DIY Gallery Wall and Jewelry Display

While I am not much of a DIYer, I am all about creating a living space that reflects my family and the people and things that we love. Have you heard of man-caves? Well, in this house of 5, I am the sole female. The lone wolf. A man-cave we don’t need but a mom-cave? Yes. That I do need!

My office is a small room in our basement that houses my favourite treasures, mostly books among a few knick-knacks and a beloved chandelier. I have slowly added to the room over the years, taking advice from Nate Berkus to only add things that I love and “tell my story”.

This one wall remained a blank space for years, but I finally decided to take wedding photos of my parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparent in-laws (is that a term?) and create a gallery wall. The first step was deciding on frames that would fit nicely on the wall in a cluster of six. I am what some may call a traditionalist, and others may call boring, so black frames won out.

I then visited Blacks with the original photos, a few more than 60 years old, and spent some time with one of their photo technicians. They helped me to digitally restore and resize the photos. Their expertise proved invaluable and regardless of how tech savvy you may be, ask them for input. No need to DIY it all.

I would like to preface this by saying that a gallery wall is a lot harder to hang than it looks. First off, it involves math. A lot of it. And measuring. A lot of it. I can hold my own when it comes to math, but I wanted to limit the number of holes made in the wall. Needless to say the adage “measure twice, cut once” was running through my mind while I wielded my hammer.

My thorough research suggested that I tape off the gallery before actually hammering in the nails, and this worked out well for me. I was able to rearrange the photos and modify the spacing to my liking without puncturing the wall. Overall, I am happy with my handiwork (one is slightly off, but I can obsessed about that another day) but more so, this DIY project fills my space with people I love, and tells quite the story.

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Next up on my DIY project list was to arranging my collection of costume jewelry.

My pretty necklaces and chunky bracelets were stored away in boxes and drawers, not allowing for admiration or ready-to-wear. My favourite style blogger and interior designer, Erin Gates, provided inspiration with this picture from her recent best seller.

imgres-1Here’s my take. Thank you, Erin for showing us that it’s okay to have fun with our girly accessories!

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

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I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them "the treasure men".  I like that.

I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them “the treasure men”. I like that.

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Guest Post: Jennifer Flores on DIY

jenniferWe are thrilled to have as our guest today Jennifer Flores.  Blogging since 2007, Jennifer is the writer behind Rambling Renovators, a chronicle of the renovations, DIY adventures, creative projects, and home life she shares with her husband and daughter at their home in Toronto. Offline, Jennifer focuses on bringing the blogging community and lifestyle brands together as the Founder and driving force behind BlogPodium, Canada’s Conference for Lifestyle and Design Bloggers.

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I’ve always been a DIYer. From the time I would make clothes for my dolls to now when I make felt food for my daughter’s play kitchen, I’ve always found joy in doing and making things myself. But in this world of Pinterest and Instagram where your feeds are filled with picture-perfect projects from seemingly over-achieving women, that joy can be short-lived.

Where we once derived pleasure from the simple act of learning a skill and using it to create something uniquely ours, nowadays the pleasure might not come until after our home-baked meal/Christmas craft/upcycled thrift store find generates likes and repins from dozens of strangers. And I think that’s when doing it yourself becomes a don’t. Social media has really allowed us to expand our ideas of what’s possible. I’ve been inspired by countless projects on Pinterest. I’ve dusted off the sewing machine, wielded the glue gun, and mastered the miter saw because others have done it so why can’t I? And that’s a good thing! It should be good enough. But still.

There is that feedback loop now that didn’t exist before. The need not only to do the thing but to share it as well. Increasingly, Doing It Yourself does not necessarily mean Doing It For Yourself. As a blogger, I’m well aware of the currency a clever and well-executed DIY brings: comments, page views, re-pins. Even in offline life, there is satisfaction in saying “Oh this? I made it myself”. When you start to seek that external acceptance though, you set standards that might be impossible to meet.

Then there’s the idea that DIY is somehow a step backwards, a regression to times when there was an expectation for a woman to be domestic. When did DIY become a four-letter word? To me, DIY is a choice and in some ways, an inevitability. If I’ve been given the skills and natural talents to be able to craft and create things, shouldn’t I do just that? My inability to throw a football is just as strong as my ability to throw a stylish fete. Neither of these define me as more or less of a person. It just is. I think DIY is just another facet of one’s personality, expressed in physical form. Just like we all have a singer and a painter inside of each of us (albeit at different levels of ability), we all have a DIYer inside us. And when one chooses to express that ability, online or offline, I think it’s a very beautiful thing.

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What My Graveyard of DIY Projects Taught Me About Parenting

Behold the graveyard of DIY projects.

There is a box of papers, colorful scissors with various edges, a hodgepodge of stickers, stamps and decals residing on a shelf in my office closet.  Last year I discarded a two-inch stack of recipes torn from magazines promising mouth-watering delicacies.  A clear, plastic, zippered pouch that contains two spools of soft, chocolatey brown yarn and a partially completed scarf resting on needles has followed us to two homes and remains under my bed.

I had never given much thought to the DIY culture until I became a mom and then I couldn’t escape it.  Personalized Valentine’s Day cards, hand-stitched Halloween costumes, laboured over meals, ornately designed snack foods, and play dates requiring more scheduling and production than a low-budget highschool musical seemed to be the norm. I mean, WTF ever happened to just knocking on someone’s door and playing with a Skip-it in the yard while eating FunDip?  And then just when I thought I had it somewhat figured out, Pinterest came along and upped the game.

I spent years on that hamster wheel trying to do it all and do it “right”, but the years have brought me three busy boys, and an acceptance that “good enough” is really good enough.  I learned to identify, appreciate and accept my limitations.

This year I did make my son’s skeleton costume for Halloween but it was the process more than the end product that proved to be “pin-worthy”.  My son and I worked together to turn my son’s vision into reality.  He learned the importance of communication and teamwork.  I learned there are no perfect skeletons but there are happy kids.

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Being honest with myself is difficult.  I used to feel that doing everything for myself was somehow a reflection of my worth as a mother.  If the Valentine’s Day cards were perfect, than somehow this meant that I was a good mother, a kind mother, a patient mother, the mother that we are all supposed to be.  Never mind that it was a grueling process with me snatching the scissors from my boy’s hand while muttering with exasperation, “I’ll do it”.  Never mind that while eating a store-bought birthday cake at little Jimmy’s party or surveying the parade of made in China Buzz Light Year costumes knocking on my door, it never once crossed my mind that these mothers were “bad” mothers, lazy mothers or not the mothers that we are all supposed to be.

I thought that people were judging but it was really me who was doing the judging.

There is a part of me that does long for DIY projects.  I am nostalgic for the lost arts that generations before were commonplace.  I am amazed when my husband fixes things around the house without consulting You Tube.  It’s his confidence that I admire as much as the skill.  Now when I find myself lost in a chosen project, it’s the sense of calm and the absence of expectations that I find as rewarding as the final project.

My experience with parenting and DIY projects is very similar.  At first I was lured by the glossy images promising picture perfection but it’s the fails: the shattered glass, the burnt dough, the botched hemline – that’s when the real learning occurs.  It’s often the most basic projects, the ones that are the least glamorous or fun, that most need mastering and bring about the greatest sense of accomplishment.

A Labour of Love: My Dollhouse Adventure: Guest Post by Holly Forsythe

If you have little kids who enjoy adorable movies about piglets—and are, therefore, quite possibly the sort of person who is thinking about building a dollhouse—you’ll probably recall the opening sequence of the 1995 movie “Babe.”  The first shot depicts the foyer of a lovely Georgian home, with elegant furnishings and stained glass lunettes, which is suddenly disrupted by the intrusion of a giant thumb. As the camera pans out, we realise we’ve been looking at the interior of a dollhouse that Farmer Hoggett, the film’s central human character, lovingly embellishes for his granddaughter. The moment gives us a reassuring wink about the controlled and affectionate handling of the miniature world portrayed in the film. It also gives us an early insight into Farmer Hoggett, whose patient, imaginative, and inventive nature enables him to perceive the latent talents in the story’s porcine protagonist. You have to be a certain kind of person to build a dollhouse.

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I wasn’t necessarily planning to be that sort of person. My daughter, Grace, fell in love with a dollhouse in a waiting room. She talked about the toy for months. She’s an unusually gentle, thoughtful, and self-denying little old soul, so when she asked for a dollhouse for her birthday, I didn’t have the heart to say no…even though the prospect terrified me a little.

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You can buy dollhouses in quite a few different forms: as kits, ready-made, with or without furniture, and in a number of different scales. I was a little surprised that the major toy stores don’t really carry proper dollhouses. Ours stocked three kinds of mass-produced sets, but they all seemed more babyish and generic than what we had in mind. We also decided against the generic toystore sets because their scale was too small. The most common scale for proper dollhouse furniture is 1:12 (also called “one-inch scale”): that means that one foot of length is represented by one inch in the dollhouse (so a doorway, that would be seven feet high in reality, is 7 inches high in the dollhouse). The toystore brands commonly used a 1:18 scale (“two-third inch scale”), which would make it difficult to collect furniture from eclectic sources.

The Little Dollhouse Company, located near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton, is pretty much the only dollhouse store in Toronto. There used to be brick-and-mortar dollhouse stores in Cambridge and Elora, but they’re only online now.  We started looking around online on Craigslist, Kijiji, and Ebay. There were quite a few mass-produced dollhouse systems available second-hand and also quite a few kits in unopened boxes: not everyone has the resolve to build a kit, but if you do, that kind of dollhouse is a keeper.

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By the time my husband lucked out with a great kit online, Grace’s birthday was looming very close, so we decided to break the construction into two phases: we hired a student from George Brown to do the basic construction so Grace would have a present to open; afterwards, I would complete the finishing touches to the structure (porch, gingerbread, fireplace), paint, and furnish it. If you hire someone to build your kit for you, I recommend that you establish a fee for the entire project: our poor student worked day and night to meet his deadline and we definitely went over budget paying him by the hour. That being said, I think it was a smart decision to have the main structure built by someone who knew how to make things square and level.

The kit itself was very clear about the assembly process. It had diagrams to correspond with each sheet of plywood and very detailed instructions. It’s tedious but essential to read the instructions completely before beginning. If you’re a “wing it” person, this is not your sort of project. The process is broken into stages: at each stage, you carefully remove specified pieces from the plywood sheet using an exacto knife, sand them, paint them, and glue them in a precise order following a diagram. The results are much tidier if you paint before assembly (I painted the student’s part of the structure after he assembled it). Most of the online guides assume that you’ll use house paint, but acrylic craft paint worked just fine for me: since you have to paint pieces at many separate stages, it’s smart to use premixed colours. I got small bottles of premixed colours at the local craft store for a dollar each (the acrylic in the crafter’s/stencilling aisle is way cheaper than the artist’s acrylic). You need wood glue for a lasting hold, but you can sparingly use your glue gun to hold pieces in place while the wood glue slowly dries. This will allow you to hug your children instead of standing around holding gingerbread to the roof while it dries (haunting memory). And you will need to hug your children for inspiration. As I say, I only did the superficial decorations on Grace’s dollhouse but, working from morning drop-off to afternoon pickup and then again from their bedtime till mine, it took me ten days to finish.

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In our case, the structure was assembled before the interior was decorated. In rooms with hard-to-reach places, I painted (with the premixed acrylic) but I wallpapered the more open spaces (I found some really pretty pads of paper for scrapbookers, which was heavier than wrapping paper). We’re furnishing gradually. Most pieces of furniture cost at least $5: to furnish a room, it will generally cost you around $30, depending on your source. I found a dollhouse furniture maker on Etsy who had reasonable prices and contacted her to arrange a starter kit order. We raised $70 for the furniture from the guests at Grace’s birthday party and that will get us the living room, dining room, bathtub, bed and dresser (plus shipping!). We’re going to let the rest of it be a labour of love instead of desperation.

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No matter how you do it, setting up a proper dollhouse is going to be relatively expensive. If you decide to take on some of the construction or decoration of the house, it is also going to be fairly time-consuming. This is probably why the people who are really into dollhouses don’t make them for children. There is a quiet subculture of dollhouse hobbyists who enjoy building and furnishing elaborate structures for their own satisfaction. For the most part, these grownups wouldn’t be very comfortable letting children play with the product of their labours. If you come across one of these experts in your dollhouse adventure, don’t let them know that you think toys are for children. Hardcore dollhouse hobbyists have immersed themselves in a special kind of creative impracticality: benefit from their knowledge, use them as a resource, and you can substantially limit your own dip into that pool. Hopefully, my first-and-only-time experiences in dollhouse building can help save you even more time (certainly) and money (hopefully) if you decide to take the plunge.

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Holly Forsythe Paul has worked at the University of Toronto as an adjunct professor of English since 2003.  She lives with her talented husband and two lovely daughters in Toronto.

 

DIY: Hook It Up…But Not Forever: Guest Post by Meg Gardner

Our guest today is Meg Gardner from the blog Loving Albany.  Meg is the mother of three boys, and, brace yourselves, her house is all white!  It’s all white and it works.  Meg’s house is a stunner, and you can get a peek here at Houzz.  She’s sharing with us today her most recent project: a temporary solution for hanging photos and kids’ art–without wrecking the white walls!

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I have three boys aged 9, 7 and 4.  They like to sleep in the same room.  Until recently.  I had to kick the oldest out one night for being too silly at bedtime.  He never looked back.

Which was great.  Except for this.

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He took his new room seriously.  Old toddler comforter?  Be still my heart.  Random stuffies and favorite hats?  Awww.  Taped picture on the wall?!?  I can’t take it.

So we helped him sort things out with a trip to IKEA.

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But those taped pictures were multiplying….

…just as this showed up in my email.

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I subscribe to Houzz.com emails.  It’s an amazing site filled with inspiration and ideas for your house.  From décor to organization – real life, actual, fulfilled projects in people’s homes, as opposed to the Pinterest fails that exist repeatedly in my life.

When I saw this photo, I got inspired.

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My goal was to give him a way to hang the pictures without anything being too permanent.  It’s his room to decorate, but his tastes will change.  And so might his bedroom.  We have a couple more rooms on the 3rd floor, which may be more appealing as he reaches his teenage years.

A Teenager???

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I grabbed a 1×2 piece of clear pine wood at Home Depot and asked them to cut it to size (cuts are free).  I stopped at DeSerres for the Bulldog clips and Michaels for the screw-in hooks, which happened to be white!  Score!

And after contemplating how long he will actually occupy this new bedroom, I decided to use Command Strips instead of screws to attach the wood to the wall.  This package of 4 strips holds a picture frame weighing up to 16 lbs.  Bingo.

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I asked him to help me put it all together and got about 5 minutes of painting.

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After 2 coats and letting it cure overnight, I got to drilling.  Measuring and drilling.  Measuring, calculating, re-measuring, re-calculating.  And measuring one last time before drilling.

Which turned into this.

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The wood almost blends into the wall, letting the pictures shine.

And now for my favorite, the before and after.

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I love walking up the stairs and sneaking a peek into his room now.  If only he’d make the bed…!!!

March is all about DIY

Did your March come in like a lion?  It was a balmy -5 here, but activity-wise, mine was a lion.  Wall-to-wall activity all weekend.  Since the end of hockey season is on the horizon, however, I have a feeling that it will go out much more like a lamb.  A girl can dream.

What to do with all that extra time?!

Well, this month, we’re rounding up some great ideas for DIY.  Doing it yourself is becoming more and more popular.  Decorating, urban homesteading, home crafting, unscheduling; we’ve got a taste of all things DIY.

We’ll have a round-up of fun things to do in the city with kids if you are planning a staycation for March Break (sans camps).  We’ll have a week of posts about DIY with and for the kids.  And we’ll be discussing the pros and cons, the pleasures and perils, of DIY culture.

The video below is definitely one great success story about doing it yourself: Tree Change Dolls is the brain child of Sonia Singh, who found that the style of dolls available to girls was too artificial.  She took matters into her own hands, and decided to do something about it.  She finds discarded or second hand dolls and upcycles them by giving them a second chance with a make-under.  She scrubs off their make-up and restores them to a much more natural beauty.

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And here she is describing how Tree Change Dolls began.

 

You can find Tree Change Dolls on facebook and Tumblr.

 

 

 

Toronto’s Only Urban Homesteading Store

Little House In The City truly is a hidden gem in this city – maybe even the entire country!

Located at 555 Parliament St., just around the corner from the ever popular Riverdale Farm, Little House In The City is Toronto’s first urban homesteading and sustainable living store . . .and it’s co-owned by Carol!

What is urban homesteading? It’s really a lifestyle.  It’s about taking a step backwards, living more simply and making a conscious effort to create a more sustainable, low-impact life.

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Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Take time to sew using these whimsical fabrics.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Buttons galore! Useful for a myriad of craft projects and very pretty to look at.

Little House In The City has a wide variety of supplies to support creative adventures and DIYs in and for your home.  In addition to being ethical and sustainable, these simple activities will encourage a newfound confidence in your homemaking abilities. They also have beautifully crafted ready-made gifts that made with organic or sustainable materials like the stunning cheese boards made of reclaimed wood that Nathalie received for her birthday.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

The neutral tones of this pottery would off-set a colourful, summer salad or rich, wintery stew quite nicely.

Whether it be cheese making, fermenting, soap making or sewing Carol, and her partner Carla, will guide you in selecting the right tools for the job.

Beginners: don’t feel intimidated!  I purchased the sprout growing kit with organic seeds and I followed Carol’s instructions.  Within a few days we were adding alfalfa to our sandwiches and salads – and I can barely keep houseplants alive!

Coming soon, Little House In The City will offer classes for adults and children, hands-on demonstrations and community events to teach and inspire others to live more mindfully.

Here are some of my favourite things!

Follow Little House In The City on Facebook

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DIY Organizer

It seems most fitting to follow-up Nathalie’s post yesterday about repurposing a well-worn cashmere sweater with my DIY necklace organizer.

I like things to be organized and orderly although admittedly I have ways to go because my boys don’t seem to be 100% in agreement with me as to what neat and tidy means.

I have thrown my hands up over the playroom and have adopted an attitude of “it’s their space so as long as I can run the vacuum over the carpet, it’s clean enough”. Nonetheless, I am always trying to keep clutter in the kitchen, closets and washrooms to a minimum.

I have been known to scour Pintrest in the past for ideas but I now limit the time I spend cruising this site because I have concluded that I feel woefully inadequate after about 5 minutes.  (Alphabetized spice racks? !)

I do enjoy receiving Martha Stewart’s Organization Tip of Day every morning to my inbox and a few months ago this DIY jewelry hanger was a feature. (image from MarthaStewart.com)

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It’s simple to put together and now my necklaces are no longer in a heap atop my dresser but instead hanging clearly visible in my closet.

Here is my interpretation.  What do you think?

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What’s your favourite organizing tip?  I find under the washroom sinks to be particularly challenging.