Monday, March 2, 2015

Treasures from the Basement - DIY Standing Frames for Mom's Art

As many of you know, early last year, my mother unexpectedly passed away. My family and I then spent the next 8+ months cleaning out my childhood home - a house my parents lived in for the final 34 years of their 51 year marriage. As we sorted, purged, and de-cluttered, we unearthed a bunch of things. Some amazing things, some not so amazing things, and quite a few odd things that I dragged home to transform into neat things for our home. I've been documenting these transformations here on the blog under a series I dubbed "Treasures from the Basement."

Up until now, the word "treasures" was a bit tongue-in-cheek, referring to all the crazy and unwanted items I saw potential in and couldn't help but rescue. However, in this latest installment...the word "treasure" is for real. Today, I am going to show you real treasures from my parents' home...treasures created by my Mom's amazing hands...treasures that I will honestly cherish for the rest of my life.

I've told you many, many times that my Mom was an amazing crafts-woman. She seemingly did every craft you can think of and and did them all beyond well. For as long as I can remember, there was a series of about 6-8 still life oil paintings on the dining room wall in the house I group up in (the one we just cleaned out). Mom took classes and painted them long before I was born. I was always awe-struck by these paintings, as was my entire family. In addition to the ones framed on the dining room wall, we also found a bunch of un-framed paintings down in the depths of the basement. It was so neat to see some of her practice paintings and drafts. The framed ones were obviously the ones she was most proud of. 

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As things shook out and items started getting divided up, I ended up with four of Mom's amazing paintings. (I'm not necessarily sure I'll get to keep them, but I am considering myself their guardian for now ;) Sad to say, for the last year, they have been in a box in our laundry room. I had a hard time getting them up on the wall because the frames were mis-matched, not my style, and one canvas didn't even have a frame (the apples were a practice painting we found in the basement). I reeeeeeaaaalllly wanted these paintings up on our walls, but I also wanted them framed and hung in a way that felt true to my style and our house. At the very least, I wanted them in matching frames. I just couldn't bring myself to pay for 4 brand-new frames because 1) I just wasn't sure what I wanted, and 2) custom framing is SOOOOOO expensive. 

Some day, I will get these into the professional frames they deserve. But for now and for the sake of getting them out of the box and up on the wall, I thought I'd try my hand at another DIY frame project. After a ton of trial and error and a lot of wasted wood, Mom's paintings (finally!) have new frames. Take a look!

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These frames are far from perfect. I chalk it up to both my novice wood-working skills and the fact that these canvases are no longer perfect squares (um...they have to be almost 40 years old!). But I made them, they were inexpensive (I think it cost me about $25 for all four frames total!), and I learned a ton along the way!

I first realized that a new frame job would be possible when I determined the canvases were only held in their original frames by simple nails. Knowing that I wouldn't ruin the paintings by taking them out of the frames, I was certain I could DIY some sort of solution! I started by removing the canvases from the frames using a flathead screwdriver and pliers.

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Next, I glued 48" lengths of 1x2s to flat lengths of pine with my favorite Gorilla Wood Glue. I secured the wood with clamps and allowed them to dry.

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I was able to do my last few framing projects by hand with a mitre box and saw with great success, but this project required A LOT of cutting. And as I kept getting my cuts wrong (#iamhorribleatmeasuring), I was growing weary. Determined not to give up, we borrowed a power miter saw from a good friend and boy what a difference it made! I've never used a power saw before and it was SO.MUCH.FUN! Using the power miter saw changed this from a multiple hour cutting session to just minutes for each frame!

I cut each length of wood about a 1/2" longer than my canvas on each side, all at 45 degree angles. Because I wanted the bottom/flat wood piece always on the interior of the frame, it meant that I wasted a bit of wood in between each cut (below, top middle). To ensure I'd end up with a perfect square, I made sure my lengths for the top/bottom matched up and the right/left sides matched up (bellow, bottom left). Once all my wood was cut, I dry fitted the frame around my canvases to ensure it would fit. Once I was comfortable with the measurements, I assembled the frames by putting wood glue at each corner junction and securing it tight with a band clamp. I also put wood filler on all the corner seems (below, bottom right); once dry, I sanded everything smooth. 

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You guys. I must have tried a dozen different paint/stain combos for these frames. I really struggled with finding a combinations that looked right with the paintings but also worked in our home. The paintings are quite dark and all the frames in our house are bright white; at the same time, white glossy frames didn't seem like the right answer either. After trying everything I could think of, I settled on stained outsides with white tops and insides. I'll show you why in a bit!

I stained the outsides with some leftover Ebony stain I had from previous projects. I treated the frames with wood conditioner first (not shown), and then gave each edge two coats of stain with a small foam brush. I allowed for ample drying time between coats and wiped away excess stain where I could.

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Once the stain was dry, I taped off the sides with painter's tape and then gave the tops/inside lip of all four frames a primer+white spray paint treatment, exactly as I detail here!

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I removed the tape to reveal four beautiful paint+stain shadow-box like frames!

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For the most part, the canvases nestled right into the frames. Two were so snug they barely fit, two were a bit loose so I secured the canvases to the frames with small wood screws through the back of the frame into the wood canvas stretcher. 

Admittedly, the fit isn't perfect on all four frames. You guys, I tried and tried and tried. I tried so hard. (Hence why I've been hinting at this project for three weeks!) The frames would be a bit roomy. I'd measure and then cut my lengths just a tad shorter, and then suddenly the canvas wouldn't fit in at all. I ultimately decided I was okay with roomy rather than making myself crazy trying to get a perfect fit ;)

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Now a bit about why I painted the top and inside edge white. When I designed (and bought all the wood) for this frame project, I hadn't paid too close attention to the edges of Mom's paintings. While the canvas was wrapped the way a normal canvas is, she only painted the fronts of the canvases, not the sides. After popping the canvases into my frames and seeing her jagged edges, I realized why my folks had them framed they way they were. I had already invested quite a bit of time into these frames, so I wasn't up for a re-design; and no way was I going anyway near these canvases with paint to darken the edges. So...I thought white paint would reduce how much you notice the jagged edges of the paintings. And honestly...from a distance, you can't really tell, so my tricked worked!

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I have to say....I REALLY love these frames. I LOVE the stained edge with the white faces. Are they the most suitable, perfectly designed frames for these paintings? Probably not. But they sure make my modern-clean-asethetic-loving heart sing! I love that they stand up completely on their own. I think they will look amazing on bookcases, nestled into dishes and china. However, in this house, at least for the next two months, I don't have any bookcase space to put them on. So up on the wall they were going. To hang them, I screwed on simple D-ring hooks.

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My original plan was to hang them all together in our dining room. I LOVE them together as a set, but they felt so cramped on this little wall. After just a few hours of them up, I knew they needed to be split!

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I'm such a sucker for symmetry; and while our butterfly cabinet is a smidge too tall for this arrangement, I like the two-and-two much better in this space!

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I can't even tell you how much I love seeing this art on the walls. I see them and they remind me of so many good times with my family around our dining room table in that house that is now empty and no longer ours' birthdays and Christmases and every other holiday and family gathering. They were always there, always part of our family landscape.

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I know my DIY skills don't quite do Mom's art justice, but seeing these paintings up on the wall these last few days made all those exasperating cuts and wasted wood worth it. At least they are out of the box. Gosh - I love them so. Wasn't she just so good?

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It's amazing what art can do for a space. Real art. Art that has meaning and a story. These four little frames have completely changed this space for me. Both design-wise and emotionally.

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These paintings feel a bit ridiculous next to/near our more modern State Prints (on the right side wall). We're not here for much longer, so I'm going to overlook it for now...

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...because seeing that the bottom righthand everything to me. That signature that was on every school permission form and Doctor's note and dance tuition check. That handwriting that was in every birthday card and love note in my lunches...I've missed it so much...and I love seeing it every day.

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I miss Mom more than I realize sometimes. But as I've said so many times in person and here on the blog, I am just so thankful that we have so many of her beautiful hand-crafted works to remember her by. Quilts, sweaters, clothes and now these paintings...are such a wonderful, lovely and ever-present gifts...reminders of who Mom was and how much we loved her and she loved us. Having these on my wall helps me feel like she's here...I hope she likes my frames ;)

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Phew - that one took a bit more out of my than I expected so I'm going to sign off there :) I hope you all loved seeing my Mom's work and my budding wood-working skills! I'll see you back here on Wednesday with a moving update!

See you soon,

Friday, February 27, 2015

THIHM Around the Web #4

Happy Friday, friends! Thanks to several of you who left great feedback on my Spray Painting post - I'm never sure what you guys will find helpful or inspiring so I'm glad I published it! I hope my suggestions and tips help you on your next spray painting project. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here

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Phew - short month means it's already time for my monthly round-up of my writings and projects all over the web. I work really hard on my free-lance assignments and I'm really proud of the content I've created this month! I hope you'll take a few quick minutes to check out my latest posts!

Over on, I had two posts go live! First, I got to combine my two favorite things (health and home decor) and made this really fun DIY Salad Station. I share a lot of great tips for quickly and easily pulling together healthy salads so be sure to check it out. My other article is about making a Valentine's Day-themed care package. I know Valentine's Day has past for this year, but be sure to hop on over and bookmark it for next year. There are so many cute and clever ideas in this post!

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Over on My Daily Bubble, I share a simple tutorial for whipping up this adorable monochromatic heart pillow made of felt! You'll love how simple this one is, and the result is just darling!

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The lovely and amazing Jen, from I Heart Organizing, took me on as one of her contributors this year, and I honestly couldn't be more thrilled about this amazing opportunity. I pulled out all the stops for my first our command center an overhaul with these adorable magnetic memo boards.

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Over on's blog, The Good Stuff, we've been hunting down and sharing all sorts of awesome home hacks - you know, those quick, simple and smart ideas that streamline clutter and make your house hum! So many great ideas in these round-ups, so be sure to check them out!

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I also contributed a few Valentine's Day-themed projects, so bookmark these for next year too!

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Again, I'm super proud of the content I create for other sites, so I'd love it if you went and checked them out. Supporting my work on these sites helps make it possible for me to continue to do great things for you guys here!

And with that...Happy end of February!!!! See you back here Monday with that DIY/custom frame project I've been blabbering about for 3 weeks ;) Oh! And if you're ever curious as to what I'm working on behind the scenes, be sure to follow me on Instagram - I am often sharing real-time updates and progress of new projects!

See you soon!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Best Spray Painting Tips & Tricks

Hey everyone!!! Sorry for the radio silence around here on Monday. I know I said I'd give you warning when I was going to be out, but truthfully, the weekend got away from me and I opted to just the take day off instead of stressing myself out to get a post up. My next DIY frame project is taking more time than I expected (shocking, right?!?) is almost done so hopefully, I can show you NEXT Monday!

Today, I wanted to check in with a post I've been wanting to write for a while. I finally got my pictures let's chat about one of my favorite DIY activities: spray painting!

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Over the last 3 years, I have spray painted A LOT of things for our home. I hadn't really used spray paint a lot before I got into DIYing; but now, it's my go-to method for breathing new life into something old. Here are just a few of my favorite projects, done (almost) entirely with spray paint!

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You can see more of my spray paint projects here!

I've found that more than any other painting method, spray painting is quick, easy, relatively inexpensive (depending on what you're painting), and really gives superior finish, sheen and durability. However, it can also be messy, hard to control, and can leave you with less-than-desirable results if you've never done it before or have had little practice. Over the years, I've experimented with a variety of spray paints, techniques, and setups. I have pretty much fine-tuned my process for spray painting; a process that gives me great results every time with little-to-no mess. I want to share my tips and tricks with you today!
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First, let's chat paint choices! I haven't tried everything out there, but I have tried most of what is available at your typical hardware store...and these are my go-to products!

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Favorite Primer. Zinsser 123 spray primer comes out strong and fast. It covers SO well, and it dries super fast so you can get onto the next step rather quickly. I should buy stock in this stuff because I use it for almost every single project I do!

Favorite White Spray Paint. Rust-oleum's basic White Protective Gloss Enamel is my favorite white, which I use more than any other color. It doesn't lean blue-ish or grey-ish or yellow-ish, but it has a nice creamy white result. This spray's coverage is awesome, and the finish is super strong even without a top coat.

Favorite Clear Coat. If the item I am painting is going to get a lot of up-close-and-personal use, I will always give it 1-2 coats of this clear gloss spray. I find this clear coat combined with ample cure time really produces excellent durability!

Favorite Brand. I use to be dedicated to Rust-oleum spray paints, but over the years, I have found myself reaching for Valspar more frequently. While I still hate their spray button (can't it just be like a normal spray paint nozzle?!?!), I love their color selections...and the coverage with this stuff is so smooth and even. I like that the spray actually comes out a bit slower than other sprays, so drips are less likely. I also feel like these cans contain so much paint. Even when it feels almost empty, I get quite a bit more out!

Favorite Gold. A bit of disclaimer here because I have not tried every single gold spray paint out there, but this one...I really do love. You have to be careful with Krylon because their cans/labels look so similar to each other but the paint color can be wildly different. This Metallic Gold Foil leaves my items looking like shiny gold/brass with amazing sheen!

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I am sure there are a million ways to successfully spray paint, but here what I do that gives me great results every single time!

Before I start spray painting, I turn my cans upside-down for a little while. I'm not sure this does much, but I like to think it helps pull some of the paint off the bottom of the can. When I'm ready to paint, I shake the can(s) for at least a minute, also upside-down. My son LOVES to help me shake up the paint, and we quite frequently dance to Taylor's Shake It Off while shaking up our spray cans!m It's become a thing. #truestory

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I feel like I have tried every method out there for mess-free spray painting (probably not, but I've tried a lot!). We don't have the luxury of a dedicated spray space inside a workshop or garage (oh, how I wish we did!), so in lieu of that, this is what I use...

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Yep! My go-to spray painting system is a 2x4' sheet of 3/4" thick plywood...on a the grass. Always spray paint over grass. Grass grows and gets cut...cement is a PAIN to clean and blankets and tarps fly up in the wind and get in your paint! Once you're done laughing at my primitive setup, read on to find out why this one is a winner! ;)

First, almost nothing sticks to wood. I've spray painted on foam core, cardboard, newspaper, tarps and more, but when the paint dries and I go to lift off my object, shreds of the surface come with my project. Even when I can't use my big board like this (which typically only works for smaller or single projects), I lay my item-to-be-painted onto scrap wood. 

Second, having the wood board up off the grass helps keep bugs and dust from getting in my fresh paint, and more so, allows me to paint my object from all angles. Ideally, my board would be a bit higher, but this trash can is what we had, and it gets my projects high enough to be able to paint from below.

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Third, this system allows me to rotate my paint surface very easily. Why rotate your paint surface? Because when you spray paint into the wind, you end up with paint in your nozzle and all over your hands, and you waste a ton of paint. I am constantly paying attention to how the wind is blowing and rotate my project so that I am always spraying in the same direction as the wind.

Fourth, painting on a wood sheet like this allows me to paint my project out in the grass and then move it as I need to. Whether it's the end of the day, rain is coming in, or it's especially buggy out, I can pick up my entire project and move it to a dust-free, clean spot to dry without having to touch any of my freshly painted objects!

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I paint a lot of frames - picture frames, mirror frames, bulletin board frames etc. I honestly think I've spray painted almost every frame in our house! I like to place objects with long flat edges onto small pieces of scrap wood (on top of my large sheet of wood). This not only allows me to easily paint the edges, but then I can pick up the frames and move them to a safe area to dry without having to touch the newly painted surfaces. I just slip my hands underneath the frame's edge and only touch the dry areas underneath! I can then place wet frames onto vases, cans of paint, or pots to me space on my main board to paint more frames!

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Now that you know what paints I like and how I set up, here is quick glance at exactly what I do when I spray paint an item:
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I also wanted to include a few of my quick tips for spray painting in the cold. Most cans say they should only be used in 60-70 degree weather...and for optimal results, this is true. But I'm too impatient to wait for warmer weather these days, so I have come up with a system that allows me to spray paint in colder temperatures...down to about 35ish.
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All that said, keep in mind that the temperature not only effects how the paint comes out of the can (clogs are more common in colder temps), but it also effects the smoothness of the paint as it sets/cures. I found colder temps sometimes results in a scaly/bubbly finish. If there is something that I really must have a super smooth, beautiful, clean, superior finish on, I wait until it's at least 50 degrees outside to paint.

One thing that I recommend more than anything else is practice! Spray painting can be intimidating and messy, but with practice, you too can become a pro at breathing quick, easy and vibrant new life into your old and tired possessions with just a can of paint!

So tell you like to spray paint? Do you have a tip or trick that you swear by? While I feel like I've perfected my system, I am always open to trying new things and I'd love to hear what works for you!

Hope you all are having a great week! See you back here Friday for my monthly project round-up :) See you then!



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