Crafts & How-Tos

A funny thing happened when I decided to planning my blog posts: I started seeing potential projects everywhere.

A bunch of leftover bottles? That could be some kind of cool vase, right? A messy closet? A total how-to waiting to happen. By choosing to try to be more creative, it seems I switched my brain into constant maker/doer/creator mode.

The same is true of when I go shopping for my home. Typically, I’ll have an idea in mind based on something I’ve seen in a magazine, on HGTV, on Pinterest, or in a friend’s home, and I do what I can to bring that idea to life. In the past, I might just buy what I wanted, but now I actually look for ideas that I can create.

Then again, sometimes I’m also just struck with inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Target for items I needed for our master bedroom redo (as one does) when I decided to take a spin down their crafting and DIY aisles. One of their sub-brands, Hand Made Modern, was having a 20% off sale, so I decided to peruse in case there was anything I could use. In the ceramics section, I spotted an unfinished vase/container and a small octagon-shaped tray. Immediately, I knew they would be perfect details for our new nightstands.

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The paint was on sale, and I was excited to find a gold paint and a rose gold paint. If you know me, you know I love gold. And if you REALLY know me, you know I love rose gold.

I knew I wanted to turn the container into a pot for succulents and the tray into a jewelry tray. I started by taping off an asymmetrical line on the container to give it a dip-dyed effect. For the tray, I created a heart stencil out of a piece of tape.

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It took about three thin coats of Hand Made Modern’s metallic acrylic paint to achieve the opaque finish I wanted. Be sure to peel away the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off any paint later on.

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I gave each piece 48 hours to dry before handling. The paint says it takes about a month to fully cure, but I knew, even in use, the painted parts of my ceramics wouldn’t get a lot of handling.

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I also used a Sharpie to add a little message on the jewelry tray. Because who doesn’t need a daily compliment from their decor accessories?

The final results were exactly how I hoped they would be:

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And they look even better in their new homes on our newly painted nightstands.

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Not bad for an impromptu DIY, right? So what have you been making lately?

I’m going to be honest: I do not have the best track record with household plants.

Pets? I can house train a dog within a week and my family once had a carnival goldfish for two years. Babies? I mean, I don’t exactly have years of experience, but Viv is by all accounts thriving.

But a houseplant? This is the last houseplant I had:

RIP

RIP

Not a good look. But when I decided to redecorate our bedroom, I knew I wanted to layer in some texture in the way of greenery.

And that’s how I found my way to succulents.

Like the rest of the millenial western hemisphere, I’ve found myself charmed by this chubby little flora in the last couple of years. But I was wary against bringing them into my home because, to be honest, they look complicated. Fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Succulents are oft lauded as nearly impossible to kill and for being able to survive in almost desert-like conditions.

Sounds like my kind of plant.

As hardy as succulents are, though, there are still a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when growing your own. Here is what I learned:

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1. Choose the right soil.

Most guides agree that you can either opt for a cactus potting mix or make your own by blending equal parts gravel and traditional potting soil. Even though these little plants don’t need a lot of moisture, they do need a good drainage system. A grainier soil will provide that.

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2. Keep the succulents high in their container.

Unlike other plants where you want a bit of space between the dirt line and the top of the pot, succulents do best when they grow right along the edge of their container. In fact, most of the pros recommend placing the plants so that the succulent hangs over the edge a bit (also called a “spiller”). This prevents the leaves from getting trapped under any water and rotting or discoloring.

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I also planted an aloe vera plant in another container. These don’t need to be planted quite so high up in the pot, but they do need the same cactus/gravel-and-soil mixture for proper drainage — they can’t take standing water of any kind. Be really cautious against over-watering both plants. To be safe, only water once a week or so when the soil feels dry.

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3. Get the right light.

Succulents don’t need constant bright light, but it is good to give them an hour or so of sunshine a few times a week. Ours will live on Joey’s nightstand most of the time, but I’ll make sure they spend some time near the window. Aloe vera, on the other hand, need plenty of light. Since our bedroom tends to be a little darker, I’m planning to keep this guy on the window sill full time.

And really, that’s pretty much it! I’ve had the plants for a little over a week, and they both look just as healthy as they did when I planted them. Giving myself a big green thumbs-up over here.

Also, did you notice that cute gold-dipped succulent planner? Wouldn’t ya know it, that’s a DIY post for another day. (AKA, next week.) Stay tuned!

I feel obligated to say that I feel a little silly calling our bedroom the “master bedroom.” In total honesty, there is really very little masterful about it. Unless, I guess, you get all hot and bothered by a 10-by-12-foot shoe box with closet better suited for dolls.

But you’re not here for the “omigawd New York City apartments are small” conversation. You’re here to creep on my bedroom.

I’ve said before that I have always had a hard time decorating our bedroom. (This was the closest I had gotten in the past.) I don’t really know why. I think it’s because, for most of our marriage, we’ve lived in fairly small places where our bedroom also had to serve as storage. Plus, we just don’t spend a lot of time in there outside of bedtime, so it has always been a mental struggle for me to prioritize spending any amount of money on dressing it up.

Up until recently, this is what our bedroom looked like:

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So, you know, not terrible. Just a little…undone. I had added the more colorful bedspread shortly before Vivi was born (thank you, West Elm clearance sale), and the more I looked at it with the blue wall and patterned throw pillows and patterned curtains we had, the more I felt like the room felt too busy to ever be a relaxing, dream-inducing space. I purchased new pillows, shams, and curtains from IKEA, but the blue wall was still tripping me up.

Clearly, the first thing I needed to do was update the room’s color. I did research, stalked my stylish friends’ Instagram photos, and scoured Pinterest for the perfect warm, oatmeal-y shade of beige or taupe. The winner? Benjamin Moore’s Shaker Beige. It is this magical hue that looks a little different depending on the light, alternating between a rich taupe and a cozy tan depending on the time of day. Next, all I had to do was wait for my mom to visit (so someone could hold the Viv while I painted).

A gallon of paint and about 12 hours later, this is what I was left with:

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Much better, right? But something still wasn’t right.

Or rather, two somethings. I’m looking at you, yellow-y night tables.

I had purchased our night stands on Craigslist almost a year ago. Let me tell you, they were a challenge. Given the minuscule size of our bedroom, I needed two tables that were less than 14 inches wide. I wanted them to have a drawer, and they either needed to be white or paintable. Oh, and I’m super cheap, so I wanted them both for under $50.

Like I said, a challenge.

Fortunately, I like a challenge, and after a couple of months of searching, I found these beauties on my favorite home decor outlet, Craigslist, for $40 for the pair. SOLD.

The only trouble was that they were not white. They were, however, paintable. So I put them in the room, fully intending to paint them as soon as we had a nice clear day.

Then I had a baby. And, you know what? Babies keep you super busy. So light yellow the night stands stayed.

Until NOW.

I started by removing the hardware and sanding down each piece lightly with a fine grit sandpaper. Then I wiped them both down to remove the sanded dust.

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Next, it was time to paint. I used the same paint I had used to paint our old kitchen table (SAVINGS!) and a small brush. I wasn’t terribly concerned about creating a super smooth surface, plus the table legs had a lot of detailing, otherwise I would have used a roller.

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Two thin coats later, the tables were white. Yay! But I wanted to jazz them up a bit more. I realized I could unscrew the bottom part of the legs, so I decided to create a dipped effect by spray painting them (and the knobs) gold.

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The nice part about the spray paint was that it dried very quickly and gave the legs and knobs a more metallic finish. Ready for the result?

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Not bad, eh? Certainly worth an 8-month wait. (Cough.) Here’s what the room looks like now:

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(Sorry the lighting is always kind of terrible. Our bedroom is basically a cave, so there is very little natural light to be found.)

But, you guys? In person, this place is so cozy and serene. The wall color made such a huge impact, and all of the details really fell into place.

Speaking of details, you may have noticed there were quite a few little accessories on the night tables that I didn’t mention. Never fear, there will be more on that later. (OMG PROJECTS!)

It’s amazing how much joy having a decorated bedroom brings me. I literally take a second after I make the bed every morning just to take it in. (But just a second…then Vivi demands something of me.)

Can you believe it only took me five years of marriage to decorate our bedroom? I’m not sure if I should feel accomplished or embarrassed. Either way, I’m ready for a nap on that pretty bed.

My mom has been in town for the last few days (and my dad over the weekend), so I’ve been able to accomplish a lot around the apartment that I’ve had on my to-do list for a while. One of those big tasks was redecorating our bedroom. I’m going to do a full reveal, but I also want to share a few of the smaller projects that make up the whole room. Today, we’re talking floral arrangements.

One of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had was when I was the Flowers Editor for a wedding magazine. I know a fair amount about flowers already from my mom, but my job was basically to look at beautiful bouquets all day, forecast the trends, schmooze with the top florists from around the city, and receive bouquets occasionally from vendors who wanted to impress us. I’ve never had so many fresh flowers around in my life.

And while I love the idea of surrounding our home with fresh flowers on the daily, it’s simply not practical. But I do love the look, which is why I’ve embraced silk or artificial blooms.

The trouble with artificial flowers is that, often times, they look…well, fake. And that utterly defeats the purpose. So I’ve come up with a few rules to selecting the best-looking faux flowers for your home.

Don’t forget to pay careful attention to your color choices.

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In general, I have a really hard time finding flowers in primary shades that look realistic. It’s just a tough job to create a dye the same color as what you find in nature, and the primary hues lack the depth you see in the real thing. It works for wreaths or displays that need to be seen from a distance, but otherwise, I say skip reds, blues, yellows (except in the case of sunflowers), and even most oranges.

Do embrace pastels and jewel tones.

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Pastels are almost always a safe bet when it comes to faux flowers because — surprise! — they closely resemble a lot of real flowers. But if you’re looking to make a statement, go for something in the jewel tone family. At least it’s another natural color.

Do opt for texture.

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Big fluffy flowers are easier to fake than anything more architecturally shaped. The softer petals will all blend together in a big puff of flowers, give the appearance of softness and texture without triggering anyone’s attention that they’re not real.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond flowers.

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Cherry blossoms, pussy willows, and other stick-like options are great for adding height or finishing off more modern decor. Plus, they just tend to look more authentic. This is a great option for first-time faux flower buyers because it’s really hard to mess up.

Don’t forget your greens.

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Real life flowers always have greenery, so your faux displays should too. Greenery is also another option if you’re not ready to jump on the flower bandwagon just yet. Plus, they tend to look more real as well.

Don’t do this…ever:

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Natural colors, remember? Just trust me on that one.

Now…for the arranging!

Do select a variety of flowers in the same color family.

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Don’t worry about matching your flowers exactly — that’s not how it happens in nature! A variety of blush shades creates a romantic blend that looks more realistic as well.

Do trim your stems to fit your container.

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Just like you would a real bunch of flowers, use wire cutters to trim the stems to fit your container for easier arranging.

Do pick a focal point.

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Create cohesive bouquets by picking a showstopper centerpiece (in my case, a large peony) and arranging your supporting flowers around it. Then tuck in a bit of greenery to finish off the look.

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Ta da! I’m pretty pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

Do you decorate with faux flowers? What are your best tips for making them look more realistic?

Or, How I Organized My Desk Drawer for Less Than $15

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Yikes. Am I right? Just looking at a picture of our desk drawer stresses me out. So you can imagine how I felt actually living with that mess.

But despite being a fairly organized person in general (okay, I’m a little bit of a freak), there was something about our desk drawer that had me stumped for, well, let’s call it a calendar year.

While this drawer is actually significantly better than the one on our old desk (which was tiny), the bigness of it tended to backfire on my organization habits because it was essentially one big space, meaning everything in it shared that space all willy-nilly like. As a result, it became the bane of all type-A types: the junk drawer.

Finally, I decided enough was enough. On my recent trip to IKEA, I kept my eyes peeled for desk organization items. But I also knew I didn’t really want to spend a million dollars on a fancy organizational system. I just wanted something simple, pretty, and budget friendly.

That’s when I spotted these. These cute little bowls would have worked well enough on their own, but I decided to try to think of a way to personalize them/make them look more expensive if possible.

I also started to peruse IKEA’s vast selection of silverware drawer organizers (a great option for office supplies and jewelry, as well as cutlery), when I suddenly remembered that I actually had a silverware organizer tucked away in a closet at home. We had used it at our old apartment, but it was too wide for the drawers in our new place. So I bought two of the bowls and decided to simply upcycle everything else I needed.

And that, my friends, is the definition of budget friendly.

A few days later, I dug up the old silverware drawer. It was totally fine — no broken parts, the right size — but the bronze color clashed with the mint bowls.

And THAT was when I decided this was a job for gold spray paint.

I am no stranger to spray painting things gold. (Cough.) In fact, my husband has said, on occasion, that everything in our apartment is gold. (This is a gross exaggeration. But I get it.) So at this point, I consider myself a bit of a pro in what to do. I purchased some primer and some metallic gold spray paint and got ready to get in to it.

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Cue my instant disappointment when I realized that the primer I had purchased was defective. Any attempt to spray the paint resulted in the can just spurting paint everywhere. Not cute.

I was about to give up on my project for the day (and had started racking my brain for a new project to fill this week’s post) when I decided to, you know, actually read the instructions on the gold paint’s can.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Krylon gold spray paint boasts the ability to stick to virtually every surface, INCLUDING PLASTIC AND METAL.We were back in business.

Three thin coats later, and I was left with these beauties:

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Note: I taped off the bottom of the bowls to keep them white, and I am very pleased with the effect.

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The one thing that was kind of annoying was that the gold spray paint dripped a bit, which was only really noticeable in the bowls:

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This could probably be avoided by a) using a can with a more even spray nozzle or b) being more careful, but ultimately I decided the bowls would be full anyway, so no one would ever know.

Then I set to work organizing the aforementioned junk drawer desk drawer.

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Not bad, right? Let’s get a close-up:

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Now, not only do I not dread opening the drawer, but it actually feels a little bit luxe. And I got that feeling of luxurious organization for less than $15! Not bad at all.

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You guys know how much I love a project. It doesn’t even have to technically be my project — I’m willing to help with any kind of makeover or DIY. So when my dear friend Cynthia (you may remember her as the mastermind behind the annual tea party and my “Once upon a time”-themed baby shower) decided to redecorate her sons’ room, I was excited to help out any way I could.

And when she found out I was looking for projects to blog about, she immediately asked me to assist her in painting a lacquered wood and laminate bookshelf for the room. Naturally, I was game.

I’ve painted a few pieces of furniture in my time, so fortunately I already had most of the materials we needed on-hand. Here’s how we handled this mixed-materials piece.

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Step one: Clean your piece of furniture thoroughly. The majority of the bookshelf was wood with a thin lacquer, but the back panel was a laminate.

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Step two: Sand it down. We started with a medium grit sandpaper, and then followed up with a fine grit. You don’t need to go crazy; just go over each section for about five seconds to remove the shiny finish and smooth out any divots or nicks from previous use. For the laminate, we just needed to provide a bit of roughness for the primer to stick to, so we primarily used the fine grit sand paper.

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This photo gives you an idea what the sanded wood should look like. Not unlike your T-zone, you don’t want any shininess remaining.

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Step three: Wipe the whole piece down with a damp rag. You could also use turpentine or something stronger, but, honestly, a wrung-out washcloth will do the trick to remove any grit or dust. Let dry completely (should only take a few minutes).
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Step four: Time to prime. Or you could save time like we did and use a paint+primer. Either way, you should end up doing 2-3 thin coats.

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We used a small mohair roller for the flat areas. For the first coat, you should also use a small angled brush or foam brush to coat the corners and get between any grooves in the wood.

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Don’t worry about the evenness too much, that’s what subsequent coats are for. And don’t glop on too much paint, even though it’s tempting. Thin, even coats are the key to a smooth finish and faster drying times.

Step five: Repeat step four up to two more times. Really, it shouldn’t take more than three coats to cover the wood/laminate evenly. If you do end up with any bumps or drips, use your fine sandpaper to smooth them out before the next coat. Let dry completely in a cool, dry environment for 24 hours before putting anything on the surface.

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Didn’t it turn out great? The boys’ new beds, desk, and shelves are white, so this bookshelf ties in perfectly with the new look.

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If you’re worried about any remaining tackiness on surfaces where you will put books or other heavy items, you can also seal the paint with a water-based polycrylic. In this case, though, it wasn’t needed.

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Go, Cynthia! You are the coolest mom.

Side note: How much fun is it decorating rooms for kids? They get all the coolest stuff.

What have you been working on lately?