DIY

making art more personal and fun

Over the years I’ve added a lot of fun and wacky art to our home. I’ll frame pretty much anything if it brings me joy!

Much of my art, including the pieces pictured below, comes from one of my favorite charities, Art Enables. The marvelous people who run this nonprofit help developmentally-disabled adults create and sell art. They give people community, a sense of pride, and a small income. I had the pleasure of meeting the artist who made some of the paintings I bought, and he was so gracious and excited about his art.

We’ve also decorated our home with some mementos of the early days of our relationship. The sign pictured below was a gift from me to him on our wedding day, and it reminds us of a song by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I also framed a postcard of a diner in Richmond that was an important place for us when we started dating. Seeing it always makes me smile.

Along our stairs I hung my daughters’ ballet shoes from when they were teeny. As you can tell, these shoes saw a lot of wear — the younger one in particular went through a time when she wore these shoes every day with a sparkly purple dance outfit, no matter what we were doing. Such sweet memories.

My mom came up with the idea of framing the kids’ art in big, inexpensive frames from Michaels. We took out the paper that came with the frame and flipped it around to make a solid, white surface, and then we used washi tape or scotch tape to affix the kids’ art to the white paper. It’s easy to swap the art every few months, which is awesome.

But my absolute favorite piece of art is a painting by Mike Warren replicating a photo from vacation in August 2019. We captured an awesome shot of all four kids jumping off a dock, and Mike turned it into a beautiful painting. You can read more about that process here.

What are your favorite ways to make art in your home feel more personal? Let me know in the comments!

easy and inexpensive fall decorations

Happy Fall! I finished decorating the front door this week, and the seasonal look makes it feel so festive! I thought it might be helpful to share some quick, easy, and cheap decorating tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Spray paint plastic plant pots

I bought the mums from Home Depot and painted some of the plastic grow pots with black spray paint I found in our garage. It creates a more unified look, and it’s very fast and easy. I’ve read that mums last a lot longer if you transplant them into better, bigger pots, but I’ve never done that. Which leads to my next tip . . .

2. Try to use mums as perennials.

When the mums have finished blooming, I often move the grow pots to an inconspicuous, sunny part of the backyard and leave them during the spring and summer. I don’t water them or really pay any attention to them at all. And, often, they live through the cold winter and bloom again the following September. (We’re in gardening zone 7A.)

If you do this, it’s best to cut them back in early spring so they don’t get too leggy. And remember that terracotta pots will crack if left outside in very cold weather – I usually leave the mums in the plastic grow pots from the store.

3. Combine several grow pots in a large planter.

We had a big plastic planter in the backyard that was a garish color. I spray painted it black, filled it with styrofoam, and tucked a few plastic grow pots inside it. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the grow pots, but you can’t see them when you’re standing up straight and look down at the planter. Easiest hack ever!

4. Add height and lights.

I bought this log rack in nickel (the only color available at the time) and stacked firewood in it. And I added some of these beautiful battery-operated candles (affiliate link). Such a pretty glow, plus I don’t have to worry about safety, and I can turn them off with a remote control! I tucked one of the candles inside a metal jack-o-lantern from Pottery Barn.

*I get commissions from purchases made through some links in this post.*

Enjoy decorating for the season! We’re getting out the fog machine and the life-size skeleton pretty soon.

DIY

decorating a stairwell landing

The landing on our stairwell was a blank slate, so I decided to mix it up a bit!

And here are the before and after pics from this easy project.

We already owned most of this art, which made this a cheap project! Much of it was hanging further down the staircase, and I’d wanted to lighten up that gallery anyway.

I hung this sconce (affiliate link) and used the magic light trick from Nesting with Grace to make the sconce battery-operated. No need to call an electrician!

I installed this small shelf (affiliate link) from Amazon and splurged on a faux plant from Pottery Barn (the “wandering prayer” plant). I’ve had my eye on that one for a while, and it did not disappoint! We also tucked in a red rhinoceros because John loves them–it’s connected to his memories of spending time and laughing with dear friends, and it makes him happy to see this tiny guy hiding under our faux stairwell plant.

*I get commissions from purchases made through some links in this post*

Enjoy the weekend!

DIY

DIY pantry door with chicken wire

When we bought our house, the pantry door was heavy, solid wood. The pantry is tiny and inevitably messy and has no interior light. The electrician said it would be tough to wire electricity to the pantry–I forget why–so I wanted to find other ways of letting light in.

And then one of the kids had an accident with the door. Three of them were chasing each other in circles around the main level of the house, and the youngest girl ran into the door and fell down the basement stairs. It was horrible, one of those moments that haunts your dreams for years afterward. Miraculously, she was completely fine. After both of us calmed down, my first step was to take the door off the hinges and put it outside on the curb.

We used the pantry without a door for a while, but it often looked really messy. My dad came to the rescue!

I don’t have many pictures of the process, but it was pretty simple. Dad and I framed the door, as shown above, and added mesh wire to each opening. (The mesh wire comes in a roll, and if you get a low gauge wire you can cut it with scissors instead of a razor knife.) To hide the edges of the wire, we framed it out with some thin wood trim. Then I caulked every joint (being careful not to get any caulk on the wire), lightly sanded, and painted the door Moroccan Red by Sherwin Williams. We added hardware made for screen doors.

For fun, I made a couple of stamps out of potatoes and decorated the inside of the pantry. My inspiration was Elsie’s clementine wall from A Beautiful Mess.

Photo via A Beautiful Mess

My final result didn’t look as good as Elsie’s, but the process was really fun! And now our pantry brings some sunshine to each day.

DIY

from photo to painting

Every once in a while you snap a picture that is just awesome, right? Among the thousands of candid shots on my phone there are a handful of really great ones. The picture below is one of those.

In August 2019 we were on vacation with all four kids when I snapped a pic of all of them jumping off a dock. I love so many things about this photo — the carefree image of childhood, the idea of jumping as a group into the unknown, and, of course, my memory of watching overjoyed kids hurl themselves into a freezing alpine lake. This photo makes me so happy.

In fact, both of us loved the photo so much that we wanted to turn it into a painting. After artist Mike Warren was featured on Nesting with Grace, I contacted him and asked him if he would replicate this photo as a painting.

This project was pricey, but after giving it a lot of thought we decided to go for it and use part of our tax return to cover the cost. And the end result was much better than I’d imagined!

We wanted to highlight the painting with light from a sconce, but we didn’t want to run electricity to the sconce because we’re planning to redo the living room soon. Instead, we added a puck light using this tutorial. (The puck lights recommended in the tutorial come with a remote control, which makes it easy to turn the lights on and off.)

I know we’ll always treasure this painting! I’m so glad we took the plunge and reached out to Mike Warren.

DIY

renovating an old secretary

My parents recently gave me this antique piece that’s been in my family for decades. Would you call this a hutch or a secretary? We’ve always called it the secretary, but maybe that’s a regional thing.

At any rate, I absolutely love this piece and the memories it carries, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

I used Jolie Paint (fantastic paint for furniture!) in Palace White. This paint is sort of a cross between milk paint and chalk paint, and you have a lot of control over the final look. (I’ve used it to create a dappled, textured look and a flat look. This paint is really responsive to brush strokes.) The best part: I didn’t have to use primer!

Removing and polishing the drawer pulls made a big difference here. Those handles were dirty after decades of use!

After the paint dried, my adorable helper applied grasscloth wallpaper (she even helped put on the paste and book it!).

I hung some treasured kids’ art on the wall and slid a desk chair into the space between the secretary and the wall. I can pull the chair around when I want to use the secretary as a desk, plus the chair legs hide the house modem and accompanying cords.

Decorating the shelves was fun! I looked around the house for some of the most meaningful tchotchkes and arranged them in a way that made me happy. I decided to display a copy of our wedding invitation, a photo of my parents, a photo of our wedding location, cards from the kids, and some books I’ve been meaning to read.

I’m really happy with how it turned out! Here’s hoping this setup helps me concentrate during these long days of working remotely . . .

Cheers to the long weekend!

Glacier National Park: tips for an amazing adventure

Glacier National Park in Montana is one of my favorite places in the world! But it can be a little daunting to plan a vacation to such a remote place, and I’ve certainly learned a few lessons about traveling there. Hopefully some of these ideas will make your vacation less stressful and more fun!

*Affiliate links used. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Planning is absolutely key when it comes to enjoying Glacier! I recommend having a solid plan but also remaining flexible. Sometimes the National Park Service closes trails because of bear activity, the parking lots fill up earlier than you expected, or wildfire smoke makes it hard to be outdoors for too long. And wifi can be pretty spotty, so it might be hard to make an alternate plan on the fly. Bring a sense of adventure, and have some extra plans in your back pocket.

1. Familiarize yourself with the general layout of the park. Going-to-the-Sun Road is the main road that crosses the park from east to west. Without stops, it takes about an hour and a half to drive from one side to the other. In the east, you pick up Going-to-the-Sun Road at St. Mary’s, and in the west, you pick up Going-to-the-Sun Road at West Glacier/Apgar. Many Glacier (discussed below), Two Medicine, and Bowman Lake are separate parts of the park, disconnected a bit from the main thoroughfare.

When you arrive at the park, you can snag a free map at most hotels and gift shops near the park.

Many Glacier area

2. If you plan on hiking, a rental car is a must. It’s expensive, but I don’t think you can really access the park and make the most of your visit without one. As you probably know, you need a pass from the National Park Service to enter Going-to-the-Sun Road in a private vehicle between 6 am and 5 pm. (This doesn’t apply to most tours.) Once you’re inside the park, you can hop on a shuttle bus if you have a reservation.

If you’re not a fan of long hikes, or if driving on windy mountain roads makes you nervous, you might forego a rental and instead take a cab from the Kalispell Airport to the park (about a 40-min ride) and jump on the Red Bus Tours. I’ve never taken one of those tours, but it looks like a lot of fun!

sunrise near Fishcap Lake

3. Plan around your long hikes. I recommend splitting your lodging reservations between the east and west sides of the park. Remember that you may need to move your hiking plans to other days depending on weather, the need to acclimate to the altitude, or air quality. Allow for transition/rest days when you can meander through the park and stop at all the lookout points along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Consider buying a book that describes various hikes and shows them on a map (I highly recommend this one, shown below). If you need to change plans and don’t have access to wifi, you’ll be very glad you have an old-fashioned book to flip through!

And it pays to get an early start! Not only is sunrise the best time to see wild animals, but popular parking lots fill up early. On a weekday in August, we found that the Logan Pass parking lot (an hour-long drive from St. Mary’s or West Glacier) was full by 6:15 am.

4. Stay in the park if you can. Many Glacier Lodge is one of my favorite places in the world, and Lake McDonald Lodge is no slouch, either. These places are not fancy–think small rooms and thin towels–but they are charming and cozy! Both have restaurants (a rarity in the park) that offer standard menus (hamburgers, veggie burgers, chicken strips, salads), cocktails, wine, and beer. Apgar Village has a great hotel for families and a casual restaurant (Eddie’s). In-park lodging books up a year or so in advance, but sometimes you can snag a spot if there’s a cancellation.

If lodging in the park is full or out of your budget, there are plenty of small motels near the park entrances, particularly on the west side. I’ve stayed at a few places and they were all fine, but I particularly enjoyed the Historic Tamarack Lodge (nicest staff ever, plus they serve drinks at night and fancy coffee starting at 8 am). I also really liked the Silverwolf Log Chalets (tucked away in the woods, continental breakfast delivered to your cabin). Note that not all motels near Glacier have air conditioning. I haven’t found this to be an issue, since it gets pretty cool at night.

5. Make a plan for food. We’ve found that many of the restaurants outside the park don’t keep regular hours, close relatively early, or don’t serve takeout (a consideration during COVID). If you aren’t staying in a park lodge, I strongly recommend visiting the local grocery stores and getting some basics. The Super 1 in Columbia Falls is open 24/7, and there are small grocery stores in Hungry Horse, West Glacier, and St. Mary’s. Don’t forget to buy sandwich bags and plastic silverware (nothing worse than trying to make a PB&J without silverware). I recommend packing a collapsible cooler if you plan to switch hotels or travel from one side of the park to the other. And don’t forget to check that your hotel has a mini fridge!

During our most recent trip, I kept reminding myself that this is not a foodie trip! We ate a lot of sandwiches, trail mix, and crackers and cheese. That said, I particularly enjoyed the BBQ and salmon tacos at the DeSoto Grill in Kalispell, the cocktails at Glacier Distilling in Coram, the ice cream at Eddie’s in Apgar, the huckleberry pie at Two Sisters in Babb, and the thin crust pizza at Rising Sun in St. Mary’s (order online before 6 pm for takeout).

sunset near St. Mary’s

6. If you’re flying to Glacier, consider renting bear spray instead of buying it. We learned that USPS will not ship bear spray, and you definitely can’t take bear spray on the plane!

7. Bring more water than you think you need. I brought 64 ounces on a long hike and ended up having to ration my water. Not fun. Consider bringing a small water filter, if you have one, so you can enjoy fresh water from an alpine waterfall!

view from the deck at Many Glacier Lodge

sample itinerary

Day 1: Fly into Kalispell, enjoy a fun dinner in Kalispell or Columbia Falls.

Day 2: Use the West Entrance to the park. Visit Lake McDonald Lodge and walk along the lakeshore. Consider eating lunch at the lodge and taking a boat tour (contact the Glacier Park Boat Company for available times). Hike Trail of the Cedars (easy, handicapped-accessible) and Avalanche Lake (moderate).

Day 3: Arrive at Logan Pass early (at least by 6 am) to get a parking space. Hike the Highline Trail (moderate but long). Consider hiking out to the Granite Park Chalet and back along the same route. (You can hike a shorter trail from the Chalet down to the Loop parking lot, but that trail is exposed to the sun and very rocky. Not pleasant at all.)

Day 4: Drive through the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Stop off at various overlooks. Consider eating lunch at Red Rocks waterfall and dip your toes in the freezing water. Consider hiking St. Mary’s Falls (easy).

Day 5: Arrive at the Swiftcurrent Lodge parking lot early (by 7:30 am) and hike to Iceberg Lake (moderate). If you arrive early, consider the very short hike to Fishcap Lake to look for moose. (look for the “exhibits”)

Day 6: Book a boat ride from Many Glacier Lodge over two alpine lakes to the trailhead for Grinnell Lake (easy). Make sure to enjoy a cold drink on the deck at Many Glacier–the sunsets there are amazing!

Day 7: Wake up early and take the boat ride from Many Glacier Lodge to the same trailhead as day 6. Hike to the Grinnell Glacier (strenuous).

Day 8: Make your way back to the west side of the park. Consider renting a kayak or paddle board at Apgar, and make sure to get some ice cream at Eddie’s!

items I forgot to pack but wished I had

Have an amazing adventure!!

DIY

rearranging the kitchen shelves

Our kitchen and dining room is the heart of our home. One of my favorite views in this room is the open shelving we mounted above a sideboard that contains our cocktail supplies. We made the shelves out of very, very old wood we bought at a shop in the country, and we spray painted the brackets gold.

* Affiliate links used. I get commissions from purchases made through links in this post. *

Over time the shelves had gotten cramped, and I wanted a new look. We removed everything from the shelves and decided to rearrange them with a moodier vibe. Here’s the finished product!

The large art is from one of my favorite charities. I bought the painting unframed and put it in an old frame from Salvation Army. I painted the frame with Rub ‘n Buff and hot glued a navy ribbon to the frame. Very cheap DIY project!

The painting on the right is by my younger daughter.

Many of the items here have special meaning for us. A few of the cocktail recipe books are from our favorite spots in NYC, and some of the others were gifts from friends. A local shopkeeper gave us the gold bell when we were renovating our house.

When arranging shelves, my secret is to arrange similar colors in threes using a triangle shape. Here, I used gold (the gold in the liquor bottle labels, the art frame, and the bell) and clear glass (the cups to the left of the art, the cups below the art, and the decanter on the far right).

And here’s what the wall looked like before this refresh. I like it much better now!

Sources: wallpaper

DIY

bathroom renovation

When we bought this house, the bathroom on the main level was absolutely terrible. There was no toilet seat, there were dead bugs in the tub, and the whole room felt disgusting. I still remember my youngest daughter teetering on the edge of the toilet, trying to use it, while I hovered and reminded her over and over not to touch anything. And this was our home!!

*Affiliate links used. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

I loved the vintage pink sink and tub, but the plumbing was in such bad shape that it wasn’t cost-effective to keep those fixtures.

Because there was so much work to do and we had a short timeline, we paid contractors to do most of the work. Their first step was to take the room down to the studs.

After doing some research on moisture-resistant materials for bathrooms, I ended up going with the <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=charmingcozyh-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B003C69J1K&asins=B003C69J1K&linkId=51ed0d80940b294e7039f51f1b8e243d&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> Schluter-KERDI waterproofing materials. Their system is much more expensive than other options, but it creates an excellent seal that prevents water vapor from seeping into your walls. Schluter-KERDI materials are available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

For the floor, I chose some relatively inexpensive basketweave tile from Home Depot. I wanted the bathroom to look like an old train station bathroom — weird design inspiration, I know!

The marble tile has some natural color variation, as you can see below. It threw me for a loop at first, but after the fixtures were installed it became much less noticeable.

Because the room is very small, I wanted the same floor to carry into the shower. We planned to have a glass shower door, and I thought using the same flooring material throughout would make the room seem larger.

For the shower walls, I chose a marble subway tile from Home Depot.

I chose TEC grout from Lowe’s for this product because my mom assured me that this brand is very stain-resistant. And so far it seems like she’s right! We used the Silverado color.

My dear parents installed the glass shower door while I was at work. Apparently it was a tremendous pain in the rear end.

Because the space was so small, I chose a pedestal sink from Signature Hardware. I like it so much that I bought a second one for another project!

The faucet is antique bronze, not black, and I can’t recommend it because the finish hasn’t held up well.

I added a small rug from Target, <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=charmingcozyh-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07Q2GTWBM&asins=B07Q2GTWBM&linkId=8e97253f209786753b40a7fde89d3798&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> glass soap bottles from Amazon, a plant, and a few other small items. My dad installed some shelves using brackets from Home Depot (similar ones linked here) and some old wood we had in the garage.

I love the finished result!

I also hung some art from one of my favorite charities and painted the door to the bathroom Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams.

Sources:

art || rug || sink || <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=charmingcozyh-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07Q2GTWBM&asins=B07Q2GTWBM&linkId=8e97253f209786753b40a7fde89d3798&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> glass soap bottles in shower || mirror || shower tile || floor tile ||

Paint: Light French Gray by Sherwin Williams

DIY

living room update

We’ve lived here for almost four years now, and I’ve never been completely happy with the living room. When we bought the house, the living room (and everything else) was painted a sickly shade of mint green.

If you look to the left in the photo above, you’ll see a very green fireplace. I had a devil of a time scraping all that paint off the bricks! Ugh. My mom and I used so many terrible chemicals that I lost count. When the chemicals splattered on my arm, I got burns on my skin. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

safety first

midway through the terrible scraping procedure

After I scraped most of the green paint off, I painted it with a 50/50 solution of water and Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. I painted the inside of the fireplace with high heat paint from Home Depot (if you use this, be careful — drips are hard to clean up). My mom sanded and stained the mantel.

I love the mantel now! We painted the rest of the room Popular Gray by Sherwin Williams, hung some pictures, and lived with it while we completed other projects (like toilets that didn’t work!).

But we never really loved this room. We never hung out here, mostly because the seating arrangement was awkward and because I could never sit still in here. There was always something that needed to be tweaked, something that just didn’t feel right, so I’d bounce off the sofa and move furniture around while John was trying to have a conversation with me. Anyone else do that??

After spending a lot of time thinking about this room and saving some money, we’re ready to focus on refreshing this space. Although we’re trying to limit expenses, we need to get a new couch (the old one is in terrible shape) and two new chairs. We’re also planning to reorient the furniture in the room, add a picture rail, and make built-in bookcases (more on those topics later).

The first task is to choose the furniture, light fixtures, and paint. I was struggling with the paint colors and the sconces for the window seat, so I pasted the options into a design board and added the furniture we plan to keep, the furniture we’re eyeing, and elements in the room that I intend to keep.

  1. Couch from Article.
  2. Coffee table from Article.
  3. Cozy chairs from Target. (We plan to get two.)
  4. Rug from Overstock.

The black sconce is from Rejuvenation, and the green sconce is from Beautiful Halo.

Once again, the design board rescued us! We’re going with Alabaster for the walls, partly because we want to lighten the room while also using warm colors, and partly because the fireplace and the adjoining sun porch are already painted Alabaster. For the sconces, we decided to go with the interesting green ones. It’s a throwback to where this room began!

Keep an eye out for more posts about this room:

  • DIY chandelier restoration
  • Designing for traffic flow and conversation
  • Building built-in bookcases
  • Adding picture rail
  • Installing sconces without electricity

Enjoy your week!