13 Sep

Our House is 50s but the Decor is Totally 80s

When we bought our house we knew that the downstairs bathroom needed to be remodeled sooner rather than later. It’s ugly and the shower is minuscule and the handle doesn’t work well.

But the upstairs bathroom was livable. Sure, it was steeped in 1980s dusty rose and calico print wallpaper, but the shower works and it’s clean. It could wait.

UB before 3

Note the wallpaper in the hallway, and the white trim over the crappy seams on the bathroom wallpaper.


UB before 2

Look at all that dusty rose. I had even remembered the sink and toilet being pink. There’s three mirrors to check my Flock of Seagulls hair, and frilly curtains as inspiration for my Gunne Sax dress.


UB Before 1


I did appreciate that the previous owners had paintings and not prints in most of the house. Even the bathroom. I kind of liked the expressionism of this one in contrast to the rest of the twee decor.



UB before cabinet

But I did not like the grey carpet as shelf liner. It taunted me with all the gross things it could have been absorbing the last 29 years.

I’d resigned myself to using this bathroom as-is for the near future.

But then, in a fit of confidence, Team Deco-Reno decided that it was a relatively small space and if it were just stripped of the wallpaper and painted, it would be heaps better. It would feel like a remodel, but be faster and only cost as much as paint.


UB stripped

And they were right! The only problem was that this room ended up having the WORST wallpapering in the whole house. It about killed my mom and step-dad who where doing all the stripping work before we moved in. It was tedious enough and took took long enough that they didn’t have the chance to paint over the pink cabinets. Note to potential wall paperers: take the time to at least prime your walls before adding paper. Don’t paper over bare drywall. Use wallpaper paste as well, not other glues. But, after all Team Deco-Reno’s hard work, the upstairs bathroom does look a lot better, and as long as they had gone that far, I got to thinking about how to decorate it in our taste (and go ahead and paint out the dusty rose.




Upper Bath inspiration

I actually liked the previous owners’ use of a carpet instead of bathmat and we happened to have a lovely persian one of our own that we hadn’t had a place for in our last two rentals. The carpet and some collectibles inspired a cheery palette.


Pick a door

Ready tosee what my mom and I accomplished this weekend? There’s a funny little hall that the bathroom is off of with four doors and I am tickled by the idea of each one of those doors being a different color. The orange affects the white walls, as does the blue of my daughter’s door, so the space has become an unintentional light sculpture.


UB after 3

I love the orange door. And the persian rug looks pretty classy if you ask me. Lucky me, our existing towels fit right in with the new color scheme.


UB after 2

The three mirrors and ugly light remain for now, but the dusty pink and frilly things are gone! There are color stories starting to happen around the house — inspired by my collections.



UB drawers

I’m pretty sure I bought these Polish pottery door knobs when I was pregnant with my daughter 14 years ago. I know I used them on the kitchen cabinets in the apartment we had when she was a baby. Maybe I had even purchased them earlier. I thought they’d play nicely with the colors in the rug and it’s so nice to finally use them in a relatively permanent way. They say if you choose things you like they will naturally go together, so here’s color inspired by 40s pottery, knobs to match our dishes, a rug from our travels in Europe (and the knobs too), and art by friends and our travels.



UB after 1


I hope my quilt mom Gerrie is OK with me hanging her Aspens in the bathroom — the colors are absolutely perfect and I think it looks fabulous on the orange wall. Also, when one has a little nook it kind of begs for something unexpected like a bold color, yes?


UB after cabinet

And finally, the grey carpet shelf liner is history. Everything has fresh, new, vinyl shelf liner. Bright and wipeable. Ahhh. I am so pleased with this bathroom transformation and excited to not have to live with someone else’s 80s dream.


02 Sep

More DIY

Painting my daughter’s room was a fun and satisfying new-home project. In reality though, the vast majority of home improvement projects are much more mundane. We bought a 1952 cosmetic fixer-upper. As more rooms better reflect my vision for the house, I’ll post before and after pictures.

But for now, know that while this house is structurally sound, just about everything else about it needs attention. And even though we’ve set up house in about 10 places over the last 20 years, this is the first one that has actually brought me to tears. It’s kicking my butt like no home ever has. I think that the difference with this house is that for the first time ever, we own it. Every other place my husband and I have lived in has been a rental, and therefore we’ve just put up with their idiosyncracies knowing we’d be moving on sooner rather than later. This time, if I don’t like something, I can (and should) actually change it to work with our lifestyle. That means that my project list is essentially never-ending. Ah, the joys of home ownership. Most people have already learned this lesson, but it’s new to me.

Closet WIP

Right now I’m sorting out how and where I store things. Part of that is making use of the massive closet in the laundry room. Large as it is though, it didn’t have any permanent shelving. Given it’s location, I decided that it needed deep, sturdy, built-in shelves to store linens and kitchen overflow. I’m crafty, and have watched my parents dive into home DIY for years, so I was pretty confident that with a little guidance, I could construct the shelves rather than buy something pre-made or hire a carpenter. My mom came for two days and together we made use of lots of power tools. Another day of painting on my own, and voilá, a functional closet!

Closet done

It ends up that duvets are incredibly bulky, and not all the things I wanted to store in it actually fit, but this is such a huge improvement. Since building the shelving, we’ve removed a cabinet and extra appliances from the room, so now there’s room to remove wallpaper, paint the room and add in more storage (probably from IKEA). But that’s a project for another time as I’ve shifted my attention to the yard…

28 Aug

She Only Wanted One Thing

When we bought our house (our very first!), we asked the kids what they wanted in their rooms. The girl had only one request. She wanted to paint a scene on the walls. All the walls. And the ceiling. It’s only paint, so why not?!

K Mural drawing

Before the moving truck arrived, she and I spent some time looking at murals on Pinterest, sketching, and refining our sketches. The drawings above are the final concepts for the room.


K mural sketch

When we arrived at our new house, we jumped right into the room transformation. It was going to be much easier without any furniture in the room, and it was by far the most fun of the bajillion projects the house has in store for all of us. Using our sketches as a guide, I drew directly on the walls. By the way, my mom and step-dad, AKA Team Deco-Reno, had previously stripped the room of wallpaper, primed the walls, and painted the trim so the room was mural-ready.


K Mural paint

Next, we went to the hardware store to buy paint. We cleaned the closest one out of flat interior base in quart size and had to get the rest of our colors at another store! I would have liked to get tester pots, but those only came in satin finish. Oh well, we have more projects up our sleeves for the leftover paint.


K Mural WIP

The girl helped paint for the first two days. Then, she got bored and handed the more tedious work to me. That’s OK, I went faster on my own and could better control the quality. She was an awesome cheerleader though — frequently telling me how much she loved the mural.


K Mural dunes

The first finished wall was the desert.


K mural w K

Now the desert is partially covered by cubby storage. We made a trip to IKEA to get closet storage, a book case (with an eye on still being able to view as much mural as possible), and a rug.


K Mural forest

There’s a whole lot going on in the room now, with everything moved in, but it works for her, and I think the mural actually grounds her stuff in an odd way.


K mural pond

The mural took six days to paint and on the seventh day we ripped up the carpet a hour before the moving truck arrived. It was so worth it as the floor, while scuffed and worn, is in essentially good shape and looks so much better than the tired carpet that was there before. We hung just a few favorite things on the wall, to include the girl’s oil pastel of our beloved cat, Madison.



K Mural mountain

The closet is “behind” the waterfall, because waterfalls should always have secret chambers behind them. The finishing touches in the room were to paint the faceplates to match the mural and to change the closet doorknobs to pretty blue glass ones.


Mural ceilingFinally, painting four walls wasn’t quite enough. The girl’s concept included a “swirly night sky” on the ceiling. We tried a graphic solution like the clouds, but in the end preferred a more Van Gogh-esque style.

Just for fun, the photo below is how the room looked when we first viewed the house and made our offer to buy it.

K Mural before


15 Jun

Weekend Fun

I was debating whether or not to post about our activities of the last few days. They’ve been all kinds of fun for us, but maybe not that interesting to the rest of the world. In a nutshell:

• my son finished up a fantastic four day space/science camp and shot off the rocket he made;
• we went to see my blog friend Robin and watch her son play hockey since they were on “our” island;
• the next day we went to the water park with one of my friends from waaaaaaaay back when and her family since they too were on “our” island (in two weeks we get to go to theirs!).

Then, yesterday I spent most of the day making these:

Now there’s something for an artsy-craftsy blog.

We need to carry water around just about everywhere. Quite a while ago I had admired Kathey’s tutorial at Pink Chalk Studio but more in an abstract way (although I did purchase some insulating batting for eventual water bottle carrier making). This weekend it gelled for me and I decided that the carriers would incorporate some of the details from a little bag in Japanese craft magazine too. Plus, they’d look great in re-purposed BDU fabric.

I dug around my closet o’ crafty and fabric-y goodness looking for “stuff,” and pulled out some coordinating fabrics and binding leftovers, a collection of patches — military and otherwise, fun woven ribbon (the woodland ribbon is from Nic, and the flame ribbon was bought to embellish the hand towels in our hot rod half-bath), more of the fat red ric-rac from the mushroom quilt, clasps from two unused necklace-type key chains, twill tape, vinyl coated fabric (from the sandwich wraps), two sliding fastener thingies bought years ago only because they were cheap and seemed useful, cotton cording, and a leather cord.

In short, I quilted the BDU fabric to one layer of insulating batting and one layer of regular batting, then embellished with ribbon and patches. I made the straps with ribbon sewn to twill tape for her’s and ribbon sewn to folded over fabric for his. Added the fasteners and sewed the straps to the body. Then, I sewed up the sides and added the bottom circle (pre-quilted to one layer of insulating batting). Next, I made tubes of slightly smaller dimensions out of the vinyl coated fabric and sewed on their circle bottoms (not too much fuss sewing that as the troublesome shinier side was to the inside) then slipped them into their respective outer bodies. Now the carriers are lined all nice and tidy-like. I finished the short ends of two rectangles (one for each carrier) of coordinating fabric and folded over one long end on each to make a casing. That went into the tubes, right sides facing inward, raw edges matching. As per the Japanese magazine, I sewed binding over the raw edges to finish everything off. Lastly, I threaded the cording through the casings and added the cinch-thingies to snug and un-snug the top. That “poof” on top allows the plastic loop that holds the cap onto the bottle to stick out, and also allows for easy access to the water without pulling the bottle out of the carrier to drink.

The kids tested them out today and although the vinyl fabric doesn’t seem to stop wetness very much, the carriers got overall high marks.

11 May

The Uncomfortable Zone

The quilt I’m working on right now has got me out of my comfort zone, and not in a way I expected. The long story:

In 2003 (or maybe early ’04) when my hubby returned from war, we marked the event by getting tattoos. Cliché yes, but we did it. His is army related, mine’s just pretty. Knowing he’d eventually deploy again, I naturally wondered if we’d get more tattoos. I figured that I’d go more literal the next time and get a simple “War Sucks.” Straightforward and pretty much applies to all wars, and to all sides.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when a quilted version of the statement came to me (probably in the shower — it’s where I get most of my ideas. I am a walking cliché.). I started piecing bits and scraps together . When my mom came to visit, she asked about the depressing, fractured, army -related bits in progress on the design wall door. When I explained my concept she confirmed that she was getting exactly that vibe from my preliminary patches.

This week I was working on the words. I used my computer to “set type” and create templates for each letter. At the same time I was packing up a care package for Mr. Incredible. My daughter asked if she could make something for daddy on the computer using words and “paint.” Sure. I got her started in Photoshop and showed her the text tool (she’s already pretty proficient with the paintbrush, lasso, and eraser tools) and left her to her own devices while I continued my momentum on the quilt. When I returned to check on her, she’d written “war sucks” in some nice typefaces and bold colors. I gently told her that the quilt I was working on was for me, so I only needed to worry about what I thought of it, but if she was making a picture for daddy she needed to think about how he’d feel and he probably didn’t want the message “war sucks” while he’s sitting in the middle of it. She was understandably upset and ultimately lost interest in the project all together. In retrospect, I realized that she was picking up on my playing with typography and I probably should have stopped what I was doing and sat down with her to find more appropriate words to use so she could enjoy the process as well.

The episode got me thinking. Should I be working on art like this with impressionable kids around? Should I not deal with sensitive issues at this point in my journey? Should I sequester the art so the kids don’t see it? Should I let them see it and just use it as a talking point? (They’ve already seen boobies and a vagina in my 12×12 pieces, and either didn’t get it [the latter], or didn’t care [the former].) I also realized at that point that I would not be taking this quilt to “Show and Tell” at the Hawai’i Quilt Guild. It would fall under the umbrella of dinner party subjects not to be brought up in polite company.

These are concerns I have never had to worry about with my pretty little houses and German landscapes. I’ve never been much of a “statement” person. While I have very strong opinions, I generally keep them to myself and a small group of friends and family (and kick myself on the occasions when I’ve let someone push my buttons at a party or other gathering). In general my public voice and my art hope to be more diplomatic and universal, or at least more subtle in their subversity. I wonder if people who regularly make bold statements with their art have moved beyond the squirmy phase I’m feeling now, or if part of the excitement of making the art is knowing it will bring viewers’ reactions to the surface. I don’t know if I’ll be making more protest quilts or not, but right now, I’m actually looking forward to returning to the nice acceptable roots and houses in my queue.

05 May

A New Resource

I’ve forgotten if I posted this swatch before or not.

There’s been a lot of buzz about print on demand fabrics lately. I think Spoonflower was the first, and right now, they are definitely the best known place for printing fabric with your own design. I heard about it when they were in Beta phase, but didn’t really know what I would need my own fabric for since I am already a huge fan of new and re-purposed commercial fabric and all the connotations and stories they hold. There  are so very many colors and patterns out there already, how could I possibly be lacking?

Completely unrelated, I’ve had a drawing my daughter did a few years ago that looked to me like it needed to be an embroidered patch. A patch, of course, needs something to go on, so I’ve had in my mind to make a messenger bag. Recently I found a pattern for just the bag I want to make, and decided that the original drawing, plus more would make a perfect lining for my bag. Back to Spoonflower — here’s the perfect way to incorporate the kids’ drawings.

I ordered the swatch, then adjusted the colors, and now I have my own fabric! I messed up a few of the repeats (scatter designs can be tricky when you need a portion of something on one side of your repeat to match up exactly with the rest of the image on the other side), but it wasn’t due to any defect on Spoonflower’s end. For my purposes here, I doubt anyone but me will notice anyway. I’m excited to make the bag and my own patches, but I’ve got a few other things in the works I’m excited about too, so it may take a while.

25 Feb

Clever Me

If I were a high speed home schooling mom or at least a Montesori-minded one, I’d probably have bought a sturdy wooden clock toy while the kids were in diapers. But I’m just your average mom who’s trying not to buy more clutter (purses and note cards don’t count as they contain clutter and spread good will), so when my second grader needed a clock with hands to move to do her time-telling math homework today, I had to think quick. I think I was pretty clever — and cheap too!

DIY learner’s clock: 1 plate, 1 spoon, 1 knife, masking tape, marker. Assemble as shown.