Late Winter in the Greenhouse

When I last wrote about our Sunglo lean-to greenhouse in Greenhouse Sneak Peek, I covered the process of preparing the site and assembling this adorable little structure.

But I left off at the interior, which had yet to be completed.

greenhouse growing greenhouse interior

Since then, my husband, Chris, has been busy installing the shelving and lighting.

greenhouse growing shelves being installed

And now, at last, I’ve been let loose in the new greenhouse to start our seedlings and gear up for the growing season.  Things are still in the early stages, but I thought I would give you a little tour.

Greenhouse Tour

This lean-to greenhouse measures 5 X 12.5 feet and is attached to the south side of our garage.  So for a small footprint, we get a large amount of shelf and counter space, all south-oriented.

Climate Control

On the west wall, we have the control panel for the automatic venting, heating and cooling.  I still jump a little every time the fan kicks in!

greenhouse growing interior

Soil Basin

On the east wall, we have the entrance and a soil basin.  To me, an indoor soil basin is such a luxury and makes potting so much easier.

greenhouse growing soil basin

A Water Source

And on the north wall, which is the exterior of our garage, we have a water tap that Chris piped in from our rainwater cistern.

water with hose edited

The hose basket is actually an old bike basket that I found in the basement and spray painted with Rust-Oleum Heirloom White.

Lighting

We have a grow light hanging over the potting counter.  It’s already coming in handy for extending the daily light exposure for our citrus trees.  We may add a second one at some point.

We also have the great rustic overhead lights that my brother made for us as a Christmas gift.

greenhouse at dusk
Greenhouse at dusk

A Cart Made Over

I couldn’t resist using this cute old metal cart I bought at a thrift store several years ago.  I repainted it one of my favorite greens (Rust-Oleum Eden) for its new location.

green cart

I’m not sure how old it is, but judging by the little wooden wheels,  it could be mid century or earlier.

wooden wheel

So What Am I Growing?

I’m new to greenhouse growing, and there are so many things that I want to try.  I know some of my experiments will succeed and others will fail.  But it’s all a learning experience.

Starting Seeds

I started some seeds in propagation trays, including:

  • Tomato Minibel.  I chose this tomato for its compact size.  It’s a small ornamental tomato that needs no support and it’s great for containers and hanging baskets.
  • Hot Chinese peppers.  Mostly because they will look attractive.
  • Ground cherries.  I just love how the fruits of these plants are wrapped in a delicate papery husk.
  • Trailing lobelia.  Great in hanging baskets or containers.  I have never tried growing these from seeds before.  We will see how it goes.
  • Impatiens.  A beautiful shade annual and another plant I have never grown from seed.
Greenhouse growing seed packets
I stapled these seed packets to wooden stir sticks and they will be inserted into the propagation trays as plant identifiers.

These seeds were all planted a few days ago and will take a little while to spout.  Once they do, I can prop open the plastic cover on the propagation  trays and eventually take them off completely.

Greenhouse growing - propagation tray

Once the danger of frost has passed, the seedlings can be hardened off and then planted outside – except for the tomatoes and peppers, which need even warmer conditions before they can safely be released into the wild of my garden.

Dwarf Citrus Trees

The blossoms of citrus trees are very fragrant so I bought a couple of dwarf citrus trees to make the greenhouse smell wonderful, and also in hopes of getting some fruit.

They need heat, sun and humidity, so they will stay in the greenhouse during cooler times of the year, and then be moved to the patio for the summer.

One is an Improved Meyer Lemon, which is blooming now.

lemon blossom

The other is a Bearss Seedless Lime.  It is a small tree but it is already producing a lime.

Lime

The Cactus Experiment

I have never tried growing cactuses from seed.  But a packet simply labeled “Cactus Mixed Varieties” caught my attention.

The instructions say to cover the seeds with glass, so I am using the same cheese dome I used for this floral arrangement last week.  I don’t think it will ever really be used for cheese.

greenhouse growing: cactus pot
Cactus pot

What’s Next?

We found this used greenhouse on Craigslist and then added some new parts we got from Sunglo.  So Chris is still hoping to find time to give some of the older cedar shelves a little spruce-up.

As for the growing season, it really is early days, and the greenhouse still looks pretty empty.  But once the tomatoes and peppers get bigger, they will need larger pots and will take up quite a bit of space.

I also have these generous-sized propagation trays from Sunglo that will be perfect for starting tuberous begonia bulbs in a few weeks.

Sunglo large propagation trays

I will be posting updates from time to time on how things are going in the greenhouse.  Now that my seeds are planted, I need a mega-dose of that special commodity that is not just a virtue, but, for gardeners, a necessity – patience!

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Starting Seeds Indoors on a Shoestring

I’m pretty excited about my new greenhouse.  I can start seedlings indoors and keep them warm and snug while the weather is still cool and then plant them outside after the danger of frost has passed.

But what if you don’t have any space for a greenhouse?  Say you live in an apartment with just a patio or a balcony and you just need a few plants to liven up your outdoor space.  Well the truth is, if you have a sunny window and an empty 16-ounce plastic salad mix container, you can still start seedlings indoors.

This little budget-friendly and earth-friendly project is so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to share it.  But if you’ve never tried starting seedlings indoors, it’s an inexpensive way of finding out if you enjoy it.   It’s also a fun project for kids.

The Materials

  • A clean, empty 16-oz rectangular clear plastic salad mix container.
  • Three clean, empty plastic pony pack containers.
  • A packet of seeds.
  • Seedling starter mix.
  • Water.

It’s a good idea to remove the top label of the salad container so nothing is shading the seedlings.  But  that will be the most difficult part of this project.

starging seeds indoors with empty salad container

The salad container in the photo measures about 12 X 8 inches.  That is the perfect size to fit three 5 X 3.5-inch pony pack containers.

If you’re wondering, pony packs are the small four-pack containers that starter annuals are sold in.  If you don’t have any, ask a friend who is into gardening.  He or she will know immediately what you’re talking about and is sure to have a few empties around.

Make sure the pony packs are clean so that no tiny cooties are onboard to harm your seedlings. Three pony packs gives you a dozen chambers for planting seeds.

ingredients - starting seeds indoors

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Seeds

Make sure the seeds you choose are right for your garden space.  How big will the plants get?  What kind of sun exposure do they need?

Also check the packet to make sure the seeds are for starting indoors and not for direct seeding into the garden (although sometimes you can get away with starting those indoors too, but it’s hit and miss).

Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet if they conflict with my instructions below.

Let’s Get Started

This won’t take long.  First, fill the pony packs with moistened seedling starter mix and set the seeds on top.

starting seeds indoors - pony packs

For this example, I’m using sweet pepper seeds.  I used two seeds per chamber in case one of them fails.  You should also plant multiple seeds per chamber.  Once the seedlings sprout, you can thin them to one plant per chamber.

Now cover the seeds with a light dusting of the seedling starter soil and then moisten them thoroughly.  I used a spray bottle for this so the seeds wouldn’t be disrupted.

starting seeds indoors

Then put the pony packs inside the salad container and set the plastic cover on top.  Voila! You have a homemade propagation tray.

Put it inside near a window that gets a lot of light.

starting seeds indoors - homemade propagation tray

Okay, I admit that I put my container in my greenhouse.  But if you make sure your container gets enough light, you will probably have success.

Keep the soil moist at all times and keep the lid set on top, but not clamped down.  Once the seedlings have sprouted, prop the lid open so they get some air circulation.  A week or two after they have sprouted, you can do away with the lid entirely.

Once the danger of frost has passed in your area, or whenever the seed packet says you can, you will be able to plant your seedlings outside.  If you are planting tomatoes or peppers, you might want to research when in your area they can be safely put outside.

If you try this project, I would love to know what you planted how it turned out for you, so please come back, post a comment and let me know.

 


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Beauty Under Glass – a Camellia Centerpiece

Little Treasures

Anything looks more beautiful in a glass case, and floral arrangements under glass make any flower look like a precious gem.  I recently made this simple centerpiece to showcase a few garden-variety camellia blossoms.

My Issues With Camellias

I must disclose at the outset that I have issues with camellias in general.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, they start to bloom about now and the blossoms look perfect and gorgeous – until it rains and they immediately turn to mush.  And around here, that doesn’t take long.

The blossoms then fall off the plants to create a mushy mess on the ground.

So the best way to enjoy the blossoms is to bring some inside before all this happens.

But as cut flowers, they are delicate and bruise easily.  Maybe that is why I thought them appropriate for an arrangement where their fragile beauty would be protected under glass.

The Supplies

For this centerpiece, I used a vintage Teleflora footed bowl, a small glass cheese dome, and a small floral frog.

Camellia centerpieces - the supplies

For the natural elements, I used camellia blossoms, a few sprigs of Lemon Cypress (‘Wilma Goldcrest’) and some floral moss.

How to Arrange It

The cypress and the camellias were arranged using the frog which was placed in a small plastic condiment container.

frog closeup
Small plastic container with floral frog inside.

The camellia blossoms were placed at an angle, almost horizontally, and the cypress sprigs were arranged in the middle.

Then the condiment container was filled with water to serve as a  bowl.

Then it was placed in the middle of the footed Teleflora bowl and the moss was tucked around the perimeter.  By using this “bowl within a bowl” method, I could keep the floral moss dry so it can be used in future arrangements.

Camellia centerpieces - closeup

Then the cheese dome was placed on top.  Instant cuteness, and so easy.  Camellias don’t have an especially long life as a cut flower, so I will enjoy this while I can.

Camellia centerpieces

 


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Heidi’s February Plant Pick: Corsican Hellebore

My February plant pick is a little late because I was waiting for my favorite hellebore, the Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius), to start blooming.

But since this is one of the earliest blooming hellebores species around, we didn’t have to wait long.

Corsican Hellebore

A Big Beauty

This big beauty is at least 15 years old.  It was originally planted on top of the drystack wall but has since spilled over into the flowerbed below.  This is a full, clumping evergreen hellebore with leaves that mostly look healthy and fresh all year.

Corsican hellebores are said to grow up to 20 inches tall and 36 inches wide.  But I say they get even bigger.

Its soft green flowers first appear in late January or early February in our garden, hardiness zone 8a.   It seems to bloom forever.

corsican hellebore

Sometime in late spring or early summer, the flowers dry out.  But even in that state they are kind of attractive and I usually wait until mid-summer to trim them away.

A Dangerous Beauty

In researching this plant, I was surprised to learn that, not only is it poisonous if ingested (as are all hellebores), but handing any part of it could cause an allergic skin reaction.

I have never suffered a skin rash from this plant, but the leaves look brittle and slightly prickly so I have never wanted to handle it without gloves anyway.  Still it’s probably not the best plant choice if you have children in the house.

Bottom line: Wear gloves, and, no matter how hungry you are, don’t eat this plant.

Location

Many of the trees and plants that are located on the elevated flowerbed behind our drystack wall struggle and eventually need to be replaced.  My theory is that water drains pretty quickly from this area, so even though we have a sprinkler system, things tend to dry out.

But this hellebore likes well-drained soil and is moderately drought-tolerant.  It also likes a part sun exposure, so it has thrived in this location.

Care

It’s a good idea to prune away any dead, dried out or diseased leaves once in a while to keep this plant looking its best.

It also enjoys a layer of leaf mold or leaf mulch at least once a year.  It likes acidic to neutral soil.

It is okay for this plant to dry out between watering (once established) but it does need to be watered on a consistent basis.

I have read that some owners of this plant battle large numbers of seedlings that need to be pulled out or relocated so the original plant won’t be smothered.  I have not had that problem, but soil condition might be a factor.

Hardiness

This hellebore is a hardy evergreen perennial in hardiness zones 6a through 9b.

Pests

Black spots sometimes appear on some leaves.  I usually just cut those leaves out.  It also occasionally falls victim to aphids.

One of Many Beauties Out There

Hellebores are native to Europe and parts of Asia, and there are many species.  This post focuses on my favorite hellebore, but I wanted to mention that there are other hellebore options – lots of them.

Some have flowers in deep, dramatic colors.

Hellebore

Some have filled flowers.

filled hellebore

tiny hellebore hellebores fieldSome are subtle woodland wonders, and others serve as sweet little ground covers.

 

 

 

 

 

New hellebore hybrids are being developed all the time.  Check out a good local nursery and hopefully you will be blown away by the selection.

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For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Hellebores, check out Hellebores, A Comprehensive Guide.



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Home Office Decor on a Budget

Several years ago, I set up a little office for myself on the upstairs landing with a desk and a printer stand that I found on Craigslist.

My home office needs are simple so the small corner on the landing was just enough space.  I hastily threw a few things together, including some mismatched file boxes and some smaller boxes to hold office supplies, and I wound up with a bland, cluttered, temporary-looking office that has bugged me ever since.

Home office decor: Office before makeover
My bland home office before the makeover.
Home office decor: Before the makeover
Too many boxes!

The Makeover Begins

I recently found a few things in our basement that could be repurposed or revamped and used in an office makeover.

For the makeover, the colors would be limited to black and white, and varying shades of cream and gold.

Home office decor: After the makeover.
After the budget makeover.
Home office decor: After the makeover
Several items from my basement were revamped and given a second chance.

Going Vertical

In the basement I found a WWII ammunition box in rustic condition that my father-in-law used to transport the tire chains for his old truck.

It’s painted white and we think it was used by soldiers who were posted in snowy locations since the white box would blend with the snow.

Second hand finds used as home office decor
The ammo case and the milk glass bowl were repurposed as home office décor.

This ammo case was too interesting to stay in the basement.  So now it’s holding my papers and reading materials vertically, replacing a two-tired wooden desktop organizer that took up too much space on the desk.

The white footed milk glass bowl, a garage sale find, is a stylish place to dump my shopping receipts.

File Cabinet Facelift

I love the look of my office desk with its turned legs, but the mismatched file boxes sitting under it detracted from the design.

File boxes beforeI needed a “real” file cabinet.  This oak file cabinet had been stored in our basement since we moved into the house.  I bought it in the mid-1990s.  But even then, the look was dated.

file cabinet before facelift

It took a coat of primer and three coats of paint (Valspar Ultra in Greek Tapenade) to cover the wood.  I spray painted the metal hardware with Rust-Oleum Metallic spray paint in antique brass.  My husband, Chris, had to make some repairs to the drawers which, as it turned out, had never been put together properly.

But it was worth the effort for this clean, fun look.

File cabinet after
File cabinet after facelift.

The Cork Board

I had a fabric bulletin board hanging over my desk.  I never liked the colors – too weak and murky.

So I found this cork board in the basement.

Corkboard before facelift

And turned it into this.

cork board after
Cork board after its facelift.

This look is easy to get.  Check out my how-to post for this cork board revamp.

The Chair

The office chair is attractive and comfortable, but the chair pad cover was a little bland and, being vinyl, didn’t breathe very well.

chair pad before recovering

I recovered it with a Waverly fabric called Strands Mocha.

chair pad after reupholstering

The Shuffle

After I purged some books and moved others to the top of the file cabinet, I was able to free up the lower shelf of the printer stand.  That shelf was the perfect size for one of the leftover file boxes, now filled with office supplies.

This meant more space on my desktop, so I was able to bring aboard a cute desk lamp (an estate sale find) and move the floor lamp to a different room.

There is even space now for one of my favorite photos of me and my father.

Lamp and photo 2 edited

All On a Budget

The chair fabric, a frame for a small art print, and the paint for the file cabinet were the only purchases I made for my office makeover.  Everything else was already on-hand.

The office is now organized, calm, and more attractive.  And as I sit at my desk typing this post, I am that much happier.

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Rustic Greenhouse Lights from a Mad Scientist

I’ve always thought of my brother, Dan, as a bit of a “mad scientist.”  He likes to experiment, making his own furniture, cabinetry, light fixtures.  Add this to an engineering background and a strong artistic streak and, as you can imagine, he builds some pretty cool things.

This past Christmas, my husband, Chris, and I were the lucky recipients of his latest experiment:  Two rustic hanging lights for our new Sunglo greenhouse, complete with Edison-style bulbs, a custom patina on the wire bulb cages, and vintage-inspired cords and plugs.

Just right - rustic hanging lights for our greenhouse
Just right – rustic hanging lights for our greenhouse

I had wanted to find overhead lighting for our greenhouse that was simple and industrial yet with some vintage charm.  And these lights are exactly that.

A Little Q&A

I thought it would be fun to find out how Dan got his inspiration for these lamps and hear about his process, so I sat down with him for a little Q&A.

H:  Dan, these lights are so unique.  How did you come up with the design?

D:  While flipping through the latest Rejuvenation catalog, I came across a pendant light called “Wiley.”  The design was based on the classic old trouble lights.  It looked simple enough to make myself, so I figured I’d give it a try.

H:  Yes, as soon as Chris saw them he said they look like old-fashioned trouble lights.  In fact, the lights you made are portable so we actually can use them as trouble lights if we want to.

D:  Yeah, sure.

H:  So anyway, you just thought heck, I’ll build some lights.  But how did you find parts?

D:  There are lots of sources for reproduction lamp parts.  So I bought the metal bulb cages and cloth-covered wiring online.  The wood handles came from a ship’s wheel I bought years earlier and never used.

Vintage lighting -reproduction trouble light
The wooden lamp handle, cloth-wrapped cord and vintage-look plug.

H:  Oh no, I remember that wheel.  You took it apart?

D: Well, the wheel was a reproduction and not worth a whole lot, so I didn’t lose any sleep over cutting the handles off.  The wheel had eight handles. The rest of the parts (sockets, threaded rods, etc.) I got at my local hardware store.

H:  There is a very cool corroded-looking, rusty patina on the wire cage.  How did you do that?

Vintage lighting - reproduction patina
The rustic patina on the lamp cage

D:  The bulb cages were steel with a brass-looking anodized coating. I wanted something a little more rustic than brass, so I sanded off the coating, a rather tedious task, and then sprayed the bare metal with a rust activator and let it sit overnight.

H:  What substance did you use for that?

D:  I used Modern Masters Rust Activator designed for their Metal Effects line of paints.

H:  Was this one of those rare projects where everything went as planned, or was there a stumbling block?

D:  The hardest part was drilling straight through the wood handles. I drilled in from each end of the handle as straight as I could and hoped the holes would meet somewhere in the middle. Finding the exact centerline of the handle was difficult, and I had one handle split on me while I was drilling, but fortunately I had extras. That whole process would have been much easier if I had a drill press, but I think the end result looked pretty good.

H:  Oh, I would have to agree with you there!

Vintage lighting - reproduction trouble lights
A pair of reproduction trouble lights.

Don’t Try This at Home, Kids

Now keep in mind that lamp building is a tricky business best left to professionals, so this post is not a tutorial.  As they say, “don’t try this at home.”


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There is also a huge array of reproduction trouble lights and trouble light chandeliers on Etsy.  Here is a small sampling.

lights chandelier 1lights one lightlight one light2

 



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Sweet Hearts – DIY Valentine Gift Bags

It’s All in the Presentation

Any gift is more interesting with a nice presentation.  These sweet little lined gift bags are a great way to present your Valentine’s Day gift to an adult or a child.  They are great for holding candy, toys, flowers, jewelry, and even wine.  And they are something that can be used even after Valentine’s Day.

They are easy to make if you have access to a sewing machine with a free arm and moderate sewing skills.

Valentine gift wrapping idea: Fabirc heart back

 Put Your Own Spin On It

You can make the bag any size you want, embellish it however you want, with lace, buttons, faux flowers, faux fur. Or change up the color of the lining or use a patterned fabric.  The variations are endless.

The How-To

What You Will Need

  • Red fabric (A heavier fabric works best.  I used leftover upholstery fabric.)
  • A lightweight lining fabric (I used white muslin but get creative if you wish!)
  • Coordinating threads
  • Coordinating webbing for the handles
  • Construction paper
  • Fabric pencil
  • Scissors
  • Access to a sewing machine with a free arm

What You Hopefully Won’t Need

  • A seam ripper

Why the Lining?

Linings are an elegant finishing touch.  Added to these bags, they just say “I love you enough to go this extra step.”  But it’s an easy addition as you will see.

Cut the Fabric

Cut a heart template from heavy construction paper to use as a pattern.  My heart was 11″ wide by 11″ long.  To allow for the seams, cut the heart about an inch larger than you want it to be.

Using your pattern, cut two identical heart shapes with the red fabric and two with the lining fabric.

You will have a total of four raw fabric hearts, all the same size.

Stitching the Pieces

Put the “outside” (right sides) of the red fabric pieces together, facing each other, so that you have the “wrong side” out, and sew down along the right-hand side of the fabric, down to the bottom, then continue up the left side, leaving the top unstitched.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitching for extra support.

My lining did not have a right and wrong side, but if yours does, sew it the same way as described above except leave a small opening on the left hand side unstitched.  This opening should be large enough for you to get your hand through later to pull the bag right-side out.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea: Heart bag under construction
The faint blue line between the pins on the white lining fabric was the part I left unstitched to pull the fabric through later.

Adding the Handles

Turn the red fabric right-side-out so that the raw fabric edges are inside.  Securely stitch the handles on either side about an inch from the top of the bag.  The free arm feature on your sewing machine works best for this.

First I folded under the ends of each handle by about 3/4″ so the raw ends were not visible.   My handles were 18″ each.  You can scale yours to fit the size of your bag.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea: Heart bag straps pinned
Handles pinned and ready to be attached.

Now turn the bag inside-out and pin the handles down and out of the way, making sure the pin heads are on the “wrong” side of the fabric.  Otherwise, you will have trouble taking the pins out later.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Idea: Heart bag
Reverse side of the bag. The pins are holding the handles down inside the bag.

So now the bag is inside-out and your handles are pinned down inside the bag, but the pinheads are on the outside.

Bringing It All Together

Now take the lining, reverse it so that the raw edges are on the inside, and insert it into the red fabric part, which is still inside-out.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Ideas: Heart bag, how it fits together
Lining being inserted into the bag.

Push it in until it fits snugly and the seams line up.  It can be a little difficult to work around the handles, but just take your time.  If everything looks wrong and backwards at this point, you are probably doing it right.

Carefully pin the lining and the red fabric together at the top, raw edges up.  Be sure to line up the seams.  Stitch the red fabric to the lining following the heart contours.  Work you way all around the top of the bag in this manner, backstitching at the seams.

You will need the free arm feature on the sewing  machine for this.  If your bag is too small to fit onto the free arm, you will have to stitch by hand.

Getting it Right-Side Out

Okay, if you’ve come this far it’s time for the magic.  Remove the pins holding the handle down.

Then reach into the bag, put your hand through the little opening you left in the lining, and pull the red fabric through it until everything is right-side out.

After that, you can stitch up the hole in the lining.

Then tuck the lining down into the bag and carefully iron the top until everything is even.  Be sure to test the iron with scrap pieces of all fabrics first to make sure the iron won’t damage anything.

It takes a little time to get everything pushed out, tucked in, and straightened out and for the heart shape to emerge.

The Finishing Touches

I played around with adding vintage buttons to my bag, but in the end I kept it simple.  I just added a gift tag with a vintage button and used a piece of old linen instead of tissue paper inside.

Valentine Gift Wrapping Ideas: Heart bag finished

There are so many things you can do to make your bag unique, so enjoy and have fun with your creation!

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The Lamp Whisperer

Sometimes bad things happen to good lamps.  They wind up neglected, unappreciated, or worse, paired with an inappropriate shade.  But they can be saved.   Most of the lamps at our house are rescue lamps that have thrived with a little TLC.

Paint it Black  – Even When It’s a Bad Idea

Years ago, my husband, Chris, wound up with a 1920s floor lamp that had been in his family for generations.   It was painted black but the paint was eroding and he could tell that there was something else underneath.

Finally, when he had time, he rubbed the lamp down with denatured alcohol and the black paint came off, revealing the original 1920s polychrome paint.

1920s art deco lamp with polychrome paint - diy lamp rehab
1920s floor lamp base with original polychrome paint.

The lamp didn’t have a shade when he acquired it, but eventually we found a fun shade for it.

1920s lamp with reproduction shade

Hidden Art Deco

While at an estate sale, I spotted this ugly, oversized lamp shade sitting on a base.

Art deco lamp as found at estate sale - diy lamp repair
Art deco lamp with oversized shade from estate sale

Luckily I looked underneath to see what was holding the shade up and found a beautiful art deco lamp base, covered in years of grime.

We paired it with a more attractive and scaled down shade, which cost considerably more than we paid for the lamp, for this winning combination of old school glam.

art deco lamp - diy lamp repair

Lesson learned:  look underneath, around, and past ugly lamp shades.  You never know what you will find.

Tarnished Crystal

At the same estate sale, I found a grungy little lamp base down in the basement with the tools. It really didn’t look like much, but the price was right.

We cleaned it up and got a shade for it, and this is what we had.

glass lamp - DIY lamp repair

It’s adorable now after a little soap and water.

Pretty Bird

This hanging lamp was in Chris’s parents’ house for years.  His mother loved estate sales and probably got it second hand.  Each panel has a different, hand-painted bird scene.

Chinese lamp

In rustic condition and unsafe to use, this lamp needed a lamp whisperer.  For starters, Chris cleaned it, rewired it, and added a new chain.

One of the four little wooden support bars at the top was missing.  Can you see from this photo ( which is the view looking into the lamp shade from above) which one Chris replaced?

chinese lamp closeup

If you guessed the lower right side, you are right.  He cut a piece of wood, painted it black, and used a small piece of All Thread to screw it into the middle block.  He then used glue to secure the other end to the shade.

Know When to Call In the Experts

It’s satisfying to find a neglected lamp and bring it back to its former glory – or in some cases, make it better than it ever was before.

But be sure to check if the lamp is safe to use.  Look for frayed or cracked cords, or even cords that have become brittle.  Check the connection between the cord and the plug.  Look for any previous attempts to repair the lamp.  If you find any reason to think the lamp is unsafe, run it by an expert for a second opinion.

And While We’re Talking About Lighting

I just have to give you a little preview of the beautiful hanging lamps my brother, Dan, made us for Christmas.  They are for our new greenhouse and he made them to look like old-fashioned trouble lights, complete with Edison-style filament bulbs.

Reproduction vintage trouble lights
Reproduction vintage trouble lights

They are exactly what I wanted – industrial yet vintage.  He did a custom patina on the metal bulb cages.  Even the little touch of rust was planned.

Vintage trouble lights - closeup

Wow.  But how did he “make” these lamps?  I’m hoping he will tell us, but that will be for another post.  You will be seeing them again when I reveal my greenhouse interior.

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From Blah to Beautiful: DIY Cork Board Revamp

When I organized our basement last fall, I was on the lookout for items we could revamp or repurpose for DIY projects.

One item I found was the mid-century modern chair from my husband’s childhood bedroom, to which he has already given a snappy makeover.

A Piece of Art for My Office

Another item, a simple wood-framed cork board, is coming in handy for the office makeover that I am currently working on.

DIY Projects: Corkboard before revamp

Of course I want the cork board to serve a practical purpose in my office but, since it will be hanging above my desk, I also want it to stand on its own as a nice piece of décor that adds some femininity and old-world glamour to the space.

The Paint

I started by painting the wood frame.  Since the frame could not be separated from the cork board easily, I just masked off the perimeter of the cork board with blue painter’s tape.

I primed the frame with a water-based primer, then painted it with “Venetian Gold” craft paint.

Once that dried, I painted a dark charcoal-colored craft paint called “Wrought Iron” over the gold paint.

Then I immediately took a damp, soft cloth and lightly wiped the charcoal paint off, leaving traces of it in the cracks of the frame.

DIY Projects: Painting the corkboard frame

This smudged the frame up just enough to get the old-world look I was going for.

The Fabric

I had some cute burlap fabric left from a gift bag project – enough to cover the cork board.

I used the burlap because I want to use push pins to secure papers to the cork board and, because of its loose weave and rustic texture, push pins shouldn’t snag or harm the burlap as easily as it might other fabrics.

DIY projects: Corkboard after revamp

I also love the contrast of the natural, rough texture of the burlap against the refined French-inspired pattern and the gold frame.

I glued the fabric to the cork board by slightly diluting craft glue with water and painting it onto the cork board with a paintbrush, then putting the fabric in place.

I glued a ribbon of 1/2-inch black trim fabric around the perimeter for a finished look.

ribbon closeup edited

 

The Push Pins

I want my office colors to be primarily black, white, shades of cream, and some gold.  Since colorful push pins wouldn’t look right, I am using wood ones that blend harmlessly into the background.

Stay Tuned for More

I have several other items from the basement to use in my office makeover including a WWII ammunition case.   How can that possibly work in my feminine, old-world office?  More on this coming soon.

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Bringing the Arched Doorways Back

I just love houses that were built in the 1920s.  Architects from that era seemed to be in a kind of fantasy state and really had some fun when they designed  them.

Even the more ordinary homes, like our 1927 cottage, shun straight lines wherever possible in favor of curves, coves, and arches.

Something Was Off

When my husband Chris and I bought our house, it had a coved ceiling in the living room.  Most 1920s houses with coved ceilings also have some arched doorways.  But the doorways between the living room, dining room, and kitchen were squared off and plain.

Squared off doorways before remodel
Squared-off entry to kitchen before our remodel

Eventually we learned that the doorways in question were originally arched but had been squared off as part of a 1950s kitchen remodel.

Bringing Back the Arched Doorways

We remodeled the kitchen and, while we were at it, we decided to do a few things to bring back the original charm of the house, including restoring the arches.

Arched doorways
Arched entry to kitchen after our remodel

 

Arched doorways
The two arched doorways after our remodel: One between the living room and the dining room, and one between the dining room and the kitchen.

We knew bringing back the arched doorways would be tricky since if the pitch of the arch was wrong, it still wouldn’t look original.  In fact, if done wrong, it could wind up looking pretty silly.

Finding the Right Pitch

Chris made arrangements to look at several 1920s houses that still had their arched doorways.

He needed two good examples:  An arch for a wider (almost six-foot) expanse, for our living room-dining room transition, and a narrower arch (three and a half feet) for our dining room-kitchen doorway.

When he found examples of arches that would work, he traced them onto large sheets of masking paper to serve as templates.

Adding the Curves

Our carpenter, Bruce, who was working on our kitchen remodel, built wooden arch frames to fit the existing doorways using the templates that Chris had traced.

Framing in the arches
Framing in the arches

The kitchen was already torn down to the studs for the remodel, so this was the perfect time to frame in the arches.

 

Prima Shower Valve Mixer

Lots of Plaster

Our drywaller then worked his magic blending the arches seamlessly into the new kitchen drywall, as well as into the existing plaster in the dining room.

Drywall almost done
Kitchen remodel drywall

 

Sheetrock and plaster
Living room-dining room arch plastered and ready for paint

Paint

Since we added the arches, we needed to paint not only the new kitchen remodel, but also the living room and dining room.  For our kitchen, we used Valspar Butter and for the dining room, Valspar Honey Pot.  

(This paint job was from  few years ago, and as you can see the colors are dated now and probably need to change.)

kitchen remodel 025
Chris painting the dining room.

We chose a strong earth tone for the living room, which gets a lot of natural light.

 

kitchen remodel 024b
Chris working on the living room paint

It is an Olympic color called Earthy Ocher.  

New Old Lights

Now we needed the finishing touches: 1920s light fixtures in the dining room and living room.

Vintage lighting can be pretty spendy, but we trolled eBay until we found some little gems that fit our budget.

We got this light for the dining room.

dining room light
Vintage chandelier

 

Dining room light detail
Chandelier base

And this one for the living room.

living room light
Vintage living room light

There was no overhead light fixture in the living room before we installed this one.  Chris climbed into the attic space above the living room and measured to exactly where the middle of the living room would be to install the electrical box for the light.

When he got to that location, he found the remnants of an old electrical box.  So originally there had been an overhead light in the living room, presumably another casualty of the 1950s remodel.

To learn more about out kitchen remodel, check out these posts:

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Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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Floral Design
Garden Design
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Our Laundry Room Remodel
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