Decorating

DIY Rope Umbrella Stand

Ever since we’ve had our patio table, we’ve been using this DIY umbrella stand to hold our patio umbrella. I thought I would share how we made it so you could DIY it too!

Kidding! That’s the original DIY umbrella stand that John made with a leftover plant container and a sack of post concrete. He put the bottom of our umbrella pole into a 3-mil contractor’s trash bag, wrapped the excess with tape, stuck it in the center of the plant container, and filled it with cement. Once it cured, the umbrella pole and bag came out easily. This thing was cheap and very sturdy, but I wanted something nicer for our deck seating area. After considering different paint options, I finally decided to try covering the umbrella stand in rope, like an old buoy. Here’s the finished product:

I wouldn’t say that this process was exactly “quick and easy” (it took several hours over a few days and was a little fiddly), but it only cost about $35 total and I am super happy with the way it turned out! I bought 100 feet of manilla rope (two 50-foot packages), a big tube of Liquid Nails, and a can of spray paint that matched the rope. I also ended up using some cork, wood glue, and spar urethane that we already had on hand. The estimated cost of $35 is for all the materials, including the concrete and the stuff we had on hand.

I cut off the plant container with a utility knife and spray-painted the concrete to match the rope. I figured that was a good precaution to make it less noticeable if my rope-wrapping wasn’t perfect. Then I started gluing the rope in place. I decided to start at the narrowest end (the bottom of the plant container), which would become the top of the finished umbrella stand. I wiped off as much of the excess glue as I could after snapping this photo.

After gluing the top down, I weighted it with a 4×4 and let it dry so it wouldn’t uncoil (even though Liquid Nails is pretty sticky, I still had to sort of hold the rope in place while I glued it to the top). Once the glue holding the top coil of rope down was dry, I continued wrapping and gluing the rope down the stand. Once I got near the end of the first 50-foot length of rope, I taped everything in place with masking tape and let it dry. I left about the last 8 inches unglued so I could move it around when I glued the next section of rope in place.

Once the glue was dry on the first rope section, I flipped the umbrella stand over so the bottom was facing up, then I continued gluing and wrapping the rope around the rest of the stand, taped it again, and let it dry fully. I should probably mention that I did the second half of this on John’s pottery wheel, which made it waaaaaay easier, since I could rotate it while I glued, instead of having to walk around in circles!

I glued some cork to the bottom of the stand so it wouldn’t scratch our deck, then let that dry.

Once everything was dry, I flipped it over and checked my work. It looked pretty good!

Unfortunately, after I finished high-fiving John, I took a closer look and saw that some of the Liquid Nails had oozed out between the ropes and left unsightly white marks.

I tried touching it up with spray paint. I just sprayed the paint into a puddle on a scrap of cardboard, then used a foam brush to carefully dab paint over the dried Liquid Nails. Since the paint was a good match for the manilla rope, it worked great! I seriously can hardly tell where I did the touch-up painting!

After the paint was dry, John and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to give the finished umbrella stand a good coat of spar urethane to protect it from the elements. I applied the spar urethane liberally with a brush. I didn’t photograph this step because it made absolutely no difference in how the stand looked. In fact, the only way I could tell where I had applied it was to tap with my fingers to see which areas were tacky (from the spar urethane)! Once I let the stand dry a final time, we put our new DIY rope umbrella stand in place under our patio table.

Big upgrade! I love how the natural color and texture of the manilla rope blends in with the wooden deck table and chairs, and with our Trex deck. I totally recommend this as a DIY project that is affordable, pretty easily accomplished, and looks way fancier and more expensive than it is. Now I want to make more improvements to our deck seating area! I’m thinking that a nice candle and some colorful pillows would look good. I’m also trying to decide what to do with the laminate table top, which looks okay in photos but isn’t great in real life (although John thinks it’s fine). Please let me know if you have any suggestions or other good DIY ideas!

Dining Table –> Patio Table

The other day, I was complaining to my Uncle M that I could not find a solidly-constructed patio table – all the ones I come across seem rickety and expensive. He suggested that I just buy a round dining table and use that as a patio table. I’d never considered using “inside furniture” outdoors, because I figured it would get ruined in the elements. But the reality is that most of the official “outdoor furniture” I’ve had over the years has gotten pretty battered by the elements. I decided that as long as I could find something cheap that wasn’t anything special or heirloom-quality, I would go for it. So John and I popped into the local thrift store today. We found this table for $18 and brought it right home.

It’s nothing special – the top is just veneered plywood – but it’s the perfect size and it’s very sturdy. In its current form, it doesn’t exactly make my heart flutter. I think a little paint will improve things considerably. Still, I decided I’d rather have a functional seating area on my deck now than wait until I had the time to spiff it up. I busted out the drill and drilled a hole for an umbrella right in the middle.

Fifteen minutes later, I had my legs propped up on our DIY patio table and was very happily reading my new-to-me gardening book. By the way, I paid $2.50 for the 1961 edition of this book, but it sells used on Amazon for about the same price as our table! You can borrow it for free at Open Library.

Speaking of DIY, I guess at some point I could repair or replace our broken sun umbrella, but a quick fix with a spring clamp we had lying around is working so well that I don’t think I’ll even bother. 🙂

Cork Shelf Liner Tutorial (IKEA PS Cabinet)

A few months back, we bought the IKEA PS Cabinet in white. I like the all-metal construction of the IKEA PS Cabinet, but the metal shelves are kind of impractical. They get scratched up when you pull things in and out of the cabinet, and it’s also really loud. I decided right away that I wanted to install cork shelf liner to dampen the noise and prevent scratches. Here’s the cabinet before I installed the cork shelf liner:

I chose the Con-Tact Self Adhesive Natural Cork because it was readily available, not too expensive, and I’d had good luck with the Con-Tact brand in the past. The cork sat right next to the PS Cabinet for a few months, because I was a little nervous to tackle the project. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it straight, and that it would look wonky and amateur-ish. I finally tackled the project today, and although it took a little while to get the hang of applying the self-adhesive cork, I figured out a great way to get it to adhere evenly and I’m really pleased with the end results!

I wanted to share my method, but I found it impossible to describe in text and photos, so I decided to make a little video tutorial showing how to install the cork shelf liner. Honestly, I’m just so happy that it turned out the way I wanted! Hope you enjoy the tutorial!

Overstock.com Rug Fail

Well, I was brimming over with optimism about my kitchen rug order from Overstock.com. In hindsight, it was doomed to failure. I have difficulty making aesthetically or tactilely-important purchases without seeing/touching them first. Things like books, electronics, and music I have no problem with. But the rugs were a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, I was excited. The rugs shipped promptly and arrived undamaged. I opened the Heritage Bakhtiari rug first because, I’ll admit, it was already my favorite. I unrolled it onto its spot on the kitchen floor and stepped back to give it an admiring look. It looked good. But wait. There was a spot of…something….

Dude! There were totally obvious manufacturing defects! It was missing pile in several spots like the one above! I couldn’t believe it! I was truly astonished at the apparent total lack of quality control by the rug manufacturer and/or Overstock. When I took a closer look I noticed that, aside from the damage, the rug colors were really uneven and the fibers were coarse and fraying. You can sort of see what I mean in the photo above – look at the blue color and you can see white-ish patches in it. The rug that will not be named was undamaged – but similarly poor quality – and just didn’t look right in the kitchen.

Anyway, through my profanity-laced rant tears of disappointment, I managed to undertake the very easy return process. I got a full refund, including shipping (allegedly – it hasn’t posted to my account yet). Packaging the rugs back up was the biggest hassle, and John was nice enough to do that. I was disappointed in the whole experience. My naive optimism was crushed. There are only a few things that can cheer me up under these circumstances. Watching/listening to Mark Knopfler is one. Check out around 4:38, and keep in mind that he doesn’t use a pick.

Seriously, our stupid Comcast Crapfinity internet went out multiple times when I was writing this post, so naturally I was trying to watch this video, which kept stopping and reloading. I’m seriously going to change cable internet providers. Oh, wait…I don’t have any other cable internet providers to choose from. Thanks, deregulation.

Kitchen Rug Search

I’ve been trying to find a replacement for our kitchen rug for a while now. We need a rug to protect our wood floors around the sink and stove, but because it’s a high-mess area, any rug has to be pretty food-spill-friendly. The current rug is a yard sale find that my Mom gave me, and although it’s served us very well for the last five years, it’s just stained and nasty. The formerly-white fringe has been especially hard-hit.

One of the challenges is that we have a pretty bold rug under our dining table, which is also in the kitchen. I actually like the fringe on this one! The new rug has to look good next to this one without being “matchy”.

The first option we considered for a new kitchen rug is the 100% polyester Room Essentials Circle Rug from Target.

There were a couple of problems with the Target rug. First, like other reviewers noted, the thing is super cheap-looking (and feeling). It was on clearance at our local store for $40, marked down from the current web price of $69.99. I would NEVER have paid that much for this rug. But, I like the design and I would have been willing to deal with the poor quality. Unfortunately, John and I agreed that this rug was too light to deal with our spills and would soon be destroyed by our messy ways. I also felt that it was a little too graphic and didn’t provide enough aesthetic contrast with the dining-table rug. I like the colors, though. By the way, I swear that I recently saw a high-end rug that directly “inspired” this design (naturally, I can’t find it anywhere)!

After doing nothing for a few weeks, I was finally motivated to skulk around on Overstock the other day and found a couple of likely candidates. I was hemming and hawing over which one would be best when John said, “why don’t we just order both?” Words of wisdom. So, I ordered the lovely Heritage Bakhtiari Rug (4′ x 6′) . I love the traditional look of this rug, and I think the colors and pattern are subtle enough to work well with our dining-table rug.

I also ordered the ridiculously-named Handmade Rodeo Drive Deco Splash Beige Wool Rug (3’6 x 5’6). I seriously love the idea of putting a splash-print rug in an area where it will be routinely subjected to food and water splashes. I’m not sure this rug will work with the dining-table rug, though. We’ll see.

Both rugs are 100% wool, which I like because I have found that wool rugs are durable, easy to clean, and don’t hold stains too badly. We have had an old version of the Ikea Andrea Rug in yellow-green in our living room for a couple of years, and it’s been spilled on a LOT and still looks brand new.

Before and After: Kitchen

We’ve made a lot of improvements since we bought our house in 2006. One of the biggest changes has been in the kitchen, which was dark, dated, and just plain sad. We changed the counter tops, sinks, and fixtures; added a back splash; redid the walls with venetian plaster; renovated the island; replaced the microwave; replaced the cabinet doors; and redid the ceiling and lighting (which I wrote about here and here). I’m going to write about these changes in detail in the coming weeks, but I wanted to start with a straight-up before and after. Here’s what the kitchen looked like before we moved in:

And here’s how it looks today:

It’s a small kitchen, so we have to be creative with storage (more about that later). But we have a lot of counter space, and it’s really efficient to cook in. It’s also open to the dining area and living room, so it’s nice for our informal style of entertaining. With the changes we’ve made, I really love it! I’m looking forward to sharing the details of our kitchen transformation!

P.S. This was my third round of “after” photo attempts, and the first time I got results that really did it justice. I’m experimenting with the manual setting on my camera, and am using the auto-timer to get more stable shots. Hopefully, my photos will be improving as I learn more!

Recent Thrifted Finds

I wanted to share a few of my recent thrifted finds. REOlistic and I have a standing weekly thrift-shopping date, which has really brought back my thrifty mojo!

Desktop Organizer

Flower Pin and Earrings

Western Print (I love the colors in this)

Paint by numbers? Love these!

I also found a vintage espresso maker, but I’m in the midst of troubleshooting a few problems with it. We’ll see how it goes! I also love to thrift sewing notions and vintage patterns. And I’m always on the lookout for old sewing books, cool paintings, lamps, and well-designed furniture. Anything else I should add to the list?

House Tour – Master Bedroom Preview

I’ve been slowly taking photos of our house for a house tour, and I am quickly learning that I have a lot to learn about photography. The lighting in our house seems fine in real life, but as soon as I try to take photos, everything is screwy! So progress on the house tour is very, very slow. Here’s a not-perfect preview of our master bedroom.

The wall color is a pale, dusty blue. I love the mix of the ornate prints, sequined pillow, and graphic bedding (I can’t resist ’60’s-style Americana). I also really like our bedside tables. I’m not crazy about the lighting. I love the lamp on the left, but I think the shade is a bit small. The lamp on the right is kind of boring and the shade doesn’t fit tightly, so it’s always askew. I’m planning to make an upholstered headboard out of some dusty tan cotton velvet I bought for that purpose. And there’s more to this room; once I can figure out this photo thing, I’ll show you the rest.

Honestly, I have so many questions. Why are our pillows so much wrinklier than the photos I see in other blogs? Where do people put their Kleenex (or are we the only ones with allergies)? Where does the bedtime reading live? Am I just too much of a realist? I mean, I’m willing to tidy up before taking a photo, but I’m not going to move stuff that is actually there all of the time! Why does the room look so different in photos than it does in real life? Those are the mysteries of my time. Or at least, of this morning.

Self-Challenge: Defining My Home Decorating Style

I’ve spent the last 36 hours fighting a cold, and have been spending most of my time curled up in front of the TV looking through dozens of old home decorating magazines. I decided to challenge myself to pick a few images of rooms that I really love (including images I’ve found online and saved). Based on those images, I wanted to try to define my overall home decorating style. Well, let me tell you, it was tough! It wasn’t too hard to narrow down hundreds of images to a couple dozen, but it was surprisingly difficult to come up with the final five I’ve chose. I had to eliminate a lot of rooms that I really love, but I do think the images below are a pretty accurate reflection of my personal home decorating style.

So, what is that style? It’s hard to be objective, but based on these images, I’m going to describe my style as earthy but modern. I like natural materials and a warm color palette, mixed with clean lines and some hard edges. I like books/objects/art that have personal meaning, but I don’t like clutter.


Image sources: (1) Aidlin Darling Design via Desire to Inspire; (2) unknown online source; (3) scanned from Domino, March 2009; (4) scanned from Elle Decor, December/January 2004; (5) Design*Sponge, photographer John Murphy’s home.

John and I both like #1 best, and we also both really like the bookshelves in #3. He feels that #2 is a little Spartan, and that the painting over the fireplace in #4 is too big. I think #2 and #4 just need a bit more contrast in the color palette. We have pretty similar taste, although we both agree that I’m a lot pickier than he is, haha!

Does that seem like an accurate description based on the images I’ve chosen? Am I missing something that’s obvious to you? Objective opinions would be very welcome! And I’d love to read about your style if you decide to take this challenge – just leave me a link to your blog post in the comments!

Before and After: Hallway

When we bought our house in 2006, little had changed since it was built in 1979.  There were dated lighting fixtures, worn flooring, dingy paint, and lots and lots of dark wood trim.  Now, I love natural wood, and in upcoming posts I’ll show how we’ve kept it as a feature in some parts of our house, where it adds a lot of character.  In our downstairs hallway, however, I think you’ll agree that the trim had to go!

Original Downstairs Hall

This photo brings back a lot of memories.  I can remember looking at this hallway and thinking: What have we gotten ourselves into?!?  With five wood-trimmed doorways, this space was so visually crowded and claustrophobic that I didn’t see how I would ever like it.  But, we decided to make the best out of it!  Armed with a little (okay, a lot) of paint, and a little (okay, a lot) of elbow grease, we set to work, and it turned out better than I ever would have imagined.  We painted the walls a soft, warm yellow, and painted the trim, doors, and baseboard a nice crisp white.  The old doors were very worn and had actually been punched in in several places, so we replaced them with new paneled doors.  While we were at it, we replaced the outdated brass-colored door hinges and knobs with more modern brushed nickel.  We also installed an inexpensive pressed-glass light fixture that makes the hallway sparkle – and a new smoke alarm to keep things safe.

Downstairs Hall

Although we eventually replaced the flooring with new wood, I really think that it’s the paint that makes the biggest difference here.  And looking at the recent photo, I think we could improve the space even more with some lighter frames on the walls and a few tweaks to the vase and mirror at the end of the hall.  Add it to the list… 🙂

So, tell me, are you fearless with the paint or do you prefer to keep your natural wood?