Category Archives: Decorating

Our Mudroom Before and After

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that we’ve been slowly refurbishing the smallest and most neglected room in our house – the mudroom.

Mudroom before

Little Room – Big Embarrassment

The mudroom had become an eyesore over the years. Which was unfortunate since it is the best way – the only way really –  to get out to the back patio where we sometimes have dinner parties.

So when we had people over, I was always tempted to stage some kind of distraction as they walked through the mudroom so they wouldn’t notice how dingy it was.  (“Oh, look out there! Is that an eagle?”)

Burkedecor.com is all new

The biggest challenge with the mudroom is that there are three doors and a large window in this 5′ X 7′ room.  So that really limits wall space.  In this room, we simply can’t do the cool storage lockers or vertical cabinets that look so great in other mudrooms.

Mudroom windows

But in 1927, when the house was built, no one was thinking about wall space in the mudroom because it wasn’t a mudroom then – it was a covered back porch.

The Makeover

Our mudroom makeover has taken months.  Since it’s next door to our laundry room, and they share the same concrete floor, we’ve been remodeling both rooms simultaneously.

Here is what’s been happening in the mudroom:

Floors

This all started back in January when we hired Kenji to refinish the scruffy concrete floors in both rooms.

He took the floors from this

old concrete floor

to this.

remodeled concrete floor

Repaint

The mudroom was in rough condition.  This corner was the worst part.

Southwest wall before new floor and new paint.

I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak.  For the trim, I used a white paint we’d had custom mixed to match our kitchen cabinets.  Since the mudroom  can be seen from the kitchen, this helps unify the spaces.

Southwest wall after paint

The ceiling, still beadboard from when the mudroom was the back porch, didn’t need repainting.  We kept the vintage parrot light here that matches the one we have in our kitchen.

Beadboard ceiling

Shelves

Now don’t laugh, but here is what was hanging on the wall near the back door before.

 

The large mirror/shelf was from Pottery Barn, and it was really something in its day.  But with wall space being such a premium in this room, a large mirror is the last thing we should have had taking up that space.

Plus the shelf above the mirror was so high that it wasn’t practical to store anything useful, so it became a catch-all for silly things.

We wanted to put shelving there instead, but we couldn’t find any ready-made shelves of the right dimension.

So Chris made these beautiful shelves.

Custom mudroom shelving

He bought a piece of fir, cut it to size, and used a router to soften the edges.  Then of course he sanded, stained, and finished the wood.

mudroom shelving

It was a fun little project, but I think the part he enjoyed the most was finding the antique shelf brackets on eBay.

antique brackets

We were very lucky, he says, that someone was selling four of them.

The wire baskets hold hats and gloves.  The shelves sit above a small shoe cabinet.  It all barely fits in the shallow space between the wall and the door.

 

Chris can display some of his vintage camping lanterns here.

1955 Coleman Lantern

The little shoe cabinet helped us solve a problem:

The Shoe Solution

Chris likes to keep most of his shoes in the mudroom near the door – which really makes sense.  But here is how our shoe situation was before.  Not good!

And, since I didn’t want to make things worse, I kept my shoes in the laundry room.

Notice too all the shopping bags stuffed into one cubby, and the basket for hats and gloves above that.  It was a little tower of clutter. And it left us nowhere to sit while putting on shoes.

So as our earliest mudroom project, we converted a little shelf unit that had been sitting by the back door into more shoe storage by adjusting its shelves.  Here is the post for that fun little project.

mudroom shoe storage

This freed up some space in and around the shoe bench.  I repainted the shoe bench and made a cushion.  Now we have somewhere to sit while putting on shoes.

Mudroom shoe bench

I got rid of the coat rack hanging above the bench since it looked terrible and we never used those jackets.  We use the shopping bags more, so I made a space for them instead.

So the area that looked like this

Mudroom before

now looks like this

Mudroom after

Something Missing

I do miss having a mirror in the room for that quick last look  before heading out, so I’ll find a space to hang a small mirror.  And then we’ll be done.

Clean and Simple

This little room is more functional now.  And it will stay this organized forever!

Just kidding.  Even I am not that delusional.

 

mudroom remodel

Behind the Door

Let’s open the laundry room door and take a quick look at the progress in there.

Since my last laundry room remodel update, we ordered a quartz countertop for the north wall where the appliances and sink will go.

And now we wait until mid-July for the installation.  In the meantime, we’ve been shopping for accessories including this stainless retractable clothesline, which I can’t wait to install.

But there is something new and exciting.  My brother, Dan, is building us a beautiful custom corner cabinet.

Custom corner cabinet

We wanted to get the most out of this tricky corner without taking up too much floor space.  This corner cabinet is our best option.  And there is no one better to build it than Dan, who has created some gorgeous built-ins for his own house.

It fits nicely under the window.  The drawer still needs to be installed, and it will have the same quartz countertop as the appliance wall.  But it’s already looking perfect for the space.

Materials for the cabinet cost almost nothing.  Dan used old plywood he’d salvaged from his kitchen remodel.  And I had two extra cabinet doors (for our new cabinets) left over from our own kitchen remodel. Luckily they were the right size for the corner cabinet.

So now the corner cabinet matches the sink base.  And both laundry room cabinets match our kitchen cabinets.

And my brother rocks.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

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Chalk it up to Mystery

In this post, I’m hoping to solve a mystery – and I’m sharing a fun little DIY decor project.

And the two are related.

Mysteries and Secrets

Our 1927 cottage has many mysteries and secrets.

For example, if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know that we’re in the middle of a laundry room remodel.  Well recently, while working on the heating system, my husband Chris found a secret chamber under the laundry room.  We’d always assumed the laundry room was set on a concrete slab.  Turns out it has its own little basement.

And this isn’t even the first secret chamber we’ve found.

But today I want to talk about the laundry room’s mystery cupboard.

The Mystery Cupboard

This is how our laundry room looked before we started the remodel.

Note the innocent-looking recessed cupboard above the washing machine.

Although lately, during the remodel, it’s been looking more like this.

Anyway, here is the inside of the cupboard. Pretty rustic.

Can’t see the top?  That’s because there isn’t one.  This cupboard goes all the way up to the unfinished attic.

So is it a laundry chute?  Probably not.  After all, who would want to climb far into the unfinished attic to deposit laundry only to have some of it land on that little shelf at the halfway point.

It also stretches to the left behind the wall for several feet, so it’s larger than it looks.

Its inconvenient location above the washing machine meant that I needed a stepladder to access it.  And since it’s recessed into the wall, I practically had to climb into the cabinet to get anything back out.  So I avoided using it.

My theory is that this is just oddly shaped extra space that the builder wanted to keep accessible in case anyone needed it.

But what do you think?  Do you know what it might be?  Help me solve this mystery!

Going Bye-Bye

Whatever this cupboard is or was, our plans for the laundry room do not include it.  No, it will be covered over in the remodel.  And if we should ever need to access the weird empty space behind the wall, we can still do so from the attic.

But I was sad.  That cupboard door was kind of cute.  It was also a piece of the house’s history – however weird that history might be.  I wanted to repurpose it.  But what should its new role be?

1920s cupboard door soon to become a chalkboard

A DIY Chalkboard

My friend Sandi is a very creative person, and she had a great idea: Turn it into a chalkboard.  At the time, Sandi didn’t even know that I’d been looking for a chalkboard for our kitchen. Perfect!

Cleaning the Hardware

It was a simple project.  We removed all the hardware pieces from the cupboard door and soaked them in acetone to remove the paint.

1920s cupboard door hardware

After that, the hardware pieces were clean but they still had a patina.  I was happy that they didn’t look brand new.

A Chalk Ledge

Chris cut and attached a piece of brick molding to the bottom of the door to serve as a chalk ledge.

Painting the Door

I sanded and cleaned the cupboard door.  I painted the frame, the edges, and the new chalk ledge with the same white trim paint we used for the kitchen.

After the paint dried, I used masking tape to ensure a nice clean profile for the chalkboard paint, which would go in the center panel.

DIY Chalkboard preparing to paint

I’d never worked with chalkboard paint before.  I used FolkArt Multisurface Chalkboard Paint by Plaid¹.  I followed the instructions on the bottle and on the Plaid website.  This included conditioning the chalkboard with chalk – something I will need to re-do from time to time.

To evenly apply the paint – which has a slightly gel-like consistency – I used a paint edger².  Then I back-brushed the paint with a paint brush.  (I have found that paint edgers come in handy for all kinds of paint applications beyond just edging.)

Reattaching the Hardware

Chris reattached the hardware, and the chalkboard was ready.

DIY Chalkboard

Now the hardware is just for character.

DIY Chalkboard

Chalkboard Central

This chalkboard was long overdue.  Since we shop for groceries at several stores and a farmers market, keeping lists of what we needed from each place was cluttery and difficult – especially since these lists often went missing.  Keeping lists on our phones didn’t work either.

But now, as soon as we realize we need something, it’s a few steps to “chalkboard central” to write it down.

DIY Chalkboard

I’ve been trying both chalk and chalk markers to see which I like better, but I’m not completely happy with either.  So I’m thinking of ordering some white chalk pencils I found on Etsy.³

DIY Chalkboard

I have found that wiping the chalkboard with a damp paper towel works better than using a chalk eraser.  We’ll see how all this holds up over time.

I’m happy now.  Not only is the little cupboard door still with us, but it’s serving an even better purpose than it did originally.

Before and After

You know how I love my before and after recaps.

Before (photographed upside-down).

After.

All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.


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A DIY Shoe Storage Upgrade

Before this house, I’d never lived anywhere that had a real mudroom.  And although our mudroom is small, I just love it.

But its best feature is also its biggest drawback:  The large windows.

Mudroom windows

All the wonderful natural light means very little wall space to work with.  As you can see from the photo, the limited wall space makes it difficult to keep things organized  – not that I’ve been trying very hard.  The room is a haphazard mix of random storage baskets and bins.  I’ve never really made it a priority.

Well that is about to change.  I’m in the process of reworking the mudroom – starting with the taming of the shoes.

Invasion of the Shoes

My husband, Chris, likes to keep the shoes he uses most near the back door.  The problem is, the shoes seem to multiply when no one is looking.  And yes, he really uses all of these.

Boot bench

A while back, in a half-hearted attempt to get organized, I added a flimsy thrift store rack to the top of the boot bench.  It doesn’t look good, and now we can’t sit while putting on shoes.

The small wooden shelving unit near the door was too shallow to house his shoes.

Mudroom shelving unit

A New Angle

What to do?  My mom suggested a shoe rack in place of the shelving unit.  It should have angled shelves, she said, so that the shoes would not interfere with the door swing.

It was a great idea, but most angled shoe racks I found were more suited to a closet than a mudroom.

And then I wondered about our little shelving unit:  Would it work to simply reposition the shelves at an angle?

plywood shelving unit

I asked Chris to give it a try.  He repositioned each shelf at about a 30-degree angle and used screws to secure them.

And it worked!  The shoes would be nicely contained on the newly-angled shelves.

DIY Shoe Storage

Now we just needed to make this basic unit a little prettier.

A 99-Cent Upgrade

A reclaimed wood top would elevate the look.  I checked the nearest salvage shop and found all kinds of beautiful wood – all of it too shallow in depth.

The next salvage shop was way across town, and I started to wonder if I was on another one of my fool’s errands.

While deciding whether it was worth the drive, I stopped at my local Goodwill.  There I found a piece of fir in the right depth – with a nicely finished edge.  And it was 99 cents!  I could not believe my luck.

Fir panel

All we would have to do is shorten the length a bit.  Reclaimed wood at Goodwill: Who’d have thought?

Adding More Character

Then I got it in my head that, since the mudroom is next to the kitchen, the exposed side of the shelving unit should be attractively paneled to match the style of our kitchen cabinets.

I tease Chris for keeping all kinds of scrap wood pieces, but it came in handy for this project since he had just the right scraps onhand to create the panels.

Then I painted the bench the same white as our kitchen molding – a color custom-blended to match our kitchen cabinets.

And here is how it turned out.

DIY Shoe Storage Unit for a Mudroom

A DIY Shoe Storage Unit

It’s perfect for the overflow shoes, and it frees up a lot of space in the boot bench.  There is even enough room for some of my shoes.

DIY Shoe Storage Unit for Mudroom

And for 99 cents out of pocket, it’s a nice upgrade for a plywood shelving unit that once looked like this.

Plywood storage unit

This small change is already improving the flow of the mudroom, but there is more to come, including a snazzy upgrade to the concrete floor.  So stay tuned!


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A DIY Doll Bed for My Favorite Little Girl

For my final post of 2016, I am sharing my favorite DIY project of the year.  This fun little project is close to my heart.

It’s Not About Needing

I was at my local Goodwill store a while back and came across something I didn’t need but just couldn’t leave behind:  This old magazine rack.

Vintage magazine rack

Such a cute little thing.  I especially liked the Edwardian-inspired turned legs and brass casters.

Vintage magazine rack - brass casters

That day furniture was half price, and the magazine rack was considered furniture.  I bought it not knowing what I would use it for. I only knew that I would not be using it as a magazine rack.

Aha, a Doll Cradle!

The magazine rack went into the basement for a while.  Then one day I realized that it would make a cute doll cradle – a Christmas gift for my niece Daisie.

So I asked my husband Chris to remove the two interior wooden dividers.  Then I would paint the magazine rack and add some bedding.

The Paint

The dark wood would need several coats of primer before I could paint it – unless I used chalk paint.  I had some leftover Plaid chalk paint in a color called Bavarian that would look very sweet.  But was chalk paint appropriate and safe for a child’s room?  I found this link by Plaid, which reassured me.

But I must mention here that I am no expert on child safety or babyproofing, and this post is not a tutorial.  So if you take on a similar project, you should research all safety concerns first.

Anyway, I went with the Plaid Bavarian chalk paint.  And although the chalk paint can be applied directly to un-primed wood, I still needed three coats of it to cover that dark stain.

A Little Customizing by Uncle

So the magazine rack was painted but it still didn’t look like a cradle. There was too much space between the vertical slats.

To add more vertical slats, Chris cut to size some of the wooden dividers he had removed and secured them to the cradle with glue.

Of course there was not quite enough of this wood to finish the job. But we discovered that paint stir sticks from the hardware store were the right width and depth, so he used a few of them too.

Vintage magazine rack
You can see that the middle slat is a paint stir stick.

I painted the added slats to match the bed.

Adding the Wax Coat

The chalk paint needed to be finished with a top coat of wax.  I used Plaid Clear Wax.  Since it can be applied with a rag, this was a quick and easy step.

Vintage magazine rack

The Bedding

Finally the real fun could start:  Choosing the fabric and making the bedding.

It was tempting to choose very girly, soft pink or white fabrics.  But my niece seems to enjoy strong patterns and colors.  So I found some fun embossed juvenile fabrics that looked easy to spot clean.  The green ball fringe trim would add a little zing.

Juvenile fabric

I had a pink and white chevron print calico fabric on hand, and I used it to cover the little foam mattress that I cut – and also to cover a small pillow.

I made two pillows, a comforter, and a mattress cover – all very small.  After all, the magazine-rack-turned-doll-cradle only measures 12 inches wide by 18 inches long.

The bedding is reversible so Daisie will be able to switch up the look.

Doll cradle bedding

doll cradle bedding

The turned legs look really sweet now.

magazine rack repurpose

But unfortunately Daisie has a very impatient aunt.  I really should have waited a few years to do this project since she is currently way too young to appreciate the doll cradle.

So for now, as long as her Mom and Dad think it’s safe enough, it will simply decorate her room.  And it might be a nice catch-all for toys and books.

What doll could resist sleeping here?

magazine-rack-repurpose-doll-bed-finished2

 

The magazine rack went from this

as-found

To this.

magazine-rack-repurpose-doll-bed-finished

 

Happy Holidays!

Dear friends, thanks for your comments and support this past year. Wishing you a happy and peaceful holiday season.  Let’s meet back here in January!

happy-holidays


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Budget-Friendly DIY Holiday Decor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year- that is until my holiday budget winds up on a runaway train.  Gifts, decor, party hosting, charities: It adds up fast.

So today I’m sharing three little ways to save on holiday decor.

Free Holiday Greens

I love to use fresh evergreen sprigs for DIY wreaths and decor.  I could buy bundles of greens at my local florist or nursery but that would be silly considering I can get them for free.  How?

Well, my local big box hardware store sells fresh Christmas trees in their nursery area.  As a courtesy, employees trim unwanted branches from the trees to tidy them up for customers.

These unwanted branches sit in a big pile and, if I ask nicely, the employees always let me take some.  In fact, they usually encourage me to take as much as I can carry.  After all, it’s less for them to dispose of.  And I get a nice mix since they sell spruce, fir, and pine trees.

I use the branches in garlands and to decorate my front porch.

Budget holiday decor: Branches with a vintage lantern

And in simple floral arrangements.

Budget holiday decor: Roses and evergreen branches

My wreath last year cost me nothing.  I just used the free greens with a wreath form and some garnishes I already had.  Basically, the wreath was made up of scraps.

Budget holiday decor: A wreath made with random scraps

It was not my best work, but you get the picture.  To make it, I used the same method as when I made this foraged wreath a couple of years ago.

I also added a little holiday cheer to my greenhouse by making a Frankenstein monster of a tree.  I used a section of a large branch that we had on hand as the “trunk.”

My husband drilled a hole in the “trunk,”

drill

I placed some greens into it,

Budget holiday decor: Making a Frankenstein monster tree

Put it in a pot, and added some lights.

Budget holiday decor: DIY topiary

I ended up with what looked like a little topiary tree for the greenhouse entrance.  (This photo was taken before we added the new greenhouse foundation.)

But my mom, Erika, takes it a step farther.  She uses bare branches from her own garden to create holiday beauty.

Using Bare Branches

Once the leaves fall from the trees, the beautiful structure of the branches is revealed.  Mom spray painted cuttings from a small dogwood tree to create this wintry look for her fireplace mantel.

Budget holiday decor: painted branches on mantel

She used 6-foot-long branches from a mountain ash tree, some curly willow branches, and more of the dogwood branches to create this winter arrangement in an oversize urn.

Budget holiday decor: large holiday arrangement

The mountain ash branches are painted white.

Budget holiday decor: painted branches

She also used ormanental seed heads from her garden and some silk flowers she had on hand.

Budget holiday decor: large arrangement closeup

This large arrangement will be a stand-in for her Christmas tree – a fun and beautiful change of pace.

At some point, I want to try a different version of Mom’s idea: Taking several large, straight cut branches and turning them into a small indoor forest.

A Dollar Store Find

Last year, I noticed that my local dollar store sold shipping supplies, including five-yard rolls of brown shipping paper.  It was thicker than the craft paper I had seen at craft stores.

I was burned out on gaudy holiday bling and in the mood for understated, organic-looking decor.  So I bought a roll to use as gift wrap.

I used strips of unbleached muslin and burlap fabrics (leftovers from other projects) as ribbons and bows.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

I stenciled some of the packages.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

And monogrammed some of them.  The thick paper held up well to the craft paint.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

I really kept it simple, but I love how these packages turned out – with a bit of an “old-world” vibe.

Budget holiday decor: gifts wrapped in shipping paper

Since I have a lot of shipping paper left, I’ll be experimenting with new looks this season.

So when it comes to holiday decor, free can actually get you pretty far – and so can a dollar.

Note: All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and not intended as tutorials.


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Start Paperwhites Now for the Holidays

I wish I wasn’t so predictable.  Almost two years ago to the day, I posted about starting paperwhites indoors for a beautiful holiday centerpiece.  And now here I am again – back to remind you that if you enjoy having fragrant paperwhites around for the holidays, the time to start them from bulbs is now.

My earlier post explained in detail how to force paperwhite bulbs indoors, so I won’t go into that here.  If you’ve never forced paperwhite bulbs before, that post is very helpful.

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I’m just starting my paperwhites for this season, but I thought it would be fun to share what I did last year.

Finding the Look

To me, the fun of growing paperwhites is choosing the right combination of container, pebbles (natural or glass), and decorative accents such as moss, twigs, berries, even shells, to make an attractive display.

The possibilities are endless.  I used all kinds of containers last year: A silver urn, a vintage porcelain candy dish, a ceramic urn, and some  glass containers.

forcing paperwhites: bulbs in various containers

I started one bulb in a small jar.  Then I placed that jar inside a larger jar and lined the inside with moss.

Forcing paperwhites: using glass jars

forcing paperwhites: using glass jars2

The end result is a paperwhite that appears to be sprouting out of the moss.  On the other arrangements, I hid the pebbles under a blanket of moss to give the arrangements a softer, natural look.

forcing paperwhites: Various containers

I created a vignette with a lichen-covered branch from the garden for a little natural texture – and drama.  This photo shows the stage I enjoy the most – when the first flowers are beginning to bloom.

forcing paperwhites: A vignette

I moved the silver urn to the front porch. In moderate climates, paperwhites are usually fine in a protected area outdoors. In fact, I’m going to play around with that idea more this year:  Blooming paperwhites in containers on the front porch.

paperwhites on the front porch

The silver urn still needed a little something so I shopped my garden for twigs and more lichens.

paperwhites: closeup of natural accents used

Adding free or inexpensive natural accents always makes the arrangement look elegant.  And in the dead of winter, it’s fun to bring the outdoors in.

Paperwhites as Gifts

I started a few arrangements to give as gifts. They are wonderful hostess gifts. Throughout the year, I kept an eye out at thrift stores and estate sales for anything water tight that would make a unique paperwhite container.  I looked for attractive vases and urns, vintage milk glass bowls, vintage footed candy dishes, and cute pitchers or jugs.

Here I used mostly glass containers – some just large jars.  The fun of using clear glass containers is that, as the bulb begins to sprout, so does its root system, and you  can actually see the roots winding between the pebbles (although not so visible in the photo below).

paperwhites as a gift

Wired craft store berries are an attractive addition, but they also serve as stakes to keep the paperwhite blossoms upright as they grow.

With each arrangement, I included a card explaining how to care for the paperwhites.

paperwhites with care instructions

The card read:

Caring for Paperwhites:

Keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulb so that the roots are immersed.  These bulbs should start blooming in a week or so.  They can be enjoyed indoors – or outdoors in a protected area. Once the bulbs have finished blooming, they can be tossed into the compost bin.

Then they were boxed up and ready for giving.

paperwhite gifts boxed and ready

They hadn’t yet started to bloom when I gave them away, but that was actually a good thing.  The recipient could enjoy the show – and the fragrance – when the blooms began.

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Get The Look

Bulb kits also make wonderful hostess gifts, and here are a couple of especially nice choices.  Plus, for DIY arrangements, extra-large bulbs in bulk (the larger the bulb, the more flowers!) and some sweet containers for one-of-a-kind arrangements.

paperwhites-get-the-look

Clockwise from center:  Paperwhite Bulbs, 20 Count, Largest Commercially Available | Netherland Paperwhite Growing Kit in Blue Ceramic Planter (green also shown here) | Vintage Green Jug | Glass Flower Vase | Milk Glass Tear Drop Design Footed Bowl | Bamboo Flower Pot Self-Contained Garden Kit


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Small Table Solutions for Holiday Dinners – And Some Dinner Party Themes

This time of year, magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram are packed with dreamy images of holiday tables large enough to seat armies and piled high with picture-perfect holiday decor. Somehow, guests cheerfully manage to pass serving dishes between the towering centerpieces, candle groupings, and festive bric-a-brac.

Yeah, right.  In the real world, once the food platters arrived, most of that stuff would have to go.  And in the real world, dining room tables and family celebrations come in all sizes – even small.  So today I’m sharing a few tips for decorating a small table without sacrificing space.

Use Scaled-Down Centerpieces

I have a tiny dining room that can only house a small table.  But because my husband loves to cook the turkey, we happily host Thanksgiving.

For small holiday tables, it’s best to keep the look festive yet clutter-free.  So I keep my centerpieces compact.  They don’t sprawl across the table, and they are not too tall.

Take last year’s centerpiece for example.

Holiday table decor: Jewel toned centerpiece

In an urn with a small base, it didn’t take up much real estate on the table.  And it was just tall enough to add interest without being a distraction.

Choose an Interesting Theme

Since I have to carefully edit what I do put on the table, I try to come up with an interesting theme.  Last year it was jewel tones.

A lively tablecloth and flowers,  and amethyst runners and napkins, kept the mood festive.

Holiday table decor: jewel toned table decor

And the year before that, it was serene earth tones and rustic textures.

Holiday table decor: subtle elegance

Again, these looks are clean and simple.  On a small table, any more decor would add clutter.

Use Smaller Plates

Over the years, dinner plates have gotten bigger and bigger.  Many modern dinner plates are 12 inches wide.  Get a few too many of them on a small table and things look crowded.

For dinner parties, I often use our antique china plates which are just under 10  inches wide.  They are a better scale for the table, and they still hold plenty of food.

Use Narrow Chairs

According to Emily Post, for guests to be seated comfortably there should be at least six inches between chairs.  So using narrow chairs means that more chairs can be placed at the table.

Place the Silverware on the Plate

Another way to keep the look clutter-free and add the appearance of more space between place settings is to use this restaurant-inspired trick.

Rolling the silverware in the dinner napkin and placing it in the middle of the plate (as opposed to beside the plate) saves space.

Holiday table decor: silverware

Rethink the Placemats

When I’m trying to seat eight people on my small dining room table, placemats wind up too closely spaced to look good. Scaled-down chargers can be a nice alternative.

Bending the rules a little is fun too.  Simply using smaller, attractive dinner napkins as placemats can work.

Last year, I placed narrow homemade runners across the width of my table to give the place settings definition without taking up space.

Holiday table decor: homemade runners define the place settings

Which leads me to my fun new way to define a place setting without taking up any table space at all.

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Put It Under Glass

When we are not hosting dinner parties, we take the leaves out of our table and it becomes a small square table – great for two to four people.

It’s an antique table from the Craftsman era, so to protect the wood – and make the table easier to clean – we had a piece of polished glass cut to fit over the top.

custom cut glass table top

Sometimes we put a tablecloth under the glass and sometimes we just enjoy the look of the wood. Either way, it’s super easy to clean now. This is a wonderful option for a small table.

And it got me thinking.  I started playing with ways to define place settings by placing gilded leaves – in this case, witch hazel leaves – between the tablecloth and the glass. (For how I gilded the leaves, see this post.)

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass

They are placed fairly tight around the edge the of the plate – again keeping the look compact.

The dark tablecloth adds elegance and sets off the golden leaves.

Holiday table decor: gilded leaves under glass closeup

And as you can see, the leaves are under the glass, so they don’t interfere with anything on top of the table yet they still add interest.

Leaves can also be arranged under the glass to expand the look of the centerpiece.

Holiday table decor: Gilded leaves as centerpiece under glass

The possibilities here are endless.  For spring and summer, flowers or fern fronds would be fun.

Of course, once we expand the table for Thanksgiving, our glass top won’t fit.  But at least this started me thinking, so this year my Thanksgiving decor just might include leaves pressed under glass.

Have Fun

Whatever the size of your dining room table, things always turn out better when you enjoy decorating it. So don’t forget the most important tip of all:  Have some fun with it!

35 Dinner Party Themes

Recently, ProFlowers reached out to me to share their wonderful post “35 Dinner Party Themes Your Guests Will Love.”  It’s a compilation of dozens of creative dinner party themes with helpful filters such as style, season, and guest size to help plan the perfect holiday get together.

In addition to being packed with creative ideas, the guide is beautifully photographed.  I hope you enjoy perusing it as much as I did!

ProFlowers Dinner Party Guide


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Saving Four Innocent Chairs from the Dumpster

This past summer, my husband Chris and I were enjoying a bike ride in our neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day, and at the time Chris was still clinging to a tiny shred of hope that his wife might actually be sane.

That hope was about to be dashed.

The Chairs That Needed Me

We came across these four chairs, which someone had kicked to the curb.

chairs before rehab

A few people were looking at them, but everyone wound up walking away.  They were destined for the dumpster.  So of course I had to step in.

At first glance they looked like rattan chairs. But on closer examination the frames appeared to be oak.  The non-loadbearing cross-braces were a mixture of bamboo and rattan.

Bamboo - cane - oak chair before rehab

So they were very solid.  They just needed a lot of work, starting with a good cleaning.

Cleaning

Using fine steel wool, I scrubbed them down with denatured alcohol. Then I rinsed each chair with water.  Cleaning was probably the most time-consuming part of rehabbing these chairs.  Every nook and cranny of every chair needed to be cleaned.  One chair in particular was heavily covered in black soot.

Reupholstering

I thought that reupholstering these chairs would be a snap.  The seats looked removable.  I was hoping to remove each seat before I cleaned the chairs.

Turned out the seats were built into the chairs.  They would be impossible to remove without destroying the chairs.  So I removed the fabric and padding.  Each chair had a tack strip for the seat cushion which also had to be removed.

furniture rehab removing the chair pads

Apparently whoever built these chairs didn’t intend for them to ever be reupholstered.

As a solution, Chris cut new seat bottoms from scrap plywood he had on hand.  We would secure them to the top of the original seats once I added the new cushions.

tools-for-working-on-the-chair-pads

Finally the fun began:  Choosing the fabric.  I chose an outdoor fabric with a fresh, tropical pattern.  Then I used my trusty old electric carving knife to cleanly and easily cut the foam for the new chair pads. For more detail on how I reupholster chair pads, check out this post.

Refreshing the Wood

Using a rag, I wiped the chairs down with Howard Restor-A-Finish in Golden Oak.

Fixing the Caning

Some of the original caning was coming unraveled and some was missing. I had never worked with caning before, and I ordered the wrong size.  It was a bit thinner than the original caning.

But I only needed to replace the caning in a few areas, so I used it anyway. And it was very easy to work with once I soaked it in water for 30 minutes.

I figured that once the new caning was stained to match the chairs, the discrepancy in size wouldn’t be very visible anyway.

Furniture rehab new caning

Turned out the new caning didn’t absorb stain very well, but luckily we have many half-used cans of stain on hand, and eventually I found one that worked.

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Finish

I applied a coat satin finish to each chair.  This went quickly since the finish could be applied with a rag.  This really made a difference, giving the chairs an elegant, subtle gleam.

Almost Done

A few of the metal feet on the chair legs were missing, so Chris attached new ones, and then he attached the newly-upholstered chair seats.

 

Were these chairs really worth all the work?  Well, it would have been a shame for them to wind up in the landfill, but if I had it to do over, I just might have left them on the curb hoping that someone else would rescue them.  And I really should have learned my lesson after the chair project I did earlier this year.

Indoor/Outdoor Chairs

But now that all the work is behind me, I love these chairs.

Especially because of the outdoor fabric, they look elegant yet informal.  And they are so versatile:  Great for additional indoor seating or for garden parties.

furniture rehab tropical fabric

Bamboo - cane - oak chairs after rehab

Chairs after rehab

They are still not perfect, but they are old so imperfection is part of the charm.  And they are a far cry from what they were before.

before

One More Rescue

So in summer I impulsively rescued those four sad chairs that needed a ton of work.

Meanwhile, at an estate sale, Chris found a little mid-century bar that barely needed anything.  But it wouldn’t work, or fit, in our house.

No problem.  It turned out to be a fun little addition to our patio for a few late-summer get-togethers.

Midcentury bar

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


Disclosure: Affiliate Links are used in this post.

Sources:

Howard Restor-A-Finish is a wonderful product for refreshing furniture.  It’s quick and easy to apply, so we use it all the time in our furniture rehab projects.  It is available in many stain colors, and I used the Golden Oak finish for the chairs.

The lovely finish I used on the chairs was General Finishes Arm-R-Seal in Satin.


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Creepy Plants and Gleaming Pumpkins: My Fall Decor

As wonderful and carefree as summer is, I’m usually not sad when it ends.  I love this change of seasons:  The crisp, chilly air, the changing colors, the spiderwebs hanging in the walkway.  Okay, maybe not so much the spiderwebs.

But in fall we have to take the good with the creepy.  So I have two little decor projects to share – one slightly creepy and one the visual equivalent of comfort food.

We’ll start with slightly creepy.

1.  A Creepy Little Bush

Recently I was at my local nursery looking for winter pansies when I stumbled upon something much more beautiful – and just a bit haunting:

A cushion bush (Calocephalus ‘Silver Stone’).

Cushion bush

The plant tag even described the branches as “ghost white.”  I loved the slightly creepy look of this little starter plant.  And it was on sale, so how could I resist.

The Pot

I could just see it in a black and white themed container on my front porch.  And I happened to have a tall white pot that would elevate this plant so that it would be noticed next to the front door.

cushion bush with french pot

Adding Height and Contrast

Obviously, I would need some height in this potted arrangement – something taller than the cushion bush.  And something dark to act as a background so that the bush’s ghostly, twisted branches would really stand out.  But another plant would add too much texture.

So I remembered these dried ornamental leaves from an old arrangement.

Dried exotic leaves

I don’t even know what they are, really, but their thin stems would make it easy to stake them into the soil behind the cushion bush – after I spray painted the leaves black.

The Creepiness

I wanted the container to look beautiful and slightly creepy.  And what is more vaguely disturbing than a baby doll head.  I’d had this little concrete baby doll head for years, and no one but me has ever liked it.  So it was perfect.

Fall decor cushion bush

The Crowning Touch

I arranged the container in a black plastic pot and set it inside the tall white pot.  I elevated the plastic container with flat stones until it stood an inch or two above the top of the white pot.

Fall decor black and white

And then I bought an inexpensive grapevine wreath at the craft store, spray painted it black, and cut it so that it would easily  fit around the pot.

black and white fall decor

This way, the scene is elevated a bit, yet the plastic pot inside is somewhat concealed.

The long black leaves are a great backdrop for the white branches.

cushion bush

The black and white theme looks good with our charcoal front door.

Black and white planting container fall decor

I was tempted to do more – maybe add a jolt of an unexpected color, or add more creepiness, but adding more of anything would have detracted from the ghostly bush, so I decided to stop right there.

black and white fall decor

Since both the plant and the wreath were on sale, and I already had everything else, this container cost me around $5 to put together.

Closeup cushion bush with small statuary item

Are you ready for some color?  Let’s go inside.

2.  Gleaming Little Pumpkins

Metallic pumpkins are hot this year.  And although I’m not one to jump on every decor bandwagon that comes along, I love the warmth and beauty of metallic finishes this time of year.

So I bought a bag of little pumpkins.

small decor pumpkins

I wanted to try coating them using sheets of gold leaf, but once at the craft store I found “premium gold leaf finish” paint.  So I bought one in classic gold and one in copper.

I made the mistake of trying the copper first on a couple of pumpkins. The paint made them look more pink than copper.

pumpkins being painted

So for damage control, I wound up painting over the copper with the gold paint.

On most of the pumpkins, I used a damp paper towel to wipe off a little of the gold paint after I applied it – a sort of mini rag-rolling project.  I wanted the pumpkins to still look real, but with a slight metallic gleam.

Once the gold foundation was dry, then I used the copper paint sparingly in just a few places to add a little more patina.  Again I muddled the paint with a wet paper towel after I applied it.

fall decor metallic pumpkins flatlay

I do like the warm glow of these pumpkins.  It’s a look that will get me past Halloween and into Thanksgiving.

fall decor metallic pumpkins

While painting the pumpkins, a failed attempt at using fallen birch leaves as stencils led to a little discovery: The birch leaves looked beautiful with a thin coat of gold paint, accented by just a touch of copper paint on the edges.

fall decor painted leaves

For now I’ve scattered the leaves and the pumpkins around the living room.

fall decor pumpkin with hydrangeas and love-lies-bleeding
Pumpkin with dried hydrangeas and love-lies-bleeding

pumpkins with books

fall decor metallic pumpkins and painted leaves


Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used in this post.

Sources:

The premium leafing finishes that I used on the pumpkins are made by Precious Metals.  There are 8 colors available.


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Roses, An Easy Patio Tablecloth, and Some Vintage Finds

Are we already in August?  As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do.  So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap.  While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September.  At least that’s the plan.

And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.

Costco Roses with Summer Garden Clippings

As I mentioned in my previous post, My Three-Season Greenhouse, my husband gave me two dozen Costco roses for our anniversary.

Arranging roses in a Sunglo Greenhouse

With so many roses, I thought it would be fun to break them into several different arrangements and include some fresh clippings from the garden.

I gathered some of my favorite vases and headed to the greenhouse.

Vintage vases

I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither.  I came up with these three arrangements.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.

Roses, lady's mantle and love-lies-bleeding in a vintage glass vase

  • Thriller:  Red roses
  • Filler:  Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Spiller:  Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath.  The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.

Manicured

I set yellow roses upright on a spike frog in a vintage milk glass vase for this buttoned-up look for the master bedroom.

yellow roses with dahlias and maidenhair fern in a milk glass vase

I tucked in maidenhair fern (Adiantum) fronds from the shade garden and, around the perimeter, Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

This late in summer, most of my summer perennials are starting to fade, but because I deadhead these dahlias, the plants bloom for months.

Classic

I put the remaining roses in a tall crystal vase with honeybush (Melianthus major) leaves around the perimeter.  These large silvery leaves add a touch of glamour.

roses with honeybush leaves in a crystal vase

An Easy DIY Patio Tablecloth

Feeling like the summer was getting away from me, I hosted several small get togethers on our patio last week.

Planning the table decor is always half the fun, and I wanted a tablecloth that would complement our china and the chair cushions.

At the fabric store, I came across a whimsical home decor fabric called Sannio Cabana by SMC Swavelle Millcreek.

outdoor table setting

It was 54 inches wide, so I just asked for a 54-inch cut of fabric and hemmed it to have a square tablecloth.

home and garden - outdoor table setting

The square tablecloth worked well with the 42-inch round table.  I positioned it so that it draped elegantly between the chairs yet guests didn’t wind up with a bunch of extra fabric on their laps.

home and garden - square tablecloth on a round table

With a tablecloth this lively, I didn’t need much else in the way of table decor – especially on such a small table.

home and garden - patio party table setting
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wildin

Not wanting to attract bees, I didn’t use any flowers.  The centerpiece was a citronella candle.

home and garden - citronella centerpiece

That and a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth did a fairly decent job of keeping pests away.   (Note: For more tips on keeping bugs from crashing a patio party, see this post.)

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

My Recent Vintage Finds

I always look forward to the annual garage sale that my neighborhood hosts.  I never participate because I would rather cruise around and see what everyone is selling.

This year I scored with two of these tall fir cabinets with leaded glass doors – for $5 each!  The style is an exact match to the original built-ins in our house.

home and garden - vintage cabinets

They have that “old schoolhouse” smell that I love.  I have several ideas of where to use them in our house, so we’ll see what happens.

My friend, Carolyn, participated in the sale and when I admired these adorable mid century salt and pepper shakers that belonged to her mother, she gave them to me.  Thanks Carolyn!

Mid century salt and pepper shakers

They are perfect for our vintage trailer, the June Bug.

And then while visiting an antique store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, we found this spike frog to add to my frog collection.

vintage flower frog

I couldn’t resist that rustic patina.

See You in September

I hope those of you living in the Northern hemisphere have a chance to get out and enjoy what is left of your summer.  Let’s meet back here in September!


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Resources:

Here are a few fun tidbits from around the web, including the fabric (at a lower price than I paid) and the salad plates I used in my table setting.

Late summer design inspiration

Center:  Villeroy & Boch Switch 3 Cordoba Salad Plate  Clockwise from top:  Set of 2 Vintage Flower Frogs  | Sannio Cabana fabric by the yard | 4″ Daisy Milk Glass Ruffletop Vase | Beettle Kill Pine Candleholder with Citronella Candles


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