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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

{style inspiration} Want the Look for Less? Knock it Off!

You know the saying "you're eyes are bigger than your stomach"? Well, when it comes to my decorating wish list, often my eyes are bigger than my budget. And I know I'm not the only one! It's so easy to walk through a store or flip through a catalog and fall in love with an item that you just can't afford!

A good shopper knows that with a little patience and perseverance, you can often find a similar item for a much better price. I've always been proud of my skills when it comes to bargain hunting, but lately I've been having a lot of fun with another method for getting the look for less - the knock off!

Blogland is full of inspiring knock off projects, but if you have your eye on a particular item and you are looking for ideas of how to recreate the look on your budget, your first stop should be Knock Off Decor.

If you haven't visited this site - you must! It's an amazing collection of some of the best knock off projects from around the web, representing budget version of items from all the high end stores, including Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, Z Gallerie, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and many more! Knock Off Decor simply shows you images of original version and the knock off version, then links you back to the original blog post for each project where you'll typically find a detailed tutorial. Beckie, the brains behind Knock Off Decor, aims to inspire her readers with budget friendly projects, but she always gives due credit to the cutting edge designers behind the original products.

I have been fortunate to have two of my recent projects featured at Knock Off Decor. A few weeks ago, it was my License Plate Map High Low Project, and just yesterday my budget friendly version of Restoration Hardware's Vintage Industrial Letters were up on the site.

While my license plate map saved me a whopping $3,760 dollars, not every knock off is about saving hundreds or thousands of dollars. Especially when you are decorating an entire room (like I am doing currently for the One Room Challenge), every penny adds up and even a small savings can be worthwhile. My DIY version of the vintage industrial letters rang in at $3 each, compared to $15 each at Restoration Hardware Baby & Child.  While the original price wasn't that bad, an 80% cost savings is nothing to sneeze at, and that savings will allow me to add another detail to the room that otherwise might have not been in the budget.

Here are a few of my favorites among the fantastic knock off projects that have been featured by Knock Off Decor in recent months. Be sure to link through to the original blogger's post if you want to pin any of these projects to Pinterest.

GEOMETRIC TABLE LAMP: Original - Lamps Plus / Knock Off - Sarah M. Dorsey Designs
WOOD PATTERNED COASTERS: Original - Anthropologie / Knock Off - Just a Girl & Her Blog
RECLAIMED WOOD SHELVES: Original - Restoration Hardware / Knock Off - 7th House on the Left

It's amazing what you can do with a little creative and an investment of a little time! If there's an item on your decorating wish list that's just not in the budget, head over to Knock Off Decor and you might just find a way to make your very own version.  Best of all, a DIY version can allow you to customize in a way that better fits your space. Notice how Abby, from Just a Girl and Her Blog, altered the colors of her wood painted coasters to match her decor. Want that lamp in a different color, or need those shelves to be shorter? Create it just the way you want it!

Friday, April 11, 2014

{organizing with style} A Mudroom in the Kitchen

I used to be so jealous of people who had a mudroom! That is, until we created our own little mudroom space right in our kitchen. And today I'm so excited to show it to you! Get ready, this is a photo heavy post because I just can't get enough of this space.

But before we get to all of the pretty pictures, let me remind you where this all began. When we bought our house, we were a bit baffled by the five and a half feet of empty space in the corner of the kitchen.

Our frustrations over the lack of additional cabinets in this corner of the kitchen were soon overcome by gratitude when we discovered the original floor plans called for this space to house the washer and dryer. We were very thankful the builder thought better of that and moved the laundry to the second floor, and we began viewing this empty space as an opportunity! As I thought about how we could make the best use of the space, it occurred to me that its location {right by the back door that leads to our detached garage} made it the ideal place to create a pseudo mudroom - a place where we could remove wet shoes immediately upon entering the house, and where we could hang jackets, purses and backpacks.

As soon as we moved in to the house we painted the kitchen, and I was eager to tile the backsplash right away. But I knew that someday we would build out the corner of the kitchen, and that it would be much better to wait so that we could eventually have one seamless and continuous backsplash.

While we saved our pennies, I dreamed up lots of different layouts for this space {read the details about the various plans we considered here}. We had a long wish list, and it was a challenge to design a solution that would meet all of our wants/needs.  As a reminder, the list looked like this:

1. Bench for sitting down to remove wet shoes
2. Hooks for hannging jackets, purses and backpacks
3. Storage for kitchen electrics
4. Storage for vases and extra glassware
5. Wine rack {solved by a wine rack console table on the other side of the kitchen}
6. Shelves for cookbooks
7. Shelves to display antique glass items from our grandparents
8. Tile beind the bench to prevent wet coats from damaging the wall

After ruminating over all sorts of different ideas, I finally hit upon an idea that would address everything on the wish list, and then some {other than the wine rack, as noted above}. As I often do before we commit to a plan, I created a rendering in Photoshop to help us envision what the finished product would look like.

Our existing kitchen cabinets were custom made, but the maker was no longer in business, meaning that we had to find a contractor who could construct matching cabinets, and we decided to also have the contractor do all of the tile installation at the same time. Because there are no windows adjacent to our kitchen prep area, we selected a glass tile that would help reflect the natural light in the kitchen and brighten up the space, and which would also tie in nicely with the frosted glass fronts on some of our upper cabinets.

Ok, enough talk of the plans! I am bursting at the seams to show you our completed kitchen mudroom!

Since we wanted this mudroom space to be both pretty and functional, we were careful to select materials that could stand up to the every day use. The backsplash tile was first and foremost in this regard. We had always wanted tile to run the length of the kitchen counters, and it was also important that we have tile below the coat hooks in order to protect the wall from wet jackets and umbrellas. I am totally in love with the Davinci tile we selected, which is in a random brick pattern and has a combination of glossy and frosted tiles. Not only is it gorgeous, we also got a killer price from Glass Tile Oasis during a major sale!

The bench cushion is a piece of thick foam that my mom covered for us in a black outdoor fabric, making it water resistant. The quaterfoil pillows are actually outdoor pillows, and the pillows in the center have removable covers that can easily be washed if necessary.

Finally, the rug is very durable and has a short pile that makes it ideal for it's placement just inside the back door. The size of the rug was also important because I wanted it be span the distance from the door to the end of the bench, allowing plenty of space for multiple people to come in at the same time and remove wet or snowy shoes before continuing on to the hardwood floors. We already had this rug from Target in another room of our house, but when we brought it in to the kitchen it fit so perfectly that we knew it had to stay!

Now let's talk about the coat hooks, shall we?! I am kind of obsessed with them! They are Umbra Flip Hook Racks that I purchased at the Container Store, and I adore the way they flip out for use, but fold flat the rest of the time!

These racks come in several colors, but the dark wood is almost a perfect match to our kitchen cabinets. In order to achieve a truly custom, built-in look, I wanted the coat hooks the span the full width of the bench. The contractor tried to convince me otherwise, and originally installed two of the coat racks centered in the space, leaving a few inch gap on each side that he intended to fill with tile. But I stood my ground and insisted that he spread the two coat racks out, and cut down a third coat rack to fill the gap in the middle. The end result looks like one continuous piece, and the seams between the coat racks are nearly invisible.

The glass-fronted cabinets above the coat hooks hold all of my vases, serving pitchers, and various other glassware.  The cabinets below the bench provide additional storage for kitchen electrics, like our Crockpot and food processor.

That about sums up the "mudroom" portion of the kitchen addition.  The cabinet and shelves on the far right provide ample storage for all of my cookbooks, as well as providing display space for some sentimental antiques from our grandparents.

We received quite a collection of cookbooks for our wedding, and I am thrilled to have a place to store all of these gorgeous books on open shelving where they can be seen and appreciated even when not in use. Cookbooks can be easily damaged if stored to close to the stove or in an area where they can get wet, so the location of these cookbook shelves - removed from the kitchen prep area - is ideal.

If you're from Denver, or have visited, you'll recognize the blue bear that holds up some of our cookbooks. He's the miniature version of the 40 feet tall big blue bear that leans against the front of the Colorado Convention Center, peering into the lobby.

Convention center photo via
The small countertop below these shelves is a perfect place to sit the books while I am flipping through them or while writing out my grocery list. This small countertop also holds a cute little basket (from Target) that we use to corral our keys, sunglasses, and other items that we need to grab quickly on our way out the back door.

The top two shelves display antiques that we were given to us by our grandparents. This is the only area where the contractor didn't quite deliver as promised. We had requested that a light be wired into the top of the cabinet so that we could light up these antiques. The contractor made the top shelf glass, as requested, to allow the light to shine through, but he failed to install a light. By the time we came home to discover this oversight, it was too late to add a hardwired light without taking down the newly installed cabinets.  Instead, I did some research and purchased a thin, battery operated puck light to affix to the top of the cabinet. The light is not quite as bright or natural colored as we had hoped.  Nonetheless, the light serves its purpose and I'm happy to have it there.

The Fire King Azurite Milk Glass tea cups and saucers were given to me by my grandma, an originally belonged to my great grandma, who collected them out of oatmeal boxes in the early 1950s. The Indiana Tiara Black Amethyst Glass Diamond Point mugs and covered candy dish were given to us by Scott's grandparents and are from the 1960s or 1970s.

Lastly, the cabinet below the cookbook shelves provides a bit of extra storage. It holds all of my cookbooks that are less display-worthy, as well as a file box that I use for organizing recipe clippings from magazines and menus for local restaurants.  You can read all about that filing system here.

I couldn't be happier with the way this project turned out! The contractor did such an amazing job of matching the cabinets that you would never know that this mudroom was not part of the original kitchen!

Ok, ok. If you are really observant and a little bit anal, then you may have noticed that there is one thing that gives away the fact that the kitchen mudroom was an addition and not original... the feet on the cabinets don't match.

Unfortunately, the feet used on the original cabinets were discontinued, and despite intensive searching, we were unable to find a similar alternative. But, we were able to find the next best thing - feet that are a nearly identical match to those on the oven. It's the little details!

I'll leave you with a few comparison photos so you can really appreciate this transformation.  First let's look at how the finished mudroom space compares to the rendering that I created during the planning phase. It's really rewarding to see a plan come to life!

And finally, here are the before and after photos! Even though we lived with the empty space in our kitchen for years before adding in the "mudroom," it's hard for me to remember it ever looking like the before photo.

Of all of the ways that we could have utilized this formerly-dead space in our kitchen, I can't imagine any plan that would have better served the needs of our family! As a result of the custom cabinetry, this certainly wasn't the cheapest of the home improvement projects we've undertaken, but I can say without hesitation that it was worth every penny to have the kitchen mudroom feel like it was there from day one!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

{One Room Challenge} Week 2 - A Whole Lotta Painting Going On

For those who missed my announcement last week, I am a joining in the One Room Challenge as a link participant! That means that I have only 6 weeks to complete Beckett's big boy room... well, it's not six weeks anymore, because here we are already at week 2! Last week I shared all of my plans for the room, including the mood board and the long to do list, and this week I'm back to share a report on our progress.

It's no exaggeration to say that the only thing I've been doing for the last week is painting. And I haven't even started painting the room or the argyle feature wall yet, so you'll probably be getting another painting update next week as well.

None of this looks like much on it's own, so next week I'm hoping to be able to show you how some of these paint projects contribute to the overall room, but for now, here's a quick run down of what I've been painting.

I started by painting the drawers for the new Ikea Hemnes dresser. I've never painted furniture before, so I've had fun trying out the Americana Decor Chalky Paint and Creme Wax (this is a new-ish alternative to the Annie Sloan brand of chalk paint). I had some trouble with brush strokes showing up too much at first, but I got that figured out and I'm happy with the result. I'll do a full review and tutorial of the Chalky Paint once the dresser is reassembled and photo ready.  Next up, we'll be finishing the dresser assembly and adding custom leather handles to the drawers.

We purchased two Ikea Expedit bookshelves for the room {literally days before they announced that the Expedit will be no more}, but I wanted to dress them up a bit to better fit the vintage preppy theme of the room. I decided to add some bun feet to the bookshelves, and painted them in a bright yellow for an unexpected pop of color.

I have a slight obsession with maps and globes {which I chatted about here}, so I've been wanting to paint a chalkboard globe for as long as I can remember. I just finished up the first coat of blue on the water, and I think one more coat will be enough for good coverage. Next up I'll be painting the continents gray, and then adding a fun detail. You might notice in the picture that I'm painting with regular latex paint and not chalkboard paint... but in the end this will be a chalkboard globe! I'll share all the details as soon as it is finished.

The same blue paint that I'm using on the globe also found it's way onto a large picture frame, and I still have several smaller picture frames to paint as well.

Like I said, a lot of painting going on, but not a lot of completed projects to show off yet. But I do have one project that is complete, and I'm SO excited about how it turned out!

I used these paper mache initials from Hobby Lobby to create a super cost-effective knock off of the Restoration Hardware Vintage Industrial Letters that I included in the mood board for Beckett's new room. You can read the full post and tutorial here, but let me just show you how great they turned out.

Not bad for the price, right?!

So that's what I've accomplished this past week. It may not look like much yet, but things will start coming together once we get the painted drawers assembled into the dresser, and once the feet are installed on the bookshelf.  This weekend we'll be painting the room, and then after that I'm going to finally get started on the argyle feature wall {keep your fingers crossed for me!}. I should also have the chalkboard globe completed by next week, and I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

{seasonal style} Dying Easter Eggs with Little Ones

As a general rule, I don't like to recycle content here on the blog, but with Easter just around the corner, I feel like an exception is warranted. Last year, despite Beckett being only 15 months old, I was really eager to help him decorate Easter eggs. I originally planned to just have him put some cute stickers on eggs, but then I happened upon a super inexpensive product at Target that promised a mess-free way to dye eggs, and I decided to give it a try.  Beckett had so much fun using the "Spin an Egg" (by Dudley's) and I was super impressed with the results, but because we didn't dye our eggs until Easter morning, my blog post the following week was not exactly timely!

Since I know that many of you have toddlers of your own, I decided it would be worth while to once again share my recommendation of this simple and fun product so that you can pick one up if want to give it a spin this year! I can't confirm whether Target is selling the Spin an Egg again this year, or if the price is the same {I only paid $6}, but I do know it can be purchased on Amazon - the price isn't as good, but it does qualify for free Prime shipping so you could have it by the weekend.

You can read the original post in its entirely here, including instructions on using the product.

We'll definitely be using the Spin an Egg again this Easter! I know Beckett will still love it, and I'm hoping that Cooper {who is 10 months old now} will also be able to get in on the action. We didn't save the left-over dye that came with the product because I suspected it would spill or dry out over the course of the year, so we'll be makng our own dye this time around. I included, in the original post, a simple recipe for making Easter egg dye.

{Note that I was have no affiliation with this product, I was simply impressed by it and thought others might be interested in our experience}

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

{decorating with style} Restoration Hardware Knock Off Vintage Industrial Letters

I have a major thing for typography, so I can't get enough of letters and words in home decor. From the moment that we decided on the Vintage Preppy theme for Beckett's new room, I have had my eye on the Vintage Industrial Wall Letters from Restoration Hardward Baby & Child. My original thought was to spell out Beckett's entire name, but that would have cost me over $100, and I just wasn't willing to spend that much! As the plan for the room evolved, I decided that it might be better to include just Beckett's initials on the narrow wall next to the closet door, which would bring the cost down to $45. That was a much more manageable price tag, but the letters continued to sit my RH Baby & Child shopping cart and I just couldn't bring myself to click the order button. While $15 per letter really isn't that bad, when you are decorating an entire room every cost adds up! Nonetheless, I was still crazy for the combo of wood and metal on the letters, so I started brainstorming ways to get the same look for less.

I am pretty proud of how my knock off version turned out! The total for my three letters rang in at less than $10.00 (about $3 each), and the entire project took me less than an hour. That's a win in my book!

Here's the supply list:
  • Paper Mache Letters ($2.47 each at Hobby Lobby, frequently on sale for half off)
  • Wood Grain Scrapbook Paper (1 12x12 sheet per two letters, $.59 each at Hobby Lobby, frequently on sale)
  • Metallic acrylic paint (Already owned; currently on sale at JoAnn's for $1.74 per bottle)
  • Krylon Spray Adhesive (Already owned; available from numerous stores for about $5)
  • Approximately 40 half inch finish nails per letter (Already owned; available at any hardware store for a couple of dollars)
There are tons of options when it comes to purchasing craft store letters, but I selected paper mache letters from Hobby Lobby for this project because they are so similar in shape and size to the originals from Restoration Hardware. 

The Restoration Hardware letters are made of solid wood, so to achieve a similar look with my paper mache letters, I picked up a couple of sheets of barnwood scrapbook paper (you'll need one sheet of paper for every two letters). I began by using a pencil to reverse trace each letter onto the back of the scrapbook paper, keeping in mind that I wanted the wood grain to run vertically.

One of the benefits of the paper mache letters (besides the great price) is that they take paint extremely well without the need to prime or do any other prep work. The Restoration Hardware letters are trimmed in an industrial metal edging that (at least in the online photos) appears to be a dark steel color, not a shiny silver. To mimic this look, I wanted to use metallic paint that I already had on hand (all Martha Stewart brand). After deciding that the Gunmetal color was a bit too dark, and that the Titanium color was too light, I began mixing the two colors until I achieved the shade I was going for. The final proportions were approximately 1 part Titanium and 2 parts Gunmetal. {I always save plastic baby food containers because they work perfectly for mixing acrylic paint!}

I painted the front and sides of each of the letters. I could have also painted the back, but since I'll be hanging these letters on the wall, it was necessary.

While the paint was drying, I returned my focus to the barnwood scrapbook paper. Since the paper would be added on top of the metallic painted letters, I needed to trim down the paper letters to give the appearance of a metal edging all the way around. I decided to reduce the each letter by a quarter of an inch all the way around. I used a ruler to measure and mark a quarter of an inch toward the inside of each letter, making marks every inch or so, with additional marks around the curves of the B and the R. Then I simply used the edge of the ruler to connect the marks along the straight sides of the letters, and free handed the curves by again connecting the dots.

I cut out each letter using my favorite Cutter Bee fine-point scissors, which are especially great for cutting detailed areas, like inside the B and the R.

With the scrapbook paper letters cut out and the paint dry on the paper mache letters, I was ready to put it all together.

I used the Krylon Spray Adhesive that I already had in my craft closet to finely coat the reverse side of each paper letter, and then placed the paper letters in the center of the paper mache letters, pressing down firmly around the edges to ensure a good hold.

At this point the letters were looking pretty good, but to make them look as similar as possible to the original Restoration Hardware letters, I needed to add the exposed nail heads. I raided my husbands tool box and discovered that we had plenty of half inch finishing nails with small silver heads that were perfect for this job.

Hammering the nails into place along the inner edge of the faux metal "trim" could not have been easier - just a couple of taps pushed the nails through the paper mache. To keep with the raw, industrial look of the original letters, I tried not the space the nails out too evenly.

I am so happy with the end result! I think my knock off version really captures the vintage industrial vibe of the original letters, and you can't beat the price!

I saved about $35 by making these three letters on my own - that's more than a 75% savings! Not bad for only one hour of my time.  I just love a good knock off project, don't you?!

I can't wait to hang these letters in Beckett's new room, which should be complete in just about five weeks {thanks to the One Room Challenge, I have a deadline to stick to!}. Check back later this week to see updates on some of the other projects that are starting to come together for his Vintage Preppy menswear inspired big boy room!

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