Decorating home, one element at a time.

Category Archives: DIY

Long, long ago, I, Jackie, found this cabinet at the Salvation Army just minutes from my house. I was drawn to it immediately, and stalked around it for several minutes as I decided if I could reasonably purchase it without disrupting home harmony (the spousal balance must always be maintained!), so much so that I inadvertently caused another Salvo shopper to think he should ask me about his intended purchase, purporting that I wanted to talk to him. (Egad! No! I’m here for the cabinet!!!)

So I got the cabinet, and as I pondered my redo, I knew that I wanted to paint it and that I wanted to find a color unique enough to offer color and interest to the room where it’d go yet neutral enough to allow the cabinet to move from room to room as my whim directed.

And there is lots of whim-directed decorating going on around my house. I get bored easily.

When I first brought the cabinet home, my husband said, “Paint that sh*t gold!” And I thought about it. And I liked the idea. And here’s what happened after that.

I chose a color called Brass Patina and went to down painting in the basement. Before beginning, I lightly sanded the entire piece and removed the door’s knob.

Here’s another shot:

After three-ish coats on all surfaces and complete drying (it didn’t take too long–I did this all in a few hours one morning), I carried the cabinet upstairs. Check it out in the better lighting of my kitchen:

Close up of the knob I chose to replace the original:

And here’s the cabinet integrated into a room! *Note: my living room is never this shockingly clean. I am slightly appalled at the cleanliness myself, seeing this picture again. =]


I, Jackie, don’t think I can honestly claim to come up with most of my good decorating ideas (dudes, have you experienced the collaborative idea-world that is Pinterest???) BUT, I will say this: I can definitely recognize a good idea when I see one.

Case in point is this project, that I found in DIY paradise, ReadyMade. (Seriously, if you love to DIY—and not just decor but food and drink and fashion and more—get thee to ReadyMade a.s.a.p.)

There’s something about having a touch of the rustic in a colorful and/or funky room that delights me so. It’s a lovely counterpoint to the smooth, the saturated, the slick—and when you pair that rustic with the unfussy but strong aesthetic that is the hairpin leg…I had to have one of these benches for my house. So I made one—and you can too.

Follow the guidance of the ReadyMakers for all of the how-tos (why reinvent the wheel? I did exactly what they said) and I’ll take you on a photo journey through the making of my bench.

Here we go!

Notes: I found my board in a pile of ‘leftovers’ at Doc’s Architectural Salvage. It has a slight crack in it but is still remarkably strong. My hairpin legs are from a 60s era end table that had two levels, so the the above pic you’ll see a set of legs to the left—the 12″ or so ones I used for this project, and a shorter 6″ or so set still looking for the right project home. Look for a board and/or legs everywhere—you might find a junk table at Goodwill for 5 bucks that have the perfect legs for repurposing.

Want one more hairpin leg project? Check out Rachel’s hairpin leg project.

Jackie here with a second installment of The Thrifty-Stylish Nursery. Missed the first installment? Get up to speed here: The Thrifty-Stylish Nursery, Part One: Color.

(A little color commentary on my real life: I totally intended to finish these posts BEFORE the birth of my second child, known fondly around our place as the Newcomer, but I totally  didn’t. On June 12, our sweet little Margot (MAR-go) was born and is now inhabiting the nursery I had such fun putting together.)

Let me take you on a quick photo tour of the furniture I put in Margot’s room. Furniture choices were key, as the nursery is a mere 8′ x 6′. Here’s what I filled the space with:

In this corner is a changing table I bought second-hand from Oliver’s former speech therapist, with a shelf my family has been carting around for years placed above it. I wanted the changing table specifically because 1) I like to have somewhere I can stand up to change diapers and 2) a second-hand changing table was a thrifty purchase (I spent less than $50 bucks) and I know I’ll be able to sell it myself when baby Margot’s all done with it.

Opposite the changing table, on the other side of the window, is a five-drawer dresser I got from Midland Arts and Antiques. It’s a fantastic piece with a little Indiana history—it was made in Bloomington, Ind. in the ’20s—so not only is it good-looking and useful, it has a little historical panache.

A fantastic dresser can take many forms and can be found in all kinds of random places; I recommend hitting up garage sales, thrift stores, antique shops, and the ever-enthralling Craigslist. What should you be looking for? All-wood construction, no major structural damage, and the size/shape you’ve deemed appropriate for your space. What should you not care so much about? DON’T avoid a dresser just because it has urgly hardware/draw pulls/etc. Hardware is remarkably easy and inexpensive to replace, and if you’re willing to do a little looking or crafting, you can probably find something quirky and unique. I did a quick drawer pull search on Etsy and found these sweet robot drawer pulls that I might get for Oliver at a future date. If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can look past color/stain and redo the piece yourself (provided you’re not currently pregnant—fumes + baby=no es bueno) or with a kind friend/spouse/etc.

Annnnd lastly: a crib. A crib is, of course, a no-brainer (unless one is of the co-sleeping club, which I am not because I had too many panicked dreams post-Oliver’s birth of him being lost in the blankets of our bed, and I’d wake up in a sweat, clobber my husband to consciousness in my hysteria, only to discover that Oliver had been sleeping safely in his room all night….) My crib is from IKEA, and I can’t speak more highly of what they have to offer. For between $70-130, you can get a crib that is perfectly safe—because the law requires it to be—and has those great modern lines of Swedish design. (And, BTW, if you’re looking for a crib that converts to a toddler bed, IKEA’s cribs do that, too.) Mattresses range from $35-80—also incredibly reasonable.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that my furniture items don’t match. I’m not bothered by this (the only matchy-matchy that exists in my house is my husband and I have matching dressers and nightstands in our bedroom, and all of our dining room chairs are the same)—I tend to be more interested in the principle of “does it go?” rather than “does it match?” If you like everything matching, okay. Just know that there’s NO RULE that says everything has to match exactly in order to look good. I made all of my pieces make sense together by using color—you’ll notice all of the orange, green, and purple throughout the room—as well as the use of repeating shapes (circles, squares—but more on that when I discuss the room’s accessories). So, embrace the hodgepodge; choose meaningful pieces that you both need AND respond to; and don’t feel obligated to drop tons of money just to make thing match.

Aw. That’s such a Pollyanna post title. Doesn’t sound much like everyday-Jackie, but there’s something about decorating that makes me wax optimistic. Maybe it’s because I get so darn attached to every decor purchase I make or project I complete. Or maybe it’s because I’m so dang CHEAP I can’t stand the heartbreak that comes when something I’ve put money into doesn’t work out. Or is destroyed, at least in part, as is the case in the two examples I offer here.

Exhibit A, Before: A salvaged window that I painted yellow and green for hanging in my living room.

Exhibit A, After: Sigh. Gravity. Perhaps an ill-timed rumble of an 18-wheeler down Indianapolis’ US-40. We’ll never know for sure.

Exhibit B, Before: A lovely red lamp my mum bought for me at Midland Arts and Antiques downtown.

Exhibit B, After: Sadly, there is no photo of what happened when my son knocked the lamp on the floor and shattered the shade, because I was too busy weeping in the chair to take one, and my husband was too concerned with making sure no feet-shredding glass remained on the floor to create a photo-journalistic record of the event.

So, here we have two decor items very much liked but no longer usable in their original conditions. The window’s glass is all gone. The red lamp’s lovely shade is smashed to bits. Time to chuck the items and move on, right?


So my husband and I stashed the shadeless lamp and the glassless window in the basement until such time as they would be needed to decorate again. And that time DID come, rather recently in fact, and here are our two repurposed disasters today:

The salvaged window, along with the [somehow also glassless] transom window we removed from our kitchen during its remodel now provide a geometric visual over our dining room desk area. And the lamp (on the right and in closeup) is completely revitalized with a coat of gray spray paint and a new shade I picked up for $5 at Midland. All that I needed to do to find the perfect new shade was 1) measure the diameter of the opening where the shade sits and 2) keep my eyes open each time I was in an antique/thrift/etc. establishment.

Lesson: Broken doesn’t have to mean over. (Thank goodness, or I’d still be crying over that lamp.) If you’ve got the room and love the item that’s damaged, hang on to it and see if you can’t bring it back to life in a new way. I might even like our second-time-around versions of each of these items a bit more than the first!

I (Jackie) can’t believe I’m about to write this, but, sometimes older isn’t better.

(Let me cry a minute.)

Okay. *wipes eyes* It’s true. But let me explain.

On Saturday, my friend Kayla and I went to White River Salvage (on 30th, on Indy’s westside) in search of, well, a number of things, but the item I’ll mention here is the one to which I’m applying the S.O.I.B. I uttered above: doors.

I’ve been kicking around this idea of forging a guest space in my rather ridiculously long living room (it’s about 13′ wide by 22′ long, cut in half visually and spatially by the front door–check out the top photo for the sense of the room, and the photo below it for a gander at the corner under consideration for ‘guest space’). Why? Ours is a two-bedroom house, and since nearly all of our family/friends do NOT live in Indy, we have guests frequently. However, though I DO want this guest space to be significant and include some privacy feature, I DON’T want it to be permanent. So I have tasked myself with devising an entirely portable yet AWESOME guest space that includes some privacy-creating element. Sure, we could just do the air mattress in the middle of the living room (we’ve done this), but I wanted to see if I could manage something a bit more.

And for that—for privacy without permanence—I thought, how about some room dividers?

For those of you who know me and how I like to decorate, you will not be surprised to hear that my reflex-action after deciding I wanted room dividers was NOT to jump in my car and head to the nearest store to see what I could purchase from the mass market. Instead, I went online to see how I might MAKE said item, or where/how I could acquire room dividers vintage or in some other state of old or interesting. I find the easiest way to avoid cookie cutter decorating is to avoid starting every decorating quest at the Big Box store nearest you.

(And this makes me think of a scenario where older WAS better: Recently my husband and I purchased a new-to-us desk at Domistyle—a fabulous Indy resale store on the near southeast side—for $50. It’s solid wood and doesn’t resemble any desk I’ve seen around. What will $50 at a Big Box store get you? Actually…$50 might not be enough to get you anything. But if it does, it’s going to be pressed particleboard, and it’s not going to be particularly unique. So if you’ve never thought well-made/special furniture was possible on a budget, it is. Check out our find, paired with the sewing chair I reupholstered.)

But back to the Case of the S.O.I.B. Based on my online research, I’d gotten it into my head that it might be cool to use old doors to make these room dividers. I imagined them looking so awesome I’d be able to, when the guest room was not needed, fold them up and secure them to the two short walls on the south side of my living room, thus adding a touch of panache to the decor at that end of the room (as well as storing my dividers till the next guest arrived)

So there Kayla and I were, at White River Salvage. And we found doors. Many, MANY doors. The problem? All of the doors we found were priced, on the cheap end, at around $200 (and the worst of them were closer to $2000).

So here comes the S.O.I.B: Though these doors had all of the uniqueness I wanted in my space, I sure wasn’t willing to drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars to make some room dividers. Heck, I COULDN’T: I don’t have that kind of money. Kayla and I left White River Salvage without doors, and I departed with a mind working frantically on a new idea.

Now what? I had found a few old doors for not-a-billion-dollars on Craigslist, but I decided it would 1) take too long and 2) be too much of a hassle to stalk/contact/physically procure enough doors for my project. Next step, then? Hit the internet one more time, find a new idea.

And that’s where I am today. I have my new idea. A post on DIY Furniture at, uh, Women’s Day (first time for everything–proof that all sources can have kicky fun ideas), has set me right again. The folks of Women’s Day suggest snagging some hollow-core doors and transforming them into a divider. And at ~$20 apiece, hollow-core doors are an inexpensive way to immediately have the structural component one needs for this type of project. Where you go from there (will your doors remain looking like doors, but with some kind of paint treatment? or will you transform them with another manner of embellishment, like fabric? or something else entirely?) is completely up to you/your brain.

But wait, Jackie, aren’t hollow-core doors basically on the same level as  particle board furniture? Well: yes and no. They certainly aren’t the most remarkable product on the planet, but I’m not suggesting you install them in your doorways. Instead, I’m suggesting that a prudently-priced item can be used as a building block for something entirely unique. In this, you’re elevating a modest item into something more than it ever could have been on its own. You can facilitate a transformation.

So that’s that: That’s the end of my S.O.I.B. admission moment. But here’s the take home message: regardless of old, new, expensive, or thrifty, the best decorating makes everything you bring into your house YOURS.

How-to and pictures to come as I move forward with my room divider project!

Rachel and I are at that age when every time we turn around, another one of our friends is pregnant. Not that I can say anything: as I write this, I’ve just turned the corner, flipped the page, whatever, into 31 weeks pregnant with my second baby, a girl who is due June 9. Every time I turn around, there’s a Bundt-cake-ish sized protuberance revolving with me.

And babies bring all sorts of inevitabilities, the most psychologically arresting of which is, no, not that fact that one is going to be for all time a parent to a complex, somewhat inscrutable human being, but that one will have to assemble a practical and attractive nursery.

Well: I am assuming. A nursery doesn’t HAVE to be attractive. But I am hoping that a small measure of hubris on my part is allowed in assuming your interest in this because you are here reading a decorating blog.

(No, really, it’s a decorating blog.)

I was particularly thrilled to prep this baby’s nursery because we were renting when we had Oliver. I did ask my landlady at the time if we might paint a room or two in our duplex—I was excited to try out a color palette in Oliver’s room-to-be. Her response? “Oh yeah, if I can pick the colors.”

Oh. Huh. Okay…never mind.

Our house isn’t large—it’s a two-bedroom home—so my husband and I decided to put the baby in the little bonus room off our bedroom—my Virginia Woolf room, the room of my own, that was initially loved and adored and persuasive in our home purchase because it would be a space for me to work and write. (Now I work and write on the couch…the laptop made me do it.) Here’s the room as we first saw it, before we bought the house:

Since the room was initially intended for me, I decided on wall color as I always do: I wanted something saturated. We opted to paint our bedroom Sherwin William’s Drizzle (a bluey-green), and my VW room one color down the color swatch, Lagoon. Here are a couple of pics, taken shortly after we bought the house and began customizing, that show the colors we chose and the relationship of the VW room to the master bedroom.

When we found out it was time to convert the VW room to a nursery for Baby Girl, I was determined to keep the same saturated color I’d initially chosen for the room. I can’t wrap my brain around wanting to paint a baby’s room a light color—I don’t generally care for them to begin with, and, further, babies don’t particularly respond to pastel colors as newborns because their eyesight isn’t fully developed yet. And I admit I tend to be opposed to what mass culture says I ought to do in my child’s room. So no light pink, light blue, light green, light whatever for me.

Not that pastels can’t be okay—I have an Indy friend who painted her daughter’s nursery a pale pink—but she didn’t pair her pale pink with myriad other pale colors, instead opting for a bold black and white zig-zag rug for the floor and other color-rich prints and pictures for around the room. So if your particular aesthetic says, oh I must have light walls in my little one’s room, see what interesting non-pastel accessories, etc, you can bring in to contrast with that. (More on that later.)

Once I knew I’d be keeping my Lagoon room, I got to choose a set of colors to go with. I headed off to Michael’s to stand in the aisle of acrylic paint—to wait for inspiration to strike me. (Why there and not Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, you wonder? I knew I’d be using the colors on small projects, where a tube of acrylic paint would come in loads handier than a bucket of interior.) Here’s what I settled on: Light Blue Violet, Brilliant Yellow Green, and some kind of Orange (that’s the top of one of my fav vases shown in the pic). These three colors have guided all subsequent decorating/accessorizing choices for the room, the first of which is here in the picture: I redid a shelf that’s been around in my family for YEARS in Light Blue Violet.

When my brother Addison first saw a posted pic of the completed shelf, his response? “That shelf is still around?!”

Oh yes, brother. It would be cobble-remiss of me not to re-purpose perfectly good shelving—here’s our first glance at the “thrifty” part of the Thrifty-Stylish Nursery: look for items you already have and see if you can “refresh” them for a new decorating scenario. And the shelf was my first opportunity to enact the accent palette—more opportunities to be detailed soon; I’ve got to bail now to go play outside with my nap-spurning Oliver.

It’s remarkable to me, Jackie, how much money plain/ugly/boring/ill-fitting window treatments can cost. Not that there aren’t fantastic curtains available on the mass market, but those generally cost a stack o’ skrilla too. Or they’re hard to find, and hard to find takes time, and we don’t have time cuz this is a Quick Cobble. So let’s get to it.

For kitchens and bathrooms (err…gauge privacy concerns before making final window treatment decisions in bathrooms), I can’t recommend the cafe curtain more highly than I am about to. Hurrah for the cafe curtain! Most times, our windows don’t need a ton fabric/privacy/jazzing up to be awesome, so a half-window worth of covering will address both needs of practicality and style.

And one fantastic way to make cafe curtains is to seek out an already-made, already-fabulous hunk of  fabric: a cloth napkin, particularly vintage cloth napkins. Why cloth napkins? They’re the right size, they’re interesting, they’re cheap, they’re easily acquirable, shall I go on raving all day…. I’ve seen bunches of fantastic cloth napkins for very little cash at such places as Midland Arts and Antiques here in Indy, or online at Etsy. Places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or antiques stores as yet unplumbed could also be excellent places to look for vintage napkins in your area.

Once you’ve got a set of cloth napkins you love that’ll work in your room, here’s the how-to on the transformation:

1. Acquire, for several dollars, two sets of curtain rings.

2. Acquire, for several dollars, a cafe curtain rod (I’d recommend matching your curtain rod to your curtain rings.) This does not have to be fancy to look nice—we have a slightly fancier one in our kitchen only because it was on sale. In other rooms where I’ve used cafe curtains, I’ve opted for a plain silver rod.

3. Once home, clip the curtain rings onto the top of the napkins and slid on to the curtain rod.

4. Hold up to the window-in-question and figure out where you need to place the brackets for your curtain rod to have your cafe curtains brush the top of the sill.

5. Hang curtain rod in place determined by step 4.

6. Hang curtains.

7. Revel in how chic, unique and thrifty you are. Tell no one of the ease.

Okay, I fail at step 7, but I did the rest all right, to this result:

If you’re slightly more ambitious/handy with a sewing machine, you could stitch together a couple of cloth napkins to make a longer/wider/both curtain, or a curtain containing a couple of colors/patterns. I’ve considered doing this for the larger window in my kitchen, and if I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out. And you let me know how your cloth napkins-to-curtains turn out, too.