Monthly Archives: January 2010

Thrifty Fix: Smart Nursery Art

On Monday, when I revealed my niece’s nursery makeover, I promised to share my thrifty fix for dressing up the walls.    Excuse me, but have you seen the price of wall decor in baby stores?   Not only is it pricey, it’s made of plastic or has cheesy quilted designs.   Heck no.

DIY Nursery art

Illustrated children’s books are a great source of inexpensive art. The clearance rack at my local brand-name bookstore did not disappoint.   For only $5.00 I found a large book of illustrated nursery rhymes, many of which were the colors of the nursery bedding.  Score!

First – the plan.  Second – what really went down:


  • Illustrated nursery rhyme book ($5)
  • Old 11×14 photo frames, complete with white mats for 8×10 photos (already owned)
  • White glossy spray-paint

The Plan:

  1. Spray-paint old photo frames a glossy white to coordinate with the nursery.
  2. Cut pages out of book.
  3. Select best nursery rhyme pages for framing, then mat and frame.
  4. Hang on framed “art” on wall.
  5. Stand back and pat self on back.

But here’s the down-and-dirty truth. This project didn’t end up being as inexpensive as I’d hoped.  My brother and I set up a tarp in the alley behind his house, and proceeded to spray the paint on the frames.  Huge gusts of wind came barreling down the alley, blowing the tarp around and consequently just messing up our spraypaint jobs.  The paint went everywhere, too.  All over me, all over my brother, and all over everything!  And did I mention how cold it was?

Despite the strong winds we did manage to cover the frames in paint.  We wiped the weird drips off and set them in the garage to dry.  5 hours later the normally fast-drying spray-paint was still wet, and the whole garage reeked of paint fumes.  There was no way we could hang the frames in the home of a pregnant lady.  First, she’d kill us.  Second, she’d never let me in her house again without supervision.

What did I do?  Fortunately I had bought a slew of white frames at Target “just in case.” I reluctantly turned to the back-up frames, mentally chiding myself for not spray-painting my frames ahead of time.  Lesson learned:  plan ahead, Jane!

We hung a two-page illustration of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star above the crib.  That seemed fitting.

DIY Nursery Art

Then, as we all grew up studying music, it just seemed right to continue the “songs we played as kids” theme.  Brahms’ Lullaby got hung above the cute little bookshelf, and we framed some smaller illustrations on the shelf:

DIY nursery art

As you can see, there’s still some blank spaces on the wall.  I didn’t want to go overboard with the framed nursery rhymes.  I’d like to do a bit of customized art on a canvas, but I’m not yet sure what I’d paint.  Any suggestions?

For the full reveal and more details on the nursery makeover, hop on over here.  Want more “thrifty fix” ideas?  Click the link under Post Categories over in the side bar.  Go on!  What are you waiting for?

Shared on Frugalicious Friday at Decor Mama.  Hop on over there to see all the other great projects and enter her giveaway!

Cool Savings

In November I challenged myself to cut my winter heating bill.  Seeing that the wall-mounted room heaters did little to warm the place, I turned to my winter camping clothes to stay warm.  Every night after work I’d don a camping outfit, topped off with a quilted vest for extra body warmth.   I wasn’t much to look at, but even when I could see my breath in the air, I was warm.

At first I only ran a little heat in the morning, so I could comfortably get dressed after my shower.   In December, however, when the outside temp dropped low enough to make even a polar bear cold, I ran the bedroom heat all night long.   A bathroom-safe portable heater made my frigid bathroom tolerable in the morning, thanks to a built in clock and timer feature.

Were the savings really worth this misery?  Yes!!  It’s better for the environment.  Plus, I don’t want to waste a single penny on excessive heat when I could be stashing it in my savings account for items such as the fabulous Mitchell Gold sofa.  Once I have that sofa I won’t feel the chill of 2010’s cold apartment one bit.

So has all that sacrificing paid off?  Here’s the breakdown of what I’ve saved in the past two months:

Winter2008-2009 Winter2009 – 2010 Savings
November $ 272.00 $ 42.00 $ 230.00
December $ 440.00 $ 92.00 $ 348.00

I’ve already saved over $550, and winter’s only half over!

I’ll admit some nights it was almost cold enough to make me give up.   I didn’t keep the kitchen as clean as I would have liked, because it was just so darn cold – I didn’t want to be in there.  No biggie, it was worth it.

These past two months have really showed me just how effective those small changes can be. I’ve gotten really good at monitoring my energy usage – keeping lights off in rooms I’m not using and  unplugging appliances when not in use.   Now I find myself with a new problem.  When I think about buying and using an appliance, my first thought is “gasp” – how will this affect my power bill?  Yeah, I’m a little obsessed.  But I’d rather be overzealous and thrifty than naive and wasteful!

Here’s a shot of my power bill for proof.  (Note:  When the usage history says “Dec” it really is referring to Nov, because it billed me from Nov. 6 – Dec. 5, etc.)

Cut heating bills

How have you changed your habits or made changes to save a few bucks on utilities?

Sofa Love, Part 2: Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams

Oh my!  I just discovered the fabulous array of sofas made by Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams.  How did I not realize how awesome they were ’til now?

In my search for the perfect mid-century inspired sofa for my living room, I almost settled on one from Crate and Barrel.  But I didn’t love the company, and I was torn between the retro style of the Petrie sofa:

and the clean, sleek lines of the Camden model:

I’m glad I didn’t spring for either of them yet.

Because, I now know that my one true sofa love is out there:  the Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams Dexter Sofa.   It’s the perfect blend of clean, sleek lines with funky mid-century style.This beauty doesn’t come cheap. It costs more than I’ve ever spent furnishing an entire room, let alone buying one piece of furniture.

But it’s an investment, right?  And when you invest in a good piece of furniture for your grown-up life, that piece should be one that you love.  One that comes from a highly reputable company.  Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams‘ company sure fits the bill:

  • Environmental stewardship. These guys are serious about taking care of the environment, and minimizing their company’s impact on it.
  • Quality products. It’s a well-known fact that they make good stuff.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Made in the USA. No thanks, China, I don’t need your crappy and often poisonous products.
  • Social responsibility. The company runs a non-profit daycare for employees at their North Carolina headquarters.  They also have an educational scholarship program.

What else can you ask for in a furniture company?

Do you have any furniture companies that you think are equally as awesome?

Weekend Completion: Niece’s Nursery

As hinted at in my earlier post, last weekend I headed to my little brother’s house to do a quick room makeover while his wife was at work.  He and I wanted to surprise his wife with a nursery for their almost-born daughter Caroline.   I was pretty stoked to be able to create a girly room for my niece.

They’re fortunate to have just the spot for Caroline – a spare bedroom complete with attached bath.  But the room was not quite nursery-ready:

DIY nursery

Nursery Makeover

Nursery Makeover

That Saturday we only had an 8-hour window in which to transform the room, so my brother toiled long and hard the night before, getting the space cleared out and painted.  We chose a nice neutral beige to keep the room flexible and landlord-friendly:

Nursery Makeover

They had already been given a crib and changing table, but had no storage for the baby’s toys and books.  We hopped over to Ikea and Tar-jay and found a cute little bookshelf and some storage bins. The assembly of the bookshelf went off without a hitch.  (That’s a first for me, actually.)

We chose not to install the cardboard backing on the bookshelf.  I really liked how the tan walls showed through the shelf, so why mess with perfection?

Nursery Makeover

Only a few hours later, we had the crib and changing table assembled.  I just about had a fit when it all came together.  All the cheerful cuteness of pink and green and stuffed animals was just too much.    Here’s the view as you enter the room:

Nursery Makeover

And a view of the crib and adjoining bathroom:

(Note:  DO NOT WORRY – My sis-in-law is planning to replace the wooden blinds for baby-proof window shade.)

Nursery makeover

I had great hopes for this final wall, the one across from the crib.  Alas, it did not materialize quite as planned.  We’d planned to install a white wooden shelf above the crib – one with hooks on it for bibs, and baskets for diaper-changing necessities.  A windy spray-paint disaster adventure happened, and with the quick turnaround time for the surprise, the shelf just didn’t work out.  But it will eventually.

nursery makeover

Now that I’ve shown you the room, let’s talk details.

I’m not sure my little bro can complete a project in a room without fiddling with some wires.  In this instance it came in quite handy:  he switched out the  hideously generic overhead fixture for a precious $6 one from Ikea.  I was amazed at how simple and easy it was – I think even I could do it, with the right instructions.  In fact my bro’s going to put together a step-by-step guide for me to share with you all later this week.

He also installed a dimmer switch to provide customizable lighting.  That ought to come in handy when he has to sneak into the room in the middle of the night to change those stinky diapers!

DIY light fixture

Ikea always offers a budget-friendly selection of plush toys for the little ones.  I just loved the pink and green hand puppets, as well as the stuffed mouse – so of course I grabbed them for Caroline.  I also threw together some framed art to dress up both the bookshelf and the walls.

nursery storage solutions

I’ve got to give my bro props for spotting this whimsical owl lamp first at Tar-jay.  I thought it was a perfect way to break up all the pink accents in the space, and we all know that lighting just makes a room.

We wanted to use the family rocking chair, so we added a cozy pink throw and a fun Owl pillow (again, Tar-jay) to tie it into the room.  Not bad for a $20 chair update!

Quick nursery DIY

As soon as Caroline is old enough to be put to work, she can learn to stash her toys in these bins that slide right under the bookshelf.

Nursery storage solutions

Later that night I was thrilled to hear that my sis-in-law came home from a “rough day at work” to find a nursery that she loved.  I love surprising people just as much as I love a good “While you were out!” But while little Caroline’s nursery is off to a good start, I’m already itching to do more with it.

That’s it for today, but I’ll be sure to share some more in-depth details later this week.