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Decking the Halls… With Actual Boughs of Holly

So, in an effort to be super-frugal with our holiday budget this year, I asked Dan to bring home some branches from the many pine trees around his parents’ house for decorating purposes.

Then he did me one better. He snagged some real holly too!

I fa-la-la-love that guy!!

I started by using the holly to create a simple sprig that adds a punch of color to our front porch railing.

I also draped plain white string lights along both the top & bottom rail & wrapped the top rail with a silver-trimmed white ribbon.

But it still didn’t look… complete. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t feel done.

So I added some dangling silver ornaments for a little more pop.

Then I hung large jingle bells from the ceiling, using the hooks that held our jam jar lanterns this summer. (Original lantern post here.)

And created an outdoor centerpiece for our wicker table by wrapping a bare wreath with white lights & placing some candles in the middle. I just used a glass bowl, 3 pillar candles of different heights & some white craft sand.

(I dig the way the sand kinda looks like snow drifts.)

It’s not Clark Griswold-level, but I think our outdoor holiday decor looks nice.


And it pleased us here at RHR greatly that we were able to use natural greenery, rather than settling for that fake, plastic garland. Always a bonus!

And even better? Using so many repurposed items (string lights, jingle bells, wreaths, craft sand) and shopping the holiday sales/discount bin at the craft store for the rest (ribbon, candles) meant that our transformation was super affordable. All told, I spent about $10.

Not bad, if you ask me!

Perry Como was right  — The prettiest sight I see IS the holly on my own front door!

So, how about you? How’s your holiday decorating coming along? Have you been able to keep costs down by cleverly reusing stuff? Any cool centerpiece ideas? Let us know!

It’s Oil in the Presentation

Family, friends, Secret Santas, bosses, neighbors… the cost of holiday cheer can be enough to send us here at RHR running for the spiced rum.

So to level the playing field between our extreme popularity ;-> and our deep and abiding cheapskatery, we’ve been making our holiday gifts for years now.

I know, I know. Nobody likes to get a homemade present. They’re always weird, and nothing you’d actually use… and worst of all, you can’t even re-gift them because what if the recipient asks you about the crafting process or the materials or something? Stupid, lousy crochet. Damn you and your prudish insistence upon keeping things “cozy.”   (Image courtesy of Photobucket)

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to go down like that. Over years of careful observation, we’ve determined one essential DIY gift constant: everyone likes food.

We’ve gifted everyone from immediate family to casual acquaintances with foodstuffs — and always to rave reviews. We’ve done flavored apertifs & spice rubs & hand-dipped candies. And frankly, we haven’t even scratched the surface of everything we want to make.

DIY gifting is every bit as addictive as any other DIY pursuit. Sure, it takes planning and effort. But it’s truly fun & a lot easier than you’d imagine — and eventually you find yourself turning your nose up at store-bought options because you know you can do it better… for SO much less.

Anyway, this year we decided to do infused cooking oils!

First, we headed out to a local gourmet foods distributor that sells bulk oil. By buying from the source, we could afford higher quality ingredients. Plus, we managed to cut costs by getting the bottles for only 50 cents each (with purchase of oil). Score!!  The containers for homemade gifts are often the most expensive part of the project, so we’re always looking for clever ways to cut costs on that front.

We chose a light Spanish olive oil…

…then we picked up some whole clove garlic, fresh thyme & rosemary and black peppercorns.

Once we got all the booty home — for about $7 per bottle — Dan heated the oil, adding a sachet of the rosemary & thyme so the oil could suck up all their herby goodness.

For an expert herbed-oil tutorial, click here.

Once the oils were thoroughly infused and ready for gifting, I topped them with a little tin foil and ribbon, along with a shiny ornament.

Because with homemade gifts, presentation MATTERS.

Practical, easy & so much less expensive than it looks. Score!

AND… We’ve already gotten the ultimate homemade-present compliment. One of our recipients actually used our infused oil to cook for a holiday party. Color us flattered!

How about you guys? Have you ever made infused oil? What are your favorite kinds? Anyone else making gifts rather than buying? We’d love to hear that we’re not alone… ;-> So don’t be afraid to hit that comments button! Tell us all about it!

Wreath-hab: You Want Some Jingle With Those Bells?

Remember our gate wreath & mail drop basket combo? And how much I dug the idea of switching out the decorations from time to time to reflect the seasons?

Well, check this out:

Jingle bells, some faux holly berries…

…and gawh-jus white poinsettia…

… take our little duo from autumn to winter for less than $10 in less than 10 minutes.

First, I plucked the silk flowers from my Harvest Moon wreath:

 Original post here

Then I used some faux holly berries I found in the craft store clearance bin & a handful of jingle bells to create a subtle holiday look.

I used picture wire to attach the bells

and just tucked the berries in around them.

Of course, I trimmed back the ends of the picture wire, too…

Easy peasey.

Oh, and I straightened out all the wire branches on the faux berries and kind of squeezed them together:

I think the tidier look made a big difference

… before (bottom) and … after (top)

… by giving it a little je ne c’est quoi…

Oh, yeah. I totally speak French now. I learned it from the tube my clochettes came in. So la-tee-da.

Oops. Didn’t get the poinsettia in that shot.


Please ignore the price stickers on the poinsettia. I’m trying to train myself out of a borderline OCD sticker-removal thing.

But man they’re driving me crazy. Aaarrrrgggghhhh…


Quick, easy, cheap. The Rental House Rules decorating trifecta. Score!

We’ll be back soon with more exterior decor. We’re experiencing a bit of technical difficulty with our string lights. Not to worry, though. We’re on it.

In the meantime… take another peek at my wreath.

Oh, yeah. You love it, don’tcha? Yeah, you do. You’re on the naughty list for sure, you cheeky thing!

Dreaming of a White (and Silver) Christmas

So… we’re not going to do a tree this year for a variety of reasons: including a ninja-fast 4-year-old with a penchant for breakable objects & a cat who we’re pretty sure descends from schizophrenic mountain lions. But mostly it’s because we’ll be out of town for most of the holiday season & couldn’t justify spending big $$ on a tree that our house sitter would get to look at more than we would.

Fortunately, we DO have a fireplace with a mantle. I’ve somehow never had a mantle to decorate before. So, of course I had to play!

I decided on a simple theme: White and silver.

First, I sprayed some pine cones I bought a while back (as autumn decor for the porch) with some white spray paint I had lying around. Then I coupled them with jingle bells in glass vases to create a cheap, easy grouping with both texture & bling.

I also thought that since we weren’t doing a tree, it would be nice to honor the age-old tradition that led to modern-day Christmas trees: Bringing evergreen branches into the house. So when Dan went over to his folks’ house last weekend, I asked him to bring back some clippings from their many, many pine trees.

I just nestled them loosely in a large vase I have with some rocks & water in the bottom for counterbalance. (Plus, maybe the water will help keep the branches fresh longer. I’m not sure if works the same with sticks as with flowers…) Then, just to be doubly sure they wouldn’t fall prey to our cat, I stuck the vase to the mantle with some double-sided tape.

I totally dig the way the vase of boughs turned out. Very natural. And it smells great!

But I needed to balance out the other side of the mantle with a little height of its own. So when I saw these candlesticks at the local thrift store, I snapped them right up. They weren’t originally silver — and frankly, I was not at all fond of their weird, swirly finish but that was easily remedied with a little spray paint.

Once they were silver, I topped them with white pillar candles in varying heights for an understated visual appeal that easily holds its ground against the largesse  of the evergreen branches.

Then, to represent our AZ roots, I tucked a bare wreath behind a cool little bird ornament I picked up recently. It’s actually a dove, but to us it calls to mind a Cactus Wren, the state bird of Arizona.

(Cactus Wren photo taken just outside of Tucson by Terry Sohl. Courtesy of South Dakota

And to represent where we are now, I centered the entire mantle with a small pewter piece that features the three rivers of Allegheny County, PA.

Finally, I put a wedding photo we love & a portrait of Sonia — both black & white — into silver frames I had around the house. The family pics personalize & soften the potentially stark look of my silver & white theme. Plus, when it’s time to hang the stockings, they’ll serve as identifiers… kind of like photographic place cards.

Overall, the mantle is more of a seasonal look than a holiday look, which we appreciate because we can keep it up until spring if we want.

And working on it inspired me to gussy up the front porch a little, too.

(Stay tuned — that post is coming up very soon!)

So how about you guys? How’s your seasonal decor coming along? Are you going for broke or keeping it simple? Where do you stand on themed -vs- free form holiday decor? Did you trick out your mantle this year? We’d love to hear what you guys are up to!!!

Porch Wrap Up

Here I am takin’ a porch chill while I write this quick curb-appeal-project-wrap-up post 🙂

See the whole makeover, with pics & links to each project here.

It’s just so lovely out here now. I can’t begin to describe.

So I figured this was the best place for me to look back over the time we spent on the project.

(Cue “The Way We Were”)

Let’s start with a budget estimate, since I’m no good at math:

Porch, Gate & Steps — paint, supplies, etc.   = $100

One of the costlier projects we tackled, but well worth it. Plus, you might be able to get the $$ taken out of your rent if you choose to stick with your landlord’s color/manufacturer choice.

Flower bed — flowers & tools  = $100

I admit it. I WAY overspent on this. I bought a bunch of pricey perennials, when I should have opted for all annuals. I could have spent far, far less & still come away with a perfectly lovely garden. Lesson learned. (I blame my desert roots for going all batsh*t with the flower buying.)

Rehabbed furniture — paint, stain, rope, glue = $75

While the table in particular was a lengthy redo — because of all the drying time between steps — everyone seems to agree that it looks brand new now. And it’s sturdier!!

Details — Starburst wall art; mailbox; address sign; mail caddy; lighting (fixture, string lights, candle lanterns); flowerpot storage; marigold ornaments; watering can; seasonal items = $100ish

The detail-y stuff ran about $25 per project, with some being far less (flower pots, candle lanterns) because we tend to use repurposed materials & leftover supplies.

So, overall, for the most part, generally speaking, looking at the big picture… We went from this to this:

for about


Not bad.

Especially considering that replacing the furniture alone would have cost more than that.

Plus, if I hadn’t gone all nutzo with the flowers, we could have brought it in well under $3-hunny.

And the above pics don’t even demonstrate the beauteousness that is goin’ on up on the porch:

But, of course, there were obstacles.

Which leads me to our soon-to-be-famous (ha ha) Cheers & Jeers feature!


The gate

Is it the prettiest feature of our makeover? No. But it’s functional properties make it far & away our MVP.


The squirrel

I think once we started the makeover, he realized that we’re not, in fact, hillbillies & he lost all fear of ending up in our stew pot.

Cheeky little bastard.

I thought his hijinks were cute until he made off with ALL of my decorative squash and chomped my pumpkins…

See him? Right there in my mail caddy.

Seriously, he has NO fear. He actually takes hostages. For real — he wouldn’t let Sonia’s speech therapist off the porch!!

He’s also eaten ALL of the bird seed out of our pretty feeder. I wish I had a pic of him swinging on that thing. Hilarious!

On the up side, we’re pretty sure that we can take full credit for his successful hibernation this winter — he must have at least a dozen squash & two pounds of all-season bird seed stashed in his little tree house by now, courtesy of Chez Glor.


Our porch stencil & jam jar lanterns

For almost nothing, we created a nice little sitting area just by defining the space with our version of a porch rug & then echoing that space above with our jam jar lanterns.

We don’t like porch rugs anyway. They slip around, curl up at the edges & generally look ratty pretty quick. This alternative gives us the same effect without the hassle. And it was at least $100 cheaper! And the lanterns are just quirky & fun 🙂


Light fixture

I thought this would look much better than it does. I just hated the old light SO much. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, our budget was pretty tight the week I lost my patience with the old “fixture” and I chose to go with a simple $5 replacement just to get the old one outta there.

And while Dan is rightfully proud of his install job (see details here), the fixture itself does nothing for us. It does not make us all warm & tingly. It is not our dream light.

We’ll live with it for now & try frosting the glass & adding some sort of decorative backing or something to obscure the leftover caulk and just give the fixture more overall… presence.


Climbing flowers

I can’t tell you how many compliments we’ve gotten on this simple, simple element of our makeover.

If you’ve got an area you want to obscure or add height to, I can’t recommend Morning Glories & Nasturtium enough. Just give them something to climb on & tend to your Nasturtium. It’s beautiful, but it will take over the whole garden if you let it.


The rain

Nothing, nothing was more problematic than the weather when it came to our Curb Appeal makeover. In fact, I imagine the whole thing would have taken half the time if we’d had good weather all along.

Still, it did make our garden blow up. So maybe our area’s penchant for precipitation isn’t such a bad thing…


Our readers!!!!!!

That would be you!!! I don’t have a pic of y’all, but I wanted to give you guys a quick “ups” for tuning in — honestly, your response to our new blog has been SO encouraging. When we decided to give this DIY blogging thing a try, we weren’t sure that there was an audience out there for us.

But thanks to you guys, we’re actually pretty stoked about moving onward & upward with Rental House Rules and we have tons of ideas for the inside of the house that we probably would procrastinate if it weren’t for you being out there pulling for us 🙂

So please, give yourselves a hand. We’ll wait 🙂

Good job!

And now that all the pennies are counted & the backs are patted, we can move on. No more porch stuff for a while!!!!

But be sure to check back in soon — we’re moving inside & we have so many great projects coming up!

In the meantime, let us know what you think!!!!! We’d love to hear from you! What was your favorite part of our Curb Appeal Project? Have you tried any of our tips? What would you like to do with YOUR rental property? Any projects to brag about? Have you ever spent WAAAAY too much on flowers?

Seriously, we want to know!!! Spill it!!!!


Curb Appeal REVEAL

This was our rental house before:

And this is our home today:

OMG, Amy! You’re our new design guru! We’ve never seen such a stunning transformation!

I know, I know. It’s hard to be humble when you’re just so very awesome.

Before (above); After (below)

Wow! We’re just blown away! This must have cost you thousands of dollars!

No, no. As a matter of fact, it was quite inexpensive.

What?!? But the lush, lush garden! And the chandeliers! It’s like Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous!!!

Yes. (Sighs and looks wistfully to the West) My genius is both a gift and a burden…

But seriously, better right???

We certainly think so!

Plus, no fewer than 6 neighbors have stopped by to thank us for putting a little TLC into our curb appeal. There’s a 50/50 split of homeowners & renters on our block, and, well… you can tell which are which. The rentals have long suffered neglect & it shows. And if the word of everyone in the neighborhood is accurate, ours had long been among the sorest of the block’s rental-property eyesores.

Not anymore!!

We’re not gonna say it’s the nicest looking property in the neighborhood, but we do receive plenty of compliments. And putting forth the effort seems to have endeared us to our previously (rightfully) skeptical neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all very nice people & were always polite… but let’s just say that since the Curb Appeal Project began, we’re receiving more cookout invitations than we used to. Which is awesome.

Rental House Rule #17: It’s your home, even if it’s somebody else’s house. Take some pride in it.

So… How did we go from eyesore to eye candy?

Not necessarily in this order, we: (Click on headings for links to individual project posts)

1) Installed a gate: 

We can’t describe how functional this simple fix has been. Honestly, while hardly the showpiece of our CAP (Curb Appeal Project), it has easily had the most impact upon our lives — in a good way!! Being able to corral the kiddo & dog has turned what was once merely a throughway into an outdoor room.

Highly suggest!

2) Put in a flower bed:

Before (left) ;

Today (center) 

3) Painted the porch and put facings on the steps:

Porch paint before (left); Two-tone lattice (right)

BTW — We also sprinkled the front porch steps with a little sand immediately after painting, to give them traction during rainy and snowy months.

Porch steps before paint & facings (left); traction sand (center); steps with paint and facings (right); porch paint after (center, large)

4) Added a “rug” stencil:

5) Rehabbed our old patio furniture and shelves:

Shelves before (left); Table and chairs before (right)

We went with a “coordinate, don’t match” philosophy…

…to create a cohesive look.

The shelves are done in a Dark Walnut stain.

The table is a combo of Espresso paint and Dark Walnut & Golden oak stains.

6) Gave the entry area some visual appeal by adding wall art:

… and other DIY decor touches.

Like a modern twist on toll painting above our front door… 

… a rehabbed wreath

… and some decorative storage.

7) Added a faux patina to our new mailbox:

8) Made a new address plaque & switched out the old porch light:

Before (left); After (right)

Note: We still plan to frost the glass on the new porch light, but didn’t want to hold up the big CAP reveal over a minor detail. Stay tuned!

9) Added string lights, a roll-down shade & DIY candle lanterns:

10) Added a few other finishing touches:

Like a wrought-iron chair for our flowering flowers to climb…

A cute watering can…

… a new doormat…

… a few pumpkins…

… painted flowerpots filled with squash and pine cones…

… a basket of mums…

… and my fave, a cobalt-blue bird feeder…

So, that’s our Curb Appeal Reveal!!

Come on back next week for more before/after pics, a more-or-less budget breakdown & “Rants & Raves” — a rundown of which projects we most enjoyed… and which we… well… didn’t.


Wrap Artist — Wicker Rehab Part 2

So, when we last joined in Amy’s adventure, she had stripped the worn rattan from a patio set, taped off the newly exposed bamboo and spray-painted the rest of the wicker a rich espresso brown… This is after 3 coats

But there was still a little work to do…

Because some of the rattan I’d unwrapped was of the load-bearing-or-at-least-load-stabilizing variety, I needed to replace it with something similar. So people don’t, you know, fall flat on their keesters when they try to sit down.

I chose rope.

Yes, rope.

(Trust me, it’s gonna look so much better than you think it will.)

I started by wrapping the rope around the cross bars on the bottom of each chair & the table…

I tied the bars together, making sure to leave myself a little extra rope on the end. Then I wrapped in a criss-cross pattern, looping the rope around each individual bar as I went.

And because I wanted to make sure that these load-bearing bars were really secure, I hit each knot with a little Gorilla Glue:

Tip: Gorilla glue expands to at least 3x its original size. A little goes a looooong way.

I chose to use original Gorilla Glue to secure the load-bearing spots, because:

a) I want to know they’ll stay put

b) They don’t show

So when this happens…

It’s a good thing!

But for the areas that will show — like the decorative detail I added to make the load-bearing rope less sore-thumby — I used “super” glue. (I still went with the Gorilla brand… because I like it.)

The fun part about decorative detail is that YOU get to make ALL the decisions!!

I chose to wrap the feet of the table/chairs because there was some obvious splintering…

To do so, I measured off a length of rope that was long enough to wrap around the foot of the chair 4 times (my choice!), then used that section of rope as a template to cut 15 more of the same length.

That way, all of my rope sections were the same & I wouldn’t have trouble creating a consistent look on all of the chair/table legs.

But before I applied the decorative rope sections, I sanded all the legs with 220-grit sandpaper. (This helps to rough up the surface, so the glue will adhere better.) Then I wiped them down with a clean rag to remove any sawdust.

IMPORTANT: At this juncture, I tore off & set aside a few generous lengths of low-tack painter’s tape so they’d be at the ready when I needed them — because the next couple of steps of this process take both hands & go kinda quickly…

Step 1: I applied super glue to both sides of the legs as far up as I wanted the rope to go.

Step 2: I carefully wrapped the rope around the glue-y section of chair leg, pressing down on the rope to ensure that as much of it was in contact with the glue as possible I also made sure that my start & end points were both behind the leg so they weren’t as obvious.

Step 3:  I grabbed one of the pre-ripped-tape strips and wrapped it around the outside of the rope to hold everything in place while the glue dried.

Tip: To get super glue off your fingertips, use a little 220-grit sandpaper. It works & actually feels kinda nice — like a facial scrub for grimy DIY hands.

I also added a little decorative rope trim to the inside lip of the table…

I made sure to run the rope UNDERNEATH the original tack nails that hold the table-top glass in place.

Besides adding a custom-look & continuing the rope detail up to the surface of the piece, it also provides a second line of defense against the glass slipping past the tack nails & falling through the tabletop.

So now, we can offer our guests a little more “Set a spell…” & a little less “Ack! Don’t lean on the glass!!” Which is nice.

Once all of my decorative rope was in place, I let the glue dry overnight, then removed the tape & trimmed back the loose ends. (I just used good, sharp utility scissors.)

Then, I ran some low-grit sandpaper over whatever bamboo was still exposed, wiped it down with a clean rag & applied a thin coat of Golden Oak sealing stain to give the bamboo a nice shine.

Once that had dried — I gave it half a day — I added a second coat, this time using Dark Walnut stain & a “stippling” brush technique. (Stippling is essentially dabbing…)

The two stain gives the bamboo some dimension & makes it look like much higher-quality wood than it actually is.

I also brushed a little of the Dark Walnut stain onto the rope to take its look from “hardware store” to “decorator outlet.”

I was a little concerned that the stain would compromise the adhesive properties of the glue — in other words, that the rope would come unstuck — but I figured I’d give it a try nonetheless. Knock wood, it’s holding fine…

Then I let all of the stain dry overnight (See why this makeover took so long? Not difficult, just a lot of drying time.) & hit the entire piece with clear acrylic sealer.

When that was dry, I cleaned & replaced the glass with a little help from Dan, Dan the glass-replacin’-man and…

Viola!!! (Finally.)

Our “new” wicker furniture!!!!

We couldn’t be happier with it.

It’s updated-looking, but still has unique touches, so it doesn’t look just like everyone else’s.

It’s as sturdy as it was before the makeover & blends SO nicely with the rest of our porch.

The color is so much less shouty than the white was.

We especially like the rope trim detail inside the tabletop…

… and how well the table & chairs coordinate with our recently rehabbed wicker shelves

As far as cost… I don’t keep receipts. I HATE math. But I can tell you that I used 8 cans of spray paint at $5 each; 2 bags of rope at $8 each; one bottle of Gorilla Super Glue at $5; and two small cans of stain (with plenty left over) at $5 each.

I also used a few general DIY supplies that I always have around the house, like a $1 “throw away” paintbrush (stain ruins brushes — don’t use your good brush); some painter’s tape; sandpaper, a drop cloth & a safety mask.

So, how much is that? About $75? More or less? Yeah, that sounds right.

And considering that buying a new, comparable set would run us about $600…

we think I done good.

These images are from the Pier One website. They are of the Azteca Coffee Table (left) and Coco Cove outdoor wicker chair (right).

They’re both great collections. Check them out at

Of course, ours doesn’t look exactly like this season’s hottest, but for $525 less? We think it comes pretty darn close!

Let’s take another gander, ’cause she’s just so darn purdy!!!


Thanks again, MIL!


We here at Rental House Rules would like to thank the good people at Pier One for the use of their online images. Pier One did not solicit our recommendation, nor did Pier One pay or compensate us in any way.

Editor’s Note: Sorry about the inconsistent look of the espresso paint color in some of the reveal photos. Some of them were taken in the morning, some in the afternoon. In real life, under most conditions, it’s a rich, dark brown. (Like an espresso bean.)

All In The Details

OK, so the wicker furniture makeover is going to take just a little while longer — we were abducted by family fun yesterday & instead of going to the Home Depot for more rope, we ended up at a nearby farm petting baby ducks!!

Ultimate Rental House Rule: Paint and pillows are fine, but your family is what makes your house a home.

So, we still have to hit the Depot. Then I have just a weeeeee bit more touching up on the table & chairs. And just generally futzing around to get the porch & yard ready for our BIG CURB APPEAL REVEAL!!!

But, I know I like a little light Sunday blog-reading, and I imagine you’re no different. It’s a lovely way to relax 🙂

So, I’m gonna throw up a quick little post about some of the “finishing touches” we’ve done on the porch.

‘Cause I’m easy like Sunday bloggin’…

Some of you might remember this post about how I added a large mail receptacle to the inside of our porch gate…

And how I promised to switch out the original pine cones for new and different items to turn what could be an awkward-looking, purely functional item into a unique visual draw?

Well, viola! Autumn gourds! Simple, cheap, big visual impact.

Also cheap & easy? Flower pot decor!

I spray painted a few flower pots in bright, solid colors. Now I can use them to house stray objects I need/want on the porch…

Like candles…

And pine cones to throw at a particularly brazen and pesky squirrel…


The cones are just for decor. But that squirrel IS a complete pain in the patootie.

I also tossed some leftover gourds into one of the flowerpots for a casual piece of fall decor. I also plan to use another flower pot to create a discreet outdoor ashtray. (I’ll do a full how-to on that one soon!)

Flower pots! They’re not just for flowers anymore!

The mums pictured above were a simple solution to an ugly old stump that was uglying up our yard.

I also placed a bright, eye-catching accent piece nearby — in this case a cobalt blue bird feeder — to further distract from the stump.

The flower bed was another place where I worked a little slight-of-the-eye magic to distract from a hole in my climbing vines…

Tip: Is your natural foliage looking a little wobbly or patchy? Use some potted plants or flowers to draw the eye to strong spots & “cover up” holes.

I chose a tall, leafy purple plant that contrasts nicely & has enough height to not look dwarfed next to the climbing vines.

So… there you go! Just a couple of quick visual fixes that anyone can accomplish.

Now we’re off to the Home Depot now for more rope. Yes, I said rope. You’ll see! (Wink!)


Wrap Artist — Wicker Rehab Part 1

So, now that our wicker shelves look so nice…

it’s time to do something about our patio furniture.

This set once belonged to Dan’s Nana, and tons of happy family moments were had around it before it was relegated to my mother-in-law’s basement.

When we moved to PA a couple of years back, we snagged it as kind of a place-keeper until we found a set of our own.

But as time has worn on, we’ve become attached to it. Despite it’s in-need-of-some-serious-TLC condition. It fits our space perfectly, we like the shape & the chairs are surprisingly comfortable.

Fortunately, MIL is willing to let us have it for keepsies! And for, like, one-tenth the price of replacing it, I can totally bring this family heirloom into the new millennium. Score!

The first issue to be addressed was the worn rattan (ratty-tat-tan?) on the bottom of the chair legs. This kind of deterioration is inevitable when you’re talking about natural fibers.

Fortunately, as I mentioned in the wicker shelf makeover post, often, rattan is mostly decorative. Meaning it can be removed without affecting the structural integrity of the piece.

However, some sections of the rattan wrapping do help secure the piece, so thoroughly inspect your furniture before you go all ‘Imma cut’choo, man!” It’s pretty easy to tell what’s critical & what’s not.

Once I’d figured out what was safe to cut, I got out the ole box cutter & had at it. I tried to make my cuts as straight as possible. I also tried not to cut too deep, so as not to ding up the bamboo underneath too much. Then I just peeled it off bit by bit.

I ain’t gonna lie. This was a time-consuming, not-particularly-fun process.

Oh, and I wore a mask while removing the rattan because we have no idea how old the white paint on the furniture is, meaning it could be a lead-based paint. (As a general rule of thumb, I consider all pre-1980s furniture suspect.) And it was kickin’ out mad dust, yo. So better safe than sorry.

Tip: Always err on the side of caution when working with old paint. That stuff’ll pump you full of lead as soon as look at you.

I didn’t get a pic of myself in the mask. I know, you’re disappointed. It was pretty sexy.

Anyhoo — I cut & peeled away the rattan in several areas to expose the bamboo in a pattern that Dan & I liked.

PLEASE be careful if you repeat this process. Box cutters are serious business. You can really, really hurt yourself by not being extremely careful.

The bamboo under the rattan is actually in really good shape & quite attractive.

To maintain its natural beauty during the spray-painting process, I re-wrapped the exposed parts with painter’s tape.

In order to get to all of the areas I needed to unwrap/rewrap, I took the glass out of the table & set it aside in a safe place on a soft little nest. In this case, a cheap plastic drop cloth all bundled up.

(Now for the best part…)


What is it about spray paint that’s just so darn fun? Just don’t get carried away with the fun. Thin, even coats are the key to success.

I usually try to contain my enthusiasm by allowing myself the satisfaction of a long, steady spray right off the bat. I just make sure I continually move around the piece & always keep my can in motion. If you’re doing it right (ie: not laying it on too thick) you should kind of look like a very mellow, one-armed orchestra conductor. Big, sweeping motions.

Don’t worry about coverage at this point. Just get all that spray lust out of your system. I’ll wait.

There. Better? Ready to proceed like a mature adult? Cool.

Now… it’s time to break one of the cardinal rules of spray painting, “Don’t get too close.”

Yes, you heard right. You have my permission to bring the nozzle to a mere 4 inches from your surface!!! Because I believe you can handle the responsibility. Don’t disappoint me. ;->

Naw… it’s just that wicker woven & you need to get paint in all the little nooks & crannies. Don’t worry. IF YOU KEEP YOUR MELLOW CONDUCTOR ACTION GOING, ALL WILL BE FINE. If, however, you just gob it on there, it’ll show on your finished piece. It’s OK to work section by section, but seriously. Keep your spraying arm moving at all times.

It took me 3 coats to get a nice, even coverage. And even then, there were a few touch-up areas to hit.

My point? Spray paint can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It’s all in how you handle it.

After second coat

Tip: When painting furniture (with spray or otherwise), start on the bottom. That way — hopefully — you can flip it to stand on its legs as usual & let the bottom side dry while you work on the top.

After coat number 3 — Lookin’ SO much better already!

Now I need to let ‘er dry, but stay tuned, because I’ve got more magic in store for this gorgeous-in-training patio set…

Next post, I’ll use a creative solution to reinforce some of the areas where the rattan I removed was helping hold the whole pile of sticks together. Then I’ll sand/stain the bamboo & also add a little decorative detail 🙂

I’ll be back soon with the reveal tomorrow morning 🙂


Thrifty McGee — Lamps

So, because the weather is holding up progress on our front porch project — which is holding up our big Curb Appeal Reveal! — I’m gonna switch gears.

Let’s talk about lamps, bay-bee/Let’s talk about you and me/Let’s talk about all the good lamps and the bad lamps/Yes-siree!

OK… that last rhyme was lame. I admit it.

What isn’t lame is that I got ALL these lamps (including shades) for under $20!!!

“But Amy,” you say, “they’re so very ugly!”  Yes, yes they are.

But they won’t be for long — Amy has fancy plans.

Yep. I’m gonna make them over good. But first, I’m gonna do this quick tutorial on buying secondhand lamps.

1) Make Sure it Works

I am superscared of electricity. Seriously. Which is why I have never rewired a lamp. I hear it’s easy & hope to one day conquer my fear, but for now I only buy a lamp if it is in full working order. Fortunately, most thrift stores test lamps before putting them out on the sales floor. Still, even if a lamp is marked ‘works’ — I look it over completely. Any weird scorch marks? Is the cord frayed? Do the connections look sound? Why does that lady with the cart full of belts keep circling me?

Finally, I hang onto my receipt. Then, once home, I plug the lamp in, turn it off & on a few times, wiggle the base, gently tug on the cord, etc. If it holds up to normal jostling, it probably does work & I call it a keeper. If not, I take it back.

2) Don’t Judge a Lamp by its Color

Sure, these two ceramic lamps are outdated as-is, but imagine them with a nice, glossy, all-over coat of turquoise or green apple paint. Top them off with contrasting-color lampshades in an unexpected shape & you go from frumpy to fashion-forward in a few cheap, easy steps.

Or take this standing lamp — yes, it screams Grandma’s sitting room in its current state, but look at the bones on this gem.

A super-stable base:

Thick glass free of chips & cracks:

A nice, long cord free of fraying:

And a big unblemished lampshade:

I absolutely would have bought this lamp if I’d had room in the car to haul it home. I would have sprayed it with a little oil-rubbed-bronze spray paint — hothothot this season, btw — and switched out the shade for one in a bold, dark color (oxblood, eggplant, olive… something like that) with a ‘drum’ shape, like this one:

(Of course, this shade would need some TLC first — too  ‘tea & crumpets’ as is…)

Anyhoo — once I’d spiffed it up a bit, the standing lamp would have looked totally stylish in a throwback, Mad Men kind of way.

In fact, I wonder if they still have it…

Long story short — don’t write off a working, inexpensive lamp just because it’s ugly at first glance. Examine it. You might be able to work with it.

3) Look for Shade

A lamp that includes a clean, neutral-toned, unbroken shade is an extra-good deal — even if the shade in question doesn’t do much for the appearance of the lamp it comes with.

Lampshades are inexplicably expensive. And frankly, the overall shapes don’t vary much from decade to decade — it’s mostly colors & details that change, both of which you can do yourself. Sure, lampshades can easily look out-of-date. But making one over is almost always cheaper than buying a new one that’s essentially the same thing. And it’s easy. (Stay tuned.)

Plus, because most shades attach to their lamps with a simple, standard fixture, you can easilyeasilyeasily swap out a shade that just isn’t working for you — aesthetically speaking — for another that looks better, regardless of where each component came from or how old they are 🙂

Just unscrew the cap holding the shade on, remove the offending shade, slip on the new shade & rescrew the cap.

Couldn’t be simpler 🙂

4) Consider a Breakdown

Often, lamps have extra pieces that are completely decorative.

Were I so inclined, I could make over this lamp by removing the long rod that holds the original shade & simply topping the two bulbs with individual clip-on shades. 

Sorry, I don’t have any individual clip-on shades to demonstrate this idea in it’s totality, so you’ll have to visualize. But, as clip on shades are widely available, I figure you can picture where I’m going with this…

My point being: Many lamps have unnecessary parts; sometimes they’re handles, sometimes extensions, etc. And fortunately, most of the time, they’re simple to remove by just unscrewing — and without damaging the lamp or affecting it’s function.

So, if you see a lamp that you mostly like, see if the parts you dislike are removable!

5) Resurfacing Works

If you like a lamp’s shape, but not it’s surface, try to think of how you might be able to maintain the lines of the lamp while obscuring it’s texture.

For example, Dan hates the surface of this lamp. He calls it the pineapple lamp. He just can’t get past the checkerboard pattern. But the shape is timeless and it’s in fantastic working order.

So… I assured him that I’d spray paint the base & wrap the body with some kind of attractive ribbon/string/wire/rope — you know, to keep Spongebob from trying to set up camp in it. Or I could glue mosaic tiles to it. Or beads. Or bottle caps. See what I mean? Tons of possibilities.

So… that’s it pretty much what I can teach you about thrift lamp shopping. There are tons of perfectly good lamps at resale stores. You just have be able to recognize their potential & know how to assess their safety/function.

And now you do! And if you’re brave enough to rewire a lamp, you’re even one step ahead of me! 😉

Link: How to rewire a table lamp



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