DIY

DIY 003: Tackling a Cushioned Counter Stool

We live in a rather large condominium complex. While the amenities are great and there are plenty of places for our dogs to run around, there is also a consistent stream of moving trucks in and out of the community. It seems, though, that not all furniture is worth moving. On a regular basis I discover chairs, tables, mirrors, lamps, and artwork dumped in a pile beside the dumpster. At first, I kept everything I could lay my hands on. Who would get rid of this stuff?

[To be fair, we moved into our unit right as COVID hit and in the interest of our finances we decided against buying any new furniture– even though we had a second bedroom now, a much larger living space, and very little lighting. It was a struggle for my inner decorator, but I was toeing the line.]

Just call me The Scavenger. I picked up a desk lamp, a nightstand, a wrought-iron bookshelf. I stockpiled everything in the guest room, turning it from a very empty space (ideal for working out) to a storage closet (guess how my workouts have been going lately). My intent was to turn these pieces into usable furniture with some wood filler, fresh paint, and updated knobs.

[For those of you gagging over the thought of picking up ‘trash’ especially during the pandemic, I rigorously sanitized everything with soap, water, and bleach! Then I left it by the front door to air out. Then I kept it locked up in our guest room away from our daily routines. Not taking any chances here.]

After skipping a week’s worth of cheap laminate tv consoles and broken picture frames, I finally came across a worthwhile piece: a cute, slightly stained, modern farmhouse-style counter stool. A few years ago, I reupholstered all of my dining table chairs so I thought there was a chance I could restore this little beauty. I dragged it upstairs and got to work.

First step: Pry off the upholstery tacks… using a hammer, pliers, and other assorted tools. No idea what the proper way to accomplish this task is, but I was able to save all of the tacks!

Then: Figure out how to *carefully* wrench out all the staples.

Next stop: JOANN Fabrics for something more fun and modern. I found this beautiful patterned upholstery fabric on sale for $18/yard. I purchased 1/2-yard to allow for some cutting mishaps!

Then: Figure out how to sew the corners. Thankfully, I had the template of the original seat cover available to analyze. I carefully cut two-inch slits at each corner and pinned the seams together. The first corner took me a couple tries to get right, as my initial attempts didn’t have enough of a curve to them and ended up sticking out at odd angles. When I finally got all four sewn, I fitted the new cover over the seat.

Next: Staple the edge to the chair. My staple gun worked exceptionally well for this task.

Then came the truly grueling part of this project: Cutting and sewing a 1/2″ fabric band to cover the stapled edge. I don’t have a sewing machine. It literally took me hours to stitch this by hand. So. Annoying. However, it turned out just fine and I began to nail the tacks in to keep it in place. Some of the tacks were bent, due to my aggressive pulling tactics. I had to get a little creative with how I angled them so they were still spaced out evenly.

The final result was better than I could have hoped for! The colors worked really well together and you could barely see the small scuff marks on the chair legs.

As much as I loved this little chair, I didn’t have a place for it in my apartment. I listed it on Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone would pay me for my efforts. Unfortunately, a lot of people were in the process of moving and trying to offload excess furniture (remember– I did find this in a pile by our dumpster). I lowered my price and lowered my price, knowing I only needed one person to like it enough to buy it. After two weeks of silence, a woman asked if she could pick it up in thirty minutes. I said, “Absolutely!” and practically ran out the door with the stool.

Twenty dollars richer (and with a newfound confidence in my furniture flipping abilities) I returned to my guest room and looked at the array of orphaned pieces.

“I will find homes for all of you.”

DIY

DIY 002: Watercolor Painting- Part 1

Back in February (during the pre-COVID era), my husband and I were strolling through our favorite, local outdoor shopping center and we wandered into a home decor store called Z Gallerie. I loved the ridiculously gaudy nature of the shop’s collection. My husband hated it. “It’s all useless!” he declared with a broad sweep of his hand and an exasperated sigh. I giggled because, well, he’s absolutely right. Who needs a giant glass octopus beverage container for their dining room table? But who wouldn’t want one? One piece did catch my eye, though: a large, framed watercolor painting of four horizontal brush strokes in varying shades of pink. It was so simple, yet the massive, metallic frame made it seem glamorous. The price tag read $249.95. “I bet I can make this for under $50,” I told Jimi. He looked at me with genuine concern and asked, “But why would you want to?”

The next day I went to Michaels and purchased paint, brushes, paper, and three frames for $25 (thank you for those coupons, Michaels— you are truly the new Bed, Bath, and Beyond). I then stashed the bag with all these goodies behind my dresser and promptly forgot about them. My inspiration was as fleeting as the fads at Z Gallerie.

Fast forward to a few months into quarantine: I re-discovered that bag of brand new art supplies and felt like I’d won the lottery! Hurrah! A new project I can use to distract myself from how terrifying the world is right now!

Instead of recreating the original watercolor inspiration piece, I decided to instead focus on learning basic watercolor technique. My friend, Lauren, had heard about a class that her husband’s friend was conducting via Zoom. We both signed up and logged on at the appropriate time. For $10 we got an hour-long tutorial on the various painting techniques used in watercolor. 

Now, I definitely didn’t need to pay ten bucks for a class. The personal interaction was sweet and it was great to feel like I was supporting the artistic community, but tbh there are so many great resources on YouTube. This video includes all the basic watercolor techniques we learned in our $10 class. And this one is a great one for making small flowers (actually, everything on Shayda Campbell’s channel is magic). Lauren and I have been sharing videos and our latest endeavors with each other since that first class. It’s nice to have some accountability (and encouragement) along the way. 

I’ve been painting about once a week (on average) for 3-4 hours a session during the last three months. I’ve never practiced art this consistently before and the amount of tangible progress I’ve made is incredibly motivating. Watercolor is an easily accessible art form (low cost, simple technique, plenty of access to instruction) that offers unlimited growth potential. I’m starting to learn how to blend and shade colors, how to get the right water : pigment ratio on the page. It feels very organic and exploratory.

The other great thing about watercolor painting is that it is fundamentally an imperfect art form. Water has a mind of its own and soaks into the page in different ways. You can drip it, push it, dry it, and try to force it to do what you want. But ultimately, it’s simply going to do its thing. Everything you make with watercolors is going to be unique and flawed– and the final product will be better for it.

Interested in trying your hand at watercolor? Here’s some equipment to get you started:

I purchased my paints and brushes at Michaels, but these are really similar.

This is the exact pad that I currently use. I typically cut the sheets down to 8″x5″ in order to fold them into 4″x5″ cards. I do like having the option of using the full sheet for a landscape or a framed picture, though!

DIY

DIY 001: Macrame Plant Hanger

Hey y’all– I decided to spice up the old blog with some of the fun projects I’ve taken on during quarantine. Enjoy!

Plants are my new best friends
(just don’t tell my dogs).

In late May, I decided to take a little field trip into the heart of Los Angeles. Driving further than I had in months, I gloried in finding street parking in the very heart of the Flower District. I put on my mask and prepared to steer clear of fellow shoppers (AKA potential COVID carriers). Only, there was hardly anyone in sight. I was the only one on the sidewalk. I walked by several small shops that had corded off their entrances for shoppers, offering pick-up only. The first shop that allowed guests drew me in like a moth to a flame. It was filled with green houseplants– not a flower in sight.

I went a little crazy. I grabbed a Golden Pothos plant, then a pretty Peace Lily, followed by an interesting looking Pearls and Jade Pothos. I turned to the shopkeeper and asked, “Do you mind if I put these on the counter?” She shrugged and gestured to the empty shop. “Thank you!” I said, dumping my finds on the counter and diving back into the potted plant jungle. I added some smaller succulents to my collection, as well as a baby ZZ plant. Thankfully, the prices in the Flower District were the primary reason for my trip — my entire counter full of plants cost less than $50. After loading up the car (and splurging on a bright bouquet of spring blooms), I drove my new plant family back to my apartment.

Did I buy enough? Spicey seems to think so.

Plants? Check.

Counter space? Umm….

I needed to hang these babies. Several of the plants came with hangers, but they were basic and rugged — more suited for a back patio than a living room. A google search ensued. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Persia Lou’s website where she offers detailed instructions for creating the perfect macrame plant hanger. I ordered the macrame cord and gold hoops on Amazon, along with a couple of swag hooks for hanging.

Spicey is skeptical.
Tying my first set of knots.

I quickly realized that the most difficult part was going to be customizing the distance between the knots to suit the size of each unique plant. I decided to follow the precise instructions on Persia Lou’s blog the first time around and adjust on future attempts. It took a little work to get the knots both correct and spaced appropriately, but the directions are quite clear.

Once I finished my first hanger, I turned to the plants. I had purchased some plastic containers at Home Depot, but I didn’t want to see the plants in such generic-looking pots. I decided to jazz up the containers with some gold spray paint. On the first go, the paint pooled and dripped down the side, but it turned out to be a happy accident as it gave the pot a little more texture (almost like it was made of clay). When the containers were dry, I migrated the plants to their new homes.

My first macrame hanger turned out to be perfect for the Pearls and Jade Pothos:

I went a little wild on the second hanger, trying out a new combination of knots. I thought the intricacy of the design was lovely, but when I placed the Golden Pothos in the hanger it looked constricted and awkward. The proportions were just off. I removed the pothos plant from the hanger and swapped in the String of Pearls succulent. It was a perfect match!

I made two more macrame hangers, one standard one for the pothos plant and one more unique for the Burro’s tail (see photo at the top of this entry). They both turned out quite lovely.

It’s been two months now and all the plants are growing like weeds! I’ve been trimming some of the longer pothos stems and placing the cuttings in water to propagate. We’re on a tight budget these days, so I’m excited about continuing to add plants to the collection without any additional cost!

Here’s a quick budget breakdown on this project:

4 Plants (2 Pothos x $8/each , 2 Succulents x $6/each) = $28

4 Plastic Planters (2 6″ x $1.97, 2 8″ x 2.97) = $9.88

1 Bag Indoor Potting Mix = $4.99

1 Roll Macrame Cord = $9.99

5 Metal Rings = $3.35 (15 = $10.06 on Amazon)

4 Swag Hooks = $11.96

Grand Total: $68.17

Less than $20/each! I’m obsessed with my new friends. BONUS: Pothos plants filter your air!! Can you beat that during a pandemic?

Have you adopted any plants during quarantine? I’d love to hear about them! Also, let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!