Washi tape Ikea RAST makeover


Lest you think I have abandoned this blog, I assure you, I have not! Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to make time for both blogging and an almost-full-time job. Just when I had a few posts in mind, and photos to go with them, some nagging back and neck pain exploded into constant agony from a pinched nerve (on Easter Sunday, no less), and within a few days, my right arm was fairly useless. A couple visits to the doctor and an MRI later, I was diagnosed with two ruptured discs in my neck and scheduled for surgery.

Now I’m two weeks post-surgery, and feeling much better. The pain from the the pinched nerve is gone, and I’d say my arm is about 50% better (some physical therapy is probably in my future). Recovery from the surgery itself is going well. Though I’m restricted from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk and not allowed to drive yet, I think I’ll be back to most of my usual activities very soon. If the rest of the family has to carry the laundry baskets and groceries and run the vacuum for a while longer, so be it.

Before all this spine surgery nonsense distracted me, at the end of spring break I finally finished Miss Eight’s nightstand project. She had a wobbly three-legged decorator’s table for a nightstand, which wasn’t big enough for her lamp, alarm clock, books, and the dozens of hair accessories and tubes of lip gloss a girl needs. We decided the little Ikea RAST dresser would be the best storage for the money. It gives her a little more surface area on top, plus three drawers to hide the clutter.

After wading through a ton of Ikea hack ideas on Pinterest, we decided that a rainbow of stripes on a white background would complement the colorful polka dots on Miss Eight’s bedding. The first coat was bright white semi-gloss paint & primer (the same can that I use on baseboards and trim), applied with a brush. Then I sprayed several thin coats of glossy white spray paint that I bought on clearance when our local hardware store went out of business. I let the paint dry and cure for a week, and then used a level and a pencil to mark where our randomly spaced washi tape stripes would go on the drawer fronts. The tape was so easy to apply–much faster than paint would have been–and should be easy to remove if we redecorate in the future. Miss Eight picked the colors as we went along, so she was pleased with the final result.

219Now I have a bag of washi tape left over, and I’m eager to find other uses for it. First up will probably be to hang up all the posters and pictures that keep falling off the walls in Little Six’s room.


Recycled t-shirt animal pillows

These little pillow pets are the latest addition to Miss Eight’s room. They began life as adorable t-shirts from Mini Boden that I bought for $.50 each at a consignment sale. Miss Eight loved and wore them until she outgrew them, and we saved them for this little project. To beat boredom on the fourth day this month that school has been cancelled due to weather, it was nice to work on this activity with Miss Eight.

At first we thought we’d make little square pillows, but then I saw these cute examples from H&M and Etsy, and we changed our plan.hmbunnypillow

Because Miss Eight wanted to vary the colors on the backs of the pillows, I cut the t-shirts apart at the side seams. Then I paired a pink front with a green back, and vice versa. I cut around each image, leaving a good inch border all the way around.

I pinned them right sides together, and stitched all around, leaving an opening at the bottom. We turned them right side out, Miss Eight got busy stuffing the pillows with fiberfill, and then I hand stitched the pillows closed. The entire project took 30 minutes, tops, and cost us absolutely nothing.

Aren’t they cute? I can say that without reservation, since these pets don’t need to be walked or have their smelly cage cleaned out.


Happy New Year!

If it’s above zero, we play outside.

Though the Polar Vortex has come and gone, we’re still surrounded by drifts of slushy snow, and the laundry room is strung with banners of damp Smartwool socks. We had a lovely Christmas and New Year, with a good balance of celebrating and relaxing with family and friends. The kids were home from school two extra days because of the aforementioned weather, but now we are clawing our way back into some semblance of a routine.

Girl shovels driveway while boys push each other down in the snow.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the home-related things that have been on my radar lately.


  • Thanks to Mom and Dad’s Christmas generosity (and a very good sale), we will soon be snoozing in front of Netflix while reclining in a pair of these stressless recliners. My aching back is so excited!
  • Possibly my favorite Christmas present was a lavender-filled microwaveable shoulder wrap. That, a cozy new throw, hot tea, and The Goldfinch have kept me warm lately. Turns out the space heater we borrowed does a mighty fine job of heating the family room–until it blows the fuse.
  • Sewing project I finished over the weekend for the family room: this DIY floor pouf made from Ikea cotton rugs. I made something similar a couple of years ago, but the dimensions were wrong and the burlap I chose was not durable. Super easy project (I skipped the zipper and stuffed it with rags)!
  • Miss Eight and I have settled on a nightstand for her room (that wobbly three-legged decorator table isn’t cutting it). Inspired by the millions of Ikea RAST dresser hacks, we are planning to paint it white and then apply a rainbow of washi tape stripes to the drawer fronts (possibly sealed with Mod Podge).
  • Home Depot purchase I’m most looking forward to: Grout Renew (for the kids’ bathroom floor tiles)
  • Next make-do-with-what-we-have DIY: Restain (darker) the orangey oak corner media cupboard that we moved from the family room to the foyer. New hardware, too. Former game cupboard to backpack/library book/karate gear storage–that’s the plan, anyway. Our cubbies in the hall closet just aren’t big enough anymore for three kids and their school & activity gear.


  • Successful meal of the week (that cooks itself while you are out of the house): Crockpot rotisserie chicken and baked potatoes (using the “delay start” feature on the oven). Cross my heart, it only takes five minutes to prep the chicken, and one minute to stab some potatoes and program the oven (400 degrees, to start 45 minutes before we got home). First person home makes a salad and microwaves a veggie. (If it makes you feel better, there was somebody home while the oven was on.)
  • Little Six has become obsessed with a recipe he invented called a “Tarty.” No joke–he has brought it up at least half a dozen times a day for the past week. Some kind of cake/tart hybrid, it includes chocolate, pudding, “any fruit you like,” and possibly sprinkles and/or frosting. We finally tested this recipe over the weekend, and it was a winner. Recipe coming later this week!

Kid stuff

  • MacGyver couldn’t have done it better: We made a ping-pong table out of half an armoire, two closet doors, and a portable ping-pong net. When it’s too cold to play outside and the batteries are all dead in the Wii remotes, there’s always the basement.

I hope the New Year brings you all the time, money and energy you need to accomplish all your goals. Or at least a few of them!

Family room gallery wall

After looking at this blank wall for a couple of weeks, I finally got out my hammer and hung some art.

Based on that photo, the white paint seemed like a dubious choice. But as soon as I hung the first frame, I was relieved. The white paint is the perfect backdrop for this rainbow collection that my three artists have created at school and at home. Before I consolidated them here, some of the paintings were hung in other parts of the house, and some were languishing in the basement file cabinet.

We spend so much time in the family room, and it’s finally beginning to be a room that feels homey to me.

If you’re curious about how much effort it takes to hang so many pictures, I can promise it didn’t take me more than a couple of hours (that includes time I took to frame some pieces). I used this Apartment Therapy post as a loose guideline, and laid all the frames out on the floor until I had an arrangement I liked. I also measured the wall to make sure everything would fit. I did shuffle a few pieces from my original layout as I went along, but I pretty much started at the left and worked my way across the wall, just eyeballing the spacing between frames. My handy Hang & Level allowed me to speed through the nailing and hanging.


Now I need to find something to hang in those empty spots in the foyer and powder room where I stole paintings to put in my gallery wall!

Fast forward

Maybe it has something to do with the shorter days and longer nights, but it feels as if each day is scrolling by in fast forward, each frame only on the screen for a fraction of a second.

palette cake

And so for the past few weeks, there hasn’t been room in the day for blogging. Holiday preparations, celebrations, birthdays, school and work have more than filled our days. We made another big step in our family room makeover. The Hub and I shuffled the furniture around (my arms still ache–those sofas are heavy!) and I took most of two days to paint the walls and trim. On Little Six’s birthday, we picked out a Christmas tree and did a little decorating.

DIY Tip: How to Hang Stockings Above a Fireplace Without a Mantel

Thread clear picture wire or fishing line from eye hooks mounted on either side of the chimney breast. Stretch the wire tightly and hang the stockings with S-hooks or wire ornament hooks.

The paint felt so very…white as I rolled it on the walls, but I’m happy with the decision. Everything feels bigger and cleaner. Sometime after Christmas we hope to replace the orange oak shelving with taller, wider white bookcases and put a pair of slim but comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. I plan to stain the coffee table a darker color (and give Mr. Six a big piece of oilcloth to protect the table while he’s creating).

I’m looking forward to filling this blank wall above the sofa with a gallery of the kids’ artwork. I have old frames to fill and a few new ones from Goodwill. I may steal some from other parts of the house and consolidate it here. We’re hosting a Christmas party in a couple of weeks, which gives me a deadline for the project.

You may have noticed that I abandoned my Monday Menu posts for the past few weeks. I’m getting bored writing them, and I suspect you may be bored reading them. I’m still meal planning, but I’ve been visiting my blog archives and stealing meal ideas from past years. Sharing my menu each week has been a wonderful way to develop the habit of meal planning, but I’m going to take a break from writing about it, at least for a while.

I do hope to share a recipe and project or two with you before the year’s end. In the meantime, I have some more decorations to put up. It’s sunny and a balmy 17 degrees, so this may be my chance to hang that string of snowflake lights on the porch.

Yet another DIY headboard

These days I’m really trying to weigh the cost (in both money and time) before starting a DIY project. Sometimes–especially after purchasing all the supplies and tools–it’s just cheaper to buy something than make it. $46 for a complete bed frame from the As-Is department at Ikea? Better than DIY any day, especially when it is exactly the right piece for the room.

For Mr. Ten, a die-hard reader in bed, I thought a cushy upholstered headboard would be a good choice. He didn’t really care one way or another. In fact, he was a little suspicious–he doesn’t like change.

Undeterred, I pinned a bunch of tutorials and images of upholstered headboards. I really wanted something nice and thick. I also wanted to use another one of those old hollow core closet doors piled up in the garage. Over the Columbus Day weekend (sale at Joann’s!), I bought the foam (actually Nu-Foam Densified Batting) and batting for 50% off. Instead of upholstery fabric, I bought a canvas painter’s drop cloth at Home Depot for about $10, and a French cleat for another $10. Total investment: $42. I already own a jigsaw and staple gun.

I really like the canvas fabric–it’s very sturdy and if you look closely, it has flecks of colored thread throughout the weave.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Wash and dry the drop cloth.
  2. Measure. For a queen-size bed, I decided I wanted the headboard to be 62 x 24 inches.
  3. Cut the hollow core door to size. I had a 24-inch wide door, so only had to cut off one end with the jigsaw. I briefly sanded the rough edge and nailed a random strip of plastic that I found in the garage over the open end.
  4. Measure and cut the foam to size. I bought 2 yards of foam, so I have a little extra for some future project (a seat cushion, maybe). The depth of the door plus the 2″ foam makes a thick headboard.
  5. Lay the foam on top of the door and cover with batting. I used a an entire sheet of batting intended for a twin-size quilt, and just folded it (I think in thirds).
  6. Flip the whole thing over and staple the batting to the back side of the headboard, pulling the batting snugly around (sides first, corners last). Trim the excess.
  7. Repeat with the canvas fabric. You can see I was not very precise about how it looked on the back, but as long as it is smooth from the front, who cares? Pleat the corners as best you can. (Google “how to upholster corners” and you’ll get all sorts of advice.)
  8. Hang the headboard on the wall. I was fortunate to find a wall stud centered exactly above where the bed goes. I used a French cleat to hang the headboard. The headboard is not very heavy (if you use heavier plywood, you’ll need the bigger cleat), and with the center screw of the wall bracket secured into a stud and the interlocking bracket screwed into the solid wood frame of the door (the center is hollow, but the edges are solid), it is very secure on the wall.

Mr. Ten admitted that he likes his new headboard. I sat in bed with him for a few minutes at bedtime, and it was very comfortable. In the future, I think I’d like to upholster the box spring, reinforce it and add legs to make it a platform bed. I have enough fabric left from the drop cloth, but the cost of the legs and brackets is more than I want to spend right now. In the meantime, we have some artwork to frame and hang (I’ve pinned some fun prints that might make good Christmas gifts), and I’m on the hunt for a duvet cover to sew or buy.

Painting brass fireplace doors

This is not a how-to post. I had mixed results with this project, and I’m not sure what to recommend. However, I’m calling it good enough for now, and if I encounter a solution to improve it, I’ll think about trying it.

What happened?

I bought Rustoleum High Heat black spray paint for the brass fireplace doors. I wiped down the brass and let it dry. I was in a hurry because I wanted to paint outside, and my project had already been derailed by an inconvenient rainstorm the day before. It may have been a little breezy. Anyway, I covered the glass doors with newspaper and painter’s tape, shook the can well, and covered the brass with several light coats of paint.

Mostly due to the breeze, I think, the sheen on the finished piece was terribly uneven. Splotchy. BAD. We carried it into the garage to dry, and I left it there for several days. Finally, I bought a can of High Heat Ultra paint, which has a semi-gloss finish. I went over everything with steel wool, rubbing away all the rough spots. I wiped it down again and tried the new paint (this time in the garage on a very still day). It was definitely better, but it’s not perfect.

If you get up close, you can still see patches of uneven sheen. I don’t know exactly what to do to correct it–use some kind of clear coat? The good news is, most people aren’t examining the paint finish of our fireplace doors. From afar, they’re fine. I would like to park the cars in the garage again, so I went ahead and put the doors back on the fireplace (complete with a new strip of insulation).

I can’t wait to hang some bright artwork above the fireplace. I’m tempted to buy a large canvas and give it to Little Five, who has been painting his heart out lately.

I’m not sure what’s next. Refinish the coffee table? Paint the walls? I’m still pondering the best (and cheapest) option for better shelving on either side of the fireplace. I like the minimal look of the white and black, and I’m wondering now if wall-mounted shelves might be the way to go. Preferably nothing I have to spray paint.

Family room update: Painting the fireplace brick

Well. This week got away from me. But I’m thrilled that I finally jumped in and painted the family room fireplace brick. Sometimes just jumping in, ready or not, is the best way to get a project moving. With the fireplace painted, the walls look even worse, so I’m eager to paint them. And then rearrange the furniture. And then hang a new mantel shelf. And then…well, you get the idea.

Here’s the deal with the fireplace. It was a red brick that we never liked, but did our best to work with for the past six years. What I really hated was the set of three dinky concrete shelves that angled up the chimney breast, preventing me from hanging anything large above the fireplace.

Enter my dad and his new tool, the angle grinder. In 20 minutes he had all three of those silly shelves cut off, and then he added a little texture to the remaining concrete to make it blend in with the brick. When the dust settled, I had a blank canvas to work with.

I scrubbed the brick with a brush and a solution of TSP, and then painted it with Benjamin Moore ben premium semi-gloss paint & primer. I used an angled brush for the mortar lines, and a cheap wide brush for the brick. The first coat looked pretty good, but I gave it a quick second coat and am calling it done. There is a little bleed-through of the soot stains around the edge of the firebox, but those will be covered up by the fireplace doors when I reinstall them.

Speaking of those fireplace doors….When I took them down to paint, I discovered that the insulation around the edge was black, dust-filled, and beginning to disintegrate. Before I replace the doors, I plan to buy new insulation strips, clean the glass, and probably spray paint the dated brass finish with heat-resistant black spray paint.

At the moment, the white fireplace doesn’t fit in with the rest of the room. Maybe you’re thinking it’s even worse than the brick! I agree, it does NOT look good with the Hawthorne Yellow walls (possibly because they are so dirty at this point) and all that orangey-oak furniture. I’m 99% ready to paint the walls Swiss Coffee by Behr (a slightly warmer shade of white). As you can see from my Family Room Pinterest board, I’m trying to create a light, neutral canvas to set off the colorful stuff we already own: a wall of bright children’s artwork, shelves of books and games, and fun pillows and our existing red rug. Since buying a bunch of new furniture isn’t happening, we plan to swap the living room and family room furniture (navy moves to the living room, tan and white to the family room). I’m pondering new (but always inexpensive!) bookshelf plans for either side of the fireplace. Ikea? Craigslist?

Next dilemma: What kind of mantel shelf? Wood finish or painted? Traditional or rustic?

Kids’ rooms progress report

School starts in less than two weeks (cue the singing angels), and my summer goal was to have the kids’ room makeovers mostly completed. The big jobs should be finished in that time, and the smaller jobs easier to complete while my “helpers” are busy at school.

Over the weekend I painted Mr. Ten’s room. I bought Behr Paint and Primer All-in-One from Home Depot for two reasons: I prefer low-VOC paint, especially in a bedroom, and I hoped to avoid using more than two coats to cover the bright green walls. The coverage was wonderful, and I only needed one gallon to give the room two coats.

We are all pleased with new color. I even touched up the baseboards, which had suffered during my earlier paint jobs. Painting over the vinyl rocket and stars decal worked as I had hoped. As soon as the second coat was dry to the touch, I peeled off the vinyl and was left with a clean stenciled outline. The room feels calmer without two bright colors fighting for attention.

Next on the list: assemble the tall Billy bookcase (which will provide more space to consolidate books and collections in one place) and upholster a headboard.

I also scored Miss Eight’s new bed for half price. Hello, random Happy Hour sale in the Ikea As-Is department! I bought an assembled floor model of the Leirvik bed for $43. Often the floor models show some wear and tear, but this one (probably because it’s metal, not wood) didn’t have a scratch. They put it on a flat-bed cart, handed me a wrench, and helped me wheel it out to an area where the kids and I disassembled the bed so we could fit it into the car.

I also hung some artwork, but still have a couple more things to hang: the cork board and a mirror and shelf that we’re going to turn into a little vanity area.

I’m pretty sure there were other things on my summer to-do list, but I’m choosing to ignore them. Any progress is cause for celebration!

Beginning on the Boy’s Room: Before Pictures

I know I haven’t quite finished Miss Eight’s room–still on the hunt for a nightstand and haven’t bought the bed yet–but I did hang artwork and buy a big cork board to corral her artwork, birthday cards, and pictures of cute puppies. I also hung the canopy over her floor cushions and now she has a cushy little hiding place. She’s been spending more time in there, and unfortunately, so have her brothers. It’s a nice room. So it’s time to spruce up their spaces and leave her to a room of her own.

With 25 days left until school starts, Mr. Ten is anxious to have his room made over, and has been more helpful than ever before in the decluttering phase. These photos are after we removed everything from the walls, decluttered all the surfaces (dresser, nightstand, desk) and the closet, and packed away the Lego Harry Potter display for safekeeping. When you’re 10 you can finally let go of the bins of kindergarten-4th grade memorabilia (all that kindergarten stuff is so embarrassing), but you still keep a small box of stuffed animals on the top shelf of the closet.

Now you can see the fabulously frugal green and blue paint job that I did five years ago with leftover paint from previous projects. The new color we’ve chosen (I brought home a pre-approved selection of paint samples and Mr. Ten chose his favorite) is a blue/gray called Ozone by Behr. I hope it will be a more sophisticated and neutral backdrop to all of the colorful contents of the room. (Anything is better than that green. SO over the green. It was supposed to be an accent color, but it has spread all over the room like algae.) We’re keeping the chalkboard and I’m going to attempt to paint over the vinyl rocket and star decals, and then peel them off like a stencil. Mr. Ten is attached to the rocket, as it represents his dream of one day going to Mars.

Our list includes:

  • Paint
  • Replace the small bookshelf with a tall Billy bookcase and reconfigure the Lego storage
  • Hang artwork (a pared down and more grown up selection)
  • Add hooks to back of door and inside closet for storage
  • Change the sagging curtain rod
  • DIY an upholstered headboard and box spring

Other than a bigger bookcase, we’re not adding any furniture. A year or so ago, I got the dresser and nightstand from Freecycle. I painted, decoupaged and added new hardware to the dresser, which was sturdy but a horrible orange color. I added a darker coat of stain to the nightstand and painted the drawer fronts white. I’m still sad that I passed on the matching dresser, but we didn’t have room in the van (we’d have had to leave a couple of kids on the side of the road).

The bins next to the desk house art supplies and a variety of collections. I’d like to encourage paring those down, too, but it may take a while. I only just convinced him to part with a piñata leg saved from a friend’s birthday party three years ago. Can you really put a price on such a treasure?

To be honest, my only goal before school starts is to get the room painted. The rest should be easier to knock out in a few days while the kids are in school.

As for Little Five’s room, I have no intention of repainting it anytime soon. I do plan to reorganize a little, though–switch around some toys, maybe move a little table in for him to use as a desk, and give him someplace to display his artwork and Lego posters.