It wasn’t fun coming home after our recent trip to Hawaii. Cold mornings, wearing layers again, drab gray days. I missed all the color and the tropical foliage.
I was tempted to add some tropical decor to our living room. But in the middle of winter, and here in the Pacific Northwest, that wouldn’t look right.
So I opted for a subtle, airy botanical look with a limited color palette. And to keep it interesting, I used vintage glass containers.
Glass and the Weak Winter Sun
One advantage to using glass in winter decor is that it reflects and amplifies natural light. And in winter, we need all the natural light we can get.
Shopping My Own House
Of course, another advantage to using vintage glass for decor is that it’s inexpensive and easy to find. I had some stashed around my house: Bottles, flower frogs, and a glass float.
My husband Chris always has cool stuff I can use. (He is quick to remind me that I sometimes call his cool stuff “junk” until I find it useful.)
This time he had some vintage kerosene lamps.
One of them was missing the glass shade, but I liked it better without one.
A Variety of Foliage
I used a combination of artificial foliage and live plants in clay pots.
I’m surprised at how this little bit of glass decor has livened up our living room. And, since it’s so affordable and easy to come by, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for new pieces. It would be fun to try denser layers and collections of glass during the winter months.
Before electricity, kerosene lamps were an essential source of light in many homes. But if tipped over, they could become the source of disastrous fires. Today, we can appreciate their vintage charm without having to rely on them for light.
In the right setting, a carefully chosen kerosene lamp can become art. And as a collectible, they are still very affordable – and plentiful. A search on Etsy turns up a treasure trove of kerosene lamps.
If I gave two DIYers identical pieces of furniture and said “Take this piece and make it your own,” I would get two completely different results. That’s the fun of furniture makeovers: Everyone has a unique approach.
So in this month’s Art Walk, we’re looking at inventive ways to make over old dressers and stereo cabinets. Why dressers and stereo cabinets? Because there are so many of them out there in need of a little love.
You would not believe what some of these pieces looked like before their makeovers. If you want to see before photos, or if you want to learn more about a process, click on any photo to be taken to the original post.
I love how Tarah at Grandma’s House DIY paired black paint with glass knobs for this stately look. She used a gloss finish over the paint to get that elegant sheen.
The Power of Prep Work
I have long admired the work of Nicole over at Visual Heart. Her makeovers of mid-century pieces are so airy and cheerful. And turning an ugly particle board duckling into this beautiful swan took a lot of vision – and a lot of prep work.
Dresser Turned Vanity
Over at Lolly Jane, twin sisters Kelli and Kristi didn’t just make over a vintage dresser – they converted it into a charming bathroom vanity. I have always wanted to do this.
She’s Got Legs
Carol at The Red Painted Cottage took a boring square box of a dresser and made it adorable by painting it and adding legs and a wood plank top.
An Artist’s Touch
When Miss Mustard Seed paints a dresser, she really paints it. The choice of colors and the careful distressing make this piece spectacular. I only wish I were artistic enough to try this.
Stencils are a fantastic way to add impact to any piece. A mix of wood grain, paint, and stenciling by Carrie at Dream Green DIY brings balance and interest to this piece.
When Less is More
My husband Chris brought home a raggedy mid-century stereo cabinet that he wanted to convert to a liquor cabinet. I was eagerly envisioning a makeover similar to something Nicole would do.
But then Chris noticed that the piece was made of mahogany. And he is never one to paint over quality wood. So he did an honest restoration of the existing wood. Now it’s a handsome and timeless liquor cabinet.
Paring it Down
Sometimes removing something from a piece highlights what is left. I found a worn little “princess” dresser covered in a cheap, dingy floral laminate. It was probably originally intended for a girl’s bedroom.
Storage space saves marriages. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But storage space is rarely a bad thing.
Which is why Chris and I recently took on a little rainy-day project: Revamping a small walk-in closet to make it more efficient.
But before we even get started, I have to apologize. Because this closet, with its tricky lighting and tight space, was really hard to photograph. So please excuse these grainy photos.
Too Much Bedding, Too Little Shelving
Our TV/guest room has a daybed with a pop-up trundle. I love it because it makes the room so versatile for guests. It can be a twin-size bed, or convert to a king-size bed, or we can set up the room dormitory-style with two twin beds. Any other time, it’s the comfy daybed where I watch TV.
But all this versatility means that we need to store bedding for a king-size bed and two twin beds.
And this is what led to the closet looking like this.
Occasionally, our TV watching was interrupted by an avalanche of precariously stacked bedding falling from the closet shelf.
Putting a Blank Wall to Work
It was pretty easy to see what the problem was with this little closet.
There was only one shelf on the south wall. And the west wall was blank except for an ugly drain pipe.
So we decided to extend the existing shelf by eight inches and add another shelf above it. And then add two 10-inch-deep shelves to the west wall.
And when I say “we,” of course I mean Chris. Here is yet another instance where he did all the heavy lifting while I followed him around with a camera.
The result was two L-shaped shelves.
I didn’t want the shelves to look new. I wanted them to look like they’d always been there. And I think Chris achieved that.
Painting and Unpainting
Once we knew where the shelves would go, we removed them so I could paint the closet a cleaner white.
And while we were at it, we thought, we might as well spray paint the ugly drain pipe white to minimize its impact. I didn’t want to paint the small copper pipe behind it. Painting copper just seems wrong to me.
But there was something we wanted to un-paint: The hardware on the little pocket window had received many coats of paint over the years. Who paints a window chain? Apparently everyone.
The chain and latch look so much better now that the paint has been stripped.
Moving Back In
Bedskirts, mattress covers, quilts, blankets, sheets, pillows, shams: There is space for everything now.
And that little blue dresser that sat piled high in the closet before? We put it back. It is now almost empty, so it will serve as overflow space for guests to unload their suitcases.
Above it, a little surprise for guests: A vintage mirror. An extra mirror is always a nice touch in a guest room.
(I was tempted to style the top of this dresser for the photo – until I heard my little voice of reason say, “Oh please. It’s a closet!”)
Not the most glamorous home improvement project in the world, I know, but I’m happy that there is just a little less clutter at our house.
Before and After
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
I have plans to refresh our TV/guest room a bit: A new rug, new curtains, and fresh paint. It should be a fun little project.
But one thing I don’t want to change is that pop-up trundle daybed. It’s been a while since we bought it, but it is a lot like this one on Amazon. The mattresses were not included, and we added our own headboard.
Chris and I are restless travelers. For us, exploring is more relaxing than sitting poolside with a mai tai. We’d rather be on a road trip than trapped in a resort. And if there’s a crowd, we can usually be seen walking in the opposite direction – unless it means we’ve found a really good farmers market.
So this is why we choose the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, when we crave a tropical sun break.
What is the Big Island?
Before I explain why we love the Big Island, I should clear up any confusion. People often think that the term “the Big Island” refers to the island of Oahu, presumably because Oahu is home to the state’s biggest city, Honolulu, with its touristy Waikiki strip. But the term “the Big Island” is actually a nickname for a different island: The island of Hawaii.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the island of Hawaii and the state of Hawaii share the same name.
The island of Hawaii really lives up to its “Big Island” nickname. Its land mass is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined. The terrain is diverse and includes arid lava fields, snow-capped mountains, tropical rain forests, high-country ranch lands, lush plantations, and Volcanoes National Park.
You may have heard that the Big Island isn’t for everyone, and that is true. Some folks cite its shortage of white sand beaches as the reason to visit Maui or Oahu instead. There are long drive times between sites (for example, the drive between the city of Kailua-Kona and Volcanoes National Park takes two to three hours).
And the Big Island’s acres and acres of lava fields can seem barren and unwelcoming.
But we’ve learned to love the lava fields because hiking them can lead to some beautiful and secluded black sand beaches, snorkeling coves, or other natural treasures.
Since we just returned from another trip to the Big Island, I thought I would share the top five things that we look for when we visit.
1 Historic Sites
On the island of Hawaii, learning about native culture rarely includes a visit to a stuffy museum. Heritage sites are fun and fascinating. One of my favorites is a National Historic Park called Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau – or the Place of Refuge. I won’t give away why it’s called that, but it’s a gorgeous and peaceful place to visit.
2 The Green Flash
On the west side of the island, the sun sets over the water. Sunsets are legendary here, so much so that in Kona it’s not uncommon for restaurant patrons to applaud after seeing a particularly spectacular one.
Ever since our first visit to the Big Island, we’d heard about a phenomenon called the green flash. Apparently, when atmospheric conditions are just right, the sun gives off a quick green flash just before it disappears into the horizon.
But try as we might, we’d never seen the green flash for ourselves. Never, that is, until our most recent visit. So now I can say with confidence that the green flash is not a legend. It is real!
Looking for the green flash is only half the fun. Whether on a beach, a seawall, the deck of a condo, or a fun outdoor restaurant, sunsets are a wonder to take in.
3 Coffee Farms
The Big Island is the land of the coffee bean. Over 650 coffee farms, large and small, occupy the hillsides above Kona. Many of them welcome the public, and we try to find a new one every time we visit the island.
In addition to coffee plants, fruit trees and flowering shrubs keep things interesting.
Yes we love coffee. But most farms, by virtue of the where they are situated, also have sweeping views down the hillsides to the ocean. They are lovely, relaxing places to visit – and to sample coffee.
To us, “the book,” as we call it now, is like having a local tell us, in hushed whispers, where we can find the island’s hidden treasures. And more than that – entertaining us with backstories, history, and amusing anecdotes.
In pursuit of out-of-the-way gems, the book sometimes suggests hikes on (to put it mildly) uneven terrain, and it sometimes suggests activities, such as kayaking, that are dependent upon ocean conditions being safe enough. So we are careful and make sure not to bite off more than we can chew.
I always look forward to visiting the farmers markets. We like to be adventurous and buy fruits we haven’t tried before – even the ones that look prickly and menacing. Vendors are usually good about describing a fruit’s taste (sometimes samples are available) and advising us on the best way to enjoy it.
Farmers markets are also great places to get locally made art and gifts. There are several nice farmers markets, but my personal favorite is the one in Hilo. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the best days to visit.
And this time we discovered the Pure Kona Green Market, which takes place on Sundays in Captain Cook and features many local artists and live entertainment.
Til Next Time
Missile scares notwithstanding, we had a lot of fun on our recent visit to the Big Island. We’ve since left the land of sunshine and pineapples behind and returned to our home of rain and pinecones. And while there is a certain charm to the pinecones, we’re always looking forward to our next escape to the Big Island.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only.
What I read on the plane:
Prarie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. I may have been headed to and from Hawaii, but I was completely immersed in the frozen prairies of the Dakotas in the 1800s. Using the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder and others, Caroline Fraser fleshes out the harsh reality behind the softened stories told by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House books.
I read about half of the book during our plane rides. Because of the hardships that the Ingalls family (and all farmers in the Dakotas at that time) had to endure, Prairie Fires was not always an easy read for me. But I marvel at the strength and endurance of these early settlers. Let’s just say I won’t be so quick to grumble the next time there is too much foam in my latte or my laptop is a little slow.
Welcome to the January edition of Second Tuesday Art Walk. This time we’re on a treasure hunt to find that precious commodity: Hidden storage space. But what we’re looking for is hiding in plain sight, because it’s easy to scout out those little underutilized areas once we take a fresh look at our homes.
The possibilities are endless, but today I’m sharing five. Let’s get started!
1. Covered Porches and Protected Entryways
I always strive to make my front porch look welcoming. But, without sacrificing style, I could do a lot more to make it functional – a place to store umbrellas and mud boots so they never have to come inside.
In a protected outdoor area, it might even make sense to add a simple hat and coat rack like the one that Sara built.
It took her less than 20 minutes to make it herself. The tutorial is here.
2. Small-Scale Vertical
When I think of vertical storage, I usually think large-scale, like closet organizers and wall units. But small-scale vertical storage can make life so much easier.
This suggestion might seem obvious, but how many of us actually do this? And what a difference it would make.
Beth and Nick took this basic builder-grade closet . . .
identified all the unused spaces, and then created custom DIY shelving that uses every possible area. “After” photos and the tutorial can be found here.
4. Areas Behind Doors
Taking the door swing into account, my husband Chris created this shallow, L-shaped shelf to fit in the small space behind our laundry room door. Here we stash cleaning tools and supplies, an iron and an ironing board.
And this hard-working little space doesn’t feel cluttered. This area is part of our recent laundry room remodel.
5. Recessed Dressers and Cabinets
Our house is what is called a “one-and-a-half story house.” That is because some of the upstairs portion of our house is finished, livable space, while other parts are unfinished attic space.
Since we have little doors that lead to those unfinished spaces, I store things there. But it’s awkward creeping around in these dark, low-ceilinged areas, and I usually bump my head or get scratched by an exposed nail.
That’s why I so admire Sarah’s recessed dresser. She’s using space in the unfinished attic to store things, yet she can access those items from her bedroom.
Of course you really have to know what you’re doing to work around wall studs, wiring, or other things that might be hidden in the wall.
Another advantage to this recessed dresser is that it takes up zero floor space in the bedroom.
How I love saying that. Zero floor space. Now I have all sorts of ideas for similar projects at our house.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
Happy New Year! It’s January, so we really should leave the holiday glitz behind and get busy organizing our closets, our cupboards, and our lives.
Or . . . we can start the New Year on a lighter note. Want to see the silly little dress-up outfits that I made for my niece? Sure you do.
Learning By Dressing
I was happily surprised when “dress-up items” appeared on the list of things my niece would enjoy for Christmas. Even though she is a small toddler, apparently she likes to experiment with outfits and jewelry. But at her age, she’s not trying to look like a princess. She’s just using dress-up activities as a learning game.
So I thought it would be fun to pull a few things together for her. But the ready-made dress-up costumes that I found – ones that were within my budget anyway – all had three issues: They weren’t available in her tiny size, they looked cheaply made, and they looked stiff and uncomfortable.
So I decided to make her some dress-up outfits. My sewing skills are pretty much limited to straight seams, so these little outfits would have to be simple.
I intended to sew a few tutus, but then I came across some lovely tutus in her size at Macy’s. They were on sale, plus I had a coupon. Sewing my own would have been more costly than buying them.
The inside linings are very soft, so these tutus seem comfortable to wear and easy to pull up over leggings or even pants.
I bought two and added my own embellishments. Using pom pom trim and torn strips of batik fabric (both left over from previous projects), I gave one tutu a colorful, zany look. I added tulle flower trim to the other one for a classic ballerina look.
I found a simple white sweater at a thrift store. It looked almost new, and perhaps had never been worn at all.
Such a cute little sweater. I almost felt bad about what I had planned for it.
I washed it and added zany embellishments that complement the colorful tutu.
The strips of gathered tulle fabric sewn over the sleeves resemble little wings – or a cape. She can use her imagination.
Reinventing the Wheel – Badly
I wanted to make a lined velvet cape to go with the ballerina tutu. I don’t have much patience for following sewing patterns, so I thought it would be faster if I just cut fabric into a big circle and then chopped away at the circle until I had the form I wanted.
But was I ever wrong. I almost gave up several times because the slippery, stretchy, velvety fabric I used was so hard to work with. The cape, while cute at first glance, is definitely not my best sewing effort.
But oh well, it’s just for playing dress-up.
My niece visited us early in December, and I waited until she stopped running around for a moment to quickly measured the circumference of her head.
I used interfacing to create a basic headband form.
I made two of these forms. Then I covered each one with felt fabric and embellishments to make comfortable but (hopefully) durable headbands.
One is colorful and wacky, the other classic with the same pink tulle flowers used on the ballerina tutu.
Jewelry and Pouches
I bought a couple of inexpensive children’s necklaces and sewed a simple pouch to hold each necklace.
My niece has lots of shoes, but I knew she needed gloves. No dress-up ensemble is complete without them.
I purchased a little stack of vintage children’s gloves for a very reasonable price from a vendor on Etsy.com.
While not in perfect condition, they looked and smelled fresh upon arrival. Even so, I soaked and hand washed them in mild soap and a few drops of hydrogen peroxide.
The sizes varied. I added the pair that she can wear now to her dress-up items.
A few years ago, a friend gave me a collection of postcards featuring the charming Flower Fairies illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker. The illustrations were done between 1923 and 1948 and, although I missed the mark, they were my inspiration for the costumes.
So I glued a few of the postcards to the gift box that would hold her outfits.
At this point, my niece is probably still rummaging through her Christmas gifts, so it could be a while before she turns her attention to these costumes. But if she has half as much fun playing with them as I had putting them together, I will be happy.
This post is for entertainment only and is not a tutorial. Please consider all appropriate child safety issues before taking on similar projects.
Welcome to the December edition of Second Tuesday Art Walk. I hope you’re enjoying this holiday season.
About a week ago, I had my first gift exchange with a small group of friends. I’d shopped early for their gifts, knowing that I would have tons of time to wrap them. Unlike previous years, this time I would make sure that each friend received an amazing, festively wrapped package – a package so stunning that she would not even want to unwrap it.
At least that was the plan.
Of course that didn’t happen because I waited until about 20 minutes before I had to leave the house to start wrapping. Having tons of time just meant I could procrastinate longer.
So for me, simple gift wrap ideas are always the best. But simple can be beautiful. Today I’m sharing a few fun and surprisingly easy gift wrap ideas.
Car and Tree Cuteness
Heather at Growing Spaces shows us how to make a car and tree package sure to bring out the kid in all of us.
Ruffle Yarn Ribbon
A few years ago, I used ruffle yarn as ribbon – with fun results.
Easy to find at craft stores, ruffle yarn is nice to work with because it can be pulled apart for a lace-like look, and it usually contains tiny sequins for a subtle holiday glimmer.
DIY Scandinavian-Inspired Gift Wrap
White wrapping paper and a sharpie – what could be easier? Andrea at the.beauty.dojo shows us how easy it is to get that clean, minimalist Scandinavian look. And she also offers us free printable gift tags to complete the look.
Last year I became obsessed with old-fashioned paper doilies.
I mostly used them with plain craft paper, but sometimes with fancier paper. They were easy to attach using a glue stick.
And I found they were more interesting offset on the package rather than centered.
DIY Gift Bag From Wrapping Paper
Some gifts just don’t fit in a box. And I don’t usually realize that until the last minute. Luckily Tasha at Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body has a simple tutorial for creating a gift bag from wrapping paper.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that in September I urged you to save any allium seed heads that might be growing in your garden. And now I’m going to show you why.
Last holiday season, my talented friend Loralee gave me this adorable gift, which she made herself using an allium seed head.
It got me thinking about all the ways we can use allium seed heads in holiday decor. So I’ve been doing a little experimenting.
Finding Seed Heads
Allium plants are grown from bulbs. In my area, they bloom spring to summer, and then the flowers turn into seed heads that are highly ornamental. They come in many sizes, heights, and shapes. Some are huge, some are tiny.
I found only one seed head in my own garden, but it was pretty spectacular.
And in early fall, a neighbor offered me all of her allium seed heads. She had a nice variety.
Some still had seeds so I left those outside for the birds until the weather turned.
And I let them all dry indoors completely before I began using them.
Even though I shook off the excess, little bits of the Buffalo Snow Flakes continued to shed. So in this case I probably would have been better off with a spray-on sparkle.
Working with the alliums took a little patience because some of them were still shedding seeds.
And the seed heads got tangled together very easily. They were brittle and fragile, and I had to be careful not to damage them.
Still I am happy with the results. Here is what I’ve done with them so far.
I like to keep things simple. By securing allium stems of varying heights to spike frogs,
I made a frozen forest to go behind the vintage putz church that once belonged to my husband’s parents.
The smallest allium seed head is secured to a tiny spike frog. It towers over a three-inch German nutcracker as he wanders through a miniature forest.
The seed heads were on long stems. Some of them were almost as tall as me. I had fantasies of making a full-sized allium forest with them. But getting them to stand securely on such tall stems would have taken some doing.
Still I had one dramatically curving stem that was almost three feet tall, and I wanted to do something special with it. I was able to secure it, and a few other stems of varying heights, by inserting stem wire into the bottom of the stems and leaving a couple of inches of floral wire out of the stem. I used wire cutters to cut the stem wire to size where needed.
Then I secured them to a piece of styrofoam set in a shallow clay bowl.
I covered the styrofoam with preserved moss and added a some small vintage ornaments. I chose one good example of each type of seed head to make this crazy thing.
What Mom Did
Of course I frosted way too many seed heads so I gave some to Mom. Her first career was in floral design, so I was curious to see how she would use them.
She mixed them with materials she had on hand to make this lovely piece for her entryway.
Mom is amazing with all things floral. She could have made five of these in her sleep in the time it took me to put together my “Holiday Drama” creation.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
About Putz Houses and Churches
Putz means different things to different people, but really any piece of a holiday-themed miniature village can be considered putz.
This set of gourmet sea salts by purposedesign is nice for any foodie, but the presentation is handsome enough for the hard-to-shop-for men on my list – at least those who like to cook or grill.*
*If allergies or dietary restrictions are a concern, ask for and check the list of ingredients before purchasing.
Indoor Herb Garden Kit
Plants and seedlings – or even the promise of them coming soon – can brighten drab winter days. This little seed kit by Mountainlilyfarm comes in a cute wooden berry basket, and the seeds are grown in the Ozark Mountains.
For the Crazy Cat Person
Until a few years ago, that crazy cat person would have been me. Priscilla is now our only cat. But for many years we had three cats – plus the occasional foster.
For the past several years, my husband Chris and I hosted Thanksgiving in our tiny dining room. We learned that the key is to be prepared. We planned ahead, and we divided tasks. Chris was a natural in the kitchen, and I clumsily muddled through as his sous chef.
But my favorite part of preparing was planning the table decor. So today I’m sharing my blue and white table from last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Denim for a Thanksgiving tablecloth? Why not. Last year, I became obsessed with this denim fabric. The pattern reminded me of a block print fabric from India.
I got some white muslin to make napkins and some white and blue ribbon to continue the theme.
We all know that denim jeans can go anywhere. It’s all how you put the look together. And the same is true for a denim tablecloth. I wanted a look for my table that was the equivalent of wearing jeans with heels and a tailored white blouse – elegant and classic.
A classic outfit deserves minimal but well-chosen accessories:
Gold painted leaves.
Blue and white serving pieces.
Crystal and understated floral arrangements.
Thanksgiving table decor can be very elaborate – but that never works for my tiny table. It just means moving more things off the table to make way for the feast.
Small Table Solutions For Holiday Dinners
Last year, I published this post that shared some tricks and tips for hosting holiday dinners on a small table. That post also shared a few of my previous Thanksgiving table looks.
This year we will be dining in style in this gorgeous dining room. Wherever your Thanksgiving takes you, I hope you have a wonderful one!