The Work-pad: Salt City Spice

July 21, 2011   //  Posted in: Work-pads   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses

Adding another inspiring biz to the growing work-pad series! You know how much I love a nice, productive and efficient workspace. And Katrina has one. Assembling an efficient and organized workspace obviously goes hand-in-hand with her vision of everyone having an efficient and organized spice rack, so, no surprise here, but I’m excited to see her space myself. Her products are a big hit, and she gets loads of publicity between Etsy and Worthsy, not to mention that her growing blog is filled with great small business perspective for folks like myself.

Before I say too much, I’ll let her take over and tell you about her business and workpad. Enjoy!  

Katrina with one of her creations.

Hi Merrypad readers! I’m Katrina, the owner of Salt City Spice on Etsy, specializing in unique magnetic spice racks and interesting vintage finds.

I’m originally from Rochester, NY but currently living in Syracuse (aka The Salt City) with my college-sweetheart husband, toddling daughter, and 2 naughty cats. I love cooking and eating, and also enjoy trying my hand at various home renovation projects around our house.

I also created The Salt City Spice Blog where I talk about some of the things I’m learning as a small business owner along with a few crafty DIY ideas along the way. I invite readers to learn and share along with me and the response has been really great so far! I’m currently wrapping up a series on Time Management and plan to continue offering more help in the future for readers looking to streamline their creative businesses. I should note that writing about these topics has everything to do with the fact that I come from an engineering and process & management consulting background and have a deep, nerdy love for doing things efficiently.

What’s your workpad like? How did you choose that particular space?

I use a couple different spots around the house – I originally started in the garage but outgrew that within a few months. Plus, let’s be serious, the garage was just way too cold this winter even with a couple space heaters on full blast. A few mishaps involving frozen fingers and quick-curing epoxy later and I moved the “small project” portion of my business to an upstairs spare bedroom-turned-office which I lovingly refer to as The HQ.

Katrina assembling spice tins.

I still have a corner of the garage reserved for refinishing, curing, and drilling the bases for my spice racks, but consider the office my main workpad since it’s where I spend much of my workday.

You know how much I love custom made furniture. Do you have any customized/upcycled/DIY’ed in your space?

Nearly everything in my office was (pardon the terrible poetry) thrifted, gifted, or Craigslisted.

(Editor’s interjection: Love it.)

My absolute favorite piece of furniture though is a solid wood desk handmade by my grandpa, who was an amazingly skilled woodworker and printer. I’m also lucky to own a bentwood rocking chair, an elaborate dollhouse modeled after his & my grandma’s old place, and (appropriately) a grandfather clock he made, along with various other smaller items.

A desk made by Katrina's Grandpa.

The main storage area for my office is an antique flame mahogany buffet that I found on Craigslist. It wasn’t custom-made for me (well, obviously) but it might as well have been! The height is exactly perfect for me to stand and work, then I can just put everything back into the many drawers once I’m done. Funnily enough, I bought it before I even started my business and had no idea how I would use it at the time, but there was just something about it that I really liked.

Antique hutch for small projects + storage.

I always like to ask: Do you keep any specific items, books, tsotchkes in your space to inspire you?

Definitely! A perk of having vintage items available in my shop means I get to appreciate the little treasures I have for sale until they head to their new owners. To make good use of this, I installed some shelves in my office that are now reserved for my various finds – they’re things that caught my eye to begin with so I like having them on display as though I were selling from a regular brick & mortar shop.

Functional & decorative storage.

I also keep one of my vinyl chalkboard trays (sans magnetic tins) on hand to note any supplies I need to buy, or to just play around with for new ideas. I have the world’s blackest thumb, but I found some awesome little upcycled cork succulent plant magnets that seem to be doing well under my care – I see that as a sign that anything is possible. Other than that, I love hand-printed and pressed artwork so I’m slowly building up a collection, including a “Viva La Vida” print from Happy Deliveries and a signed, numbered linocut print of one of NY’s Finger Lakes (a $2 thrifted find!). Just like the rest of my house, my space will forever be a work in progress – I like letting a design aesthetic evolve naturally as my tastes grow and change.

Do you ever see yourself outgrowing your current work area and expanding into commercial studio space or a brick-and-mortar shop? If you ever worked on outside of the home, have you ever thought of your dream workspace and what it would look like?

I would love to have some type of actual studio and storefront someday! It feels like a beyond-lofty goal at the moment, but I’m always open to new opportunities so I can’t rule anything out. Syracuse has a lot of awesome old buildings in the downtown area that are currently undergoing a bit of a Renaissance – the kind of old timey places with details like original tin ceilings, exposed beams, intricately carved woodwork… swoon. It’s exciting to watch the transformation for the city I now call home, and the downtown area is definitely where I would want to be. If we’re talking no-holds-barred, full-out dream world here, then my future space would somehow encompass my current business and a microbrewery specializing in spice-infused beers – is it too early to promise a round of free brewskies for your readers?

(Another editor’s interjection: Spice-infused microbrewery! I love that idea and can’t wait to see it realized. And no, I will speak for all of us in saying that we will accept a free round anytime of day.)

Thanks to Katrina for participating in the series and sharing all of the photos of your workpad! Now, everyone – I hope you all head over to read her blog and shop at her store!

“…Color Me” Or Make Me Into A Lampshade

July 20, 2011   //  Posted in: Being Thrifty, DIY, Lighting, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses

When I first “finished” the driftwood lamp a few months ago, I had bought this bright white drum shade from Target knowing full-well once I saw it on the lamp that it wasn’t going to work. So, back to the store it went (and back into my pocket went $16).

Shade's a no-go.

The wired lamp base has sat on the sunroom floor ever since; I’m sure it was still Lake Ontario water-logged and needed more time to dry out anyways. I had been shopping for and bringing home other shades during that time, but none of them worked – not even this huge drum shade that my buddy at the local salvage shop gave me fo’ free (because it was pretty grimy).

Dare I call this a vintage drum lampshade?

Given the tall and narrow proportions of the base, the big shade wasn’t jiving with me right. But that’s not to say it wouldn’t have worked out somehow – I considered rehabbing the shade with new fabric or paint, and know if I see someone on Pinterest do it I’ll still probably crumble in envyousy (a wee combo of envy and jealousy). But back to the shade-to-base proportions: I just wasn’t feeling it with any that I found in my travels, so I sat back and waited for better inspiration, which I’m happy to say finally arrived this week.

Looking at the driftwood for so long also made me decide that maybe the proportions of the base were just too wonky for my taste overall, and as I had mentioned before, I was really thinking that slap-chopping the wood into two matching, squattier lamps might be a better use of the materials. (Plus, who doesn’t like a nice 2-for-1 deal?).

Well, that’s just what I did.

A perfect cut in half around the middle meant that I would be left with two 8.5″ x 8.5″ tall lamps, which seemed more tolerable given the living room space (which is where I’m currently seeing them live, at least semi-permanently).

Because I wanted to rip through it with the miter saw, I needed to make sure that there were no rowdy obstructions (rusty nails) in my cutting path, and a careful assessment only yielded that only one stood a chance of being in my way, so I removed it. It’s free, and pointing at the exact 8.5″ mark right here. And yes, that was one honkin’ nail.

Only one nail in the way of making a cut at 8.5". Removed. Onward.

The miter saw that I used worked pretty well; it didn’t go through the full piece of wood, even when I cut both sides of the lumber, so I used a hand saw to cut the final 1/2″ or so that was binding the two pieces together.

Right away I re-wired one of the two pieces using materials I had in-house (read: free) to see how it would look with the lighting hardware attached. Verdict? Lookin’ good.

A good lookin' set of squatty driftwood lamp bases.

And if you’re wondering, I did cushion the bottom of these driftwood pieces for two reasons: 1) If it wasn’t padded, it could scuff up the table surface, and 2) the cuts with the saw weren’t perfectly smooth, so the fuzzy-side-of-the-velcro-pad helped to balance the situation out. A thin panel of felt glued to the bottom would have done well too.

Cushioning the bottom of the lamp base to prevent scratches and level the lamp out.

The inspiration for the shade that I’m writing about here drove me to use another somethin’-somethin’ that I had been holding on to for awhile: this coloring book from Anthropologie. Immediately upon finding it I had lots of questions. Was it an adult’s coloring book and why would adults buy coloring books? Should it belong to Richie Rich? This couldn’t be a kid’s coloring book priced at $29.95? (Mine was only $14.95 on clearance, high five.) Or was it meant to be something that could be artistically hung? Maybe used for decoupaging? That’s how I was spinning the case in my mind, rationalizing that $15 for 50 pages of art wasn’t a bad deal because that brought the price-per-page down to a very tolerable I-find-this-in-the-Wegman’s-parking-lot-weekly 30-cents. Cheap art. Pretty art.

Coloring book sold at Anthropologie, purchased at 50% off a few months ago.It’s not your average coloring book, if that’s what it was meant to be. The black and ivory pages are totally swoon-worthy and individually framable. Intricate in pattern, each page is completely different from the next, and my imagination was telling me that I could maybe, possibly, probably make a paper lampshade from it.

Coloring Book from Anthropologie.

As I forged ahead with a plan to make this brainchild of a paper lampshade, I selected 4 pages of art that were similar in the sense that they were mostly ivory with black line detailing. I used a razor blade to carefully slice the pages from the binding, and then cut each sheet into 3 pieces width-wise so I was left with 12 4″ wide strips of paper. And no, I was not accurate, I was eyeballing it, which was fine by me.

Art strips pre-gluing.

Those pieces of paper were evenly sorted so no like-pieces were side-by-side, and then hot-glued together, edge to edge, using Pete’s manly hot glue gun (featuring manly yellow super-strength glue). I haven’t actually used a glue gun since I lived with my parents and helped out with Girl Scout projects, so this was fun for me. And yes, I felt like I was going to get scolded for letting it drip on the table. It was more fun than I’m letting on now.

Hot gluing assorted pieces of paper together.To develop a very necessary framework for this shade to hang on, I tore apart the large drum shade I showed you earlier. See how the fabric was affixed to several metal hoops? I tore that thing apart with the same vigor as Truckasaurus when he/she/it chomps through demolition-worthy vehicles (and I’m only referencing this and aware of this kick-ass phenomenon because we saw it on the NY Thruway over the weekend and it made Pete light up like a 5-year old boy).

Drum hoop detailing. About to be destructed.In any case, my ferocity left me with a slew of hoop and usable shade-structure materials.

Remains of the drum shade post-Emilysaurus.My main goal was to make a solid framework from the existing materials; the shade itself was going to be made of paper, so despite being cool in my mind, I also realize that Pete’s little girl will go to turn on the light the first time and probably tear it, and such an occurrence will be fine. (I’ll probably be ready for a lampshade switcheroo by then anyways.)

Using one of the round pieces, I trimmed and hot-glued the coil to be smaller than it was originally; I didn’t want a huge shade, just one that appeared proportional and not overwhelming the newly cut base. I used wire cutters (and a hack saw, but possibly because I was being weak with the cutters) to detach the part of the shade that attaches to the lamp harp.

My two frame hardware components: A three pronged piece to attach to the lamp harp, and a custom hoop.
The three-pronged piece fit perfectly within the custom hoop, and with a little hot glue, stayed in place well. The whole piece was spray painted with a glossy white and a glossy clear top coat before I did anything further with it.

Once it had dried, I carefully glued the paper frame directly to the hoop with the glue gun, and within a minute it was ready to be installed.

Excitement ensued, although I’m seeing three things I’d like to fix. And I’m not talkin’ about that pile of stuff on the floor at the right (Dad surprised me with old junk yesterday) or the sloppy shelves (that I’m just cringing at now):

A finished lamp!1) The bottom of the shade is looking a little uneven; it could use a second hoop to hold the shade in a better drum shape.

2) The base of the harp wobbles back and forth on the driftwood. I’m thinking of gluing it right into place to lock it in more securely, since it contributes heavily to shade un-levelness.

Light, lit, but the bottom of the shade is looking a little oblate. 3.) I had some yellow glue overflow when assembling the shade. Only a big issue if you’re looking down into the lamp, but yellow and a nuisance nonetheless.

Visible glue overflow.But learning curve issues aside, I’m loving it in the living room. And Cody’s still loving that dog bed I made earlier this week. The lamp’s once-siamese twin will sit on the other side of the couch once I buy a sweet little assembly kit or another old fixture to tear apart.

Living room updated. And filled with the enormous dog bed.

P.S. Tamarack art installed over the IKEA cabinetry! It’s been there for a few weeks now, and I’m feeling like it’ll stay there awhile longer.



Because Of The King + For The King

July 19, 2011   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  12 responses

Backtrack to 2009 to me finding Cody gnawing on the guest room Urban Outfitters comforter. He left a sweet not-so-little and not-so-reparable hole in it, although I have to admit that maybe (and by maybe, I mean definitely) I was the one who originally screwed up the blanket to begin with by putting it through the washer and dryer instead of dry cleaning like the product tag instructed me to. That’s why the filling you see is wadded up like a used tissue and not fluffy like normal exposed quilt fill.

His fault or not, Cody still looks guilty two years later, right?

Cody, still looking guilty.

Aside from being tattered and full of holes, I still loved the fabric, which is why I hadn’t tossed the whole thing out yet. Or maybe because my hoarder tendencies were kicking in.

No signs of distress on the other side.

Fortunately, I think he chewed in the best possible spot, only destroying the corner of the inset section on the top of the quilt. I found this to be when I chopped apart the blanket to salvage the fabrics and figure out what I could make with the remaining materials.

Guess where he chewed.

The back panel of the quilt was that soft, lightweight cotton that I drool over routinely at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. It was in reasonably good condition still, and despite being washed roughly in the machine, it wasn’t pilled at all.

Sheer panel from the quilt.Because there was a 12″ trim that went all the way around the quilt in a more colorful fabric (bring on the pinks and oranges!), I also had salvaged as much of that as I could – it’s shown in the next photo. At this point, I decided that I might have enough fabric for a much-desired pouf or, if I could make it large enough, a nice-but-totally-not-masculine-for-my-masculine-dog dog bed. (Did you read that right?)

I was leaning towards the latter because the boy had been really good lately. And he’s been working his way up to a big-boy bed after spending a year napping on two layers of towel. Without chewing them. Atta boy.

Because of the hole in the large flowered piece of material I showed you earlier, I was limited to a diameter that maxed out at 36″, so I taped together a few pieces of newspaper and cut a perfectly round template using a DIY’ed protractor with a pen and a piece of wire that formed an 18″ radius.

Extra strips of salvaged quilt fabric, and a 36" circle template made from newspaper.

With the round pieces of larger fabric cut into 36″ circles, it was easy to see how large this bed was going to be.

Big, round template yields big, round dog bed.

By measuring with a string around the entire circle, I learned of the true circumference, which translated to me knowing how long the piping for the top and bottom of the bed needed to be. (I know there’s a math equation for this, but you don’t really expect me to remember it, right?)

I sewed the piping myself (not made of traditional or DIY’ed bias tape like any seamstress would recommend); my strategy was to make a simple sleeve sewn shut lengthwise, looking a bit like a piece of sausage casing. The sausage-sized casing itself was then stuffed with (wait for it) old cut up t-shirts. That’s right, I sewed it right into place. The two sausage pipes (if I can call them that) were then sewn along the length of the more colorful fabric strips evenly and and in parallel form to become the center band of the dog bed slip cover that provides height to the whole thing. Yes, rolled out completely it extended the the length of the living room.

Long strips of piping stuffed with t-shirts and sewn to the circumference of the bed.There weren’t many photos between the piping step and the finished piece step because I was madly attached to the sewing machine with a whole lot of dog bed jammed in my lap. There was nothing complicated about the whole ordeal, just a lot to hold onto and not a lot to be seen. The slip cover was sewn inside out as I carefully attached both 36″ round pieces to the piping strips, sewing in a circle. Once it was almost completely sewn together, I flipped it so that the exposed piping and colorful fabrics were on the outside, and I finished off the bed by stuffing it by hand.

I did use an old foam dog bed as the core means for filling, although it was smaller, thinner, and rectangular than the slip cover I had (and too small for Cody to use by itself) so I included extra rolled up and spread out bath towels and old beach towels to pad and round out the whole bed. Sneak peek inside?

Inside the dog bed.

I swear, the best part of it is that it’s almost entirely machine washable (only part that wouldn’t be is the foam cushion). And because I want to be able to wash it easily, I’m planning to button shut the opening in the side (just making sure he doesn’t try and eat it after a few more days).

Although, having been entirely made of recycled materials, it’s his to destroy and damage; if it lasts a year, that’ll be amazing. Every material used was free to me.

He sure looks comfy in this photo, and has been sleeping on it intermittently, for the record. It’s the kind of bed that you can just melt into.

Happy boy.

If it lasts 2 weeks, at least I didn’t drop $100 on a nice one from L.L. Bean. Know what I’m sayin’?