Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Decorating My First Place: How to Make a Small Space Feel Large

Before Andy and I bought our little house by the lake, I used to live in an even smaller abode which would be best described as teeny tiny.

My first apartment (apr├Ęs college roommates and pre husband) was a junior one bedroom apartment on the 17th floor of an apartment highrise on the subway line for the approximate price of a new kidney each month.

I fell in love with the amazing 360 degree lake, park and city views and didn't think about it's 530 square feet of tiny space... including the outdoor balcony space.

Upon signing the papers, I promptly made two new purchases; a queen size bed and a sectional couch and had them delivered on move in day. The rest was a mishmash of my meager possessions mixed and matched with all kinds of thrift store and second hand finds.

I immediately bought a pretty chandelier off of Craigslist to replace the standard flush mount light fixture. I then put up simple Ikea curtains, laid down a white shag rug, bought a large coffee table (since space was limited and I needed a table that would work both as a dining table or work table if need be) and painted one wall a beautiful robin's egg blue. What a feature wall it was. I still dream about that soothing shade of sophisticated blue, and am dreaming up of ways I can paint a room in our current house that colour.

Large billy bookcases helped with my storage needs and helped make the space seem larger by drawing the eye upwards. Baskets of all sizes helped corral all of my stuff and I pared down my clothes to fit into the tiny closet space. I felt so lean, and I'm definitely not talking about my body fat percentage.

I loved that place and I learned a lot about my own decorating tastes and needs. I followed a few key steps and never felt like my place was too small.

Here's my ten step checklist for making a shoebox apartment feel like a spacious palace

  1. Keep your walls white, but paint one feature wall a bold colour. This will help add interest and sometimes a darker color on one wall can make it look like it's receding, making the space look larger.
  2. Use large furniture to balance out the space. Having too many small pieces of furniture can actually make a space look cluttered and block traffic flow.  
  3. Don't cram too much furniture into a small space. Think hard about what you actually use and need.
  4. A sectional couch with armless seating can be more functional, create an open feel and reduce visual clutter. It also allowed me to have someone over and sit across from them as opposed to having an awkward conversation sitting side by side.
  5. Keep window treatments simple. Large billowing fabric can take up space and cover much needed light, with a small space, always think light, bright and airy.
  6. Great lighting is a must. Chandeliers draw the eye up and disperse light evenly.
  7. Go vertical and use the space all the way to the ceiling. Shelves, art, chandelier, anything to draw your eyes up.
  8. Unless you're really starting with a blank slate, take out something old for everything new you bring in. Don't hang onto stuff just because they might someday come in handy.
  9. Keep the place clean! Everything should have it's own place to keep clutter and claustrophobia at bay.
  10. Have fun and be creative. Don't be afraid to mix and match all the things you fall in love with, but know when to draw the line. Buy only the items that you absolutely love and refuse to let anyone give you their junk (unless you love what they're passing along).

Friday, 26 April 2013

DIY: Music Themed Decor for a Child's Room

My adorable niece is turning 7 years old soon and since she is a budding pianist, my sister and I thought it would be great to add some grown up musical touches to her room.

I looked in stores and online for musical themed picture frames, pillows, lighting or bedding and only found a few piddly pieces, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and do it myself.

While antiquing in South Carolina last month, I came across some aged sheet music, which I thought would be perfect recycled and reused as wrapping paper. Turns out, it would look amazing framed in simple black frames.

I also came across some musical foam stickers in bright colours that went perfectly with some fabric (for cushions) that I bought from Wal-Mart. I just knew they'd be perfect to create some pop art collages.

I cut one page in quarters and spray painted some $3 thrift store picture frames with glossy black paint.

Don't mind the little violins in the centre of the frames. Those are second hand Christmas decorations that I needed spray painted for another project.

I made sure that the paper was positioned just right on the mat board and adhered the stickers to the front.


See how great the $10 fabric goes with the frames?

I also decided to decorate a new Ikea cushion with a treble clef by tracing it and simply filling the tracing out with a black Sharpie.  I had originally bought spray fabric paint for it, but tracing was so much simpler than stenciling and I read on a forum that a Sharpie works just as well, if not better.

I am really happy with the Ikea cushion, and will soon start on sewing the other two pillows for her bed.  Don't they all go so well together?

I'm so excited to surprise her with them on her birthday next week. I'll try and take photos of the finished results.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Best DIY Present: Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

I received an amazing present for my birthday last week. My good friends Shima + Ram + Mythilli gave me these beautiful hand crocheted makeup remover pads in an equally lovely handmade box (from an old magazine page).  I love gifts like this, they just keep on giving long after the initial opening of the box.

Instead of using hundreds of cotton pads in a year, I will now be using, washing and re-using these lovely pads. You can just throw them in the wash with the towels.

Shima told me that she got the idea online, and so I did a bit of investigating and came upon the instructional pattern at the Crochet Spot in case you are interested in making some for yourself or as gifts. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Save the Environment: One Cigarette Butt at a Time

Happy Earth Day!

I showed the lake some luv yesterday by helping to clear the shoreline of litter and garbage.  I spent 3 strenuous hours collecting bits of garbage and was astonished by the sheer number of cigarette filters, bottle caps and plastic debris I found.

It actually enrages me to see so much litter around the lakefront parks and shoreline,  don't people realize that we get our drinking water from this very same lake? Don't they realize that when they throw that horribly toxic plastic bottle on the grass, that it leaches toxins into the ground, and then the wind also carries it into the lake, polluting our drinking water and decreasing wildlife populations?

Here are some scary stats from the 2012 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup:

Weight of litter removed- 136,036 kg 
Distance of shoreline cleaned- 3,102 km
Top 5 Litter Items 
1. Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters           416,955
2. Food Wrappers                            98,835
3. Plastic Bags                                  69,790
4. Caps and Lids                              69,725
5. Plastic Beverage Bottles             38,202

Trash bags filled                               12,895
Recycling bags filled                          3,639

My biggest issue is when people throw their cigarette butts on the ground, out of their car windows, into sewer drains, etc... I've seen all of these things happen, and when I've said something to that person, they've looked at me like I'm absolutely nuts! Where do they think their garbage is going to end up? Wait a minute, do people think Cigarette butts aren't litter?

The awesome part is that cigarette butts can be recycled into packaging, so please speak up and let people know that littering those butts around is a big no no. If you want to learn more about how you can get involved with cigarette butt recycling visit the Cigarette Waste Brigade website.

Warning: These next two images are extremely gross. If you are disgusted easily, don't think about the fact that instead of sand, our beaches have a fine layer of plastic garbage lining their shores. Sorry to be so graphic, it was the only way I could show you the devastation.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Knock Off DIY: Pier1 Imports Napkin Rings

After falling in love with the cheerful peony Napkin Rings at Pier1 Imports, I set out to make my own dozen because I didn't want to shell out $3.95 per ring for something I was sure I could make. I am so happy with the final result and I saved myself about $40. The best part is that I got to recycle some toilet paper rolls in the process.

This is the napkin ring being sold at Pier1:

Pier1 Imports Purple Peony Napkin Ring - $3.95

This is my finished product:

Here is what you will need:

  • 12 silk flowers and leaves stripped from their plastic stems (I bought 3 bunches of peonys from the Dollar Tree for $1 each bunch)
  • 2 empty toilet paper rolls
  • 3-5 yards of ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Scotch Tape
  • Hole punch
  • Glue gun  

Start with cutting the toilet paper rolls into half inch or 1 centimeter wide rings. 

Next cover the entire toilet paper ring in a layer of scotch tape. I wrapped the tape around to re-enforce the cardboard and make it waterproof in case someone ever spills a drink.

Once the entire toilet paper ring is covered in tape, punch one hole into it.  Your flower head will sit in that hole.

Prepare your flower by cutting close to the base. You can choose to hot glue some leaves to the base before placing the flower on the ring.

Apply some glue to the base of the flower.

Be quick to place the tape covered ring to the flower, making sure it fits into the punched hole.

Cover the flower base with some more hot glue and apply ribbon directly to the flower and ring to cover it up.

Wind the ribbon around the ring until the cardboard is entirely covered. Hot glue the ribbon down once you finish covering the whole thing.

At this point, I thought it needed a couple of plastic leaves to finish it off, so add some if you need.

I continued this process eleven more times to make a whole set of 12. It took me about two episodes of Mad Men to finish them all.

They look so pretty all in a bunch. These will look awesome on the patio for a bright outdoor fiesta, and can also make lovely housewarming gifts.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Lakeluv Peeve: Bottled Water

Earth day is fast approaching and if you really want to show the enviroment some luvin' then stop buying bottled water.

What a crock that whole bottled water industry is! Please believe me when I say that our lake water is still 100 times cleaner than that expensive bottle of Dasani you are drinking.  City tap water goes through continual treatment and testing, there is no reason to pay money to buy water in plastic bottles that take up too much energy and precious resources to produce, ship and dispose of in landfills.

If you do happen to have some bottles of water on hand, finish them up and make a vow to never buy another one again.  Then re-use those leftover bottles to create something more useful so they don't end up in the landfill (by the way, recycling plastic bottle shouldn't make you feel any better, as recycling water bottles only reduces the global warming impact by 10%. In fact, 90% of the global warming impact occurs during the manufacturing and transportation process.)

With that said, here is a cheesy little video with 8 great suggestion for crafting with those last few plastic bottles you have on hand:

Bottled water is associated with a whole host of environmental concerns aside from the generation of billions of wasteful plastic bottles, it is also the burning of fossil fuels to refrigerate and transport those bottles, and the draining of aquifers and watersheds to fill the bottles.

To give you a little bit of background, here is some more data from a document compiled by the Council of Canadians on the matter of Bottled Water:
  • 70 million bottles of water are sold in the U.S. every day.
  • 38 billion single-use water bottles end up in U.S. landfills and waterways leaching toxins into our earth and water every year.
  • Bottled water production, transportation and disposal required more than 17 million barrels of oil last year in America alone, enough fuel to power more than 1 million cars for a year, generating more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.
  • 9 billion gallons of bottled water is consumed each year in the U.S.
  • The amount of fuel required to transport water bottles in the U.S. alone is equivalent to 38,000 eighteen-wheel trucks delivering water weekly.
  • Over 2.5 billion tons of plastic are used to produce single-use water bottles every year. This results in over 1.5 million tons of plastic waste – requiring 47 million gallons of oil every year.
  • Bottled water companies, water to production ratios are roughly 3 to 1; for every 3 liters of freshwater that the bottled water industry takes from the earth only 1 liter of bottled water is actually produced. 
Crazy huh? Sadly, those Brita filters are also bad for the environment as they are housed in plastic casings, which can't be recycled unless you specifically send them back to Brita.

Basically, suck it up buttercup and drink tap water and if you really can't stand the idea of drinking straight tap water, boil it first.

Here is a great candid interview with musician Jackson Browne where he rants about bottled water.  I love this, and I think I'm going to join the movement and start declining water bottles from hotels too!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Hello Yellow!

Aah! What a crazy weekend it was. I did a crazy load of walking, shopping and antiquing, and bought this adorable retro telephone in a bright and cheery golden yellow colour.  Two blocks down I found a pair of brand new pointed ballet flats in a perfect vintage-y pattern.

See what happens when you put it out there? The universe delivers!  Just the other day I was blogging about how much I love yellow and grey, and look at exactly what came my way.

Even though it works, the phone is going to sit as decoration, because believe it or not, the only working phone jack in our house is in the basement, behind the breaker wall.  It wasn't that long ago that we used to use the phone jack for even the internet (a slow, painful experience that was) and now most teens don't even know what phone jacks are for.

Dang I feel old... only to feel young at heart when looking at these awesome shoes. I just hope they are comfortable after an hour of wear.

Friday, 5 April 2013

TGIF: I'll Be Busy Searching for Light Brights

I Heart Light Bright

I've been obsessing over vintage marquee signs.
Driving through the south has been making me think that I'd love a big old rectangular one as a massive headboard.  I would use dimmed light bulbs for softer mood lighting and have a little clever blurb like "sleep tight, dream bright" or something like that. Andy's game for one, he gets my vision, he's just not game for lugging one all the way back home. I don't blame him, I tried my hand at lifting one, and almost broke my back.

We've been having a good time taking pictures of/with them. Andy thinks I'm weird that I want to take photos standing next to them, but I think the signs look better with as Vanna White.  Wanna buy a vowel?

Andy noticed that someone had been playing the word game and that he wanted to buy a "K".

Of course. The first sign we manage to get a picture of has the beginnings of profanity. Next.

I like this sign even more, the red is all rusted over and the size is perfect...

...except I can't even get it to budge, and it would be terrible to try and take a sign belonging to a roadside church. These ones below are so great.

I absolutely love this green one below.  It fits me to a "T" ha! A guy almost pulled out a shotgun when we pulled onto his property to take this photo.  I think it's a sign that I have to find one of these things the legit way and order it online for copious amounts of money.

I'm sad to leave this. Can you just imagine it against an exposed brick wall contrasted with chic, fluffy bedding?

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