Repurpose

Today, I avoided a day of shopping by repurposing something I was going to get rid of.

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My plan for this windy Saturday was to drag myself out the door to shop for a mat to put by my bed. Despite some pre-weekend Google searches, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about finding something that would work and that I liked.

I like having a mat by my bed for two reasons: (1) it’s a little warmer on chilly winter mornings, and, (2) my floor gets dusty and dirty when my windows are open (most of the time, most of the year), and I like to have a mat to wipe my feet off before getting into bed. It’s like a doormat, but for my bed. A bed mat!

Over the summer, I was using a woven mat I bought at IKEA a couple years ago. It’s simple, durable, washable, and just about the right size for the space.  But, it belongs by my front door, where it’s supposed to keep most of the outdoor dirt away from my living space. Over the summer, I put up with wiping my shoes on the carpet in the hall and taking my shoes off as I was in the doorway. But, the weather has been wet and I needed to put my mat back by the door to catch the mud.

One of the things that the temporary mat taught me was that I definitely still need something that can be washed. Even though it wasn’t getting outdoor dirt when it was next to the bed, it still got dirty. When it’s by the front door, I typically wash the temporary mat every month or so, but because the mat was next to my bed, I often wanted to wash it more often. Unfortunately, the mat’s bulky and the dye is slowing washing out (i.e., it’s not something I can easily toss in with other things). I would like to wash my bed mat every time I wash my rags and such, so I wanted to find something washable and not too bulky. A couple small, woven area rugs (2 x 3 feet) would have worked.

Initially, I considered going to Ikea, but that’s a long way (1-1.5 hours and 1-2 transfers) for a couple of cheap rugs. Winners is hit and miss. And, most of the decor stores in my areas either didn’t seem to carry what I needed, or had expensive options. I envisioned a lot of “nope” and “where do I try next?”

Have I mentioned I don’t like to shop at the best of times? Needless to say, I was procrastinating to delay what I expected would be a long and annoying day. I convinced myself that I “had” to sort my donation/sell pile into categories. And, that’s where I found my solution.

A couple of years ago, in one of my many attempts to pick up regular yoga, I bought a yoga mat towel (these, but a different design). It was the peak of winter (read: cold!) and I thought that the mat towel would feel warmer. I had also been told that it would protect my mat. I happened to find a beautiful design in dark blue (my favourite colour), but I found it very annoying. Yes, it felt warmer, but it also got caught up in my feet, dragged around, bunched up under me and didn’t feel as grippy as I would have liked. At the end of the day, I much preferred to go without.

It ended up being one of those things that I had a really hard time getting rid of – it was beautiful, it had been expensive … surely I just needed to get used to it! So, there it was, still in my donate/sell pile. And, there was the empty space by my bed. The yoga mat towel has silicone on the bottom to grip to the floor, it’s soft, it feels warmer, it’s washable, it’s not bulky, it’s colourfast, it sort of matches my bedding, and I love it. Also, it’s free because I already own it, and it saved me from a day of shopping.

Sure, it’s not a conventional option for a mat and it doesn’t entirely match my bedding style, but who cares. Using it by my bed means that I get to repurpose something I love but wasn’t using, and it allows me to save the money I was going to spend (or, to spend it on something else, like the Himalayan rock salt lamp I’ve been wanting to buy).

I’ll still keep my eye open for something better (like this, but in pink; or one of the many fabulous rugs I’m pinned over the years), but this meets my needs and will get me through the winter.

Sometimes, you need to think outside the box.

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Painted frame

One of my favourite decor projects is finding cheap frames and sprucing them up with a little paint. It hardly takes any time at all and it makes a huge difference. A couple of years ago, I painted a few black with metallic stripes. They looked pretty darned good, but I’ve been swapping art, so they need to be redone. I haven’t decided what colour to paint two of them (currently holding these awesome acquisitions), but I knew right away that green would be perfect for the third.

I wanted to find a green that was a close match to the kinds of green in the print’s foliage.  Because I didn’t want to risk ruining the print, I pulled out a damaged clean plastic sleeve to test my paint. It’s a great way to find the right colour because you can paint “on” the thing you want to match.

Mixing paint for a frame

Each time I tested a new variation of dark green, I gave it a couple of minutes to dry (paint colour changes a bit when it dries) and ended up finding a close enough match after just three tries. Not back for someone who’s out of practice (mixing paints to match is an art).

Painted frame

I’m a fan of doing several thin layers followed by a couple of layers of clear finish, so it technically took me most of the afternoon, but I was doing a million other things at the same time.

The end result is a simple, but pretty frame around a gorgeous print which I get to look at each time I brush my teeth.

Bathroom art

Buoys

Last fall, while visiting my uncle, he asked me to paint some buoys. He plans to hang them in the cottage he’s been working on building for the past two years (“The Lodge” as he likes to call it). You see, we’re all from the Maritimes (Nova Scotia) and we’ve had a family cottage on the Northern coast of NS since the mid 1950’s when granddad bought a small building and moved it to a plot of land he’d been given by a friend he met while acting as the local minister. It’s right on the coast, over looking the beach.  Fisherman catch lobster in the water out beyond the section of reef that becomes visible at low tide, buoys wash up on shore and, at some point, someone decided they would make a fun addition to the family cottage.

Buoys at my family cottage

The dining room of the family cottage was added to the small building (they even left the old shingles and the window frame). It’s just two walls, a floor and a roof. Literally, just the roof. No attic, no insulation, just the wood that’s supporting the roof tiles (this is meant as a summer abode, not a year-round home). And, a couple dozen buoys hanging around a central light fixture.

One of the rooms in our family cottage has shingles
We even use old fashioned wood block buoys as decor. And, yes, those are the shingles I mentioned.

The buoys are in rough shape when we find them, but they get a paint job before being hung up. Sometimes, we just use less garish colours (they are typically painted in bright or florescent colours so that the fishermen can see them from a distance) and copy the colour pattern the buoy already had (each boat uses a different pattern so they know who’s are who’s). As I got older and showed a bit of artistic talent, I was nominated to do some fancier paint jobs. They commemorated rare visits from our Alberta cousins or special birthdays and anniversaries (we even did a silver one for someone’s 50th).

My uncle wanted to do something similar in his cottage (which is insulated and  much nicer then the family cottage), so he kept his eyes open for buoys and managed to find two very nice ones worthy of a special paint job.

Painting buoys for my uncle.
Painting in progress: first coats!

I haven’t painted a buoy or odd surface in over a decade. In fact, I’ve hardly painted at in the past few years, but I was happy to help. It was mostly lettering, which is relatively easy. Though, it turns out that I’m not very good at centering things if I let myself get distracted (which is often!). Oops.

Anyway, one buoy was to commemorate the first guests at his cottage and the second buoy is for his long time buddy to helped with a lot projects, like building the deck. It’s not an easy surface to paint on and some of the paint was a bit thick which made it hard to work with, but I had fun with the process and I think they look pretty nice, all considering.

Last bit of buoy painting done just in time to catch my bus home.
I did not have the best brushes and the paint wasn’t smooth (it was some random rust paint, I think, and it looked like it was a few years old).

I bought a new chair

I bought a new chair. A nice chair. One that cost more than $50 (I’m thinking of you, Poang chair that was on sale, not as comfy as expected, and not missed in the slightest). It’s blue. A dark, rich, velvety blue. I’m so in love with it!

Several months ago, I saw a beautiful teal, high-back chair online. I fell in love and after weeks of thinking about it and dreaming about how beautiful it would look in my bedroom, I finally headed off the store, Henry’s Purveyor of Fine Things, to inquire about it. Seeing it in person made me love it more, but sitting in it was a huge let down. It was OK, but not quite right.

I was so disappointed.

Until, I saw the blue chair by the sunny window.

Suddenly, I no longer remembered what it was about the other chair that I loved (ok, so maybe I did – the lovely, deep teal colour – I’m just being a bit dramatic). This chair looked like heaven. It was heaven. I could hardly believe how comfy it was to sit in. I actually got up, wandered around, sat back down in it, and then stayed there for a good 10 minutes. I even loved the throw cushion. So, I bought it.

The chair arrived the night before my birthday, and I set it up in my bedroom. It was going to be my evening reading chair and fancy clothes repository (because, let’s face it, I’m always going to be dumping clothes on any chair in my bedroom).

Less than a week later, I realized that I couldn’t keep it in my bedroom. It’s too beautiful and I’m not a consistent reader in the evening, so I felt like it was being wasted hidden away. I moved it out to my living room, and spent several days trying to figure out how to make it fit without having to move something else to a bad spot. Eventually, I made a tough decision: I don’t have room for a separate sewing table, so that was moved to my dining area, where it will be my sewing/dining/etc. table.

Today's periodic breaks from mind numbing work have been brought to you by the fact that I decided to move a piece of furniture to another room. I find that sketching things out is the best way to work through my ideas.

I used this opportunity to tweak the placement of my rug, which had the surprising effect of making the rug work a little better (it’s very modern compared to my furniture, so it looks a little out of place). Now I have a really nice area that looks pretty nice. I inspired me to start thinking about making a prettier ironing board cover (the ironing board lives against the wall behind the chair).

I've been moving stuff around again: brought my new chair out from the bedroom, shifted my good-enough-for-now rug, and added some Euro cushions (which need covers) to my sofa. The Euro cushions weren't originally meant for my bed, but they're awesome for

The chair has also made me re-consider my ottoman. I bought it when I bought the sofa, but mostly it’s just always been in the way and collected clutter. I rarely use it, and when I do I lament about how a shorter ottoman would be more comfortable to put my feet on or a proper coffee table would be more useful. Also, it’s brown (meh). So, I’m going to get rid of it. Instead, I’m going to get a short ottoman to match the chair. It will be smaller than my current ottoman (by about half), so it won’t steal as much visual or actual real estate. I won’t get a coffee table because I don’t really have the space (my living room is narrow, so the coffee table and desk chair combined would make the room feel too full) and I can clear off my side table if I ever need a bit of space to hold things.

Eventually, I’ll get a nice small table to go next to the chair (something old, petite and round, I think). And, in the next few months, I plan to get:

  • A proper desk: I use a small dining table right now, and it’s really annoying. It doesn’t have enough space and it’s not very nice looking. Though they’re hard to come by, in this laptop-crazy age, I’ve found a desk with two cabinets: one for my computer tower and wifi thingy and one for my sewing machine.
  • Some more shelves: While I don’t have a huge amount of books, I do have a lot of things for arts and crafts, some DVDs, and other odds and ends that I would love to be able to keep out in my main living space. I’m hoping to go from one half sized shelf to two full sized shelves, which would mean being able to keep everything in my living room, including my craft books (currently in the bedroom) and cookbooks (currently in a kitchen cupboard). I may even be able to display some of my pretty things which are currently hiding in my kitchen cupboards.

I won’t get started on the pillow situation (that could be a whole post of it’s own!).

Suffice to say, I’m in love with my chair and thrilled that it has helped move my living room closer to a finished stat.

My bed is yellow

I’ll be honest, it’s a little brighter than I had anticipated. I actually checked the paint chip against the bed. Some colours (like bright yellows) always seem more vibrant when one a larger surface and when painted with glossy paint. But, I think it might be a fraction lighter than it was supposed to be.

The yellow is a wee bit brighter than I had anticipated, but it's still beautiful!!

It’s still beautiful and a million times better than how my bed used to look. It’s really awesome to have such a cheerful colour in my room when it’s dark. So, maybe I just need to rethink some of the other decor. A lot of the other side of the room is muted or darker colours, so maybe I just need to swap out something for some art with a little more vibrancy. I have plenty of options and will have a new surface and wall to move things to and from once I find the perfect dresser or sideboard for my craft storage in my living room.

Painting my bed yellow

… because, why not!?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a lament (possibly a whine) about my apartment. Kandise, who is fabulous and has a beautiful apartment, commented on the post with what I will call encouragement, even though it could probably be classified as the swift kick in the arse I needed. And, so, I decided to do something about some of the things I’m not to fond of about my apartment.

I started with actually re-arranging my living room (as opposed to just saying it was “in progress”). It’s still a bit of a mess as I have several stacks of books, fabric, and other things waiting to be dealt with (I’m working on it slowly but surely), but I absolutely love it! The plan was to get the stacks properly sorted and put away this weekend, but I may be painting instead.

Yes, painting!

Not the walls (it’s a rental), but my bed frame. I randomly decided that I needed to paint my bed a cheery yellow. I’m not usually a big fan of yellow. I like yellow, but I never expected to use it as part of my decor. What can I say, my bedroom is dark, more often than not, because it’s depressingly dark in Edmonton in the winter and I have heavy sun-blocking fabric hung in the summer to keep the intense summer sun out. On weekends, I let the sun in, but 75% of the time, it’s dark in there.

My bed is kind of boring – just a cheap plain wood frame from Ikea

Before and after - pretty pillows make a huge difference
( the pillows in the linked picture have since been moved to the living room)

It’s usually adorned with blue, blue, and blue – blue sheets (the occasional deep magenta pillowcase), a white blanket with blue floral design, and a blue and white wool blanket. I really like dark blue and haven’t yet managed to make myself any quilts for my bed (though, I have started one). I thought a nice punch of bright colour would work well. I do have odds and ends of art and decorations in the room, but all of it will work with the yellow.

So, I bought myself a paint swatch fan thingie and left it open to the yellows on my bed for a few days. Eventually, I decided on one of three colours (all by Benjamin Moore):

  1. The scary, might-be-too-much option: Bright Yellow
  2. The most likely option: Banana Yellow
  3. The safe, might-be-too-pale option: Sundance
Which yellow? I'm thinking banana.
(The 3rd, 4th, and 5th colours from the bottom)

This week, I ran up to the paint store (conveniently 10 minutes from my office) and bought primer, paint brushes, a drop cloth, and samples of each colour. This weekend, I’m going to shove all my piles of things in the living room into my hall, move my mattress, prime the bed frame, and paint samples on the headboard so that I can see what they look like. I suspect that even just priming the frame will make things look a million times better.

Wish me luck!

Trying to find ways to love my imperfect apartment

I have a love-hate relationship with my apartment. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s central, it’s a short walk away from a cheese shop (yum!), and it’s two skips away from the river valley (which is beautiful, even in the winter). It’s also a bit too big, has ugly vertical blinds (which I’m not allowed to remove or replace), is very bland on the inside (no personality), overlooks a very busy street (which can be very noisy at all hours), and is neighbours with 3 construction sites (thankfully, the closest is almost done).

Love. Hate.

Having grown up in an old building in Halifax, NS (which survived the Halifax Explosion, in 1917, and had 9 – yes, 9! – foot ceilings), I still find my more modern apartment’s lack of personality odd. Almost uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that some of the rooms are hard to work with. My living room has 2 entrances on the same wall (one of which involves an oddly angled transition from carpet to lino). My bedroom is big enough to feel ginormous, but not actually big enough to do much with (and certainly not small and quaint, as my dream bedroom would be – seriously! I could just throw all my stuff away and live in this precious apartment!).

Add to all of this the fact that I can’t seem to figure out my design style (more on this in a later post), , and you get a very frustrated me. I want my place to be beautiful and look loved. But, I just don’t know what I’m looking for. What I pin in Pinterest is quite eclectic and what I think I like best seems to be not quite the right thing every time I try and execute it.

Take this recent example: This is what you saw when you walked past my bedroom a few weeks ago.

Boring!

Slippers, a dresser, and a drying rack, which is usually full of clothes, because I’m too lazy to put them away. My bed is boring. Very boring. It was the cheapest frame I could find at Ikea and I had planned on painting it, but never got around to it. It’s covered by a whole-cloth quilt I whipped up with the help of an Ikea duvet cover. In the winter, I also keep a gorgeous blue and white geometric wool blanket either at the foot of the bed or folded over the headboard (I love this blanket so much! – I almost want to keep it out year-round). I finally decided that I was tired of a boring, blah bed and of the above view each time I walked down my hall. I don’t want to take the time to paint the bed (mostly because I’m paranoid about getting paint on the carpet, but also because I hope to replace it sometime in the next 24-36 months), but I’ve got a hella lot of beautiful fabric and a few pillow forms.

So, now, I have this:

Before and after - pretty pillows make a huge difference

I love the pillows – LOVE them. This is a gorgeous fabric combo that I’ve been wanting to use for months.

Sewing. Love these together.

But, I don’t think that I like it in my space. Especially not my bedroom. It’s too bold for the rest of the room, and possible just too bold for me in general. Which is weird – I love colour! I love rooms filled with pops of bright and/or lush colours, I’m always drawn to fabrics that are boldly coloured, and I generally really hate pastels. As I type this, I’m wearing a bold deep purple sweater and a deep blue scarf. I am obsessed with colourful things and constantly wanting to buy new pencils, pens, paints, and everything else, even though I already have more than enough. My pen’s ink is a gorgeous teal. Deep or gem-toned colours are my spirit guide! … So, why am I so incapable of living with décor with bold pops of colour?

Love for colour

Maybe I’m not. Maybe I just need my bedroom to be a little more serene and I can pull bolder colours in elsewhere.

Anyway, the point is, I keep trying things that I think I love, only to find that maybe I don’t love them all that much when I have to live with them. So, now I’ve started to get paranoid and hesitant to try new things (like this awesome blue Hemnes dresser). If I had the money, I think I would seriously consider hiring a professional for a second opinion, but I want to save that sort of treat for when I own my own place and can do things like paint walls.

In the meantime, the best I can do is to fill my place with things I love and slowly, but surely, work on finding the right décor elements for me. I may not love everything I try, but that just means that I have to be careful with things that I buy and remind myself that I can always sell things I make (like those lovely pillow covers, which I probably won’t keep). I also need to get off my butt and fix my living room enough to be able to start working on decorating it and deciding what elements need to go and what needs to be (eventually) replaced. I won’t be making huge changes anytime soon, as I’m hesitant to make many purchases when may be moving this year and may buy my own place in the next year or 2, but even little changes can make a big difference.

One thing I can (and probably should) do is break up my decor board on Pinterest into three boards: things I could make happen in my apartment (small décor elements like art, pillows, etc.), things I could make happen if I owned my own place (painting walls, etc.), and all the rest of the things that I love, but that will probably never happen (either because they aren’t really my style or because they would involve major renovations and/or a lot more money than I have to spend on luxuries like décor).

I’d say “wish me luck,” but what I need more than luck is a swift kick in the arse to get myself back in gear and working on this.

Painted frames

I have a bunch of boring frames and I decided to make some of them prettier. A few months ago, I remember seeing some really nice black frames with gold corners on a design blog post, and I thought that something like that would look pretty swanky. I have a bunch of metallic powder (which you mix with paint) and a few things that would look good with a bit of metallic (some Gustav Klimt prints, one of which has a lot of gold in it, and some Katie Daisy prints, which have bits of an interesting brown that happened to be very similar to one of my metallic powders).

Here are the boring frames (yawn!):
4 boring picture frames

I sanded them:
Sanded picture frames

I then painted them black and let them dry. Then I marked off the corners with masking tape and mixed my metallic powder with a glossy varnish:
Metallic powder

The paint was hard to work with (either very thin or too gloppy), so I had to do several coats to make them smooth and pretty:
Painting in progress

The masking tape didn’t do a great job, so I had to do some touch ups:
Needs a few touch-ups

I then gave the frames a few thin coats of the varnish. They look great!:

Painted picture frames

Painted picture frames

OMG, floor space

Once upon a time I was all about living in a small space. Then I started to quilt, and suddenly floor space became a thing of great importance. I have a big apartment (big for one person), so you wouldn’t think that this wouldn’t be an issue for me. The problem is that trying to pin several layers of quilt together without pinning the carpet is really hard (I have to put my cutting mat under the quilt and move it around without wrinkling the quilt layers – pain in the a%#). For some of the smaller quilts I’ve made, I’ve worked on my lino-covered dining area floor.  I simply had to push my kitchen table back and work in that small space. Unfortunately, I have a few bigger projects coming up, so I knew I would need more floor space.

While I was in Ikea shopping for things for my living room, I also made a pit stop in the dining area and found a great little table that’s big enough to accommodate guests, but small enough to shove out of the way (or even remove from the area entirely).

Here’s how it looks when set up normally. It’s a bit small for the space, even when the leaves are extended, but I don’t care:

Normal set-up

This is how small it gets when you close it up (notice that I bought seat cushions to match my lovely painting from my lovely friend Alice):

Wee table

OMG, look at all the floor space!

OMG, floor space!

OK, it’s not a huge amount of floor space, but it’s about twice as much as I had before. Also, yuck, that floor is ugly!

Here’s a bonus picture of the table with my Halloween tablerunner. I must wash it this weekend!

Table with halloween tablerunner

My living room is fixed (mostly)

Last week I posted about my messy living room. It took me all weekend (mostly because one thing led to another and I ended up tidying and re-arranging the whole apartment), but I now have a (mostly) finished living room.

Obviously, I still need to move my bird pictures so they aren’t hidden behind plants and maybe I could refrain from putting every sweater I own on my chair by the sewing table:

Operation livingroom: After

The other side is now marginally more messy because I have a box under the table, but I plan to cover the box for prettier storage. Maybe I will also add a few nicer pillows that look better together. A table lamp might be good, too:

Operation livingroom: after

The one big thing left to do is to find a small table or shelf for beside my sewing table. I need to be able to keep my ironing table clear for when I need to iron, but I have a few odds and ends of things that I like to keep close to the sewing table (my clock radio, the glass of sewing and marking tools, etc.). And, yeah, I still can’t believe I forgot to move those damned bird pictures before I snapped these pics:

Needs work