Category Archives: Decor

Homemade Placemats

My mom made some pretty place mats last year for their nice plates to go on their beautiful handmade wooden dining table in their lovely new home. I, on the other hand, live in a mediocre rental apartment, and the dining room is filled with my super-considerate roommate’s giant pool table (and in case you were wondering, it rarely gets used…can you sense my bitterness towards this table??). As a result my junky little 36″ round dining table is cramped in the corner of the living room, and is generally covered in all of our furniture redoing tools, so doesn’t get much action at dinner time. My plates are from Walmart and have seen better days. BUT, despite all this, I can still have nice place mats like my mom, so I set out to make my own! I made the dire mistake of asking Nik to come look at fabric with me, and for those of you who know Nik, he is quite opinionated about…well, pretty much everything except what I cook for dinner. About one long hour into our JoAnn’s Fabrics trip, we had it narrowed down to two totally different fabrics, and instead of sacrificing the strength of our relationship I decided I’d make two-sided place mats. Another mistake…Nik was very concerned the pattern would be visible from the other side when the mats are flat on the table, so he made me pick out some options for trim to hide the other side. Trim is nice, but you have to actually have good sewing machine skills to use it well, which I don’t have. So I ended up skipping the trim and just ironing the place mats as flat as I could so the contrasting pattern on the underside wasn’t visible. So I wasted some money buying trim that failed. Ok, enough writing, here’s a picture of the fabrics all cut out as evenly as possible:

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Third mistake: I’m never buying geometric patterns again that need to be cut into perfect shapes. Nik likes even things (understatement), so I couldn’t just “wing it” with the diamond pattern…it had to be evenly spaced between top and bottom and side to side. It took quite a bit of measuring to make it all work with the length of fabric I purchased that of course was about 1/2″ too short to make this measuring process simple. I made them 18″ wide and 13.5″ tall and accounted for about a 1/2″ seam so the resulting place mat would be 17″ tall and 12.5″ wide. I lined up the two fabrics face to face and pinned:

IMG_1468Then put a 1/2″ seam around all edges, with a small gap for turning it right side out. Once right side out, I pushed all the corners out and ironed it flat. Here’s the finished mat:

IMG_1471      IMG_1470 IMG_1469I think they came out pretty nice, simple, and elegant! And you can’t see the contrasting pattern too much when its flat on a table. I’ve done 2 of the 6 I plan to make. I’d take a lovely “after” picture with full place settings with my pretty china plates set out on my nice dining table if I could (sigh…refer to first paragraph if you’re confused at why I can’t do this).  Some day I’ll have nice things!

I also have a bunch of the floral fabric left over, and some left over insulation stuff from when I attempted to make a pot holder a while ago. I’m going to make some pot-warmer table protectors (Nik informed me these items are actually called trivets?) to go with the floral side of the mats. All in all, 6 two-sided placemats and a couple of trivets cost about $20 to make, with several JoAnn’s coupons I used.

Botanical Print Decor and Upcoming Projects

A few months ago, Nik found some cool botanical prints from an 1800’s book that were up on Ebay, so he bid on them and got 3 for about $20, including shipping. IMG_1002 IMG_1001 IMG_0999 One is about carnivorous plants, one has pictures of plant diseases, and the last one has orchids. We bought several different frames to try these in, and finally settled on one that came with matting. I got the frames (50% off of course) at AC Moore, and they came out to about $10-12 each. The pictures didn’t quite fit in the matting, plus we wanted to see the worn book edges since it made them more interesting. I used photo corner holders, and they ended up like this: IMG_1123And then we hung them up at the bottom of our stairs. The whole project was about $55, and we love how they look! IMG_1137On another note…I convinced my friends who have gotten into furniture refinishing to do a joint project with us that was too large for us to move/store on our own. Its a mid-century china cabinet, and it has a fair bit of damage to surfaces/edges but it is mostly wood and veneer so hopefully the damage is something we can work with. Its about 5′ tall and 4′ wide and has some cool drawers, and glass panels covering the shelves (not pictured). The actual color is closer to the right picture that shows the cabinet fronts: IMG_1209          IMG_1206 Because of the damage, we’ll probably be doing a combination of paint and stain on this, and replacing the wood backing since it has an unrepairable hole in it. We only paid $50 for this, and mid century things are popular, so I think we’ll be able to get a lot for this piece once we fix it up! I don’t know if we’ll start working on this before the new year, because I’ve got some projects to finish up first – that weathered table we started on months ago will get finished up this weekend, as well as a surprise furniture piece I’m refinishing for my brother, and the crazy chair Nik has been hard at work on.

Weathered table and More

The past week or so has been spent painting and painting and painting the outside of that secretary. I’m halfway convinced that thing is made out of real living flesh, because as soon as you paint a coat of paint (mind you, this is good quality paint-and-primer-in-one paint that “should” cover in 1-2 coats) the red color of the wood starts bleeding through the paint and you’re back at square one. Nik thinks we’ve put on 4-5 coats of paint OVER the coat of primer, and we’re still seeing a red tinge. One more coat it is… Anyway, again here is what is looked like before and after primer:

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And with a coat (or several) of paint:

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We’re also painting the front desk cover and the cubby compartments white but I don’t have a picture of those. Oh, and I also skipped telling you that we learned about something new called underlayment. This is 5/16″ thin plywood that is what usually makes up the bottom of a drawer, and in the case of this secretary, the back panel. The very bottom drawer and the back of this piece were disintegrating and warped, so we popped out the old wood and got two pieces of underlayment cut to size at Home Depot. The whole 4’x8′ sheet was only $12. The drawer piece slid right into place, and the back piece will be nailed on simple as that. This was an unexpectedly easy fix for this old piece of furniture! So, we’re getting close, just another coat or two of paint and then touching up the stained part (after all that painting its impossible that none of it got outside the lines!). We’ll be using water-based poly to seal up the entire piece then we’ll attach the cubbies and the front panel. I think we’re going to try to clean up the old hardware and put those handles back on because they’re pretty unique but we’ll see how that goes. On another note, we’ve made some headway with a new project that Nik (literally) dug out of the large furniture dumpster in our neighborhood. He found a large circular pine table and 4 legs to go with it (no leaf unfortunately).

Here’s the before pictures:

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And then he sanded it down (ignore the blue paint, we were testing out some exterior paint on it but we sanded that off too):

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And we used the classic grey from the middle drawer in the secretary to stain this. We were going to use dark walnut and then I had the idea to use the classic grey and I love how it turned out!

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Apparently our deck is an almost identical color so I’m sorry that it looks like it is camouflaged with the ground…Now we’re priming and painting the table skirt (under the round top) and the legs a cream color.

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The legs are plain and ugly, but hey, this table was free. Hopefully someone can overlook that and consider it a lovely weathered “country” table. And for one more thing to leave you with, I finally finished my pistachio shell art and I love how it came out! I never knew I could be so crafty (of course using the creativity and detailed guide of someone else).

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Pistachios and New Projects

After my previous lengthy, descriptive post, I promised I’d make a post with updates on our ongoing and new projects. I’ll start off with a fun crafty project that is totally not furniture-related. Nik and I LOVE pistachios, and find ourselves going through a Sam’s Club-sized bag every month or two. On one of the blogs I read, Addicted2decorating.com, she posted about an idea to use up all the shells left over from pistachios.

I love this, and had all the tools to get started – tons of empty shells (which I rinsed a few times with water), glue gun, and downtime in the evenings when I like to do mindless things to relax. I’ll still need to figure out a frame or shadowbox to use, and get some dye to make them colored.

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The first one I tried to make ended pretty terribly (its the one that’s laying on its side in the picture above because instead of making the petals on the same plane, each layer added height to the flower and it ended up more like a pine cone). I decided this was a stupid activity and was about to give up, but then Nik tried one with more success and renewed my motivation to keep going. Each one got easier to make, and now I probably have about 10 flowers of varying sizes. I’ll get some dye and a frame this weekend and finish this up.

Next, I posted about the ugly little side table we picked up from a yard sale a couple weeks ago:

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Since then, we’ve strippped, stained, and sealed the top of this.

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And then we primed the body – we’re trying to figure out which of these handles left over from other projects to use on the drawer – any preferences? I’m leaning towards the round ones…

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We were planning on going with cream paint that we were thinking of antiquing with stain, but then we got this awesome clearance color for 50 cents at home depot that I absolutely love. Unfortunately it didn’t have the color label on it, so it was probably a color match reject from someone else.

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So now I’m debating antiquing over that color or just leaving it pretty as it is. I might do some practice antiquing on junk wood painted with the color, to see how I like it and that will help me make a decision.

Finally, we went to the flea market with some friends on Saturday, and we bought a new piece to work on that is a really really old secretary/dresser. This piece is in rough shape and will need a lot of sanding and cleaning up and possibly some repair to the back panel to get it in working condition.

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I’m clearly dedicated to this piece, because I battled these awful spiderwebs and eggs to get it onto my porch. Gross.

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Nik’s idea for this piece (assuming the wood drawers actually yield decent quality wood when we strip them) is to do an ombre pattern with stain on the drawers, kind of like this dresser. I like the gray tones in that, so we’re going to check out the options for gray stains, which we’ve never tried before. Rustoleum and Minwax both make a variety of gray stains, so we’ll have to pick some out to try. The rest of the body might be painted, we’re not sure just yet.

That’s it for right now. I’m looking forward to a weekend with great weather so we can actually wrap up these projects in progress!