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DIY: abacus for the nursery

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Remember my post about the ideas and inspiration that I have been collecting for the nursery? Well, I’m still totally obsessed with Sherry Hart’s nursery design over at Design Indulgence and one of the things I love so much about the room is the abacus hanging over the dresser.

courtesy of http://designindulgence.blogspot.com

It’s from CB2 but at $150 it’s more than I would be willing to spend, so I decided to keep looking. I stumbled upon a tutorial over at Anything Pretty and rejoiced in the fact that the internet is a crafty girl’s best friend! This blogger is my kind of crafty chick. She’s creative, resourceful and determined to try to make something before just whipping out her credit card. I’d like to think we could easily be friends.

We tweaked the design a little bit, but pretty much followed her lead. This was another project that Eric made all his own. We all know my woodworking limitations, but since I was also forbidden from being around paint, he really stepped in and took over the entire thing. We did tackle the final assembly together which was a lot of fun.

Here are some shots that I took along the way.

I ordered 100 wooden beads from a wholesale wood crafts website and they were primed using spray primer and painted using high-gloss spray paint.

Eric built a simple frame and I bought some wooden dowels from our local craft store. 

After a couple of coats of flat white paint, it was ready for assembly.  Using wall anchors and simple hardware, we  hung the bad boy on the wall. Ta-da!!

You know what? It just might be my favorite item in the entire nursery. It came out so well, better than either of us expected…and serves as proof that I absolutely married my industrious-natured, DIY-loving soul mate.

We’re having a big party this weekend to celebrate our little one’s impending arrival. I have a few more small things to do to make the nursery complete. I’ll post the big reveal next week!

DIY: little birds for our little one

Monday, March 19th, 2012

If this post had a theme song, it would be The Birds, by Elbow

Oh, how I love Elbow! We saw them in Atlanta over the summer and it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Come to think of it, it was Tiny’s first concert. Neat!

Anyway…

I first spotted handmade bird mobiles a while ago; long before I was even pregnant. You can find an array of them on Etsy and there are several tutorials and patterns online if you’re inclined to make one for yourself. (here’s the pattern I used) So, I certainly can’t take credit for the original idea. I was mostly driven by my refusal to pay for anything if I am (somewhat) confident I can make it. And at the end of the day, what did I have to lose in trying…a little bit of fabric and a little bit of my time. Totally worth giving it a shot, right?

To my surprise, this project turned out to be fun, fast and easy! My mother-in-law came to visit us for a night and even got to help with some of the sewing. I’m glad she got to be involved.

Here’s how we did it:

I used some fabric that I had on hand,and also bought a few fat quarters from our local fabric shop.

I cut the bird bodies according to the pattern.

I pinned contrasting fabrics together allowing for a 1/4 inch seam.

I stitched the little guys up, turned them right side out, and stuffed them with pillow filler.

I collected sticks from the backyard.

Using my hot glue gun, I attached the birds to the sticks.

Using circle screws and fishing line, we connected them.

We hung them from the ceiling, centered over the crib. Ta-da!

With only a few more projects on our to-do list, the nursery is really coming along. I can’t wait to show everyone the finished product. Stay tuned for a big reveal!

Supporting the handmade movement.

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Hey y’all, I need to brag on somebody for a minute…

When we bought the house last spring, we immediately started the hunt for a new dining room table. We knew what we were looking for; a long farm table with benches…something rustic and unique. We had a lot of space to fill and had specific dimensions that guided our search. You’d be amazed how many “rustic farm tables” are on the market these days. We searched all of the big box retailers and while we thought they were mostly just okay, we weren’t in love with any of them and we certainly didn’t love the prices. We toyed with the idea of building one ourselves, but had plenty of other projects at the time and I knew it would take months to accomplish the goal. So, I turned to Craig’s List. I didn’t expect to find the actual table, but perhaps someone who had ideas on where to shop.

Somehow I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a post made by Clay Adams with Rustic Trades Furniture. The ad had a few photos of Clay’s previous work and I fell in love with a table he had built for himself. We called him and he invited us to his studio to take a look at some of his inventory. We took a drive to his studio the very next weekend and I immediately knew this was the guy we had been looking for.

Working out of a small studio in his home, he makes the most incredible pieces of furniture. From dining room sets, to nursery furniture, to bedroom sets, he meticulously builds every piece and his workmanship is beyond impressive. He told us the story of how he came to be such a craftsman: he and his wife had been on a search similar to ours; looking for the perfect dining room table for their new house. After finding one at a big name retailer that they thought would do the job, he took a peek underneath…and saw particle board. He asked himself, how could a table with such a big price tag not even be made from solid wood? In an instant he was determined to make one himself. And just like that a new passion was born.

Not only were we able to tell him the specific dimensions that we needed, we also got to specify the shade of stain we wanted. We also encouraged him to really beat the thing up while he was building it because we wanted it to have some character. Unbelievably, in less than two weeks we were making the drive back to his studio to pick up the finished product. I’m not embarrassed to say that upon seeing it, I totally gave him a hug. It is PERFECT. It’s exactly what we wanted and has become our favorite piece in the house. It’s the focal point in the room and we still get compliments when friends come to visit.

Here are some photos of the table. I’m so in love with it!

Often times, the convenience of ordering from a catalogue or shopping at the mall wins out over taking the time to invest in a handmade piece of furniture. But, I wouldn’t trade our experience for anything. It may have taken us several weeks to find what we were looking for, but we ended  up with a custom-made dining set and still managed to save big over mall prices.

Rustic Trades Furniture is located just north of Atlanta, but they offer shipping (at incredibly reasonable prices) from coast to coast. If you want a truly unique piece of furniture for your home, you gotta give Clay a call. Here’s his info:

Clay Adams
(678) 800-1679
Rustictrades@gmail.com
www.RusticTrades.com

It’s more than a pledge….it’s a movement. Join us. Buy handmade!
www.buyhandmade.org

DIY: diffusing a crib crisis

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

As I mentioned before, along the road to designing the nursery, we had some struggles with the crib. This was mostly because we just don’t like them…Eric especially; he says they look like little cages. And he’s right. But it’s not like we have much of an alternative, so I dedicated myself to researching every single crib on the market and each week, we sat down and reviewed my findings. Most were tossed out the window pretty quickly. However, there were a few styles that we liked:

DwellStudio Silver Lake Crib

Moderne Crib from Netto Collection

BabyLetto Mercer Crib

On each of these, we loved the little shelf or drawer that offered some extra storage, but they were all out of our price range and we quickly found ourselves running out of options. Then Eric had a pretty inspired (and adventurous) idea…why not buy an inexpensive crib and turn it into something we both love? I’ll admit that I was pretty hesitant at first. Not that I don’t trust his carpentry skills…I’m just fully aware of my own (or total lack thereof).

Then again, it’s not like I was certain that we couldn’t do it…and in the time it took me to have an internal dialogue about the idea, Eric had already started sketching designs. So, the mission was underway!

We bought a crib from Ikea for $100 and with Eric’s designs in hand; we went to the hardware store and loaded up on lumber. This is the part of the story when the spotlight is shifted entirely to my amazingly industrious and talented husband. Other than a bit of sanding on my part, this quickly turned into his project. And he NAILED it. He removed the legs of the crib and built a drawer to form a new base. The end result? The most awesome crib, ever!

Our very own custom crib!

I mean, really. How awesome is this?

I love how simple it is. The drawer offers a perfect spot to store extra sheets and blankets. The grey detail fits perfectly with the color scheme of the room. He even maintained the functionality of the original design so one side can still be removed to create a kid’s bed. He’s my handyman hero!

Now that the crib is complete I can focus on a few smaller projects that will really turn the room into a nursery. Stay tuned!

DIY: bathmat made from wine corks

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

A couple of years ago, I bought a fancy teak mat to go in our master bathroom. I had heard that teak was a very durable type of wood and I really liked the way it gave the bathroom a warm, natural look. We were happy with it for about a year. I started to notice that overtime, the finish of the wood was flaking off and the entire mat was warping.  Eventually, it got so wobbly that when stepping on it while entering or exiting the shower, you had to really be careful not to lose your balance. Not an ideal situation for a klutz like me.

So I started looking for something new.  I really wanted to find something with texture or in a natural material, but something softer than wood. I found some cork bathmats online and while I loved the way they looked, I really didn’t want to spend $50 on another bathmat.

Then I stumbled upon a few creative bloggers who made their own bathmats using old wine corks. Genius!  

Courtesy of www.freshhomeideas.com

Courtesy of www.craftynest.com

I really liked the look of the second one, with the corks on their sides to show the vineyard. So I decided to give it a shot.

It helped that I happened to have a HUGE supply of wine corks on hand.

Now, hang on…before you start scheduling an intervention…let me reassure you that I’ve been collecting these corks for years. Promise.

I grabbed a pocket knife, my hot glue gun and some leftover shelf liner that I had measured and cut to the right size. Thinking this would be a quick afternoon project, I settled in on a Saturday and got to work. I quickly realized that cutting the corks was a bigger task that I expected…and a real pain. I could only cut a few at a time before my hands were sore and my knife was dull.

This is where Eric intervened and saved the day. Seeing me struggle (and hearing me complain, no doubt) he grabbed some scrap wood from the work shed and built a little wedge that I could use to hold the corks while I cut them. What a difference it made! I still had to sharpen my knife every so often, but I was actually making progress.

With all the corks cut, I outlined the perimeter of the shelf lining and then worked my way in, rearranging them here and there so they’d all fit. Then I broke out the hot glue gun and glued them all together.

Once I got into a rhythm, it went pretty quickly.

I absolutely LOVE the finished product!

The corks and the liner are absorbent, so I don’t have to worry about water collecting underneath. It’s actually very comfortable to stand on and the liner helps to keep it stuck to the bathroom floor, so it’s nice and stable. Since I’m quickly losing sight of my feet, I really appreciate that!

Nursery Obsessions

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Okay, I can’t exactly say I’ve been obsessed, not like I was with the wedding preparations, but I will say it’s been really fun browsing design blogs and collecting ideas for Tiny’s room. For the record, I am SO totally addicted to Pinterest.

We knew we wanted to be as gender-neutral as possible, even before finding out whether we were having a boy or a girl. We also knew we wanted to keep the nursery aligned with the overall look of the house, so a minimal and modern look was the ultimate goal. Otherwise, I had no clue as to what kind of look I even liked. I started finding some really cute nurseries in grey/yellow and grey/orange themes and we quickly decided to go with a combination of the two. Here are some of the ideas that have been influential.

I love the random assortment of artwork on the walls:

courtesy of http://house36.wordpress.com

 I love the rug and the way the orange stands out against the white and grey:

courtesy of http://biesinger.blogspot.com

The white and pale yellow go really well together…and the framed elephant is just so sweet:

courtesy of http://taliaaudenart.blogspot.com

 This mobile is similar to one I’m working on…and I love the little stuffed owl:

courtesy of http://charmhome.blogspot.com

 I just LOVE everything about this one:

courtesy of http://designindulgence.blogspot.com

Of course, I have quite a few projects that I’m working on for Tiny’s room. I’ll have a separate post entirely for the crib. That has been the item we struggled with the most. But, I’m really excited about the direction we’re going and being able to see it come together has been really fun.

More updates to come!

~e.Claire

I’m baaaaaaack!

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Ahem….testing, testing….is this thing still on…?

I actually find it amusing to look back and see when I posted my last entry.  It was right around the time that I decided to ante up on one of last year’s New Year’s resolutions and advance my career by studying for a professional designation.  Yep, there is a certification for corporate event planners. I had heard it was going to be a real challenge. What I didn’t expect was that it would be a 4 month process of reading (4 textbooks!), countless practice exams and weekly meetings with a study group. It took up ALL of my time…my evenings, my weekends. All of it. There was hardly any time to indulge in anything creative and fun…and I’ve been missing it, big time.

So, while I wait the agonizing 6 weeks to get my test results, it’s time to start chipping away at the little to-do list that I maintained along the way. (aptly named, I think)

Oh, and since we’re expecting (!!!!) a baby boy in May, I have a lot of projects to keep me busy! I forced myself to wait to start on the nursery until I was done with the big exam, so I’ve been bursting at the seams with ideas and I can’t wait to make them all a reality…and with only about 3 months to go till the little one gets here, I’m going to be busy! Couldn’t be any happier, though.

For anyone who’s actually reading this, thank you for sticking with me. I’ll happily post updates as I tackle my (ever-growing) to-do list!

~e.Claire

Upholstery class #3

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I’ve fallen behind again. How does that happen so quickly? Life just gets in the way sometimes. We’ll be skipping this week’s upholstery class due to some travel for the long holiday weekend. Last class was fun, though.

I got to break out some heavy duty tools! Frederick let me use his staple gun; but this isn’t your run-of-the-mill staple gun that you might keep in your toolbox. This thing is what the pros use. It’s connected to an air compressor and I was a little intimidated at first. But, I learned quickly, didn’t staple myself to anything, and my chair seat is complete! Woo Hoo!

The florescent lighting in the classroom makes the colors much brighter than they truly are…I thought about retaking some shots, but I figure I’ll just let y’all wait until I can show off the finished product.

I want one of these. Big time.

Showing it who's boss...

Tackling the corners. Sorry it's blurry...action shot!

It's not nearly as neon in real life, promise.

Hope everyone has a safe and festive holiday weekend. More to come next week!

Upholstery class #2

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Well, our second upholstery class was a big success. I stripped all the old fabric from the pieces of my chair and finally decided on a new fabric. Choosing fabric is always such a challenge for me….there are just too many possibilities. I’m really happy with my selection. It’s patterned without being too busy and it has a good mix of deep and bright colors. I really think it will allow the chair to compliment any room in the house. In fact, I bought a little extra fabric because I’m going to make some throw pillows for our sofa…more on that later. 

Frederick gave us a big lesson on how to measure and plan for the fabric purchase. Depending on the shape of the piece, or where you want the pattern to sit, or how you want patterns to line up, you’ve got to cut accordingly. While it’s generally best to have a little more than you need, you also don’t want to waste fabric (or money).  Honestly, I was surprised to learn how technical the planning and purchasing part of the process is,  

So…

Old fabric stripped?

chair parts

removing all the staples

ready to be rid of that nasty old fabric

naked chair parts

 Check!

New fabric measured, purchased and cut?

measuring

ready to cut...and a sneak preview of the new fabric

 Check!

All the while, Kathy was tackling the staples on her monstrous wingback. I decided to make it a team effort so she could move on to the next steps. While staple pulling is a great stress reliever, it can get a bit mundane. However, I will say that I am discovering one of the things that I really enjoy about the reupholstery process is the labor-intensive aspect of all of it. You really have to work to deconstruct a piece of furniture.  This is truly a craft.

Kathy building some serious muscle

showing no mercy

Side note: It is both fascinating and totally gross the things you find when you take apart an old armchair… in addition to all sorts of random lint and dust; we also found what appeared to be a fossilized cookie. This prompted Kathy to ask Frederick, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found while taking furniture apart?” His response, “a pair of men’s underwear…” Ew. 

We’ll be back in class on Sunday and I’m really eager to get guided through the next steps. Will keep you posted for sure!

Upholstery class #1

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

So, construction on the art studio is well under way and I can barely contain my excitement. I really underestimated the scale of this project…it’s a BIG job. I’ve decided to wait to post photos until I can reveal it completed in all it’s glory. Already, though…it is totally rad.

As I eagerly await its completion, I am busting at the seams with inspiration. There are so many projects that I can’t wait to begin. Case in point, my good friend, Kathy, and I have talked about taking an upholstery class for a long time. We are both such salvage artists that any time we drive by a piece of furniture tossed to the curb it’s all we can do to not stop and rescue it.  (That’s not to say that we haven’t rescued a few things over the years…and thank goodness for her garage.) Now it’s time to actually learn how to turn that trash into treasure!

Initially, I had a hard time finding a formal class or even someone willing to teach us, but we finally found an instructor who taught lessons at a local Joanne Fabrics, so we signed up. Over the weekend, we scoured thrift stores and Craig’s List for a few chairs in need of a makeover.

I chose a small chair that I think would work well in the studio…and Kathy chose a monstrosity of a wingback!

Clearly, Kathy is an overachiever...

On Sunday, we loaded up our soon-to-be-fabulous chairs and went to our first class. Our instructor, Frederick, is a true upholstery craftsman. He’s built a family business around upholstery and along with taking individual clients also does work for local restaurants, hotels, and offices. He teaches on the side as a way to keep the appreciation for the trade alive.

Needless to say, we’re in good hands.

He started the lesson by going over everything (and I mean everything) we needed to know about upholstery; supplies, tools, fabrics, glues, what we needed and where to buy it. Then, we got started on the initial step in the reupholstery process: deconstruction. You’ve got to destroy the old to create the new, right? I really enjoyed learning how my chair had been assembled and learning the proper technique to take it apart.

Here are some images from Sunday.

starting the 'creative destruction' process

the seat was a snap

Frederick showing me how to manhandle the back section

I got it!

disassembled and ready to be remade

So, she’s disassembled and ready for a makeover. I’ve already started shopping for new fabric and I have a few ideas on how to update her arm rests. Will keep you posted, for sure.

The class runs for 5 weeks. I already can’t wait to go back….and it’s going to be REAL hard to not scoop up every-single-thing I see tossed to the curb between now and Sunday.