Category Archives: DIY

Trends in Cabinet Hardware

Changing out or adding new cabinet knobs or pulls is an easy, and often low-cost way of updating the look of your kitchen, bath or a piece of furniture.  I’ve pulled together a few styles that are trending right now, to inspire you to make this happy little improvement to some corner of your home.

Acrylic. This crystal clear option would look so fresh and modern in the bathroom or kitchen. I absolutely LOVE the smoke-colored version too. So sophisticated!

Schaub and Company Positano 6" Pull. $13.40- $15 on pullsdirect.com.
Schaub and Company Positano 6″ Pull. $13.40- $15 on pullsdirect.com.

Natural Stone and Concrete. These are two materials you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find on a cabinet knob. They are each textural and expressive, sure to make a statement.

Lucy Concrete Knob. Set of 2 for $25 on rejuvenation.com.
Lucy Concrete Knob. Set of 2 for $25 on rejuvenation.com.
Swirled Agate Knobs. $24 on anthropologie.com.
Swirled Agate Knobs. $24 on anthropologie.com.
Druzy Quartz Knob. $18 on anthropologie.com.
Druzy Quartz Knob. $18 on anthropologie.com.

Extra Long Pulls. This is a classic, no fail way to make old cabinets feel more modern.  I suggest mounting them horizontally on cabinet doors as well as drawers, for a cohesive look.

Glide Rite 6 in. Stainless Steel Pull. Set of 10 for $26.99 on overstock.com.
Glide Rite 6 in. Stainless Steel Pull. Set of 10 for $26.99 on overstock.com.

Mismatched and Eclectic. I’m generally a fan of mixing patterns with fabrics, so why not knobs? Purchase various styles of a certain color or finish, or vise versa.

Marbled Solitare Knob. $10 each on anthropologie.com.
Marbled Solitare Knob. $10 each on anthropologie.com.
Various ceramic knobs, in sets of 2 for $2.38 - $4.78 on worldmarket.com.
Various ceramic knobs, in sets of 2 for $2.38 – $4.78 (current sale price) on worldmarket.com.

Ring Pulls. These little pulls work great for small drawers and doors. I could seem them on a reinvented vintage desk or hutch.

Bosetti Marella Ring Pull by Classic Hardware in Polished Brass. $7.03 on myknobs.com.
Bosetti Marella Ring Pull by Classic Hardware in Polished Brass. $7.03 on myknobs.com.
Top Knobs Nouveau II Finger Pull in Brushed Satin. $6.30 on pullsdirect.com.
Top Knobs Nouveau II Finger Pull in Brushed Satin. $6.30 on pullsdirect.com.

You Don’t Need a Sewing Machine to Make New Pillow Covers

Around the holidays, I like to switch up my decor scheme just a touch, for added Christmas flair. I wanted to do a few changes this year, that might carry through into winter, so I wouldn’t have to take it all down right away. As I was searching for inspiration, I kept seeing images of cozy cabins festooned with tartan plaid prints and layered with Pendleton wool blankets and shearling accents. To capture a woodsy feel, but not go gung-ho log cabin, I bought some plaid flannel fabric at JoAnn, and made pillow covers.

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Possessing the ability to sew a straight line is such a game changer when it comes to quickly updating your home decor. You can make pillow covers, hem curtains and do basic upholstery too. I’ve had my sewing machine since I was a senior in high school. I’m not a talented seamstress by any measure, but I’ve got the straight line thing mastered.

After I cut my fabric last weekend, I headed down to my studio to set up my sewing machine. I got the bobbin loaded, the thread through the needle and positioned a pillow cover under the presser foot. And go! Only it didn’t. It got all hung up, and I tried and tried to trouble-shoot the issue, but I couldn’t figure it out.

I’m sure it is high time I had my sewing machine serviced, but I just don’t have the time to deal with it this month. What’s a determined decorator to do then? Well, I just happened to have some Stitch Witchery fusible web tape on hand, and to my great surprise, it worked like a charm! While I wouldn’t normally substitute sewing with this method, since I’m not planning on using these covers indefinitely, I wasn’t too concerned about long-term wear. This is also not a 100% no-sew project, because I closed up the pillow covers with hand-sewing. Here is what I did.

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Cut two pillow cover pieces one inch larger than the size of your pillow form. Example: My forms were 18″ x 18″, so I cut my pieces 19″ x 19″ for a 1/2″ seam allowance on each side. I use a Fiskars cutting mat, O’Lipfa Lip Edge Ruler, and Fiskars rotary cutter for this task. It makes very quick work of the job.

Lay your pieces right sides together. Pin around the sides.

Now cut strips of Stitch Witchery fusible web tape to match the length and width of your pillow. You’ll want them to overlap at each corner. My tape was too wide for the seam allowance I had planned on, so I cut the strips in half, length-wise. You’ll also need to leave a gap on one side, to slide the pillow form into the cover when it is finished.

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Sandwich the tape in between the cover pieces, making sure to keep the strips nice and straight and overlapping at the corners. Leave a decent-sized opening to put the pillow form inside. I think mine was around 10″.

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Heat up your iron, and press! Set your iron to wool, or another high setting. You’ll want to use either a damp pressing cloth, or a damp piece of plain cotton between your iron and the pillow cover, to protect your iron in case some of the fusible web tape escapes. Hold the iron in one spot for 10 seconds, then move on, until all the edges of  the cover are adhered.

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Turn the pillow cover right-side out. Now you can gently stuff your pillow into the opening. You can either sew it closed by hand, with a needle and thread, or try to add a strip of fusible web tape inside the seam allowance, and iron it closed. This can be difficult to do, with the pillow form inside.

And there you have it, a pretty simple pillow cover, no sewing machine required! I made three covers in all, in two different plaid prints. They joined two blue tweed pillows on the couch for a super cozy vibe. My cat Teddy can attest to that!

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Why I Didn’t get a Traditional Christmas Tree This Year

I do love trimming up a gorgeous Christmas tree, and over the years I have amassed a beautiful collection of glittering, festive ornaments. The tree usually takes a prominent spot in our living room and we rearrange the furniture to accommodate it.  My favorite part is how Thomas helps us put the ornaments on, and the tree ultimately ends up feeling very bottom heavy. Then we sit and watch Christmas movies in the twinkling glow of the tree’s tiny white lights. Magic!

Well, this year, we decided to change our approach for several reasons, most of them having to do with our adventurous ten-month-old baby. Lucy is an explorer by nature and would rather get into things she should not, than say, play with baby toys.  As our house is small, the main play area is our living room, and for the most part it is baby-proofed, so she can be free to roam and be safe while doing so. Adding a Christmas tree into this environment sounded like a recipe for constant headaches and countless “No, Lucy, don’t touch that!” moments.

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Instead of heading out to cut down a traditional Christmas tree, we went to Bremerton City Nursery and chose a five-foot-tall Leyland Cypress in a pot. We asked the gal on duty that day, Alex, lots of questions, and learned that if we were careful, we could keep this tree alive and use it again next year or plant it in the yard this spring.  We left feeling very encouraged that we could make it work. The following tips just about sum up her advice, but if you decide to do this yourself, I would certainly consult the experts in person, since I am not an authority.

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  • The tree can survive indoors for around three weeks, given the care it needs.
  • For a few days after you bring it home, leave it on a covered porch, next to the house, or in a daylight garage to ease into acclimating it to life indoors.
  • Place the tree near a window, so it can get natural light.
  • Give it lots of water, since the air in your home is much drier than it is outside, especially with the heater running.
  • Speaking of heaters, if you must place it near a heat vent, position the louvers on the grate to point the air away from the tree, or close them to block the airflow completely.
  • Get it back outside after Christmas, under cover for a few days, then it can be out on the patio, soaking up the winter rain.

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There are many varieties to choose from. Our Leyland Cypress has sort of a Charlie Brown feel, but we dressed it up with various metallic ornaments and a vintage paper garland that I made. I tried putting lights on it, but they looked a bit bulky. I just might order a string of those teeny, tiny “micro” lights, and see if they blend in any better.

micro fairy lights

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I put the tree’s pot inside a plastic garbage bag, to hold the excess liquid from watering it, then disguised that with a burlap coffee sack. Now it sits on our buffet in the dining room, and adds lots of holiday charm to the space. We eat in the dining room three times a day, so we get many opportunities to appreciate the tree’s simplistic beauty. I hung cedar garland with white lights in the living room, and decorated every surface with something Christmas-y, so we aren’t want for a festive feel at all. While I did miss the ritual of going to the tree farm with friends to select the perfect tree, I thoroughly enjoy our potted tree and the house doesn’t feel any less magical!

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DIY: Vintage Book Garland and Decoupage Letters

Tuesday on the blog, I shared instructions on making a wreath using vintage book pages, and today, I’m going to walk you through the steps to make a festive garland and decoupaged holiday message. Both of these projects are very easy, and could be changed to suit your personal decor style.

Vintage Paper Garland

  • Supplies:
  • Vintage book pages
  • Hole Punch
  • Twisted Jute Garden Twine
  • Cardboard and pencil for making your pattern

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While I contemplated cutting snowflakes or ornament shapes for this garland, ultimately I wanted this to be not only quick and easy, but to have a simple aesthetic. The 2″ circle design that I decided on was all of those things. I made three 5′ garlands in about 15 minutes.

Design and cut your pattern out of cardboard.

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Trace your pattern onto the book pages. Fit as many on one page as possible to make less work of it. I traced the circle onto the bottom of one page, then stacked four pages on top of eachother, because my pages were a very thin paper. Then I folded the pages into thirds and cut out my circle. I was able to get twelve circles out of one cut.

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Fold your circles in half, three or four at at time. Punch a hole so that when you are done, the circle looks like a button with two holes.

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String them onto the jute twine. I found that about eighteen circles fit onto a five foot length of twine, which was a manageable length for dressing my little potted tree.

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Decoupage Letters

This project couldn’t be any easier, and if you have never worked with decoupage medium, don’t worry. The technique is extremely flexible and forgiving. Choose any holiday message, and spell it out with any manner of these letters. You could go all capitals or stick with lower case letters. JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts has a great selection, and they are frequently on sale. The process took me around 30 – 45 minutes per letter.

Rip up your vintage book pages into random sized pieces.

Brush glue on the letter, and on the back of a book page piece. Then place the piece on the letter.

Brush more Mod Podge over the top of the piece. Now just repeat that process, overlapping and layering pieces for a textured effect.

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There are countless ways to display your holiday message, on a mantle, hanging on the wall, or resting on top of a bookcase or buffet. For the photos I styled for the Sunday feature in the Kitsap Sun, I nestled them among some cedar branches, on top of an old white dresser in our living room.

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DIY: Paper Cone Wreath

You may have had the chance to read my feature in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, but I will bear the risk of sounding repetitive: this wreath is just gorgeous. This year I was inspired to use vintage book pages to make a few holiday crafts with timeless appeal. This wreath was a big project, but it was totally worth the work. Plan on this taking you about four hours. I had to work on it in shifts, since I rarely have a big block of uninterrupted time.

Supplies you will need:

  •  Straw or foam wreath form. Mine was an 18″ form, but a smaller one would take less time and material. I left the plastic wrapping on my straw form, for less mess.
  • A vintage book. Mine was about 500 pages, and I used every single one, plus a few pages from a larger old book, to create longer cones at the back of the wreath. The smallest pages measured roughly 8 1/4″ by 5 1/4″.
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Stapler
  • Metallic gold craft paint (optional)
  • Paint brush (optional)
  • Twine or ribbon for hanging

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I wanted my wreath to feel a bit festive, so I painted a shimmery gold stripe down the middle of each page. This added to the overall time, to allow the pages to dry, so you can skip this step if  you want to simplify.

Roll a bunch of cones until you have a huge stock pile. This is a step I should have done, but I just rolled, as I went. It surely would have saved time to just have a big pile of cones to grab from, then glue onto the form. Play around with your rolling technique until you find a cone shape that you like, whether wider and more open or tighter and longer. Use a stapler or the glue gun to secure the cone at the bottom. I wasn’t very methodical with the rolling, so my cones ended up being sort of random widths and lengths, but I like the effect. If you painted the gold stripe, you can roll the page with the paint facing out or facing in, your choice. You’ll see it either way.

Lay down your wreath form on a large work surface. Tie a length of twine or ribbon around the wreath form, to use for hanging later. I forgot to do this at the start, and it was a bit difficult to get it on at the end!

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The first layer you do will become the back of the wreath. Begin gluing cones, so that their ends are pointing in, and the openings are pointed outward. Cover the entire back surface of the wreath. Flip it over.

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Next, you’ll want to glue a row of cones on the inside of the form. They will look like they are standing up, with the openings pointing out.

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Now,  you are going to fill it in. Bend down the end of a cone and fold it. Glue a row, with the ends folded in, close to the outer layer.

Continue to fold the ends and glue the cones to cover the whole wreath. You’ll notice holes to fill in with cones as you go. This process is a bit free form.

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Hang your wreath! You might even notice a few holes once it’s hanging, so just stick a cone in where you can to fill it out!

Ultimately, I needed a place to put my lamp and radio, so I ended up moving the PEACE letters after I took photos for the Sunday edition.
Ultimately, I needed a place to put my lamp and radio, so I ended up moving the PEACE letters after I took photos for the Sunday edition.
The wreath, pictured here with the decoupage letters featured in Sunday's paper.
The wreath, pictured here with the decoupage letters featured in Sunday’s paper.

Next up: directions for making the decoupage letters pictured above and the book page garland, both from Sunday’s column! Stop back later this week for those project directions. Happy crafting!

 

 

A Handmade Holiday

I love making things by hand around the holidays, and although it is hard to find the time, I always try. For my column in this Sunday’s Life section of the Kitsap Sun, I’ve written about some beautiful holiday decor projects, using vintage book pages. Next week on the blog I’ll do detailed instructions for each project, so you can recreate them. I hope that they will inspire you to do something creative this Christmas season, too.

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How to Hang a Gallery Style Wall

This blank wall was just screaming for some art!
This blank wall was just screaming for some art!

Many of you might love the look of a salon-style gallery wall, with a cozy mash up of art and family photos, but may feel intimidated by how to get the right look. My friend Kim was in the same boat. She had all of the pieces she wanted, but needed help coming up with the right configuration, so that the wall would feel balanced. Here is the process we went through to get it right.

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Lay out all of the pieces on the floor in front of the wall they will hang on. Play with the configuration until you achieve a sense of balance. Consider the largest pieces first, they will naturally be your anchors. If you have just one larger piece, it might look best in the center, with the smaller pieces surrounding it. Kim had two larger pieces, so we split them up, essentially dividing the wall into three equal zones.  Also scrutinize the use of color in the pieces. Kim had dashes of red that we wanted to sprinkle through-out.

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Now use a roll of butcher or art paper and trace around each piece, then cut it out. Make marks on the front of the paper that indicate where the hooks or hangers are located. Using painter’s tape, adhere these to the wall in roughly the same configuration you had on the floor.

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Move them around until they look and feel right. You want to consider the negative space between just as much as the pieces themselves. Keep the spacing as equal as you can. Use a ruler if you need to, or just eyeball it. Step back and look at it from a distance.

Allow for the furniture that will be under the pieces. Kim’s sofa was 36″ high. We left nine inches of space between the top of the sofa and the bottom of the art work. You need a bit of breathing room so you won’t knock a piece down, but you don’t want your art so far above that the furniture, that it feels disconnected and un-grounded.

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Once you have the paper exactly where you want it, check that your marks for the hangers are level and centered before driving in any nails. Use picture hooks or regular nails for smaller things, and larger picture hooks or drywall anchors and screws for heavy pieces. Hang a couple of the larger pieces as you go to make sure you like where the grouping is headed. Remove the paper once you have the nails or hooks in place.

Hang your art!

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While making the paper mock-ups is a bit laborious, I think it saves time in the end. It also saves you from making too many errant holes in the wall. We ended up only needing to move one piece up a few inches from where our first hole was, due to its weight once hanging. The red “R” though, was another story.  The hanging holes were in odd spots, and it was extremely difficult to get that letter level! Lots of holes for that one, in fact, I lost count. Good thing Kim was already planning on giving that room a new coat of paint, after our hanging day! She can patch the holes then.

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The salon-style wall is such a good looking way to fill a big blank wall with character and to display a collection of art or photos. You can match all of the frame and mat styles, or go rogue and make it an artful mix. I just love the way a wall like this adds a layer of coziness and personality to a room.

 

DIY: Dining Room Table Refinish

The table before it was refinished.
The table before it was refinished.

So, this dining room table refinishing project has been years in the making. And by that I mean, it’s been needing to be refinished for years. Poor table. Our family was totally abusing it. The protective finish wore off a few years ago, and stains were settling into the bare wood grain. With lots of messy baby feeding days looming in the not-so-distant future, I finally tackled it this summer.

I’ve painted lots of furniture in the past, but this was my first time refinishing and staining a piece. I’ve been known to bite off way more than I can chew, so I spent lots of time researching exactly what stain and finish I wanted and studying the steps carefully. I learned a lot, and I’m proud of my results. I’ll share my process with you.

The left hand side has been cleaned with the vinegar solution, the right has not. There was such a build-up of oils and newsprint ink.
The left hand side has been cleaned with the vinegar solution, the right has not. There was such a build-up of oils and newsprint ink.

First I cleaned the table with a water and vinegar solution, so as to remove any stuck on goo and help neutralize any grease or oils.  I used about a half cup of white vinegar to a half gallon of warm water. The wood grain was already starting to open at this point, so I didn’t want to completely saturate the table, and used a light touch with the solution.

Next I started sanding. I would recommend using a small belt or power sander, but my workshop is in the basement just underneath my daughter’s nursery. She’s usually asleep when I am working on projects, so a loud sander wasn’t an option for me. Whether you use a palm sander or do it manually, cover up anything nearby that you don’t want to get dusty. Wear safety goggles and some type of protective face mask. If your table still has a good layer of old varnish on it, you’ll probably want to strip it before sanding.

The table after a few sandings.
The table after a few sandings.

With sandpaper, the lower numbers have a coarser grit and as the numbers get higher, the finer the granules are. This table is a soft wood, perhaps fir, so I didn’t want to bite into the wood too deeply with a super coarse sandpaper. I started with 100, stepped up to 150, and then finished with 220, so that the surface was a smooth as possible. Be sure to sand with the grain of the wood, so as not to scratch or damage it.

In between sanding stages, I removed the saw dust with a tack cloth. Be sure to do a very thorough job of it after the final sanding. You don’t want the dust to mar your stain and top coat.

Fill any cracks or holes with a stain-able, sand-able wood filler. Use a plastic spackling knife and follow the directions on the tube. I used Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler MAX.

An optional next step would have been to apply a wood conditioning product, which helps the stain soak into the wood grain more evenly. In retrospect, I should have done this step, but chose to skip it in the interest of time.

The products I used for my refinishing project.
The products I used for my refinishing project.

I wanted my table to end up with a slightly white-washed look. I chose Minwax Wood Finish in Pickled Oak. (FYI, don’t bother looking for this color at Home Depot, just stop by Ace Hardware in Bremerton.) I applied the stain, going with the wood grain, with a synthetic brush and let the first coat sit for 15 minutes for maximum absorption. I removed any excess stain with a soft, dry rag. After letting it dry for five hours, I repeated this process one more time. Make sure to have proper ventilation in your work space for this step.

The first application of stain, settling into the wood, before being wiped off.
The first application of stain, settling into the wood, before being wiped off.

For my top coat, I used Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, in a satin finish, for low odor during application and easy clean-up. Wait 24 hours after applying your last coat of stain before  you layer on the top coat. Apply a thin, even coat with a synthetic brush. Don’t over brush. Let it dry for two hours, and lightly sand with a 220 grit sandpaper. Remove all dust. Repeat this process, as many times as you see fit. Since this is our main dining table, and I wanted to ensure extra protection, I did five coats.

The after. The table is stained and sealed, so it can't be damaged by our normal wear and tear.
The after. The table is stained and sealed, so it can’t be damaged by our normal wear and tear.

I’ll admit that this project was very time consuming, and took me the better part of a week, because I needed to care for my children and run a household in between steps. That said, I am so glad I did it, and am very happy with the way it turned out. Our table is now ready to withstand our daily wear and tear for quite a few more years. Next up- refinishing the dining bench to match!

The table looks great now. I'll tell you the tale of the white painted chairs another day...
The table looks great now. I’ll tell you the tale of the white painted chairs another day…
The bench is next!
The bench is next!

If it’s time to refinish your dining table, you might just be able to squeeze it in before you host Thanksgiving!

DIY: Under-bed LEGO Table

Living in a 1920’s house has its charms and drawbacks. Storage space is tight, and rooms are small. I have two small children, and as you might know, they come with lots of stuff, and more specifically, lots of LEGO. My basement is mostly unfinished and therefore, I have no dedicated play room. My oldest is very nearly five years old and my youngest is eight months old. LEGO and babies don’t mix. So, the house rule is that LEGO bricks stay in Thomas’ bedroom.

Since Thomas’s bedroom is pretty tiny and floor space is limited, I needed to come up with a solution that could, quite literally make the LEGO bricks disappear at night. My theory is that creating a dedicated play area for these tiny pieces, makes their migration into common areas of the house a little less likely.

The under-bed space is largely underutilized as storage in general, and Thomas’ room is no exception. Since most LEGO play time happens on the floor anyway, I had it in my mind to create some type of surface that could slide under the bed at night. This is what I came up with.

Using a scrap piece of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), I had on hand, I crafted a rolling LEGO table. It was pretty simple to make, and you could make this piece just about any size you want. It took four easy steps.

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  1. Screw in four swivel casters with brakes. I used casters with brakes so the table won’t slide away from Thomas as he is playing on it. The only down side to this is that they are a bit tricky, so I have to help him set and unlock the brakes.IMG_0756
  2. Use a miter box to cut trim for the edges of the table. The last thing you want is for the LEGO creations to go careening off the side of the table when you push it under the bed at night. Meltdowns will ensue… I used a 1″ square cedar trim from Home Depot, but almost any type of decorative trim or quarter-round would work.
  3. Adhere the trim to the table. I used Gorilla Glue with clamps, then secured the trim with finishing nails.photo (17)
  4. Paint it. I used two coats of Behr’s Ultra White primer and paint in one. Of course, I had help, I’d be nowhere without my little shop assistant! If you wanted to, you could paint some streets on the surface, or glue down a few of those green LEGO building plates. We are not quite so sophisticated yet.IMG_0799

Done! The only challenge left was getting it to fit under the bed. Thomas’s bed is low to the ground, so I spray painted a set of bed risers that were collecting dust in the basement. We effectively gained a few more inches to accommodate those taller LEGO structures.

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I know that the LEGO obsession is likely going to last at least another nine or ten years, if not more, according to my teenage nephews. In that time, we may very well move to a different home with more room to set up for hobbies and play,  but this solution is working just beautifully for now.

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Paper Mache Letters Fun for Kids

Paper mache letters are a playful and low-cost accessory that can really add a fun element to any room. With limitless ways to hang, embellish and use these letters, you can personalize them to perfectly complement your decor. Easy to find at most craft stores, they are priced well and come in a variety of sizes and fonts. Decorating paper mache letters can even be a great craft to do with your kids.

At my house, I’ve used them in the nursery, in Thomas’ room, and in the living room, above the hook where Thomas hangs his coat. Each one was decorated with a different technique, and Thomas even helped me with both of his.

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In the baby’s room, the letters are hung above her crib. I spray painted them gold, and used garden twine and hot glue to make hanging loops. Because they are light-weight, I don’t have to worry about them hurting her, if they were to fall off the wall.

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The “T” above Thomas’ coat hook was made by layering torn pieces of scrapbook paper with lots of Mod Podge. Thomas helped me with this, and really enjoyed it. To hang this one, I looped a single length of garden twine under the crux of the letter, knotted it and hung it over a small nail.

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Thomas did all the work with the letter in his room, covering it with plain old craft paint. He did this one when he was about 2. Seeing it reminds me of the fun he had while he was making it, and how much he has changed in the last two years.

Cover these letters in glitter, paint, or paper, or wrap them in yarn or twine.  You could even just leave them plain. Hang them from the ceiling, on the wall or set them on the mantle. Letters as decor can quite literally, make a statement, or just add a touch of whimsy to your space.