Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome Summer!

There are just three things I have to say today:

1. It is supposed to be 91 degrees here.

2. My neighborhood pool just opened.

3. I have a new swimsuit.

And that about sums up my plans....

Happy (Long) Memorial Weekend!

PSST! Make sure to check back in on Tuesday because I have some BIG SUMMER ANNOUNCEMENTS that you don't want to miss!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

6 Tips for Redesigning a Room (from a mildly obsessed decorator)

Today is the final "design fever" day, and I thought I would close with some tips on redesigning a room.

And just what qualifies me to give tips? you might ask. No, I do not have a degree in interior-design. I have not been on HGTV's Design Star. I've never even known a decorator. BUT...

...I have redesigned every room in my house at least THREE times over! So I think that makes me sorta an expert (or insane, if you ask Craig).

Before jumping into the tips, I thought I would refresh your memory as to what my office looked like before last weekend. Right away you can see that it was a cluttered mess.
The walls were brown. The sofa was frumpy. The accessories had run a-muck. And the layout wasn't open.
Now here is a shot from one angle of the recent redesign. I physically breathe in a sigh of relief when I see the difference. So, how did I get from the dark, dumpy mess above to this? Well, let me tell you:

1. First, I started with a clean slate.
I removed everything but the basic furnishings. I took down the pictures, cleared everything off the desk & table tops, removed the throw pillows and blankets, took away the frames & boxes & trinkets & knick knacks & candles. I pulled down the curtains and cleared off the shelves. And then I pushed the furniture into the middle of room so that I could...

2. Use paint to set the tone.
After the room was cleared, the next step was to paint. Nothing, in my opinion, refreshes a room like a fresh coat in a new color. Plus all of that climbing and stretching to reach tall corners and low baseboards is a good workout.

A word on colors...when I first moved into this house I painted every room a different color to suit my mood. Since then, however, I've slowly but surely narrowed down my palette to about a half-dozen choices. And 90% of them coordinate really well. So basically what I'm saying is don't resurrect your fondness for Rainbow Bright when painting. Unless, of course, you like repainting every year.

3. The next thing I do after painting is to lay a color/style foundation with fabric. As in pillows, rugs, blankets, etc. Because I can sew, I skip the stores and just make slipcovers for all of my accessories myself (probably each pillow in my house has at least 3 covers that I rotate depending on the time of year). And when I get tired of them (which I frequently do), I just switch them out for a new design.

4. Once I've picked my color/style, I start putting the room back together. This is the point when I usually rearrange things to make the room function better if it hasn't been.

Take, for instance, my office. I used to leave my sewing table open and under the window because that is where the electrical outlet is. But thanks to my hubby's suggestion, I picked up a packet of furniture gliders from the store so that I can move the table over to the outlet only when I need to sew. Now when it's not in use, I just fold it up and move it to a corner, opening up a HUGE space along the wall and window.

5. Then I bring the accessories/knickknacks back in WITH CAUTION. In other words, I usually leave out at least of half of what was in the room originally.

So, for instance, though I liked the votive candles on my table, the pictures, the cute little boxes that I keep beads in, the garden pot full of paintbrushes, the corkboards tacked with notes, etc. etc., I didn't bring any of it back into the room. And a week later, I can't say I miss any of it. It's amazing how much clutter we collect, isn't it!

6. Finally, I add the finishing touches--like the pearl chandelier, the floor-length sheer curtains, the faux-wood wall decals, and the grapefruit-scented fragrance decanter on my desk. And I sit back and enjoy...

...for about a season
...until I decide I want to change it again.

What do y'all think of my final design? I think it's a HUGE improvement, but would love your thoughts. Post 'em below!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Design Fever: Accent Wall

Do you see this wall right here? The one behind the sofa? Well, let me tell you a little history about this wall. First off, it is important to understand that this wall is THE accent wall in my office, meaning that it is the very first thing you see when you come into the room. And so naturally I've always felt compelled to make it stand out in one way or another.

My first decision--years ago--was to paint it red. This was back when everyone, it seemed, was having a grand love affair with red accent walls. And so I thought I would join the club. Naturally it was a total disaster and lasted less than a year. I replaced it with a camel/caramel brown, and painted the other walls the same. That is what you see here in the photo below:

The color was actually a nice choice, but since it was the same as the other three walls, I had to use art to make THE wall stand out.

And obviously failed miserably. I mean, have you ever seen such a hodgepodge of random pieces? Individually I like all of them; together they're a mess.

Needless to say, it was time to start over again from scratch.

Obviously you can tell from the photos that the first thing I did was replace the camel brown with a grayish-blue. And in spite of what Craig says (I believe "sanitarium" is the word he keeps using), I like it.

Once the painting was finished, I had to figure out what to do with the blank space, and as I mentioned on Friday, I was attracted to the idea of doing wall decals.

Attracted to it, but not nearly patient enough to wait for something to come in the mail. So I decided to design some decals myself using contact paper.

I spent several hours on Sunday brainstorming design ideas. The above images are a few of the options I considered. I loved the nature-inspired themes that I displayed on Friday, but decided that I needed something to tone down the femininity in the room since the pillow covers, sheer curtains and pearl chandelier were already making a very girly combo. And so shapes trumped leaves, branches and flowers.

I had a difficult time deciding which design I was going to adopt, and in the end I confess that simplicity persuaded my final decision. Perhaps not as elaborate as some of the options above, my ultimate design was, in a word, EASY. And after 48 hours of painting and sewing non-stop, I was very much in the mood for easy.

So this little rectangular motif was the winner. It took me all of 30 minutes to create and assemble. And about 99 cents. The only tools I needed were some scissors, a pencil and a level.

I didn't have any rules about spacing, pattern, etc. I just cut a random number of decals in two sizes and started placing them on the wall, eyeballing the distances between them. And frankly after two days of work and a bit of a paint-fume-headache, I'm surprised they turned out as well as they did.

Perhaps you all might have preferred one of the more elaborate styles I considered, but sometimes (particularly after a long weekend painting) simplicity just works better. Besides, I can always pick one of the fancier designs later and try it out--because that is the beauty of vinyl decals.

But for now I'm just going to admire my 99 cent rectangles and call it a day.

After all, it sure beats the red!

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Design Fever: Pillows

It has taken me awhile to wake-up this morning. I suppose that my grogginess could be due to the usual Monday malaise. Or perhaps residual fatigue from a weekend afternoon of yardwork. Or maybe...just maybe...'s because I completely redecorated my office in 48 hours.

Do you remember this? I posted this "before" photo this past winter as part of my "winter renovation" project. However, as I confessed last Friday, my winter renovation turned into a spring affair. A spring affair that started and ended (well, mainly ended) during the past three days. (translation: I've been busy!)

I won't go into the whole makeover this morning, but I definitely will start with the pillows. Though they were not the first project in the renovation, they are the most colorful.

Now, like with most of the designing I do, I tried to stick as much as possible to repurposing things I already had. And these pillows were no exception. A good friend of mine handed these pillow forms off to me at least a year ago, where they've been quietly collecting dust in the basement since.

Though neglected, I knew that the pillows would come in handy eventually--and Friday was the day.

Now, my top choice for a renovation would be to completely reupholster the sofa, which, unfortunately, is a task that far exceeds my skill level. Therefore, Plan B was to ditch the back-rest cushions that came with the sofa (furniture we inherited from my hub's parents) and replace them with these hand-me-down pillows.

But first I had to cover them.

Since it is spring, I wanted something that was fresh and light. And something that I could create from my box of fabric scraps. So after some cutting and stitching, I came up with these covers.

At least half of the fabric you see is actually from my old clothing--a pair of khaki trousers that never fit, for instance, and some old shirts in coral and blue. The other half come mainly from fabric remnants I've collected from the craft store over the years for pennies on the dollar.

The final result, I think, turned out better than I planned. The cushions are extremely comfy, and the colors and design are perfect for the warm months that stretch ahead. Best of all, I got a totally new look for a bargain!

What do you think of my renovation so far?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Fever is Back

note: click the images to learn more about these decals from handmade sellers on Etsy.
It's happening again. I knew when I first woke up. I could sense it before my eyelids even opened. A perfectly normal day...interrupted. To-do lists were about to go by the wayside. Regular clothes were in danger of being replaced by rags. Why? One simple reason--

The design fever was back.

Now, some of you have asked me "hey, whatever happened to that winter renovation you were working on?" Well, apparently the winter just wasn't my time. I had other things to do. What I thought was the fever setting in was just a false alarm. And maybe, just maybe, this is a false alarm too.

But my obsession with wall decals this morning suggests otherwise.

Yes, yes--I know. I had other plans to paint my office walls. But plans change. After thinking about all of the work it would take to create elaborate designs on my wall, I occurred to me that maybe--just maybe--I should delegate the labor. Like, say, with wall decals.

What do you think?

I've selected a handful that I like here, and obviously have some decisions to make. There are some lovely nature scenes, don't you think? The trees and birds? I'm drawn to the delicate leaves. And since it's almost summer, bringing the outdoors to the inside of my office is appealing.

Nature aside, there's another part of me that is drawn to retro shapes, maps and cityscapes. This option would obviously be less traditional & more modern.

Of course, the whole point of wall decals (in addition to their time-saving appeal) is that you can change them out when you get tired of a motif. So, say, if I want nature for the summer, I can still have retro shapes in the winter. Or cityscapes. Or pine trees (I can't imagine having this last one--but they're available, just in case).

Soooo...what is your preference? Nature? Skyscrapers? Adorable animals? (just kidding--I don't want my office to look like a nursery.) Share by posting your thoughts below!
In the meantime, don't be surprised if I show up on Monday with an entirely different office.

Because that's just how the fever works.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Resourceful! Alterations to a Red Blouse

This weekend I spent a couple hours browsing the local Habitat for Humanity just to see if I could find some thrifty goodies (read here to see what Craig's normal reaction is when I go to the thrift store...).

And after finding several charming mid-century dressers that I have absolutely no room for, I meandered over to the clothing and picked up three shirts for a grand total of $2.70.

This red blouse was one of them.

I was drawn to the shirt for three reasons:
1. the color. I think I must be going through a red phase because it's been popping up in my wardrobe a lot lately.
2. the front pleats. I love the way they drape down the front and remind me of a vintage-era.
3. the fabric. It's 100% silk. When you find 100% silk for less than a dollar, you buy it, people! You buy it!

BUT, as you can see by the image above, the blouse is rather frumpy. As in I'm pretty sure the last person to own it was in her sunset years. So I've brainstormed some alterations and I want you to tell me what you think...

First, I want to cut off those billowy sleeves! But rather than just take the sleeves off at the seam, I want to cut into the blouse yoke, exposing the shoulders. This line reminds me of a halter style except that the back will be closed rather than open.

What do you think so far?

Then I need to do some tailoring. I'm thinking that I will need some darts at the bustline for shape, and will probably also have to take-in the side seams a little too.

I'm hoping that these two quickie alterations will forever banish the potato-sack shape.

And this, my friends, is the final vision I have for this blouse. Silky, drapey, and not at all like your grandmother's Sunday top. Of course, this will be my first attempt at this combination of alterations, so we'll see how it goes. I suppose that if I make a total disaster out of it, I can create a lovely silk accessory out of the fabric instead.

Either way, this thrift store find for under a dollar has a lot of potential. I'll post the finished project when it's complete!

Any thoughts on my design or sewing tips you'd like to share? Post your comments below!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Leaving the 9-5

It seems like forever since I've posted about je ne sais quoi! So without further adieu, here's a little story about leaving the 9-5 from yours truly...

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (or about 2 miles) there was a girl who worked in a cubicle.
She arrived at her cube promptly at 8 every morning, and left around 5 to return home. Her daily tasks involved spreadsheets and databases and sales quotas. And her dreams at night were filled with Outlook tasks and appointments and phone calls.

The girl originally journeyed to the land of the cubicles hoping to build a future--a career and new skills and respectable accolades.
But what she found instead was that she did not fit in. The cubes were too confining, the tasks too structured and formal. She longed instead for color and creativity and passion. But to pursue those things meant leaving the land of the cubicles, and she wasn’t sure if that was such a good idea.

Because there were some good things about this far, far away (ok, 2 miles) land, like a steady paycheck and security and upward mobility. Beyond the borders of her cubby were less comforting possibilities, like failure and financial decline and isolation. And so she stayed. Days turned to months. Months turned to years (okay...maybe 1.5 years). And she wilted. And withered. And eventually dried up.

But not completely.

Finally, mustering her small measure of courage, she decided to leave the land of the cubicles and try to move somewhere else. The journey was very bumpy. She was lonely and often afraid. She lost her income, her status, her connections. She spent many hours fretting and feeling low after working with little to show for her efforts. But she kept moving ahead anyway. Days turned into months. Months turned to years (2). And slowly--ever so slowly--she started to set buds again.

Little by little her vision got bigger, and her creativity grew. She got better at what she was doing, and the work revived her spirit. She spent less time fretting, and more time living. She discovered skills she didn’t even know she had. She made new friends. And people started to notice her presence once again.

Because finally she was blooming.

Every once in awhile, the girl finds herself driving past the far, far away land (2 miles from her house)
of cubicles and spreadsheets and considers how far she’s come. It certainly wasn’t easy. But coming into yourself never is.

Read more about my "lifestyle makeover" by clicking here!
Also, to read this week's email, "Spring is Budding with Possibility," click here!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Newly.Wed: HIS day

by kerri
We graduated from college last weekend. And by “we” I mean I graduated three years ago but Matt did last weekend, so now we’re complete. As a couple, we were in limbo for awhile as Matt was working to catch-up with me (I was insane and took a gazillion credits each semester to graduate early).

So, this was Matt’s accomplishment. Of course, I was there for every moment of it, editing papers when he asked or checking on the outcomes of his tests--so it kinda felt like my accomplishment, too. But I didn’t write those papers or take those tests. So, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do during all of the events that led up to his graduation.
Plan the parties?
Defer to his family?

Ultimately, I just decided to let Matt dictate my role – if he wanted me to do something I did it, but mostly, I just let him do what he wanted.

When HIS day finally rolled around last weekend, I found myself balancing awkwardly on that line between "him" and "we." I mean, we are getting married in less than four months, so I am used to getting a lot of attention at special events. People ask questions about our wedding, honeymoon and plans for the future. And I have no problem talking about myself (ask the grocery checker at King Soopers). But this time--at Matt's occasion--I found myself kind of at a loss for words.

I know I might sound like a self-centered brat (and I am, admittedly), but for Matt’s day, I didn’t want to be that person. So I wasn’t. I chatted with almost-strangers about Matt’s new job and how much he seems to love it. I talked about his last semester of school and how hard Matt labored to finish while also working. I gushed about how cute he looks in a hardhat. And I celebrated Matt (even if my natural reaction was more of sigh of relief than a shout for joy). Because that is what you do for a Singleton’s event in a Coupledom.

Matt has celebrated with me in my events (graduating from college, finding my first grown-up job, getting a good haircut), and he has allowed me to show (or forcefully tell) him how I’d like for him to celebrate with me. And last weekend I had the chance to do the same for him, and it showed me how how important that is. It was Matt’s day. I’m just blessed to be able to share with him. And he should get to do things how he wants to (even if it involved multiple post-midnight returns to our home). When it's about me, I might do it differently (like with Champagne instead of beer), but at the end of the day, I’m just lucky to have someone to celebrate with.

Besides, "my day" is coming up soon enough. Four months to be exact. I'll be the one wearing white.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Crafty Girl: Whitney's Nautical Dress

Good morning everyone! I have a special Monday treat for you all! Remember last week when I wrote about showcasing more of your projects and ideas on Deviantly Domesticated? Well...I'm kicking off this week by doing just that, with a little help from my friend, Whitney.

I spotted this ADORABLE dress that Whitney made on her blog a couple weeks ago, and knew you all would love it too! Here are her thoughts on the project:

How long have you been sewing?

I actually only started sewing about 2 years ago. When I lived in Colorado I had a job that required me to be creative a minimum of 8 hrs a day so I didn't seek out any additional projects. It wasn't until we moved to Oregon and I took a job outside the design field that I required a creative outlet. I grew up with a mother that sewed 99% of all my dresses until I was in the 6th grade, I'm talking years of matching mother/daughter Easter dresses, so sewing seemed like the natural choice. I decided to take a beginner sewing class to learn the basics, bought myself a machine for $100, and the rest is history. I feel like sewing is really making a comeback and it couldn't have made a grander re-entrance.....seriously have you seen such amazing fabric choices & patterns???

Tell us a little bit about this project:
This project was inspired by a dress that kept popping up all over my Google Reader. Every time I saw it I thought "I could make that" so I decided that is exactly what I would do. I used a $6 tank top from Old Navy and a red stretch cotton from JoAnn Fabric for the skirt and sash. The entire dress cost a grand total of $12 and only took a couple hours to finish. I think this type of project is perfect for beginner sewers because you really only need a simple skirt pattern and a store bought top.

What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on a dress that I mangled on my first try. I decided to stray from the pattern the first go-around and things didn't end up so pretty. This time I'm following the pattern which is making my life a lot easier. When that's done I'm planning on making myself a half-dozen rompers for the summer.......they are going to be my summer staple.

What advice would you give to beginners?
I have 3 suggestions for beginners
1. Save perfection for the professionals.
If you're sewing a bag and you put something in the bag and it doesn't fall out......consider it a victory.

2. Take a beginner's class.
These classes will teach you how your machine works along with basic stitches and sewing techniques.

3. Make stuff for other people.
Nothing makes me happier then to finish a project and send it to someone else to enjoy.
{Since I'm on the topic of giving, if you absolutely hate how a project turns out send it to your parents or grandparents......they are required to love everything you create.}

Thank you, Whitney, for sharing! What do you all think of her dress? Submit your lavish praise below:)

have a project that you'd like to share as part of the Crafty Girl series? Send me an email today at!

JOIN the CRAFTY GIRL flickr pool
by sharing your latest project photos today! Click here!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Thrift Store Chair: a marital feud

husband: Where are you going?
me: The thrift store.

husband: (with anxiety in his voice) Why? What are you looking for?
me: Nothing. I'm just browsing. You know--for fun.

husband: The last time you were "just browsing," you came home with the ugliest set of shelving I've ever seen. Remember those?
me: Yes. I remember you making me take them back.

husband: Because they were awful.

husband: I knew I shouldn't have let you go. I hate this chair.
me: How can you hate it? It's great!

husband: It reminds me of the dentist's office.
me: Pfff. You never even go to the dentist.

husband: You need to take it back.
me: No.

husband: You know, it doesn't even go. It looks out of place in here.
me: It goes just fine. I'm the one with the design sense around here--not you. Besides, why do you care?

husband: I'm just saying I hate it.
me: You'll get used to it.

husband: I'm serious. Tomorrow. You need to take it back tomorrow.
me: (with a long sigh) Alright. I'll take it back. If you hate it Soooo much, I guess I have no choice.

That was three months ago. I think I've won the battle. Don't.Tell.Craig.
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