Sunday, May 31, 2015

Budget Kitchen Makeover

Sticking with my theme of flashing back to our first home (and the changes we made there) today we're visiting my old kitchen.
Don't be too afraid of the "before" photos!

As with the rest of this little house, when we first bought the home the kitchen was disgusting! 
The little two-bedroom had been a student rental, with anywhere from 6-8 men sharing it at one time. It had seen a lot of parties, and very few cleanings (if any)!

But, hidden underneath all of the grime was it's original 1928 charm!

Some "Before" Photos:

Original cold storage "before" 

Stove area "before"

While others were apparently able to function in this kitchen, couldn't! Unfortunately, it wasn't in our immediate budget to remodel this room. But with a little creativity we did make some quick changes.
The very first thing we did was clean! Then, the next step was to paint. I painted every surface except for the tile and the floor. I chose a soft yellow for two walls, and used "ultra pure bright white" (right off the shelf) for the rest.
We were on a budget and I wanted to stick with a retro look, so we decided to go with a checkerboard pattern for the floor.
The most economical and easiest solution was to go over the existing linoleum. I found these peel and stick floor tiles on ebay. They were inexpensive and easy to apply. All you need is a box cutter, straight edge and a clean surface to stick them to.

The next step was a "splurge"on a new refrigerator. Yes, people had been living with this old one:

The old refrigerator was blocking a window, which I didn't want. In order to make room for the new refrigerator in a different location we had to remove one upper cabinet.



We purchased the cheapest stainless steel "looking" refrigerator available at Sears. While it wasn't fancy, it did drastically improve the look (and smell!) of the room. We also added simple touches like this reproduction wall clock:

*A side not about the "legs" also pictured above: Yes, I do have nice legs, thank you very much! These came from a friend who used to work at Victoria Secret they were displays). But, these can be yours too, if you have a sense of humor like I do!

The next step was to replace the cruddy old range. The Goodwill was happy to come remove it for us for free. Check your local store to see if they offer this service.
Then, we found a classic used range on Craigslist. It needed some cleaning too!



For a more in depth post on this range, and how I made it gleam, please see this post.

To create more storage space in this small kitchen we hung a heavy duty pot rack above the "new" range. In a small space, all possible wall space. Think about adding shelves, racks or even hooks anywhere you can.



Using the strip of red tile as my guide, I added red accents. For example, I added the Fiestaware pitcher (see Amazon link below), a curtain on a tension rod (to block the plumbing), and a red butter dish. Then we switched out the old leaky faucet, and painted some of the trim black (where someone had hacked at it with an axe!).

I also replaced the cabinet hardware with drawer pulls I found on sale at Restoration Hardware. It pays to not be too picky, and to shop sales! These were "polished nickel" and while they weren't an exact match to the chrome in the room, they were VERY close.

If you are going for the retro look, another one of my favorite websites to purchase hardware is Sometimes they also have great sales!

Lastly we added a few flea market finds, like an old breadbox, a chair and a red rolling cart. We also hung these sturdy Ikea shelves.
About a year later we did eventually remodel this room, replacing the cabinetry and making bigger changes. But, I thought it would be important first to show how easily and inexpensively a room can go from "gross" to "cute".
For details on the big remodel of this room, please stay turned for a future post!

Also, for more posts about the transformation of this bungalow, see these other posts:

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Living Room Makeover

It's flashback Friday here at Leaving the Ivory Tower. Today, we're traveling back in time to when we bought our first house. This tiny 900 square foot beach bungalow was the cheapest home in town, and it showed!
The home had been a rental for college students, and had seen her fair share of parties. But, we saw that she had "good bones" and great potential.
It took a little (well, no... actually a lot) of TLC, but eventually she shined and was event featured on national TV!

beach bungalow

Today we're stepping into the living room for a details about the changes we made there. Join me for a "budget friendly" living room remodel!


Sadly neglected, this foreclosure had seen better days. Carpets were stained, windows were broken, and there was even a crack-pipe laying in the (weed covered) yard.
But, we saw that despite the neglect, she still possessed many of her subtle charms.  An archway lead to the dinning room, and thick trim lined the windows.

The carpet was covered with burn marks, beer stains and who knows what else!

Can you tell where their couch was?!

We suspected there might be good things hidden underneath the gross flooring. So, one of the first things we did was pull up a corner of the carpet (it was actually only a few years old!).
Much to our delight we discovered the original heart Douglass Fir floors hidden underneath! This is often the case in older homes (this one was built in 1928).
So if the carpet is in poor condition, like this was, see if you can sneak a peak underneath. It's easy to (inconspicuously) pull up a corner to look.

We knew the wood floors would need refinishing, so I quickly started painting the walls. When "flipping" a room, it's best to work from "top to bottom" (starting with the ceiling). This way I didn't have to worry about dripping paint on the floor, because I knew it would just get sanded off!
Because I like bold color, and because the style of the home lent itself fun choices, I went for a bright cheerful green for the walls. I don't remember the name of the color, but it was essentially the color of wasabi!

Wasabi Green!


Then I painted the 4th wall (the one with an open arch leading to other rooms) white. Because I wanted a crisp clean look, I just used the standard out-of-the-can "ultra pure bright white".

Next, it was time to refinish the floors. This was one of the things we splurged on. We brought in a professional. You can rent a sander and do this job yourself. But for novice DIYer's (like us) I wouldn't recommend it!

They sanded through old floor, old finish and replaced a few rotten boards. Even though they draped the house in plastic is still made a HUGE mess. There was a fine layer of sawdust everywhere!

Wet finish on floors

Also, note that the finish they put on the floors has a very strong chemical smell that lingered for a couple of days. We were living there, and I was pregnant, so it was not pleasant. If you can, stay away during this time!



To hide some of the flaws that remained, and because I like to look, I chose the darkest stain available. Then it came time to add furnishings and decor...


Because the room was so small, we opted for a red love seat (purchased from a local furniture store) in place of a full sized sofa. Red and green are complementary colors, so this worked well with the vibrant walls. Also, smaller scale apartment sofas, are perfect for small spaces.


We hid our TV inside of an armoire, and used a storage trunk as a coffee table. In a small house it's important to add storage wherever you can!
Simple sheer white curtains, a dark brown club chair, my own painting and a DIY suitcase table finished off the look.

I spray painted an ornate hand-me-down mirror red, and we added some sturdy wood shelves from Ikea.

We played around with how the furniture was arranged, and switched around accents. It was fun to be able to make these small changes.
Overall we were so happy with the change! Instead of having a a living room that was dreary and depressing, this little house suddenly had one that was bright and cheerful!



When we were selling this house we had a neat surprise. The day after we accepted an offer, this house was featured on the Today Show! We still don't know how they found us. But is was pretty cool be be selected and featured on a national TV show, even if it was a day too late to help us with the sale!

Here is the link to watch the Today Show Segment. Unfortunately there is a short ad. To see our house you can fast forward to 1min 13 sec.

It was pretty funny to hear Al Roker commenting on my "strong art" (a painting I made in college), and to hear the comments about how there should have been "chunky red cookie jars" in the kitchen... which there were 3 of them, just off camera!

For more about this house, and our complete bungalow remodel, please stay tuned for future posts. 
Also, to see more drastic changes we made here, please these posts:

Retro Kitchen Re-do

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Waldorf Seasonal Wheel Calendar


School has started again, and that has got me thinking a lot about our homeschool space. One thing that needed a little revamp was our seasonal wheel calendar.

wheel calendar waldorf

I made this a while back, and it had started to flop and bend over time. So I implemented a few minor changes, and put it back on the wall (for another go-around!).

Detailed below is my original DIY/ Tutorial, with the addition of the newest changes and improvements. Also, here is a photo of where it is in our homeschool room this year. The seasonal wheel is tucked into a cozy corner above one of our work spaces.

waldorf homeschool room

*Side note: I love the desk pictured above, because it folds up to save space!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

For many people the time to start an new calendar is at the start of a new year. But the neat thing about this calendar is that you can start using it anytime!

wheel calendar

In the spirit of Waldorf Education I wanted to create a seasonal wheel calendar for our homeschool space. In addition to this, we do use a traditional calendar. But, my goal with this was to use the wheel format to illustrate the circular nature of the yearly rhythm. I chose only to include the months and the seasons, so that I could continue to use it year after year. But, you could make an even more elaborate version that included days and/ or dates by simply adding another inner circle.

I don't know if this is a "traditional" aspect of Waldorf Education, but it has the general feel. 
*Although I love Waldorf education and am heavily influenced by it, I am not a Waldorf purist, or expert. 

To make this project I used the following materials:

-2 sheets of Bristol Board

-White Glue


-1 Mini Brad

-Colored pencils (my favorite brand is Prismacolor, but Lyra makes a nice set too).

-A compass

-A standard pencil

-An eraser

-A long straight edge or ruler

-1 piece of cardstock or cardboard (at least as large as your pieces of Bristol Board). The back of a pad of drawing paper, or even part of a cereal box will work well.

I gathered my supplies, and on one of my pieces of bristol board, I begin constructing my wheel.
Bristol Board is similar to cardstock, but it is a little heavier and (if you get a smooth version) is lovely for drawing with pencil. I also like that it holds up well to lots of erasing and gluing (unlike traditional drawing paper).

The first step was to create two circles. Using the compass I made one outer circle that would serve as the edge of the wheel. I didn't measure and exact width. Rather I just made it as wide as the size of the paper would allow. 
The I moved the compass in about 1/2"-3/4" (again, this measurement can be flexible). I placed the point of the compass in the exact same place in the center of the circle and lightly drew an inner circle. This would serve as my guide for writing the names of the months around the edges. 

Then came the challenging part. This might be easy for you if you're good at geometry, but it took me a few times to get it right. So if you're like me, draw lightly!
First I divided the circle into 4 equal parts, starting from the center. Each of these triangular sections would be the space for a seasonal tree illustration. After that I divided each of those sections into 3 equal parts, creating even spacing for the names of the months. This then left me with 12 equal pieces marked off around the perimeter of the circle. 

Then it was time to add some color. I started by writing the 12 months around the perimeter (in the 2nd circle I had created). Before I "committed" anything with colored pencil I wrote it all out lightly with regular graphite. Colored pencil will erase a little bit, but not entirely, and not as well as graphite. 
I also lightly colored in the area with the colors of the rainbow, using cooler colors like blues and greens for the winter months, and warmer colors like reds and oranges for the summer months. I used this image as a reference guide: 

photo credit

As one color transitioned into another I faded them together. The easiest way to do this is to use a lighter touch where the colors will blend together, eventually fading lightly into white. Then, pick up your next color and lightly draw over the last one, gradually increasing the pressure to make add more pigment to the paper. 
Next, I went over the names of the months with a dark brown colored pencil.

Then it was time to draw a tree, four times (once for each season). The good news is that you don't have to be an artist to do this! A simple Google image search (seasons tree illustration) will reveal a wealth of inspiration and references. You could use these as references for your own drawings, or even just print out an image and glue it onto your wheel.

For my project I was inspired by this lovely image:

photo credit

Using the image as a guide, I freehanded four basic trees with my colored pencils. 

I started by drawing the trunks and branches. I added dark blue shadows to the "cold" season trees, and dark brown shadows to the "warm" season trees. Then I chose colors that represented each season and simply made circles of various sizes over the branches. 

In the center of the circle I drew a combination sun/ moon for added interest.  It would also be neat to draw a star, or a compass rose in the center. 

Then I cut out the entire circle, and also cut out an identical circle from another blank piece of bristol board. For extra strength I glued the blank circle onto the back of my calendar wheel.  I fashioned the pointer from a scrap of paper, colored it, and glued it to the background.

Over time, this did not prove to be strong enough, and it started to flop, and bend. So, I added the extra circle of (thin) cardboard to the back. 

I just used the backing from an old pad of drawing paper and glued it to the reverse side of the wheel. 

Make it spin!

Lastly I pushed a small brad through the center of the wheel and through the back of a brown piece of card-stock paper.

I simply stapled it to the wall in our homeschool area. We enjoy turning the wheel slightly every couple of weeks as the months go on. It serves as a great visual reference for learning about the months and seasons of the year!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Crafting!

wheel calendar waldorf

If you are interested in Waldorf, nature crafts and/or related topics, you may enjoy these posts:

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