trailer, but for showering I often prefer to use the roomier campground showers.

Tiny Trailer Tip:  Keep a small caddy stocked with everything you need for your shower so you can just grab it and head to the campground shower.  Another small caddy can hold toiletries you may want to use outdoors or in the trailer:  Sunscreen, bug spray, moisturizer, etc.

Our Rolling Cabin

With Chris’s background in trailer camping, he knows what to do and is very organized and prepared.  This makes our camping experiences so carefree and pleasant – for me anyway.  Things would not go nearly as well if we were both rookies at this.

To me, the Airstream feels like a tiny vacation cabin – with the best location any cabin can have:  Anywhere we feel like going.


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Because things can shift while the trailer is moving, shatterproof, easy-care plates and glasses are the way to go.  But to me, food never tastes as good on disposable plates.  So for camping we use Corelle dishes.  I love that they are good quality and made in the U.S.A.  Having the right accessories can really make trailer camping fun.

Camping Goods

Clockwise from top:  Corelle Dinnerware Set, South Beach | Coleman Retro Family Lantern | 14-Foot Chili Pepper String Lights | Govino Wine Glasses, Shatterproof, Recyclable


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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.


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

2016 Summer Style Boards


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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


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

2016 Summer Style Boards

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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!


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

2016 Summer Style Boards

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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.


Resources:

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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CREATIVE HOME AND GARDEN IDEAS FROM THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET