A Little Upgrade: Easy DIY Valance

Last year I bought those super cheap ($5) plastic blinds at the home store. I was planning to turn them into roman shades for one of the front rooms. My goal was adding a privacy option for that window when needed. Since that need was not very often, budget for doing this was super slender. Mostly, those windows remain uncovered. Their glazing allows privacy during the day and that room just doesn’t get a lot of night use.

Yet once the shades were up, I really liked the way they worked to promote privacy yet still allow light in. Roman shades would completely block the light out. In an already dark room, that wasn’t going to work.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!
Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it’s so dark but this is the room with the lights on! And flash.

If the blinds were to stay, a valance was needed. Because of the low ceilings in this house, I wanted something that wouldn’t add much weight or darkness, something that would disappear yet, when you actually noticed it, would look clean and a little luxurious.

When I got the blinds last year I also scored some nice upholstery fabric for $3 a yard from the Home Fabrics moving sale. The lightest part of the weave matches the “Wyndham Cream” of the walls. Originally meant for the roman shades, this would do nicely for the valance.

2016-02-14 19.24.26

DIY Network had a good article on building a cornice and the unfussy directions seemed right for this project. Plus I seemed to have much of what I’d need on hand. My major variations from their plan were that I used 1×8″ wood instead of 1×6″ and that I didn’t bother with batting or adhesive spray. Overall, a really good, helpful article with great pictures. I did wish they’d put in instructions for folding the fabric around the frame. Yet that said, my advice for doing the same is pretty much “try a bunch of stuff and do whatever works!”

The end result was a simple, clean valance. Unfussy and successful in hiding the cheapo blinds at rest. It adds just the right touch of luxury and simplifies the look of the windows.

The project is pretty easy, taking about a half day. For me, figuring out how to attractively fold the fabric was harder than making the box. And I did screw it up, though not enough to completely redo it.

Here’s the project:

  1. Gather supplies. In my case:
    • 4″ L brackets (ideally in packet with screws, usually about $4 for a packet of four if you’re buying new)
    • 2 1×8″ pine boards, 8′ long, usually about $6.50 a piece if buying new or $2 at the local ReSale store. These can be other types of boards, as long as they are straight so be sure to raid your existing lumber pile first. The boards are getting covered up so condition doesn’t matter too much. For the length of my window, I needed two eight footers but a smaller window would need less.
    • Wood screws, (1.5″ for mounting the brackets to studs, 1/2″ for screwing brackets to top of valance, and 1″ for joining the wood pieces. I used both traditional screws and Kreg pocket jig ones. Because I love them.)
    • Wood glue
    • Staples
    • Fabric, several feet longer than length of valance. Mine cost about $9 because I went for a whole three yards even though eight feet would have been enough.
    • Scotchguard or waterproof spray (optional)
    • Batting and spray adhesive, if you want it padded, which I didn’t (optional)
    • Equipment I used:
      • Circular saw
      • Measuring tape
      • Measuring square
      • Pencil
      • Stapler
      • Scissors
      • Drill and drill bits
      • Screwdriver and bits
      • Level
  2. Mount two L brackets on the studs by the window using wood screws. Choose location by width of wood and what you want hidden. I wanted the front panel to cover the blinds when up, yet not block any light. The blinds were outside mounted so valance needed to extend beyond the blinds. Check to make sure your brackets are level.

    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8" or 6" facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
    I know putting up the brackets first might seem odd but I had my reasons. The main one was I wanted to decide whether an 8″ or 6″ facing board would provide the right amount of coverage.
  3. Next find two 6″ or 8″ wide boards in the lumber pile or at the store. Purchased new, these are about $6.50 each. They do need to be straight, free of any major bowing but they can be otherwise ugly, since they’ll be covered. They don’t actually have to be the same width, as long as you’re getting the effect you want on the front panel of the valance. So if I didn’t need the valance to protrude so far, I could have gotten away with a narrower top board (6″).
  4. Measure window and cut boards 4″ wider than window frame. Mine measured 73″ so I cut the boards 4″ bigger, at 77″.
  5. Drill pocket holes in the facing board to mount it onto the top of the box.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.
    This is what the Kreg jig looks like.

    This is what the screw holes look like once you've drilled them.
    This is what the screw holes look like once you’ve drilled them.
  6. Spread glue on board.

    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
    Since these boards would be covered and not stained, it seemed fine to be a bit generous with the wood glue.
  7. Screw top and front boards together.2016-02-14 14.15.29
  8. Cut valance side pieces from leftover scrap of 8″ (or 6″) wood.  Measure just big enough to close the valance box. This piece will be flush to the wall.
    Here I'm measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It's better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.
    Here I’m measuring the width needed for the sides of the valance box. It’s better to use the actual build than mess with measurements.

    When isn't cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
    When isn’t cutting pieces of fresh wood fun?
  9. Drill pocket holes to screw side pieces to top and front of valance.

    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
    Secure the side to the top and front of the valance.
  10. Glue and screw again.
  11. Check it all to make sure it’s square.
  12. Allow wood glue in valance to dry fully. For me, this didn’t mean waiting a full 24 hours for the glue to set the way the bottle says. This valance isn’t going to be moved or bear weight once it’s mounted so basically, you just need the glue to be dry so it doesn’t mess up your fabric wherever it might have seeped out.
  13. Now attach fabric to the valance with your staple gun. Keep in mind all of the points below BEFORE you start stapling:
    • Before you fix fabric in place, test it out and make sure that all the visible bits look the way you want. This takes experimenting based on your frame, fabric and the look you’re going for. I folded my wide (54″) upholstery fabric over lengthwise for a tiny bit of softness. If you’re using batting to pad the valance, you want to test your folds over that the padded valance.

      Here's me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
      Here’s me messing around with draping the fabric. An inelegant process . . .
    • Pull fabric taut on all visible arts. If you have to compromise, make sure the most visible parts are the most taut.
    • If folds will be visible, make them on the sides, avoid the front, which should be smooth.
    • Here is where you could also add padding (from batting) and use adhesive spray instead of — or in addition to — staples. I didn’t do either, just doubled my fabric over and stapled it. The DIY Network tutorial shows this process.
    • Plan that fabric will cover the inside of the valance box as well as the outside. The goal is to have it look finished if you actually happen to look up inside the valance, though most of the time, no one in the world will do this (and also, if you’re mounting drapes under the valance, it will be hard to see).
    • Once you’re sure all the outside bits are well covered and the inside looks okay, carefully cut away extra fabric inside the folds to reduce the bulk.
    • Staples should be all on the inside of the valance frame, where they will not be seen. I was A BIT CASUAL about my stapling, forgetting that you’d be able to see inside the valance at close inspection. So I ended up with a few visible staples.

      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I've decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
      Up close you can see the staples if you peer inside the valance. I’ve decided not to redo it but I would be more careful next time.
  14. Optional: spray fabric with Scotchguard or waterproofing spray.  I did two coats, just to make dusting / cleaning the valance easier.  I figure the coating will make it more difficult for dust and dander to embed themselves. If you’re not sure how your fabric will react to waterproofing, always test it first.
  15. Place the valance on top of the L brackets and center. Next, secure it by screwing the 1/2″ screws into the holes on top of the L bracket.
  16. Take a picture of your valance and send it to me.
    Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
    Here’s the valance mounted. Again, sorry it’s so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.

    Another dark shot - sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds.
    Another dark shot – sorry! But it kind of shows how the valance creates a more finished look over the cheap blinds. And that you can’t really see the inside staples unless you’re one of those people looking for problems. (If that’s you, my house won’t disappoint!)

So that’s it. It’s not the most exciting fabric covered valance I’ve seen but it does just what I hoped. Now the window looks finished and intentional without pointlessly clamoring to be the center of attention. Because obviously, the giant squid has that locked down.

Janky looking cheap blinds on the picture window. Sorry it's so dark but this is the room with the lights on!

Here's the valance mounted. Again, sorry it's so dark! This photo is in daylight, with lights turned on and the flash going. And yes, that is the best giant squid in the world in the corner.
Again, here’s the before and after . . . just a subtle bit of luxe.

Have you made a valance from scratch? Would you do it again?

 

Main Floor Bathroom Remodel on a $5500 Budget: The Tour

Original main bathroom
Original main bathroom.
Natural light now washes the bathroom
Natural light now washes the bathroom.

The updated bath is a hard working space, more functional, and light, with touches of pretty.

And now, here’s the blow-by-blow on my choices and how they worked out.

Before we start, here’s a truth in advertising note: The bathroom got its routine weekly cleaning but it hasn’t been staged. I wanted to show how I actually live every day in this space. My 13 small bathroom storage solutions have really made it possible to keep this space tidy with almost zero effort. Sometimes I get more minimalist and stow the stuff out on the shelves but mostly not. In real life, it doesn’t feel cluttered when I’m in the space.

Paint: The colors I chose were Tahoe Snow and my standard “house white,” aka Country Cotton, both Kelly-Moore. Mostly I wanted the room to be fresh and light feeling. It’s a water room as well, so icy blue seemed like a perfect almost-neutral. Sometimes it’s dressed with pale blue and white towels. Sometimes I get all Scandinavian and use rich red towels.

I went with semi-gloss paint on the icy blue. I like the way it looks and contrasts with the shiny porcelain fixtures. That said, I can’t help feeling like a glossier paint would be more durable. Humph. In retrospect, if I had kids, the paint would need to be a durable high gloss. In reality, it’s holding up just fine.

Curtain rod & shower curtain: We raised the shower rod as high as possible and that meant needing an extra long shower curtain. I like a cotton external shower curtain and a vinyl or plastic liner. Well, like on that last part is too strong. I find the liner useful. Buying an extra long liner was pretty simple. They carry them at places like Home Depot but I got a discount version at Ross.

The shower curtain was a bigger problem. I wanted white, something classic looking and long enough to drape prettily on the outside of the tub. But, after investing in the big remodel, I just couldn’t stomach dropping $50+ on the extra long shower curtains I found. I didn’t really like any of them. I wanted something that would sort of disappear, unless you really looked at it. And then there should be a surprise.

A DIY shower curtain should not be a problem, right? If anything is easy to sew, a straight seam in some cotton should be it. Still,  I also was feeling too lazy to actually sew anything.

Domestic Imperfection’s round up of DIY shower curtains got me started. Measuring, I realized that the size of fabric I needed was basically a flat, full-sized sheet, which would eliminate the sewing requirement. Holes could easily be handled with a grommet kit. And I could make it my own by using fabric ink to stamp some sea monsters along the bottom. More details in this post.

I love my sea monster border.

I love my sea monster border.

 

Hopefully you can see here how high the shower rod is. For extra privacy, the curtain can be drawn but nothing actually overlooks the window so the shower curtain is always left open.
Hopefully you can see here how high the shower rod is. For extra privacy, the curtain can be drawn but nothing actually overlooks the window so the shower curtain is always left open.

New window:  The window was better than I hoped. Sure, it was a conventional, simple shape. Instantly it lit the whole room and cast light into the formerly dark hallway. Even at dusk, the need to turn on a hallway light is eliminated. And ventilation. Who hates that? Finally, it should be said that the window ledge is handy for storage as well. I don’t seem to need it in this space but the occasional guest appreciates it.

Even at dusk, there's no need to flip on a light now that there's a window.
Even at dusk, there’s no need to flip on a light now that there’s a window.
The hall also benefits from the new window's light.
The hall also benefits from the new window’s light.

Shower surround inserts: These really add a lot of easy-use storage space.

In one insert, there are body washes. In the other, big pump bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The smaller shelves are perfect for soap and razors.
In one insert, there are body washes. In the other, big pump bottles of shampoo and conditioner. The smaller shelves are perfect for soap and razors.

 

Here's a closeup of an insert.
Here’s a closeup of an insert.

Railway rack: When I have guests, I put towels on the railway rack for easy access. In everyday life, I don’t bother. But I do use the little hooks to dry wet wash cloths, and hand other miscellaneous stuff. So, so handy. And because it’s so high, it doesn’t cramp anyone’s style in the bathroom. See earlier pic.

Over-toilet storage:  I went with three of these glass shelves, which are rated to hold 35lbs each. I store my prettier, everyday use things here. It might look cleaner without the decor items, but I like seeing them. I try to keep a flower in my mom’s crystal bud vase. Even flower free, I love looking at it.

When overnight guests come, I store the stuff on the middle shelf in my cabinet to free up a little space. About 1/3 of the items on the shelf are purely decorative and can easily be put somewhere else if space is needed or I just want to de-clutter.
When overnight guests come, I store the stuff on the middle shelf in my cabinet to free up a shelf. About 1/3 of the items on the shelf are purely decorative and can easily be put somewhere else if space is needed or I just want to de-clutter.
The top of the toilet is used for clean wash cloths and a little air freshener. Yes, that's my mom's old silver plated bread basket. I use it more here.
The top of the toilet is used for clean wash cloths and a little air freshener. Yes, that’s my mom’s old silver-plated bread basket. I use it more here than at the dining table.

Utility items: Extra TP, waste basket, plunger, cleaning supplies and more . . . These items all need a place and a plan to keep a bathroom comfortable and functional. Much of it used to be stowed in the awful vanity, which put them in the right room though the vanity was still hard to excavate in the tiny space. Now they each have a specific solution.

  • Three extra toilet paper rolls live in a covered canister. The cats would prefer a more open container but I am ruthless. Go for one that can hold those extra fat rolls.
  • The trash can is small and has a step-open feature. Extra liners are kept inside the can. Here’s something I find ever-baffling: why doesn’t everyone use covered waste cans in a bathroom? Who wants to see that waste?
  • I splurged on a Simple Human magnetic sleeve plunger. This keeps it clean and away from touching anything else. It lives against the wall by the toilet. And actually, the new toilet is so great it’s never been used in the almost two years since the remodel.
  • The hair dryer lives on a hook under the sink. It’s easy to plug in, easy to stow.
  • Cleaning supplies live under another sink, in their own little tub. Once a week I have to walk fifteen extra steps to retrieve the cleaning box.
  • Wash cloths and extra towels each have a place to live. Wash cloths sit in a silver-plated bread basket on top of the toilet, handy to the sink. Extra towels are placed on the railway rack when company is in town and back in the linen closet when they’re not needed.
  • The railway rack does double duty for drying clothes inside in the winter.
  • Outside the door storage. I’ve often thought of putting a little table in the hall corner, outside the bathroom door. I haven’t yet, because the current storage options cover my needs.
Extra toilet paper canister, covered waste bin, tucked between sink and toilet.
Extra toilet paper canister, covered waste bin, tucked between sink and toilet.
Simple Human plunger, so far never used
Simple Human plunger, so far never used.
If the occasional nosy guest really wants to know where my hair dryer is, they have only to look under the sink
If the occasional nosy guest really wants to know where my hair dryer is, they have only to look under the sink. Enjoy!
It's a tiny space! Only include the stuff you touch everyday. Cleaning supplies can lurk somewhere else.
It’s a tiny space! Only include the stuff you touch everyday. Cleaning supplies can lurk somewhere else.

Medicine cabinet: This lovely piece is dedicated to holding tooth supplies. I like these stowed away from the rest of the germs circulating in any bathroom. In almost two years, we’ve never had an issue with the toothbrushes not drying out due to being in the cabinet. It’s also nice that the cabinet has mirrors outside and in. The one flaw is that the magnetic holder that’s supposed to help the cabinet stay closed has come unglued. Since it has no problem staying closed, I haven’t bothered to fix it.

Medicine cabinet over the sink. Sink rim is big enough to hold soap and lotion.
Medicine cabinet over the sink. Sink rim is big enough to hold soap and lotion.
Forgive the crazy lighting! I'll try again when it's daylight.
Forgive the crazy lighting! I’ll try again when it’s daylight.

Decor items: I think a little pretty in a small room somehow grounds it or makes me take it more seriously. And then I mess it up less. Above the towel rack, I put one of my favorite jellyfish illustrations. On another wall, I hung an antique silver mirror found at the Paris flea markets, a comb my grandmother wore, a favorite night light, and an evil eye amulet I brought home from Egypt. It makes me happy to see these things.

A favorite jellyfish over the double towel rack.
A favorite jellyfish over the double towel rack.
Antique hand mirror, hair comb and evil eye amulet brighten up the hand towel wall.
Treasures add interest to the little wall alongside the door.
Antique -- and tarnished -- silver mirror found at a Paris flea market. I still love it, S!
Antique — and tarnished — silver mirror found at a Paris flea market. I still love it, S!
Antique comb and an evil eye amulet I picked up in Egypt.
Antique comb and an evil eye amulet I picked up in Egypt.
Using my good things in the bathroom means I see them more. I love seeing my mom's crystal bud vase everyday.
Using my good things in the bathroom means I see them more. I love seeing my mom’s crystal bud vase everyday.

Lighting: This didn’t go the way I thought it would. Turns out, my ceiling is too low so, in order to have the medicine cabinet open property, the light fixture had to be flipped to point at the ceiling. It’s still plenty bright, if a little silly looking. Mostly it’s only turned on at night because there’s so much light coming in from the window.

Flipped over lights
Flipped over lights

Most wonderful cabinet in the world: Now for the cabinet that really makes this space work. As I mentioned, the recipe came from Family Handyman. For mine, there would only be room to put one cabinet in and not the double glass one Family Handyman shows. I wanted mine to have a door that closed but glass wouldn’t have that might-be-original-to-the-house look. Esvin from the Pros of Idaho (theprosofidaho@msn.com) made it work perfectly, even adding a little egg knob to match the door knob. This shallow cabinet is great because it allows you to see everything you need without rummaging about. Shelves are adjustable. It’s plenty big to store immediately needed supplies, including all that annoying pretty girl stuff. Extras live in a bin in the linen closet and are replenished as needed. I’m so enchanted by this guy two years later that even if I weren’t remodeling the tiniest bathroom in the world, I’d put one in.

Outside of the between-the-studs cabinet from Family Handyman plan.
Outside of the between-the-studs cabinet from Family Handyman plan.
Between studs cabinet inside. Note that the shelves are adjustable.
Between studs cabinet inside. Note that the shelves are adjustable.

And now a smug cabinet note: a month after the bathroom was finished, I was browsing a Restoration Hardware catalog. There I saw a between-the-studs long mirrored medicine cabinet! Same size as mine. Beautiful. And $900. Guess they’re reading Family Handyman too!

Tile: As you’ll have seen, white tile was the plan. Larger subway tiles were used in the shower and hex tiles on the floor. There’s no back splash because when I originally planned the bathroom, the pedestal sink had a built in back splash. And now I’m on the fence about whether to add one. What do you think?

Hex floor tiles with gray grout. Subway tile was used instead of baseboard.
Hex floor tiles with gray grout. Subway tile was used instead of baseboard.

Two regrets:

  • I wish it had been easy/feasible/affordable to add another outlet. The space is just so tiny that it didn’t seem workable. And the truth is, two outlets has always been just fine. It’s not like a bunch of people can stand around in the bathroom together. So this might be simple greed talking.
  • I dropped almost $100 on the special stopper/plug that goes with the Archer tub. It looked great but within a couple of months, I noticed that it just wasn’t stopping up the water. It was one of those twist down jobs that you can’t always be sure are working. Instead of getting a full tub of hot water, I got a slow-to-fill tub of lukewarm. Fiddling with it a few times got it working again, but inconsistently. Quite annoying, the opposite of how you want to feel at bath time. And not water wise! Eventually, I just unscrewed it. Now when I want to take a bath, I pull out the rubber stopper I picked up at the dollar store and it works perfectly.

And that’s about it! What do you think? Ideas for smarter choices? Would you add a back splash behind the sink? If so, made of what?

Thanks for taking the remodeled bathroom tour!

$5 Thrifted Wall Mirrors

I think this’ll be an ongoing post. I like mirrors, and I like them cheap. The challenge I’m giving myself is to find mirrors for under $5 that I can use to brighten this low-ceilinged house.

Red chalk paint, Volcano candle, two of my favorite things.
Red chalk paint, Volcano candle, two of my favorite things.

This was an estate sale seventies “rustic” piece in beat up wood. Now it’s adding a little light to the basement. $5.

Entry way mirror. Maybe I could add some gravitas with a better ribbon?
Entry way mirror. Maybe I could add some gravitas with a better ribbon?

Not ornate, this is one of my few brand new purchases. The need was for a tiny, functional entryway mirror. 2.50 at Michael’s with coupon.

The squid makes the mirror, right?
The squid makes the mirror, right?

Got this at an estate sale. Beat up wood. Silver spray paint adds a little light and fun for the guest room. $5.

90s maple mirror with steel shelf.
90s maple mirror with steel shelf.

Garage sale find. Was thinking of painting over the 90s maple veneer but I’m thinking it’s got a nice, light warmth to it that’s right to help warm up the basement bedroom. This might be one where my only upgrade was to clean it.  Note the little built in shelf, which I think can be a good charging station for guests. $5.

What are your rules for buying mirrors? Should I paint up this last one?

 

 

Chalk Paint!

Beautiful bones + ugly finish? Chalk paint!

Many, many thanks to In My Own Style for making chalk paint accessible to me! Diane Henkler gives you three different recipes so you can mix it up depending on what you have around. I appreciate also that she gives her take on which ones work best. I keep it simple (the calcium carbonate+water version) because I just never seem to have the other stuff on hand and it has worked great so far on a couple of chairs, shelving and a fake electric fireplace in the basement.

If you haven’t used chalk paint before, its big draw for me is that you can paint with it even on glossy surfaces without having to strip off the sheen (but I think a light sanding is still a good idea). It has other benefits including a lovely flat finish, that you can write on it in chalk, and how nicely it takes wax.

If you don’t want to mix your own, premade ones from Annie Sloan and CeCe Caldwell get the best reviews. For me right now, being able to inexpensively mix and test my own makes all kinds of things possible. Thanks Diane and all the other bloggers who have showcased their chalk paint projects.

Picture Frame Jewelry Organizers: Easy, Pretty and Fun

Hey, we’re almost halfway through the year! If you’ve got a big gift list for the holidays, its time to start thinking DIY now.

This project met all aspects of my DIY gift code, especially these:

  • Pretty
  • Useful
  • Something I’d want
  • Not too heavy to ship
  • Fun to make
  • Possible to make in advance

Jewelry is beautiful art. But when it’s stuck in a box, you don’t get to see it enough. Plus I wanted to cut the clutter on top of my dresser. Enter the picture frame jewelry organizer. I made two for me and loved them so much I decided to make jewelry organizers a main holiday gift for family and friends.

 

Turns out I needed four jewelry organizers . . .
Turns out I needed four jewelry organizers . . .
Necklace jewelry organizer
Necklace jewelry organizer: s hooks are used to hang the necklaces

 

Earring jewelry organizer
Earring jewelry organizer. Ideal for fish hook earrings. S hooks can be used for other types of loops. Won’t work for posts.

 

Budget: to make two for myself with thrifted frames, I spent about $15, excluding the cost of tin snips, so about $7.50 each. But it’s possible to spend more depending on your materials choice. When I got into manufacturing mode and was buying bigger sheets, the cost came down to $3-6 each.

Timing: summer and fall I added empty picture frames to my thrift store check list and accumulated the ones I needed at the right prices. I also started searching for metal sheets/radiator sheets to use in the frames. Since I was spray painting some of the frames, it was most ideal to be able to do this outside, before the cold set in, so that was the urgency in finding the frames. Once it got cold, I hit thrift stores for inexpensive jewelry. For this, the gift was the organizer, not the jewelry, but I wanted to include at least one item with the organizer so the recipients would know what it was.

Shopping list: here’s the snapshot list. Still, do scan the details below to save some cash and time on this project.

  1. Frames without glass
  2. Paint or spray paint (optional)
  3. Radiator grill sheet(s) also known as “metal sheets” or “aluminum sheets.”
  4. Small s hooks (optional, for necklaces)
  5. Thrift store find jewelry
  6. Tin snips or other scissors that easily cut sheet metal

To do these as gifts the way I did, you will need:

  • Frames without glass.  These are sometimes as cheap as $0.50 at thrift stores. I focused on wood, avoiding metals. Go for frames that have a little projection from the wall. Here’s why: you’re going to hang jewelry in the face of the frame so you creating a little distance between front and the wall prevents your earrings from hitting the wall. If you’re going to buy new frames, watch for sales, and make a budget – remember, when you buy new, you’re also paying for glass you don’t need. If you’re shipping gifts, keep manageable size in mind.  The easiest frames to work with are the ones that have little tabs holding the glass in place (see below). You’ll ditch the glass but the tabs are perfect for holding the metal sheet. However, if they don’t have little tabs, you can still wedge the metal sheet inside the frame securely. If you’d like to make a frame, Ana White’s great blog has a post on barnwood frames that would work well for about $1.50 each
  • Paint or spray paint, if you want to change the color. I focused on black and white with a couple of silver frames. For this project, I only used spray paint
  • Radiator grill sheet(s) also known as “metal sheets” or “aluminum sheets.” The sources I used were Michael’s (with a Retailmenot coupon code – but be aware, these are in store and not shown on the Michael’s site. They’re about $11-14 without the coupon for a smallish — about 12″x24″– sheet so bring that coupon!), ACE Hardware (pretty choices though not super cheap, about $25-$30 for a larger sheet), and Home Depot (the most cost effective — $22.78!– for a 3×3′ aluminum sheet but limited pattern choices). These come in both a silver and gold finish. I used silver but the gold is chic these days. What’s right for you will depend on how many you want to make — see below.   Some notes on choosing:.

a) The cloverleaf and star patterns are most readily available and work well. If you choose a pattern with narrower openings like this oriental one below, it can be hard to get earrings with their backers through the spaces. So the tighter patterns are best used for necklaces with small s hooks.

Necklace jewelry organizer. Holes in this pattern are too tight for earrings.
Necklace jewelry organizer. Holes in this pattern are too tight for earrings with backers but little s hooks work fine.

b) Rustic look note: you could use chicken wire for a farmhouse sort of look, either in a single or double layer. This is often very cheap at used building goods outlets. I got a roll for only $3 but the look was less polished and it wasn’t as easy to work with my always-torn up hands as the aluminum sheets.

c) MD is a leading manufacturer of these sheets. They seem to sell mostly through retailers but the choices on their site (page down) are fun to browse.

MD Metal Sheet: this is the spendy version you can get at craft stores like Michael's
MD Metal Sheet: this is the spendy small version you can get at craft stores like Michael’s.
  •  Small s hooks (about $1.20 for a pack of eight at True Value). You need these if you want to use your organizer to hang necklaces.
  • Thrift store find jewelry: for earrings, you want fish hook style.
  • Tin snips or other scissors that can cut thin metal (available at craft and home improvement stores). I kinda balked at investing in tin snips but I am glad now that I did: I seem to use mine for something every week. Here’s where a Retailmenot coupon at Michael’s also is a big help (about $7.50 with a 50% off coupon). These are also available from home stores and Amazon (here are my Tekton snips on Amazon, about $9).

Let’s get started: The basics of this project are that you’re going to replace any glass with a metal sheet cut to slightly over the size of the frame opening. It’s that simple! A step-by-step follows.

  1. Take your frame and get it clean and pretty: pop out any glass and set aside
  2. If you’re painting you frame, do it now
  3. If your frame came with a mat, use that as your pattern to measure out the size to cut your metal sheet insert, adding 1/4 inch on each side. If no mat, measure your frame’s opening and add 1/2 inch to your measurement on each side. Basically you want a 1/4 inch excess on all sides so it fits securely in the opening. Also, this gives you the chance to let the metal protrude from the frame a little, which can look and work great.  If you’re cutting multiple inserts, lay as many out as possible on your metal sheet so you can eyeball how it all fits together as shown below:
    Here's mats are laid out on the sheet to make sure we get as many as possible out of one sheet.
    Here mats are laid out on the sheet to make sure we get as many as possible out of one sheet.

    Use a pen to mark off one insert at a time or just do a quick snip with your tin snips and cut along the line. Remember to go slightly big since you can always make it smaller later. Also, do one at a time instead of tracing them all at once. As you cut, things will shift slightly and you don’t want unnecessary marks, especially if you’re using a Sharpie!

  4. Cut your inserts using your tin snips

    Golly I love my tin snips!
    Golly I love my tin snips!
  5. Install your inserts into each frame from the back. If there are any little mat holders, flip them back down to keep the sheet firmly in place.

    Notice how the inserts that used to hold the mat in now hold the metal sheet
    Notice how the little black tab inserts that used to hold the mat in now hold the metal sheet?
  6. You are done. No joke.Silver painted frame

    Jewelry organizers, ready to wrap
    Jewelry organizers, ready to wrap

One more note: you might end up with some extra strips of the flat metal sheets. Hang onto them! They can be used to wrap a votive or for other small projects.

So what about you? What’s your favorite DIY holiday gift this year? Do you struggle with mass production AND personalization the way I do?

Note: the links here are for your convenience. No compensation to me for either the supplier listings or following the links.

Upgrading the Guest Room Lighting

Phase One: The builder’s grade nipple light needed to go. It would be fine in many settings but in this house, with such low ceilings, the dark light just drew attention to the lowness of the ceiling and smallness of the room. Brightness wasn’t the first priority since the room also has table lamps for task lighting. But I wanted just a little prettiness, a little bling.

Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home
Builder grade nipple light installed all over the cottage. Craftsman look wrong for low ceilings and cottage style home

One habit I’m trying to form is to duck into the ReStore every time I hit the library since they’re in the same strip mall.  And it paid off!

I found this pretty little crystal chandelier for $10!

$10!!!
$10!!!
Vinegar and crystal, a powerful paring for sparkle
Vinegar and crystal, a powerful paring for sparkle
ReStore Chandelier installed
ReStore Chandelier installed

2015-06-05 22.11.00

Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at night.
Here are the cool spikes the guest room chandelier throws off at night.

What do you think?  I love its prettiness and the spears of light that it throws when on. Have you ever had a great thrift lighting find?