Last year, I’d seen a photo in a home decor magazine that became my inspiration for our Thanksgiving table: Oil lamp chimneys with candles burning inside were grouped loosely together with a few scattered fall leaves on an off-white tablecloth. So simple and elegant.
So I found a muslin curtain that I wasn’t using anymore, and it became that simple off-white tablecloth.
Now that I had my “blank canvas,” the fun could begin. And to me, fun is always more fun when I’m saving money. Since I had most of what I needed already on hand, this was a very budget-friendly look to pull together.
Of course I immediately strayed from the magazine photo that had inspired me. I couldn’t resist taking home some huge maples leaves I found on a walk in the park. Maple leaves don’t stay beautiful for very long, so I spray painted mine with Rust-Oleum “Pure Gold” Metallic spray paint.
After they dried, I pressed them, and some other leaves that I’d painted, under glass for a few days.
This was easy since we have a glass piece that covers our dining room table when it’s not extended. But pressing the leaves into a large book or under a heavy board may have worked too.
The Oil Lamp Chimneys
I took a few of the glass chimneys from vintage oil lamps that we’ve collected over the years and put candles inside.
A small glass ramekin served as the base for each one.
In the magazine photo, the chimneys were of varying heights, which is why they looked so beautiful grouped together. But, since my chimneys were more or less the same height, I would be scattering them across the table instead of grouping them.
The reason I loved that magazine photo so much was because, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m usually already wanting to move on from a fall decor look. But it’s too early to set the table for Christmas. This look was such an elegant compromise.
My table ended up looking very different from the photo, but I was still happy with it.
The largest maple leaves became place mats.
Since Thanksgiving comes only once a year, I like to use the good stuff: Real silverware, vintage china, and vintage crystal wine glasses.
A Word Of Caution
At the end of the evening, I discovered that the candles were a little hard to blow out unless I took the chimneys off first, but the chimneys had become veryHOT. I had to use a pot holder to take them off and sometimes, because of the melted candle wax, they were stuck to the ramekin base.
So, just a little warning that, if you try this, be very careful when you handle the hot chimneys, and also keep kids, pets, and flammable items away from them.
Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
We’re here at last: The big “ta-da” moment in our One Room Challenge® adventure! For five weeks, my husband Chris and I have been remodeling my small and quirky dressing room, and I’ve been posting weekly updates. And it’s all come down to this: The final reveal!
My little dressing room, located on the second floor, measures roughly 70 square feet. And those square feet are very oddly shaped.
In addition to the odd shape, this room also has a sloping ceiling that follows the roofline along the east side. It has two doors: An entry door and a door leading to an unfinished attic space.
Our house was built in 1927 so, although we don’t want the house to look like a shrine to the 1920s, we always want new work – cabinetry, hardware, doors, and moldings – to blend seamlessly with the existing design features of the house.
I feel that the house’s original design features are easy on the eyes. They’re simple and clean – yet charming. And they’ve stood the test of time. So I would rather use those design features than a trend that will look dated in a few years anyway.
You’ll see that the little dressing room was a claustrophobic and cluttered mess. I wanted the redesign to include ample storage yet feel spacious.
The room is small and has a sloped ceiling, so I decided to use one paint color on every surface, including that sloped ceiling, all the moldings, and all the cabinetry that we added.
The goal was for the room to be brighter, more elegant, more cohesive – and for that sloped ceiling to feel less oppressive. I opted for good old “Simply White” by Benjamin Moore.
Since what we were remodeling was basically a closet, we challenged ourselves to keep the budget tight. So, a challenge within a challenge! We had lots of fun with this. We sourced cabinetry pieces through Craigslist, salvage shops, and our own basement storage. We always look to repurpose items instead of buying new when we can anyway – not only to save money but also because it’s an earth-friendly alternative.
The total expenditure (outlined in detail last week) was under $900 U.S.
Let’s start the tour!
Dressing Room Tour
Won’t you come in.
The North Wall
Before the remodel, the north wall looked like this.
I’d brought in a portable garment rack because there was not enough rod space in the room to hang my clothes. A patched-together assortment of old dressers, shoe boxes, and racks made for a cluttered look that scratched away at my psyche every time I entered the room. And there was a lot of vertical wall space going to waste here.
Now I have the enclosed wardrobe space.
Plus, for longer items, the new garment rod we installed over a shoe bench.
The new garment rod, which adds a much-needed rustic touch to the room, is made of authentic industrial pipe.
We did away with the worn carpet in the room, but failed in our attempt to daylight the original fir floor, which is buried under mid century linoleum.
Instead, we covered the whole mess with a plywood underlayment, and then I painted, stenciled, and protected the plywood with a finish.
I love all the space that I have in the large wardrobe, which we purchased from a private seller on Craigslist and then refurbished. It’s a perfect width for the alcove space. Above the wardrobe, baskets will hold things I rarely use – like ski gear and travel accessories.
In the northeast corner, we added a vintage leaded glass cabinet, which we rehabbed and then put on these turned legs so that it would be tall enough to clear the baseboard and fit snugly in the corner.
Years ago, we bought two of these cabinets at a garage sale for $5 apiece. This cabinet’s mirror-image twin currently lives in our kitchen.
My vintage dolls and other little items were collecting dust in this room, and one of my goals for the remodel was to find a place where they could be displayed but protected from dust. I also wanted a better system for organizing my jewelry.
The vintage cabinet meets both needs. We added hooks to make necklaces easy to sort and find.
And all my little vintage items that used to drive me crazy have a home now.
I love how the north wall turned out. It’s fun, it has character, yet it’s calm and uncluttered – a far cry from the chaos I had going on before.
Looking at these before photos again, it’s surprising to me how much larger this wall space looks now.
We did keep the light fixture that was already in the room. It was a recent upgrade – a vintage milk glass light.
The East Wall
The ceiling slopes all along the east wall. There is a short door that leads to an attic space. It’s a cheap, hollow-core door that is not original to the house. It had a 1970s-era knob, flimsy hinges, and was framed in with tragically cheap molding. Its only redeeming quality was the beveled dressing mirror. Otherwise, it was very sad.
He added 1920s moldings that he’d saved from another project, and he added vintage hardware that we already had on hand – including a petite vintage glass door knob that would fit well on this petite door.
He made this cheap hollow-core door look original to our house – all without spending a cent.
On the east wall, we turn to face the south wall.
The South Wall
The south wall is a strange part of the room that is not even four feet wide. It’s a long, narrow alcove that felt even narrower because of where I had placed the tall dresser.
It was no fun trying to get anything out of these drawers. And, as you can see, this is where the carpeting stopped and an area rug took over. Pretty classy!
Here is the area now.
Since the overhead light is near the north wall, this part of the room was dark at night, so our one splurge for the room was to buy a 1920s-era sconce light, which had been professionally restored, from a salvage shop.
Up until yesterday, we were still working on this part of the room. I decided at the last minute that a chair was needed here, but it would have to be very petite.
I had this little bentwood chair kicking around in our basement. But of course it needed work, and I was still putting the final touches on my “ebonized” finish for it yesterday morning. And the faux fur seat cover arrived just in time.
At the same salvage shop where we found the sconce light, we found two narrow kitchen cabinets that, rehabbed and put together with an old dresser from our basement, would work nicely for the space around the window.
Where these kitchen cabinets once held canned goods, they now will hold sweaters – or maybe handbags.
And the old dresser, with its inset drawers, looks identical to the original built-in cabinetry in our home.
We added glass cabinet knobs to all the pieces to match the cabinet hardware throughout the house.
And I lined all the shelves and drawers in this south wall installation with a retro-floral shelf paper that I just love.
It was easy to reposition – unlike some other shelf papers that I would end up wadding and throwing away in frustration.
So you might be wondering if I forgot to add wall art. But actually I love this uncluttered look so much that I have no desire to hang anything on these soothing white walls. I might change my mind at some point, but right now I can almost feel my blood pressure drop when I walk into this room.
Seems some home improvement projects are difficult from the get-go. But with other projects, things just fall into place. With this project, I was lucky.
Lucky because the floor stencil measured out so perfectly for the room dimensions.
Lucky because we found, or already had on hand, cabinetry pieces that fit so well into the strange little spaces that we were working with.
But most of all lucky because Chris so good-naturedly embarked on this challenge with me.
Without his mad DIY skills and his honest, informed opinions, this project would never have gotten off the ground.
More To Come
After the holiday season, I’ll be sharing more about the revamp of the little bentwood chair, details about the door rehab, and how we made two kitchen cabinets and an old dresser look like built-ins.
Visit The Other Challenge Participants
This six-week challenge has been intense for both of us. But it’s also been very rewarding. Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement along the way. It made a world of difference!
I can’t wait to check out the other final reveals happening through the One Room Challenge. Participant reveals can be found here.
To me, the best homes are the ones that are a comfortable extension of the person living there. It’s fun to walk into someone’s home and learn more about them just by what they have chosen to display. Those little personal touches are instant conversation starters.
So I thought this guest post, with simple ways to create a more personalized home, would be a fun one to share.
The following is a contributed post. For more information on my contributed posts, please click here.
3 Ways To Make Your Home More Personal To You
There are many things that you might want to be able to say about your own home, but probably the most important is that you want your home to be a reflection of you – to be as personal to you as possible.
If it is not personal to you, if it looks and feels like just about anybody could be living there, then you are just not going to enjoy it as much. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you can make your home personal to you and, as long as you are focused on these, you should be able to make your home a much happier place overall.
So let’s take a look at three of the best ways to make your home more personal to you.
One of the simplest ways, of course, is to put some thought and effort into customizing your home’s design. It’s easier than you might assume, yet the effect it will have is truly profound.
After all, it is going to mean that there is no other home in the world which is exactly like yours. A good way to start is to consider transforming the look of your home with custom paint and glass. The impact of fresh paint and new windows can be truly amazing. And, when you have those basic elements in place, they can serve as inspiration for personalizing your decor.
Of course, it is also hugely important to make sure that you have a lot of personal reminders scattered throughout your home. This will make it much easier to feel that your home really is a place for you and your family. It might simply mean displaying photos of friends, family, or even pets. Or it might mean including those special little items that remind you of different times in your life – or the travels that you have been on.
Consider displaying your child’s art work – or perhaps something that you have been collecting. Think about bringing in a few house plants to soften the look – or simply a few flowers from your garden.
You also might try rotating just a few decor items so that your home has a fresh look each season – without a lot of work on your part.
We’ve covered customizing your home’s design and personalizing its decor. But what really makes for a happy home – the glue that holds it all together – is of course comfort. More than anything else, creating a comfortable atmosphere will make you feel that your home is personal to you. Think color, texture, lighting, fragrance. And don’t forget the more practical considerations: Room function, traffic flow, and temperature. Creating a comfortable atmosphere is actually simple enough, and it’s mostly a case of ensuring that the way you live in your space – with whoever you live with – is a peaceful and engaged one.
That is going to make a huge difference indeed.
However you do it, personalizing your home will make you and your family happy to come home after a long day.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
Over the years I’ve become very selective about how much decor I buy (and then have to store) for any given holiday. That’s one reason I like working with natural elements in fall decor: When the season is over I just compost them.
But I found a small Edwardian-looking skull at a dollar store that I could not resist. It inspired my little front porch vignette.
I cut some florist foam to size and placed it into a little clay pedestal (it’s on the left in the photo). Then I concealed the foam with sheet moss and pushed a small wooden stake through. I placed the skull over the stake. The stake would hold the skull in place.
Then I covered a large clay saucer with sheet moss. This would serve as the base for the vignette I was creating.
The vignette consisted of the skull on a fancy pedestal, a small white pumpkin, and my favorite creepy plant, a cushion bush (Calocephalus ‘Silver Stone’).
Then it was just a matter of shopping my own garden for twigs, mosses and lichens to add.
Looking at it now, I wish I would have put a bow tie on the “neck” of the skeleton. Maybe this year.
A Viking Pumpkin
Last year I chose pumpkins with interesting stems. I thought this one was fun.
And this one, with its crazy stem, would make a fierce viking.
By the time I was finished with him, he looked more punk rock than viking.
I added some twine to his stem and put him on the same black-painted grape wreath that I used as a nest for my haunted hatchlings a few years back.
My summer plants were still going strong last October, so I dressed up a potted fuchsia with a mask that I had on hand.
Another mask that I found at the dollar store glammed up my lion statue.
They greeted trick-or-treaters as they walked up the stairs.
I added a few creepy lights to the mix and I was done.
I’d spent two dollars at the dollar store, and a bit more for some pumpkins. The rest I had on hand.
Fall decor might go by the wayside this year too because, in early October, I will be kicking off a (hopefully) fun special project – something that I’ve wanted to tackle for a long time. So stay tuned!
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
In my previous post, I shared my makeover of a dark shade garden. That makeover included a DIY garden mirror that I hung on the back fence to bring in and reflect light.
Ideally a garden mirror, one that will stay out all summer, or possibly all year, should be shatterproof and weatherproof. Now I’m not sure if the mirror I came up with really hits those marks, but I do know that it is shatter-resistant. As for the rest, time will tell.
The project started with . . .
I scoured thrift shops to find a frame made of plastic, resin, or some other weather-resistant material.
I found these frames on sale at a local thrift shop and paid about $7 for the pair. They had cheap, ugly “art” in them, which I removed. I was only interested in the frames.
I bought two frames because I had a gut feeling that I should do a small test mirror first to avoid making mistakes on the “real” mirror.
Turned out I was so right about that – mistakes were made! Very silly ones at that.
We will come back to the test mirror later, but for now we’ll talk about my experience with the larger frame – the one I worked on after I had learned from my mistakes.
The large frame would hold a 18″ X 24″ piece of art – or, for my needs, a clear acrylic sheet. I found one the right size at my local hardware store.
The acrylic sheet is lightweight, shatter-resistant, and non-yellowing.
Making an “Antique Mirror”
Step one of making an outdoor “antique mirror” is very, very important: Put a piece of blue painter’s tape on one side of the acrylic sheet.
The blue tape marks the front side – the side that should not be painted. Otherwise, things can get very confusing later in the project – especially if you’re me and you manage to find a way to lose track of which side of the sheet you were actually painting. Since it’s a clear sheet, once you lose track it’s almost impossible to tell.
So anyway, blue tape.
With the front “blue tape” side of the mirror facing down, I spray painted the back side with Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect. I chose it because I read that it gives glass the look of an antique mirror.
This paint has a heavy fume smell so, after a while, I decided to use a painter’s mask. Some of the other paints and products I mention below are pretty intense too so, if you use them, be sure to read and follow the cautions on the labels. I also tried to keep my painting project far away from things like bird feeders and bee activity.
(Please excuse my old-sheet-turned-dropcloth here which, as you can see, I have been using for years. It’s starting to look like abstract art itself.)
It took quite a few coats of paint to actually cover the acrylic sheet. And the paint looked a bit alarming when it was in the process of drying.
But I wasn’t going for perfection here. I wanted it to be a bit imperfect and patinated so it would look like an antique mirror.
After about five coats, I could still vaguely see through the “mirror” when I held it up to fence where it would hang. It needed a backing of some sort to make the “mirror” opaque. So, after the mirror paint dried, I sprayed black paint right over the mirror paint.
Yes, I sprayed it on the same side of the acrylic sheet where I had sprayed the mirror paint. This step was a bit counter-intuitive, and my paint-fume-soaked brain had a hard time grasping the concept.
I used RustOleum Engine Enamel, in gloss black, from my husband’s stash of spray paint only because I had it on hand and, since it’s intended to be used on engine parts, it seemed like it would be a durable paint.
Could I instead have used some sort of black weatherproof backing and just placed it in the frame behind the acrylic sheet? That might have worked too. Or it might not have if, at some point, water found its way between the “mirror” and the backing and caused some sort of problem. Since it’s an outdoor mirror, this could happen.
And this way just seemed like less work.
I let the “mirror” dry thoroughly.
The Garden Mirror – Or Not
I wasn’t sure how I would secure the “mirror” to the frame, but it turned out that I didn’t need to worry. That piece of acrylic fits so snugly into the frame that it isn’t going anywhere.
If anything, it’s so snug that there is a slight bow in the acrylic sheet that, if it were any more pronounced, would give it a “funhouse mirror” look.
One reason I liked the frame that I found for the mirror was that it looked like black bamboo. So I hadn’t intended to paint it.
But when I hung the mirror, I was underwhelmed.
The frame looked boring and dated.
Back down it went – back to my much-used spray paint drop cloth.
Painting the Frame
It would have been really hard to get the acrylic sheet out of the frame again, so I just masked it with newspaper so I could spray paint the frame.
I used the sports section since I never read it.
I really should look through my husband’s paint stash more often. This time I found another product intended for engine parts called Dupli-Color Adhesion Promoter. I used it on the frame to make sure the spray paint would adhere properly to the plastic frame. (Time will tell if this step actually helped.)
Classic gold frames never go out of style. And I love the contrast of the rustic fence against the polished gold.
As for the mirror itself, it is not super-clear. In fact, it is a bit hazy. Everything reflected in it has a sort of “dreamlike” look.
But I love how it brings light, interest, and even motion to a dark area of the garden.
This mirror does reflect a lot of light, so I would not want to use it in an area that gets direct sun.
Will it really hold up outside? Time will tell. But will a flying rock or errant softball break the “glass?” Probably not.
The Test Mirror – And What Went Wrong
This is how the test mirror turned out. It is the result of my doing everything wrong.
What I think happened here is that I lost track of which side I had painted with the mirror paint. And then, instead of painting the black paint on top of the mirror paint, I painted it on the reverse side of the “glass.”
To secure the mirror to the frame, I used a strong glue. The glue seeped out along the sides and, when I wiped it away, some of the mirror paint actually came off with it, leaving black paint exposed.
I had experimented a bit by using a paper doily as a stencil, and the look is fun.
But as you can see, the actual mirror part is very murky. That’s because the mirror paint is sitting on top of the acrylic sheet instead of behind it.
For the right look, it’s always best to paint on the back side of the sheet.
Now I’m intrigued about the endless possibilities of DIY antique mirror projects. I want to do a little experimenting using more stencils and finding new ways to create a patinated look. I might even use real glass next time.
Where’s my blue tape?
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.
A while back, I briefly mentioned my current plant crush: The air plant called Tillandsia usneoides (or live Spanish moss). I’d been admiring these plants for some time, and recently I broke down and bought a few.
They are very versatile. I even used one as the outer ring for my elevated tulips arrangement.
Spanish moss is the mystical-looking stuff that hangs from live oak in the South.
At my house, it just hangs from a tall vase and resembles a beautiful sorceress.
Every couple of weeks, I soak the plants in water for six to eight hours.
Sometimes I toss a couple of small drops of plant fertilizer into the water.
After their long bath, I hang them to dry.
Alternatively, I could mist the plants every 3 or 4 days.
This plant loves filtered sunlight and good air circulation. In my climate, it yearns for the outdoors in spring and summer.
So recently, I decided to give the sorceress what she wanted. I would release her into the wild.
Releasing My Air Plants Into the Wild
Of course it’s safety first for my beloved Spanish moss. So the sorceress went only as far as my front porch, but at least she’s outdoors.
She hangs from a potted corkscrew willow branch where soft breezes and morning sun can caress her. My thought is that this closely resembles what she would be doing in her natural habitat. And here, I can make sure she gets enough mist to (hopefully) stay happy and healthy.
Kidding aside, I’m hoping to see this plant grow and multiply this summer. With more of it, the decor possibilities are endless.
Will the birds try to use the Spanish moss for nesting material? We will find out. I’m whisking the sorceress indoors at the first sign of trouble.
But right now I think the lion likes her.
A Spring Garden Tour
These photos might have you thinking that I have some tiny modicum of control over the garden, but don’t be fooled. As always, chaos is winning.
So I have decided to just go with it. If something wants to form drifts and take over, maybe that actually means less work for me? I can kid myself anyway.
After all, it’s hard to get mad at the adorable sweet woodruff that has taken over my patio garden.
Or the poppies that are everywhere.
This time of year, everything is so fresh and green.
It’s amazing what a difference a couple of months can make. Here is our front birdbath now.
And now in the shade garden, where the snow had flattened the undergrowth, the tiki is being taken over by hardy geranium.
Over on the fence line, the bees are crazy about the blooming hebe.
I am a pushover for topiaries because they can help bring a little structure and order to the chaos. Recently I pruned this succulent (which spent the winter in the greenhouse) into an orderly shape.
The peonies I planted last year are still scrawny, but I did get a beautiful blossom from one of them.
This time of year, there is always plenty to do in the garden. You could probably tell that I still have a lot of work left. Gardening (or “taming the beast,” as I think of it) is the main reason that my blog posts are so few and far between in spring.
Thanks for visiting today and coming along on my spring garden tour. If you get a chance, check out my Summer Gear page – one of the new “rooms” in my updated Shop.
Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.
Every now and then, I take my readers over to visit my mom Erika’s beautiful garden. But today we’re headed inside her house to tour her charming sunroom.
It’s my favorite room in her house and the one I always gravitate toward. But it was not always like that.
In fact, it was not always a sunroom.
A Porch Conversion
When Mom first moved into her mid century rambler, the sunroom was actually just a covered porch.
Even though the porch was in dire need of a facelift (as was the rest of the house), it was a nice place to relax on a warm day. But it wasn’t living up to its full potential. Mom could almost hear the porch begging to be enclosed and converted to a sunroom that could be enjoyed year round.
So that is exactly what she did. She hired out some of the work, and she had some help from my brother Dan. But she did much of the work herself – including installing the ceramic tile floor.
A door in the media room gives us access the sunroom. Let’s go back in time to right after Mom got the house. This was the media room then – and the door to what was then the covered porch.
The media room was probably the ugliest room in the house – and if this photo isn’t proof that Mom is fearless, I don’t know what is. (Actually, at the time I think we were all pretty excited about the potential of Mom’s cosmetic fixer.)
The Tour Begins
Of course, Mom immediately made improvements to the media room. This is the entrance to the sunroom now.
The sunroom is long and narrow, so Mom divided it into three zones.
The Tea Room
Coming through the media room door, this is the first area we see.
A corner of windows gives it abundant natural light. When I visit Mom, especially on a rainy day, there is nothing I love more than to sip a cup of tea with her here.
For a rustic contrast, Mom kept the original pine ceiling.
If we turn toward the bank of windows, we have access to the outdoors.
And here I must mention that my brother Dan did the interior finish work on all the windows and doors.
He did a beautiful job of trimming them, and it was good practice for the stunning dining room conversion he undertook at his own house a few years later.
The Reading Area
If we turn from the tea room, we face a teak bench. It serves as a reading area, but more importantly it helps to separate the potting area behind it from the tea room.
The bench divides and defines the spaces, yet it is low enough to allow ample light and a spacious feel.
Plus, no matter who you are, it is a nice place to relax.
The Potting Area
The newest addition to Mom’s greenhouse is the bench that my father built years ago. In my childhood home, this bench sat in the entry hall.
Mom replaced the cushioned seat with a laminate, added a little paint, and now the bench is part of her potting area. It stores potting supplies, and the top can be used as a work surface.
And from the tea room, we don’t see the potting soil, empty pots, or hand trowels.
But this is where plants are overwintered and tubers are started in Spring.
A shelf in the corner holds decor and plants.
It is still bright enough in this corner for the plants to thrive.
Sun-loving plants are placed near the windows.
This concludes our little tour of Mom’s sunroom. I hope you enjoyed it.
Now it’s time for Mom to relax a bit with her loyal companion before starting her next project. But knowing Mom, she won’t be sitting for long.
Here are my previous posts about Mom’s home and garden:
Last fall, a cousin invited us to her party and made me cup of coffee with her little Nespresso machine. Specifically, she made me a lungo – which, to me, is a cross between a shot of espresso and an Americano. It was a strong and delicious cup of coffee, with the water steamed to a light froth.
It reminded me of Europe: The hotels where we stayed all had these nifty coffee machines in their breakfast rooms that, with the push of a button, could produce lungos, espressos, cappuccinos, and more – on demand. These were small cups of coffee – six ounces at most – not the grande-sized drinks we are used to here in the States.
So when Chris found a barely-used Nespresso Lattissima Plus on eBay, he surprised me with it on Christmas.
It was one of the nicer Nespresso models and could make both milk- and water-based coffee drinks. (This model is also currently available, new and used, through Amazon.)
Worrying – It’s What I Do Best
I was excited about my gift but also hesitant.
First of all, even though it was a small machine, it was still something that would take up countertop space (and an electrical outlet) in our kitchen. And since this little machine would only make single cups of coffee, and short ones at that, it would not take the place of our existing coffee maker. So we’d have to keep that one as well.
Secondly, Nespresso machines use coffee capsules, and the used capsules cannot be sent out in our curbside recycling.
Lastly, cleaning the machine, specifically the milk spout, looked like a lot of work.
Chris immediately dispelled my concern about cleaning the milk spout. He showed me the button to push to automatically clean the spout with steamed water.
“Now just try it,” he said. “We don’t have to keep it.”
Moments later, while sipping a delicious lungo, I said “Oh we’re keeping it.”
So I pushed aside some of the serveware on the hutch countertop and plugged the Nespresso in there.
The clutter was not ideal, but it was wonderful to be able to make espresso drinks so easily.
The hutch countertop remained cluttered until recently when we added this vintage cabinet to our kitchen. It now holds most of our casual serveware.
This freed up space on the hutch countertop for a prettier coffee station.
Coincidentally, my mom Erika had been organizing recently too – in her craft/sunroom. (We’re going there, by the way, in a future post. Her sunroom is so pretty that I have to show you.) She offered me one of the beautiful landscapes she paints.
When I got it home, I set it on the hutch until I found a place for it – and then I realized that the hutch is the perfect place. (Lately I’ve been loving the casual look of simply propping art against walls on tables and countertops. It makes it so easy to “layer” the pieces with more art or move pieces around.)
I found a new tray with colors that complement the painting.
We don’t do syrups in our coffee, so I kept the coffee station simple. The Frango tin holds a bag of powdered cocoa for the occasional mocha or hot chocolate.
As far as the machine itself goes, my only small issue is that sometimes the steamed milk could be a bit warmer. (And I keep forgetting to put the detachable milk carafe back in the fridge after making a milk-based drink. But I can’t blame the machine for that!)
Overall, we’ve really upped our coffee game around here, and I’m feeling better about keeping the machine. Coffee anyone?
Today I’m sharing a fun little organizing project that I’m very happy with. I always love it when wasted space finally gets put to good use. And this time, it was . . .
An Underutilized Kitchen Corner
Although we remodeled our kitchen several years ago, there is one space that we could have done a better job of thinking through: The bland, empty corner where the cabinetry ends on the north wall.
The heat register, the light switch, and the traffic flow from the kitchen to the hallway all made this corner a bit challenging to plan. At the time of our remodel, we had so many other decisions to make that we didn’t give it proper attention.
It became a feeding station for our cats – which actually was great since, for the most part, it kept our little darlings away from the food prep area. But now our only cat is the lovely Priscilla, and she prefers to eat her meals upstairs.
I was thrilled at her choice because I could finally do something more with this underappreciated corner. But what? Since shelving wouldn’t block the heat register, I was considering attaching shelves, or maybe a floating bookcase, to the pantry cabinet on the left.
Around the same time, Chris started asking me when I was going to do something, anything, with the vintage cabinets that I’d had in our garage for the past couple of years.
We’d picked these two cabinets up at a garage sale for $5 apiece. Since each cabinet only has two “good,” finished sides (the front and one side), my assumption is that they were actually built-ins that had been pulled out of an old house.
The flush-mount cabinet doors, the glass knobs, and the leaded glass fronts, are all similar to the original dining room cabinetry in our house – which was built in the 1920s.
So to me, buying the cabinets was a no-brainer.
I just had no idea what we were going to do with them. There didn’t seem to be any good place to put them if we were going to keep them together.
With Chris wanting his garage space back, and with the cat bowls gone, it finally clicked. I took measurements and, sure enough, one of those vintage cabinets (the one with its “good side” on the right) would fit in that blank kitchen corner without obstructing the light switch – if we put legs on it so that it would clear the heat register.
But that old cabinet would need a lot more than just legs.
Paint or Finish?
I originally wanted to paint the cabinet the same white as our kitchen cabinets. But then I noticed that it had been painted – and someone had gone through the painstaking work of stripping the paint and sanding it.
And the wood was fir – like our floors. Since someone else had already done all the hard work, I decided to apply a finish to the exterior and paint only the interior.
(I went ahead and worked on both cabinets at once – even though my plans for the second cabinet are still in flux.)
A Danish Oil Finish
For the exterior, I used Watco Danish Oil in Natural. It can be applied with a rag, which I find so much easier than using a paint brush – at least on non-ornate surfaces.
Danish oil is not like Polyurethane, and I found this post that explains the differences. And this post has helpful tips on the proper method of application – which I followed – as well as the proper way to handle application rags since – yikes! – a wadded-up oil-soaked rag could possibly combust!
Applying the oil with a rag was easy, but the wood was very thirsty. I probably applied 10 layers of the oil over the course of several days.
Prime and Paint
I painted the interior with three coats of primer and two coats of white paint.
For smaller flat surfaces like this, I prefer to use a Shur-Line paint edger instead of a roller because it gives me a smooth, even finish. Then I use a small paint brush for the hard-to-reach areas.
The white paint is a custom blend that matches our kitchen cabinets and is the same paint I used on the walls for our laundry room remodel.
Finally the fun part: A stencil! I just wanted a simple accent and, since I couldn’t find a stencil I liked, I used one I’ve had on hand for years.
I practiced a little and experimented with color combinations.
Most years, I thoroughly embrace the holiday season. But, every now and then, I hit a wall. Last year, it happened around mid-December. The holiday decor that I’d been so excited to bring out after Thanksgiving suddenly seemed like just more clutter. And it all needed dusting.
This season, I hit the wall even earlier. Before Thanksgiving, thanks to social media, I’d already seen too much too soon: Too many heavily flocked trees groaning under the weight of too many glitzy baubels.
And all I could think was “This again already?”
So this year, I decided to rebel against holiday glitz – not the holidays, just the glitz.
My husband, Chris, always looks forward to having a tree, so I knew we had to have one. But it would be scaled back, simplified, and, well, un-glitzy.
And it would be given room to breathe.
Finding The Right Tree
I wanted a pre-lit artificial tree, but with a specific look: It had to be very narrow – with lots of space between the branches, and a thick wooden trunk.
I’d seen that kind of tree around. They are sometimes called alpine trees, and they look similar to these trees.
I found a very inexpensive five-foot alpine tree at a local craft store. The tree was not great quality, but I was not deterred.
I brought it home, assembled it in minutes, and fluffed the branches.
Chris looked a little disappointed. But I had a plan.
Making an Artificial Tree Look Natural
The tree was already mounted on a metal base, and there were 18 inches between the base and the first branch. So I simply plopped it into a 10-inch tall (and 15-inch wide) peck basket.
I had some plastic bags on hand that I’d been collecting to send out with our recycling. So I tucked them around the tree trunk and filled the basket with them. This plastic bag “stuffing” would support the sheet moss that I would be placing on top.
I cut the sheet moss to size and placed it on top of the plastic bags, tucking it into the basket around the edges. (Sheet moss has really been my friend lately. I also used it for this fall vignette and in a setting I created for this holiday house.)
I used Buffalo Snow to conceal the cut edges of the sheet moss and give the tree base a wintry look.
Now it looked more like a live tree planted in a basket. Chris was starting to feel better about this whole thing.
Except for the lights, there could be nothing sparkly or shiny on this tree. So I added just a few frosted pinecones and small white bells that I already had on hand.
And I used these cute pinecone sprigs from last year’s holiday chandelier decor.
I tried adding some of my Christmas ornaments – the ones that were made of natural materials or were otherwise non-glitzy. But even that was going too far.
I also thought about adding berries, but in the end I decided to ban red from the tree altogether. The tree is a quiet, soothing combination of green, white, and brown.
And I chose the peck basket because it also looks natural and has no sheen.
If I use this tree again next year, I might go with red – maybe plaid garlands or bows. But who knows, by then I might be in the mood for glitz again – or ready to go back to our old, nicer-quality tree.
I think the mistake I’ve been making all along is that I tend to get sentimental about the ornaments that I’ve collected, and I feel obligated to use all of them every year.
It was just another case of my stuff controlling me instead of the other way around.
But this year is different. I am getting more enjoyment from the few things that I have chosen to display.
Sometimes less is more.
This is my last post before I tuck this blog in, once again, for its long winter’s nap. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and for your input and encouraging words.
I’ll be back in January. Until then, may all of your holiday dreams come true!
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