the ReFab Diaries: decor
Showing posts with label decor

Anthropologie (NYC) window display ... using little plastic bags.  I wonder what they're growing? This would be finicky to replicate, but a great idea for a sunny window in a small space (Via Upcycle Us)


I'm turning the lense on two of my repurposes today.  In case you can't tell, I'm unabashedly sentimental about "stuff".  If it means something to me, I try hard to find a way to keep it around. But I don't hoard (much) - I've moved enough times in my life to be very very scared of my potential inner hoarder.  And, I really like my stuff to have a purpose - not hide in a drawer.  


Towel #1:  One of my oldest friends gave me a hand-painted tea towel / pot-holder gift set about 12 years ago. I love the colors and its Cape Town origins. Ultimately I didn't use it much in the kitchen because all that bright white wouldn't stand a chance. But I hung on to it. When I got a new sewing machine a couple of years ago, I wanted a simple cover and found the tea-towel idea via Martha.  My towel wasn't quite big enough, so I cut it in half and added a strip of bright cotton across the top.  I cut the painted cherries out of the pot holder and appliqued them to the plain side of the cover.  And voila.


Towel #2: When my gran moved from her little flat into a nursing home, my mom selected a few of her things to store for me.  Including a set of 2 thin, oddly sized towels from the 50s.  The fact that my grandmother still had these towels in the 90s tells me something about my genetic predisposition!  I loved the orange detail on them but could never figure out how to use them (odd size).  Then, on a whim some time last year, I chopped one up and turned it into a smock/apron.  Because when I cook, I seem to need to wash and dry my hands 15 times.  I added bright orange ribbon, some hand-sewn detail on the pockets... and now it hangs in the kitchen, actually getting its delicate 1950's hands dirty. 





This post was, of course, inspired by the light fixture above (seen on Etsy- one ugly cord, a bulb and a few old books.  Not so hard to do if you're interested in trying a little bookfolding.  Anyway, it got me looking for other cool ways to hide ugly cords ... and otherwise upcycle ugly old lamps. Five more for you: 
I made a little spring mobile for myself.  This would be a fun craft to do with kids - very easy! The complete instructions (including printable template) are via Joann Fabrics. Their craft is all about promoting an embossing machine.  Without that, it becomes cheap and easy:  you need paper/ cardstock, mini brats, a hole punch and string or ribbon.  Now that I've actually made them, I will add a couple of tips.



We bought a home in a late 1920's building on the north side of Chicago. This meant we got a few things that just go with the territory ... a huge entry way, a very long hallway, a fireplace surrounded by built-in bookshelves and insanely creaky floorboards.  And red walls - thanks to the previous owners, not the vintage. Since the entrance "hall" was so large, we actually had to make an effort to decorate it.  And by happy accident, we squeezed quite a bit of vintage into the corner, for very little outlay.  O'Keeffe painted D.H. Lawrence's faraway tree in 1929.  The photograph on the table is of my partner's grandparents, snapped in downtown Chicago in the '30s.  The old check/cheque printer was made by "Paymaster Systems" of Chicago and is ... old.  And apparently cost $112 in its day! And then we threw in a cheap sunburst mirror and old books.  We like it enough that we haven't changed it in almost 5 years.




Signs of spring are popping up everywhere around here!  Sorry for the super-seasonal focus, southern hemispholks ... but you have to understand that the American Midwest is a place where people are so generally deprived of super sunny weather, we get a little high when it finally arrives. Even more so, this South African transplant right here.  So I cannot resist the fun, whimsical, colorful spring projects and upcycles I'm seeing everywhere.  The globe re-do above makes me a little home sick (hello Cape Town, Durban, Grahamstown) ... get the how-to at My Sister's Suitcase.


Faux bois / woodgrain is everywhere ... adding a little mid-century flair? A little "natural mod" texture? It's cheap, trendy, versatile and easy to use!  So it's a GREAT upcycling material. Here's a round-up of projects I think are graintastic!

If I could take you on a tour of my home, I'd proudly point out every thrifted, upcycled, alley-scoured and hand-me-down item.  I like stories ... so I enjoy being surrounded by things that have some history and tell a story.  BUT, I'm not about to try a blog-style home tour - I don't have the photographer chops for that.  And, a toddler has invaded my home, so there are far too many messy toddler piles everywhere.  However, I would like to share shoes, jewelry, corners and favorites ... things I love that might inspire you... and that I can actually photograph.  So, in tried-and-true blogger tradition, I'm creating a weekly feature. Thrifty Thursday posts will be dedicated to the various thrifted corners of my home and my closet.


If you're a tiny, imagined being like Arrietty (or any other "Borrower" or "Little"), you trade in thimbles. Really - where would you be without them??  I stumbled upon this pic on Flickr recently and was entranced.  So I went hunting for Thimbalina re-do's for you.     


Cardboard inner tubes - they're everywhere: cling wrap, aluminum foil, kitchen paper towel, toilet paper rolls, wrapping paper, yarn tubes, fabric roll tube ... etc.  Head over to Craft Passion for this super-sweet upcycle. 



This is NOT a new or original idea ... however, when I saw the instructions I realized I never did find out how it's done.  So, in case you'd like to melt your copy of "Rock me Amadeus", here's how!

Mmmm... love this.  A little 14 gauge galvanized wire, a little time. Go make it

I'm starting to think about the summer ... and someone's 2nd birthday.  I, naively, bought a bunch of liners last year then ended up not using them because they looked awful when they came out of the oven.  This garland would a great way to use them up!

Perhaps re-purposing etc appeals so much to me because it exposes the hidden potential in ordinary things. You take something mundane and make it a centerpiece. You bring something rough and utilitarian indoors ... smooth the rough edges just a little and give it a second chance.  I guess I'm an optimist - I definitely believe in second chances!

I think this pendant lamp from Poppytalk sums it up.  An old wire wastebasket has its shining moment!  It provides a soft glow, thanks to a little scrap-fabric weaving.  Read on for a few more ideas on the theme...


A year (and a day) ago, Terri and Adam got married (Happy Anniversary!).  

Terri Falvey is a crazy-talented copywriter/graphic designer ... who kinda likes books - we once taught reading classes together.  She married someone who apparently shares her interests  :)

Anyways, their wedding was a masterpiece of text/book-inspired craft, art, DIY, repurposing ... you name it. I've been meaning to ask permission to blog about it for ... er ... about a year now. So, on with the post.

(Photos by Edyta Szyszlo - please do not download without permission)


Do you love buttons? Do you store them in jars? Me too.  How about storing them in a way that's a little more visual?  How about a little button art that allows you to actually use the buttons when/if you need them?



Behold ... the humble button tree.  This is a first attempt - there will be a "Round 2" in the near future because I have another idea...


Unlike trees, little hands grow very fast ... so catch 'em while you can!  Trace them onto fabric and use modge podge and your stash of scraps to make the leaves.  This simple, beautiful "kid craft" is from a mom who "hates kid's crafts" because "five minutes after they have created something, I want to throw it away. I just don't like the clutter."  Amen. Thanks to Kalleen At Second Street.

"Mielie" is, officially, the Afrikaans word for corn/maize.  But it's also the word all South Africans use for corn (and its by-products), no matter what language they happen to speak. Now, "Mielie" is a small business after my own heart. Employing over 50 artists the mission is "to design and produce innovative, export-quality hand-crafted products using reclaimed materials - with the aim of creating employment and restoring dignity and financial independence to South Africans".  The Mielie Peeps work out of their homes, sell across the planet, share a community garden and create the most amazing things using strips of t-shirt fabric!!







The items pictured here are the tip of the Mielie-berg.  I cannot begin to capture the variety and creativity of these folks.  Wanna learn to weave like a Mielie Peep?  Follow the links to the two free tutorials... after the jump.




I think the smell of fresh sawdust is wonderful! ... (she ducks to avoid the virtual thwack).  But really ...  isn't it?  On the other hand, working with wood is intimidating, and N-O-T, not manicure-friendly.  I understand now that I was lucky to grow up surrounded by "woodshops" and wood "benches" - even at school!  My pre-school had a wood table - we used actual hammers and nails (can you imagine?!).  And I got to spend my 6th grade year working with wood as part of my actual curriculum.  We made clocks, tables ... even music stands.  (Also saw my very old, wiry-haired teacher/school principle electrocute himself one day in the workshop - not a sight you forget!)

For all that, I've done little more than sand and refinish in recent years.  Even though I know there are Park District woodshops across Chicago.  My excuses: well ... I live in an apartment ... I don't have a circular saw handy ... I have very little work space ... etc!  But there are things you can make indoors on a rainy/snowy day.  And if you smile nicely in the hardware store, those lovely people will happily cut pieces to exact size for you.  And the wonderful sawdust fragrance is free. 

Here's some inspiration to get you going:


You've seen the $1400 Anthro bookcase right?  OK ... so the price includes 6 vintage books.  But what if you just want the bookcase?  What if you want a version customized for books you've selected yourself? And, er ...what if you don't have $1400 to drop on a cute bookcase?

Head over to whollyKao (loving the name!) for what might be my favorite tutorial of the 2012 ... it's a cheap, easy make!!  The only thing that would make it better: using "found" wood or something other than particle/chip board (click "Read More" for six more doable projects)






I saw these "candy" lights and thought Quality Street!!  Not that I've seen/tasted one of these "choc-ies" in many years.  They used to come out especially for the holidays ... the way I see Fannie Mae bought around here ... or See's Candies in CA.  So I think it's entirely appropriate to create party decor with this kind of "candy".

Get the how-to at OhHappyDay.  If you planned it, you could start saving plastic clamshell berry containers now, rather than buying corsage boxes.  





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