Friday, August 23, 2013

My Apartment Inspiration

How did I ever get by without Pinterest?

I ask myself this ALL THE TIME.

It is seriously the best resource I have ever found for decor ideas, DIY help, recipes, workout tips, teaching ideas, artmaking ideas, etc....  It has been INVALUABLE in helping me navigate the process of decorating our apartment.  After signing the lease, I quickly made an inspiration board to help me figure out what to do with the space.


If you've never made an inspiration board before, whether on Pinterest or on a good ol' corkboard (like I used to in college), basically, it's just a collection of images that inspire you.  For my "New Apartment Plan" board, I pinned images of home decor that I found beautiful and more importantly, could be achieved.  Our apartment building was built in the early 1900s and it definitely shows.  There is no point in me pinning images decor in modern structures, even if I love it.  A home inspiration board, in my opinion, should always be achievable and should focus on building the best space you can, rather than focusing on something that you can't have.

After pinning lots and lots and lots of images, I realized that I love neutrals, lots of white and beige, gallery style collections of art, and multiple layers of texture.  I love a mix of traditional and modern furniture and prefer repurposed storage rather than newly bough or assembled storage items.  While I'm sure that I would have come to these conclusions along the way as I decorated, flipped through books at Barnes and Noble, and pulled images from magazines, being able to instantly pin and compile a collection of images brought me to the consensus of what I like very quickly.


I wanted to share some of these images that I find most inspiring and beautiful in the hopes that perhaps you do too!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DIY Chalk Board

Before beginning, I should preface this post with a confession:

My name is Elizabeth Shafer and I cannot remember anything without writing it down.

I mean, sometimes I can, but anything important or professionally relevant must always be taken down in notes or put into a list or it will be out of the sieve that is my mind by the end of the day.  I'm a visual-tactile learner and because of this, I think the constant stimulation that I have going on each day while teaching can often push the day to day things I need to remember out to make room for new stimuli.

Because of this, I am a list making machine and have dozens of notes open on my phone, saved as files in my computer, or written down in my sketchbook (which is often covered with Post It notes when I need to write something down at my desk in my classroom and my sketchbook is not handy).  I'm sure that you've seen the likely hundreds of tutorials for chalkboards in blogs and on Pinterest, as I did.  I thought that making my own chalkboard, to be prominently displayed in our kitchen, would be a great way to keep track of household things like shopping lists, grocery lists, and various to-do's.  It also is great way to let your husband know what needs to be done!

I started by first going in search of a large vintage frame to mount the chalkboard in.  You can find these at thrift stores, at estate sales, or at antique/salvage stores.  There is a phenomenal shop in Norfolk called Country Boy Antiques.  While I automatically associate the concept of an antique store with high end and high markups, over the years, Country Boy has really become more of an architectural salvage shop with a large selection of dusty, rusty picked items on the cheap.  It is a maze of a shop and you spend the whole experience worried that a teetering pile of stuff may fall on you, but I have never gone in there and not walked out with what I needed, whether it was plantation shutters, glass doorknobs, marquee letters, decorative china, vintage art, or a frame.  I picked up this large, ornate frame for about $12.

It definitely needed some cleaning and priming, but after that, I painted it a deep, dark eggplant color that is very nearly black.  I painted this with a basic foam brush and I think it took about three coats (disclaimer: I may have been watching the Real Housewives while I worked on it).

After finding your frame, you'll need a board and some chalkboard paint.  Lowes or Home Depot will cut a board to size for you for free (awesome).  I bought some cheap, thin plywood board.  You're going for lightness in weight, so it's very budget friendly.  To find the right size board, you need to measure your frame from the back side, from where the board will attach to the inside frame, rather than the picture window.

For this project, I used chalkboard spray paint rather than a liquid chalkboard paint.  It has held up well and at the time I was buying it, I assumed that I would be spray painting something else to be chalk-able in the future.  After sanding the plywood down to a smooth finish (you do want it to be a writing surface, after all), I primed it and then applied three coats of the chalkboard paint.  The paint has to overnight before it can be written on.

After it had cured, I simply used hot glue to attach it to the inside of the frame.  I imagine that wood glue or Liquid Nails would work well too.  Finally, you hang up the chalkboard (attach d-rings if necessary) and start the list making!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Find: Vintage Living Room Rug

This week, our living room got a much needed update.  I had been searching for a long time for a large rug (minimum 8 x 10) for our living room.  I had a smaller rug in there originally, but having all the furniture clustered around a small focal point made he room look much, much smaller than it was.  I moved the small rug underneath our dining room table a while ago, and it is a much better place for it.  However, pulling up the rug exposed wires leading to our surround sound speakers and left a a very hard wooden floor for us and the dog to stretch out on.

I have spent a few months searching for a reasonable alternative it he right size, but the thing is, rugs are EXPENSIVE.  Super, duper expensive.  Initially, I was looking at a few short sale websites (One Kings Lane, Joss & Main), but even with the enormous discounts that those sites put out, a large rug was still between $400-$500.  If I'm going to spend that money, I wanted to really love the rug, and I have a hard time falling in love with anything mass produced or done in a really modern way.

This led me to look instead at eBay and Craigslist, hoping something vintage, unique, and most importantly affordable I'm really big on not settling when it comes to important, focal point pieces. I think you should always love them; if I don't love something, I find myself looking around for something to replace it almost within a week. 

I had several searches that I looked at daily for "vintage Persian rug", "antique Persin rug", and "Persian rug".  I wanted something with an intricate pattern, in good shape, but also unique.  I found some absolutely stunning rugs on eBay, but it took me about two months to actually obtain one.  The bidding was pretty intense and there were times when someone outbid me within the last minute and times when prices got too outrageous.  However, I finally found a rug that was the right size and gorgeous and the right colors and was selling for an insanely low $57.  Somehow, the price didn't go up above that (I think due to the presentation of the rug in the photographs) and after two weeks of waiting for the shipment to arrive, I finally have this gorgeous rug in my house and our living room looks SO.  GOOD.

SO GOOD!  Even if the couch is slightly unkempt at the moment... And do you notice my sweet puppy in the corner?  We just had her spayed last week and contrary to what we expected, she loves her cone.... Weird.

I adore all the detail in the pattern, both centrally and along the border.

Wicket the Cone Doggie adores the rug (it is super soft).  I just love how one piece can change everything about a room.  The whole space feels larger and more inviting now.  I love it!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Five Tips for Buying Furniture on Craigslist

I came across this meme a while ago on Pinterest....

And I found it relatable, but also something to disprove.  I mean, sure, if your taste ranges towards Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware and fabulous antiques.... and you're in your twenties.... and have an average job for someone in my age bracket.... no, you totally can't buy that stuff.  Buying a Pottery Barn lamp new would be something that I would have to really budget in.  As much as I love a gorgeous faux industrial piece, I love eating, going out, and paying bills on time more.

However, as pretty much any stylist will say on a blog or Bravo/E! television show, you do not need to have much money to have great style.  And I don't think that you have to have a lot of money to prove that you have great taste.  There are so many resources for furniture and decor on the cheap, one of which is Craigslist.

I know that Craigslist can be synonymous with benign things like curb alerts for free firewood and more horrifying things like murderers luring in victims with shady hookups, but seriously, you can find some awesome furniture if you are willing and patient enough to sift through everything.  Over the past few years, I have found some really awesome pieces, from an English roll arm sofa (for FREE!) to a canvas and wood deck set (also FREE!), on Craigslist.

To help anybody starting out who may be wary about turning to the CL (as I fondly call it), I've put together my top five tips for buying furniture off of Craigslist:

1) Be patient.  You're not going to go online one day and furnish your apartment or house with some recent postings.  I mean, you can.... but it will look like shit.  If you want to find something great or something in particular, you have to be patient.  A great couch is not going to show up immediately, but it should within a month.  In the meantime, you will see some awful couches that have had dogs chew at them for years.  Don't.  Don't.  Even if it's free.  Something beautiful, vintage, and perhaps even well cared for will come along.  Just because you're poor doesn't mean you have settle.  Remember that most people in America have way too much stuff and somewhere, someone would really, really like to get rid of something that you want to make room for something new that they want.

2) Be vigilant, convenient, and speedy.  The good stuff goes quick.  In this case, do what works for you, whether that is checking the website on your computer daily or (in may case) having the app on your phone.  I think it helps to search the "all for sale" for a set of specific terms, like "couch", "sofa", "settee", etc.   The good stuff will go very quickly.  I emailed the seller (or giver, rather, since it was free) about five minutes after they posted the couch and offered to pick it up the next day.  They had other people contact them; I was simply the first and could get a couch out immediately.  Previously, I had contacted a seller about a gorgeous vintage loveseat.  The problem that arose was that he was in Richmond and I was in Norfolk (an hour and a half away).  Initially, he was able to deliver the couch, but the next day, he got a local offer.  It was disheartening, but completely understandable.  As someone who has also sold furniture on Craigslist, I know I'm more inclined to give preference to someone who can get my furniture out as quickly as possible.  If there is something you really want, be on the lookout and have a plan for picking it up as soon as you can.

3) Be wary.  There are creepers.  This should go without saying, but ALWAYS BRING A WINGMAN, preferably an intimidating one.  I consider myself a feminist and I believe that women can do almost everything that men can do... except intimidate rather threatening gentleman with ill intent.  To be fair, I also think that not every man can intimidate a creeper either.  I have the advantage of having husband in the Navy who like to work out and is familiar enough with my Craigslist searching ways that he will come with me to pick up items (even something as small as a lamp) wearing ripped up jeans and a sloppy white tank top, which has become trashy costume of sorts that exposes some hot tattooed arms.  In cases when he's been out of town, I've asked friends' husbands, boyfriends, or some of my husband's buddies to come with me.  It may feel like you're imposing at first, but trust me, your friends care about your safety and will probably be mad if you go meet a stranger alone after a brief email or text exchange.

4) Know your limits.  Before you commit to buy something, know what you can and cannot fix.  You're buying something used, but there is a lot of variance as to how used it may be.  For me, this means that I am ready to reupholster a tight back or tight seat chair, but I know that I can't reupholster a couch (nor am I interested in paying a reupholstery shop for that).  I would never purchase a couch or loveseat that had terrible fabric on it for this reason, but I will buy pretty much any dining chair as long as it is structurally sound.

5) See the potential. This tip really goes hand in hand with the previous one.  Again, you are buying something USED.  Sometimes you can find amazing pieces that have been well cared for, but don't write something off because it's the wrong color, has a bad fabric (and is a piece you feel comfortable refinishing) , or has a few nicks and scuffs.  These small things are fixable and can save you a lot in comparison to buying something new.  There are so many great tutorials for refinishing furniture on Pinterest and in the blog world.  You can fix much more that you think you can.

I hope these tips have encouraged you to think outside the retail realm and to look towards Craigslist for furniture and decor needs.  Buying used is great for your wallet, great for the planet, and great for your creativity.  Have you bought or redone something used lately?  Do you have any tips to share?