Category Archives: Idaho State Journal

You Might Want to Sit Down for This

My latest project was a beautiful bentwood chair purchased at an estate sale.  I found it as the sale was about to end, so I scored it for $6! The existing finish wasn’t in great shape, but the caned seat was still in decent condition.



After much internal debate, I decided to paint the chair with chalk paint and leave the caned seat natural.  I also left the seat edges unpainted, since the caning extends into the wood.  I like the combined look of wood and paint, so it was a fun solution.

There are about as many different ideas about how to paint furniture as there are pieces of furniture.  Whether you are a first-timer or a practiced pro, the type of paint you use can make a big difference in how well you like the finished product.  After many years of being a huge fan of spray paint or latex for its ease of application and smooth finishes, I gave ‘chalk paint’ a try.

IMG_3158First coat of DIY chalk paint.

While brand-name chalk paint, such as Annie Sloan, has been around for over 20 years, it has been extremely popular in recent years along with the trend of ‘distressing’ furniture.  Not to be confused with chalkboard paint (although you can write on it with chalk before you wax it), chalk paint is a thick, matte paint that dries quickly and adheres well to most surfaces.  The biggest benefit of chalk paint is that you typically don’t have to sand or prime the surface before painting.  It can be layered and sanded to create the popular distressed or aged look, but it can also be left pristine for a more modern look.  Because chalk paint is so porous it does need to be waxed or varnished to seal the paint when using it on furniture.  Otherwise, you risk smudged hand prints and stains from anything that touches it.  Once sealed, chalk paint is washable and durable, although you may have to rewax it every few years.

Chalk paint can be purchased ready-made at specialty stores or online, and a few lesser known brands have been showing up recently at big box hardware and craft stores.  These are fine if you like the color selection available and don’t mind spending a little more money.  On the other hand, if you are trying to get a very specific color, you might want to try making your own!

Pinterest is full of recipes for DIY Chalk Paint, most of them involving a mixture of Plaster of Paris or Calcium Carbonate Powder and latex paint.  My favorite so far (and the least expensive) is Plaster of Paris.  I have used varying ratios of paint to Plaster of Paris, all with favorable results.  A pretty common ‘recipe’ is the ratio of 3 parts latex paint to 1 part Plaster of Paris.  You can mix the Plaster powder straight into the paint, but for a smoother texture, most people recommend mixing some water into the Plaster of Paris, and then mixing in the paint.  Most DIY recipes say any sheen of paint will work, but to avoid paint that also contains primer.  When I am working on a small project, I will often just purchase one or two paint sample pots.  Experiment a bit to find out what works best for you.


I used two coats of white chalk paint, followed by a thin coat of wax to seal the paint.  The texture is a little rougher than I was hoping, so I might go back and try to sand it down a bit.  I ‘probably’ got a little impatient when painting and made my mixture a little too thick.  Just like regular paint, several thin coats will get you the best results.

Simple designs on the caned seat with colorful embroidery thread makes the chair extra special.  I plan to wrap some thread around the top part of the chair too.  For less than $30, I now have a completely unique and personalized chair to sit on while I work.


Summer garage sales are in full swing and it is absolutely the best time to score used furniture.  That dining table with water rings and marker stains, the multi-colored dining chairs of someone’s previously attempted project or the cute little headboard that would be perfect in your daughter’s room.  It’s a plethora of furniture with so much potential!

Spring Cleanup!

Since we have been having so much rain lately, some of the outdoor projects have been on hold a bit.  Luckily, the garden was planted before all the rain, so I have been LOVING not having to water!  We might just be a crazy family of rain-lovers. IMG_2937

Since Summer is getting close (but some of us are still Spring Cleaning), I thought I would share an article I wrote for the Idaho State Journal in April:

While the exact origin of ‘Spring Cleaning’ is debatable and spans many cultures, people throughout history have been stricken by the urge to clean when the days get longer.  Whether added daylight hours cause us to have more energy or the bright sun illuminates cobwebs in the corners, we feel the need to freshen up our spaces.  When you are gripped with the urge to clean, there are a few cleaning tasks that are much easier to do when the weather is nice.

  1. Scrubbing out garbage cans.  While I would like to say these get cleaned on a regular basis, they don’t.  On one of the first nice days of the year, I bring every garbage and recycling can in the house out on to the lawn.  I give them a good spray with the hose and scrub them as needed with some mild dish soap.  When they are sparkling clean, I let them dry and air out in the sun before bringing them in again.
  2. Shaking out rugs.  Even with vacuuming, a few of the rugs in our house tend to look a little dingy after winter.  Take them outside and give them a good shake, or even give them a few whacks with a broom handle or baseball bat.  If the rugs are washable, toss them in your washing machine or spray them down with a hose.  The sun helps speed up drying time and makes them smell fresh.
  3. Wash dining chairs, folding chairs and kid chairs.  Our dining chairs are all metal, so I love taking them outside and making them sparkle with the hose and a scrub brush to get in all the little nooks and crannies where crumbs and popsicles get stuck.  The kids loved spraying their own chairs and booster seats!IMG_6713 IMG_6716
  4. Wash windows, inside and out.  If you are peering out at the pretty blossoms on your tree through dirty fingerprinted windows, you are missing out!  Take advantage of the slightly warmer days to wipe off the grim and make your windows sparkle.  Your whole room will feel brighter through that streak-free glass.  My preferred method: A mix of about 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, and a small squirt of dish soap.  Wipe with a microfiber cloth (indoors) or a squeegee (outdoors).
  5. Wash your front door, sweep the entry and shake the mat.  Our front door tends to get dirty quickly with the wind and rain.  A quick dusting with the vacuum or a soft damp cloth brightens the color again.  If your door is in need of some TLC, Spring is a perfect time to paint it a color that compliments your home.  A little cleaning of the steps and the door mat make our home feel welcoming again.  As soon as the weather allows, I also plant something gorgeous in the pots on the front porch.IMG_2974

Welcome, Spring!  Open all the windows, put on some happy music, and let the scrubbing begin.  Who knows, you might even feel like rearranging the furniture.

*Look for progress pictures of the guest room this coming week!


Spring = Spraypainting

One of my favorite things about Spring is that I can finally bust out the spray paint again!  Since it is not highly recommended to spray paint indoors (unless you happen to have a special vent hood, then I want to be your best friend), most spray painting projects are set aside until it is warm enough to paint outdoors.

Spray paint is typically used on items where a super smooth finish is desired.  I like to use it on metal folding chairs, lamp bases, hardware and picture frames, for example.

This week, I sprayed picture frames, hooks for hanging our jackets on (finally!), and some clear glass vases.  Completely finished projects will come in future posts, but here’s what we have right now:





If you haven’t done a lot of spray painting, the application method is pretty simple, but here are a few tips to keep in mind for the best finish:

  1. Use a high-quality spray paint and make sure it is approved for the type of material you are spraying.  Some are specially formulated for plastics, while others work on metal, wood or glass.  Stay far away from the cheap generic brands of spray paint.  You will likely end up spending more to fix peeling paint or random drips from a leaking nozzle.  My favorite is Rustoleum brand, but sometimes the color does the choosing for me!
  2. Prepare your surface.  Using a primer is especially important if you are spraying laminate or unpainted wood, but I have recently started to prime almost everything.  Every brand typically carries a primer that will help paint adhere better.  If you have stains, I recommend priming with Kilz primer-sealer-stainblocker for the best looking finished results.  After priming, sand your item lightly with 220 grit (very fine) sandpaper.  This will get rid of any rough or gritty spots caused by the primer.  Wipe clean with a soft cloth after sanding.
  3. Spray several light, quick coats of paint rather than one or two heavy coats.  Your paint will dry with a harder finish and you will have less risk of drips and uneven coats.  Keep the spray and your arm moving back and forth the whole time.  Follow the directions on the can for drying times between coats.
  4. If you do happen to drip or notice a grainy build up on your project, stop and let it dry completely.  Then, sand smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe with a tacky cloth before adding a few more coats of spray paint.
  5. After your piece has dried, you can leave it clean and pristine (my favorite), or you can distress it by sanding the edges where you would normally see wear and tear.  An antiquing glaze can be used over spray paint to ‘age’ the piece and tone down the brightness of the paint.
  6. Let your piece dry completely (usually 24 hours) in a well ventilated space before subjecting it to heavy use.  If it is going to be used outdoors or handled extensively, spray or brush on a polycrylic protective finish.  A water-based no-VOC finish will also help ‘seal in’ any fumes and toxins, making it safer to bring indoors.

It’s time to get out there and freshen up your flower pots or patio furniture with a bit of spray paint.  The hardest part for me is choosing a color, or five.  I don’t know about you, but I am loving the metallic copper on those vases a whole lot!

Host a Painting Party!

The phrase “painting party” might bring to mind a venue where you and a group of friends can go hang out and each paint a picture on canvas.  In a less artistically creative, but still entertaining way to hang out with friends, my friend Holly hosted a wall painting party last Saturday.  With a floor installation quickly approaching, she needed the walls and trim painted in her laundry room.  An email plea for help found three of us knocking on her door at 9:30 am, wearing our best painting clothes.

After a quick breakfast of bagels, coffee and fruit, we divided up jobs and got to work.  Since four of us were working in a smaller room, we all started in different spots, so that we would not be in each other’s way.


Brook got the high parts, but still had a great smile.

I painted trim, while Brook and Lori took turns with rollers and a paint brush. Holly removed nails, patched holes, wiped things down and took a turn with the roller.

IMG_2413Holly and Lori discussing weekend plans.

Three hours passed before we knew it, with plenty of laughing, talking and general getting to know one another.  It was a lot of fun, and the end result was a bright clean laundry room that is ready for new floors to be installed.  The best part was that it was pretty much finished, and it didn’t take Holly a week to do it on her own!  I also found a new favorite white paint: Sherwin Williams Ultra White.


If you are inspired to paint a room in your home, but overwhelmed at the thought of tackling it alone, consider having a painting party of your own.  Here are some tips for making sure things go smoothly:

  1. Think about how many people could work efficiently in the space you are working on.  Too many people and no one will be able to move.  Too few, and it may take a longer time commitment from your friends.
  2. Ask friends who have painted walls before, or have tasks for non-painters.  Jobs like removing nails, filling holes, sanding rough spots or removing hardware and blinds always need to be done.
  3. Have plenty of drop cloths and damp rags to catch messes. You will want to protect floors and any other surfaces in the room.  Paint drips and splatters happen, and you don’t want to be stressing about it the whole time.
  4. Make sure there are brushes or rollers and buckets or trays for everyone, whether you provide them, or they bring their favorite from home.  It is much easier to work with the right supplies.
  5. Provide refreshments according to the time of day.  Food keeps people happy and willing to work.
  6. Set a time frame.  Two to three hours seems like a viable amount of time for most people, and you will be amazed at how much a group of people can accomplish in that time.
  7. Invite a diverse group of friends.  It is always fun to meet new people, and a painting party gives you an opportunity to really get to know one another.

There you go. That is how we do a painting party, Pocatello style!  Have you ever been to a painting party?  Canvas or wall?  What is your favorite white paint?

Bright and Happy Kids’ Room

Ever since that fateful semester the fall of 2005 when I was assigned to research and model a hotel lobby in the Scandinavian Modern style, I have been a huge fan.  While the more well-known furniture and design styles of Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen are always on the dream/wish list, I have been more interested lately in ‘everyday’ Scandinavian style.

If you look at images of Scandinavian homes, you will notice a lot of white walls.  To compensate for long, overcast winters, many residents of these northern European countries paint their walls and floors bright white to reflect as much light as possible.  With all that white, you might think that the interiors would look stark or cold, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  The majority of these homes look comfortable, extremely inviting and lived-in.

Emma-Persson-Scandinavian designHome of Stylist Emma Persson

Most images of Scandinavian kid’s rooms look playful, colorful and creative, with lots of bright art.  Since our kids share a room, and it is already painted white (although it might get a fresh coat this summer), it is the perfect space to incorporate a bit of fun style.

polly's retro scandinavian room

Bold and Colorful Room

I thought it would be fun to put together an idea board to show the direction we are going.  Both of our kids are already very opinionated about their space and have been on-board with what we have done so far.  Our attempt at Scandinavian style has been a great solution to a room shared by a four year old girl and a two year old boy.  Their individual personalities and interests can shine without any arguing about whether we will have a fairy princess or Ninja Turtle themed room.

Kids' Bedroom Idea Board

  1. Ikea Bed
  2. Duvet
  3. Rug
  4. Toy Storage
  5. Green lamp
  6. Map
  7. Vintage Dresser (I found a similar one at a second hand shop in Old Town Pocatello)

Currently, the white walls provide a perfect backdrop for colorful bedding, a sky blue ceiling, a wood dresser, and a fun rug.  I will share a photo update of the room soon!

Kitchen Shelving Reveal!

I am so excited to finally show you some pictures of our newly reconfigured refrigerator wall!  Over the last month or so, we took down all the existing cabinets on that wall to make room for a new refrigerator.  All two cabinets and some shelves, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  But we had just moved the cabinets up and caulked them a few months before, so it was sort of a big deal. ha.

Anyway, here is our current and hopefully longer-lasting rendition!


IMG_6667 IMG_6669

Moving from the original single upper cabinet over the base cabinet to this setup has increased our storage space exponentially.  It allows me to display the platters and plates that don’t fit in a normal cabinet.  I find I use them a lot more when they aren’t packed away in the back of the pantry closet.

IMG_6670 IMG_6671 IMG_6678 IMG_6681 IMG_6686 IMG_6689A few things to note if you are considering something like this for yourself:

1. You might want to consider buying a pipe threader and cutting your own pipes, depending on your own arrangement.  All of the little pieces add up and can get expensive

2. All of the threads aren’t the same, so it was hard to get things as tight as we wanted.

3. Look around for pieces without labels taped to them! After completing the entire project, we found that one store had pipe pieces in bags, so you wouldn’t have to try to take the stickers off of each piece.  As you might have noticed, we are still working on getting those stickers off!

4. Our project cost around $300.  We used 1/2 inch pipe and fittings and 2 x 12 douglas fir for the shelves.  The microwave shelf was custom joined to be 16 inches deep. We used Minwax oil based wood finish in Classic Gray 271.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!  Check back later this week for some tips on living with open shelving.


Redo! Another Kitchen Challenge

When I was an elementary school teacher, I often gave my older students an opportunity to redo an essay or project if they wanted to improve their work.  By rereading or redesigning their previous attempt, they often learned much more about the topic (which was the ultimate goal) and hopefully even discovered a bit about their own thinking process.  It seems like a valuable skill to have, because let’s face it, many of us spend a lot of time at our jobs redoing or updating things.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, we often get stuck in a mindset where we think things need to stay exactly how they were when we moved in, or when they were built or when we first arranged them.

IMG_0865 IMG_0866Kitchen: When we bought our house in 2010.


IMG_6519Refrigerator wall: a few weeks ago…

It is a good thing my husband and I are both used to working and reworking projects until we are happy with them.  A few weeks ago, we bought a new refrigerator, which ended up changing a few (very recently completed) key arrangements in our kitchen.

Our new fridge lured us in with the promise of much more interior space along with ice and water on demand.  Plus it was on a fantastic sale at Home Depot.  Unfortunately, the larger size meant we had to take down the recently added cabinet above the fridge, which meant things on that wall were looking unbalanced and a little crazy.  Also, the new fridge is stainless so it doesn’t match the stove and dishwasher anymore.  It was classic chain reaction where one thing leads to another.



Instead of bemoaning the loss of a storage/display cabinet, we decided to take the opportunity to rework things and try something new.  We took down the remaining cabinet on the fridge wall and put it over the stove, filling out that space a bit better.

Then, my handy hubby began building a wall of shelves using ½ inch galvanized steel pipe and 2 x 12 boards.  The mix of steel and wood fits really well in our kitchen, and the industrial modern look of the shelves works well with our simple 1950s home.  It also makes it so the mix of stainless and white appliances isn’t so obvious.


Since we used pipes that screw together, we were able add to it as time and budget allowed.  IMG_6662

IMG_6655After considering a natural wood look via a clear coat, we decided to stain the wood gray.  I am happy we did, because it really makes the whole system work with the concrete countertops and the stainless refrigerator.

While I wouldn’t have spent all the time painting and caulking cabinets last month if I had known we were going to change things this month, I don’t regret it at all.  We gained a lot in the process, and I feel like we are really learning how to make our home more functional and beautiful within the space we have.  Our end result will greatly exceed what we started with, both in usability and appearance.

The lesson: Don’t be afraid to take a redo.

Check back Monday morning for completed shelf pictures!


Curtains, Drapes and Blinds, Oh My!

*For those of you around Pocatello, I am teaching “The Organized Home: Clean Sweep” on Monday, February 9, from 6-8:30 pm!  Sign up through ISU Workforce Training!

I know I am not the only one who finds this time of year a little depressing.  One way I try to combat the short days and cold weather is to open up the shades and let the daylight in for as many hours as possible.  I am much more likely to open the window treatments if they are quick and easy to operate.  Here are a few suggestions that will help you let the sun shine in during those precious daylight hours:

1. Hang your curtains or drapes high and wide.  Hanging the fabric almost entirely outside of the window frame allows much more of the window (and daylight) to be open and visible.  Hanging the panels 6-9 inches above the window makes your room appear taller.  While I have always tried to do this, the curtains in our living room were too short to hang much above the window. IMG_6351We lived for a short time with the left curtains still lower and the right ones raised up! This photo really shows how much difference it made to raise the curtains higher.IMG_6630I recently purchased longer curtain panels, so we raised both rods to the 8-foot ceiling.  We were amazed how much taller and bigger our living room appeared!

2. Make the window treatment easy to open.  If it is tedious to pull back the drapes, it is less likely to get done.  Our living room curtain panels have grommets at the top so they slide easily on the rod, and I open them every day.  Ring clips also work well for simple fabric panels.  If you invest in heavier drapes, make sure you also get quality, smooth running pulls.  IMG_6613

3. Consider layering window treatments.  For our bedroom, we have inexpensive bamboo stick blinds layered under floor-to-ceiling curtain panels.  The curtains usually stay open all the time, and we just open and close the blinds.  IMG_6615The blinds are also hung to the ceiling, concealing the bit of wall between the ceiling and the top of the window.  Hanging blinds high allows more of the actual window to be free, making it appear larger.

4. Research your options.  Although I love the look and added softness (and color) of fabric window treatments, we chose a different route for the kids’ room.  Floor to ceiling curtain panels took up too much wall space in the already small room.  I also worried about them being pulled down accidentally.  I don’t particularly like the look of shorter curtains, so instead I purchased white blackout roller shades at IKEA. IMG_6637 They are very easy to open and close, and the wall below the window is now open for play.

IMG_6644To keep afternoon light from overpowering the kitchen, I shortened a bamboo blind originally designed for a french door.

5. Window treatments should compliment your lifestyle and the style of your home.  Proper drapes with heavier fabrics will make a room feel more formal.  A boxy valance is also formal, but can give a bedroom a luxe hotel vibe.  For a playful look, try a bold pattern or use unique accessories as a tieback (think leather belts, chains, men’s ties).  For us, washable curtain fabrics help keep living with kids a little more carefree.

How about you? Do you open your curtains first thing in the morning, or is it something that doesn’t even cross your mind?

The Uncluttered Life: Pantry Overhaul

This pantry project has been a long time coming. It has been a jumbled disaster for several months, but I didn’t bother to reorganize it because I wanted to do a complete overhaul on the pantry closet while I was at it.


The problem with ‘overhauls’ at our house is that the rest of the house then becomes a complete disaster. Also, I usually have a lot of help.  This week, we finally tackled the pantry, and I am excited about the results.

To begin, I brought in a garbage bag and a donation box. I got rid of a toaster oven that burned everything, a Salad Shooter, a manual food processor and the Magic Bullet. I recently bought one nice food processor that does everything except burn toast. It was such a relief to finally send those appliances to the donation box! I tossed opened bags that were stale or that no one was going to eat. I took every item out of the pantry and washed the entire thing. IMG_6572

Then, I found some ceiling paint and a half gallon of paint left over from our bedroom closet makeover and painted walls, floors and ceiling. I decided to stain the shelves instead of painting them. I used a water-based Minwax stain in Pecan. I chose to use water-based stain because I was working in an enclosed space and it is less toxic and smelly.

Dark phone photo, but it feels fresh!

One thing about our pantry is that it is the closet over the stairs to the basement. In the 1950s, they often made these closets with deep steps all the way to the back. I have been researching solutions for making our closet more user-friendly, but haven’t found any help. So, Jer and I decided to put horizontally adjustable shelves across the shelves we put in a few years ago. They can be pushed back if needed, but we pulled them forward so everything is reachable from the first step. I found that things would just get lost and piled in the deep cave, so the shallower adjustable shelves are nicer for us. (We can access the back, so I put a few very infrequently used items back there, like the dehydrator and angel food cake pan).

A pantry works best with multiple shallow shelves. When Jer and I added shelves to our closet, we made the ones on the sides 6 inches deep and the ones on the back 11 inches deep. This keeps items from getting lost in the black hole that often happens when shelves are too deep. If you happen to have deep shelves, consider installing pull-out bins or drawers.


I also wanted to add a little fun to the steps, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on it. Jer suggested using half a grapefruit. The ones we had were pretty large, but I spotted some Cuties and decided they would be perfect! I found some orange and yellow craft paint and two paper plates. After practicing on a piece of paper, I started randomly stamping the Cuties on the steps. The final look is not for everyone, but I like the 70s retro look and think it will be fun for awhile. When I get tired of it, it will take 10 minutes to paint it again.


After the pantry is clean (and the paint is dry!) it is time to put things back. I arrange items according to use and size. Most frequently used things go at eye level. For us, that means canned goods and cereals are readily available for easy grabbing. Multiple cans of the same food are stacked together.


I prefer to take things out of larger packages so I know when it needs to be restocked.  At lower levels are individually wrapped snacks and things that are ok for our kids to grab. The highest shelves are reserved for empty glass bottles, extra spices and lesser used appliances.


As far as other organization tools, I use plastic half gallon and gallon containers with labels for things like rice and granola. I also decant extra flour and sugar, etc into labeled containers to keep random bags from leaking everywhere.  I wish they were clear, but they are recycled ( so I like them. Clear containers of any kind are nice because you can see the contents inside and know when it needs replacing. There are many container options for sale, but make sure it fits the food and fits into your space before you buy. I am using baskets to corral picnic supplies, extra Kurig cups and bags of chips. I tried a few different baskets before I remembered this orange one that goes better with the ‘citrus’ theme.

We mounted a broom holder on the inside door of our pantry to keep them from falling out every time we open the door. I also have a grocery bag holder mounted to the inside of the door. Other options for the inside of doors are over the door racks, spice shelves and shoe holders. Painting the inside of the door is an upcoming project.

Now that the pantry is stocked and organized, the food will just cook itself, right?

The Rise of the Kitchen Cabinet


What happens when you try something new and don’t totally love it?  At our house, we try, try again!  Over the past year, I painted our kitchen cabinets white, and the walls a light gray.  I still am really happy with both of those choices.  Because our kitchen is pretty small, I wanted to make use of the space above the cabinets, and also try to conceal the lumps on the ceiling from someone else’s soffit removal job.  I tried using labeled bins and some other containers above the cabinets, and it actually worked very well for storage. IMG_6162The only thing I didn’t love was that it felt a bit crowded or dark for the high space.  I left it for awhile, because I really liked the increased functionality.

Then, I saw this image, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

Raised Cabinet InspirationImage Source

IMG_6476 I am not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but raising the cabinets to the ceiling and putting a shelf underneath was a brilliant solution!  It would work perfectly for a space like ours, and would also camouflage the wonky ceiling.

Right after I finished the concrete overlay on the countertops, we decided to moved the cabinets up.

It was a two person job a lot of the time, and the car jack was even involved at one point (ahem, rednecks).

Behind the cabinets was a bit of a mess, so I scraped off the big chunks and then primed and painted everything gray to match the walls.

IMG_6473I really like the open feeling of no upper cabinets, but since our space is smaller, we need the additional storage.IMG_6479After the cabinets were reinstalled, there were noticeable gaps along the upper edge by the ceiling.


I ended up just using a paintable caulk to fill in the spaces.  It made a huge different in how finished and clean the final result looked.

IMG_6489The ceiling needs a bit of paint touch up when you get up close, but it looks so much better than it did.

IMG_6488We decided to leave the space above the microwave open for now.  I like the idea of building an open box around the space also, but for now it is perfect for large platters and a spiky plant.

IMG_6508We added an open shelf underneath the cabinets at typical cabinet height (18 inches).  We used the same shelving from IKEA that we used for the open shelves above the dishwasher.  We made a few modifications in the corner, and Jer reinforced underneath with some wood pieces.

I store most often used items on the open shelf, like spices and flours.  IMG_6528We opted to hang mugs from underneath the cabinet by the coffee prep area instead of adding a shelf.  We love the convenience and the added color from the mugs.





The cost of the shelves and a few brackets was our only expense for this project (so about $75).  It feels so much more open to us, and having the lower open shelf has been really handy for cooking and baking.  What do you think?










Creatively Displaying Collections

Collections are often a tricky design dilemma. While we really don’t want to be known as the ‘beanie baby lady’ or the ‘fast food toy hoarder’ most people have at least a little assortment of something that they value or find meaningful.  Whether your passion is rocks or crocks, stamps or lamps, if you have a collection of something you have probably wondered how to show it off in an aesthetically pleasing way.  The way I see it, at least if it is out of storage and on display, there is a chance it will gather compliments along with the dust!

The best piece of advice I have regarding collections is to gather items into one area so they become a focal point.


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A dedicated accent wall, cabinet or row of shelves is more appealing than items scattered randomly around the house.


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A high shelf mounted above a doorway is a simple way to group like items, such as baskets or vintage tins.  Use trays to gather similar objects for display on a countertop or coffee table.

Design*Sponge | Leah Verwey Photo

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If you collect really small items, consider displaying some of them in a divided wooden box.  This separates them out a bit and causes the eye to see them as one cohesive piece rather than fifty tiny things.

collection box

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The box can be hung on the wall, and items can be rotated occasionally so that each piece gets its day in the spotlight.  If you have an extensive collection, you might just pick just a few of your favorites to show off at a time.  This ensures that you and others will be more likely to notice and enjoy them.  Canned air is useful for the frequent and detailed dusting that small items require.

matchbox car arrangement

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A collection of various sized pieces look nice staggered along a shelf or mantle (much like a city’s horizon line).  Size variations are good in a collection because it makes it more dynamic and interesting to look at.  Find balance by grouping a taller object with several smaller ones.  If the collection has a variety of colors, consider grouping items by color, or create a pattern of sorts.  The trick is to be willing to tweak things a few times until you like how it looks.


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I don’t collect objects for hobby, but I do enjoy displaying our white serving dishes and platters.  My favorite way to show them off is to use a contrasting background to make them stand out.  We recently installed a cabinet above our refrigerator as a home for my ‘white’ collection.  I removed the doors, sprayed the insides berry pink, and used retro floral duct tape on the back of the cabinet.  The white dishes really stand out and the bright colors add an element of the unconventional.


Bring your collections out of hiding and make them a part of your decor.  And for the love of simplicity, only collect objects you enjoy and that tell a story about you.  You do have to dust them, you know.

Get This Party Started!

You Guys. Let’s start by taking a moment of silence in support of my amazingly patient and supportive husband.

You see, I am one of those people who has like 1,000 ideas in my head all at once, and I am constantly switching from one thing to another.  I call it Design ADD.  Jer is great about listening to my ramblings and occasionally adding his own crazy ideas to the mix.  He is also a fantastic accomplice when I am trying to actually materialize some of these ideas into projects.

This week for the Idaho State Journal, I wrote about Getting Started with Projects.  Oftentimes that is the hardest part of the job.  Just getting started.  I evidently took my advice to heart this week, so that is why I have a deconstructed headboard on the floor in the center of my living room, an upturned piano bench waiting for a leg repair, and I have been prying old base moldings off in the hallway.

My little helpers make each project even more interesting to complete!

I have about 50 more projects started (I wish I was joking), but those are the ones I am focusing on today. ha.

Speaking of base moldings, the reason I am excited about removing them is because we took the carpet out of our hall and living room two weekends ago!

The wood floors underneath are completely passable by our standards, and we are loving the cleaner feel.  Unfortunately, there is about an inch gap between the base moldings and the floor now.

Removing and replacing them all wasn’t really on my priority list, but we were donated a few pieces of molding from our friends after their basement remodel, and I decided to see if I liked the look and fit of the taller molding in our house.  I do.

Anyway, I hope to finish our headboard after the kids are in bed tonight, and we will likely be working on baseboard or sticky tile removal this weekend.  We also went to IKEA last weekend, so I have some shelves to install in the kitchen.  And I would like to start my countertop refinishing project.  And…and…and.   But at least I’ve got a few things started.