DIY Valentine’s Day Cards

This post is a bit early for Valentine’s Day, but if you like this idea, I wanted to give you enough time to get the supplies. While stenciling Christmas tree ornaments a few months ago, I was loving the matte Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan on glitter paper. So I used the same combo for Valentine’s Day cards! Glitter and glam, plus a personal card made by you — perfect for Valentine’s Day!

You can get my full DIY tutorial with the easy step-by-step instructions at Paint + Pattern so you can make these cards:

DIY Stenciled Valentine's Day Cards

I always love a photo shoot that requires (ahem yeah “requires” like it’s mandatory) good chocolates. Then you can eat the chocolate! Funny story — I originally bought a bigger box of Godiva truffles. I thought I was going to get to eat them. I left the box on the kitchen island and went to work. Meanwhile my husband left for a flight to his office in India that day. He took the chocolates for his staff over in Bengaluru. Which is okay — they are very much appreciated and they love the chocolates! But I had to get another (smaller) box for myself. For the photos. Yup. I guess I am greedy when it comes to chocolate. As you can see from the photos, I also bought a dozen red roses for myself!

So, again, head over to Paint + Pattern for the DIY tutorial. It will walk you through steps like these:

Glittery DIY Valentine Day Card

See that lilac color Chalk Paint (it’s Henrietta color from Annie Sloan) on the glitter paper? Cool matte vs. glitter texture contrast, huh?

Here I will tell you more about where to get supplies like glittery paper, because I realize you might not find glittery paper in every corner store! There’s a Michael’s craft store actually conveniently around the corner from my neighborhood, and I find lots of choices of glitter papers in their scrapbook/paper-crafting aisles. They have many colors — red, blues, purples, gold, silver, greens. I should mention, the glitter does not come off the paper. I’ve banned glittery Christmas ornaments from my house because all the glitter getting everywhere drives me crazy. But these pre-glittered scrapbook papers are secure — the glitter goes nowhere!

You may not have a Michaels nearby. That’s okay. You can order online. Here are the glitter papers at Michaels website. Here’s an example of the glitter paper they have:

Glitter Paper at Michaels

You can also get packs of glitter papers. These are gorgeous jewel tones:

Jewel Tone Glitter Paper

Now that I’m surfing Michaels’ site, I’m sorry so many papers seem to be available only in the stores, but there are still quite a few choices online.

When you’re choosing glitter papers to paint on, look for the fine glitter surface, not the big chunky glitter, where you can see the big circles of glitter shapes. If you’re shopping online, enlarge the picture so you can get a good look at the glitter. Here’s a comparison:

Fine vs Big Glitter

Paint will not go well over the huge pieces of glitter. On the fine glitter papers, you will still see texture under the paint, but it’s subtle and okay.

When shopping at craft stores like Michaels or Joann, sign up for their email lists. Don’t be afraid of spam – those emails always have coupons up to 50% off, sometimes 60%. They also often have coupons on their websites. Download their apps on your phone. When you’re in the store, open the app and look for their coupons. There are always coupons! You can easily get 30-50% off.

The lacey stencil I used to paint the heart is from Royal Design Studio. It’s the Lace Heart Wall Stencil. The design is 5.5″ wide and 4.5″ tall so it’s the perfect size for cards. And yes, one stencil made these three different looks! The difference is in the color papers and color paint you choose. And as you see, you can cut a shape in the paper and have the stencil pattern peek through the cut-out, or you can paint directly on the glitter paper.

One Heart Stencil Three Looks

Also Royal Design Studio often has sales on stencils and supplies — sign up for their email list to get notice of discounts and sales in your email box.

If you try this, have fun! It’s easy and fast to make these cards. I whipped these three cards out in an afternoon. It would probably be faster for you because I was stopping to take pictures for blogging. This is a fun project to do with kids too.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I’ve purchased from the company myself or used the product myself, and can confidently share the company or product. This helps offset the cost of running this blog for you!

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DIYs To Do … in India!

If you are new here, you might not know, I do DIYs on two continents! We live near Chicago but we also have an apartment in Chennai, a city in South India. I’m planning decorating supplies for the next trip in 2016. Careful planning is needed — everything has to fit in suitcases! So I gotta be careful to not exceed weight limits for checked and carry-on luggage. On our last trip we found things that don’t fit in suitcases (like long pipes for exposed pipe shower systems yeah we took those with us) can be shipped cargo with us on our flight, but there are still height/width/depth and weight limits. It’s a logistical challenge, beyond the fun creative ideas.

Right now, most apartment rooms are big white empty boxes. That can be intimidating, or a blast to dream of what to do with them! I’m in the second camp – having fun planning ideas! Today I’ll share the plan for the entry area:

DIYS to do in India

Yes, when I’m done this moodboard should come alive! It’s a mix of rustic and elegant, for some tension. It’s neutral obviously, but with lots of subtle pattern to keep it interesting. India is so super colorful, you’re probably wondering, why not a ton of color? I’ve written previously about why the apartment will be so neutral.

Here’s the entry space right now:

India Apartment Entry Area

Here’s a breakdown of what will go here …

The Door 

That door may look silly small on the moodboard. But it is a short door. I’m only 5-feet tall and I have to duck to step through it! There are previous posts about the awesome antique door here and here and here (such as, it’s so heavy it took seven men to carry it up the stairs).

India Apartment Main Door

The Walls

I envisioned creating old looking crumbly mottled walls in beige tones. But that will take lots of time to paint. And, the walls are plaster and sucking up paint like crazy! So thirsty! During our September 2015 trip, a crew of guys primed and painted the walls again, but I’m finding the walls behave really unpredictably. So they’re going to be white. I will paint the Persian Garden Damask Wall Stencil from Royal Design Studio randomly on the walls:

Persian Garden Damask Wall Stencil from Royal Design Studio

I like this stencil because it’s big — the large size is about 3-feet tall. And I could see it painted like the mud hut wall paintings in Gujarat, or Kutch. This is from FabIndia’s Flickr, showing the raised patterns:

Mudhut Wall Painting in India via FabIndia Flickr

From DesignFlute:

DesignFlute Kutch Mud Hut Walls

I’m playing with different painting techniques with the stencil. I want the stencil pattern to look old. Maybe partial patterns, like part of it faded away or broke off the wall. I’m considering doing raised stencils. But the apartment gets dusty while we’re away. I don’t want to be cleaning dust off raised wall stencils! So we’ll see. I will likely use some silver metallic paint as a nod to the mirrorwork of the Rabari mud “Bhunga” hut paintings.

Vineeta of ArtnLight blog shared a great post with more information about these homes and their paintings, if you’d like to learn more.

The Rug

That’s the actual rug we’re hauling over to India. I got it 70% off at RugsUSA. It’s the Beaumont Adileh VII2 Talisman Rug in gray, size 7’8″ x 9″6″ because the entry area is big:

RugsUSA Beaumont Talisman Rug

Why buy a rug and haul it over, when India is awash with rugs? Well, I’m looking for decent quality in a bargain rug. That’s why I struck at RugUSA’s famous 70% off sale. We’re at this apartment only a few weeks a year. So I don’t want to spend much on a rug. It’s also possible it could flood while we’re gone. So honestly cheap machine-made synthetic may be better for our needs, than a fantastic handknotted wool rug. I love great quality rugs and I fall for expensive rugs, but those are better for where you can enjoy them every day.

This rug is also thin, which gave it lower ratings on the retailer’s site, but my fingers are crossed that’s good — it should be malleable and bendable so we can squish a big rug into a small size for the flight to India.

The Chaise

Why a chaise or sofa right inside the front door, in the entry area? Many people will stop by your house. Labor is cheap in India so you hire people to do lots of things instead of DIY. It’s customary — at least among my husband’s family — to have an area to sit just inside the door for all these non-family visitors.

I’m still seeking the right chaise. That’s the fun shopping hunt in India! When I find it, I will likely stencil designs on fabric to make it personalized and one-of-a-kind.

Or, maybe a deconstructed sofa like this one from Restoration Hardware, loaded with elegant Indian silk patterned and mirrored pillows:

Restoration Hardware Deconstructed Sofa

An old sofa frame could be made to look this way with burlap and natural linen and cotton duck fabrics, exposed upholstery tacks and big stitches and staples. I can just imagine what my husband’s cousins would say though: “You can’t afford a new sofa?” There are so many things that are the opposite in India than they are from the U.S. Isn’t it funny how old-looking things can often cost more and take more work!

The Metallic Table

I am DIY’ing a table made of a tall candlestick and wood discs. I’ve done this before — see my little stenciled table shared at Paint+Pattern magazine:

DIY Side Table

This table is super easy to make! My husband already took a large gold/silver leaf metallic candlestick to India last week. I’ll take wood discs and paint them metallic, glue and screw the table together, and stencil the top. So easy, big impact! But yes, my vacation packing for India includes drill, drill bits and wood glue!

The Mirrored Pillows

I’ve always loved the look of John Robshaw Sheesha pillows:

John Robshaw Sheesha Mirror Pillows

The sheesha mirror embroidery technique is from India. But these pillows are not in the budget for a place where we spend only a few weeks a year. I found packages of Darice glass mirrors at JoAnn and instructions on how to sew sheesha mirrors onto fabric. I’m not going to copy! I don’t know yet exactly what I’ll do, but I’ll make the look my own. Maybe instead of random, I’ll arrange mirrors more orderly on stripes. Or embroider them on a stenciled pattern. We’ll see.

The Row of Men Pillow

That pillow with the little orange shapes in the middle, here it is closer and I’ve written about it before:

Good Earth Pillow

We got it many years ago at Good Earth in Chennai. It’s been waiting in storage in India for years! Little pillow, you will soon see the light of day …

The Mirror

The mirror! I love this mirror! But it is HUGE. I got it from One Kings Lane many years when they first launched, when you had to stalk the website and pounce to buy. I scored it. It’s too big even for cargo, so we’re still trying to figure out how to get it to India economically. It can’t be dismantled. I love it because it’s huge and rustic:

Mirror for India Apartment

Well, small picture, but believe me it’s big and heavy. It has peeling bark, chipping paint, and rusting  metal. I think it’s the perfect contrast against more elegant things in the space.

At this point my husband may want me to let go of this mirror idea and sell it on Craigslist, but I’m determined to get it to India.

The Water Jugs

I want to put huge impractical things in the apartment. Things with no use whatsoever other than to just sit there and take up lots of space. Because that seems fitting to me when you’re on vacation! I loved the water jugs we saw at Crafters in Kochi years ago:

India Water Jugs at Crafters

Must go back and get some. I’d love to visit Kochi during the Biennale.

The Lanterns

The glass lanterns are called hundi lanterns. If you buy them old, they can be pricey. We found one for the kitchen at a price we could do for one, but I’m not buying three at that price. I’m not hauling glass to India. So far I haven’t found a reasonable price source in India for large traditional hundi lanterns. Everyone nowadays wants contemporary lighting. For now I have stenciled some fabric pendant lanterns, and although in my mind I’m still stuck on the idea of glass hundis, these fabric lights I DIY’d are growing on me:

Nomadic Decorator India Apartment

And that there is our empty entryway!

Hopefully on my next trip to India, it will look more like the moodboard!


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Framed Saree Fabric

I stumbled on this idea during online travels: framed saree fabric! And why not? The designs, the techniques to make handmade sarees whether block printed or embroidered, it’s art.

Like this colorful framed saree fabric from Etsy shop Firozi:

Framed Saree Fabric

This framed saree fabric, also available from Firozi, is perfect for boho decor:

Framed Saree Fabric from Firozi

If you’ve seen global textiles on Pinterest, no doubt you’ve come across framed Mali mudcloth and framed kuba cloth from Congo. There’s framed Thai hilltribe fabric. I have framed Fortuny fabrics. So why not hang framed saree fabric as well, and celebrate it?

Sarees often have enough different designs on one saree, that you can mix and match coordinating colors and designs, similar to this from BHG. Though I am not sure this is saree fabric:

Framed Fabric BHG

Look on eBay and Etsy for vintage sarees, and look for sarees that have a lot of different designs on one saree. You can easily create this look.

Here are vintage saree borders in embroidery hoops, used as frames, from Etsy shop FoundVintageObjects:

Sari Borders in Embroidery Hoops via FoundVintageObjects Etsy Shop

Using embroidery hoops is an interesting idea when the saree is embroidered. You can even use very large embroidery hoops to show off a large piece of fabric.

You can find neutral saree fabric too. Like this beautiful beaded antique piece from Doesn’t Cost the Earth blog:

Framed Antique Saree Fabric from Doesnt Cost the Earth Blog

These examples of framed saree fabric from the Furniture Divas in the UK are so elegantly framed:

Franed Sari Fabric from The Furniture Divas

The Furniture Divas Framed Saree Fabric

There aren’t many photos to be found online of framed saree fabric. So maybe this isn’t an overdone thing yet. Let’s start a trend, what about it?


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2016’s Theme: Living Offline

I saw something on Instagram that made a lot of sense. Don’t set a New Year’s resolution! Instead …

Set a theme for the new year


Now I’m a believer in SMART goals, definitely at work where accountability is crucial. But in other areas of life, maintaining accountability for everything 24/7 can get tiring. And sometimes a focus on a single SMART goal can make you lose sight of the big picture.

For example, losing weight is a common New Year’s resolution, right? A lot of people vow to lose 15-20 pounds by spring, when we peel off the winter layers and feel more exposed. (It’s really easy to hide under sweaters and coats!) But what if you don’t lose those 15-20 pounds? How do you feel? You feel great if you do lose them. But if you don’t, you shouldn’t have to feel like a failure, like there’s something you didn’t achieve. Why not set the goal with more room to achieve it, something more aligned with a big picture. Like, “live healthier.” To achieve this goal, there are many things you can do daily:

  • You can eat more healthy foods.
  • You can sit a little less, move a little more.
  • You can do more things that make you feel happy.
  • You can get more sleep.
  • You can get outside and breathe fresh air more often.

All these things help you live healthier. You can take a different step every day toward the goal. If you really want to build in more accountability, write on a calendar daily — write what you did that day that fits the theme. You get the variety of having different ways to become healthier. And you may find that you also lose weight by living healthier! But your goal is broader. More like a theme

How to Set a New Year's Resolution

Living with a theme and broad goals is more likely to lead to a sustainable lifestyle change. You make little changes in different areas of your life, and over time, they add up to big change. If one of those little changes drops off, it’s okay, you’re still doing the other changes. That’s a success! When we feel successful, we’re more likely to keep doing what we’re doing. This is why the idea of a New Year’s Theme really resonated with me.

So what’s my 2016 theme?

Living Offline

Oh yeah, I get the irony.

I got the theme idea online, on Instagram. I’m writing about the theme online, on this blog. But after this post, I’m logging off! I’m not going to mindlessly visit Pinterest or Facebook or blog analytics. While there are many life benefits we get from being online, there’s a whole life to live offline too. I’m afraid we’re forgetting that between smartphones and laptops and tablets and all the time they demand from us. But it’s our choice to let them take over. Read that sentence again. It’s our choice. Those of us old enough to remember life before 1995 remember a life with no internet at all. Cell phones were car phones. The fact that cell phones are still used in cars is another issue — if you’d like to know what I do with my workdays, I work on preventing cell phone distracted driving including hands-free. Yes hands-free is not risk-free! When we literally can’t put our phones down, it’s a problem. Life shouldn’t be lived through a phone. Or a computer screen. I don’t believe that’s really living all that life has to offer.

Offline, I want to move around more. Sitting can kill you. Yes it can. Go Google it (but not for too long!). I want to fix up more things around the house – like DIYs that actually involve plugging a tool into an electrical outlet. I NEED to get on airplanes more often — big jets and our little four-seater airplane — and go places. I want to paint more. I want to go big with that. Today I’m assembling a 40″ x 50″ canvas, to finally paint an idea that’s been mulling around in my mind. It’s time for it to flow out through the paintbrushes. First, I’m gonna test it on small canvases. I want to paint our kitchen cabinets. I want to build a large patio wrapping around the sunroom on the back of our house.

All these things are Living Offline. Maybe I’ll build the patio. Maybe I won’t. Heck, maybe we’ll finally sell our house this year instead, which we’ve been talking about for years. That’s a big idea and big work. I’ll get some of these things done. And I’ll surely do other things I haven’t thought of yet. By December 31, 2016, I’ll have a whole long list of things I did offline in 2016. That will be a big success!

So … what is your theme for 2016? What change do you want to make in your life?


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Famous Portuguese Tile: The Wonders of the Lisbon Tile Museum

You can barely get through Instagram without scrolling past a footsie on patterned tiles. Follow a number of design and travel grammers, and these footsies will happen to you. Boldly patterned tiles are trending. People are noticing them enough to photograph them. People are making even bigger commitments to these tiles. They’re putting bold patterns on their bathroom floors:

Trend Bold Tiles on Bathroom Floors

And on kitchen backsplashes:

Patterned Tile Kitchen Backsplashes

I’m in the camp of people who worry about resale value, to be honest. Lately I’ve been “beige-ing” my house, so there won’t be anything offensive to future open house visitors. But I still love a good strong bold pattern (just like I like my coffee). Moroccan tile. Turkish tile. Tile in Iran. So patterned, so colorful, so beautiful! Last year my flights to and from Marrakech were routed through Lisbon, Portugal. I had an overnight in Lisbon. (I recommend scheduling an overnight in a city while traveling — your flight could be cheaper and you get a taste of an additional place, if only for a day!) Lisbon is famous for its tiled facades. While searching for something to do in Lisbon, I discovered Portugal’s National Tile Museum (aka the Museu Nacional do Azulejo). Here are Portuguese mosaics you will see there:

Lisbon National Tile Museum

Portugal National Tile Museum

Pattern Play of Tile and Script in Lisbon Portugal

Tile is not as easy to make as you might think it is. You may think you take a slab of clay and just cut it in squares and just put some color on it, right? Oh no. Many years ago I took a tile-making class at the Ann Arbor Art Center, taught by Nawal Motawi of the famed Motawi Tileworks. (And, crap, I really miss living in Ann Arbor with easy access to things like that!) We learned the factors can make a tile go very wrong, very warped. And how to make things go right. You might have an idea in your mind of the color you want, but the tile can have a mind of its own when fired in the kiln. The glaze — the stuff that colors the tile — can do predictable things or weird things. Knowing the skill from start to finish of making tile made me appreciate Portugal’s National Tile Museum.

First, the setting of the museum. It makes your jaw drop in awe! It’s in an old crumbling convent attached to a church. The slight crumbliness meshes beautifully with the old tiles, as some tiles are chipped and marred just like the building:

Faucets in Portugal's National Tile Museum

Lisbon Tile Museum

Here are photos snapped as I strolled through the museum …

Lisbon National Tile Museum

You get glimpses of the tile mosaics across courtyards and through columns:

The National Tile Museum in Lisbon Portugal

Not all tiles are only geometric. Some showed interesting scenes. This is a tile mural called The Leopard Hunt, made in the 1660s:

The Leopard Hunt Tile Mural at Portugal National Tile Museum

The leopards look really worried, as they should. It’s just tile, but the feeling feels real:

The Leopard Hunt Tile Mural

Portuguese Tile Mural The Leopard Hunt

Ugh. It’s like they’re saying, go vegetarian, people! And light a fire for warmth, don’t steal my fur pelt!

This next mural was my favorite, also from the 1660s. “The Chicken’s Wedding.” Whaaat? I know. I don’t know!

The Chickens Wedding Tile Mural

Portuguese Tile Mural The Chickens Wedding

Okay, what is happening here?!? I had fun checking out every detail of this chicken wedding mural:

Fun at The Chicken Wedding

The Chicken Wedding Mural at National Tile Museum Lisbon

The chicken looks not too sure. Everyone else is having a good time. The only thing I know for certain about this story is, that mural was huge and it didn’t fit in one photo.

This gives you an idea of scale of some murals:

Lisbon Tile Museum

And here’s an idea of the realistic detail:

Tile Mural at the National Tile Museum Lisbon

I loved the designs on these modern day tiles by ceramics artist Cristina Bolborea. The description really resonated with me — they’re evocative of a journey of a traveler and his impressions of far off fairs and their products, with layers of carpets and fabrics, and Islamic influences. Perhaps elements that are the only survivors of a temple forgotten today:

Gallery at Lisbon National Tile Museum

Gallery at the Lisbon National Tile Museum

Cristina Bolborea Tile at Lisbon National Tile Museum

Cristina Bolborea Tile

I had just left Marrakech, so these tiles reminded me of the shapes, patterns, cabinets, and carpets I had just seen there.

Here are some contemporary tiles made in the 1980s, still working with blue:

Contemporary Tile at National Tile Museum Lisbon

Look right or look left, and you see this setting around the tile galleries. I loved this old/new contrast:

National Tile Museum Lisbon

How do I remember details more than a year after taking these photos?

a traveler’s photography tip:

When there are signs, first take a picture of the sign, then a picture of the art or tourist attraction. This way, you will always have all the information. It may be too small to read on your phone or camera, but you’ll be able to read it on a computer screen.

Photography Tip for Travelers

After enjoying the tiles, stop in the museum’s cafe for a jolt of Portuguese coffee. The best! I’m Googling today for more Portuguese coffee — we happened to buy Nicola coffee at HomeGoods of all places and we need more, more, more. So strong, so good. This coffee from a Lisbon cafe is what made me remember the Lisbon tiles, and that I hadn’t shared them here yet. Also enjoy museum cafe specialties like Codfish au Gratin with Pine Seeds and Raisins, maybe with a glass of Rioja, while viewing tiles that were once in a palace kitchen. So there, maybe putting these tiles in a kitchen is timeless despite our trends!

TripAdvisor has lots of traveler reviews of Lisbon’s National Tile Museum.

I walked there from the Baixa tourist area of Lisbon, but it was a long walk and I got off track and lost numerous times despite having a map that seemed clear. Usually I’m very good with directions; seriously this was the first time in life I got lost so much and I’m … uh, I’m not going to say how old I am but it’s a lot more years than you think because my profile photo is 10 years old. The older that photo gets, the more reluctant I am to change it! I was even able to navigate the Marrakech medina alone. But a seeming straight road in Lisbon really threw me. I was walking by myself and wondered a few times if I was making a big mistake that I’d be sorry for. And I’d call myself an “aware traveler” not a “worrying traveler.” It was a relief to finally see “azulejo” on a sign. You will be looking for this:

Lisbon National Tile Museum

On the way back, I stopped at the nearby train station (I think it’s the Santa Apolonia stop) and took the train back to the big square near the Baixa area. People will tell you that you can walk, but take a taxi or the train.



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DIY Shabby Stenciled Shutters & A Story About the Truth of Things

The latest stencil DIY I did for Paint+Pattern is really two DIYs in one:

  • How to make a rustic shutter
  • How to paint a pretty holiday table centerpiece

Christmas Shutter Centerpiece

Head on over to Paint+Pattern to see the full tutorial.

Here are some in-progress photos to entice you. A base coat of Florence color Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan:

Painting a New-Old Rustic Shutter

It’s a glorious blue! Blue doesn’t really go in my house colors, so there’s rare occasion to use blue.  Here I’m smearing some Olive Chalk Paint all over it. And next, some Country Gray Chalk Paint and Vaseline technique to make chippy paint distressing:

Vaseline Chippy Paint

My favorite part of this project was playing with Modern Masters Metal Effects, where you can make rust and copper verdigris. The color turns before your eyes! I painted black plastic shutter hinges with copper paint then used Modern Masters aging patina solution to make verdigris:

Modern Masters Copper Patina Solution

Copper Verdigris with Modern Masters

Isn’t that copper verdigris cool? And it’s so easy to do!

Next, I stenciled big Christmas ornaments on the shutter with stencils from Royal Design Studio, designed by blogger and Christmas DIY expert Jennifer Rizzo:

Jennifer Rizzo Royal Design Studio Christmas Stencils

Jennifer Rizzo Christmas Stencils for Royal Design Studio

The final result is a shabby shutter Christmas table centerpiece:

Shabby Holiday Shutter Centerpiece

Shabby Shutter Holiday Centerpiece

The reason I built the shutter from scratch with new wood is, I really don’t have time to find real old shutters at vintage and antique shops. And, I’ve removed the shutters off our house and cleaned them before. I know what nastiness lurks on and especially behind them. Even though you can clean old shutters, I’m not sure about putting that on my dining table. So I built shutters — easy! with just wood glue! — from a few pieces of aspen wood from Menards.

For the full DIY tutorial and tips to build the shutters and paint, visit my post at the Paint+Pattern website.


I thought I’d share a few behind scenes pics with you. Because I live near Chicago and had to do this project in an unheated sunroom. It’s the room with the most natural light! But in winter it gets dark for photos by 3:00 in the afternoon so I’m boosting the lights, both with additional lighting and in Photoshop.

So here’s what you see:

What You See

And here’s what I see:

What I See

I could have set up even more lights. Sometimes I’ve worked later in the day with three white lights and additional halogen lights bounced off the ceiling. But I was working fast to get painting done before it got too dark for any photos. That’s winter for ya in the north!

And ohhhh, the sunroom was chilly. And a nice warm room was just within sight …

Cold Room Warm Room

But I can’t photograph in there. Everything photographed in the house under lights turns yellow-orange. You can see the yellow-orange glow here. It can be adjusted in Photoshop to some extent but doesn’t look as good as natural light.

So in the winter I do a fair number of projects in the sunroom, in the cold, and you’d never know it from photos!

While photographing our dining table, I had to be careful with composition because just out of frame are unfinished walls with holes in them! With blue tape waiting to be painted:

Just out of shot

If you look carefully, in the upper left there’s more unpainted walls and blue tape. The dining table is just to the left out of the shot. So this is why photos are cropped close. It didn’t occur to me how difficult it is to photograph the dining room and keep these unfinished walls out of view!

Often in blogs, you see only what we want you to see. We become experts at composition and camouflage. And moving things just out of view. Like cat toys all over the floor. The extra length from 18 feet of garland:

Extra Garland

A better, more ambitious blogger than I would make another blog post out of that garland. Do something beautiful by draping it somewhere. You can tell I have no ideas — “something” “somewhere.” I have a full-time job. This blog is a hobby. So I pooled the garland on the dining table so a cat wouldn’t get into it (they’re trained to stay off the dining table, mostly) and called it a night:

The truth

It sat there like that for three nights and three days. We’re sorta busy so we don’t even go in the dining room most days. I probably shouldn’t be telling you these things. You’re supposed to think blogger lives and homes are perfect. Of course that is never true! On the third day, I finally cut the garland off at the end of the table and moved the pile to the living room. Which is currently getting painted, and maybe painting will be done before Christmas and maybe the garland will wind up draped beautifully, somewhere over something …

Meanwhile, let me distract you with the gorgeous patina on the shutter hinges! I was able to get that done:

Patina Shutter Hinges

(P.S. Please don’t notice the total lack of pretty holiday napkins. If you came here to dine for real, I promise I would find some for you!)


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Top 10 Easy & Awesome Things to Stencil!

I’ve done a lot of stenciling projects over the years shared here and here. I’m also endlessly inspired by other people. There’s a lot of creativity out there! While I enjoy doing a complex project for the challenge of it, life is also very busy. It’s good to have easy projects too. So I scoured the world (okay, the usual sources like Pinterest, Google Images, HomeTalk, Paint+Pattern but those cover the world!) for some good ideas that are:

  • Creative
  • Easy (and sometimes fast too!)
  • Inexpensive

Often these are practical things that you can make prettier with paint and stencils. These projects are easier because they involve:

  • One stencil
  • One paint color
  • Small surfaces

So here they are, the Top 10 Ideas …

Top 10 Easy DIY Stencil Projects

Stenciled Grocery Shopping Bag

At Mendez Manor, Nicole stenciled these blank grocery shopping bags she found on Amazon and a stencil found at Michaels. This project is easy and super stylish:

Stenciled Lampshade

Turn a plain lamp shade into something really special. Royal Design Studio shows you how to stencil on a lampshade:

Stenciled Lamp Shade via Royal Design Studio

Holiday Placemats

Crazy Little Projects made a cute little project. Holiday placemats could be expensive for only rare use, but it’s fast and easy to stencil a holiday theme on a plain placemat. You could even use them double-sided. Use the stenciled side for the holidays and the plain side the rest of the year:

Cute Little Projects Blog - Stenciled Holiday Placemats

Simple Lettered Signs

Simple signs but big style! These signs have beachy themes, but Donna at Funky Junk Interiors shares many different sign ideas. These are lettering stencils painted on simple planks of wood. Super easy:

Funk Junk Interiors Stenciled Beach Signs

Whoa, Candles

This is a really creative idea. Though I would caution, don’t put much paint on your candle and keep an eye on it while burning it. Just over Thanksgiving, we burned a candle that was heavily coated with paint (much more paint than these stenciled candles) and the paint pooled in the melted wax and the flame shot up. We had to blow it out. I think this idea could be okay on large 3″ diameter pillar candles and if you go light with the paint. This project was done with Mod Podge and sand. There’s a discussion about flammability in the Hometalk comments:

Stenciled Candles by HomeMadeville Blog

Stenciled Mailbox

I thought I’d seen it all. Because I’ve spent way too many hours of life looking at things. But I had never seen this. A stenciled mailbox? Of course. Why not!

Stenciled Mailbox on Hometalk

Stenciled Chair Backs

Stencils are an easy way to add one-of-a-kind personalized style to chairs. These beautiful French chairs were given a new look by Cedar Hill Farmhouse blog, with stencils on grain sack fabric, applied to the backs of the chairs. You just gotta see the before picture. You will never believe the improvement!

Cedar Hill Farmhouse Stenciled Chair Backs

Now, the chair restoration and reupholstery is professional and may be more complex. But the stenciling part is not too hard and it’s something you can do on chair backs in your home.

Picture Frames

From Shanty2Chic, here are easy and inexpensive picture frames. They look like they took a lot more time than they really did to make them! I think these would make great gifts. Paint frames in a color your friend or family would like:

Shanty2Chic Stenciled Photo Frames

Okay. How many is this now? 1, 2, 3 … 8! Here’s two more …

Stenciled Pillows

Pillows are smaller and you can get a great effect with a combo of one paint and one stencil on an interesting fabric. And the nautical theme here by Canary Street Crafts is so fun:

Stenciled PIllows by Canary Street Crafts

Canvas Wall Art

Stencils make it possible for you to create easy wall art. This has a few more paint colors than the ideas above. But this would still be very easy to do. Now that I look at it, this is not a DIY, you can actually buy this set readymade at Michaels! But I leave the idea in because you could do this with stencils:

Canvas Wall Art


I hope some of these inspired you to try some stenciling projects! Which would you try first?


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