Friday, August 26, 2011

Going on a Cardboard Safari

I've admired Cardboard Safari's collection of cardboard animal trophies for a long time, but the big ones always seemed a bit out of my price range. Today I realized they were on sale at Joss & Main, so my plan is to pick one up and decorate it so that it looks like it belongs in a house full of four girls and not a boy's bedroom. Not quite sure what route I'll take when it comes to covering it, but here are some options I've contemplated:

pinned here via

Now it's just a matter of deciding which animal to buy. I kind of like the moose more, but maybe it's just because he's so small and cute on that wall. The deer is a bit more feminine, but potentially harder to cover because of all its antlers. What do you think?


I might call an audible and go with the rhino.


Side note: I actually purchased a mini cardboard safari animal trophy from West Elm last winter as a cheap little housewarming gift for the boy. West Elm had listed the wrong dimensions on their website, so I complained that this little guy was a lot littler than I had expected. They were discontinuing the sale of them through West Elm, so they credited my account and told me to keep Mr. Mini Buck. Awesome!

Side side note: My boo told his buddies that I made Mini Buck out of a pizza box. And it seems they believed him momentarily. Ha! I wish.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why Every Smart Man will Join Pinterest


Pinterest is one of the coolest sites I’ve seen in a long time. I love it because it’s brilliantly simple: a tool that lets you store every cool thing you see on the internet, sort it, and share it with your friends. I used to email myself links of things I loved, and now I can just pin them. I hardly even use the etsy “favorite” function anymore because I can pin the picture on any one of my boards.

Which brings me to my main point today: it’s in a man’s best interest to join Pinterest.

Before you guys all scoff at me and think, “why would a man want to be on THAT posting pictures of pretty living rooms and outfits?” Why? Because your girlfriend/wife/mother/sister/daughter is on there posting pictures of pretty things she loves. Things that you could buy for her.

Now I’m not saying that Pinterest is an invitation for you to surprise her weekly with gifts. I’m just saying that when you want to be thoughtful for a special occasion and get her something you know she likes, all you have to do is check out a few of her boards and find something she’s already listed. For example, I pin a ton of stuff from etsy. If my boo were to look at my “So Stylish” or “Art Ideas” board, he would find a multitude of reasonably priced items that I would love to buy for myself.

Follow this board.

Follow this board.
Not only can a man use Pinterest to give the lady in his life exactly what she wants for that special occasion, he can also sound like he actually cares about how she’s decorating her house. If my man took a look at my “Dining Rooms” board, he would be able to have a conversation like this:

Sarah: I’m so tired of sanding this dining room table.
Kyle: Really? Are you refinishing it?
Sarah: Yep, a dark stain.
Kyle: Oh right, because you love the look of dark wood tables and light painted chairs.
Sarah: Wow you have really been listening to me!


If the man is really smart and fully embraces Pinterest, he can get it to work in his favor too. He could start pinning things like this Darth Vader alarm clock:

Darth Vader alarm clock
Or this nice messenger bag:

j.crew Abingdon messenger bag 
And then his lady knows exactly what he wants and won't buy him something silly like a hawaiin button down or socks.

A man can also pin pictures of things he finds awesome, including: zombies, amazing basketball dunks, demotivational posters, etc. I would caution that pinning of the wrong variety could backfire. For this reason I suggest that men stay away from creating boards like “Hot Girls” or “Annoying things my girlfriend likes”. Also a bad idea: following ex girlfriends or women that show too much interest in you.

So men, seriously take Pinterest into consideration. When your lady unwraps her next present and says, “Oh thank you! How did you know?” you will definitely thank me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Desk Jewelry

As I mentioned before, I love love love hardware. It’s like jewelry for your furniture, and just like jewelry can make or break an outfit, hardware can really pull together different elements of a room.

Recently I’ve been looking around for some knobs to put on a dresser that I painted earlier this summer (and intend to write a post about soon). I saw this beauty on Pinterest about a month ago and loved the texture and subtle gold tone, which I have in different elements in my room already.

buy here. pinned here.
But when I realized it was $14 at anthropologie, I pinned the image, longed for it momentarily, and moved on to find something cheaper.

I checked out a my other favorite hardware sources including World Market, Home Goods, and etsy, but I couldn't find anything that suited my taste. And still the square Parterre Knob stayed in the back of mind. Finally last week I decided to at least see how it would look, so I ran over the anthropologie, darted through their door at 8:50 pm like a total a-hole (they close at 9) and made a beeline for their hardware section.

I’ve learned from experience that the way you picture something in your head rarely works as perfectly as you envision it to look, so I picked up plenty of options. Like, 12 aqua or neutral knobs. I also picked up two little dishes that were super cute and only $4/piece. The girls who worked there must have thought I was really in love with aqua I also happened to be wearing a tone on tone aqua outfit that included a blue/aqua necklace.

Yep. Our house is a mess.

Some of my purchases. A few of them weren't available online.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
I came home and displayed the finds to my roommates, who sweetly swooned over my purchases. Then I took them upstairs to my room to see how they all looked.

I decided I liked the neutral ones and narrowed it down to the Mother of Pearl knob and my original heartthrob Paterre knob. I honestly still love the white patina on the gold knob, and I really like the studded texture. Something just wasn’t quite right though. While I preferred the texture of the Paterre knob, the Mother of Pearl knob was a better shape. As you can kind of tell, this desk has quite a few curvy lines, in the curved corners of the table top, the detailing below the drawers, and the pattern I stenciled on top of it, and a square knob didn’t suit it all that well.

Still, the Mother of Pearl one wasn’t doing it for me. That’s when I remembered that there was a round version of my original heartthrob online. I’m not sure I love the Rosette Parterre Knob as much as the square, but it has the same texture I am definitely in love with, and I think it will look really good on my desk.  I still haven’t been bold enough to pull the trigger on buying four knobs that would cost twice as much as I paid for the desk, but I think it’s gonna happen soon. And when it does, rest assured that there will be pictures!

buy here. pinned here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lovey Dovey Breakfast Dish

I saw these on Pinterest a few weeks ago and made a mental (and written) note to make these one morning.

pinned here

The boy almost always has a can of cinnamon buns in the house, so when he suggested he make them this weekend I volunteered to do the baking arranging on the pan. I took each bun and unrolled them a little, rolled one end in towards the other, and pinched the bottom to make the hearts. Not as glamorous as making homemade cinnamon buns, but a fun twist on a delicious classic nonetheless!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Birthday Present for the Boy

The boy turned 24 last week, and I have to admit, I was feeling a little lame about my plans for him this year. I had set the bar pretty high in previous years, but this being his fourth (!!!) birthday we’ve spent together, I wasn’t feeling all that creative. I know, it sounds pretty lame. Especially given that two years ago I crafted him his own “GI Kyle” (duh, his name) and last year I gave him this sweet watch he’d been eyeing for months:

But this year I had to be practical. We’re both busy, we both pay rent now, and there’s stuff he actually needs. So I bought him a new pair of Sperry’s to replace his old and disgusting ones (that I also bought him two years ago) and made plans to go to the Wharf, a great seafood restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria where ma boo could get his favorite dish: crab cakes.

The Wharf Alexandria VA 2004-05-25 02

Then, last week I got ambitious. For a while I had kicked around the idea of refinishing an old chair for the boy to put on the side of his bed that doesn’t have a night stand. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right, a chair is a lame gift too. But trust me, this one is cool for reasons you will soon find out. Anyway, Tuesday evening after work (his birthday was Wednesday) I stopped at Goodwill to see if they might have the kind of thing I was looking for. I am rarely one of those people who walk into Goodwill and walk out with a ton of treasures, but this trip was perfect. I picked up this beauty for $4!

As you can see, it needed some work. Namely, the back had to be glued back onto it, but that was a pretty easy fix. After my trip to Goodwill I headed a mile down the road to Home Depot where I snagged some Elmer’s wood glue, a can of colonial red spray paint, and a can of spray clear protective finish.

I was under a bit of a time crunch so I raced home, changed into my painting clothes, and set up a spray painting station in my back yard. This is the part where I tell you why this chair thing is cool: My plan was to spray the chair red and stencil an Indiana University (his alma mater) symbol on it. Not only does he love any opportunity to display something IU in his house, he would also have a good football/basketball chair.

Side note: if you’ve ever met someone who went to IU, you know that they are totally in love with their school. I also have it from a good source that the comeback of IU basketball will be the greatest sports story ever told.

Anyway, back to the chair. First I lightly sanded the chair and wiped it down with a damp rag to get rid of the dust from the sanding.  Then I went to work gluing the back onto the base. I squeezed some wood glue into the holes that hold the back and then used my fingers to spread the glue so that it covered the hole for the spokes. I also put some glue onto the actual back itself. When you do this kind of a repair, especially on something like a chair, make sure that you look to see if any glue has dripped down onto the legs, and wipe it off before it dries.

In my haste, I didn’t actually wait for the glue to dry. Instead, I flipped the chair over and got to spraying. I figured the glue would still dry while the paint was being applied. I like to flip a chair over and spray the legs first so that the seat and back don’t get messed up if the paint is still a little tacky. I didn’t prime the chair because I intended to give it a distressed look, and I just wanted the wood to show through when I sanded it a bit. I sprayed a couple of light coats to the legs, making sure that my hand was always moving and that I was about 8-12 inches away from the surface I was spraying. When spraying, it’s always good to remind yourself that you don’t need 100% coverage on the first coat – that’s how you end up with a gloppy, runny finish.

I only had to let the coats dry about 10-15 minutes before I applied another one, so it was a quick process. After I sprayed the bottom, I flipped the chair back to its normal position and sprayed the top. When you’re using spray paint, it’s good to pay special attention to the corners because they can easily get missed.

I let the chair dry about 15 minutes before I brought it back into our basement. Once it was dry, I started my stenciling process.

In between spraying coats of paint on the chair, I made my own IU stencil using file folder and a symbol I found on the computer. I search for the IU logo and printed it on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. I had decided that I wanted the IU to be max 9” tall. I didn’t have to worry about width because the symbol is taller than it is wide. I actually printed the IU symbol to this size using InDesign, which I’m lucky enough to have on my computer. But, if you’re willing to not be quite as precise, you could probably use the regular picture editor on your computer and print a symbol about 10” tall.

After printing the IU, I used painters tape to secure it to the file folder, and then used a ruler (ok, it’s actually an engineering scale that I have leftover from an urban design studio class) and a craft knife to cut the IU out of the folder. Yes, I did this on top of a diet coke box and our coffee table. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a smart move, but our coffee table is a mess and I plan to refinish it, so I wasn’t worried about ruining it at all.

After I had made my stencil, I sprayed a stencil adhesive (available at Michael’s) on the back of it and stuck it to the chair. Then I used a mini roller to role some white paint I had on hand onto the chair. This is kind of the point in time where the file folder stencil idea isn’t the greatest thing, because it gets wet and doesn’t totally stay stuck to the surface. I’ve learned that I can’t really rely on stencils to produce clean lines, so I was kind of ready for this problem anyway.

After I had rolled on 2 – 3 coats I pulled the stencil off and evaluated my bleed problem (somewhat significant). I took a damp paper towel and tried to wipe most of the bleeding clean, using my finger nail to try and maintain the hard line. While the IU stencil was really easy to cut out, it’s actually not a very forgiving symbol to paint because its lines are so straight and it’s really noticeable if you can’t paint a solid line. I wanted to put another coat of paint on the IU but didn’t want to use the stencil anymore, so I took some narrow painters tape and taped off all the lines. In hindsight I probably should’ve taken this approach the whole time and simply used the stencil to draw on the symbol on the chair and then taped it off. Oh well. With a combo of my finger nail, a wet rag, and some light sanding, I was able to make the line look pretty sharp.

I think Kyle would be OK with me describing his style as casual all-American (seriously, this guy loves Amurica). So I wanted to give the chair a bit of a distressed, lived in look. I did this by lightly sanding down the paint in some places where you might see natural wear and tear, like along corners and edges, on the legs, front of the seat, etc. I then took a damp rag and wiped off any dust created by the sanding.

At this point I was pretty much dancing around thinking about how awesome of a girlfriend I am. I’m always excited when I finish a project, but I was seriously pumped about this. My roommates told me it was awesome and I wasn’t modest about it. The only thing left to do was spray a protective finish on the chair and I’d be done. This was necessary because while the plan is to have this chair next to the boy’s bed most of the time, I knew at some point it would make its way down to the frat house that is their first floor. Because I wanted the IU to stay intact and keep paint from rubbing off onto someone’s clothes, I decided to seal it post-distressing process.  

I knew I could spray the chair in about 45 minutes total so I made a plan to leave work right at 5 and have the project done in time to pick up the boy for our 7:30 reservation…
Well, that was the plan at least. But when I got home and started spraying the protective finish on the chair, the very layer of spray paint I was attempting to protect started bubbling (!!!!!!!!!).

I wanted to cry. I think I sniffled a bit. This project had gone so smoothly up until that point and I knew that any delay would prevent me from delivering the birthday present on his actual birthday. The only silver lining was that I had flipped the chair over and started spraying the legs first, so the IU and most visible parts of the chair were fine. Knowing that this had just become a more involved process, I packed up for the day and went to get ready for dinner.

The next day after work I sanded off the bubbled paint really well, and was able to apply a new coat of red paint with very few mostly unnoticeable problems. After letting the legs dry, I brought the chair inside and applied three coats of Minwax Polycrylic protective finish using a foam brush. Polycrylic is a great finish to use over white paint because it doesn’t yellow and would keep the IU looking nice. I also used a different foam brush for the parts near the white paint because I didn’t want the foam brush to pick up any red particles and distribute them across the white paint.

Finally the project was done. I love it! And most importantly, so does Kyle. It looks great in his all American room and will be perfect for watching the IU – UVA football game (wahoowa!). Maybe by then I’ll have a UVA chair painted too!

And just to remind you how far it came:

For fun, here are a few more pictures of the boy's room, which I think suits him pretty well. Excuse the inappropriate street signs.

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