An Orla Kiely Obsessivist’s Upcycled Napkins

July 15, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

I never quite know what I’m going to find in Grandma’s Attic, which I like to position as a cutesy salvage shop and not what it really is, as in literally… my Grandma’s attic. I venture-slash-sneak up there from time to time when she hosts holiday events, and spend some time rummaging through lost and forgotten about items, treasures, vintage tools, and random textiles (to capture for my own pad, which she’s generally fine with); it was on my last visit that I swiped this pair of never-been-used yellow linen napkins.

Brand new bright yellow napkins.

She has the cutest taste, and I can’t imagine why the set of 2 was never used for a sweet little backyard picnic or at the kitchen table for dinner with Grandpa, but they clearly were forgotten about beneath a pile of junk, complete with original price tags. I’d date them back to at least the early 1980’s because (according to Wikipedia) Sattler’s Department Stores in Buffalo closed down in 1982. Meaning that these napkins are older than me. And here they were, never unfolded buried in a pile of stuff.

Grandma wouldn't pass up a sale. You go, Grandma.

And judging on the markdown, she got a good deal. Sale shoppin’. I’m pretty sure this is where I get my thrifting habits. Go, Grandma, go.

If it had been a set of 4 or 8 I probably would have saved all of them for use on my own deck, and maybe that’s why she never put them to use, but with just two on hand, I decided to make something neat from them.

The only issue was the yellow. I really like my dark yellows and golds, you know, but the screaming bright yellow was too much. No big deal, I had a 50% off coupon for JoAnn’s (since I had already bought up as many succulents as I could stomach for this wreath project) and I stopped in to peruse the fabric dye section.  I was actually surprised to see more varieties than just the gool ol’ RIT dye, and a wider selection of colors at that. I guess I haven’t bought fabric dye in a long time, although I have toyed with the idea of re-dying some old jeans to make them dark again. Only wanting to tint the fabric subtly to subdue the almost-flourescent brightness of the original napkins, I brought home the gold ochre shade by iDye.

Gold Ochre dye by iDyeHappy to report that the dye was the easiest, least messy dye I’ve ever, ever, ever used. Because I have a top-load washer, I filled it with just enough water for allow the pre-washed napkins to float in, and then dissolved the self-contained packet in the water before adding the fabric to the machine. I followed iDye’s recommendations to allow a second wash cycle before letting the rinse cycle activate, and then washed regularly before drying the finished napkins in the sunshine on the deck.

The change in color looks subtle to you, I’m sure of that – but in reality the toned down color ended up being much more aligned with my gold-infested color palette.

Subdued yellow, post-dye job.The evolving plan was to use the 16″ square napkin as a canvas, painting something striking or meaningful to hang in my stairwell. It did take a few weeks to come up with something that I liked the concept of and could DIY with the paints I had in-house.

The decided pattern would be the simple but lovely, classic Orla Kiely print. If you know me, you know I drool over her products, and own one of her clutches, computer bags, and totes. Obsessed, I’ll tell you, and I’ll also point out that many, many products were on sale on her site recently.

Measured into three columns, I started with a light gray stem and proceeded with hand painting the leaves slowly over the course of a few days. My strategy was to paint a small leaf, and expand it slowly in every direction until it’s proportions were right on.

Beginning the Orla Kiely pattern on the yellow napkin canvas.I liked it more and more as it grew, although I’m sure Orla would call me out on some creative liberty discrepancies, like putting two colors too close together on the vine. Whoopsy and whatevs.

Half way done with the DIY Orla Kiely print.

No harm. It still turned out awesomely if I do say so myself. It’s going to be part of an updated wall gallery that hopefully will be done over the weekend. See that piece of blue tape? Blue tape = work in progress.

Painted napkin. Love for the Orla Kiely.

I have grand plans to build a square custom frame for it at some point, but to give it a test run in in the gallery, I just applied using some too-cute pink thumb tacks that I had on hand. And maybe it’ll stay like that.

Cute pink tacks as an interim hanging mechanism.

P.S. Any of you wild O.K. lovers out there? Is there a self-help group that I should link up with?

My House Is Numbered

July 14, 2011   //  Posted in: Entryway   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses

I’m clearly getting my act together with the whole finishing-the-front-entryway thing. I showed you the doorbell that was installed earlier in the week, and am stoked to report that I also finally picked new house numbers. Although not like what I originally wanted, and yes, I have been looking since January, the new numbers will do for now. Without finding something colorful and unique that resonated with me within my price range and more importantly, my home style, I briefly considering DIYing something interesting. Ultimately though, I caved on a simple model from True Value. Not bad at all, just a little more cookie cutter than I want to be overall.

Anything was an improvement from the cheapo cracking plastic models that had been on the house before (pre-replacing the storm door).

Front entryway. 15 in an unsettling typeface.

Anyways, I had to do something; I had spent months now attaching to a piece of paper to the siding when I had craigslist peeps coming by. Super classy. Definitely made me less sketch of a Craigslist sales lady, I’m sure.

Temporary house numberAs I said, I bought my new goods at True Value. In the store, I actually considered two different models. I was going to splurge and pay $2 more per number for the chunkier ones (at $7.29 a pop) but at the last minute worried that they’d be too wide for the narrow door trim that I wanted to hang them on.

Weighing pros and cons of two house number styles.So, home the thin numbers came. Not an appalling typeface like so many out there (typography nerds may agree), and even Pete approved. They were nice and hefty too, not chincy or malleable in any way, and at $5.29/each, it was an easy purchase to make.

House numbers.

I taped them up on the front entryway at a few different heights until I found a location that felt just right. Oh lookie, I actually did this install just before the new doorbell went up. Don’t mind that mess.

Taping the house numbers up on the trim for positioning.

And then I shifted them down (so indecisive) and screwed them into place. They actually look better than I expected. Much less harsh compared to the set that hung there before.

In place. Hard to see right? I'm actually digging the subtlety.

Subtlety for the win. Cody’s also not so subtly hiding my reflection in the glass. And this isn’t to say that I still wouldn’t buy up a cooler set of numbers if they came my way, so if you know of any you think I’d like, do send me a photo.



DIY Doorbell Faceplates: A Loser And A Winner

July 13, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

Doorbell drama. Really not a bad kind of drama to have, unless, you know, someone touches the wires that you left dangling beside the doorknob for 2 months and sues you. This kind of turned into a long-winded post about a tiny, tiny part of my house, so here’s the executive summary:

I DIY’ed two doorbell encasements. One was a failure, the other was the shizz. Continue on if you’re interested in lots of pictures, driftwood, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Anyways, fortunately for my insurance policy, no one was zapped by the dangling doorbell, but it has taunted me daily since the entryway storm door was replaced. How did I leave this doorbell in such lousy condition for months?

Not sure. Well, that’s a lie. I was just suffering from a case of the indecisives + anti-conformities, both of which I’m sure are not medically traceable conditions, but effect me often.

Old discolored doorbell, unattached.

I had disconnected the doorbell encasement when I had needed to paint the trim of the front door before re-installing the all-glass storm door. The existing discolored rectangular doorbell was just due for an update, and I had full intent to update within a day or two. Read: Not within a month or two. I did shop around, the trouble was, I didn’t like most of them. Or, any of them. They were a little blah, lookin’ cheap, way too expensive, or in the shape of a lizard. Overall, most were just too “expected” or just not me.

Instead of cave and buy something that didn’t ring my bell (little pun there, did you catch it? Wink.), I paid $3.50 for a simple round button that would have to be inset into the door trim or a separately sold doorbell encasement (like, the lizard, or its friends the seahorse or cow).

The new store-bought doorbell unit.

I never did find a separately sold encasement that I was excited about, despite online, in-store, and Pinterest searches for everything related to “bell,” “doorbell,” “entryway,” and “front door”. So after those few months of searching, I got crafty. My first doorbell encasement effort involved upcycling regular old paint stirrers from Home Depot, cutting them into 45-degree and 90-degree angles, and piecing the puzzle together into a pattern resembling a herringbone or, actually and accidentally, a Frank Lloyd Wright-esque pattern. You know how much I like both the herringbone and the FLW.

Doorbell encasement loosely assembled (out of paint stirrer pieces)

By wood-gluing a few leftover pieces of paint stirrer to the back of the concept, I was able to both thicken the future doorbell plate and keep all the pieces reinforced in place. Voila! It was sanded down, smooth, lightweight, and really pretty cool.

Back panels used to attach the pieces together securely with wood glue.

I even got as far as to cut the necessary 5/8″ hole into it for the doorbell to sit within. I was about to paint/stain/poly it in preparation for install, and then realized I had a problem – the two layers of paint stirrer weren’t thick enough to let the doorbell sit flush against the wall. Whomp, whomp. See, this is where I started to see the project as a failure, as happy as I was with the concept overall.

The FLW doorbell cover. See how shallow the hole is?

I did consider two options:

  • Drill into the trim with a 5/8″ bit so that the wired end of the doorbell backs inside the trim just a little. (But would I accidentally drill through the existing wiring? That’s what I was afraid of.)
  • Make the FLW/herringbone faceplate thicker. (That decidely would take away from the flat, flush look I had been considering with a plate of that size).

Shame on me for not being totally aware of the thickness of the button before I got started on this first effort. In any case, it was totally freebie thanks to the free paint stirrers and my imagination.

Effort #2, and the winning solution came to mind when I was thinking up other wood encasements that might be DIYable. I considered drilling a hole into a piece of premium pine scrap that I had on hand, but then I realized I had lots of extra pieces of driftwood bits from the driftwood magnet project I had so ambitiously worked on, and those might work for a more rugged and authentic concept. I drilled a piece quickly with the 5/8″ bit to see how it’d look:

Extra pieces of driftwood, and the drilled doorbell encasement.

The pieces of wood were thick enough to conceal the doorbell without having to make extra holes into the trim, and I really liked the idea of a round encasement to complement the round bell button. The natural driftwood material was an added bonus, and as much as I say I don’t have a beach themed house, this might push me a little closer. Push. As in push a doorbell. Another pun. Sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me.

Wired doorbell in place. And it worked on the first try.

And to affix the whole encasement to the wall, I threaded the leftover wires into the trim and used a few dabs of wood glue; it wasn’t a heavy unit, and I didn’t want to disrupt the cleanliness of it with wood screws, although in terms of cleanliness, I do have some touchup work to do regarding the old doorbell holes you see in the picture. The glue seems to be doing just fine. I should also note that the entryway is very sheltered from the various eaves and doesn’t take a beating from the weather.

Completed and attached doorbell.

Crafty doorbell #2 was an overall success, and something I’m really happy with. Now that it’s done and I’m happy, I’ll be doing a matching one on the side entryway, which is also due for a doorbell update. Best of all, the only expense was $3.50 for the bell itself; how’s that for savings?