Outdoor Movie Night Birthday Party

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? Well, life hasn’t given me lemons, but it has given me an unattractive concrete back “yard.” I’m not fond of it, but once in a while, it does work out nicely, like when the boys play basketball with their buddies and recently, when we figured out we could make it into a drive-in movie theater!

As the kids get older, we’ve been shifting towards small get-togethers rather than large parties to celebrate their birthdays. Last year, we had a simple sleepover for our oldest, with pizza, cake, and a movie. The kids had a great time, and this year, I decided to change things up by taking the movie outdoors.

Here’s what you’ll need to put together your own outdoor movie night!

Outdoor movie basics

A movie, of course! There are lots of helpful lists and reviews over at Common Sense Media. Here was our short list for a group of 9 and 10 year-old boys:

  • The Incredibles
  • The Princess Bride
  • Wall-E
  • Superman: The Movie
  • Harry Potter
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Hugo

The birthday boy settled on Kung Fu Panda 2, which was a big hit with the kids. I was pleasantly surprised myself, especially given the low expectations that come with anything that has “2” in the title. It was funny and sweet with the right amount of slapstick comedy to please our crowd.

Projector: I looked into renting one, but at $100 a day, I felt we were better off buying one. We lucked out and found a lightly used projector on Craigslist for less than half the original price. I’m certainly not an expert, but I did figure out that you want lots of lumens, for brightness, and you also, if you are buying used, be sure that the bulb isn’t worn out, as these can cost $100 themselves.

Speakers: We hooked up our computer to a big speaker using an amplifier. If you need more technical details, I’ll have ask Steve…

Screen: A butyl-coated painter’s dropcloth makes the perfect movie screen, a tip I found over at Prairie Hive. This is the 9’x12’rubber coated canvas drop cloth I found, and it worked perfectly. It’s large and white, and the plastic coating has a slight sheen that makes the movie look nice and bright.

Canvas drop cloth used as a movie screen.  Via Jewels at Home.

Canvas drop cloth used as a movie screen.  Via Jewels at Home.

Canvas drop cloth used as a movie screen.  Via Jewels at Home.

Accessories for an outdoor movie party

Decorations

Christmas lights would look great around the screen. I tried to make glow in the dark lanterns made by tying glow bracelets inside balloons. They didn’t end up noticeably glowing, so I would recommend putting several inside each balloon to see if you have more success. The balloons themselves still looked festive, at least.

Snacks

We made s’mores in a cone, aka campfire cones, which I actually baked in the oven. Each kid made their own mix of strawberries, raspberries, bananas, chocolate chips, marshmallows, butterscotch chips. The fruit made the cones a little soggy in spots (may be better to omit the berries and try something like apple), but the result was definitely yummy.

Make "s'mores in a cone" with the kids.  From Jewels at Home.

Make “s’mores in a cone” with the kids.

Make "s'mores in a cone" with the kids.  From Jewels at Home.

“S’mores in a cone” ready to bake.

And what movie night would be complete without popcorn? I served the popcorn in brown paper bags decorated with red scrapbook papers and “popcorn” printed, appropriately, in Broadway font. To fight the chill, we finished the evening with hot chocolate.

Decorate popcorn bags for a home movie night.  From Jewels at Home.

Decorate popcorn bags for a home movie night.

Movie-themed labels for a home drive-in party.  From Jewels at Home.

Movie-themed labels for a home drive-in party.

And the fleece blankets I made for the boys worked out perfectly – they kept everyone warm for the movie, and I was very gratified to see the boys curling up in them to play games and sleep, as well.

Cozy monogrammed fleece blankets.  From Jewels at Home.

Cozy monogrammed fleece blankets.

And finally, a few pictures of the home drive-in party.  They turned out a bit dark, but that only makes sense, right?

Drive-in movie party ideas.  From Jewels at Home.

Drive-in movie party ideas.  From Jewels at Home.

The drive-in birthday party was such a success.  We’re definitely all exhausted, but they boys had a great time and made many memories.  I’m thinking we should make the drive-in a regular occurrence!

“Jewels”

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Quick and Cozy Fleece Blankets

Here’s the thing about the fog in San Francisco: you have to believe it is mystical and beautiful, or else you would just become horribly depressed. See that giant “cloud” at the base of Sutro Tower? Yes, that is fog. Brrrrrr.

Fog at the base of Sutro Tower, San Francisco.  Jewels at Home.

So, when we started planning an outdoor movie night for our oldest’s birthday party, I was a bit nervous, since the evenings are often chilly where we live. I decided to make fleece blankets for the boys to use during the movie, thinking they would also be great party favors. I mentioned in the post on alternative birthday gifts and favors that I like to give one or two larger items that can get some long-term use, rather than a lot of small disposable items.

There are a lot of ideas for fleece blanket projects out there. I was looking for something that would be substantial, easy to make, and still look great. That’s a tall order, and I was very happy to find this tutorial for an “Easy Peasy Fleece Blanket” from Polka Dot Chair. I made a few small changes when I did ours, and now everyone can stay toasty warm during our movie!

Supplies

  • fleece – 1.5 yards of two fabrics (front and back) for each blanket. I found some fleece on sale or as remnants at the local fabric store and bought the rest from fabric.com. They had the best price I could find, when you take into account shipping costs and clearance items.
  • scrap fleece or felt for monogram letters
  • Heat’n Bond Lite Iron-on Adhesive
  • Computer and printer for making letter templates

Applique letters

I can do appliques in my sleep after all the recent appliqued clothes I’ve made for the kids! I decided to do first and last initials for our monograms, since we had a few kids at the party with the same first initial. I printed the initials in Century Schoolbook font in 430 pt bold. I then traced them in reverse onto the Heat ‘n Bond. I held them up to a window to trace.

Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

Print out the letter templates and trace them in reverse onto the Heat ‘n Bond.

I ironed the Heat ‘n Bond onto the fleece, cut out the letters, and ironed the letters on to one side the blankets, using a press cloth. Because the fabric is so thick, it helped to iron again from the back, to get the letters completely fused to the blanket fabric.

I wanted to apply the letters before sewing the blankets, so the stitching would not show through on the other side of the blanket. I had trimmed the fleece for each blanket already, so I knew the finished size. I then used rulers to mark off 5″ from each edge (3.5″ for the fringe and 1.5″ for spacing) and placed my letters in the corner (first picture below). I then sewed around each letter to secure it (second picture below).

Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

Iron your monogram in place in the corner. I measured 5″ from each edge, to allow for the fringe and some extra space.

Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

Sew around each letter to secure it to the blanket.

Blankets:

  • After choosing the fabric combinations, I laid out the top and bottom of each blanket and trimmed off the selvage and any other uneven areas. (top left picture below)
  • I then sewed the letters on one side of each blanket, as described above.
  • I pinned the two sides together (top right picture below).
  • Then, I sewed the sides together, with the seam 3.5″ from the edge. I found the easiest way to do this was to mark a 3.5″ seam allowance on the sewing machine using painter’s tape. (bottom left picture below)
Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

Lay out your fabrics, wrong sides together. Pin and trim. Sew with a 3.5″ seam allowance.

When I was done sewing, I cut strips about 1.25″ wide all around the blanket to make the fringe, stopping 0.5″ from the stitched line.

Here are the finished blankets. I love how each one is unique. The younger boys had fun prints on their blankets, and the older boys had solid fabrics or the graphic stars.

Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

So many ways to vary this simple fleece blanket design!

My younger boys were clamoring for me to finish their blankets, so they could use them right away!

Monogrammed cozy fleece blankets from Jewels at Home.

I like how Baby J’s firefighter blanket fits in with the rest of his nursery.

Colorful nursery from Jewels at Home.

Cozy fleece blanket tutorial from Jewels at Home.

And here they are one more time: cozy fleece blankets all ready for movie night! If I remember, I’ll take some pictures of the boys bundled up for the show.

Monogrammed cozy fleece blanket from Jewels at Home.

Yay! I wish I had the energy and fabric to make one of these for myself. I think I will have to wear a parka when we watch the movie…

“Jewels”

 

Recipe for Homemade “Whole Foods” Chunky Granola

I love this granola from Whole Foods. It’s very chunky and nutty and tastes delicious with yogurt and fruit or on its own. There are only a couple of problems with this love affair that have led me to try making our own version… 1) this little container costs $7 and we can go through it in a couple of days; and 2) the walnuts were my favorite part, and they’ve taken them out! Steve would probably add a third reason, which is that I used to steal all the walnuts out of the granola anyway (I also leave all the cashews in the mixed nuts, so he ends up with just cashews, but I digress…) In any case, I’m very happy to have figured out how easy it is to make this granola economically at home with extra walnuts to (theoretically) leave enough for everyone else.

Whole Foods Chunky Granola.  Recipe for a homemade version from Jewels at Home.

Here is the ingredient list. It was probably a bit ridiculous to try to recreate the granola from this list, since it has the basic ingredients of virtually every granola, but I thought I would give it a try. I don’t usually do a lot in the kitchen, but I was feeling inspired by the granola recipe from My Modern Asian Family, which I have tasted… and yum!

Whole Foods Chunky Granola.  Recipe for a homemade version from Jewels at Home.

To get a starting point for the ingredient portions and technique, I looked at this chunky granola recipe from Thyme2Cook and played around with it. Here’s our current version, and I’m very happy with the results. I am finding the copycat recipe just as addictive as the inspiration, which may or may not be a good thing!

Jewels’ Chunky Nutty Granola

In a large bowl, mix together

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup almonds (I used whole almonds but will try a 1/2 cup slivered almonds next time, since some of the kids didn’t like the big chunks)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate microwavable bowl or in a saucepan (I used a glass measuring cup), mix

  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Heat the second mixture in the microwave for about 40 seconds or on the stovetop until warmed through, and stir in, mixing until smooth

  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or rice flour, for gluten-free)

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a big spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and wet.

Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.  Whole Foods recipe copycat.

Coat the dry ingredients with the wet mixture.

Spread on a large lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes at 325 F. Stir.
Bake another 25 minutes at 225 F. Turn off oven and leave granola in for one hour.
Take it out, let cool, and store in an airtight container.

Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.  Whole Foods recipe copycat.

Finished granola. Yum!!

Recipe for a chunky nutty homemade granola {Jewels at Home}

Recipe for a chunky nutty homemade granola {Jewels at Home}

 

Bon appetit!

“Jewels”

Bib and Onesie Bouquet

To quote our toddler, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” My very dear friends Nicola and Victor just welcomed their first baby, and I was thrilled to meet her. I didn’t have a lot of time to pull together a gift, but I wanted something special, so I made this “bouquet ” out of onesies, bibs, and receiving blankets. I also brought some fruit and pastries from Whole Foods – goodness knows anyone eating hospital food will appreciate something fresh.

I know, I know, I had just sworn off appliqued onesies, but I had to give in just one more time, since I finally learned that the baby is a girl!  I had a few blank shirts left over from the DIY onesie party, so I quickly made some with a little girl in mind.  “Quickly” is the key word here, and our toddler was “helping,” so I apologize for the cupcake, which looks a tad squashed.  Hopefully, baby won’t mind.  Everyone will be too busy looking at her sweet face, anyway.

Sweet heart applique onesie.  Jewels at Home.

Sweet heart applique onesie.

Simple flower applique onesie for a baby girl.  Jewels at Home.

Simple flower applique onesie for a baby girl. The center is fleece from another project I’ll post soon!

Cupcake applique onesie.  Jewels at Home.

Cupcake applique onesie. A bit lopsided, oops!

Looking for beautiful onesies for your own bouquet? I have seen the most beautiful prints with big discounts on Zulily:

Materials for the “bouquet”

  • onesies (above)
  • bibs
  • receiving blankets
  • popsicle sticks
  • elastic bands
  • ribbon

The technique for rolling the “flowers” is similar for the bibs, onesies, and blankets.

  • Start by folding the bib or onesie in half.  For the receiving blankets, fold into a small rectangle. (top picture below)
  • For the bibs and onesies, I placed a popsicle stick in the center to make a “stem,” so the flower could be held in a bouquet.  The blanket made a a big enough roll  on its own.  (middle picture below)
  • Make a tight roll, with the center sticking out slightly more than the edges.  For the bib, it’s easiest to start with the strap, and for the onesies, it’s easiest to start with the neck, so that the center is not too bulky. (bottom picture below)
  • Put an elastic band around each flower, to hold it tight.
Rolling bibs, onesies, and receiving blankets to make flowers for a bouquet.  Jewels at Home.

Rolling bibs, onesies, and receiving blankets to make flowers for a bouquet.

To wrap the bouquet

  • Fold two receiving blankets into triangles, and laid them out with the edge of the top one slightly higher than the other.  (top picture below)
  • Make a pocket with the top blanket and lay the flowers inside.  (bottom picture below)
  • Roll the blankets around the flowers, and tie with a ribbon.
Wrapping bibs, onesies, and receiving blankets into a bouquet.  Jewels at Home.

Wrapping bibs, onesies, and receiving blankets into a bouquet.

Here are some pictures of the finished bouquet.  I think I could have fussed with it to make it a little neater, but I’m pretty happy with the overall result.

Tutorial: DIY bouquet of onesies, bibs, and receiving blankets.  Jewels at Home.

DIY bouquet of onesies, bibs, and receiving blankets.

Tutorial: DIY bouquet of onesies, bibs, and receiving blankets.  Jewels at Home.

DIY bouquet of onesies, bibs, and receiving blankets. It looks good next to this random bush outside the hospital. I’ll add some leaves next time.

And most beautiful of all, here’s the tiny recipient of this big bouquet!

20120917-195958.jpg

Welcome, little one!  I look forward to watching you grow and sharing many “mommy moments” with Nicola.

“Jewels”

Racing Stripe Magnet Boards

Steve took our two older boys on a camping trip this weekend. I wanted to surprise them all with a few little projects when they got home, so this is what I did for the boys’ room. They have lots of pictures, cards, and art that collect in little piles, and I wanted to make a place for the boys to display and enjoy them.

The boys’ room has a huge wall of closets that made the perfect blank slate for this project. The closets, by the way, are amazing. This is a favorite trick of the design-build team that did our renovation – they take Ikea Pax closets and frame them with drywall, for inexpensive built-in closets. Since all the parts are pre-cut, the cost is a fraction of custom cabinetry, and Ikea has tons of options for customizing the insides to maximize storage. We were able to eliminate the boys’ dressers completely, since all their clothes fit inside the closets, with plenty of room to spare for other storage. I chose the Bergsbo closet doors, which match our paneled doors well (Steve commented the other day, “Hey, our closet doors go really well with our regular doors.” Yeah, honey, do you think that was an accident?). I added these 10″ square bar pulls for a clean, contemporary look.

Ikea Pax wardrobes used as built-in closets.  Jewels at Home.

Ikea Pax wardrobes used as built-in closets.

To make the magnet boards, I started with these 11.5″ square magnetic white boards. They cost half of most of the others I saw. You can’t pick the colors (I got three white and three different colors), but that was okay, since I wanted to paint them anyway. I sacrificed the dry erase function when I painted them, but I actually find dry erase stuff a bit creepy with all the black dust the markers make when you wipe it off. Finally, I will say that they are a bit lightweight (tin wrapped around cardboard), but mine arrived in overall very good condition, and again, it worked well for me, because I wanted to mount them on the doors, so the lighter weight was perfect.

Painting the racing stripes:

  • sand the boards lightly, including the sides, with a fine sandpaper
  • spray a coat of primer over the whole board, including the sides. I used white primer, which made the next step easier.
  • spray a band of white (or your choice of color) about 3 inches from the top. This may take a few coats for good coverage. Let it dry thoroughly, even overnight.
  • Using a ruler and painter’s tape – I used 1.5″ wide designed for delicate surfaces, tape over the white area. I placed the bottom of my tape 4″ from the top of the board. (top left picture below)
  • Spray a band of red (or a color of your choice) above the tape.  Again, this will take a few coats and should be thoroughly dry before moving to the next step. (top middle picture below)
  • Using the ruler, place painter’s tape 1.5″ from the top of the board, so that you are masking off a 1″ band of red. (top right picture below)
  • Spray the whole board with grey. (bottom left picture below)
  • Peel off the tape and spray your finished product with a couple of coats of clear paint.  (bottom right picture  below)
Tutorial: painting racing stripes on a magnet board.  Jewels at Home.

Tutorial: painting racing stripes on a magnet board.

Here’s a close-up view of the finished board:

Magnet board with racing stripes.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

Magnet board with racing stripes.

And here’s how the boards look in the boys’ room:

DIY racing stripe magnet boards.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

DIY racing stripe magnet boards.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

DIY racing stripe magnet boards.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

The boys were very excited to see their new magnet boards, when they got home.  Here’s how our 6 year-old personalized his board, with Pokemon cards and Ninjago Lego figures.

DIY racing stripe magnet boards.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

I was looking for pictures to put up on the boards this afternoon and found this photo from 2007 of our older boys with our old dog, Cooper.  He looks so big in the picture, but it’s only because they were so small!  We miss you, Coops.

20120916-223845.jpg

And what did I do for Steve (and myself)?  We were overdue for some new reading lamps for our nightstands.  Our toddler, who stayed home with me – we hope to make it camping next year! – didn’t mind going out to Marshall’s for the lamps, especially since we also found some new fruits for his play kitchen.  He was “feeding” them to me all weekend, and he cracked up every time I “ate” the lemon and made a sour face.

New bedside lamps on the nightstand.  Jewels at Home.

New bedside lamps on the nightstand. “His” side.

New bedside lamps on the nightstand.  Jewels at Home.

New bedside lamps on the nightstand. “Her” side.

Well, I’m very happy to have Steve and the older boys back home.  It was just a day and a half, but I missed them so much.  I guess, I’m used to a full house these days.

“Jewels”

Stairway Makeover – Step by Step

I give my hubby a lot of credit for seeing the potential in our current house. While I’m incredibly grateful to have a comfortable home to live in, it has been a long process for me to actually come to love the look of the place. There was a lot of pink, red, gold, and heavy ornate-ness that we’ve been slowly replacing. I think the recent work by our painters was the tipping point for me. I can now truly say that it is a pleasure to walk in the house and see these stairs.

Updating a stairway step by step from Jewels at Home.

As you can see, a lot has changed since the (blurry – sorry, I had to enlarge it to focus on the stairs) real estate picture was taken. We started by changing the light fixtures from crystal chandeliers and sconces to more architectural fixtures, and we replaced the red and grungy carpet with a brown textured wool with a sage green twill binding.

This fall, our painters Joe and Jose (yes, they know they have the same name), helped with a new wall color – Manchester Tan from Benjamin Moore – and painting the stair risers white to match the trim. After they were done, I also spray-painted the metal carpet rods, covering up the tarnished brass with satin black.

The easier thing would definitely have been to paint the risers before the carpet runner was installed, but sometimes inspiration does not come in an orderly way.. So Joe and Jose patiently taped off all the carpet, sanded the risers, primed and painted them.

20120823-213845.jpgTo paint stair risers after a runner is installed, you'll have to tape off the runner thoroughly.

To paint stair risers after a runner is installed, you’ll have to tape off the runner thoroughly, before sanding, priming, and painting the wood.

As for the carpet rods, I considered replacing them, but these innocent-looking pieces of metal are actually very expensive, at $40 plus a set, so a little but of work went a long way. I sanded, primed, and spray painted them a satin black finish to match the wrought iron balusters. I decided to leave the brackets on while painting, which held the rods off the cardboard surface. However, this did mean that I had to shift the brackets between coats, so no areas were missed, and it took a lot of coats. I would recommend lining the rods up very close to each other when painting, so each pass with the spray paint will cover multiple rods.

Update your carpet rods with a fresh coat of paint.  From Jewels at Home.

After I re-installed the carpet rods, the screws were still brass. Luckily, I had watched a wrought iron handrail get installed in our old house, and I saw that the installer painted the screws by spraying matching paint into a cup and then painting it on the screws. I used a cotton swab for this.

Tip for painting screws with spray paint.  Jewels at Home.

I did have a debate about whether to put the carpet rods back on at all. They’re decorative, not functional. I think they make the stairs look more formal and traditional, while they look a bit more contemporary without the rods. I put them back, at least for now, because they do a hide some staples and raw edges on the carpet. What do you think?

A bare runner looks more contemporary, while carpet rods give a more formal look.  Which do you prefer?

A bare runner looks more contemporary, while carpet rods give a more formal look. Which do you prefer?

Finally, we’re not really statue people, so I decided to fill the spaces on and around the stairs with orchids and houseplants instead. Here’s how our finished space looks. Ahhhh….

A classic stairway with a new look. Walls are Manchester Tan from Benjamin Moore. From Jewels at Home.

A classic stairway with a new look. Walls are Manchester Tan from Benjamin Moore. From Jewels at Home.

A classic stairway with a new look. Walls are Manchester Tan from Benjamin Moore. From Jewels at Home.

And one last before-and-after look, so we can put the memories of the old stairway behind us!A classic stairway with a new look. Walls are Manchester Tan from Benjamin Moore. From Jewels at Home.

“Jewels”

Appli-crazy: More Inspiration for Kids’ Clothes

Yes, I know I tend to get carried away with projects, and there have been a lot of posts lately about different appliques on kids clothes. In this age of mass-produced everything, I really love the look of something unique on the little ones. Here are the other recent posts with ideas for decorating kids’ shirts and clothes:

And here are some pictures of the last few shirts I’m making for a while – I need to get back to the rest of the house! I have had a lot of fun making them, and I think they have a unique and retro feel that’s very cozy. Again, I got the shirts and dresses from Rock Bottom T-Shirts, which seems to have the best prices around for blank items.

I made these for our baby, when I was preparing for the baby shower. I wanted them as examples of designs people could try, and I chose gender-neutral patterns, since we don’t know if Nicola and Victor are having a boy or a girl.

Lots of ideas for kid's appliques at Jewels at Home.

More ideas for kid’s appliques. I tried to make designs that would work well for boys and girls.

Make you own applique T-shirts.  From Jewels at Home.

Baby J sporting his DIY caterpillar shirt.

And for my twin nieces, I made these butterfly dresses. Twins are just twice as cute, especially my nieces, and I love it when they are in coordinated but not perfect matched outfits.

Add appliques to inexpensive blank dresses and shirts for a unique gift.  More ideas at Jewels at Home.

Add appliques to inexpensive blank dresses and shirts for a unique gift.

Butterfly applique for girls' shirts and dresses.  Many more ideas at Jewels at Home.

Close-up view of the butterfly applique for girls’ shirts and dresses.

I drew all the designs freehand, and the details on how to make the appliques can be found in the post for the Onesie Decorating Party.

While the girl appliques here turned out very feminine, I tried to make the others more neutral. It’s so challenging to find things that are truly gender-neutral these days, and with our house full of boys, I get a little tired of all the footballs and race cars sometimes. When I was growing up, it seemed like a lot more girls wore blue – it was my favorite color! Today, it feels like every color and every animal has been divided up between the genders, and there is very little overlap. I was talking about this with my friend Ari, remarking on how odd it is that cats are always for girls, giraffes are always gender-neutral, and dogs are always for boys… except for the poodles, she said. So true! Social conventions can be so odd, and I realize this is the least of it!

“Jewels”

Bench Made From Chairs

So, I’ve been a bit crazy for chairs this year…

First, I picked up this beauty at the antiques fair on New Year’s Day.

Living room vignette with vintage chair, painted chest, and new cushions.  From Jewels at Home.

Living room vignette with vintage chair, painted chest, and new cushions.

Then, I refinished these free Queen Anne chairs found through Craigslist…

Queen Anne chair makeover by Jewels at Home

Free Queen Anne chairs found through Craigslist: from worn and boring to fresh and elegant!

And I went on to paint and reupholster our dining chairs

Ikea dining chair makeover by Jewels at Home

Another step in the evolution of our old Ikea chairs. This new fabric gives them an elegant yet whimsical feel that fits in with the Chinoiserie/ Regency look I am working on in our living-dining room.

Along the way, I could not resist these traditional Chinese chairs, also a deal on Craigslist.

Solid wood traditional Chinese chairs.

Solid wood traditional Chinese chairs.

Suddenly, I had too many chairs… and I still wanted a bench for our front hallway. Do you sense a solution here? I did!

While you could certainly get clever with carpentry and join chairs together in a number of creative ways (side by side in a row; on either end with a board in between; with two chair backs turned 90 degrees to make the ends of the bench, etc..), I didn’t want to permanently alter these chairs, since they are well-made and beautiful and might move on to a new purpose some day.

Instead, I chose to strap the chairs together and use cushions to give the feel of a single piece of furniture.

Strapping the chairs together

To make the chairs work together as a bench, I started by strapping them together. I used felt strips that were 2″ wide and long enough to wrap around two chair legs with 2″ overlap. I put straps at the back of the chairs, at the top and bottom of each leg. Measure the top and bottom of the legs separately, since they might not be the same width.

In the picture below,

  • Because my felt was thin, I started by sewing two layers of fabric together. (top left)
  • Then, I sewed velcro onto each end of the strip, as shown: the hook side on one end, and the loop side on the back side of the other end. You could use 2″ wide velcro, but I just used the narrower strips I already had and put two strips side by side. (top right)
  • This is how the finished straps look with the ends joined. (bottom left)
  • Here’s how they work on the chairs. These simple straps held the chairs in line pretty securely. (bottom right)
Sew straps to link chairs together into a bench.  Jewels at Home.

Sew straps to link chairs together into a bench.

Cushions

I took off the three separate chair cushions and added a single big one. After going around and around with all the options for fabric, I chose this textured fabric that has shades of blue, green, and grey in it. It ties together a lot of elements in the foyer and living room and doesn’t compete with the design of the chairs.

I added two bolster cushions in this really fun print: Barber in powder blue by Premier Prints. The technique for making the bolsters was detailed in the tutorial on sewing pillows. I used two, rather than three, to take attention away from the three separate chairs. I’m thinking of ways to use some more of this fabric on the living room that is right off the foyer.

Storage baskets
Finally, I tucked these faux leather storage crates under the chairs for the boys to keep their school bags and library books, so these things don’t get lost.

Finished “Bench”

Our new entry bench and storage system is working very well, and I like how it looks, too.

Ideas for joining chairs into a bench.  From Jewels at Home.

Ideas for joining chairs into a bench.  From Jewels at Home.

Ideas for joining chairs into a bench.  From Jewels at Home.

With a little bit of creativity, this “bench” has turned out to be a useful and attractive addition to our front hall.  Now back to some other chairs I picked up for free on the side of the road…

“Jewels”

Tutorial: Sewing Decorative Pillows for the Living Room

Well, I started gathering inspiration for decorative cushions a while ago and got the nudge – or was that a kick in the pants? – to finish them in preparation for holding my friend’s baby shower at our house. I’m so happy they’re done. It’s amazing how accessories can really complete a room.

Pillow Forms
At our house, the insides of our cushions come from all over the place: old cushions I wanted to recover, ready-made pillow forms, and pillow forms I made myself.

It goes without saying that you could make pillow forms by sewing a fabric pouch and stuffing it. Here are a couple of other things I’ve done.

  • I made some pillow forms from inexpensive sleeping pillows (look at Target or discount stores) cut in half and sewn closed. These turn out to be slightly rectangular, rather than square, but I think that adds some interest and variety.
Cut an inexpensive pillow in half and sew closed for economical pillow forms.

Cut an inexpensive sleeping pillow in half and sew closed for economical pillow forms.

  • For bolster pillows, I use a piece of foam in the center and wrap it in a few layers of batting, before covering it in a plain fabric. This makes a more solid form that will, you know, bolster.
Make a firm bolster pillow form with foam wrapped in batting. Cover the whole thing with plain cotton.

Make a firm bolster pillow form with foam wrapped in batting. Cover the whole thing with plain cotton.

Basic pillow cover
If you have a fabric that makes a statement on its own, a basic pillow is perfect for letting the pattern shine, without making your pillow too busy. That’s what I did with some of this Robert Allen Lake Paradise print that I had left over from reupholstering our dining chairs. This pillow ended up in our foyer and was a great opportunity to tie the entry into the adjacent living-dining room. Here are the instructions for a simple cushion cover.

  • Cut the front piece of the cushion about a half inch bigger than your pillow form. You don’t need to allow for the depth of the pillow – it will squeeze in there and give some fullness.
  • The back of the pillow is two pieces, each 2″ wider than half the width of your pillow, for example, this pillow is 19″ wide. 19 divided by two is 9.5. 9.5 plus 2 is 11.5, so each half of the back will be 11.5 inches wide
Tutorial for sewing a simple cushion cover.  From Jewels at Home.

Cut one piece for the front of your pillow and two pieces for the back.

  • Finish the center edge of the back pieces by folding under a hem and sewing it down.
  • Attach Velcro to the center of each of the back pieces, on the front of one piece and the back of the other, as shown.
Tutorial for simple decorative pillows.  From Jewels at Home.

Sew a hem on each of the back pieces and attach Velcro to the center.

  • Close the Velcro and treat back as one piece.
  • Lay the back piece on top of the front piece, with the right sides facing each other.
  • Sew around all four sides of the pillow with a half inch seam.
  • Clip the corners at a 45 degree angle, as shown, to reduce bulk.
  • Finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch or serger.
Tutorial for sewing a basic cushion cover.  From Jewels at Home.

Tutorial for sewing a basic cushion cover.

Bolster Pillow Covers

I made these the same way, but I placed the opening towards one end, so it is easier to get the pillow in, especially since these have a foam center and are stiffer than the other throw pillows.

Tutorial for sewing a simple bolster pillow.  From Jewels at Home.

Tutorial for sewing a simple bolster pillow. Place the opening at one end, so it’s easier to stuff.

Contrasting back pillow covers
I made these the same way as the basic pillow, but it has a whole new look when you use two different fabrics. Did this deserve its own section heading? I’m not sure.

Add interest to your pillows with a contrasting fabric on the back.  Tutorial for sewing simple cushion covers.  From Jewels at Home.

Add interest to your pillows with a contrasting fabric on the back.

Room View of New Living Room Pillows

Tutorial on sewing decorative cushions.  From Jewels at Home.

Living room with DIY pillow forms and cushion covers.  Tutorial from Jewels at Home.

New living room cushions with sewing tutorial.  From Jewels at Home.

New living room cushions with sewing tutorial.  From Jewels at Home.

The living room is almost complete.  I’m considering adding a ribbon border to these turquoise bolsters.  Are they too plain?  Or would a ribbon border be too busy?

Tutorial for sewing pillow forms and cushion covers.  From Jewels at Home.

I’m considering adding a ribbon border to these bolsters.

That’s it for now. I wanted to use more of the creative ideas I had collected, but I still plan to sew some pillows for our guest room-craft studio, so you’ll see more pillows in a post coming up soon.

Hope you’re inspired to do this easy project that adds so much personality and comfort to your room.

“Jewels”

 

Mid-Century Nightstand/ Dresser with Dipped Legs

To our delight, both our older boys love reading, and they recently requested a little nightstand to put their books on, so I poked around on Craigslist and found this cool-looking Mid-Century low dresser that was cosmetically-challenged but I thought would look great painted in grey.

Well, you know how Craigslist is – some people are completely friendly and professional and others can be a bit quirky or flaky. The guy selling this dresser was definitely friendly, but he did push back the time of our meeting several times, including once when we were already on the road, and he seemed to be struggling a bit to adjust to his move and letting go of some of his furniture. Anyway, we finally brought the dresser home.

A couple of days later, the seller of the dresser texted me to ask if he could buy the dresser back. That’s a first! But knowing that he was very attached to it, I didn’t want to be mean, so I agreed to sell it back to him. I was disappointed, but by that point, I was committed to the look, so I found the Sveio dresser at Ikea that has almost the same shape. I’m not crazy about the look in white, but since I was planning on painting ours anyway, I figured it would work out. Fast forward a few more hours, and the dresser’s former owner had changed his mind again and said he was not coming to pick it up.

Okay?! Whatever?! I got to work transforming this great vintage find into something cool and functional for the boys.

Mid-Century dresser found on Craigslist ready for a makeover!

BEFORE: Mid-Century dresser found on Craigslist ready for a makeover!  I forgot to take a picture before I started patching the damaged parts of the wood.

Sveio chest with drawers from Ikea

Sveio chest with drawers from Ikea has Mid-Century lines.

While part of me hated to paint over this classic piece of furniture, it really had seen better days. There were a lot of chips in the veneer and a dark stain on the top – so I felt I was better off painting it than trying to restore the wood finish.

I started with wiping it down and using some wood filler to patch up the most damaged parts of the veneer. When the wood filler was dry, I sanded the whole piece and wiped it down again.

I was inspired by this piece I saw at The Wits Blog, with the brass leg caps, so I taped off the bottom of the legs to leave the original wood.

Grey dresser makeover by The Wits.

Grey dresser makeover by The Wits.

Go to The Wits blog

For the rest of the dresser, I used a coat of primer followed by a couple of coats of Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray (HC-167).

I finished by rubbing the dresser with some furniture polish to give it a smooth protective finish.

Mid-Century dresser painted in Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray with reverse "dipped" legs. Get the same look with a Ikea Sveio hack.  From Jewels at Home.

Mid-Century dresser painted in Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray with reverse “dipped” legs.

Mid-Century nightstand painted with "dipped" legs.  Get the same look with a Ikea Sveio hack.  From Jewels at Home.

Close-up view of the legs of the painted Mid-Century nightstand, with a reverse “dipped” finish.

I’m happy with how the nightstand turned out, and it looks great in the boys’ room.  They love it and have already filled the drawers with their books and treasures.  Here’s how it looks in place.  Their room still needs a lot more decorating, but this is a good start!

Mid-Century nightstand makeover.  Get the same look with a Sveio Ikea hack.  From Jewels at Home.

Mid-Century nightstand with a new painted look.

Boys' room with a painted Mid-Century nightstand.  From Jewels at Home.

Boys’ room with a painted Mid-Century dresser.

Mid-Century nightstand painted in Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray with reverse "dipped" legs.  From Jewels at Home.

Mid-Century nightstand painted in Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray with reverse “dipped” legs. The cool baseball player lamp is a gift from the boys’ uncle. He brought it home from Korea.

And here’s the final before-and-after picture!

Mid-Century dresser painted in Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray with reverse "dipped" legs.  You could get this look with an Ikea Sveio hack, too.  From Jewels at Home.

So, this post turned out to be about making over a battered vintage dresser, but it almost became an Ikea Sveio hack, and that would have been okay, too.  If you try this with Sveio, you could leave the legs white or paint them another color first, before taping them off.  I hope this dresser’s former owner finds happiness, because our boys are very happy with their slick new nightstand.

Are you looking for your own diamond in the rough to transform? I’m excited to share that my friend Ari launched a slick new furniture re-sale site over at www.revolvingdecor.com. Check it out to participate in a curated online marketplace for great furniture finds!

“Jewels”