Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Part Two: Decorating Lisa's Apartment

As you may have noticed, Deanne kept me pretty busy while we were in Raleigh.  While she was stressing about pillows and curtains, I kept myself occupied by drilling holes in the wall, hanging pictures, making various trips to Lowes, and most importantly building a new headboard.

We've been wanting to make an upholstered headboard for a while now, but unfortunately we already have headboards for each of the beds in our house.  Lisa's bed ended up being the perfect test subject. As we mentioned in the last post, TSA regulations and Air Tran baggage fees limited the tools that we had at our disposal, but Lisa was able to borrow a drill (or as she would call it, an "automatic screwdriver") and we were able to pick up a hand-operated miter saw and some other supplies while we were in town.

The first order of business (and probably the most challenging part of the project) was picking up the wood. After dropping Lisa off at work, we ran straight to Lowes to grab our plywood and 2 x 4's to make the frame.    One thing we like about Lowes is that if you need to have wood cut; your first five cuts are free!  Since we didn't have access to a circular saw this was a huge lifesaver.  We had the piece of plywood cut to the width of a queen bed (60 inches if you're interested).  I had a few other strips cut to use as a filler on the legs and Deanne had her own strip cut (since we had 1 more free cut to go).  Little did I know that this piece would be used for the display piece mentioned here...

So with the wood cut to size, it was time to get back to her apartment and start building.  Lucky for us, this wasn't our first time tying a piece of plywood on top of a Toyota Corolla.  (We even planned ahead and packed some rope in our carry-on specifically for this purpose).  Everything was going smoothly until I went to take a picture of the car.  In a matter of seconds I managed to drop the camera on the pavement and in an effort to catch it, I proceeded to smack it underneath the car.  A small piece broke off of the lense but miraculously it still works! What a start to the day...

Once we got everything inside, I started by cutting the 2 x 4's to the height that we wanted the headboard to be.  From there, I attached them to the plywood.  I also ran a 2 x 4 along the top of the plywood in order to add some strength.  To keep the thickness the same at the bottom of the legs, I added the filler pieces that I mentioned above.

With the frame assembled we started upholstering.  We looked into getting the padding at Joann Fabrics but it was going to be pretty expensive so we decided to use two $10 twin sized foam mattress pads from Walmart instead.

With the foam in place, we covered it in batting (I'm not really sure what this stuff is normally used for).

Last but not least, we attached the fabric.  To do so, we wrapped the fabric around the edges and stapled it to the back.  The fabric wasn't quite wide enough to cover the legs so we cut separate pieces to cover the legs.

Surprisingly, the whole thing only took about 3 hours of working time to complete.  It may not be perfect but considering what we had to work with, we are very happy with how it turned out.  Since Deanne didn't like my description of what else we did in the room ("hung stuff on walls"), she is going to fill you in on the rest of the project.

[Deanne] Okay, so like Reed said, the headboard was a fairly quick, fairly simple project that made a big impact in Lisa's bedroom.  We didn't spend too much time decorating in her room, but we wanted to do a few things to make it appear more "adult like" (and less dorm roomish).  Lisa had two 8 x10 grey frames that we painted for her old apartment, so we cut teal scrapbook paper to size and hung the frames above her new headboard.  This literally took 30 seconds and I think they would look really cute if she added some black and white photos on top of the scrapbook paper (Lisa, hint hint).

We also hung her cute grey shelf (from her old apartment) and added some empty teal frames that we found at the flea market in Raleigh.

With the addition of a few colored throw pillows, a teal blanket at the foot of her bed, and a big black and white photo in a painted frame (to replace the enormous TV on the dresser), I would call this room finished.  Oh and curtain panels wouldn't a bad idea either ;) Like I said, Reed and I (mainly me) really wish we had a few more days to decorate - next time we will plan a longer trip!

Now for the most important part... Thank you Lisa for entertaining us, showing us around Raleigh, feeding Reed Bojangles, and letting us take over your apartment for a few days (and blog about it on the internet), you're the best!!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Part One: Decorating Lisa's Apartment!

Last week Reed and I flew to Raleigh to visit my most favorite sister.  We had a fun-filled week of eating [non-stop], visiting breweries, shopping, watching the Butler Bulldogs, relaxing, and most importantly, decorating her apartment! Lisa and I share a love for many similar things, but decorating is not one of them. So when she went off to work on Monday and Tuesday, Reed and I got busy turning her apartment into a cozy little space (which now actually looks like someone lives in it)!

The weeks leading up to our trip Reed and I (mostly me) started planning.  We Facetimed with Lisa and took a virtual tour of her apartment.  We also had her send us some pics of each room.  With the pictures, the current furniture, wall color (what we thought was going to be an obnoxious yellow), and a few requests from Lisa ("warm colors- reds & yellows") in mind, we started brainstorming.  We had to be careful to not over-plan (yeah right) because seeing as we had to pack light; we would have to do most of our shopping in Raleigh.  Not to mention, we had only 2 short 8 hour workdays to finish everything we wanted to accomplish. Oh, and we only checked 1 bag (yes, it cost $20 to check a bag when flying Air Tran. yes, it was over 50 lbs. yes, we were those people emptying things into our carry-ons in the middle of the airport. yes, it was kind of embarrassing that a majority of our suitcase had tools and decorating items).

I bought some curtains from World Market a few weeks before we left and packed them in our luggage to Raleigh (ahem, probably why it weighed 56.4 lbs).  As soon as I saw them I knew they would be a perfect way to incorporate Lisa's request for warm colors, the yellow wall, brown sectional, tan ottoman and my current favorite color- teal! Reed used a curtain rod that Lisa had from her old apartment to hang these beauties.  Next, we scoped out Homegoods, Marshalls, Kirklands, Pier1, and a local Flea Market to find some things for the wall above her couch.  The red mirror is from Homegoods, the teal "L" is from Marshalls, and the wood mirror came from the flea market. We would of liked to add more to this arrangement, but seeing as Lisa is renting her apartment (and might get charged for nail holes), we tried to keep things simple.

To tie in the teal in the curtains and the "L" on the wall, we added a bright tray to her tan ottoman.  I pulled some travel books off of her bookshelf and threw the yellow candle on the tray.  Now she has a place to put drinks and snacks when shes entertaining :)

And since we couldn't find the exact pillows that we were looking for, I am pretty sure Santa might have some sewing to do over the next few weeks to add some color to the sectional...

Over in the dining room we re-covered the outdated chair cushions with a fun red trellis print.  You may recognize the fabric because we also used it on the chairs in our kitchen! You can find the step by step tutorial for recovering upholstered chairs here.  Lisa joked that she didn't know why it took her so long to redo them (we didn't understand the delay either).  The updated fabric makes such a difference in the room!

Her apartment came with a really cool built in desk area right off the kitchen. We didn't have time to organize everything that had collected there for the last few months (its on Lisa's to do list)...But we did add a chicken wire frame for invites/recipes/pictures to be hung with clothes pins.  Reed found a quart of red paint on the Lowe's clearance paint section (Valspar "Mistletoe") for $3 and I spent some time on the balcony painting an old frame she had in her apartment.  Once the frame dried, Reed cut a piece of chicken wire (a little bigger than the frame opening) and used a staple gun to attach it to the back of the frame. Lisa is planning on painting the purple pencil cup in the red paint to match!

And last (but not least!) I need to tell you about the project that caused the most drama.  A few weeks before we left I grabbed some knobs (50% off) from Hobby Lobby to incorporate into Lisa's family room area.  We thought the knobs would tie the red, yellow, and teal colors into the room and add to the eclectic vibe we were trying to create.  We had plans for a more elaborate wood palette-like project that would take over most of the wall, but we ran out of time.  In an effort to avoid bringing the cute knobs home with us, I sneakily stained a scrap piece of plywood out on the balcony (you can see it in the photo with the red frame above).  Reed was mortified that I was considering hanging rough plywood on her wall and did not support the idea at all (he also didn't support the fact that I stained the plywood without sanding it first. Oops). We temporarily scrapped the project...until later that evening ;) 

Thankfully, when we told Lisa about the idea and she (like me) had no harsh feelings towards a piece of stained plywood, the project was back on.  Reed drilled some holes in the freshly stained wood and used a hack saw blade to cut the extra length off the backs of the knobs. And there you have it, one of my favorite additions to her apartment.  I see the project as a creative way to add a little spunk to an otherwise plain wall.  Reed sees it as an embarrassing piece of stained plywood.  But most important, Lisa sees it as a "practical" decoration since she can use it to hang things.  And all that matters is that Lisa likes it.  Success.

[P.S. Reed stained some wood plugs and put them in the mail so Lisa can fill those holes on the front.]

All in all, it was a successful two days of decorating.  Her family room feels warm and cozy.  The teal accents and geometric fabric keep things young and fresh- perfect for a "young professional's" first real world apartment. Are we happy with the results? Yes.  Is it perfect? Absolutely not.  48 hours of decorating, 833 miles from home, and only a handful of TSA approved tools doesn't exactly add up to our dream decorating situation.

And although there are a million more things we wish we would've had time to do, we are excited to show you the rest of our two day decorating whirlwind- stayed tuned for a post about Lisa's bedroom!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Office Chair

Since our office is getting a brand new desk, we thought it was only fair that we got a new desk chair to go with it.  We began searching for inspiration, we quickly came across this chair at Pottery Barn.

As much as we liked it, we thought $399 too much to spend on a chair that we probably won't actually sit in all that often.  So continued our search for the perfect desk chair.  After little success at the usual places - Craigslist, Home Goods, Estate Sales, etc. - we were feeling a little discouraged.  Lucky for us the Kane County Flea Market was coming up!

As we walked around the flea market we kept our eyes open for old chairs.  We had both agreed that $40 was about as high as we wanted to spend so imagine our surprise when we found this beauty with a $20 price tag.  

The chair was in pretty rough shape and in need of some serious re-finishing.  We pointed out the obvious flaws to the seller and were able to talk her down to $15.  Score!  The only down side was that since one of the wheels was missing, I had to carry this solid oak beast all the way back to the car (instead of rolling it).  

As is the case with most of our projects, we came up with the idea to re-finish this chair but then we got side tracked / felt un-motivated.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that the chair has just been sitting in our basement since April (alongside the partially finished desk)... Here's our rationale:

1) We wanted to finish the landscaping while the weather was nice before we started working on the office.  
2) We wanted to finish the paint and trim in the office before we finished the new desk.  
3) We wanted to finish the desk before we finished the chair.  

With the office prep-work nearing completion we knew that it was time to start thinking about the desk and chair, so while I was hanging the trim, Deanne took apart the chair and sanded off the old finish (or at least what was left of it).  A few of the pieces were in pretty rough shape so I re-glued and clamped them as needed.

With the old finish gone, it was time to stain.  We ended up going with two coats for this project.  We used Minwax Special Walnut for the first coat and  used Minwax English Chestnut for the second coat.  The first coat gave it a darker-brown color and the second coat added a little reddish-orange color to the finish.  After staining, I added two coats of polyurethane and wet-sanded everything using 300-grit sandpaper and some lemon-seed oil.

The only thing that was left at that point was repairing the chair base.  As you can see it was missing a small piece of wood on the bottom so I picked up a scrap piece of red oak at Owl Hardwood, cut it to size/shape, and applied stain/poly to match the rest of the chair.  Last but not least, I replaced the casters (wheels) on the bottom.  

So there you have it.  For $15, some supplies that we had lying around the house, and a little bit of elbow grease; we were able to get the Pottery Barn chair that we wanted for less than we would have paid in sales tax in the PB store.  If everything goes according to plan, we'll have a desk to sit at very soon! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall has Fell: Inside Decorations

The days are getting shorter, the weather cooler, and people in Chicago crabbier.  It was a sad moment when we noticed Summer had ended and Fall had arrived.  Thankfully (no pun intended), putting up the fall decorations helped mask the "I'm leaving work and it's getting dark outside" depression that we've been feeling lately. All we needed around here to cure our "Fall blues" was a little decorating change and a homemade apple tart (or two).  And since I brought it up, here are our favorite apple tarts you need to try immediately- Simplest Apple Tart and Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel. You're welcome.

Anyway, back to fall decorations.  You might be wondering why we decided to ignore the next major holiday and skip right to decorating for the Fall season. Neither of us are big Halloween fans. Don't get me wrong, we love handing out candy on Halloween and rarely turn down an opportunity to go to the bars dressed ridiculously, but ghosts, skeletons, and spider webs just haven't found a place in our hearts (or our house).  Not to mention, our fall decorations get to stay up from October to Christmas decoration time, it's a win win.

This was our first fall season with a mantle, so I spent many hours searching Pinterest for some new ideas.  I [along with every other person looking for fall decorating ideas] pinned this image:

Image found here

Beautiful. I love the white pumpkins.  The empty frames. The burlap pennants.  With this inspiration in mind, it was time to start shopping.

My first stop was Goodwill.  I picked up a bunch of empty frames ranging in price from $0.99-$4.99. I removed the glass and backs of all the frames (except for 1 that had a mirror which I decided to use for the "give" pennant).

After I had the frames, I searched the internet to figure out how to print on burlap. Thankfully, this "How to Print on Burlap - Redneck Style" tutorial worked perfectly*. I used the "redneck style" because it was the only internet tutorial I could find that called for supplies I already had.  I do have a few suggestions - add some double stick tape in between the burlap and cardstock.  This keeps the burlap from moving around so much while printing.  Also change your printing properties to a high quality print on heavier paper (I think I specified cardstock). 
*Reed would like me to mention that we are not quite sure if printing on burlap is good for your printer.  I don't think he was very happy that I decided to experiment with ours, but everything seems to be working just fine right now (knock on wood). 

I then cut the letters into little triangle pennants and glued them on to a piece of ribbon.  The ribbon is stapled into the back of the mirror.

Up next were the white pumpkins.  I couldn't figure out what to do for the letters so I ended up buying some cute brown sticker letters at Hobby Lobby [tip - download the Hobby Lobby app on your smartphone for an instant 40% coupon at checkout]. Talk about a quick, easy craft project.  I thought the stickers might need some hot glue reinforcement given the curviness of the pumpkins, but its been a few weeks and all of the letters are still sticking!  On second thought, if you don't want to risk breaking your printer, these stickers would be cute on the burlap pennant banner also...

And because the mantle was lacking those oh so beautiful fall colors, I added a $5.99 (plus 40% off) leaf garland from Hobby Lobby to finish it off. Ta Da!

Last year I made these "Fall" blocks out of scrap pieces of 2x4's- tutorial found here.  I actually printed the letters on cardstock and carefully cut them out (since we didn't have a vinyl maker to create the letters).

I also made my most favorite burlap bubble wreath last year - tutorial found here.  This wreath makes me so happy.

On to the dining room table. Since we rarely eat at this table, I took it upon myself to cover most of it with fall decorations.  The burlap table runner was another craft I made last year. I don't recall which tutorial I used, but I simply measured the table length and cut the burlap to size. No sewing required (thank goodness).  If you want some little fringy (is that a word?) ends, just pull a few strings of burlap out.

The rest of our fall decorations on the dining room table involve no crafting skills. Unless you count filling a glass hurricane with acorns and pumpkins. The tiny candles and berry garland were from Homegoods a few years ago.

So there you have it. The above decorations, plus a Harvest Yankee Candle, football games (and not as many Cardinals playoff games as Reed would have liked), plus some sort of crockpot dinner/apple baked dessert equal fall at the Panther house. Depressing moods due to the changing seasons are not welcome here.

P.S. We all know fall decorations wouldn't be complete without a little something to brighten up the front porch, so stay tuned in the next few days for a run down of the outside decs!