Decorating home, one element at a time.

Tag Archives: DIY

“You have the most popular nursery that no one has seen.” – Jackie

If you’ve read this blog before, you already know a couple of things:

1. Jackie, my dear co-blogger, has written about her beautiful nursery decorating. Check it out right… HERE.

2. If Jackie and I were decorating politicians, our platforms would be anti-store-bought themed nursery sets. Our nightmares have us fleeing from things that are too matchy-matchy. I specifically spelled this out after carefully defending a motif in my home, which you can see……. HERE.

With this second point in mind, my husband and I had long ago decided that should we have a baby boy, we would decorate his nursery based on one of our favorite movies, Fantastic Mr. Fox. In case you have missed this Wes Anderson gem, here are the reasons we find it inspiring, especially for our decorating purposes (movie photos courtesy imdb.com/20th Century Fox) :

1. The story itself is about family: a dad, mom, and young son. This could easily be us!

(Seth relaxing while I paint and listen to my records)

“Ash”- a cutie like baby

2. The colors: All of the colors are bold and saturated. We were really struck with the golden jacket of Mr. Fox, red of Farmer Bean’s apples, and the yellow of Mrs. Fox’s dress. Hints of blue make great pops of an accent color, too.

3. The textures: the movie is stop-motion animated, making everything realistically tactile. For example, Mr. Fox himself has so many textures- the corduroy jacket, his soft fur, and the glassiness of his eyes. Textures through the use of different elements and prints (checkered, polka-dot) create visual interest and are perfect for a developing baby.

4. The great outdoors setting: the “nature” of the movie allows for bringing the outside in. This topic is even addressed in the plot, as the characters deal with the destruction of their natural habitat. (They fight back with flaming pine cones.)

5. The maturity: the humor of the movie makes it not just for children. It has a classic quality and nostalgic feel. Anytime I can add vintage qualities to a room to give it a more comfortable aesthetic I do. And besides, is a nursery only for a baby? I wanted this room to be an extension of who we are, just as baby is a part of our family.

For these reasons and more, Fantastic Mr. Fox was our inspiration. Taking these concepts, I present Judah’s nursery!

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The nursery is a small room, but that can be the perfect setting for a bold, saturated color.

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This changing table was the first “official” purchase. I fell for the color when I saw it on craigslist and the price of $30 sealed the deal. The alphabet wall hanging I purchased two summers ago at the local, famed Normal Park neighborhood sale. It is handmade and frightfully old. The creatures have quirky colors and many have red eyes, including the Rat- which is a character in the movie who also has red eyes. It hangs from a stick.

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The cover here is brown with brown stars- like Ash’s official bandit mask. Here my bandit reorganizes his diapers.

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 The toy fox has jumped into a large basket box that serves as a toy box. I got it for a steal with plans of embellishing it, but we’ll see if that happens! All the textures make for a fun place to play.

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There’s a photo shoot going on?

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Baby needs a place for his sweater and cap.

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I love this little vignette. The handmade sweater was a gift from dear co-blogger, Jackie. His cap is from another close friend.

The iron cast hanger was a garage sale pick up.

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Every nursery needs a comfy spot to sit. After searching high and low for the perfect chair/rocker/glider I found the perfect blend of function and aesthetic in our living room: our midnight blue poang from IKEA. With a couple of gorgeous handmade throws as gifts, it is the best place for a story.

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Of course, perhaps the best accessory is a fun pillow. I saw many cute “fox” pillows on etsy, but sometimes the thrills don’t make it in the budget. Instead, I came across this red, metallic (hard to see the shiny here) iron-on decal at JoAnn’s. Another clearance pillow and I had a sweet and easy DIY.

Speaking of DIY and IKEA- the graphic tree curtain is another IKEA pick-up. And speaking of a literal pick-up, it also hangs from a mighty stick on curtain tie-backs.

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I love the black-and-white graphics on the curtain. I think every room in a house should have a black-and-white element. It seems to add a sophistication and yet stays playful.

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It is important to my husband and I that we support real artists and fill our home with their artworks. So it was wonderful when were given one as shower gift! We have “Hellephant” here now to be apart of our story time. This was given to me by my cousin, Jewel Renee, who is a very talented artist. She knew I especially liked this adventure of “Hellephant” (there are many!). The colors fit perfect in our scheme.

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“Hellephant” isn’t alone. On the other wall he is joined by none other than a “Mr. Fox” and “Mr. Badger.” This artwork is the most direct reference to our inspired nursery. I found them on Etsy, from an artist named Michael Jonathan Smith in the L.A. area. Also on display is a prized giant pine cone I got from a local treasure store. Here is a close-up of Mr. Fox (minus the clear “repin” and “like” buttons on the top left):

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Isn’t he dapper? I love the vintage colors and “stained” print. It looks as if it was torn from an original copy of the book.

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And what a better place to store a book than here! This bookcase comes straight from my childhood room and my mother’s before me! My grandfather made this back in the 1960s.

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As we round the room we encounter my artistic addition to the room: birch trees!

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In a post to follow, I’ll show the easy steps I took in completing this project. As a new and somewhat paranoid new parent, I did not want to hang anything above the crib. These tree silhouettes add great balance to the room as they pull the eye up and continue what the graphic curtains started.

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There is still some room on the wall to the left of the trees for showcasing more artwork and some shelving… to be continued!

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To my surprise- though surprises are almost daily for this new parent– it turns out that baby’s room cannot escape the trendy need to have his name displayed. However, I adore this exception to my rule, as it is the banner from his baptism and a beautiful reminder of that special day.

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And another thrift store find: metallic owls. Whoooo doesn’t like that?

Finally, the most comfortable spot must be the crib.

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Baby has many friends to keep him comfy, not to mention a beautiful quilt handmade by a friend. The colors and patterns are everything foxy for our little fox.

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Little Fox

So if you are looking for a unique inspiration for a nursery, or any room for that matter, I suggest finding the book, movie, object, quote, or artwork that inspires you. Let it allow you to reinterpret it into a whole new experience. You will love the process and with cobbled finds and handmade touches, it will truly be original in every way.


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!


Hey, it’s Jackie here to kick things off. Let’s cobble something together.

Of all of the billions of topics I could take on for this initial blog post, I’m choosing reupholstery for no other reason than it’s a real life project I completed recently. And since this blog is based on two key notions—that decorating fabulously can occur one step at a time, and that we can do our fabulous decorating with whatever we can get our hands on—I can’t think of anything more fitting than this sewing chair project, because that’s exactly how it went down.

I first picked up this sewing chair (shown here in its fabulous AFTER version, so as to compel you to read on) at one of my favorite resale locales in Indianapolis, Domistyle. Domistyle is fantastic because it’s chock full of high-quality secondhand furniture AND it’s all arranged within the store as if we’re shopping in a fancy showroom. I get to Domistyle whenever I can because there’s always new stuff to see (and because of this, I am somewhat known—notorious, even—for never entering Domistyle without leaving with something. Oops.)

I was initially drawn to this sewing chair because, at the time, my husband and I were considering turning the closet in our dining room into a mini-office (totally cool project idea, but the nature of the House of the Slow Build is that by the time you actually GET to something, you want something entirely different—in other words, the closet-office is now out of the picture at my house), and I thought that the sewing chair was the right size for tucking into the closet under a table top. Beyond that, though, I was drawn to the shape of the piece: I thought the back was shapely and distinctive, and choosing distinctive pieces—pieces that are in and of themselves special—is a key way to decorate with impact.

But the only impact the vinyl cover on this sewing chair was making was to the blee, I’m grody club. And then the vinyl started to crack. And then there was duct tape. And duct tape is never distinctively-wonderful. Just gray and gross and reminiscent of the sort of Red-Green-ian cobbling together neither Rachel or I could ever approve of (right, Rach??)

To help me rescue the lovely sewing chair from itself, I dragged out a stash of outdoor fabric I had purchased thinking I’d make cushion covers for a vintage metal couch and chair the husband and I picked up at White River Salvage. That, like the closet-office, never happened, so suddenly I had a huge allocation of sturdy and relatively attractive fabric at my disposal.

What you need to know about reupholstering is this: if I can do it, you can do it. My tactic was to let the furniture—and its current upholstery—be my guide. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s a quick summary of supplies I used:

  • fabric (for this project, I probably used about a yard’s worth of fabric because I needed a long strip to go ’round the chair, as you’ll see a bit later). If not for that, fabric usage would have been less than 1/2 yard.
  • a light duty staple gun purchased from Ace Hardware (don’t forget to purchase light duty staples, too!)
  • scissors
  • iron
  • my husband’s Leatherman multi-tool (or you can equip yourself with both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers and a pair of (preferably) needle nose pliers)
  • a socket set or adjustable wrench

I started by removing the top seat from the base using the Phillips-head screwdriver on the Leatherman. Grab all of the screws you take out and stash them in a baggie far, far away from any interested dogs, cats, or, in my case, three-year-olds.

From here, you could commence complete disassembly of the seat, but I REALLY wanted to rip off some vinyl at this point, so I turned my attention to the top cushion I’d just removed from the rest of the chair. (Shown here is eventual complete disassembly, undertaken by my husband and in part used to satisfy his own vinyl-ripping urges.) Using the smallest flat-head screwdriver attachment and the pliers on the Leatherman, I pried up and pulled out all the staples securing the vinyl to the top. As you go, take note of how the upholsterer put the staples into the vinyl—it’ll give you a clue as to how you can proceed with your upholstery. Go carefully as you take staples out, especially if you’ve got rusty old staples as I did, or just make sure you’ve got a tetanus shot booked.

Once the vinyl was off, my next step was to figure out how large a piece of fabric to cut to cover the cushion. Since the top was highly portable, I laid it right on my fabric and cut a generous square around the top (doing so allows you to adjust for placement on the fabric, and it also ensures you’ve got ample fabric to pull around the sides and staple). As you can see in the pic to the right, I had my hunk of fabric tucked under and around so I could see what it looked like.

After I was satisfied with the placement of fabric against the cushion, I turned the whole thing over so I was looking at the bottom of the cushion—the wood—the part I was going to staple into. I pulled the fabric up over the edges to see if I had too much/too little/etc. on each side. Doing this lets you check to see if your fabric encroaches on any important screw holes (as you can see from the above pic of the still-vinyl covered seat top, the previous upholsterer didn’t much care if s/he overlapped with the screw holes). But I cared, so I trimmed my fabric. And it made life easier, when I reattached the sucker to the rest of the chair.

The next step was to actually commit to this whole nonsense and staple on the sucker (the fabric). To do this effectively, I stapled in a jumping-around fashion, like I was stretching a canvas. By this I mean that, after you’ve pulled up the fabric on one side and stapled it, head to the opposite side and attach that next. Then head to one of the sides, then the opposite side to that. Continue working in this jumping-around fashion to ensure that the fabric is affixed in a neat, taut manner, as in my ‘after’ pic here.

With the top done and lookin’ good, I turned my attention to the bottom, which presented a bit more of a challenge. I needed to cut/secure one long strip of fabric to the bottom half, and I needed to find a way to create a clean edge along the top without attaching the fabric in the traditional fashion (as I did one the top, by simply folding and stapling knowing that my staple job/the edge would be covered when reattached). What I devised was a strip of fabric that was wide enough for me to attach it wrong-side up all the way around the base and then flip it down over itself. I cut a generously girthy piece of fabric (better to have it be too wide and have to trim it later) and then I used my iron to press a half-inch fold on each side of the back so I’d have a nice, clean edge later. Th-en, I stapled the fabric on, starting in the back on one side of the ‘hemmed’ overlap and working around to the other. I lucked out in that the sewing chair has a natural groove I was able to follow with a staple placed vertically (instead of horizontally), and so doing, I was able to create a straight stapled edge with minimal thinking. Had this not been the case, I would have had to mark/follow a straight line. Doable, but more work to be sure.

With a satisfyingly taut flip downward, I pulled the fabric into place. Then the final step was to secure the bottom edge to the underside of the chair. Since this piece of fabric was already secured at the top, it was fine for me to staple the opposite side in a circular fashion, instead of employing the canvas-stretch technique from above. But first I needed to trim excess fabric, as shown, so I wouldn’t have needless cloth to monkey around with. I left just enough so that I could fold about 1/4″ under when I was stapling, so that I’d have a clean edge. Then, I commenced stapling.

Once that work was done, I started to put the chair back together. I flipped over the chair and screwed the top cushion back on the base. Then the only thing left to do was attach the aforementioned shapely back piece (the part that gives this sewing chair so much verve and distinction). To do so, I used scissors to snip small (no more than 1/8″ to start) holes in the fabric where the bolts needed to come through. I slowly enlarged the holes with the scissors by making more tiny snips until I had enough of a hole for me to thread the bolts back through. Then I used a socket wrench to reattach the back piece, and voila! A fabulously refreshed sewing chair, uniquely snazzy and ready to go.