Friday, December 20, 2013

I Choo-Choose You

Time for a quick holiday decorating update. I had to post a new picture with our updated card display, just to prove we have more than 2 people who love us. lol Here's how it was looking yesterday (and I've since added another card up there!) Yay for holiday love!
I also added a few more Christmas decorations, thanks to a random trip to Michaels for the sink skirt project (I'm finishing that up today and will definitely post pictures once I get it installed in the office bathroom at work!)

Michaels was having a 70% sale for all their holiday d├ęcor. Um ... score. I restocked my holiday ribbon supply, picked up six cute faux wreaths for less than $12, and found two new friends to holiday up our dining room table (for $5 each, marked down from $17).
Next year, I might hang the six wreaths outside on the windows like they did here, but for an easy addition to my holiday decorations for the last week before Christmas, I hung them on the inside of the two dining room windows.

It was super easy because of the roman shades. I simply slipped the ribbon through that tiny gap and knotted the end that's behind the shade. The knot is thick enough that it can't slip through the gap, so there's no nails are anything too tricky. Then I just tied the other end around the wreath and added a pretty bow. So simple and with the clearance sale, less than $5 to jazz up both windows.
I'm kind of digging this grey and green holiday theme my dining room is sporting. Totally by accident, but cute nonetheless.
Now for the title of this post. Did you happen to notice a little choo-choo train in the first picture? That little guy is more than just a holiday decoration. He's a present for our nephew, Jackson.

(WARNING: Mike and Erin, if you're reading this, don't let Jackson see until after Christmas! haha)

We actually bought the wooden train set of eight cars at our Regional Farmer's Market back in October. There's a guy who makes all sorts of fun wooden toys, and we can't resist the look and feel of real wooden toys (kinda nice to get away from all the plastic stuff once in a while).
To finish the train, I threw down a drop cloth, pulled out my brushes, and gathered up some fun colors of paint samples and house colors I already had on hand. Then I put a movie on and got painting.
I tried to use a mix of colors that I thought Jackson would like and that looked "train-ish" to me. Very scientific process here. Then I just played around and figured out what I wanted it to look like as I went along.
I added in the black details with a Sharpie marker for better precision.

I also love the interactive elements of the train, like the little crayon holder that we filled with crayons, the bucket car that's now holding candy canes, the log car that holds some unpainted "logs" (see above), and the crane car that has a moving crane and hook (see two above).
So hopefully our train-loving nephew will enjoy this personalized train set both as a toy and maybe as a decoration later on down the line. Although I'm going to miss having it as a holiday decoration in my house! lol

And speaking of holiday decorations, Chris and I recently visited the Lights on the Lake at Onondaga Lake Park. It's two miles of Christmas lights with all sorts of different themes. So much fun I just had to post a couple pics of our tour.

The only thing left on my Christmas To Do list is making some cookies to bring to Christmas Eve at Chris's dad's house. There may be pictures soon. :-)
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's a Wrap

If you're like me, the two best parts of gift giving are wrapping the presents and watching friends and family open them. I do all my wrapping spread out over a few weeks so I don't feel rushed to get them done. That way, I can spend time getting each and every one to look pretty and Christmas-y.

Here's a few pics of my wrapped gifts for this year. Hopefully this gives some inspiration for fun ways to wrap your gifts.

Last year I attached green jingle bells to all my presents. This was the year of big bows and handmade tags.

For the tags, I bought a couple packs of labels, but rather than attaching them right to the present, I attached them to other papers and tags, hole punched the whole thing, and then attached that to the present. It just adds a little something extra to the package PLUS then you keep the boxes and bags pretty so they can be reused next year. :-)
My favorite ribbon this year was this wired plaid Christmas ribbon. It looked great on the Grinch Hallmark paper Chris and I picked up. I just tie a simple bow and fold the ends of the ribbon under so the recipient doesn't get poked. Super simple and what an impact!
Chris and I both have dads with December birthdays, so it's important to wrap their birthday presents in non-Christmasy paper. But it's fun to still make them look cheery.
Another look is to tie in a piece of your Christmas tree, right under the bow. How cute, right?
I also had fun with baker's twine this year. Lots of presents got ride and white string bows. The paper tree I made myself as trim for the present (which can also be hung on the tree as an ornament). I got my (p)inspiration here.
I love the bold red and white striped paper. The owl gift tag I made from cutting up my 2013 Paper Source calendar. (The link goes to the 2014 calendar).

That cute red star I purchased in a 6-pack from Target and it's called gift trim. The pretty box that I tied with the red ribbon is from Hobby Lobby.
And don't forget to purchase some "plain" wrapping paper. With the right trim, it can have even more of an impact than the patterned paper.

I bought this reversible red/green paper at Walmart. Just one roll to create all these looks. It could be super cute to do all your presents under the tree in just red and green.
Last year, my mom taught me the art of the gift basket. The key is the cellophane -- it holds everything in place. Also, she taught me to stuff the bottom of the basket with tissue paper, so the goodies are all visible above the rim of the basket. Tie it all off with a big wired ribbon and you have yourself a gorgeous gift basket.
Anyone else obsessed with wrapping presents? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Here's a few other wrapping ideas that I love:
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Office Bathroom Redesign: Part 2

Remember how I had been hired to make over the bathroom in the office where I work? And how this was what I had to start with?
In my last post, I shared the plan for the bathroom redesign, as well as the first step in the process:
  • Remove wallpaper and vinyl baseboards
  • Prime and paint walls in a cool grey shade
  • Paint trim glossy white
  • Install white baseboards
  • Hang a new, prettier mirror above the sink
  • Install toilet paper holder and paper towel holder
  • Replace outlet and light switch covers
  • Create a sink skirt to cover the electric water heater under the sink
  • Hang pretty artwork
That brings us here.
I was excited to get some paint on the walls, I painted a few swatches to get us started. These were all colors I had on hand, because my boss, JoAnne, knew she wanted grey but not what shade. Turns out the lighting in the bathroom is pretty wild, because it really made the undertones stand out in each swatch. The top color was Pale Smoke by Benjamin Moore, but it looked like baby blue on the walls. The middle color, Benjamin Moore's Moonshine, (my hallway and bathroom color), looked almost green in there. It photographed grey instead of green, but I swear it looked green in person. The bottom color was my dining room color, which we could see was obviously too dark (Colonial Woodlawn Grey by Valspar).
So without any obvious winners, I brought in my color chip book and we pocked out a few more colors. Benjamin Moore's Sterling was the greenish color in the "west" position of the paint swatch compass on the right wall (again, looked grey on the chip) and Behr's Sterling in the "east" position.

Funny how quickly you can go from testing a "couple colors" to 50 shades of grey ...
So when it came time for me to primer, we still didn't have an obvious winner. I ended up primering everything except the smaller test area of colors so JoAnne would have a little longer to think about it. And then of course, she said she liked the color of the tinted primer. hahaha
You can see in the picture below where I painted over the paint swatches. The primer dried much quicker in those spots than on the vinegar-saturated walls.
Anyway, we ended up picking the color that I already had a gallon of from a leftover project. It was Benjamin Moore's Moonshine. I started out just painting a little corner ... and immediately hated it. I then took the worst picture ever to document it. It's hard to tell from the blur below, but the color just read way too green and pretty dingy. Not at all the look we wanted.

So I stopped painting and gathered the ladies into the bathroom to give their opinions. And we were agreed: it was all wrong.
I think we had all started to like to color of the tinted primer, which read a bit more purple/grey in there. Thus, we ended up picking the shade closest to the primer, only a bit lighter: Behr's Sterling.

And just like that, we were finally making progress. It's a really cool grey, with a subtle lavender tone to it. It doesn't really relate to that weird brown floor, but what can ya do? I wasn't about to replace that stuff!

I also hung the new mirror JoAnne brought in, which is a big improvement.
The wall color is a really nice shade though, and it looks especially nice against the new bright white trim and light switch covers.
Much better than before, right?
Next on the ole to do list was installing the baseboard. I did this using only a hand saw, a miter box, a hammer and finishing nails. Rocking it old school. No power tools necessary.

I bought the fabricated, pre-primed stuff since it's easier to cut than wood and it's already the color I wanted. Yay shortcuts!
The toughest part was finding the pre-primed, fabricated molding that was tall enough to cover the craggy wall where I tore out the old vinyl baseboards. They left behind a lot of glue and ripped up the drywall along the bottom four inches.

The problem was the trim was only 3-1/4" tall. So rather than line the baseboards up so they're touching the floor, I nailed them in 3/4" above the floor. Then I used the quarter round (which is 3/4" tall), to cover that little gap. It made the whole baseboard molding look a little more stately, and then I didn't have to bother correcting the craggy wall.

Here's some pictures before I caulked. You can see that I didn't line up my cuts 100% perfect, but pretty close. This usually works out just fine once you line it all with caulk to smooth out the seams.
Around the sink needed caulking too...
And here's a picture after caulking. (I went back around the trim with the wall paint after this picture, so that light white "haze" above the trim is no longer there).
And check out that caulked corner. Seamless.
This corner behind the toilet was a little trickier. Since I didn't know what's in that little bump out, I didn't want to nail into it (in case it was a vent or pipe). So I had to use wood glue to secure the pieces.
Normally that wouldn't be too difficult, but since I had to secure the larger back piece 3/4" above the floor, getting the glue to set up without the pieces slipping down was tricky. My solution? Rolled up paper towels. I rested the molding on the paper towels and then pushed the quarter round up against it, with just glue holding everything in place. After about 20 minutes, I went back in and caulked, which helped keep things together too.

This probably wouldn't be a good solution for a high-traffic area, but since this corner is behind the toilet, I knew it wouldn't get bumped or kicked often.

So now my to do list looks like this:
  • Remove wallpaper and vinyl baseboards
  • Prime and paint walls in a cool grey shade
  • Paint trim glossy white
  • Install white baseboards
  • Hang a new, prettier mirror above the sink
  • Install toilet paper holder and paper towel holder
  • Replace outlet and light switch covers
  • Create a sink skirt to cover the electric water heater under the sink
  • Hang pretty artwork
In the thrilling conclusion of this bathroom makeover trilogy, I'll have the big reveal. Stay tuned.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Office Bathroom Redesign: Part 1

Want to see a really ugly, outdated, and frankly pretty gross bathroom?
Want to see it five days a week for years on end?
This is the lovely bathroom that my poor coworkers have had to deal with for years. They lease the office, and apparently the landlord thought this bathroom was "good enough." But when a slow period at work came up, we decided that "good enough" just wasn't cutting it anymore. So my employers hired me to give this space a major overhaul.
And I. Was. Thrilled.
Not that I loved the thought of climbing around on the floor of any bathroom, especially one that wasn't mine, but I was excited to take on such a great challenge. And not only did I not have to pay for materials like I do with my own home design projects, but I also got paid to do it! Can I get a "woo hooo"?

Plus, not having to look at that hideous grey stain on the wall above the toilet is payment enough (it's just from burning candles on the back of the tank, but still...)
So here's the plan for this little bathroom:
  • Remove wallpaper and vinyl baseboards
  • Prime and paint walls in a cool grey shade
  • Paint trim glossy white
  • Install white baseboards
  • Hang a new, prettier mirror above the sink
  • Install toilet paper holder and paper towel holder
  • Replace outlet and light switch covers
  • Create a sink skirt to cover the electric water heater under the sink
  • Hang pretty artwork
Let's dive right in, shall we? I have to say, if it wasn't such a hideous shade, I would be impressed at how well the previous occupant was able to match up the color of the wallpaper and the painted trim. Although the beige light switch cover, dark brown vinyl baseboards and vinyl tile don't really go with anything. So.
Anyway. Step one was getting rid of the wallpaper. And on my very first section, I thought my interior design/handyman/contractor career was going to end before it began. Because this happened.
Yep. I made the tragic mistake of trying to just rip the old vinyl baseboards off the wall. I was planning to put in new baseboards, so I figured it wouldn't matter what the wall behind them looked like. Except that the wall above it started tearing too. And that was only going to be painted, which would mean a jagged ugly mess. Eeep.

I looked it up later and the proper way to remove vinyl baseboard is to use a heat gun to melt the adhesive backing. No damage to the walls, although I'm not sure if it turns into a sticky mess on the floor or what ...

Not having access to a heat gun and wanting to get the show on the road, I instead scored the line at the top of the baseboards with a utility knife and then made sure to rip the baseboard off in a downward direction. This worked ok for the most part, but if I ever do that again, I definitely want to give the heat gun a try.

The rest of the wallpaper wasn't too bad. I used a portable clothes steamer and just worked my way around the room. For the most part the backing and the wallpaper stayed together pretty well, so I didn't get stuck making the unfortunate second pass to scrape away the backing.
Not to say that I lucked out completely. The problem was the glue used to hold the wallpaper onto the walls. I had heard that vinegar was an effective way to get excess glue off the walls, and it definitely got the glue moving, but basically, it just seemed to push the glue around on the wall. Once you put some paint up there, you could still see darker, craggy spots where the glue remained.

So I scrubbed and scrubbed and started feeling like I was in over my head again ... until inspiration hit. I used the vinegar to get the glue to liquefy, and then I followed it up by scraping the glue off with a paint scraper. After each pass I had to wipe the glue off the scraper, so it was long and tedious, but I was finally seeing progress.

But when I finally tried out a few test swatches of paint ... you could still see some glue. Sigh. So I agreed with the company owners that I should just slap on some primer and hope for the best.

And just like the vinegar, the primer (I used Kilz brand latex primer/sealer) activated the glue and made it all liquidy and slimy again. But the benefit was that the glue patches appeared darker once they were covered with tinted primer. I could now see which patches still had glue and which spots were clean. So then I went over the walls with primer, scraping the glue patches off and re-priming.

Tedious? Yes. Frustrating? A little. But this was my first pair design job and I was determined to do an amazing job for my lovely coworkers.

Here's a pic of the bathroom all naked (except for those baseboards, which I ripped out shortly after this shot).
After two coats of primer (the instructions on the can recommended two coats) I was ready to get some pretty paint on the walls. Or so I thought...

The saga of the office bathroom makeover will continue shortly.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Decorations 2013

With less than 2 weeks until Christmas, it's time I share some of the holiday decorations I've been putting up around the house. I love how cozy and sweet Christmas decorations can make any house feel.

The very first decoration I put up was this wreath that my mom made. She gave it to me while we were out visiting for Thanksgiving. It's so gorgeous and looks so great on our red front door.
Still gotta get rid of that extra set of house numbers on the siding ...
Last year I made a pretty red wreath to hang on our bright green front door. It looked fabulous, but obviously a red wreath on the newly painted red door wasn't going to work. So I'm super grateful to my mom for this gorgeous wreath.

And happily, I found a new home for the red wreath from last year. Our back door is still bright green, so it's a perfect fit.
As always, the outside of our house looks like the Vegas strip, only with more colors. haha Chris and I are not subtle people ...
And this guy is always so cute waiting at the mailbox for Christmas cards and packages to arrive.
Inside I managed to add a little bit of classiness to the house. This garland of white lights over the door is so pretty, and our traditional stockings are cute enough to hang on the wall without a mantel.
This year, I hung my Christmas banner my mom made in the window behind the Christmas tree, and it definitely adds some wow factor to the tree. Love it. And it ties in nicely with the garland on the tree that's made out of red wooden balls.
Another gift from my mom: this pretty garland that I hung along the stairs. I bought white ribbon from JoAnne's to secure it, and then added a few wooden Christmas figurines that my mom thought were creepy and was going to throw out. haha One woman's creepy is another woman's vintage.
Not so creepy ...
Ok, maybe a little creepy, but in a good way?
We also put out our Christmas card holder, which is rocking out with two whole cards. lol Maybe this is punishment for not sending out cards last year...
I also love swapping out the couch pillows for some cozy holiday ones. The plaid ones are fleece and sooo soft, and the grey one is a new purchase from Target. It's just so cute! If you love the look of the tree on the car, HGTV magazine talked about making an ornament out of a sisal tree (for Christmas villages) and a die-cast car. They just tied the tree on with a ribbon and tied another ribbon loop to hang it. So simple and super sweet.
On a less sweet but much funnier note, we saw this little sheep at the Christmas tree farm and Chris just had to have it. haha We also have a little collection of Christmas-themed candles, like Santa here, that we sprinkle throughout the house to add some cheer.

Next year I think I'd like to group them all together somewhere to make a little more impact with them. But this year, it's fun to walk into the bathroom and see a little wax reindeer on the windowsill. haha
The little drummer boy is hanging out with the suspense/thriller section of my home library. (Anyone else organize their books by genre?)
I also put up the ornament clusters on each side of the doorway again. Although this year, I had a little accident and the one on the left is missing two gold ornaments ... oops.

Is it just me or is my dining starting to look like a greenhouse in this picture?
So that's the decorations tour. Not as many decorations as we have for Halloween, (see those posts here and here), but we'll get there eventually.

Now, to finish up the Christmas presents. I've been having a blast wrapping presents this year with ribbons and baker's twine and a mess of other trim. So perhaps a post about making wrapped presents look gorgeous is in order...