Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5+ DIY Seashell Crafts

Spring time is approaching, and for those of us who live in areas with snowy winters, it brings much anticipation along with it! This is the time of year I start preparations for my vegetable garden, flowers, outdoor projects, and of course, summer vacations and beach visits! One of my favorite activities to do on the beach is shelling...and then finding uses for all the wonderful treasures I collected.
I created a list of some of the crafts I've done using shells, but before we start, I just wanted to say, please be sure the beaches allow seashell collecting before taking anything. Many places do not allow collection of shells, rocks, etc. for conservation of the natural habitat. There are usually signs listed at the beach, but if you aren't sure, you could look up the information for that specific beach before your visit.
Now the list!

1) Colorful broken pieces as filler

How many times have you come across a beautiful dash of color in the sand, only to find a broken piece of shell? Well, don't throw it back in the sand just yet! If you find many pieces, you could display them in a dish, vase, or bowl as a filler similar to glass beads or river rocks. I adore my collection of lovely shades of purple, pink, and cream!

2) Seashell and driftwood mobile

One beach my family visited had miles of seashells every morning for a far as the eye could see. Most of the shells were the same type, just different sizes with some color variations. The majority of these shells had holes in them from predatory snails, sea stars, octopus, and squid drilling or chiseling away at the shell to get food...My 9 year old told me that interesting fact; he's always keeping me in the know when it comes to animals :)

I was able to collect a lot of shells from that location; because of that and the size variations, I was able to create a gradient effect with the sizes and amount on each strand that I hung from the driftwood. I really like the way it turned out!

  • Using fishing line, I strung the shells largest to smallest from top to bottom. There are 7 strands of shells. Each strand increased in shells moving from right to left. There are two strands with five shells on them because I ran out! I simply adjusted the spacing a little on those two strands to keep the gradual angle flowing.
  • Then, I tied the strands of shells around the wood. The Mr. helped me with the next part; he suspended the wood with fishing line attached to two small hooks he placed in the ceiling. He tied the mobile in place while I stood back making sure it was straight. 
Can anyone else see the angry raincloud face in this pic? The arrows look like eyes, the stick looks like the mouth, and the shells look like rain. I don't deny that my imagination is pretty out there sometimes :)

3) Make creatures

More broken shell pieces! Take a look at broken shells...could one be a fin? The body of a fish? An eye? It's amazing what you can find when you tell your eyes what to look for. If you are on the hunt for whole shells, the broken pieces probably won't interest you because they will be nothing more than an incomplete shell. But! If you were to be on the lookout for fins, eyes, bodies, etc. you might be surprised by how many little treasures you'll find!

I created this little fish when I was sorting through the interesting broken shell pieces I collected on a vacation. One piece stood out to me because it resembled a fin so much. I began searching through the bucket for a body, eye, dorsal fin, and suddenly, I had created this darling little guy. Some hot glue, burlap, and a frame made this little fishy become art!

  • After washing shells and drying them on a towel, I began playing with and arranging shell pieces until I put together what I wanted to make.

  • Next, I hot glued the fish together and gathered the supplies I would need for the frame.
  • Carefully, I took the glass out of the frame and set it aside (wouldn't be needing it). I took the back of the frame off, flipped it over, and cut a piece of burlap to fit (leave a tiny bit of an excess edge all around). Next, I applied Elmer's glue to it. I smoothed out the glue, then applied the burlap.

  • Next, I applied a thin strip of hot glue to the edges and folded them into it. Be careful not to burn yourself! Also, try not to add too much bulk or it won't fit back in the frame. I added a little too much bulk and had to trim one end with a heavier duty pair of scissors. I applied glue to the edges of the newly cut end as well so the burlap would stay put, and not fray further.

  • Then, I hot glued the fish to the burlap and placed it in the frame.

4) Start a new tradition: Have a family beach collection

In a bowl, vase, jar, whatever you'd like, begin placing one of your favorite shells from each beach your family visits. After a while, you will have a nice little collection.

5) Christmas ornament memento

Write the beach and year on one of your shells and make a Christmas ornament out of it. If your vacation included other families, make one for each family as a Christmas gift. Our family went on a large group vacation last summer, so I made an ornament for each family. Along with the place and year, I also wrote a memorable quote from our vacation. If you want, you could also add a bow or other embellishments to give the shell a little something extra.

I apologize for the poor quality of this pic. I made these before I decided to start a blog, and this is the only pic I have of them in a group...Oops!
+ More ideas
What have you done with seashells from your vacations? I'd love to see them!
Until next time...create away!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Old Dresser Repurposed Into A Buffet

Have an old dresser? If so, you could turn it into a dining room buffet! A friend of ours got a new bedroom set and gave us his old one. I thought it would be good for my son's room, so the headboard went upstairs, but we put off carrying the dresser up, and  it was temporarily (or so I thought) set in the dining room to get it out of the way. As soon as we put it in the dining room, I fell in love with it in that room and a makeover soon followed.

Our dining room is nautical with navy blue, deep red, and yellow/gold decor. I thought navy blue would be a good choice for the buffet, and I just so happened to have some leftover paint in a variation of that color!

1) To start, I wiped down the entire dresser and allowed it to dry.

2) I removed all the hardware and washed them in dish soap and warm water. I also removed the drawers.

3) Next, I  laid down a tarp, opened windows, and wore a mask, then gave the entire dresser a quick sanding with a fine grit sanding bar to take the shine off the finish. After sanding, I wiped everything down thoroughly to make sure no dust was left on the surface.

4) Once the surface was clean and dry, I began painting. I used leftover paint from the front door. This paint is an outdoor paint, and I must say, I LOVE outdoor paint for indoor furniture projects because it's so much more durable! I brushed the paint on the drawer fronts and smaller areas with a good quality brush (Purdy), but a roller worked perfectly fine for the larger open areas (like the top and parts of the sides). Not all paints cooperate with rolling onto furniture, but this paint did!

The paint I used was Severe Weather 15-year warranty Exterior Latex paint, in satin. The color is Poppy Seed by Behr.

I used satin, NOT flat.

5) The dresser took two coats of paint. When the paint was fully dried, I took the sanding bar to the edges to add more dimension. The wood showing through the paint against the dark blue gives it a gold edged look.

6) Wipe down the dresser to get any more sanding dust off, replace the hardware, and put the drawers back in. Voila!

I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out! Because of this piece, the dining room is one of my favorite rooms in our house.

Until next time...create away!

5+ Ways To Make Oak Work (Without Painting It All White)

Added this pic 2/25/16, but the kitchen is not finished and this is just a cell pic. We took the original island, painted it white, added faux wainscoting, molding, and faux legs. The Mr. built a butcher-block top on it. We added Patagonian rosewood floors with undertones that work with the oak without blending in with it. There's a lot more to come with the kitchen such as new lights, a chimney hood is our latest project, backsplash, new appliances, etc. I will update with more pics as we accomplish these tasks. I hope this gives you some inspiration for your 90's style oak cabinets...they really can be beautiful again!!

Moving into a home with a lot of oak (not builder grade) has brought out my resourcefulness; I've read blog posts, interior design articles, refreshed my knowledge of color theory, and good ole trial and error over the past several years. With all that, I've finally gotten a handle on how to work with oak. I hope by consolidating these tips, someone out there can save themselves from extra work and headaches.

But! Be forewarned...I break rules when it comes to trim. I don't think a house must have matching wood throughout, and that includes trim. To me, a house can be decorated however you want it to be, especially if you're planning on staying in it for the long haul.

Here are 5 tips for working with oak without painting it all white:

1) Paint color undertones

Paint color you choose for your walls can make or break the appearance of oak. Stay away from pink beige undertones in paint, tiles, flooring, etc. with oak. Pink beige clashes with the orange and golden hues making the overall look seem off, and often times, makes the pink beige appear dirty.

The undertones in oak are usually yellow, orange, or even some red; if you think about the color wheel, the complementary colors would be as follows:
  • Yellow ---> purple
  • Orange ---> blue
  • Red ---> green
The bolder the undertones, the bolder the colors will appear. If you choose neutrals that have subtle undertones, your oak will be subtly complemented. I will get into that more in #3.

Yellows also work with oak. Yellow and oak are sort of like allies; it doesn't clash the way pink undertones and oak do, but it doesn't make the oak stand out, either. Yellow, yellow undertones, and cream colors are a good choice if you want your oak to blend into the room without making the room feel cold.

2) Break it up

It seems when a house has oak in it, the oak is everywhere. My home had an all oak staircase, oak trim, flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, fireplace mantel, etc. Rather than going through and painting all of it white, try breaking it up by only painting some of it, or my personal favorite, create two-tone looks with different wood finishes.

Using a darker shade of stain to create an accent piece can really change things up and refresh a room full of oak.

I have broken up the amount of oak in my home in several areas; let me share a few of them with you!

  • I painted the trim in the kitchen white, while leaving the window frame itself, oak. At this time, I'm not including pictures of the entire kitchen because I'm in process of making some dramatic changes (without painting the cabinets). Check back for the reveal! If you decide to paint some or all of your oak, be sure to get a stain blocking primer, otherwise the yellow will come right through and show on the white paint.
This color is Spalding Gray by Sherwin Williams and has purple/beige undertones.
Trim color is White Dove by Benjamin Moore.

Update 2/25/16: Changed the wall color to Natural Choice by Sherwin Williams because we put in new floors which made the space much darker. Still a lot to do...needs new countertops, new faucet, new windows, but this will do for now!

  • The fireplace in our home used to have a stained oak mantel with hunter green tiles. I painted the mantel white, and painted the tiles with a cream, faux marbleized finish, while leaving the oak trim in the room as is. You can find the full tutorial for the fireplace, here
Fireplace before

For my style, I think the combination of a white mantel with wood trim was a good choice; it really makes the fireplace stand out, while the wood trim blends in and helps create a warm, relaxed feel.
The paint color on this wall is Butternut Wood by Behr, and has green-yellow undertones. The mantel color is White Dove by Benjamin Moore.

Update 2/25/16: First of all, take a look at the carpet...do you see the pink undertones next to the yellow tile and orange guitar? It clashes, and will be changed soon. It's more noticeable in lighting like this (overcast snowy day). Anyway, I don't claim to be an interior designer and I tend to just surround myself in things that make me feel good...like clay pots made by a cousin, walking sticks carved by Grandfathers, musical instruments, and color that makes me think of nature. This is just an update...same wall color, same wood trim, just different mantel d├ęcor.

  • For the staircase, I knew a makeover was in order, but there were so many options and possibilities! After contemplating which direction to take the staircase, I decided to go with staining the spindles dark kona, and leaving the steps, risers, and banister, oak. This small change made a huge difference! The contrast is perfect and I absolutely adore how it looks.
During the process of staining the spindles, there was already a dramatic difference! In this pic, you can also see pink undertones in the wall paint (was here when we moved in) and how it clashes with the wood.

The color on the wall was here when we moved in and will be changed soon. It's hard to see the pink undertones in this picture in some spots, but if you look at the thin strip of wall under the moulding above the landing area, you can see the pink (specifically near the corner of the wall). You can see the undertones really well in the previous picture. 

  • We also added faux wainscoting and painted a rose on the landing in the kona stain to add more contrast and character. A full staircase makeover post is coming soon, but you can find the rose landing tutorial here.

3) Contrast

Contrasting colors are the groups of colors opposite on the color wheel, aka: warm vs. cool tones. Oak is warm, so cool tones add contrast; warm tones will blend in and reduce contrast.

Contrast is something many people are drawn to, and is often what makes white trim look so good. Even when placed against a cream color, white stands out. With oak, a contrasting color is what makes the oak stand out. There is such a thing as too much contrast, so keep that in mind.

Tips for adding contrast to make oak pop:
  • Rich colors. Going for medium to dark shades helps make oak appear bright. If your oak is really light, dark colors will make it appear even lighter.
  • Choose colors with cool undertones.
  • Two-tone effects like adding a darker shade of wood to some of the oak, or painting some of it white when there are large amounts of the same shade of oak in one space.
  • Hardware that adds contrast. Dark hardware works really well for this.
Tips for reducing contrast to subdue oak:
  • Choose colors that are Earth toned. Wood is a natural element, so when you pair it with an Earthy tone, it can reduce boldness in the appearance of the oak. If you go back to the picture of the fireplace, you can see how the earthy wall subtly complements the wood while the white fireplace takes center stage.
  • Choose colors with warm undertones (don't forget to stay away from the pink undertones though!).
  • Yellows, yellow undertones, and cream colors can reduce contrast without clashing with the wood. 
  • Paint colors that are close in shade to the wood.

4) Hardware

Oak cabinets from the 90's look especially outdated when they are embellished with outdated hardware. By changing out hardware to something more current, it can make your oak look current as well. I personally like the contrast of dark hardware on oak.

5) Shine

Oak has a lot of wood grain going on, which can camouflage dirt and flaws like no other! The downside is, you might not realize just how dirty it is! Once oak gets dull looking, it immediately looks like old wood from the 90's. Seems too simple to be true, but try giving it a good cleaning; it can really make a huge difference!


6) Perception

The last tip is a matter of mindset. I know, I know, bear with me for just a minute or two...
If you focus on what you dislike about your oak, it will always look ugly to you. For some of you, this can't be changed, and maybe painting the oak is the best option for you; however, if you are the kind of person who can adjust your perception, you might find that you can appreciate your oak, and in turn, grow to like it!

Let's explore a touch of history...

The unique grain patterns in oak have made it a sought after wood throughout history, commonly used in high status homes, ships, cathedrals, and other prestigious buildings.

Oak is a strong, hard wood that is highly resistant to fungal growth and insect infestation because of a high tannin content. The strength and resistance made oak the primary timber choice for the construction of European timber-framed buildings, and was also used in Europe for the construction of naval ships, until the 19th century.

I enjoy looking at the oak throughout my home, and appreciating its unique and lovely grain patterns. Some of the most beautiful wonders on this planet have markings of distinction; the Bengal tiger, giraffe, zebra, leopard, birdseye maple, marble, granite, etc. I see oak similarly.

Try not to see the 90's when you look at your oak; while oak was very popular in that decade, it's been around long before that and can still be beautiful when paired with modern flare and the right colors.

More ideas for working with oak without painting:
I hope these tips can help you work with your oak. If you have any tips, suggestions, or pictures of ways you've made your oak work, please share!

Until next time...create away!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stain Over Red Paint: Vintage Side Table Makeover

This vintage side table was another one of those pieces of furniture that we've always had. We used this table as a nightstand in our bedroom of our first house for several years.

When we moved into our current house, it sat in the garage for quite some time. The Mr. took a palm sander to it one day, but I wasn't ready for it at that time, and so it sat for 2 years.

Yesterday I decided it was time for the long overdue facelift.

Here is what it looked like before:

1) As I said, the Mr. sanded the table with a palm sander beforehand, but a couple spots were still shiny, so I sanded those spots by hand with fine grit sand paper.

2) I wiped down the entire table and allowed it to dry completely so that the surface was ready to accept paint. This is also when I removed the hardware from the drawer and took the drawer out of the table.

3) On cardboard and a tarp in the basement with windows open and a mask on, I began spraying the table. I used Rust-O-Leum Gloss Protective Enamel in a shade of red that I liked. I sprayed in short swipes about 10 inches away. You don't want to spray too closely or heavily because there will be drips.

Here's what the table looked like fully painted red. Bright!
4) Once the table was fully painted, I allowed it to dry and then began applying stain to give the red a deeper color with dimension. I used Minwax Gel Stain in Hickory.

Stain over paint gives an antiqued appearance and adds dark shadowing, which I find absolutely stunning over red paint. If there are grooves or cut-outs in the wood, apply the stain liberally in those areas and them wipe. This will make the grooves and cut-outs darker in appearance and really stand out.

I applied the stain wearing a glove and wiping on a light coat. I applied a thicker coat over corners and edges. If you really want dark edges and corners, sand them down to the wood before applying the stain.
Applying the stain heavily in the grooved lines that are on the top and sides of the table
Wipe up excess and blend
Stain over the edges and corners
5) After the table and drawer are completely dry, put the hardware back on and place the drawer back in the table.

The stain over the paint took this table from bright toolbox red to a deeper brick red with dimension. I love the way it turned out!

Until next time...create away!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mickey Ears Pancakes: Telling The Kids We're Going To Disney!

The Mr. and I had the morning planned...we would make Mickey shaped pancakes while sportin' some Mickey ears from the Disney Headbands game. Apparently our boys are quite used to this quirky behavior because they didn't even think anything of us wearing Mickey ears (at first).

It all started with the pancakes; the Mr. poured the batter on the griddle (one large circle, and two smaller ones poured so they are touching the larger circle), while I cut strawberry hearts. Our oldest son said "those look like Mickey ears with a heart on his face". I thought everything was going to go down right then and there, so I asked him to go wake his brothers...

...while he went to do that, the Mr. and I put on the Mickey ears headbands. The boys came down and didn't say much about it. The youngest woke up crabby (he's not a morning person), and began asking us to take them off...repeatedly. The middle guy was still waking up, and the oldest seemed to think we were having a themed breakfast. The Mr. started whistling the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, then I sang the hotdog song and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song.
When the pancakes were done, we sat down to eat and our middle son finally asked why everything was Mickey Mouse...that's when we got to tell them we are going to Disney! After a moment of shock, they were super excited...including the crabby little one (not so crabby anymore!).
We can't wait for our trip! How did you tell your kids you were going to Disney? I'd love to hear it!
Mickey ears cell phone selfie! Woop woop!
Until next time...create away!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dresser & Side Table Makeover: Nautical Stripes

I like to consider this project one of my learning experiences. I explain the whole thing, but unfortunately it's resulted in a lot-o-text. If you make it through all of this, I will mentally send you one heck of a high-five!
I gave this dresser, along with a small side table in my son's room, a distressed nautical stripe facelift one afternoon when I was feeling inspired to decorate. I went down to the basement, gathered some supplies, and went right to it. While it turned out pretty good for being on such a whim, I definitely could've done a better job on it.

Yet again, this is another older project that I'm blogging well after I had any idea I would write about them. Sadly, I don't have even a single before or during pic of this project...such a shame. I have learned my lesson since then and now take more than enough pictures of my projects. 

This is the dresser that went to the mirror I used in the vanity table project. You can see the tutorial for the vanity pictured below, here.
 Hard to believe that mirror went with this dresser!


Here's what I did...

1) First, I removed all the hardware, gave them a wash in Dawn dish soap and warm water, removed the drawers, and gave everything a quick sanding with a fine grit sanding bar. After that, I wiped everything down thoroughly to make sure the surface was clean, and allowed it to dry completely.

2) I did not use primer, but I should have for this piece. I have noticed the paint did not adhere well in a couple spots, which has required a touch up. If you would like to avoid that, learn from my mistake and prime. When in doubt, prime it.

3) After the primer is completely dry, you can begin painting. If you choose not to use spray paint, make sure to use a good brush to avoid brush strokes. I hand painted this piece, and that is another thing I've learned since then...I would've spray painted this sucker if I was going to paint it today.

Here's the product I used:

Rust-Oleum Painters' Touch Ultra Cover premium latex paint in black and in white.

The weird thing about furniture is that sometimes it needs primed, other times it doesn't. I simply sanded and applied this exact paint pictured above on the media console pictured below (see the tutorial here) and it has held up fine!

The nautical striped dresser has also held up well for the most part, but there are 2 areas that seemed to not adhere well. Perhaps I just didn't sand those areas well enough? That could be the issue.

The other odd thing is that it adhered fine to the side table, and I didn't even sand that piece! That's another thing I certainly wouldn't recommend, unless you have a similar mindset as I do; I'll explain my train of thought...


The side table was left behind by the previous owner of our first house. At that time, the table was hunter and light green. I painted blue over the hunter green when I was expecting my first. That makes this the third paint job this table has had, without stripping it beforehand.

The reason why I didn't prep it at all prior to painting was simply because...it just wasn't worth it to me. You can see brush strokes on the top in some areas from all the paint, and when I sanded the edges to give it a distressed look, blue paint showed underneath, which I think gave it some extra character.

One day, when this table isn't in the room of a 7 year old boy, sitting near a drum set, perhaps then I will strip it down to the wood and give it a top-notch finish; until then, I'd say this haphazard paint job will do just fine :)

Ok, back to the steps...
4) All of the black areas of the dresser and side table took 2 coats, the white drawer fronts took 3. If you notice some brush strokes, drips, or other paint errors, you can lightly sand between coats (once completely dried), wipe the dust off, and apply the next coat.

5) Optional: After the paint was completely dried, I took the sanding bar to the edges lightly, to give a slightly distressed look (my go-to finish!). I wiped the piece down again to remove any dust from sanding.

6) Last, I put the hardware back on the drawers and put them in the dresser.

Again, I apologize for not having any pictures of before or during this project, believe me, I am kicking myself for that as well as my priming error. I really love how this dresser turned out, despite the small set-backs. I'm also happy with the little side table considering the little work I put into it.

Hopefully you can benefit from knowing my mistakes and create a piece that will not need any touch-ups!

Until next time...create away!