28 February 2011

Not just for reading...

One of my favorite ways to decorate is with books. Mostly it's because they are pretty and they are a great way to add personality to a room- people can always tell a little bit about you based on what kind of books you have laying around. But also it's because I have found them to be the perfect way to bring harmony and balance to items that were previously not working well together.
I can be a little bit fanatical about things being balanced- probably way more than I need to be. So when I'm filling a shelf and things just aren't looking right, it's usually because the balance is off. Take this for example:

See how that glass just gets dwarfed by the picture frame?

But add a black photo album under the cloche and *perfect!* It works.

 All of these books make everything the right height:

But what do you do if all of your books are ugly?? Or if they have embarrassing titles??? No one coming into your house wants to know that you have an interest in the mating habits of beetles. So what do you do? You cover them up!
Remember in high school when all of your text books were covered with colorful jackets? Do the same thing now with your unsightly books. Give them something to wear that makes them look good in your room. And get creative- try pretty fabric or wallpaper that compliments the rest of your decor.
Another easy fix is just to take off the original book jacket. No matter how much I love a book, I do not want the author's face smiling up at me from my coffee table. But usually under a busy-looking book jacket is a simple, neutral colored book. 
If you start looking at books as a decorating accessory, you can step up the style in your home AND still  provide yourself with some good entertainment. What's better than curling up with a good book? Curling up with a good-looking book!

Here are some very basic instructions on making a book cover with paper, and one with fabric

26 February 2011

How I keep the house clean

Over at one of my favorite sites, Organizing Junkie, Laura is doing her 52 Weeks of Organizing series. This got me motivated to write about my favorite way that I have gotten organized- organizing my house-cleaning tasks into a schedule.

 A few years ago I developed a cleaning system for myself that works so well, that getting the cleaning done is almost as easy as completing the most basic of tasks, like brushing my teeth, or taking a shower....I'd never go through a day without doing those things, just like, thanks to my system, I never go through a day without doing the cleaning.

I started this when my son was little and I was looking for a way to make keeping track of what needed to be done around the house easier. I wanted to have a cleaning schedule so that I would no longer have to try to remember when the last time I did something was, or be loading up on a ton of tasks all in one day.  I wanted something that would fit on one sheet of paper that I could hang on my refrigerator and see at a glance what needed to be done that day. I also didn't just want a week's worth of cleaning to be on the schedule; I wanted the extra stuff- the things you only do once a month or so. I do not like annual cleaning where you have to spend days in a cloud of dust scrubbing stuff that gets ignored for the rest of the year. I think it's much easier to keep up with if it's just blended seamlessly into your schedule so it gets done gradually.

 I started by writing out all the things that need to get done around my house and I put them in 3 columns: weekly, monthly, and seasonal. Then at the top of a new sheet of paper I printed out the days of the week and assigned tasks to each day. I left out Saturday and Sunday though, because I want my weekends to be spent relaxing with my family, not with cleaning, so I make sure to get everything done during the week.
I was careful as I was making my list to not just randomly assign stuff to the different days; I tried to think of how I could make my cleaning as effortless as possible by combining tasks that use the same "tools" to the same days. Like, Wednesday is the day that I clean all the mirrors and glass around the house, so I also assigned bathroom cleaning to that day because while I've got the Windex out I might as well go ahead and clean the bathroom mirrors and therefore, the rest of the bathroom.

Once I was done with "weekly" I moved on to "monthly" and wrote out the things that I wanted to fit in to my regular schedule once a month. I listed it this way:
1st Monday- dust fans and stuff up high (because I already dust on Mondays)
1st Thursday- wash & vacuum walls (because I've already got the vacuum out on Thursdays) {OH and please don't think by that day's chore that I am completely neurotic; I don't mean ALL of the walls, that's just my way of reminding myself to clean the baseboards and any kid-made dirty marks on the walls.}

When I was done with "monthly" I moved on to the things that really don't have to be done all the time, like washing out the cabinets, and cleaning under the refrigerator. I spread those out in a section I titled "Seasonal to-do list: March, June, Sept, Dec" and then listed the days and tasks the same way that I had under the "Monthly" section.

The beauty of this system has been that during the times in my life when I have the time to "get it all done"; like when my son was in preschool and I had no other kids, this schedule helped me to easily keep up with everything I wanted to get done around my house without worrying that I was forgetting anything. And now that I have two 3-month-olds and my time is much more limited, I just focus on the "weekly" section of this list and don't let myself even glance at the other stuff because I know the day will come that I can get to it again, but in the meantime my house is still staying pretty dang clean.

Here is my schedule. Feel free to use it as a template for your own. A lot of the extra cleaning could probably be spread out a whole lot better; you'll notice I crammed it all into the first week of each month. I was always just excited to get to it, but it would be even easier to get to if it was spread around through every week of the month. Or, if my system isn't right for you, sit down and figure out one that is. The important thing is figuring out a schedule that works perfectly with YOUR life, then the housework isn't so much of a chore.

So there it is; that's my secret. And now it can be yours too. :)

25 February 2011

A facelift for my recipe box

I like to store stuff in style. Even my recipes. For a long time I've kept all of my recipe cards in a photo box. It's a terrific way to organize recipes because the box comes with dividers so it makes it easy to categorize them. Plus it can fit a TON of recipe cards. 
My box started out red. I was tired of the color and wanted to give it an update. I found a website called Old Cookbooks that has just that- old cookbooks. And they have prices to fit any budget. I found cookbooks that were priced for only a few dollars, and others that were several hundred. I found a cute cookbook from the 1940's with all kinds of cookie recipes for only $8.00. I used the cover and a few pages for a different project, but most of the pages went towards covering my recipe box. I cut out recipes and used pretty much the same technique that I used to make that tree picture a few weeks ago.  I layered the recipes randomly around the box, letting the text go sideways, backwards, upside-down, etc. I used Mod Podge to glue everything down, then went back over the whole thing again with the Mod Podge once everything was in place. (Can you tell yet that I love Mod Podge?!)

Here it is finished. Oh so cute.

24 February 2011

Easy photo display using Mod Podge

{Sorry about the awful glare; these are hung directly across from a window}

I actually made these a couple years ago and I didn't make them with a blog in mind so I have no pictures of the process....but it's pretty simple so it really doesn't need much explanation.
I wanted to display a bunch of pictures without having to buy a ton of frames, or use a huge amount of wall space. So instead of framing them I put them all on big canvases. I decided to do three because I thought multiple ones hung together would look nice. I also wanted to theme each one: One has pictures from when my husband and I were dating and our first year of marriage, one has baby pictures of our oldest son, and one has our childhood photos and pictures from both sides of our family.
I printed all of the pictures out in sepia tone because I thought that that many colored photos together would look overwhelming and I didn't want the wall they were on to end up looking cluttered.
The most time consuming part obviously, was figuring out how to arrange the pictures on the canvases. I didn't want to cut any of the pictures to make them fit around each other because I didn't want any uneven edges if my cutting wasn't the best. So I just layered them overlapping and made sure that all of the important parts of the pictures (like faces) were showing. Then with everything still in place I took my Mod Podge and a 2in paintbrush and started gluing the pictures down. That part took a while too because I didn't want to mess up my picture arrangement so I was careful to only move the pictures that I was working on gluing down. Sometimes I had to be a little strategic with my gluing depending on how my pictures were layered. Once I had all the pictures glued down I went back over the whole thing with the Mod Podge so that my photos would be fingerprint-proof and easy to clean.

And that's it! Super Easy.

Want more ideas on art you can make using a canvas and Mod Podge? Check out this site and click on the label "Canvas/Wall Art". The things this woman can do with Mod Podge will blow your mind. 

23 February 2011

I'm dreaming of....

...painted brick walls. They are everywhere (except at my house, unfortunately). I think the texture that they give a room is just delicious.

Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen

This next room gives me heart palpitations...
The bricks, the beams, the wooden floor....I'm ready to move in!

Looking at all these photos got me wondering how difficult it would be to create a wall like this if you aren't lucky enough to live in a house that already has exposed brick.  I found a site with good instructions on how to cover a wall with brick; and it actually doesn't look too bad. I was picturing getting out the mortar and building a wall with full-size bricks, but there actually are bricks that are cut thin for interior use. If you don't want to tackle that kind of a project, however, there are several faux options like
creating a brick wall using spackle or interior brick paneling made of plastic, but I think that if you're going to be doing all that work anyway, just go for the real deal!
I don't know about any of you, but I am most definitely filing this idea away for (my husband's) later use.   

22 February 2011

A decorating dilemma

Does anyone else have an unusual item that you feel a compulsion to use in your home, even though you have no idea what the heck to do with it?? This was mine:

It's a rope I found when we were moving into this house a few months ago; I thought it was so cool. The problem was, I wasn't sure what to do with it. While I do have some rustic looking decor, the over-all theme of my house is not rustic, and I was worried that a rope sitting out would look too western. For lack of a better idea, I stuck it up on this shelf with the plant and there it sat.

 Staring at me. Taunting me. Driving me crazy. 

I didn't know exactly what I hated about this look, but I just knew that it was so wrong. 
But I left it there for MONTHS because I knew that if I packed it away I would never bother to figure out how to use it. So I left it there and let it torment me.
After almost 5 months of sleepless nights spent tossing and turning over where I could put this,
{okay, it wasn't that bad!}
I finally, suddenly came up with the solution. It just popped into my head the other night. 

It's so simple; I can't believe it took me this long to think of it! I ran out today and bought a jar because I didn't have any that would fit the rope. When I got my jar home and put the rope inside I loved the way they looked together but not on the shelf. The balance was off.

The shelf below it had been bugging me too because with the dark wood plate and the black picture frames I felt like it looked too heavy. 
So I switched the plate to the shelf that I'd just cleared and I put my new jar with the rope onto the shelf with the pictures and voila! 
I love it!

If you've been dealing with a decorating dilemma, don't give up! Go take another look at that tricky item and get creative to find a place for it. Maybe my solution will work for you- try sticking it in a jar! Almost everything looks pretty behind glass.
Anyway, glad my problem's solved. I will rest easy tonight. :)

20 February 2011

West Elm wall art- copied!

A few weeks ago I was in West Elm and noticed this:

It's a picture of a tree made from cut-up pages from a book.
I was so excited when I saw this because I love this look and I knew this would be a cinch to duplicate. I snapped this picture with my phone and a few days later I got to work:

I bought a canvas at Michaels in the size that I wanted and then painted it grey.
Then using the picture on my phone as a guide, I drew the outline of a tree onto the canvas once my paint was dry.  You actually could skip this step and go straight to cutting your paper and gluing it down, but I wanted to try to make my picture look as close to the one at West Elm as possible.  

Here are all my supplies:
  •  -(painted) canvas
  • -scissors
  • -a book that I didn't mind ripping pages out of 
  • -Mod Podge & a brush to apply it

Obviously for the outsides of the tree I had to cut the paper into rounded shapes, but for the pieces I filled the center of the tree with, I used rectangle-shaped pieces. I tried not to make it look too "planned"; none of the pieces of paper I cut were the same size and I made sure to vary the way the text was laid out- right-side up, upside-down, sideways, diagonal...
I glued everything down using Mod Podge and then went back over the whole canvas with the Mod Podge once I had the tree done. 

Here it is finished! My tree looks a little fatter, but over all I think they're pretty close!                                                                                                                                      

Some tips:
For this one I just used pages from one book, but it would look even cooler if you used pages from different books so you'd have varied text size and font and different shades of paper. 
Also if you have the wall space for it, making two of these and hanging them together, or even four and arranging them in a square, would really look cool. Just make them all similar but different, like two small trees and two big. Or, don't make trees at all; make flowers, birds, eggs...whatever! I think it would be almost impossible to make a picture like this of ANYTHING and have it not look cool. 

So go ahead- make yourself some awesome art!


18 February 2011

I love Poufs!

I'm not talking about this version, although I was very excited to get her hair to do this!
I'm talking about floor pillows.

If you're looking to add extra seating to a room, but don't want something that's going to take up a lot of space, a pouf (or two!) is a great option. I love them because they instantly make an area look more cozy and as you can see from some of these pictures, they can seriously up the style factor in a room. They are super cute all by themselves, or as a little group with two or more stacked on top of each other. 
I just want to plop down on all of these.

How fun are these?! They would be great for a playroom or kid's rooms.

17 February 2011

What I'm lusting after: library ladders

Perhaps it all started when I was a kid watching "Beauty and the Beast" and saw Belle slide across an entire wall of books while standing on a library ladder.  Or maybe it's because in my mind, someone who has one of these seems super smart- not only do they have so many books that they have to have a ladder to reach them, but the fact that they've provided themselves a way to get to the books means they're actually going to read them.  What ever the reason, I think these things look super cool.


Yes, I would do this. No, I wouldn't worry about the kids falling off. I'd cover the floor with carpeting and hope for the best. Maybe it'd help improve their balance and they'd all grow up to be acrobats. 
Pottery Barn Kids

Modern Stainless Ladders

Never ever, in all of my wildest library ladder fantasies, did I ever imagine this:

This picture really shows how brilliant this is; look at all those cabinets!! Do you know how much crap I could store up there?! I am so having a ladder in my kitchen someday.
Francoise Bollack Architects

Francoise Bollack Architects

And look at this one from Design Sponge: She put hers in the bathroom, so she's able to make the room function as a bathroom and a closet. So smart, and it looks amazing.
Design Sponge

Would it be too much if I had a ladder in my living room, kitchen, AND bathroom??

Hi, I'm the new girl

I think I'm probably the billionth person to start a decorating blog. That and the fact that I do not have a degree in interior design (although I plan to some day!) makes me wonder why I am even starting this blog.  But, in a lot of ways, this is a favor to my husband. You see, I have a little bit of a thing for decorating. I would call it a passion. My husband would probably call it an obsession. I think about home designs ALL THE TIME. While I wash dishes, I dream about the kind of kitchen I would love to have; while I'm changing diapers, I'm imagining dreamy nurseries; and while I'm vacuuming, I'm thinking about flooring. As a result of this, by the end of the day I feel like I'm bursting at the seams with ideas that I can't wait to share. So when the hubby gets home from a long day at work, I instantly start gushing about every fabulous thing that I saw/read/imagined that day, but only a few minutes into my chatter I see his eyes start to glaze over. Throw in words like "vignette" or "damask" and I know that I have completely lost him.
That's where this blog will come to both our rescues.  I will have a place to share my obsession passion with people who actually care, and my husband and I can have more conversations that don't start with "Oh my gosh, picture this....!"
So thanks for coming; hope you like!