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C’est l’halloween

Halloween has to be one of my favourite holidays of the year, second only to Christmas. I didn’t do much decorating last year since I had moved in only a few months earlier and was still overwhelmed with running a household singlehandedly (albeit, a household of one). I just didn’t have the energy to devote much time to decorating or crafting for the season, so this year I vowed it would be different.

My aim was to create some spooky decor in the entryway and the front porch, since those will be the main areas that guests and trick-or-treaters will pass by. Another goal was to achieve major impact, with minor damage to my wallet, and this was the result:

Entryway

I tried to create a “curio” type of arrangement using things I had around the house as well as a few inexpensive crafts and Dollarama items.

Spider

I created the mounted spider specimen out of an old box, toy spider, frame from Dollarama and some scrap paper, strait pins and black paint. Total cost: $2.25.

Apothecary jars

The apothecary jars were made from glass jars and candlesticks from Dollarama and Buck or Two, using a tutorial from Dollar Store Crafts (my new favorite website). I used two packages of plastic skulls to fill the larger jar and a package of rubber worms for the smaller one. Total cost: $8.25, plus $6 for a tube of glass-friendly glue (which will last me for a long time). The catchall dish was about $2.50, on sale at BouClair Home.

Frame

I already owned the IKEA Ung Drill frame, and I made the “mirror” in it using instructions from Martha Stewart.

Books

And last, but not least (and my absolute favourite thing in the collection) I created Halloween-themed dust jackets using GIMP (an open-source and *free* program similar to Photoshop), and then wrapped them around hardcover books that I already had in the house. The owl statue was purchased a few weeks ago from a store in Manotick for $10, pricey, but far cheaper that similar items I’ve seen elsewhere. The mini-pumpkins were left over from my Thanksgiving decor.

I have to say, I am really happy with how the entryway turned out, and how inexpensive everything was. We’re doing a bit of outside decorating in time for Sunday, which I’ll post sometime next week – pumpkins and all!

Do you decorate for Halloween? Or is it just not worth it for you?

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Take it Outside

When I first started house-hunting, the thing that appealed most to me about my neighbourhood was my developers clever use of space. I live in a suburb – land of cookie-cutter houses and three-car garages. For the most part, developers have been far from modest with their use of land which has resulted in rambling neighbourhoods that aren’t pedestrian friendly and forces residents to rely on their cars far too much.

I’m proud to say that my neighbourhood is different. The density of my community is closer to that of Old Ottawa South which makes it more walkable and dense. My neighbours and I are, for the most part, first-time homeowners: single people, newlyweds or families just starting out – we are a neighbourhood of starter homes. Instead of backyards, most of the houses have decks in either the front or back. Which works just fine since most of us don’t have a real need for a private yard yet. Plus there is a great community park, complete with play structure, so that all the neighbourhood kids still have a big green patch of grass to run around in.

Picture of my deck

That being said, I don’t have much green space to work with at my place, and I have absolutely zero when it comes to my deck. One of my primary goals in designing the deck will be to “green” the space with plants, with a focus on low maintenance and container friendly ones – likes hostas and succulents, which will also provide some much needed colour when they bloom. I’ll also be creating an eating area where I can enjoy dinners all summer long, and maybe even add a barbeque.

Take it Outside - The Plan for the Deck

The front porch is in for some work too, mainly to add some more greenery and to create a comfy seating area where I’ll be able to drink coffee and do crosswords on the weekends.

So how are your spring outdoor projects coming along? Have any advice on plants that I should use on the deck?

Fits & Starts

It seems as though these days that my attention is occupied with working on the entryway, the powder room and the guest bedroom.  In January, I finally found some hardwood for the living room, and I’m slowly narrowing down a backsplash for the kitchen.  One of the great things about being one person (on one small budget) trying to fill an entire house herself, is that once I find myself stuck or bored with a room – there’s always another one to focus on.

I’ll be dedicating individual posts to each room, and likely some of the projects included in each, but until then, here’s what I’ve been keeping busy with:

In the entryway, I’ve been working on creating an area that is both functional and beautiful, all the while tying it together with the den. I think that I’ve created a nice tableau so far, but I’m still hunting for a few things, including an umbrella holder and maybe a chair before I can call it done.

The powder room, while small and really the last on my list of priorities, has snuck into the mix and is almost done. With some artwork, clever storage and a new vanity strip it will basically be ideal.

Lastly, the guest room – which until Sunday, didn’t even have a bed – is nearing completion. I’ve got drapes, some beautiful and whimsical artwork and a chair waiting to be refinished and reupholstered. With a few more items, and some finishing touches, it’ll be a relaxing home away from home for my house guests.

Sorry for dropping off for so long, but as I’ve said before, being one person running a whole house by herself can take up a lot of my attention. I’ll do my best to post regularly from now on, but the best way of making sure you never miss a post is to susbribe to my RSS Feed – it’s like getting a subscription to your favorite magazine, instead to searching it out every month at the newsstand.

Objet d’art

Nothing quite finishes a room like a beautiful piece of artwork.  But what do you do when you have a limited budget, but a soft spot for original art? I’ve decided to rely on some unique and original art purchases from Etsy.

A few weeks ago I ordered this print from photographer Sharon Montrose.

porcupine

When I came across the porcupine portrait, I immediately had to have it. It’s so cute!  Just like a little fur-person.  I’ve even joked that it looks like he’s doing the robot.  I plan on ordering a two more prints of woodland animals to add a focal point to the bland beige wall on the landing between my first and second floors.

Ostrich

Sharon lives in LA, and has an amazing eye when it comes to animal photography.  Her portfolio is bursting with modern animal portraits, with tons of character.  For those with deeper pockets, larger prints can also be purchased through Sharon’s website The Animal Print Shop.

After falling for the new Edland nightstands from IKEA, but not being in the position to afford their $129 price tag, I decided to try my hand at an Edland inspired makeover.

Nightstand01

I bought the pair for $30 off Kijiji a few months ago from a pair of Carleton U students, I likely shouldn’t have paid more than $20 for them, but I was dealing with a tough seller.  I decided to go for it even though they were dusty, reeked of smoke and one had scorch marks on the top. Ew.  But, recognizing a good foundation and overlooking a nasty faux-wood finish straight from the 70s led me to a set of nightstands that I couldn’t be prouder of.

After living in my parents’ basement for a few more months, and then enduring the move to my new place, I was finally ready to give them the makeover they so desperately needed.

Nightstand02

First step was to wash both nightstands, as well as the drawers with TSP in order to remove anything that might prevent the paint from sticking.  Following the directions on the package, I mixed a solution of 20 parts water to 1 part TSP and then wiped down all the surfaces that I would be painting.

Once all the surfaces were dry, I used fine sandpaper to sand down the cigarette burns on the tabletop, as well as a few other trouble spots as best as I could.  Since the tops are made from MDF, I could only do so much, but I wanted to reduce the visibility of the raised areas as much as possible.  Once the sanding was complete, I wiped everything down with a tack cloth to remove any remaining dust.

Since I was painting over an unknown finish, I opted to use Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start as a primer.  It worked really well, despite the fact that I didn’t do anything else other than wash the drawers prior to painting.  Using an angled 2″ brush, I “cut in” all the nooks and crannies and then used a foam roller to apply the rest.  After some agonizing, I decided on a smoky charcoal colour for my paint, which I applied using the same process as I did for the primer.

Nightstand04

To mimic the Edland’s beautiful Louis XIV legs, I found some smaller but more appropriately proportioned Queen Anne legs from RONA.  At $10 each, they were pricey, but they also happened to be the exact same height as the old boxy ones.  Compromise: I used the expensive legs for the front of the table, and kept the rear legs the same.  They aren’t visible, and it saves me money.

Nightstand05

Also while at RONA, I found a pair of porcelain drawer pulls, that reminded me of the Edland’s teardrop ones.  At $4 each, they were also pricey but worth it.

The final result?  A set of fancy-pants nightstands, with a not-so-fancy price.

Nightstand03

So, how was your long weekend?  Do any DIYs?

The past few months…

So where have I been?

When I started this blog back in April, I didn’t fully realize how difficult actually doing all this house stuff was going to be.  Soon after, appointments needed attending, forms needed filling and things needed to be signed. I was fortunate that I had a great group of family, friends and co-workers to support me, especially during the final days before closing.  I *literally* couldn’t have gotten through everything without them to help me along the way.  A strong support system is invaluable.

But support or not, I was overwhelmed, and the blog just fell by the wayside.

But no more.  The house closed just over two weeks ago, and I moved in a few days later.  Things are starting to calm down, and I finally have an internet connection again, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to start writing again. 

My house might be brand-spanking-new, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t projects and DIYs to undertake. I’ve already started by painting a pair of bedside tables for the guestroom, and I’ve already changed the light fixture in the master bedroom. I have tons more ideas waiting in the wings, so there is lots to write about. Stay tuned…

How did you deal with the stress of buying your first home?

The Porch Project

The combination of Ottawa’s latest winter weather episode as well as the upcoming long weekend has me craving Spring, hardcore.  Local stores have started to fill up with cheerful colours and outdoor furniture, and it’s inspired me to start thinking about the outdoor potential of my new place.

The house will have a front porch with enough space to place a few chairs and a small table.  I won’t be entertaining there, but I want a place where I can read the newspaper on weekends and drink my morning coffee.  It should be clean and simple, with outdoor furniture that can withstand the elements, but be comfortable enough to laze about on for a few hours at a time.

I eyed a fantastic pair of rundown mid-century inspired chairs at an estate sale a few weeks back, though at the time, even though I loved them, I couldn’t justify another chair purchase.  So I let them go.  It was only later in the day that the thought of fixing them up with new paint and upholstery struck me.  Lesson learned – remember to think creatively.

Even though I’ve continued to search at estate sales and auctions for similar chairs, I doubt that I’ll be able to find something suitable.  Once again, enter the big-box store, always there when I need them.

After visiting locations and websites of numerous retailers, I’ve narrowed down the field to three possibilities, all from IKEA and all made out of Acacia wood.  As I’ve stated before, Ottawa’s IKEA is one of the smallest in Canada, and their summer items go quick and aren’t replenished, so my goal is to get my chair situation sorted out soon.

Tullerö Chair

With the lowest price point of the trio, the Tullerö chair comes as part of a four-piece set that includes an additional chair, table and a two-seat bench for $159 (seen here with a Rassön cushion, $35 each).  There is good value for money, and I found that the chair was comfortable and provided a lot of back support, although the thin cushion had be wondering if it would remain comfortable after lounging for a few hours.  But, as this chair is part of a full patio set, I’m hesitant to pick it since I don’t want to commit to a patio set prior to moving in. My deck will be small and I want to make sure that I don’t clog it up with furniture.

Äpplarö Chair

At $60, the Äppalarö chair (pictured with a Lövö cushion – $15 each) the mid-range chair with a large collection of coordinating furniture ranging from a lounge chair to a dining table. While I think that this is the most stylish of the three, I can’t get past the pronounced arc on the back of the chair.  When I tried it out, I found that it left my lower back without much support (which might be fixed with a pillow) and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sit in that manner for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

Nordanö Chair

Immediately upon trying the Nordanö chair (pictured here with the Nordanö cushion – $35) out, it was obvious that it’s $85 price tag was worth it.  My back was well supported and the cushions were plush, I think that I would be completely comfortable sitting in these every weekend.  My only complaint is about the aluminum bracket and bar, I find that they stand out considerably, but they may mellow as the wood and metal ages outside.

I’ll be heading to IKEA sometime this week to re-test all three chairs, although it’s obvious that the Nordanö has a significant lead over the competition.  I’ll let you know how things pan out.

So, what about you?  Have you caught the Spring bug yet?