Four tips for simple Christmas decorating

Sarah is here to share a touch of Christmas from Illinois. Her front entrance is looking very festive, and decorating didn’t take her a lot of money or time. She’s sharing her tips for easy, affordable and attractive Christmas decorations below.

I love just about everything about the holiday season. One of my favorite activities is decorating our house both inside and out.

We had never done this before, but Steve asked if this year we wanted to decorate with a theme, so we chose “red and gold.” I think this will become a new tradition. It has made decorating much simpler and everything feels less cluttered and classier.

I used this line of thinking when decorating our front step and chose to go with the gold part of our theme. I thought I would share some tips I have when decorating.

This is the sad view that I started with. What you can’t see is the rotten pumpkins that I had just removed from the steps.

I began by going to my parents’ and helped my mom gather clippings from her boxwood bushes.

Tip #1: You don’t have to buy expensive decorations. Branches from pine, cedar, boxwood and other evergreens make beautiful natural decorations.

I gathered my supplies and laid my branches out in the general shape and size that I wanted to hang from my front door. I used floral wire to tie small bunches of branches together.

Tip #2: When wiring together live branches make sure to tie them really tight. The branches will shrink as they dry out.

I used ribbon for decoration and also to hide the wire that I used. I like to use wired ribbon to help it hold its shape.

Tip #3: I always scour after Christmas sales for ribbon. I can often save 50-75% by doing this.

For my lanterns I wired a few branches from my trees to the handles.

Tip #4: When trimming branches from a tree, look at how the branch is hanging before it is cut. If you want the branch to hang down, but it is curved up on the tree, it will be very difficult to force it into the position you want.

I also added some pinecones that my mom’s cousin had given us. Again I used floral wire to tie them together and tied them to the handle. I took some more wired ribbon and tied a knot to finish it off.

To complete the look, I added a really cute dog.

Merry Christmas from Illinois! I will be back after the New Year.

That is indeed a cute dog. Does the craft store sell Blitzes?

Thanks for all of your posts over the last year, Sarah. It’s been great to see what you and Steve are up to in Illinois. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

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Coffee table – Input needed

Car loaded with lumber

I bought materials for the most exciting project on my fall to-do list, our new coffee table. However, before I start construction, I need your input.

I’m going (roughly) with this plan from Ana White.

I love the idea of the drawers. So much in fact that I’m going to be doing four drawers, two on each side.

This addition may end up changing the dimensions of the table a wee bit, so I’m going to take it slow and buy more material as I need them.

The one area where I’ve bought absolutely no material is the top.

In Ana’s plan, the top is made out of 2x6s. A 2-by top seems very heavy to me. Unnecessarily heavy. Plus I’m not sure it’s proportionate with the rest of the table, which is 1-by. Our current coffee table (which is nothing special, but has served us very well for 10 years) has a top that’s half an inch thick.

In fact, our current coffee table isn’t all that different from the Benchwright table, minus the drawers.

So what do you think readers, a 2-by or a 1-by top? What would you do?

Trials and errors in Illinois

Sometimes, we cross our fingers and give something a try. We’re hopeful that it will work, but not quite sure how it might turn out. That’s the case in many aspects of life, but especially DIY. Sarah in Illinois is back today to report on the results of two experiments.

There have been a few projects in the past that I have posted about and said that I would report back how they turned out. I thought I’d report back on two of them today.

The most recent was the storage tomatoes. You can see the process I used here. But unfortunately, it didn’t work at all. Two weeks after I put them away, they looked like this:

My best guess is that the garage that I stored them in was too warm. Next year I plan to try again but find a cooler storage spot. I may also try another variety like Longkeeper.

My second follow-up is for the table that we refinished for the deck.

I said in my original post that the epoxy we used stated that it wasn’t for outdoor use, but we chose to use it anyway.

They are a few small issues that popped up after a summer of outdoor use.

There are small cracks appeared in the epoxy which allowed moisture to sleep down underneath.

Also something that sat on the table, possibly a pot of plants, held moisture against the epoxy and made a cloudy ring where it should be clear.

I wouldn’t consider this a complete failure for the project, but it tells me that the finish won’t hold out as long as I hoped. My plan is to see how it looks after using it again next summer then possibly trying a different method to coat the wood.

So unfortunately, both trials didn’t go perfectly, but that is why they were truly experiments for me. Most things in life are trial and error. The best thing to do is learn from it and move on.

That’s about the only choice, Sarah! I’m sure these results are a bit disappointing, but they are absolutely learning experiences.

I have to say I’m bummed about the tomatoes and the table for you. We lost a bunch of our favourite potatoes this year just a couple of weeks after we put them in storage. There wasn’t anything to do but move on, but it was frustrating that we’d had such a good harvest and then so many didn’t keep–and especially that it was our favourite variety that was hit. Also, the last time you shared that table, it was so shiny! ūüė¶

Refinishing a vintage metal bed frame

Thanks everyone for your good wishes on my last post. Matt seems to be recovering well from his surgeries. We’re hopeful that our follow-up appointments over the next few months give us more positive news.

The guest room has become Matt’s treatment room where we can lay out all his drops and ointments, and the patient can receive them. You may recall that back when I shared the finished guest room¬†nearly, oh, a year and a half ago, the room was missing a key component–a bed frame.

Well, we’ve finally managed to remedy that.

Metal bed frame in the guest room

We had an old metal bed frame that was in my cottage bedroom growing up and then Matt and I used it in our first house. This style of frame has become pretty trendy, and I’m seeing various versions all over the web, so I wanted to keep it. Plus it was free.

However, the finish was in rough shape. During the cottage days, it was a greyish, pinkish flesh tone. Matt and I repainted it cream, but it was our first foray into spray paint and the finish was drippy and chipped (and dusty after living in the barn for several years).

Vintage metal bedframe painted cream

One of my home goals from 2016 was to strip the frame. I had hoped that the metal was in good enough shape that it wouldn’t need to be painted and it could just go right into the guest room.

Stripping paint off metal is very similar to stripping paint off wood. I used my usual chemical stripper, scrapers and wire brushes. It was a fiddly process because of all of the spindles and layers of paint (and as usual my sidekick was no help).

Baxter helping to strip the paint off the metal bed frame

The original finish on the bed was a faux wood treatment. It was not what I expected to find at all. I had seen glimpses of this stenciled basket through the subsequent layers of paint and thought it might be embossed into the metal. That was not the case, and it was a feature of the original finish.

Faux wood grain paint on a metal bedframe

Stripped metal bed frame

Unfortunately, the metal was not in great shape once I got the paint off. There were scratches and pits and rust and the welds were obviously different colours. I knew I would have to repaint the whole bed. Faced with that reality, I stopped stripping. I had removed the paint from the headboard and two siderails, but I had visions of simply adding another layer of paint to the footboard.

Stripping paint off a vintage metal bedframe

But I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted. If I’m going to do the job, I might was well do it right and take the footboard back to the original metal. Plus the footboard is the most visible part of the bed, and I was worried that the chips and goopy layers of paint would show through my new finish.

So this summer I returned to the bed frame and finally stripped the footboard. Then I waited for the weather to cool off enough to paint–and to figure out what colour I wanted to paint.

So many of the metal bed frames I see are black. I love the look. But between the trunk that’s already in the room, the chandelier and the curtain rods, I already have my pops of black. I didn’t feel like I needed more.

Rustic black chandelier

The second place colour seems to be white, but there’s also a few white pieces in the room, we’d kind of already done this with the cream paint and honestly I wanted something more interesting than white.

I sampled a bunch of colours, but that didn’t help. Finally, I went to the store and just picked a colour. I chose Antique Brass by Rustoleum. I liked the idea of echoing traditional brass beds. Plus some of the hardware in the room on the desk and the chest of drawers is brassy.

Rustoleum Antique Brass spraypaint

I figured, if I didn’t like it, I could always repaint. At least I now have a smooth surface to do so, and I wouldn’t need to strip again.

We set up the bed on the driveway, and I went to town. Given the state of the metal, I think I could have used a primer, but after a brief sanding I went straight to paint–and ended up having to run to the store to get more cans. In the end, all of the scratches were covered and the finish looks good–much better than any of the previous finishes.

Metal bed frame set up on the driveway for painting

After a week of airing out in the driveshed, we brought the bed in and set it up.

Antique brass metal bed frame

And now, I can finally say the guest room is done. Ready for our next patient guest.

Building a round wood framed mirror

Large round wood frame mirror

It’s been two years since I watched a bunch of bloggers participate in the One Board Challenge. Two years since I haven’t been able to get this round mirror by Jenn at Build Basic out of my mind. The fact that it was built with a single 1×8 made it even cooler.

Every time I went to a thrift store, I casually looked for a large round mirror. This spring I finally found one at Value Village (for $9.99), and it was time for my own One Board Challenge.

Round mirror makeover before

I’m not going to post a how-to here because, hello, not my project and also Jenn’s instructions are very good.

I love the creativity of the One Board Challenge. My brain does not work like this. I would not think to make a round frame out of a straight board. In fact, even with the tutorial, it took me a couple of tries to figure out how to arrange the wood. My first try was fine, but not as interesting as Jenn’s configuration.

Building a round wood frame

Jenn notes that there are multiple ways to arrange the wood. I feel like her arrangement had more interesting angles, so that was what I went with.

Building a round wood frame

If you’re thinking of trying this mirror yourself,¬†I do have a few notes to share.

This project is rated moderate. It’s very doable, and none of the skills are particularly difficult. What might make this challenging for a novice DIYer is that building the frame takes a lot of tools. I had my tool box, mitre saw, jig saw, drill, Kreg Jig, sander and clamps all spread out over the front lawn (plus the dog). Then I went to my parents’ house and used my Dad’s nailer and air compressor.

Outdoor workshop

Cutting the curves with the jigsaw–especially the narrow border pieces–takes a certain level of confidence. I think it would be much easier to do the little pieces on a table mounted jigsaw versus freehanding it.

Speaking of tools, my mitre saw wasn’t big enough to handle the major angle cuts in one shot. A 1×8 is not a narrow board. I had to cut partway through, then flip over the board, readjust the angle of the saw, and cut the other half. It wasn’t difficult. Just slow.

Building a round wood frame

In Step 4, Jenn says “On each joint, mark a unique registration line so that it‚Äôs easy to quickly reassemble the pieces later on.” A simple registration mark is letters–you want each to be unique, so a line or slash isn’t distinctive enough. With letters, you can make one joint the A joint, another B and so on. You draw an A on each of the pieces to be joined together, so that you know which piece connects to which, even after dryfitting, sanding and the rest of the steps.

Registration marks

When marking your holes for the Kreg Jig, draw your lines extra long so that the jig doesn’t cover them up.

Kreg Jig

Once the frame was assembled, I stained it my favourite Provincial. Then the final step was attaching the mirror to the frame.

I broke from Jenn’s suggestion to attach the mirror using clips because my mirror ended up being just a wee bit smaller than the finished opening. Instead, I cut a disc from hardboard. I painted it black to camouflage any gaps that might show between the edge of the mirror and the frame, then I used construction adhesive to glue the mirror to the disc.

Gluing a mirror with construction adhesive

Once the adhesive was set, I then glued the disc to the back of the wood frame. I added a couple of tiny screws for extra insurance.

Attaching the mirror to the wood frame

As soon as I flipped it over, I was ecstatic. I love how this turned out.

Large round wood frame mirror

Fieldstone fireplace in the summer

It’s large and bright and a little bit rustic–and a great addition to the summer mantel in the living room. Thanks to Jenn at Build Basic for sharing such a great project.

Do you decorate with mirrors? What would you build in a One Board Challenge?

Summer farmhouse mantel

Blue-green glass jugs on the mantel

I typically don’t do a lot of seasonal decorating. But given that the mantel still had snowshoes on it at Easter, I thought it was time for a little refresh in the living room.

These blue-green glass jars are definitely more summery than snowshoes. They go perfectly with the new throw pillows I added to the couch.

Blue-green glass jugs on the mantel

How to mix and match throw pillows

I bought the two bigger bottles last year and even though they looked large in the store, when I put them on the mantel I felt like they were a wee bit small. The fireplace is huge and with the vaulted ceiling in the living room, there’s a lot of space above the mantel to fill.

I made this wood framed mirror to add some height and give the illusion of doubling the bottles. (More on this mirror coming up later this week).

Fieldstone fireplace in the summer

On the rest of the mantel, I used our usual decor that stays no matter the season. The pair of antlers that my FIL found are a beautiful organic accent that complements the wood and the stone. The large lantern and the trio of sphere tealight holders are very welcome hits of black.

Decorating our mantel with a lantern and antler

We are not using the fireplace these days–Easter was the cut off for that as well as the snowshoes. However, the beauty of the fieldstone and barn beam has not diminished. I love how it is the centrepiece of our home.

How do you decorate for summer? What colours do you associate with summer?

Home Goals 2017 mid-year report

Hello July. Holy moly we’re already halfway through the year.

Halfway through the year means it’s time to take a look at how we’re doing on Home Goals 2017.

July also means summer vacation. I’m going to be taking a brief blogging break this week in favour of spending some time working on more of these Home Goals.

Office

The first room makeover of the year and the last bedroom to be redone. In case it’s not clear from all of the posts I’ve done about this room–including last week’s video tour–I’m loving this room.

China cabinet storage in the office

Pond shore

The pond shore was my one and only property clean-up goal this spring. However, between time, weather and then a broken arm, it didn’t happen. Argh. Expect to see this on the 2018 home goals list.

Instead of the pond shore, we tackled some other property clean-up. Matt and I burned an overgrown area behind the driveshed–but then I never cleared the rocks that we uncovered, so we haven’t been able to mow it, and it’s almost as overgrown as usual now. I’ve ever so slowly been tackling the jungle behind the house. So property clean-up hasn’t been a total skip this year. It just hasn’t been focused in the area I had hoped.

Cleaning up brush with fire

Vegetable Garden

The vegetable garden is off to a slow start, but a good one. The new blueberries, blackberries and grapes that I added are all doing well. The year-old grapes even seem to have recovered from their infestation.

I’m later than I would like on planting, so everything is pretty small still. Plus, so far I haven’t had any luck finding straw for our deep mulch experiment, so the battle against the weeds is being waged by hand. But between me and weeds, we’re even. I can’t say they’re winning yet, so I’m counting that as a win for me.

Weedy potatoes

Flower gardens

The flower gardens have been getting a bit more attention this year than they did last year. As a result, they’re–surprise, surprise–looking better than they did last year. The peonies were stunning, and we’re moving on to lily season.

I’ve added a couple of new plants–an astilbe and a white lilac–which will bring more blooms to our very green beds. Everything needs a good haircut–deadheading the spent blossoms and shaping up some of the very bushy bushes–so that’s the next to-do on the list.

Pink peony

Basement

I was really excited to share the basement TV area a little while ago. There are two more spaces in the basement that I’m hoping to show to you before the year’s out. They just need some art, some styling and a major tidy. Organizing the basement is tops on Matt’s list for the summer, so between the two of us, we may finish the rest of this space yet.

Basement TV area

New barn cat

We’ve decided that the best thing for Ralph for now is for her to continue to enjoy her days in peace and relative solitude. Our best girl is queen of the farm and doesn’t need a sidekick. So we will continue to be a one barncat farm for the foreseeable future.

Our barncat Ralph

Coop

This final task is a new addition for this year’s Home Goals courtesy of Matt. He is determined to have some hens to eat ticks next year, so that means we’re taking down the old coop and building a new one. I have lots of ideas about how to build the coop, but I haven’t entirely worked out all of the details of this project. I expect this one will take a little while. I guess I know what we’re doing this summer.

Old chicken coop

In fact, we’re getting a little start on the coop this week. With my few days off work, and Matt now on summer holidays, there will be gardening, weeding, organizing, cooping and cat scratching. Somewhere in there, there may be some relaxing too.

As part of my holiday, I’m taking the rest of the week off the blog too. I’ll be back next week with more news from the farm.

How are you doing on your projects so far this year?

Office befores and afters, plus a video tour

I’m loving my newly decorated office so much. There has been sewing, crafting and working–it’s such a fun inspiring space. Even better, everything is still tidy and organized. I’ve been wanting to do a video tour for a little while, so I thought the office would be a good place to start.

Usually in my room makeovers I post a before and after. However, the office was such a blank slate that the before is pretty basic and blah. As well, I didn’t make any major changes so the layout–the window, the doors, the closet–are all the same. Comparing a before and after doesn’t seem very dramatic in my opinion.

Office before

Office after

However, there were befores and afters¬†for¬†some of the elements in the room, so I thought today I’d share some of those as well as the video.

The nook

The video tour gives you a good look at the weird little nook just inside the office doorway. This spot’s makeover started a few years ago when I removed the weirdly high shelving, built a little dresser and hung a bulletin board. What could have been a really awkward part of the office has become a really functional command centre.

Nook before

Office command centre

Little dresser

The search for furniture that fit the little nook was long and challenging. I wanted something tall, but it had to be narrow and not too deep. Plus, as usual, it had to be cheap. I ended up finding a pair of nightstands that fit the space perfectly. And when stacked on top of each other, they made a tall narrow dresser that holds everything from tools to notepads.

Two vintage night stands

Tall narrow dresser

Desk

I’m going waaaaay back in the archives for this before picture. This was what the office looked like when we first bought the farm. The green desk (along with a lot of trash) was left by the previous owners, and I drafted it into serving as my sewing desk. When it came time to makeover the office, it was more than time to makeover the desk too. With fresh white paint, rich dark stain on the top and sparkly hardware on the drawers, it’s become a bright, feminine piece of furniture.

Messy office with green desk

Sewing desk

China cabinet

The hardest working piece of furniture in the office is the china cabinet. It holds so much stuff while keeping it all nicely organized and allowing space for display.

Vintage china cabinet

China cabinet makeover

Slipper chair

The slipper chair was the most complex reupholstery project I’ve tackled. I love that I’ve been able to give this family heirloom a new life in our home.

Reupholstering a slipper chair

Slipper chair upholstered in Brissac Jewel by P Kaufmann Fabric

The office ended up taking awhile–five years since we moved to the farm. I tackled little projects here and there before finally diving into the big makeover at the start of this year. I’m so happy that everything has finally come together in one finished, functional and pretty space.

How to mix and match throw pillows

How to mix and match throw pillows

Throw pillows are a great way to add personality to a space. You can easily change them out for the season or your mood. However, mixing fabrics is a skill. It takes practice and sometimes some trial and error.

Join me in a little demonstration.

These are the pillows I chose when we first bought our beloved basement couch. It came with six pillows, and I selected three different fabrics. I wanted colour, pattern and something not too serious. However, it turned out they didn’t all play together as nicely as I wanted.

Observe.

How to mix and match throw pillows

On their own, the patterned pillows each work with the turquoise velvet, but they do not work with each other, despite sharing several colours.

How to mix and match throw pillows

However, let’s look at another equation.

How to mix and match throw pillows

Remember back when I made our big round ottoman? How I searched for the perfect fabric, and the one that ended up working best with the striped pillows was the bird fabric that I already had in my stash? I still love this fabric, and since I ended up buying more to supplement my stash, I still had a good amount of yardage. More than enough to make two pillows.

These ended up being the most professional pillows I’ve ever made. They have zipper closures, piping and even extra liners to help contain the feathers, which always seem to work their way¬†out through the covers. I love them so much.

How to mix and match throw pillows

But what about the poor rejected blue-green geometric? Here’s another equation for you.

How to mix and match throw pillows

The feather is another fabric that I’ve had in my stash for years. I had always planned to use it to make cushions for the couch upstairs, and I finally got around to it. The blue and green bring a bit of summer into the living room.

How to mix and match throw pillows

I love the serendipity of two stash fabrics being perfect mix for pillows that we already had. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about mixing fabrics.

  1. Let’s start with defining our fabrics. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’m going to use the labels “solid” (pretty self-explanatory), “geometric” (could be a stripe or another more linear pattern–the colourful stripe and the blue-green links both fall into this category for me) and “floral” (self-explanatory, but I’ll extend this to include fabrics like my birds or the feather).
  2. Don’t mix like patterns. By this I mean geometric with geometric or floral with floral. Unless the scale is dramatically different similar patterns will compete with each other like my pillows did. This exercise has taught me that the best bet is to mix different types of fabrics, like¬†a geometric with a floral.
  3. Pick fabrics that share similar colours. This is probably the easiest way to mix. Colours don’t have to match exactly (the turquoise piping on the bird pillow isn’t the same as the turquoise velvet, but they still play well together).
  4. When mixing patterns, start with your most dominant pattern first.¬†This is probably my biggest takeaway. My mistake in the family room was using the turquoise velvet as the base. It’s easy to match cushions to a solid. It’s harder to match the bossy stripe. But once I put that at the centre of the equation, I was able to make the mix work.

Pillows are some of the easiest items to sew–and there are also plenty of options to buy. They can add a finishing touch to a room or completely change the feel of a space. I like being able to freshen up the living room for the summer season, and I’m also very glad to have found the right mix for the family room.

Do you enjoy mixing and matching pillows? Do you sew your own or purchase? Do you change your decor with the season? What are your tips for finding a mix that works?

Two tiny shelves

When I was working on my office, I knew I wanted to find a way to display two collections. One was my Red Rose Tea figurines and the second was china thimbles my MIL has brought back from various trips she’s taken.

The thing about both of these collections is that they’re small. I had the shelves of the china cabinet where I could tuck in a few thimbles or figures, but they’d be lost amongst the bigger items on display. I also didn’t want them on a tabletop where they took up space that could be a work surface.

I decided to do two small shelves.

First was a¬†small floating shelf for the thimbles. This shelf was so small and the thimbles are so light that I knew it wouldn’t need much support and I could screw it right to the wall.

China thimbles displayed on a small floating shelf

I cut a piece of 1×2 to the length I wanted and then drilled two holes¬†through the face of it. The holes served two purposes. The first was to make sure the shelf didn’t split when I screwed it to the wall. The second was to recess the heads of the screws. I made the holes slightly bigger on the front so that the screws would go into the shelf by about a quarter of an inch.

I painted the shelf the same colour as the wall and then screwed it into place. Then I filled the holes with woodfiller and painted over them. The shelf blends into the wall very well, so that it (almost) looks like the thimbles are floating.

The second shelf is ingenious, but I can’t take credit for it. I found the idea on The DIY Mommy. This shelf started its life as a cutlery tray. I lopped off the one segment that ran perpendicular to the others on my Dad’s tablesaw. Then I painted it¬†white, and simply screwed it to the wall. It is exactly the right size for my collection of nursery rhyme tea figurines.

Red Rose Tea figurines displayed on a cutlery tray made into a shelf

I love having different things hanging on the wall, rather than the usual pictures and paintings. These two collections have a lot of meaning for me. Memories of the tea figurines that lived in my grandmother’s china cabinet, appreciation for my mother-in-law thinking of me and my love of sewing when she’s traveling.

Do you have any small collections? How do you display “smalls”? Have you built any tiny shelves?