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My new modus operandus with regards to decor is to work on ONE room at a time instead of doing a bunch of projects at random around the whole house.  I am a total fan of this discipline!  It’s helping me focus on what needs to be done next, and it’s given me a real sense of accomplishment as I see the changes more quickly when I concentrate them in one room at at time.  We all know a room is never really finished, but this way it can be finished for now.

Good news, ladies.  The living room is almost ready for the final reveal.  I need to cut some moulding for a mirror frame, hide some cords, and patch a few nail holes… but that’s it!

You might remember that in my initial breakdown of the living room tweaks, I really wanted a new rug.  The one we’ve had for 2 1/2 years has been quite functional but only slightly decorative.  It’s a 5×8 brown short loop carpet… I always think of it as “office-y.”  I painted chevron stripes on it a while back with watered down white paint but it’s mostly worn off or faded.  For some reason it shows up more in photos – in person it’s barely noticeable.  You can see it a bit in this photo from my lamp redo.

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As it turned out, we had enough money in the Large Purchases account to let me go rug shopping (yay!!).  I don’t trust online rug shopping because I really want to see the colors and touch the texture in person for something I have one shot to get right.  Returns on something that big is an expensive hassle, so picture me driving all over town on a few different weekends to look at rugs in various Home Goods, World Markets, etc., with a three month old in tow.  It got old.

Then I found the rug of my dreams – an 8×10 muted wool Oriental with the perfect colors.  If you’re going to have a rug with many colors, you really should start with it, not try to find one that matches your existing scheme.  I got really lucky with this.

I brought it home, laid it out… and whoa, it was a foot longer than the tag said.  It blocked the front door.

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And the more I looked at it, the more I realized it wasn’t actually the direction I wanted to go anyway.  Well!  I had been positive that I wanted a muted oriental carpet to add a more traditional element to the graphic pillows in the living room.   I love the designs on so many of these carpets.  But when I looked at it all together, I didn’t love it.  It pushed things too far in the traditional direction.

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So really this was a blessing in disguise.  I found literally the PERFECT rug and realized it wasn’t the right one.  I was free to broaden my scope and look for other things.

Here’s what I realized:

  • I didn’t want a lot of color or a bold graphic print – even though I love these rugs on their own, they’re too much for my living room.
  • I needed something kid friendly – we are on the first of (hopefully) several babies and for the next 10 years or so we can expect plenty of spills and spit up.  This rug will basically be the playroom floor since our house is small, so it has to be easily cleaned and hide dirt.
  • I looked through my pinned and filed living room images and discovered most of them had some sort of natural fiber rug – jute, sisal, or seagrass.

After MUCH research I settled that a real natural fiber was going to be hard to clean spills from, though they are great at hiding dirt.  They can stain with plain water!  Wetness releases natural oils that can discolor the area, and also smells are hard to get out.

To make sure I liked the look of natural fiber in real life, I bought a jute rug from Target expressly to look at and return.  I  liked it.  Texture!  Awesome.

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So I decided to go with a synthetic “natural fiber” rug.  I highly recommend Sisal Direct – you can request up to five rug samples for free (WOW) and they have hands down the best prices, about $250 for a high quality 5×8 synthetic sisal.  Other sites were in the $400 range.  I was a bit sad to pay hundreds for what is basically a plastic rug, but it really was the best choice for my situation.  Just because of the price tag on that material I found myself waiting to pull the trigger.

I found a neat textured rug on World Market’s website that looked like it would hide dirt very well, and being made of 100% wool would be easy to get stains out of too (yes, low pile and flat weave wool is very child friendly).  But it was too expensive at $400, and my store didn’t have it to check the color in person.  It’s the Peacock Rug.

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And then I went to Home Depot and just for fun, looked through their rugs.  Well!  There was a synthetic sisal rug that looked extremely realistic with plenty of variety in the fiber color, was just the right shade of toast brown, and only cost $99 for the 5×8 size.  I checked it out online and out of 43 reviews, EVERY. ONE. was a 4 or 5 star review.  That just doesn’t happen with cheap rugs.  I was so happy to pay just $100 for a plastic rug instead of $250, and when I compared my Sisal Direct samples to it, the quality was only slightly less because of a somewhat looser weave.  I decided to go with the Home Depot rug. Here’s a closeup so you can see the color and texture.

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Shipping to my front door was free,  hurrah, so it should be here in a week or so and then I’ll put together a final living room reveal!  I’m so excited :)

Rug shopping – fun or nightmare?  What has your experience been?

I’ve wanted to make a mobile for my sweet little Miss Goo since before she was born, and I figured I’d better get to it before she was too old to care.  So one day I did a blitz through Michael’s and gathered things to make a mobile for less than $5.

Supplies

  • 6″ Grapevine Wreath – $1
  • Variegated Yarn – $2
  • 3 different colors of scrapbooking cardstock – 29c each (87c total)
  • 1 skein embroidery thread/floss – 39c

TOTAL: $4.26

First I made the pom poms.  Pom poms are going through a revival fad at the moment and they are really easy to make.  Basically for a mini pom pom about 1 1/2″ in diameter, you wrap a piece of yarn around a fork till it is a fat wad, then you take a piece of yarn about 6″ and thread it through the tines to tie it very tightly around the middle of the wad.  Slide the wad off your fork, cut the loops with small scissors, fluff, and trim.

I neglected to get a shot of this in the making so here is a pictoral from VividPlease.

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Voila!  Pom poms (and my helper).  Thinner yarn works best for this tiny size.

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Next I made the hoop.  I took a 6″ wreath and simply used fabric glue to make an X shaped ribbon suspension and hanging loop for the mobile.

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I’d decided an all-pom-pom mobile would be overkill so my other pendant pieces were going to be diamond shapes made from cardstock.  I cut out a lot of these from my three colors of cardstock, using one piece as my template to ensure consistent size.IMG_1236 (800x598)

Then I cut slits halfway down each shape and slid two together to get a 3-D object.  You can do this with any shape you want from circles to butterflies.

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Next, I lined up my pom-poms and diamonds in pleasing lines of varying heights and order, making sure none were longer than I wanted the bottom of the mobile to go.

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I grabbed my embroidery thread and a big needle.  The pom poms were threaded through the middle with white glue dotted on the entry and exit points, and I just laid the embroidery thread along a bead of white glue on the diamonds.  I did glue the diamond shapes on the opposite side of the thread as well to make sure they didn’t fall apart.  I left at least 6 inches of thread at the top of each mobile string to tie them on easily, and could have left even more.

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Once I had my dangly strands all done, I tied the longest one in the middle of the hoop and then randomly arranged the rest in a balanced way.  I had to make one more strand at the end as I didn’t have quite enough – took 5 minutes.

Here is the final product.  It’s completely unique and fun to look at for us as well as Miss E.

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It’s interesting and colorful from her point of view, too.

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I just used a small C clamp to secure it on the hollow-core floating shelf in the crib corner!  (The pillow is just for pretties – it’s not normally in her crib.)  Our family crest and motto is hanging on the wall.  We had that in the living room for a while and I thought it would be perfect for over her crib.

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This is the view if you look to the left immediately upon entering our bedroom.  I want to add another something to the wall in her crib corner but don’t know what yet.  For right now, the mobile is adding a happy blast of color and texture.

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This took some time but it was so easy!  You could easily do it while watching a movie one night.  Have you ever made anything for your baby to look at?

(For Part 1 go here.)

Sometimes I feel sorry for people who have big houses.  You know, the houses with a designated room for every activity: the workout room, the office, the guest bedroom… the foyer.  That’s right, some people have a WHOLE ROOM just for coming inside the house.

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You see, the people in these spacious houses with bonus rooms never have to tackle the character-building creative challenges of small house design.  Take, for example, when your front door opens directly into the living room.  When you walk in straight onto the sofa, you need to do some creative furniture placement to give your homecoming a little more cushion.

So let’s recap – here’s what I started with.  That segment of wall behind the front door was acting as a semi functional entryway with some hooks and a place for my purse, but I knew I could do a lot better.

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My idea was to get a large dresser for that spot and paint it green.  This would anchor the wall and make everything look a lot less cluttered, while giving me plenty of new storage space.

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A few weeks back I shared my dresser find and transformation, leaving you with this lovely lovely image.

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I’ve been working on the rest of the details and I’ve finally got it completed!

Now when I show you the afters, be aware that I had to leave a big blank space on the surface of the dresser.  Besides carving out a defined entry, I had an additional challenge – I have no nursery for Miss E and I needed a changing station other than the floor.  Remember this?

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Well, enough of that!  A small gateleg table I already owned folded up small enough to tuck in at one end of the dresser to keep the diapering stash handy.  I do cloth diapers, so I have a basket full of prefolds and Thirsties Duo wraps, plus a container of cloth wipes. (For those who are interested, I tried pocket diapers and haaaaated stuffing them and laundering them.  I love my old fashioned prefolds so much more.)  My changing pad folds up between the diaper basket and the dresser when not in use.

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Under the table is a wet bag for used diapers.  The upper right hand dresser drawers hold supplies for the occasional disposable diaper.  It’s as inconspicuous as I could hope for a changing station in the living room.

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On top of the dresser and on the wall above it, I basically rearranged the art and brought in some new items from around the house.  The tray is one I already had and I spray painted it hammered bronze, then did the edges silver with rub n’ buff.

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The art is a couple favorite pieces I though we’d want to see every day.  There’s the collage presented to The Chief as a gift – Amy Adams is saying “My car won’t start.  It’s broken.  Who will fix it?  Who will fix it??”  He fixes cars as a ministry to friends in need :)  The colorful coastal watercolor is my very favorite piece of art, found on Etsy a while back.  I wish the glare on the glass weren’t so visible!  Don’t know how to avoid that at this point in my photography skills.

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Clearly my tray is not styled – that’s what you see in real life, friends.  I do love a beautifully styled tray but I just don’t have space for a tray full of pretty things you can’t use, only look at.  This one corrals my clutter and gives it some boundaries!

Up on the wall shelf we have a photo of the vintage Ferrari dashboard that the Chief was hired to restore (the dash, not the whole Ferrari).  The Ferrari won second best in show at the major international show it was subsequently entered in!

I made the little blue pottery vase, and also the aqua print sunhat for Miss E.

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Ready for the full reveal?

Before

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During

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After

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I think the straw hat hanging on the wall really helps to balance the necessary blank spot on top of the dresser where the changing pad goes.

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Here you can get a good idea of the entryway as a whole.  The back of the armchair creates a nice “‘hallway” with the dresser for coming into the house without walking between people having a conversation.  Painting that front door white is on my list for this week!  I’ve had enough of the bluish primed steel door look.

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So there you have it – one more area of the living room is tweaked to perfection.  I didn’t spend any money on this part of things, so the running total for the living room is still $118.

Do you live in a house with the entry straight into the living room?  How have you handled that?

With a couple of sizeable baby purchases lately/in the wings, I’ve been stretching my creativity around the home.  Right now I’ve got a temporary rule that anything I do ought to be done using stuff I already have, or cost less than $10.  When you’ve been doing DIY for a couple years, you’re bound to have odds and ends of various supplies sitting around taking up space, and I’ve discovered a few fun uses for them.

1.  Temporary ribbon trim on curtains.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little bored with my plain white curtains.  The reason my living room drapes are white is because I have never been able to settle on what else I’d want there.  Do I want a color?  A contrasting band at the bottom?  Some sort of wide or narrow stripe of ribbon trim?  After the last ribbon trim I glued on got old fast, this time I decided to SAFETY PIN my ribbon trim on.

I save good ribbon to use on holidays and for gift wrapping, and I had a couple long pieces of gold ribbon that I grabbed one day to test out on the leading edge of my living room curtains.  Though that particular shade of gold was too mustardy for me, it inspired me to go spend $4 at JoAnn’s for a 9-yard roll of gold satin ribbon.  Then, in case I get tired of it, I just looped the ribbon through my tiebacks and safety pinned it at the top and the bottom.

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See?  Totally works.

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This will work on any curtains that don’t get drawn often (we use the miniblinds in the living room).  Sometimes you have to adjust the fall of the ribbon so it stays looking attached all the way down, but it’s still a great method for trying out a new trim or letting you change it up a few times a year.

2. Using up small bits of fabric.

Whenever I sew something, I keep any scraps that appear to be of a potentially useful size.  This week I used a scrap from my french door curtains:

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and another from my lampshade project:

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…to make my baby’s swaddle wraps one size bigger.  I swaddle her when she sleeps, and lately she has been on the verge of outgrowing these essential items.

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I bought a swaddle the next size up with a gift card, but although it was long enough it was far too wide in the body.  So I took my scrap fabrics and cut out a piece shaped like an elongated eye (narrow at the ends and wide in the middle) to extend and widen just the legs portion of her two swaddle wraps.  I didn’t do pretty sewing, but it does the job.  She now has lots of room on both her swaddles to let her hips swing open and to kick out her legs straight.

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3.  Art from books.

A while back I bought a nice coffee table book that was on clearance.  It highlighted innovations in typesetting and text layout over the last century… woohoo, right?  Well my dad did typesetting before computers got common and my dear graphic designer friend Amy geeks out about fonts so I guess it’s part of my world :)  Anyway,  I bought this book specifically to cut up for art but have barely used anything from it.

I had a blank spot in my kitchen wall that was begging for art and I’d previously considered getting this piece:

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but in the end I decided I had enough “wow” things happening in the kitchen/dining room already and needed something a lot quieter in that space.  I searched online for pen and ink drawings and even printed out some tree sketches but they weren’t really doing it once I lived with them.

Then I remembered my typesetting book!  I found four pages that balanced each other well, cut them out with a razor, and simply taped them to the wall with a small loop of scotch tape on the back.  Why not?

I do plan to frame them eventually (almost grabbed four $6 clearance frames with mats at Michael’s but that would break my spending rule!  They always have great clearance frames and I just need to wait) but in the meantime, I am really enjoying my art solution.  Forgive the early morning light in my photos – it makes everything look more monochromatic that in real life.

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The four pieces not only look good, they all have some sort of meaning to me.  There are pages from some French fables, the Book of Common Prayer, Genesis, and something with my husband’s name.

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What are your favorite $10 or less changes around the home?