Custom details layered throughout a petite space distracts the eye away from a small, compact floor plan. A DIY picture frame mat cut from vintage wallpaper elevates a pair of humble oil paintings.
I have been a collector of vintage wallpaper, mostly from the 40s and 50s, for many years. Some paper remnants have become too delicate to install on a wall but are ideal for custom picture frame mats and smaller decoupage projects. I found these two original, vintage paintings (circa 1940) from HawkArtCo and because of their odd sizes, I ordered white custom cut mats online from ArtToFrame.
Cut paper carefully to fit the mat. Then use spray adhesive mount to adhere the paper to the front of the mat board. I refurbished gold flea market picture frames with a vibrant coat of green Annie Sloan chalk paint in the color called Antibes. Once the paint is dry, use a fine paper (grade 400+) and sand off the paint in a few key spots to let the gold peek through. Finish by rubbing on a thin layer of dark wax for added depth and the look of an aged patina.
Click here for more creative ways to frame art for a small space.
It’s hard for me to resist decorating a bedroom with a chandelier, especially one that is passed down from someone I adore (thanks, mom). The problem is that the original gilded chandelier, dripping with luxurious crystals, was too formal for the relaxed, laid-back vibe of my SoCal beach cottage. This project calls for a vintage chandelier make-under.
Here is the original chandelier from the 1950s that was collecting dust in my mother’s garage. Great bones, I know!
The first phase of the transformation is painting the gold metal frame with a layer of grey-taupe chalk paint for that matte look, topped with a thin layer of off-white chalk paint. I like to water down the paint a little so it is less opaque and easier to distress with fine sandpaper once the layers dry.
While the chandelier frame dries, paint craft wooden balls to match in several sizes. Use sandpaper to reveal some of the natural wood grain underneath for a weathered patina. String beaded garlands together with simple garden twine leaving 5-6 inches of extra salvage on both sides. I used smaller beads for the top of the chandelier and larger ones for the bottom. Tie the garlands through the holes pre-drilled for the original crystal drops and secure them with a simple knot and bow. The natural color of the twine bows add a little rustic whimsy to the chandelier.
For a finishing touch, candelabra sleeves made out of honeycomb beeswax in an antique light-bronze color tie the entire look together.
If you’re lucky enough to take guardianship of a petite garden, chances are you’ll inherit a few tree stumps along the way. When I moved into my beach cottage, there was a very large, ugly stump taking up a lot of space at the end of a walking path.
The wood was old but still pretty hard to drill so I thought succulents, with their shallow root system, could make a grow of it from the top. If you love succulents like I do, check out these other small-space DIY garden projects.
An old pick axe and a chisel were my tools of choice. My goal was to carve out a few holes that were at least three and a half inches deep. Some holes will be easier to dig than others so be patient if you make this your next garden project.
I drilled a few extra drainage holes at the bottom of each carved niche. Use a potting soil formulated for cactus and succulents and plant your favorite arrangement of succulents.
It’s been a few months and the plants are thriving and really look beautiful. What a clever way to maximize every inch of green space without spending to much green. Enjoy!
As a seasoned small-space nester, I rarely have the luxury of designating a separate room as a home office. Like most of us, I’ve had to improvise and maximize a small corner or a bookshelf as a place for the computer and office supplies.
Clear Space Savers
The secret to keeping a work corner from looking and feeling cramped is to choose furniture and accessories with a clear style profile. This six-foot glass desk doesn’t take up a lot of visual real estate in the modestly-sized living room. Thanks to the see-through glass table top, you barely notice that three inches of the desk overlaps the fire place mantel. In tiny abodes, you have to surrender perfection and make the most of what works.
Keep It Personal
An inexpensive clear plastic desk chair I picked up from Home Goods gets a personalized touch with custom GPS coordinates. You can order custom adhesive decals from the Hour Glass Design Co. on Etsy.com. I like the look of the matte white vinyl on the clear plastic. The clear back chair doesn’t add to the clutter of a cramped corner.
Embrace Open Storage
Finally, I needed a small office caddy that could tuck underneath the desk, and this inexpensive, see-thru magazine rack fit the bill. To keep it mobile, I attached clear acrylic wheels to the bottom and topped it off with an acrylic tray for desk supplies. The caddy doubles as an end table in the living room whenever I have guests.
For more small home office ideas with a clear point of view, click here.
Photo Credit: Matisse Exhibit at the MoMa
Matisse and I go way back. As a young girl, I felt his art was approachable, lively and colorful. Fast forward to my small-space design life, and I continue to channel Matisse in everything from wall coverings to DIY-printed curtains.
The taupe walls in my compact master bedroom needed an upgrade, so I decided to make removable wall decals inspired by Matisse’s paper cut-out collages.
White and taupe are one of my favorite color pairings so the cutouts are made from white-adhesive decal vinyl. The vinyl comes in a matte and a glossy finish. For this project, I chose a matte finish to feign the look of painted shapes on the wall.
Silhouette Adhesive Vinyl
I drew six different shapes measuring about 7-1/2 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Print and cut each shape from card stock. Place onto the white vinyl sheet and use a pencil to trace around each stencil-template. The adhesive vinyl was a little pricey so keep your pattern layout pretty tight to maximize every inch.
Here are some Matisse-inspired stencils you can print:
Nutshell Tip: If a small corner of your decal peels away from the wall, use a dab of double-stick tape underneath the vinyl for extra support (the roller kind works great).
Fresh off of a Decorate This, Not That book tour, I was itching to make some design tweaks to my petite, master bedroom even though it had been styled for the book. Some may call it a compulsion to add, edit and redo a finished space, but for me design is a vital form of therapy. You get into a meditative state working with your hands, and it calms the mind. With every tweak, cost is always a consideration, and whether or not I can incorporate materials already on hand. Luckily, there is a surplus of burlap on my fabric shelf. Be sure and check out more burlap DIY projects here.
In the book, Decorate This, Not That, lampshades in the bedroom were originally covered with pretty, yellow gift wrapping paper. But, I recently bought sisal-burlap trim for a bargain at a local Tuesday Morning store and decided to redo the shades in burlap to match. Tuesday Morning has become a surprisingly good source for trim, tassels and better craft supplies.
Lay the burlap out on a flat surface. Roll the lampshade over the fabric and with a pencil, mark along the top and bottom of the shade until you make a full rotation around. Cut out burlap leaving a little extra salvage at the top and bottom. You will trim the excess later.
Cover the front of the lampshade with a light layer of spray adhesive. Next, drape the burlap over the adhesive, smoothing out wrinkles as you go. The adhesive is pretty forgiving. You will have time to reposition the fabric if need be. Once the fabric covers the entire front of shade, fold under the raw edge of the side seam and use a dap of fabric glue to keep it secure.
Trim all of the raw edges of the fabric along the top and bottom of the shade. Glue the burlap fringe to the bottom of the shade (about 1/2″ above the bottom edge) and finish off the top with a narrow burlap ribbon. The trim will hide any of the uneven raw edges of the burlap and will keep it from fraying.
Nutshell Tip: Use wooden clothespins to hold trim in place while the glue dries.
New York City here I come. It’s my next stop on the 2018 book tour of Decorate This, Not That!. I saw this as a chance to refine the book tour experience of 2012 when I released my premiere book, Living in a Nutshell… when I knew nothing. With the first book, I pulled out all of the stops and toured to five cities all on my own dime. My publisher, Harper Collins, helped schedule and ship books to the appropriate retail outlets, but as any new author knows, the marketing of the book rests on your shoulders and pocket book.
Now armed with a stronger following on the blog, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, I scheduled only two formal book signings, one in San Diego and one in New York. In February I signed books and hosted a champagne and crafts night at my childhood bookstore, Warwicks in La Jolla, California. I did some local TV appearances on the San Diego morning shows, and there was a good showing of friends and design files eager to learn more about living and designing large in small spaces.
It was important for me to make the event feel like a party, so I served Le Grand Courtage bubbly, provided by my friend, Tawnya Falkner. Replicas of the book cover created in sugar fondant topped beautiful cupcakes baked by my sister.
I am going to rely on promoting the book as a guest on national talk shows, like Pickler and Ben, and cross fingers, Hallmark’s Home and Family.
For all of you who have come to a signing, follow me on Social Media, and who have spent your hard-earned dollars on my book, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you feel supported and inspired to break the rules and to make your petite abode the home of your dreams.
This Christmas I wanted to get an early jump on holiday decorating. I couldn’t find an outdoor wreath that I liked and truly did not want to pay $30 on up for one that I would be tired of looking at after the season wraps. I love the look of a live wreath and looked around the garden for inspiration. The camellia bush was bountiful and ready to bud, and the holly bush was already red with berries. Time to use what I have. Here we go.
• Use your discount coupon for Michaels or Joann Fabrics and buy a metal wreath frame.
• Cut camellia branches with buds attached and cover the entire frame. Secure branches from the back with green twine or floral wire. Make sure the raw ends of the wire are tucked in so they will not scratch the surface of your door or wall.
• Cut holly berries and secure them between the camellia leaves.
• If hanging outside in the sun, make sure and water your wreath daily or every other day. I take the hose and give it a spritz of water from the back. So far it still looks fresh.
• If the wreath starts to fade before Christmas, it is easy enough to add more berries or swap out the browning leaves.
• It takes a lot of branches and greenery to cover a small 12″ wreath so make sure you choose a plant in the garden that is overgrown and won’t suffer from a little trim.
Photo by Gail Owens
When it comes to entertaining in tight quarters, I am a champagne glass half-full, not half-empty girl. If you are a happy and relaxed host then your guests will follow suit. But, there are some tricks of the trade that make small-space entertaining a breeze like a self-serve bubbly bar. It only takes up 12-square-inches, and it makes people smile!
Photo by Gail Owens
Set Up Self-Serve Drink Stations
Establish two self-serve drinking stations and place one in the front and one towards the back of the room. This will encourage a smooth traffic flow and the happy mingling of guests. One station can be the water and vodka bar. The second station can be a help-yourself champagne and wine bar.
Most importantly, self-serve stations for food and drink will give the hostess more time to enjoy her own party, which is always a good thing.
• Find a small flea market chair that has a seat that can be easily removed. Check underneath the seat for simple screws that will release the seat cushion. Once I removed the seat cushion of my chair, I kept the serial numbers as part of the character of the chair.
• Paint your chair to match your party theme.
• Attach champagne corks as wine glass holders.*
• Tie basket to the chair back with twine and line the basket with an insulated cooler bag cut to fit. This will hold extra bottles of chilled wine or bubbly.
• Place a plastic punch bowl onto the seat and fill with ice and bottles of bubbly.
Where to Buy the Book
* For all of the project details and many more clever space-enhancing tips and projects, check out my latest small-space design book, Decorate This, Not That!
To reduce water condensation from the ice bowl, double up on bowls. Place two plastic punch bowls on top of each other with a white cloth napkin in between.