Category Archives: DIY

50 cents and 50 seconds later …

In my last post, you might have noticed the “artwork” housed in the niches of the living room. I put “artwork” in quotations because it’s hardly anything fancy and cost me a total of 50 cents.

If you’ve been in any of my old apartments, you know that those frames originally looked like this:

FrameThis was originally a project that involved cutting up paint swatches and organizing them in an ombre effect. Over three frames, the swatches would fade from gray to green to yellow, to match the color scheme in my old space. Needless to say, that was a much more involved project than what I’m about to show to you.

When looking to update the frames, I wanted to find something consistent for the two niches that wouldn’t compete with the oversized art that will eventually go in between them.

My first inclination was to find some black and white photographs that could still be meaningful but complement any other pieces in the room. After scouring the internet (mainly, I ran out of patience and decided to get a little more creative with something that I could pick up locally.

Since HGTV always says to design a room around one piece – most of the time fabric, I figured this was the opportunity for me to buy some cool graphic fabric and insert it into the room. What I quickly found out, is that I have some pretty specific tastes, which considerably limits the fabric options available to me. That’s how I found myself at Michael’s going up and down the scrapbooking aisle where I finally found these:

Frame 3At 25 cents a piece, I knew this was the solution, especially since they already matched the colors in the room, were modern, and basically cost nothing. A little trimming around the edges and you end up with this:

Frame 2Voila! A 50 cent, 50 second project that can modernize any room. The best part is that you really could use fabric or even wall paper if you don’t find any scrapbooking pages to your liking.

What did you do this weekend? Any similar projects you’ve been working on? I went to an STL favorite so be on the lookout for a review later this week!

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Instagram on My Wall

Even though my sister was asking for a food-related post, I thought I would switch things up with a DIY project that has been on my radar for quite some time. In fact, it was one of my first pins on Pinterest over a year ago.

I’m a big fan of Instagram and when I saw this elegant solution for displaying the small, filtered-applied photos, I knew that this was going in my house. The problem is that I never found the right frame. Specifically, a chunky, ornate one that won’t break the bank.

After I moved to St. Louis, I became acquainted with the Goodwill Outlet Store – yes, outlet. Instead of everything already being ridiculously cheap, at this location, you pay by the pound. The POUND! Five minutes after stepping foot in the store, I was walking out with this $1 beauty – it’s big and ornate but streamlined enough to be modern:

photoNow for color! The only place for this project to go right now is in the kitchen, which has a burgundy tile border that circles the room and will be the perfect color inspiration.

For this particular project, you’re going to need:

  • Paint – a sample size of Valspar Cut Ruby did the trick
  • Sand paper
  • A hook – unless your frame is already equipped with one
  • Wood screws – #4×1/2″ were small enough that they wouldn’t keep the frame from lying flat but long enough that they weren’t going to fall out
  • Wire to hang the photos – I liked the mirror wire cord since it’s a little more industrial but jewelry or fishing wire would be just fine
  • Mini wooden clothespins

The first step is sanding. You need to sand to not only get the finish off but also to rough up the frame a little bit so that the paint will stick. I used 80 grit to strip the finish but that was probably a little aggressive – anything between 40 and 60 would work. After about five minutes, you end up with this:

photo 3Step 2 is painting. Lay some newspaper on the floor and brush on some paint. After the first coat, I noticed that the wood grain was still showing through and while I didn’t love it at first, two more coats later and I decided to keep it that way – it adds character and breaks up the bright red color. If you’re looking for solid color, a coat of white primer would help you achieve that effect more successfully than painting color directly on the wood.

photo 2Now, it’s time to prep the back. This involves adding a hook, screws and wiring. To determine spacing, I laid my printed Intagram photos directly on the ground in a grid to see how many I had to work with – in this case, 30 (six across, five down). From there, I figured out the right measurements were 3″ between each wire with an inch from the top and the bottom. Put in the screws, add taut wiring between the two and voila! A clothes line for your mini clothespins and prints:

picstitchThere are plenty of different patterns that you could hang your Instagram photos in. Personally, I went with a layout that was a little more organic, less organized and ultimately easier to make look deliberate – the perfect grid would have been much harder to keep up.

photo 5So there you have it: an easy, afternoon project that gets your digital Instagram pictures onto your wall. From a cost perspective, this is how the budget breaks down:

  • Frame – $1
  • Hook – $1.58
  • Paint sample – $2.98
  • Sand paper – $4.47
  • Mini clothespins – $2.99
  • Wood screws – $2.36
  • Mirror wire – $5.88
  • Total – $21.26

The key to keeping this cheap is the frame. Steer clear of Michael’s and Hobby Lobby where they go from $30-$50 and you’ll be doing just fine.

What projects have you been working on lately? Any Pinterest pins you’ve had your eye on?

PS: If you’re looking for the perfect site to get your Instagram prints from, I recommend Prinstagram – 50 photos for $12.

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Crate & Barrel: January Inspiration

photo-2Crate & Barrel must have gotten word of my obsession from this post because they’ve now decided to stuff my mailbox with all form of home decor reading materials – or I’ve now given them my address so many times from all the weddings that they know I’m an easy target for their marketing propaganda …

The latest installment in the Crate & Barrel catalog guide comes from their “January Inspiration” issue – because none of these items are allowed to inspire you for the other 11 months of the year. But in all seriousness, it leaves you no choice but to spend your hard earned cash on items that you didn’t even know you needed! Kind of like walking around Target.

Similar to the Skymall gift guide, but with a much more serious tone, I’ve highlighted some of the items that I wouldn’t mind seeing pop up in my apartment. They’re on the higher end of the price spectrum but sometimes, a little splurging can be worth it.

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 11.01.07 PM1. Large Mixing Bowl, $29.95 – Growing up, there was always a large mixing bowl that was used for much more than cooking. It was the bowl to rule all bowls. The one that would aid in getting stains out of your clothes or even house the popcorn that you enjoyed on a low-key Saturday night. I’ve always sought to have one of my own but just haven’t gotten around to buying one as I make do with my large pot. However, this white ceramic beauty is speaking to me so it might be time to bite the bullet.

2. Heritage Hill Glass Jars with Lid, $41.85 – Nothing says “I bake” or “classy kitchen” like jars to hold your flour and sugar. Yes, the trio can be rather pricey but when you’re trying to hide your rental’s ugly backsplash, these traditional containers add just the right touch of “homey.”

3. Marin Media Console, $849.15 – So, no. I would never buy this. Not because of the design but because of the price. However, if you saw the TV stand that my roommate brought with him, you would understand that we’re in need of an upgrade. What I like about this console is the fact that the front panels hide all the wiring and hardware that would otherwise look messy. The natural wood tones are just the added bonus to mixing up the black and white theme seen throughout my apartment.

4. Large Wire Basket, $15.9 – While these are advertised as being suitable for your bathroom and toiletries, I would challenge you to think outside of the box. This basket could be the modern touch you need in your kitchen by holding fruit and vegetables or it could reside in your living room as non-traditional magazine storage.

5. Chevron Off-White Pillow, $29.95 – Chevron has been making it’s way around the DIY circuit, whether on walls, furniture or art, but this throw pillow is neutral enough to go with everything and still trendy enough to add visual interest to your bed, chair or sofa.

So there you have it: five items sure to bring your home to the next level. But only in January.

For those of you that were lucky enough to receive this issue, what were your must-haves? Did anything grab your eye?

PS: If you’re wondering why this post is stored under the “DIY” category, it’s because it relates to home decor and just might inspire you to tackle the remake of a media console all on your own to save the arm and leg you almost handed over for the Crate & Barrel one. 

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YHL Project #104: Deal with Bookcase Clutter

photo-2If you’ve scrolled through my blog roll, you’ve already stumbled upon DIY pros Sherry and John Petersik, the creators of the popular home improvement blog “Young House Love.” Started as a way to relay to their families the progress on their kitchen renovation, the blog quickly turned into a full website as more and more people visited to get DIY tips.

Fast forward five years and they turned their influx of visitors into an empire that spans from a line of lamps to a book of nearly 250 ways to “show your home some love.”

I was lucky enough to get this tome for Christmas and in case you can’t tell, I’m excited to put it to good use. My roommate makes fun of me for my enthusiasm but let’s be honest, he gets to reap the benefits as much as I do.

One of the simplest things they suggest doing is decluttering bookcases. Some of the ideas include staggering books, being selective about the items you display on the shelves and showing variety. One look to the foot of my bed, and you can tell that this is something I needed to take to heart. See for yourself.

photo-2 copy 3Just in case, you can’t tell what’s wrong, I took the liberty of pointing out each flaw: cards on top, one full row of cluttered knick-knacks, running out of space for books, exposed wires etc. A couple of months ago, I even tried the trick of organizing books by color starting with white of the right and working your way through the rainbow. I quickly learned that I have a LOT of white books and very few of the same color after that. Overall, it just wasn’t working.

Slide1After 30 minutes of editing items off the shelves, mixing up the colors of the books and taking advantage of the depth of the bookcase, I now had something more like this:

Slide1 copyYes, that is the Hallelujah chorus you’re hearing in the background. The differences are obviously subtle but they do revitalize that area of the room. Not only do I have more space for books, it feels cleaner and more deliberate. The best part is that this beautification project cost me $0.

What simple DIY projects have you been up to lately?

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The White Wreath with a Heart of Coal

I’d like to preface this post with a quick message: if you’re looking for a practical tutorial on how to create a garland made of paper leaves, this story is not for you. If you enjoy reading about someone embracing obstacles and eventually failing, you’ve come to the right place.

When reading Curbly recently, a popular DIY blog, I came across a craft for paper leaf garlands. Since I was looking for a cheap way to decorate the apartment for Christmas, I thought I would give it a shot. For this particular project, they say you’ll need:

  • A used book ($1 from the local bookstore)
  • Green paddle wire ($2)
  • Natural green wire ($4.50)
  • White card stock ($3.50)
Sorry to

Sorry to John Downton Hazlett for using your book as scrap paper. It had the whitest pages!

What they fail to mention is that you’ll also need:

  • A lot of patience
  • Fingers of steel
  • An aversion to carpal tunnel

This is how far I got into writing this post before I was faced with a dilemma: give you a step-by-step how-to for “the garland from you know where,” since I did manage to make one, or provide a brief parody on how painstakingly slow it was to put together a measly 2 feet of paper. There’s no doubt that it looks pretty cool but it at this point, the cons definitely outweigh the pros.

Some of the downfalls that have come to my attention:

  • You basically need 75-100 leaves per foot of garland. That’s a lot of cutting and folding.
  • Playing with wire hurts.
  • Since you keep turning the wire around to get leaves on all sides, the ones touching the floor get smashed or torn.
  • The garland will never look as even and full as you want it to.

Don’t worry, I’ll show you what I ended up with:


It’s really not that bad. There are a few things that I would change on it but overall, it gets the job done. The reason I quit is because what originally was supposed to be a fun evening of handiwork was quickly turning into a full week of cutting, folding and wiring for mediocre results.

Verdict: this DIY project is a no-go.

On the plus side, I did get my Christmas tree up last weekend with very little difficulty so my little abode on Sheffield still has the trappings of holiday spirit:

photo-2 copy 2Anyways, here’s to trying, failing and sharing it with the world.

Have you ever attempted a project gone wrong? If you’ve succeeded at this particular craft, I’d love to know your secret.

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Clean House, Clean Mind

I should probably be embarrassed about how bad this got but there is an "after" picture so I'm not too worried.

I should probably be embarrassed about how bad this got but there is an “after” picture so I’m not too worried about it.

If you remember, a month ago I made reference to how messy the top of my dresser is, the reason being that it’s a multi-purpose surface. Not only does it suffer from being where I throw everything when walking into my room (read: keys, wallet, phone, receipts, mail etc.) but it also serves as a desk of sorts since there isn’t enough space for me to have an actual desk or table.

It’s not like this is a new habit of mine. As a kid, the desk in my room was ALWAYS a mess. That’s why I knew I needed a simple solution to keep things organized but also conducive to me still discarding items since that instinct isn’t about to go away any time soon. That’s how I landed on this convenient $7 solution from Target:

Office organizerI felt pretty confident it would do the trick since it had a spot for mail, pens/paintbrushes/markers and a small nook for any random knickknacks like my wallet, checkbook and keys. After sorting through all of that junk and throwing most of it away, my dresser was looking more like this:

So. Much. Better.

So. Much. Better.

In case anyone is wondering, the piggy bank was a $10 purchase from Target years ago when I was looking for a solution to the random change I would find in my pockets. Naturally, I chose the green Frankenstein one, which earned him the name of Frankie the Pig. One of these days, I’ll crack him open and see how large my coin savings have become. I doubt it’ll be much since all quarters get repurposed for laundry but you never know how quickly those dimes and nickels can add up!

Finally, the Gameboy print that I picked up from a couple of months ago joined the rest of the frames on the wall next to my bed as previously seen here. It adds a little color to what was starting to be too much black and white. If I had my way, that whole wall would be painted a bright blue but since I’m renting, that upgrade to my bedroom will come when I move into a new place and hopefully have a little more freedom with the decor.

What are your quick organizing solutions?

I can testify that the "Insert Awesome Here" text in the Gameboy print is perfect accurate since my Gameboy hold some of my favorite childhood memories.

I can personally testify that the “Insert Awesome Here” text in the Gameboy print is perfectly accurate since my Gameboy is associated with some of my favorite childhood memories.

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Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair

Renegade FlyerThe first weekend of December came and went, leaving behind it the first feelings of Christmas and sounds of carols in the air. While some stores embraced the holiday spirit around the beginning of October (*ahem* Target *ahem*), I purposefully chose to ignore all red, green and snowflake decorations until December rolled around.

The first activity that christened one of my favorite times of the year was a visit to the Renegade Craft Fair. Hosted in five cities around the country, the fair showcases local artists and vendors hawking their DIY goods and indie flair. Some of the more common items that you can find are homemade prints, jewelry and toys.

Not my best photography skills but you get the picture.

Not my best photography skills but you get the picture.

The location of the Chicago fair this year was the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, a building built in 1912 to complement the adjacent Pulaski Park. It was the perfect venue with its two gymnasiums, beamed class rooms and rustic style. Five rooms total were filled to capacity providing some 200 vendors and a couple thousand visitors the opportunity to get their hipster on.

I didn’t walk away empty handed and doubt anyone could. Not only did I snag a couple Christmas gifts (Rebecca, I’m looking at you), I got my hands on a Lakeview screen print from Slightly Insulting Chicago Neighborhood posters, which now lives right by the door to my apartment just so everyone who visits knows exactly what neighborhood they’re in and what to expect.

Lakeview. Alternate names include: Vanilla View, Bro View, Big 10 Bar View, Puke on Your Front Lawn View, Gay View, Ray Bans View, Plaid View and Just Moved to the Big City from a Midwest State View.

Lakeview. Alternate names include: Vanilla View, Bro View, Big 10 Bar View, Puke on Your Front Lawn View, Gay View, Ray Bans View, Plaid View and Just Moved to the Big City from a Midwest State View.

I wish I could visit this fair any time I wanted but unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next year. On the plus side, this is just another thing to look forward to come holiday season.

Did you do anything fun this weekend? What are some activities that you do around the holidays? For any Renegade enthusiasts, what’s your favorite thing about the fair?

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So Shoe Me!

I’m basically on a roll with blog posts and improvements around my apartment. Not only have I posted more in the past two weeks than I have in the past five months, I’ve managed to make two small changes to my bedroom that breathed new life into it. The first one got this off my bookshelf. The second gave me back about three square feet of floor space.

The first thing you should know about my apartment is that there is no storage space. The only reason a girl lived there before me is because she was using one of the bedrooms as a walk-in closet. With that in mind, please don’t judge me when I tell you that my floor usually looks like this:

Clearly, I gravitate toward black and tan …

Encouraged by what a little initiative and a few dollars can do, I set off toward my local City Target in search for a shoe organizer to hang from my closet door. My options were the $15 behemoth or this $8 looker (my prices are cheaper than online since they were discounted in store). Since this was supposed to be a temporary fix until I move into something bigger, I decided to go for what was cheaper and would blend in the most with my door. Five minutes later, the east side of my bedroom looked like this:

Ignore the mess on top of my dresser. That’s a project in and of itself.

So. Much. Better. It’s like there was a whole part of my room that had gone unexplored this whole time. Yes, I can no longer walk in and kick my shoes off but I’m willing to make the extra effort to hang them on my door to keep things looking clean.

Side note: George, my roommate, caught me standing in the doorway to my room just staring at it in awe. Needless to say, when he found out why I was so mesmerized, he didn’t waste a second to make fun of me for it. 

What simple updates have you made to your place? Any good organization tips?

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The DIY Choice

Everyone knows what day it is. The TODAY Show, which I watch every morning while getting ready for work, mentioned that presidential candidates have been campaigning for the past 17 months in anticipation for today. That’s close to a year an a half, people! No wonder we want this election to be over …

Anyway, instead of telling you to go vote or who to vote for, as many people have done already, I thought I would regale you with … drum roll please … a quick DIY project! If you can even call it that since it’s basically a travel tip and quick framing advice. I essentially realized that a handful of blogs that I follow are design focused and since it’s at topic that I enjoy reading about, I figured why not write about it myself?

As I mentioned here, I was lucky enough to visit San Francisco and Napa Valley back in June. When traveling, I’m always on the lookout for a cool souvenir and what I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that while it’s easy to go for the touristy chochtkies, they usually don’t make the best or the most stylish mementos. Instead, I now gravitate toward artwork or something easily framable like the pamphlet that I picked up during our tour of Alcatraz.

Side note: The Alcatraz tour is awesome and a must for any first-time San Francisco visitor. Not only does it provide a glimpse into one of the most secure prisons in our history, it also offers some of the best views of the city a.k.a. some serious photo opps. 

So here’s my travel tip: unless it’s something truly unique, go for the souvenir that you can hang on the wall. It keeps you from storing random items on shelves that eventually just gather dust and adds to your collection of artwork to choose from when decorating. If you’re like me, there is always too much empty wall space that is just begging for a nail and something to hang.

For this particular project, all you’re going to need is:

  • Something to frame
  • One frame – For me, an 8″x10″. I opted to go with something that was matted in order to make the whole piece more substantial so that it wouldn’t get swallowed up by the other frames it would hang next to.
  • Scotch tape – Easiest to peel off if you mess up.
  • A piece of paper – In my case, an old Megabus ticket.
  • One ruler or tape measure
  • One nail – If I were more of a handyman, I would tell you exactly what nail but in this case, it’s something that’s long enough to hold the frame and secure it so that it won’t fall.

The first step is to figure out how you want to position your artwork in the mat. The trick I learned from my mom is to use tape on the back with the sticky side up so that you can then place the mat over it and press down, getting them to stick together. You can be much more precise that way and it’s secure so that it doesn’t slip or fall later.

The next step, and the one I’m most impatient about, is cleaning the glass. Basically, Windex the crap out of it since a hair or piece of dust could have snuck up on there and you don’t want to have to start over once you realize you missed something. This has happened to me more times than I care to remember …

Finally, secure everything together and you have an original, framed piece!

Hanging the artwork can be the most difficult step, particularly when you’re like me and you want to add it to an already existing collage of frames.

Second side note: the secret to doing a collage is to pick frames that are the same color. They don’t need to be the same style but the color allows for more cohesion and the mix and match look that seems to be popular these days. 

This is where the paper, ruler and nail come in and my quick framing advice that I stole from one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love. The paper represents the frame, which means you need to measure where the hook would be. You then tape it to the wall in the exact place where you want it to hang like so:

Once that’s done, drive your nail where the X you drew is, and consequently where the hook will be. Remove the paper and hang your frame – voila! Simple as that.

X marks the spot!

You should then end up with something that looks like this:

For those that are curious: (clockwise) an organization photo and Mizzou campus rendering that’s given to all Alumni Association Student Board seniors, my new San Francisco memento, a picture of my favorite place in Paris – Place du Tertre, and my college diploma complete with Honors medal.

Not bad right?

From a budget perspective, you’re looking at:

  • $1 for the pamphlet
  • $9.72 for the frame that was marked down at Blick from $17.99
  • TOTAL: $10.72

Now that’s a smart choice to me.

What souvenirs do you usually like to get while on vacation? Any other framing/hanging tips that you’ve found helpful?

PS: I usually think my posts are going to be short but then they usually end up as a long diatribe. Maybe one day I’ll master concise, to-the-point writing.

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