Category Archives: home design

The fireplace surround

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If I’m going to catch up on my projects, I’m going to have to go back to where I left off, before the holidays. So here we go! I shared previously about my project to lighten and brighten my family room. The centerpiece of this room refresh was a new fireplace surround built by my brother Cameron, of Howard Homescapes. I wanted to keep my limestone fireplace but I wanted it prettied up a bit, and for the mantle to be more than a simple slab stuck up on top. I started a Pinterest board to visualize what I wanted in a new mantle. My brother and I sat down and he did sketches of the new design.

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He did the carpentry work over a few days and then I put on the paint. I’m so pleased with the result. The fireplace now looks like furniture that goes with the rest of our room, but I didn’t lose the traditional stone that came with the 1960ish addition on the back of my 1940 house.

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fireplace-beforeHere are a couple “before” photos for comparison. The room was cozy and beloved before, but it’s so much brighter and cleaner-looking now. I’m really pleased with my fireplace!

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A family room refresh

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I made and hung brazen, bold and beautiful family room curtains about five years ago. You can see them in this photo from 2011. They were from Robert Allen’s Kiki Pinata fabric and they set the stage for my family room, which was bold and cozy at the same time. Here are some other pictures of the room as it was, in an old post. I loved it, but I was getting tired of it. For one thing, it’s just  a really bold fabric, and one nice thing about homemade curtains is that it’s okay to change them in five years if you’re a little tired of the print. For another, I thought I would like the coziness that the bright yet dark colors would bring to the room, but instead it was starting to feel too dark. In the winters it gets dark so early; lighting a fire at 3:30 and settling into our family room was so great, but sometimes by 9:00 I just wanted a break. So this summer I gave my family room a lightening-up. I’m not posting pictures of the whole room yet because the final touch is going to be a makeover of our fireplace and that requires my brother’s DIY skills instead of mine, but here’s what I’ve got so far, before he comes and finishes the job for me. I made a sign for our homeschool, complete with our new logo (read more here). I designed the sign on the computer and had it printed on canvas.ornaments

Then I picked out new, white things for my mantle. I spray-painted branches for a tall vase, then crocheted and stiffened medallions out of cotton thread to make colorful ornaments. Instead of making new curtains, I ended up buying some ready-made ones that were such a good deal they were cheaper than sewing new ones myself. The white lets in so much light, and really brightens up this room.dust-covers

My sewing area got a little lift too, with new dust covers for my machines and some new white storage containers for supplies.dog-bed

Of course Belle was not left out; her new bed fits the new scheme!coasters

And new coasters from the dog bed scraps!cart

And I have been using a cart next to our sofa to coral some of the school things we need close at hand. I made it a tablecloth to keep it from getting beat up (it was my Grandma’s) while tying in all the green stuff I’ve added to the room. I’ve also painted some furniture and I’m gathering up the courage (and funds!) to buy a rug, but I’ll save all that for the post after the fireplace is done. I’m really enjoying the room’s new vibe. It’s still cozy and lively, but now the daylight seems to go much farther in here.

My sewing space

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This is my sewing space. It’s in the corner of our family room, to the side of the fireplace and not far from the sofa. It’s right in the middle of everything. If it gets messy, it shows. But if I have five minutes to sit down and start cutting something out, it’s right there. I don’t have to go to a separate part of the house, but can just float by and check in for a few minutes. My antique ironing board is tucked up against my Grandma’s old desk, in which I store threads and notions. The kitty litter bins under the table hold projects in progress. A little box on the table holds scissors, rulers, pencils, and the manuals to my sewing machines. The shelves hold buttons, patterns, pins, bobbins, and my knitting and crochet hooks. My embroidery machine sits on top of the little cart tucked in the side, which also holds pattern books and notions. I love my sewing space and it is beckoning to me today!

The continuing evolution of our playroom and studio

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This room has appeared on my blog a few times in the almost four years since we moved here. There was the time I made the futon and pillow covers, and the time I painted the sun on the floor (now painted over, due to water damage). We don’t use this basement space as our primary homeschool spot anymore. It has evolved and changed, and I work on it periodically–sometimes because I want to and sometimes because it floods (or did? Supposedly that’s fixed now). This summer I made some more changes to it to continue to meet our studio and play space needs. It’s just a basement room with a low ceiling and a concrete floor; it’s never destined for Better Homes and Gardens or to be the room we spend the most time in, but it is good space. It’s a place to put the bulky things that aren’t in the kids’ rooms or our shared living space. It’s the kids’ art spot, the dress-up spot, the home for games and toys. It’s the only spot in our home with a television. It’s the room where my fabric is stored, and is a cool place in summer and made cozy in winter with a fire in the fireplace. Some day it’s going to get a chair that doesn’t have an arm that falls off occasionally, a bigger and better rug, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve in other ways, but here are some scenes from this creative space right now. This summer I bought new storage furniture so the kids can easily access all the treasures.

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I set up a desk area dedicated to their crafty needs. Colored paper, art books, clay, melt beads, yarn and assorted other supplies are organized and at the ready. The labels are serving the dual purpose of reminding my little artists to clean up after themselves and helping Worth learn to read.

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I saved coffee syrup bottles, washed them out, and filled them with tempera paints. A color-mixing chart hung over the supply table helps the small artists mix their choice of hues. There is a bin under the table with clean, empty yogurt and applesauce containers we save. The older kids know how to wash the brushes out themselves so they are able to paint independently, without me dragging out supplies or cleaning up their messes. I hope to fill two more bottles with black and white paint, but first I have to drink more vanilla lattes.

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This is the easel, a half-turn from the paint-mixing spot. Bright oilcloth protects the floor, the canvas aprons protect the kids, and just out of the scope of the photo is a cord with clips for the kids to hang their masterpieces when they are done.

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My crafty storage area got a few upgrades too. I’m not very handy with tools but I knew just enough to drill holes in an old scrap board, insert some dowels, apply some paint, and enjoy my much-needed new ribbon organizer. For several years I’ve been buying ribbon every time I see it on sale because I can never find it when I need it. Now I see clearly that the problem was my storage method–not my lack of ribbon!

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And I used a Pinterest idea to transform some recycled glass jars into cute, quirky storage with the addition of one tube of little plastic animals and some spray paint. The work table beneath this supply counter is covered with the same apple oilcloth that is under the easel for an easy-clean, cheerful work surface. I sew upstairs in our living room, but this table houses all projects involving glue, paper, glitter, or general happy mess. (It is also housing me at my laptop right now, while my kids play in the room behind me!)

Ooh Baby, Baby

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momandbabyThanks for the well wishes! We’re doing great. This is me with Daphne the morning after she was born. When did hospital portraits get so fancy? Her birth went fine and we got to go home 24 hours after she was born. I am so uncomfortable during pregnancy, but each time I have felt great once it’s over. What a relief!

attic-roomHere is the room Worth and Daphne will share. Daphne obviously is not sleeping in this bed yet (though it is a nice space for sister cuddling while Mom brushes her teeth!), but I outfitted the attic room kind of like a kid dorm, with two dressers, night stands, and beds. The beds and dressers are the IKEA items I bought unfinished this summer and assembled and stained green. Daphne’s dresser is stocked with her little clothes and the wire basket rolled under the bed holds her diapering supplies. The beautiful quilt on the foot of her bed has birds on it and was made jointly by my mother and her mother, who is the Novema of Daphne’s middle name.

monogrammed-pillowThis is a better view of the pillows I made for the kids’ beds. Daphne’s has a D painted on in fabric paint, and Worth’s has his W and is made in a coordinating print.

crochet-dressAnd here is Daphne wearing her Pretty in Pink Sundress from the book Simple Crochet for Cherished Babies by Jane Davis. It was a simple pattern and looks sweet in this soft wool blend yarn.

Boo-boo ice packs and some pillows

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ice-pack-in-actionLast year I made boo-boo ice packs for my kids. This is an old photo of Worth using his. They are just little 7-inch square pillowcases made out of flannel. When one of my kids needs first aid for some physical pain they believe they have suffered, supplying then with an ice pack stops the crying. I put some ice cubes in a quart-size zipper-lock bag then slip the baggie inside the pillowcase. When the pack has worked its magic I dump out the ice and dry out the zipper lock bag over my knife rack so I can reuse it next time. Worth’s pack is made out of monkey fabric and Dorothy’s is made from Hello Kitty, thus we call the packs “boo-boo monkey” and “boo-boo kitty.” They work miracles. Whether or not they are medically indicated is not really the point.

ice-pack-frontFor Mother’s Day this year my family bought me a starter embroidery machine. I’m still playing with it and learning to use it right now. It’s an inexpensive and simple setup as far as embroidery machines go, but I think I will really enjoy it. One of my first projects to try out the new machine was to make a boo-boo ice pack for a little friend of ours. I got the caterpillar embroidery file free from Brother’s website. My kids, of course, call this project the “boo-boo caterpillar.” I don’t always think embroidered kids’ things are cute, partly because they are often done in a style I don’t care for, and also because personalizing something really cuts down on its ability to be reused, but I have no qualms about turning a 7-inch square of flannel into something that will be destined to serve an important purpose for only one small little person.  If Kenny gets as many ice-worthy injuries as my kids (or at least believes he does), he will wear this little item out.

new-pillowsAnd I made more new pillows, again. I feel like I blog about pillows a lot! But I love to change out the slips on my sofa pillows seasonally. I’d made these green and white ikat slips last spring, but added the smaller ones this year. We just replaced our sofa (don’t laugh, I know it looks very similar to the old one, but I loved the old one and it was getting holes all over it!) and I thought with this new configuration we’d need more throw pillows to really get comfy. I love these fluffy, soft down pillow forms from fabric.com. They aren’t the firm, perky kind you’d buy to always look perfect–they are squishy and soft and wonderful for molding just the right way when you’re reading on the sofa. Now that I’ve added the new ones I get to indulge in a whole year’s worth of new pillow-slip-making to keep them covered and seasonal! This is the fabric on the green pillows, and this is what’s on the new ones.

Our playroom

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This is our basement playroom. This is also the room with the old fireplace insert and all my fabric on shelves. We bought an IKEA futon when we moved in and I would haphazardly cover it with quilts to try and combat our cat hair issue, since our cranky old cats have staked out this room as their particular habitat. I had a cheap butterfly chair in the corner and we tossed toys into plastic bins. It was fine, blah, a basement playroom. Last year we did most of our homeschool lessons down there, but this year we’re more likely to camp out with our stack of books and manipulatives in whichever part of the house seems most appealing on a given morning, so this room is really used exclusively for playing and crafting. Unfortunately this room also used to flood in heavy rains, which meant that our train table (not pictured) had yogurt cups around the legs, we couldn’t have a rug, and all the storage and furniture had to be made of water-resistant materials. Ugh. This fall, however, we had our basement waterproofed and I decided to improve on our newly dried-out space. I found a sweet vintage toy box to store the dress-up things, an old comfy rocking chair, and an inexpensive rug. I recovered the seat on the rocker and I sewed a new cover and pillows for the futon out of sturdy indoor/outdoor fabric that stands up nicely to the cat wear. A set of old wooden shelves became easy toy storage.

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The pillow covers have overlapping back panels so they stay on well but also come off easily for washing.reboot

The old rocker now beckons you to the basement to “reboot” and relax. (Freezer paper stencil and fabric paint.)

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I dressed up more old kitty litter tubs with scrapbook paper covered with contact paper to store small toys such as balls, matchbox cars, and little people. Now the whole family gets more (and more pleasant) use of our playroom space. It has a cozy cabin feel with the fireplace and the old pine walls. We appreciated it fully earlier this week when we spent part of the night down there, listening to tornado sirens howl outside!