Small Projects that Pack a Meaningful Punch

IT’S A PROCESS.  This phrase is applicable in so many facets of life that I often get tired of hearing it (and saying it!).  But the fact is that anything worth doing takes time and hard work and perseverance.  I’ve been dedicating most of my time, hard work and perseverance to raising a tiny human who just had his first birthday party about a week ago.  All the while I’ve been watching my home blogging friends leave me in the dust as they trim their Christmas trees in preparation for holiday blogging, while there’s nary a pumpkin in sight on my blog and Halloween is 10 short days away!

I often get discouraged with my own progress when I see everyone else around me moving at the speed of light.  When this happens I try to remind myself that creating a beautiful home I love is a process and that I have made a ton of progress.  And when I’m drooling over DIY kitchen renovations all over the web and scratching my head over why I’ve only completed one item on my quite aggressive “to-do in 2014” list, I like to take a step back and reset my priorities.  Instead of stressing myself out by starting a project that will take way too long (i.e., my foyer stencil, which is still nowhere near complete) or cost way too much, I ask myself what I can do to make a meaningful impact on my home with a manageable amount of work in a reasonable amount of time.  This takes a bit of creative planning, but the payoff is always great.

Today I wanted to talk about the progress I’ve made in my front entry, and how biting off a smaller project in the midst of this massive transformation helped me to feel productive and, more importantly, happy.

Foyer Before

You might remember that when we moved into our house in November of 2012 the majority of the walls were painted or wallpapered in very fleshy, beige tones.  I traded in the beige for a warm white.  If you’ve toured my blog you might be surprised to see that I used white in such a large area of my home.  But I had big dreams for this big white space, the first of which was an eye-catching blue railing.

I also have plans for an insanely gorgeous and intricate stencil for beneath the chair rail on the first floor, which I’ve been working on for an embarrassingly long time.  I just can’t seem to find the time or motivation to knock out large chunks of the stencil during the week.  Right now I have three walls complete, and about six walls to go!  I also need to find the perfect console table, wall sconces, art, area rug and maybe even some plants to finish off this area of the house.  Translation: I need to spend a lot of time and, most likely, a lot of money to shape up this space.

Embrace My Space: Stencil

But enough about the down stairs, let’s walk up the steps and see what’s happening.  Oh, that’s right.  Not a whole lot.  This catwalk leads to my bedroom and I walk past this blank, white wall at least 10 times a day and then several more at night to get my son who still hasn’t discovered the delightfulness of SLEEP.

Embrace My Space: Blue Stairway

I’m sure you’ve experienced this before.  Maybe it’s the wall above your computer in your office or the empty cabinet in your dining room.  It’s the one space you look at time and time again thinking I really should do something here.  I look at this wall so many times a day, and it was just leaving me feeling quite cold and empty.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get what I’m saying.

But, with all the items on my to-do list as well as other unfinished projects lurking around every corner, did I really want to tackle this white wall?  I mean, the possibilities were endless.  It’s literally a blank slate.  The answer was a resounding YES!

So I did what I always do before I tackle a wall project: I shopped my house.  What did I have lying around that I loved but just didn’t have a place for yet?  I zeroed in on my DIY button monogram.  I made this back when I lived in Pittsburgh.  It’s a piece of matting from a frame store mounted inside a spray painted IKEA Ung Drill mirror frame.  The colors are certainly relevant in my new home and my last name hasn’t changed so this little DIY gem still worked for me.  Up it went smack dab in the middle of the wall.  This beauty hung by itself for a few weeks before I decided how to round out the wall on either side.

Button Monogram

After staring at the monogram for a while I realized that the funky frame and the gold buttons would work perfectly with these two gold trees I purchased at the Clover Market in Philadelphia last winter.  I went to the market with a few close girlfriends, and it was literally one of the first times I left my baby for more than an hour.  Even though I didn’t know where I was going to put them at the time, I snatched them right up!  They were just too weird not to buy.  The roosters are so cool, but, since I’m an avid babywearing mama, it was the mom wearing a baby on her back whilst riding a donkey with her family that really sold me! See if you can spot her.

trees

Finally, I’d been playing around with some family pictures on the Waterlogue app on my iPhone recently, but I just hadn’t committed to anything I’d created.  If you haven’t heard of Waterlogue, you must check it out.  The app turns any image into a watercolor.  Then you can save the watercolor to your phone and use it the same way you’d use any other image.  My friend Jill who blogs over at You Me & We introduced me to this fabulous app.  Jill has a great description of how the app works that you can check out here.  I figured this big, blank wall would be the perfect spot to use a few of my Waterlogue creations.

waterSo what do you get when you throw together a DIY project, flea market finds and some family photos turned into watercolors with the swipe on the iPhone?  This….

Embrace My Space: Family Watercolor

The collection is so simple and came together into a beautiful wall installation.  The combination of the preppy watercolors with the funky pieces is the perfect statement of my style, which I call coastal eclectic.  If you think about the pieces for too long, none of them really make sense together.  But there’s something about this collection that just plain works for me.

Embrace My Space: Family Watercolor

I ran some photos of my husband and I playing with our son on the beach through the Waterlogue app to create these gorgeous, personal pieces of art.  Family photos are awesome no matter what, but adding the special touch of the watercolor is a truly unique way to turn them into stand out pieces.  And let’s face it, photos of your family, favorite landmark or even a tree in your back yard that you took yourself are just so much more special than a run of the mill art piece you can buy at a big box store.

Watercolor

I printed my Waterlouge images onto canvas using the Tiny Prints website.  I’d heard of Tiny Prints through advertisements for their cards, thank you notes and invitations, but I didn’t realize the site also has a ton of home décor pieces.  When the prints arrived I was so happy that the coloring was perfect!  The canvas prints, which are mounted on sturdy wooden frames, were a bit thicker (probably close to an inch) than the prints I’d ordered from other sites in the past (closer to a half inch).  Waterlouge + Tiny Prints canvas = LOVE!

Embrace My Space: Family Watercolor

Nestled right in the corner of the landing is a rocking chair that has been in my husband’s family for a long time.  The tiny cane chair fits perfectly in the corner and I use it to display my woven wraps (baby carriers) when I’m not using them.  A perfect complement to the babywearing mama hanging out on the one tree.

Embrace My Space: Family Watercolor

When you simply look at my wall it seems really simple, right?  I measured, hammered 5 nails into the wall and, bada-bing, I’m done.  But when you think about it, this whole project from start to finish was quite the process.  I used a DIY project I created years ago, art I selected at a flea market over the winter and a photo-art project that required taking the pictures, creating the watercolors and working with the designer to bring them to life.  The finished product is small, but impactful.  Now every time I walk down the hall I have warm memories of my son’s first time at the shore, a fun girls’ trip to the flea market and my old Pittsburgh home.

The almost instant gratification I feel after completing a smaller, thoughtful project like this reminds me that curating a lovely home is all about the process.  It’s layers of projects, big and small, that come together to create a well-loved home.   And while I love a big ol’ before and after whole house makeover as much as the next guy or gal, I also love tabletop vignettes, well-placed souvenirs and other tiny moments that tell a story about a home and its owners that no can of paint or subway tile backsplash could ever do on its own.

Do you have a spot in your home that’s craving some attention?  Taking a few minutes to assess what small changes you could make to your home that would make your life easier or your day happier can lead to big results!

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My Son is One! A Nautical First Birthday Party

THIS MONTH marks the end of my first year of motherhood!  I can’t believe my son is already one year old.  Time really does fly.  I wanted to share a few details from his first birthday party.  And by first I mean the first of his TWO parties!  His second party hasn’t happened yet, but I’m assuming since it’s the bigger party that I will be running around like a crazy person and not thinking about taking blog-worthy photos.

Speaking of blog-worthy photos, my camera lens was smeared with something on the day of party #1.  I’m not sure if it was icing, butter, breast milk or a delicious combination of the three, but the schmear made for fuzzy pictures.  This kind of ticked me off at first.  Upon further reflection, however, I decided the fuzzy pictures are quite apropos considering I haven’t slept in a year and most things I see nowadays are just a little furry around the edges.  An unplanned and artistic expression of my sleep deprivation.  Enjoy!

Nautical First Birthday Party

I made a banner by attaching various red, white and blue cardstock to jute twine.  The craft store has so many patterns of cardstock, and I went with stripes, herringbone and, of course, anchors!

I used a stencil to trace and then cut out the letters. All. By. Hand. Either I’m a crafting, rock star, party-planning mom, or an idiot.  You decide.  And if your assessment is the latter, please refrain from sharing in the comments :)

Nautical First Birthday Party

I made my own smash cake using organic chocolate cake and vanilla frosting mix.  A few drops of blue food coloring gave the vanilla frosting a pretty teal hue.  I baked the cake according to the package instructions and then cut out little rounds with a sharp knife using a 16 oz formula can as a template.  The formula can was the perfect size to make a tiny, three layer cake!  And, I finally found a use for one of my many free formula samples!

The cake is topped off with a simple grocery store candle and a mini bunting I created using paper straws, teal ribbon and scraps of cardstock.

Nautical First Birthday Party

Red and white paper straws and more cardstock became “sails” for my little blue cupcakes.  Swedish fish, simple blue solo cups, framed photos and some flowers rounded out the little nautical birthday tableaux.

Nautical First Birthday Party

I also decorated the wall behind his high chair.  A cluster of balloons attached to some twisted paper garland tied off with lots of curling ribbon made a super simple backdrop for photos.  I made a textured “one” sign by gluing teal ribbon to a piece of cardstock I cut in half.

There you have it! Our simple, red, white and blue, nautical birthday party (#1)!  I’m going to use all of these decorations at party #2, so if you are coming this weekend try to act surprised ;)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, he wouldn’t eat the cake.  I’m sure the first of many glorious dishes I will slave over only to be met with the stank eye.  Oy!

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Family Room Revamp

I KNOW! I’ve been extremely reticent about the goings-on in these-here-parts recently.  But I promise it’s because I’m a super mommy neglecting her blogging duties and not because I’m a total lazy ass.  To be perfectly honest, I think I’m plagued by adult-onset ADHD triggered by the over abundance of oxytocin and prolactin surging through my body.  I have at least a half-dozen unfinished projects staring at me with earnest eyes saying “Pick me, pick me!” every day.  My MO has been to ignore these pleas in favor of starting new projects that are oblivious to my apathetic attitude toward achieving domestic bliss.

So, in celebration of my newfound hyperactivity – while I have a stencil project in the foyer started, a new rug in the master bedroom I haven’t told you about, a vanity without hardware or the perfect chair and two other projects from my New Year’s Resolution list that I haven’t even started - I’d like to talk to you about WALLPAPER removal!

wallpaper

Yes, the ivy has gone away.  The shot below is the front room in my house that I decided should be a playroom for my son.  It actually had two patterns of wallpaper, but the ivy was the uglier of the two so it got a spot on the wallpaper X list.

When my son started to ignore his bazillion brightly colored toys in favor of tearing off and eating loose pieces of wallpaper, I decided it was time to get rid of it.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

WARNING: If you have a lot of wallpaper in your house and are looking for an efficient way to remove it, what you are about to read may disturb you.  This is NOT a tutorial on wallpaper removal.  There are better methods out there.  What you are about to read is a result of my desperation to remove the wallpaper without having to buy any new gadgets or liquid removers, or to leave the house in order to buy said items.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

So last week I started to peel the white, crackle wallpaper down.  It came off in big lovely sheets, leaving behind only a trace of the sticky backing where the wallpaper glue had been applied.  A quick spray with a fabric softener/hot water solution and I also was able to peel the sticky backing off with ease.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then you know this was not the case with the ivy wallpaper.

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I was able to peel the patterned part of the ivy paper off in one inch square pieces.  Then what was left of the sticky backing required not one spray, but two or three soaking sprays, before it would budge.  I had to use a plastic spackle tool to scrape the backing paper from the wall, even though it was thoroughly saturated two or three times.  After all of this, a lot of the wallpaper was still stuck to the walls.

This was taking way too long.  The ivy wallpaper, which covered one of the four walls in the room, was taking longer to remove than the other three walls combined.  My son was getting restless.  He could tell I was distressed and exhausted, so he began to help by splashing his hands in the fabric softener that soaked the walls.  When he realized he wasn’t being all that helpful, he admitted defeat by licking the fabric softener off the walls and climbing up behind me on the step ladder.  Needless to say, I’m really glad I chose to forgo using fabric softener on his clothes because of all those horrible toxins that would certainly cause his skin to burst instantly into flames upon contact….Did I mention how much I love those Heart Felt dryer balls?

Embrace My Space: Family Room

With all of the licking of fabric softener going on, I decided to switch to a white vinegar/hot water solution instead.  Although this didn’t make things go much faster, the switch to white vinegar did make me feel better about my son’s continued viability.  I plugged away until I got about 85% of the ivy removed.  My husband finished the rest when he got home from work.  Teamwork, rah!

The next morning I scrubbed the walls with all my might to get rid of the excess glue so the walls were ready for my painter to slather on a few coats of this gorgeous green.  Have I mentioned I love my painter?  I love her because she’s fast, perfect and a lady!  I love her even more so because she has a daughter who will sometimes come over to play with my son while she paints so I have time to myself to thoughtfully ignore all of my unfinished projects in favor of drinking Kombucha while I surf Pinterest for 1st birthday party decoration ideas.  But the reason I love her most of all…because she PAINTS, so I don’t have to!!  And she resurrects nasty trim and beat crown molding like a F&*K*%^ boss.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

The paint is called Covington Blue by Benjamin Moore.  It’s green, of course.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

Despite the overcast day here, I managed to capture a shot that is true to the color.  I absolutely love it.  It’s similar to the color in my son’s nursery, but just a bit darker and more sophisticated.

We are going to put a TV on this wall between the windows.  I’m thinking I’d like a media cabinet with lots of low storage for the baby’s toys.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

On the opposite wall will be a new sectional-ish sofa I picked out from Crate & Barrel.  It will take 8-10 weeks for the custom sofa to be delivered so I will talk more about my thoughts on picking this particular sofa on another day since I have a lot of time to kill between now and when the sofa actually arrives (maybe I will finish the foyer stencil by then?).

Embrace My Space: Family Room

Before I ordered the sofa, I used blue painters’ tape to mark off its footprint.  This is a really helpful trick to help visualize furniture in your space.  The worst thing you can do is customize furniture and find out it doesn’t fit quite right (Say it with me now: non-re-fund-able.). The depth of a piece always throws me; so even if you know a piece will fit lengthwise, using this trick will avoid headaches with a piece that would end up overwhelming or obstructing the walkways through your space because it’s too deep.

Embrace My Space: Family Room

This is the only area of our first floor that we can barricade with baby gates.  As a stay at home mom, it’s really nice to know the baby is confined to a safe area without having to have my eyes on him every single second of the day.  My sanity and my bladder give thanks to the almighty baby gate.  When I’m all done this space is going to be the perfect place for my son to play and for the rest of the family to relax.

And have I mentioned how great this color looks off of the foyer?! So delish.  No, your eyes do not deceive you; yes, the ceiling is green as well.  It’s called Italian Ice Green by Benjamin Moore.  I love a painted ceiling, don’t you?

Embrace My Space: Family Room

I have to get drapery panels, window hardware, end tables, ottomans, an area rug, a media unit and lots of clever storage pieces.  We are also installing overhead lights.   If I continue with my current blogging schedule, I’m sure I wont find the time to talk to you about any of my shopping.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  I promise I will show you the room when it’s done!

I think I will focus on the rug first.  Black & white graphic pattern or something colorful?

Happy Friday!

Oh, look, a squirrel!

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