Living Room

Flipping a Bookcase into a Skinny Bench

Bench Wide copy - Flipping a Bookcase into a Skinny Bench

Bookcase Bench for a Narrow Foyer

Most small space benches on the market are too deep for tight niches.  I decided to turn a tall, skinny bookshelf (a little over 15” deep) on its side to fit inside a narrow foyer. This Ikea shelf-turned-bench now performs double-duty as storage and seating and looks chic with added furniture feet.

Hems Ikea Bookcase

Ikea Hack

Ikea no longer sells the original bookshelf I used for this bench project, but they sell a similar Hemnes Bookshelf that has the same slim dimensions. This bookcase is made from solid pine, which adds to the sturdiness of its life as a bench. When assembling the Hemnes bookcase, just leave the legs and top cornice off.

Turn on its side and add furniture feet. Check out the fabric I used for the seat cover here.


DIY Designer Placemat Pillows

2_place mat pillows

Cheap Pillow Talk

No, it’s nothing dirty, and it won’t make you feel guilty in the morning! I just couldn’t wait to share my great find for designer pillows you can make yourself for a lot less.

2_place mat pillows_table

Designer Linens For Less

I love the DWELL STUDIO home design collection, which you can find at higher-end home stores and on their website But their linen pillow line starts at around $100. Instead,  it’s time to shop in the kitchen department. I noticed a set of four DWELL linen placemats were selling for $34.99 on I snapped them up.

How-To Tips

Look for placemats that are fabric front and back, sewn and not glued together. As luck would have it, placemats fit the dimensions of a pillow form perfectly. Open one seam, slip in the pillow form and hand stitch closed, or ask your local dry cleaner to sew in a zipper closure.

Look, There’s More

Pillows are the quick-change artists of the small-space design world. Click here for some more unique pillow projects you can do yourself.


Decorating with Postage Stamps as Art

Photo 1 Cow copy - Decorating with Postage Stamps as Art

French First Class Stamp Art

During one of my trips to Paris, I popped into the local post office to exchange currency and fell in love with a series of farm animal stamps they were selling. At the time they were .50 euro or about 60 cents per stamp. I ended up framing them as art in my country house.

Photo 2 Chicken - Decorating with Postage Stamps as Art

If you have no time to travel, you can buy first class stamps from all over the world online.

Queen Elizabeth Rainbow Stamps

Display in Multiples

Stamps of Queen Elizabeth stamps comes in a variety of colors. Display them in multiples to make a pop art style statement on your wall. Go to for foreign stamps at great prices.

Rug Stamp

Or you can go to the extreme and invest in a stamp rug made from New Zealand wool. God Save the Queen. Too fun!

Faux Fireplace on Wheels for Cramped Living Rooms

Cropped Fireplace - Faux Fireplace on Wheels for Cramped Living Rooms

Create a Focal Point with a Faux Fireplace

Let’s face it, most small spaces are also featureless shoeboxes without any architectural interest to speak of. Adding a faux fireplace to a cramped living room creates an immediate focal point, deflecting attention from its shortcomings.

Wheels Up

Attach wooden caster wheels to the bottom of a faux fireplace and you increase its height and its flexibility in a small home.  On wheels, the mantel has a get-up-and-go portability factor. It can be easily rolled into the dining nook or bedroom when the mood strikes.

Add Faux Candle Glow

Light up your faux fireplace with lots of battery-operated candles.   Invest in the ones that flicker and have a timer so you can program it to turn on when you come home.

Jumbo Metal Ball and Jacks


For a bit of whimsy, how about adding faux Ball and Jacks andirons? Metal balls and jacks from the craft store stand in as unexpected sculpture in a fireplace.

Library Ladders for Little Spaces

Leaning Library Ladder for Small Living Room

Don’t Shop in the Petite Section

Does your apartment only shop in the petite section? Just because you live in a vertically-challenged space, don’t pigeon hole yourself into decorating with petite-sized furnishings. Make a grand gesture towards the petite stature of your place and add a tall library ladder to your decor! It can actually draw the eye upward and create the illusion of added height to a cramped space.

Try This Ladder On For Size

I used this library ladder from Ikea in my friend Beth’s snug New York City living room.  It was a very affordable $50 and measures a little over 7-feet and is only 15-inches-wide. It is narrow enough to  squeeze it into the tight corners of a petite home. The ladder really plays up the height of the room and the bookcase. And, although Ikea no longer carries this product, here is an alternative that may work for you.

25118 XXX v1 - Library Ladders for Little Spaces

25118 XXX v2 - Library Ladders for Little Spaces

Affordable Library Ladder Option

The wooden library ladder from World Market is very affordable, but you must add a safety bar across the top shelf of the bookcase for the ladder to lean securely on. If space is at a premium, attach the safety bar along the top shelf so the ladder can lean more upright, at less of an angle,  taking up less floor space.

Look, There’s More

For more chic and clever ways to boost a bookshelf’s storage potential,  click here.

Craft Cocktail Party Crawl

DIY Champagne Cork Paper Tassels

Crafts and Champagne Theme

Combining two of my favorite things, crafts and champagne cocktails became the winning theme of the Living in a Nutshell book tour across the country.

Chicago Living in a Nutshell Book Tour

Chicago Living in a Nutshell Book Tour 2012

I am convinced that people love to create something unique with their own hands, even though most people haven’t played with paper, glue, ribbons and scissors since grade school. A glass of bubbly loosens everyone’s inhibitions and was the perfect ice breaker for these in-the-closet crafters.

La Jolla Book Signing Living in a Nutshell

La Jolla Craft and Cocktails Book Signing 2012

DIY Champagne Cork paper Tassels

I developed a craft project that was affordable and easy for people to replicate as a group.  You want people to feel a confidence boost with their DIY creations at the end of the evening. Making paper tassels from a vintage book and a champagne cork was a project that had universal appeal. The idea that you can use corks saved from a wedding, anniversary or graduation made everyone enthusiastic about personalizing their home with them.

Throw Your Own Craft Cocktail Party

• Add on the invitation that it is B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Scissors). Be prepared to have a handful of extra scissors for those last minute drop-ins. The dollar store is the perfect place to get craft scissors. I road-tested them in the store to make sure they would cut through a few layers of paper.

Photo 3 Bartender - Craft Cocktail Party Crawl

• Create a signature cocktail for your event and ask a friend, like my best buddy Joe, to stand in as bartender. Have flat and sparkling water on ice as well. No need to buy beer, wine and vodka. Keep it to one drink choice. Your pocketbook will thank you.

Photo 4 Guests Crafting - Craft Cocktail Party Crawl

• Teach one of your closest friends all of the steps to the craft project so you have an additional helper floating the craft party. In a big group everyone crafts at a different speed and you want everyone to have fun and be successful.

• If space is an issue, think about setting up craft tables without chairs. You can fit more people and standing-room-only crafting keeps the energy up in a room.

•  Raffle off a nice bottle of champagne wrapped in some of the cork paper tassels.

Have fun and remember, drink and craft responsibly.

Vintage Paint-By-Numbers Table Top

4_paint by number table

Dress a Plain Table with Paint-By-Number Canvas

Here’s a quick change style idea for your petite living room. I wanted to give this plain metal table a little touch of fall so I topped it off with a vintage paint-by-numbers canvas from the 1950s. It is removable and can change out with the seasons.

To my delight, the project caught the eye of some editors at Country Living Magazine. They dedicated two pages to my unique DIY table top. This was such a thrill!

Country Living Magazine Paint-By-Numbers Table


I was so inspired by artist Leslie Oschmann’s chairs, which she transformed with old, humble flea market paintings she found in Europe. You can find out more about her collection on her website

Swarm Home Custom Painted Canvas Chairs

Her furniture sells between $400 for a chair and up to $4,000 for a table. I knew I didn’t want to spend that much so I checked out Ebay and Etsy for a cheaper alternative.

Vintage Paint-By-Numbers Canvas 1950

I’ve always been fascinated with paint-by-numbers and found quite a few paintings that would be perfect as a new topper for my pewter accent table. I decided on this lovely country scene with a deer frolicking near a lake.

How-To Tips and Tricks

• Use an Xacto knife to cut out a circle to fit the table top. Most paint-by-number canvases are painted on chipboard (a dense cardboard) so it was fairly easy to cut.

• Seal the new table top with a clear matte paint sealer to keep the art work preserved and water resistant.

• Pre-cut a summer or spring themed paint-by-numbers canvas and alternate your table top designs with the change of seasons.

My new table art makes me smile every time I walk by it, and it adds just the right touch of country kitsch to my urban shoebox. The best news is that the total project cost less than $20.

Look, There’s More

For more creative and chic DIY table top projects, click here.

XOXO! DIY Marquee Lights on a Dime

Marquee Lights Final - XOXO! DIY Marquee Lights on a Dime

Diy Marquee Lights on a Dime

Say “I Love You” in lights! This project would look adorable in a kid’s room. All you need are inexpensive craft papier-mâché letters and a string of battery-operated white LED lights from the dollar store. You can find the letters at a better craft stores or online at

Photo 2 Cardboard Letter - XOXO! DIY Marquee Lights on a Dime

Easy How-To’s

• Paint your cardboard letters and let dry. I chose a metallic gold for this project for a Hollywood Regency look.



• Use an awl to make holes in each of the letters from the back through the front. You can find these at craft and hardware stores for only a few dollars. Make the holes are big enough to allow the LED lights to poke through but snug enough to keep them in place. For this project, I used a string of 10 lights.

• To keep all of the light cords neat and contained on the back of each letter, you can use can use white gaffers tape. Attach your letters in lights to the wall with easy to remove Command Picture Hanging Strips for damage-free walls.

For more product information follow @CommandBrand on Twitter or on (

Look, There’s More

Click here for more battery-operated designer lights you can make yourself in a snap!

Pack Rat Chic: Maximalist Decorating

Photo 1 Wide Beth's Apt - Pack Rat Chic: Maximalist Decorating

Pack Rat DNA

How much of our decorating DNA is passed down from family? I’ve mentioned in previous posts how I grew up in a home with pack rat tendencies. My parents were the first on our block to take recycling to extremes. Mom’s collections include vintage furniture and clothing, antique oriental vases and screens, salt and pepper shakers and so much more. There is not enough display space so the collections are starting to look like clutter.

My older brother can’t pass up a curbside electronic toss-away without stopping. Thankfully, he is an award-winning engineer or we would all start to worry.

Photo 2 Family Photo - Pack Rat Chic: Maximalist Decorating

Out of the Closet: Maximalist Decorating

I am not immune to being swept up in the comfort of a pack rat home. But because I’ve lived in one petite nutshell after another, I’ve been forced to edit.  Instead, I have channeled my pack rat DNA in maximalist decorating  ways.  Layering sumptuous colors, mixing in patterns, textures and pillows is as important to me as implementing space-maximizing solutions.

New Wide Bedroom

Add Depth and Coziness

Keeping scale and proportion in mind helps unify the look so your décor looks intentional, not cluttered or cramped. Mixing in high and low-end accessories along with masculine and feminine design touches creates a sense of depth and coziness in a home.

1 grey living room ZZwide - Pack Rat Chic: Maximalist Decorating

Look, There’s More

If you love that layered look in a space, click here and check out this little bedroom lair.


Naughty or Nice? Queen Elizabeth Felt Pillows

naughty Photo 1 Sofa with Queen pillows - Naughty or Nice? Queen Elizabeth Felt Pillows

Pillow Quick Change

I don’t know about you but with the change of seasons, I get antsy and look for little ways to change my interior space. My quick, go-to style-fix is always in the pillow department.

naughty Photo 2 Queen Elizabeth Red Stamp - Naughty or Nice? Queen Elizabeth Felt Pillows

naughty Photo 3 Queen Elizabeth Clock - Naughty or Nice? Queen Elizabeth Felt Pillows

Love Across the Pond

I love all things British and have been inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s portrait on the royal postage stamp. Her silhouette has been reinterpreted into posters and onto faces of clocks. I thought she would look brilliant stitched on a felt pillow. Download clipart online and use it as template for your felt silhouette pillow pieces.

Queen Pillow Crop - Naughty or Nice? Queen Elizabeth Felt Pillows

To give my pair of pillows an added twist, I made a “nice” queen pillow and a “naughtier,” chain-smoking Elizabeth.

Quick Tip

Use fabric glue to affix the felt cutout onto your pillow fabric if you don’t have time to sew.