5.31.2011

Inexpensive jewelry storage

I decided to hang my DIY'ed necklace holder above the DIY'ed dresser in our guestroom (pics to come), so it only made sense to give our guests a place to store their watches, earrings, and other shiny things. I found this glass ashtray/candy dish at Value Village for 99 cents, and I love this vintage-looking tray (another Value Village find, for less than $2), which totally suits our guestroom's green theme.




Cute, inexpensive jewelry storage - love it!

5.30.2011

Painted dresser DIY

Adam's parents gave us this old wooden dresser months ago. It's very sturdy, with good lines and cute detailing on the top drawer front. But it was scratched and worn, and in need of a DIY paint job.


I started by removing the knobs and lightly roughing up the surface with 100 grit sandpaper. Next, I rolled on a thin coat of primer and left it to dry. When the primer was dry, I rolled on two thin coats of Sico furniture paint, which I had tinted to match Pittsburgh Paints Aloe Vera (209-3). When it comes to painting furniture, remember that multiple thin coats are always better than one thick and gloopy one.

I left it to dry overnight, then replaced the hardware with some brushed nickel knobs I had lying around (when we got rid of one of the dressers in our bedroom, I actually thought to save the knobs for future use). I also took the opportunity to wax the drawer rails so our guests wouldn't have to struggle with sticky drawers.



I LOVE how this project turned out. I won't reveal how much time I spent basking in the glow of the finished product (i.e. staring at it), but the colour reminds me of pistachio ice cream (yum) and that only made it harder to look away. I'm almost jealous of my future guests...




I joined the 'Before and After' link party at Thrifty Decor Chick.

Easy rhubarb compote

As soon as spring was up and running, Adam and I discovered a rhubarb plant growing in our front bed. I was thrilled - I love rhubarb - but I had no idea what to do with it.


Then I discovered an easy recipe for rhubarb compote. When I got home from work on Friday, I harvested a large handful of rhubarb (after watching a video tutorial - I'm a total nerd, what can I say?), washed it, chopped it up, and tossed it in a pot.



I added about a 1/4 cup of tightly packed brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water, and let the whole thing cook (covered) on low heat until the rhubarb was nice and tender (about 15 minutes).



Then all I had to do was let it cool (it stays fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days). Adam and I tried some over vanilla frozen yogurt that night and it was delicious! In a mason jar tied with a pretty ribbon, it also makes a great gift.


5.27.2011

Painting the guest room


These tulips came from our front yard - how awesome is that?! It's the first time I've had a yard to pick flowers from, so I'm pretty excited about it. Unfortunately they've since opened and most of the petals fell off, haha.

Over the past week, I've spent most of my free time trying to whip our guest room into shape. We're not expecting any house guests until the wedding, but I figure I'll have enough to do by then, so no harm in getting started now.

Here are a couple of photos of what we started with: basic brown walls, doors that some creature used as scratching posts, ugly carpets, dingy trim, etc. You can't see all the holes in the walls and trim, but I spent a good half hour spackling and it's a small room.



And this is what is looks like now:


Haha, yeah I've still got a lot of work to do. You're witnessing my painting strategy, also know as piling everything in the centre of the room. I've painted the walls - we repeated our bathroom wall colour - and put a fresh coat of creamy white paint on the trim (this picture doesn't do the transformation justice), and this weekend I'm going to tackle those banged-up doors. I've also got some fun DIY projects planned for this room, so stay tuned! And as a hint, here's the inspiration photo for my colour palette:

5.24.2011

Exterior paint update

Yesterday was a holiday in Canada, and in Nova Scotia, it was the first sunny day in awhile (gotta love when the two coincide). I took full advantage of the opportunity to get rid of the hideous green paint covering our garage door, foundation and even some of the exterior trim (the old homeowners painted one corner of one of the shutters before running out of steam, or green paint). I actually started a couple of weeks ago by painting the trim of our front-facing living room windows (I used Manor Hall exterior paint in Moonlit Snow).



Is it perfect? No. But it's a huge improvement until we have the $$ to replace these windows with energy-efficient ones. Yesterday, I tackled the foundation. I used Manor Hall exterior paint in Dark As Night (the paint looks black from afar, but it has green undertones that give it a slightly warmer feel). The pressure washing we gave the house a couple of weeks ago helped too (check out the close-up of all that dirt and grime, ew).




We still need to paint the shutters and window trim (and replace the rain gutter), but it's already a huge improvement. And as you can just barely see in the picture above, we're slowly adding plants - albeit small ones, haha - to that side of the house (next weekend we're hoping to add mulch and a few more plants to fill it out). Check out my blooming rhodo - so pretty!


Finally, I painted the garage door, starting with the trim, which the old homeowners had covered in green paint. I love the contrast between the brick, white trim, and dark door - now we just need a new light fixture.



Here's a shot of the front so you can see how it's coming along. I can't wait to paint the shutters and I'm hoping to add some colour by painting the front door (I'm open to suggestions, so please share). Not bad for a weekend's work.

5.17.2011

Using curtains as temporary doors

This is what our entry-way closet looked like last week. Well, technically this is what our entry-way closet looked like when I remembered to take a "before" picture, halfway through painting the shelf and trim (both were a dingy shade of white before I began).



The closet had a set of dark brown, hollow sliding doors when we moved in, but in addition to being supremely ugly, they didn't work very well, so I took them down and hung a pair of curtains (a hand-me-down from my mom) in their place as a temporary fix until we buy new doors.

After I finished painting the closet (I used the leftover paint from our bathroom vanity - Sico's Cool Grey - which fits somewhere between the curtains and the wall colour), I cut the tabs off the tops of the curtain panels, sewed a channel to fit a curtain rod, and hemmed the panels so they wouldn't drag on the floor (extra length looks great around a window, but isn't ideal in an entry-way, obviously). The curtain hangs on an adjustable shower curtain rod, which is hidden behind a piece of trim already in place to hide the old doors' metal tracking.



On the shelf, I've got my DIY chalkboard storage bins.


And for the dog in our lives, I installed a couple of inexpensive hooks on the closet's far left side to hang/hide Maddie's leash and a drying-off towel (which, I suppose, all towels are). It doesn't make for the nicest picture, but it wouldn't make much sense to use a nice towel to dry a wet and dirty dog, now would it?


Now we just need some flooring...

5.16.2011

DIY chalkboard storage bins

I recently spotted this fun storage idea at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but at $55.99 it was way more than I was willing to spend on what is essentially a large wooden box.
I decided to try making something similar for the closet in our entry-way, so I picked up four plastic storage bins at the dollar store (for $2 each). They offered plenty of room to store hats, gloves, dog toys, and other random things you might need on your way out the door, and they're lightweight, so they'll be easy to move on and off the high closet shelf.


I found some chalkboard paint at my local art store, and followed the instructions on the bottle. It was super easy - just roll on a thin coat of paint, leave it to dry for an hour, then roll on a second coat of paint and let the whole thing cure for 24 hours (since I was working with plastic, I let it cure for 48 hours to be on the safe side).


Once your 24 hours is up, lightly rub some chalk on the surface, wipe it clean with a damp cloth, and you're good to go!   


I went for a messier look, but you could just as easily use tape to create a clean rectangle (or any other shape). Here's how the finished bins look in our not-yet-finished closet (more on that soon).



And here's the all-important budget breakdown.

5.13.2011

DIY wedding invitations



This blog is really a diary, a way to document the ups and downs as we turn our ugly house into a pretty home. But since our wedding is only a few months away, I can’t help but share a few details here.
This week Adam and I made it our mission to tackle wedding invites. We’re lucky enough to have two super-talented friends who agreed to design our wedding invitations for us. Once the design and wording was finalized (we gave them complete creative reign over the design, but I provided some wording suggestions), we took the invites to Staples for printing. We wanted to screenprint the invites - we loved the idea that each one would be slightly different - but decided to have the text printed to ensure that it was 100% legible. Adam did the screenprinting and it turned out great. The colour really pops and the paint adds a bit of texture to the invite.
The design is simple, but stylish and it perfectly suits the elegantly casual atmosphere we're going for with our backyard wedding. You'll notice that we decided to forgo any inserts, and opted instead to include the address of our wedding website, which has all the details our guests will need – where to stay, how to get around, what to do while they’re in town, etc. We've also asked our guests to RSVP by email, which I hope will be easier to keep track of than reply cards.
Adam and I are both really happy with how they turned out, and the fact that two of our closest friends designed and helped us make them is extra special.

5.11.2011

Finding my green thumb

We've had what feels like endless days of rain and grey skies here in Halifax, so I'm glad we took advantage of some brief weekend sunshine and started work on our lawn. Because "progress" depends on what you're starting with, here's what our lawn looked like on closing day in early March:



Lots of potential for sure, but a few years of neglect left us with a bit of a mess. Now that spring is here, new plants are popping up everywhere and we're enjoying the process of "discovering" our landscape. It turns out we've got a lot to work with - we *just* need to clean things up, move a few things around, and add some plants for privacy and year-round interest.

The first, biggest, and definitely most exhausting job was banishing the bamboo along the front of our property. It was bamboo-gone-wild up there. We did our best to dig up the roots (and there were some real doozies), but we know we're in for a long battle (I've already been out in the yard cutting back new shoots since these photos were taken). Believe it or not, this giant pile is only half of the crap we raked and dug out of the front bed:


And here's the lovely open space left behind, ready for new planting:



So far, we've discovered that we have lots of herbs - like chives, thyme and sage - as well as some ground cover, tulips, hycinthes, lillies, roses, ornatmental grasses and hostas galore. We've also got a few of these mystery plants - any idea what they are?


We're still waiting to see what the yard looks like when all of our plants have grown in, but we're hoping to plant at least a few shrubs and evergreens this year (we figure the sooner they start growing, the better). We started with a couple of rhododendran bushes - a plant we both love and knew we wanted to have in our yard before we even had one. I planted one rhodo in the front bed:


And another around the side of the house, facing the largest section of our lawn. Wouldn't it be nice if they grew this big?


A girl can dream. For now, I'm just hoping I don't kill them haha. We also planted a couple of green mountain boxwood shrubs, which will (hopefully) grow to be about 2-3 feet wide and 3-5 feet high (as you can see in the photos below, there are still a few clumps of grass and weeds that need to be pulled out).


Finally, we planted a couple of golden euonymus shrubs - one in the front bed and another around the side of the house. They can grow up to 6 feet high and 5 feet wide, and I pretty much love, love, love the colour.


Here's a blurry shot of the whole bed (well most of it anyway), taken in the midst of this week's rain:


And here's the side of the house that was formerly without plants, and is now home to my baby rhodo and euonymus shrub. I still need to plant a baby forsythia bush - a gift from my mom - which should eventually grow to be around 4-6 feet high and 3-5 feet wide. I'm thinking about planting it around the side of the house - already home to my baby rhodo and euonymus shrub - and then I'll fill the whole thing in with a few evergreens (I'm planning to add an evergreen or two to the front bed, too). Pictures to come if it ever stops raining.

Landscaping is all about patience, since plants take awhile to grow (duh). But we're having fun figuring it out and I can already tell that we're going to have a great time "greening" our space in the years to come. Mowing the lawn on the otherhand...stay tuned.
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