Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I've Got Who's Its and What's Its Galore!

I've got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. I've got who's its and what's its galore. You want thing-a-ma-bobs? I've got twenty.

-Ariel, The Little Mermaid

I'm really blessed to have a craft room. It's not huge, but it's all mine, and it gives me  storage for all my crafting treasures that I've accumulated for the past fifteen years. It's no underwater cavern like Ariel, but it will work. Between paying bills, sewing, knitting, scrapbooking, gluing, and glittering, it can get kinda messy...and crowded. I have books, paper, tools, material, yarn, ribbon, and paints that all need homes. The only thing I'm missing is a giant statue of Prince Eric! Ha! Just kidding.

 My craft room is part of the master suite, which is divided by a fireplace, so there is no closet. I have two bookcases, a small glass cabinet, one 24" deep built-in bookcase next to the fireplace, and I still feel a little pressed for space. I am perplexed by women who use their shelving purely for collectibles. It's gorgeous (I have total bookcase envy) but where do they put all their STUFF???? Sure, all the sand paper and furniture paints are in the basement, but what about the rest of it?

While taking pictures of my craft table, I started rearranging my bookcases and they still looked blah. Leave it to a photo to point out every flaw. I usually keep all my books in my glass cabinet, but changed it out for my sewing machine and notions. I liked how that cabinet looked and functioned. My bookcases on the other hand? Not so much.  One of my fabric photo boxes was totally faded from the sun and now that my books were moved to the big bookcases, they really looked blah. I even tried turning the spines around so they wouldn't be as busy. Mehhhh. A pop of color would be nice.  I need more storage and I need it cheap. Off to IKEA!

Before 1: (without new table) and Before 2: with craft table

Sorry my lighting is so pathetic, but they are "before" pics


Inspired by the double knockout roses I clipped from my front yard and my love of pink,  I opted for a few dark pink boxes, along with some black to pop against the white bookcases. I found the chalkboard buckets at Target the other day in the dollar section (my favorite spot). 

 

 
Ahhh...much better and much more organized. And that deep dark pink is like the perfect shade of lipstick. Smoooooch!
 
 
~Amber

Monday, August 12, 2013

Buying & Selling

For this post, I thought I'd share a few buying and selling tips I've picked up along the way that have saved me money on home decor, furniture, and appliances.


Tip 1: Buy Second Hand
 I obviously have no problem taking second (or third, fourth, or fifth) hand furniture. Brand spanking new is nice but it can also be expensive. In fact, when it comes to wood furniture pieces, most aren't made to last like they used to be. You can buy quality made antiques for the same price point as things made out of particle board. Garage sales, consignment shops, charities, antique malls, and Craigslist are great resources. The only thing I don't really like second hand are fabric upholstered pieces, unless I'm reupholstering, they're newer, I know the people I'm getting it from, or they have been professionally cleaned (like at a consignment shop). Leather is easily cleaned so I have no qualms with that.

Tip 2: Buy a Floor Sample
 If buying second hand still makes you squeamish or driving to a Craigslist listing makes you uncomfortable, consider floor samples. They're new pieces, but generally have an imperfection, the model is discontinued, or the store is making room for new models. Outlet malls are filled with floor samples. Tip: go to the nicest part of town if you want pieces in the best shape. Our formal living room couch was a floor sample from Restoration Hardware and we paid 70% off the retail price! The cushions are even feather filled. We never EVER would have been able to buy that couch otherwise. The legs had some minor scratches and it needed to be cleaned, but that's it. Couches get the most wear, so I don't like spending a lot of money on them.

Tip 3: Price Match
Buying New? Don't be afraid to ask for a price match. Even after we purchased our coffee/side tables, we found the same ones for less at their competitors. They rarely carry the same pieces, but our store was true to their price match policy and gave us a credit for the difference. Our bedroom furniture was also price matched. We were originally given pricing while we were at a huge out of state furniture store. They couldn't deliver to us, so we found a local company that would order the pieces we wanted for the same price!

Tip 4: Shop Warehouses
Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sam's, are wonderful places to find accessories, mattresses, towels, rugs, and appliances. I kicked myself for not getting a rug from one of these places.

Tip 5: Think Out of the Box
If you know how to sew or know a good seamstress (even the dry cleaners), there aren't as many fabric choices out there compared to fancy furniture stores. If you can't find what you're looking for, consider using discount drapery panels or other household linens. I made my first tree skirt and stockings out of curtain panels I found in the clearance bin. I also made throw pillows out of curtains I didn't like anymore. Kitchen towels with pretty appliques make interesting pillows. Make duvet covers out of two flat sheets.

Tip 6: Trade
Our dining table and chairs were bought on trade. Justin's customers were going to sell them (Restoration Hardware table with two leaves and 10 upholstered chairs!) in a garage sale before we scooped them up in exchange for remodeling work. We still got an awesome deal (well under $1,000), but exchanged labor instead of cash. My sister and I swapped Christmas trees when we realized I needed a bigger one and she needed a smaller one. Since hers was newer and larger, I gave her the price difference. Win win.

Tip 7: Sell It While its Hot
We've upgraded most of our appliances by selling our old ones while they were still in good shape. Our washer and dryer were early edition front loaders, bought with the house, and much too small for washing comforters or lots of jeans. They were also really low for tall people like us (it actually hurt my back to do laundry in them). We sold the set and used the cash towards the purchase of big brand new high efficiency ones with pedestals. We can't afford stainless steal in our kitchen yet, but we did get a microwave vent and refrigerator (with a water/ice dispenser) from a couple who was upgrading their kitchen. Our old fridge stands in the garage and is great for extra food storage. Dead machines are worthless. Get what you can afford now and upgrade while the appliances are still in good shape.

Tip 8: Make Major Purchases During Holiday Sales
Black Friday, Labor Day, and Memorial Day Sales are the best for purchasing new furniture and appliances. Our washer and dryer were BOGO free on Black Friday. Seriously, they didn't just jack the prices up in order to trick us. Our dryer really was free.

Tip 9: Use Coupons
This is probably a no brainer for most of you. I never go to Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Jo-anne Fabrics, or Bed Bath and Beyond without a ooupon. These guys have regular weekly coupons that I can always rely on.

Tip 10: Negotiate
I have to be honest, I'm not a great negotiator. It's not fun for me. I leave the negotiating to my husband most of the time, but I'm practicing. Most things are negotiable. You just have to put on a smile and ask.

Do you have some savvy tips? Please share and tell me your buying & selling stories.

Happy Shopping Everyone!

~Amber

Friday, August 9, 2013

Craft Table Reveal!




Yay! It's finished! The craft table in my office is finally done. I was delayed by the rain last week, which kept me from sanding outside. Justin and I got the top sanded and stained with the first coat of Pecan just in time before another storm blew in Sunday. I painted the apron and legs last week. You can see that post HERE.
 
It looked great as is, but of course I couldn't leave it alone. Since it's for my own craft room, I decided to experiment with a stencil.
 
This was going to take precision! The top was already stained; if I messed up this stencil I was going to cry. Starting over or painting the top? No way Jose! To give myself a little uh-oh room I gave the table top one coat of clear wax. That way, if I made a boo-boo, I could wipe the paint off with a wet rag. It also protected the wood from a light sanding once the stencil was complete. I applied two more coats of wax once the stenciling was done.

Placing the stencil was the hardest part. I cut a piece of craft paper to help me figure out the placement before I started painting.  When I realized it would never fit perfectly, even if I overlapped the stencil in some places (this pattern is very irregular, lest you think I did a crooked job), I decided on fudging the design a little. I also had to finagle a way to close up the lace swag.


Way more time consuming than I planned on. I thought stenciling would be faster than hand painting, but I'm not so sure.

 And here's my finished craft table! (I see I need to do something with those computer cords).


I resisted the urge to put my initials in the middle. See, I do have some self-control. Seriously though, that would be cool.

Project Tips:
1. Use Wood conditioner before applying stain, for a smooth application
2. Wax the stained top with one coat of wax BEFORE (and after) stenciling
3. Use spray adhesive to secure stencil in place EACH TIME YOU MOVE IT and use a sponge pouncer to apply the paint
4. Use a fine grit sanding sponge to knock down the paint if you have any high points. Don't go crazy - be gentle
5. Rub the stenciled area with a clean dry cloth to remove any glue and/or paint residue


Phew. Now that it's done, it's hard to believe how long it sat in the basement. Can you tell how happy I am right now? I  have a huge work surface! Woot Woot! Now all I have to do is reorganize the office. I already got the folding table out and moved my glass cabinet over where the folding table used to be. What do you think of the table in the middle of the room? I like how I can just swivel my chair back and forth between the work surfaces without getting up.  To be continued... here.
~Amber
 
Furniture Feature Fridays

Friday, August 2, 2013

Slipcover Template

It sure does seem like I'm starting a lot of projects that I'm not finishing. I'm either a) waiting for some supplies to be delivered; b) need to still order supplies; or c) waiting for the weather to cooperate so I can sand my craft table top and take pics of the dining set I painted in April!

In the meantime, I do what I can indoors. Today, I put the muslin I bought the other day at Hobby Lobby to good use by making a template for slipcovers. It's not only cheaper to make my own,  rounded slipcovers are hard, if not impossible, to come by.  I like the casual country chic look of wrinkly white cotton. The added bonus is that they'll protect my upholstered dining chairs from food and spills because I'm making them washable. I actually like the white muslin, but it's a little too lightweight and you can see the black chair underneath.

 
The easiest way to get the back tailored, since its angled, was to  turn it over and let  gravity help me out.
 
 
I bought just enough fabric (5 yards, 36" wide). Luckily, my chairs are cushioned, so I wrapped the muslin around and pinned it in the corners to see if I had enough for the skirt. I know nothing about making clothes, but I'm feeling very Project Runway about all this.

 

It needs a little refining, but I'm not sewing this; I'm just using the pieces to trace for a pattern. That will keep me from wasting the material I'm using for the final slipcover. I made sure I could pull it off and turned it inside out, still pinned together. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
 
I think I'm going to add a kick pleat (not sure what if that's the technical name) to the corners for some added flare and ease in removal. I just figured out how to do it (all by myself).  I've got 8 chairs and no fabric ordered yet, so this project probably won't be finished soon. Just sharing a preview.
 
~Amber

Thursday, August 1, 2013

School Supplies & Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

 "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms."

-  Email to Kathleen Kelly from Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

It's already that time of year again, time for back-to-school shopping. I don't have any children yet, and maybe I'll change my mind about this when I do, but I still enjoy shopping for "school" supplies. Maybe because I actually liked school or because I was a substitute teacher and nanny? Mostly, it's because as a crafter, I still need pencils, crayons, markers, pens, paper, rulers, glue, tape, and binders. And everything is on sale!  It's a wonderful time of the year for my pocketbook. Hello? 19 cent rulers!

Truth be told, despite living in this tech crazy world, I still use binders for everything. I like having a hard copy in case my computer crashes or to write notes on.  I have binders for gardening, Bible study, couponing, decorating, DIY projects, Christmas crafts, and recipes. I am a binder nut! One reason is due to the fact that I have a bunch of binders leftover from college (which was like 10 years ago). The colors aren't very uniform, but I'm too cheap to streamline them at this juncture. Instead of buying books on these subjects, I tear out pictures from catalogs, sketch ideas on printer paper,  and write down recipes while I'm watching my favorite cooks. Prepare yourself. I don't even have a Pinterest account. I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

Today, I'm organizing my office and cleaning up some jars to store supplies in. Instead of buying brand new ones, I clean up the jars from fruit and applesauce. Warehouse stores have the best ones. I was at the craft store the other day and they wanted over $3 for the same jar (without fruit!). You better put some mandarin oranges in that jar before I pay $3.  The glue left from the label can be a pain to take off sometimes. I usually soak them in boiling hot sudsy water and use goof remover as a last resort. A plastic putty knife worked this time. Does anyone else know a faster way? Do tell!



I can't wait for Fall. I love it, don't you? I think it's my favorite season. I can wear jeans again, the nights are cool, the changing colors outside are so pretty. Does anyone else get a high from being greeted by the aroma of cinnamon as you enter Michael's, or is it just me? I think they do it on purpose. Pretty soon it will be time to light pumpkin scented candles and listen to some Harry Connick Jr.  Blame it on all the romantic comedies; fall and jazz just go together like peanut butter and jelly.

~Amber