Category Archives: Thrifting, Upcycling, Trash Picking

How is it now? DIY Fabric-Covered Storage Boxes

Do you ever see a DIY project that looks good in photos, but makes you wonder how it really is, if it really holds up over time?  I’ve done my fair share of DIYs that turn out both good and bad, and I thought it would be awesome to check in from time to time with updates on how some of the more popular projects turned out.

DIY Fabric Covered Storage Boxes

I created these orange fabric-covered storage boxes for my bedroom makeover about 4 years ago.  I used cardboard boxes that two wall sconces were packaged in, because the fancy fabric storage bins at stores were pricey – and because I wanted to choose just the right fabric.

The project turned out to be super popular, especially on Pinterest.  Well, I’m happy to report that this project was very successful! The bins have held up really well through several years of use, and the fabric is still adhered to the boxes perfectly.

The verdict?  The DIY fabric storage box is definitely a worthwhile and sturdy project.  So what are you waiting for? Go get crafting!


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Craigslist Palace: A Mid-Century Living Room for $665

I’ve always been proud of the way I’ve created the rooms in my home, using Craigslist and thrift store finds to keep things budget-friendly.  But over the years I’ve had friends and blog readers say to me that they never have that luck, or never know what to look for at thrift stores or on CL.

That’s why I’m introducing a new series today – Craigslist Palace – where I shop CL and put together a mood board for a room under $1000 (and preferably closer to $500).

I hope the image and my explanations help you develop an eye for decorating with solid secondhand finds.

Craigslist Palace:  A Mid-Century Living Room ($665)

I am in love with today’s room. I peeked at CL on a whim late Saturday night, and got so caught up in the design that I worked on the mood board until 2 am.  I’m in love with this room and would love to buy it all right. now.

Craigslist Palace a cheap Mid-Century Living Room

1.  Ikea Karlstad Sofa ($150):  If you’re going for a mid-century or a straight up modern vibe, you can’t beat the affordability of this Ikea sofa. Stalk CL until you find one.  It doesn’t matter how the cover looks, but make sure the cushions are in good shape.  If it needs a new cover, snag a $49 white one at Ikea, then use RIT dye to make it a neutral color like gray, brown, or navy.  (I did this to a white Ikea sofa in my old apartment – first pink, then brown.)  I found options on Craigslist ranging from $50 – $350.

Alternately, a new one is $500 at Ikea, with your choice of cover.  It could be worth saving up for.

2. Ikea Ranarp Work Lamp ($40): This isn’t the cheapest lamp, but I loved how it contrasted with the wood tones in the room. Good lighting is key in any home, and this one is stylish and adjustable.

3.  Mid-Century End Tables – Set of 2 ($50):  Two matching end tables for $50?  Unique and wooden?  What a find! I am considering trying to buy these.  A great pair of end tables is so important for a space, it’s worth stalking thrift stores and CL until you find a funky set.  Don’t run to Ikea and get their cheapset, most plastic-y ones.  They make a room feel cheap. A pair of matching end tables make a room feel more cohesive, even when it’s all thrifted.

4. Glass-Top Wooden Coffee Table ($40):  This table is a good counterpart to the mid-century end tables, and the wood tones appear similar.  The glass top is easy to clean, and adds some different texture to the space.  They’re asking $50, but I’d only pay $40.

5.Solid Wood Side Cabinet ($40): This piece may not be for everyone, but I’m in love. It’s the dimensions of a small sideboard or hall table. It falls somewhere between mid-century and the 1970’s, hence the fabulous detail.  I’m pretty sure it’s Broyhill – a solid, quality brand that will last forever. It would make a great entryway table where you keep a bowl for your keys, a mail holder, etc.  Bonus: storage inside. 

6. Dresser-Turned-TV Stand ($20): This mid-century dresser is a complete steal, and so perfect as a TV stand in this room. I’m sure it’s already sold, but this is to demonstrate the power of stalking CL.

Pay attention:  The TV stand can make or break a room.  There are so many bad entertainment centers out there. Ignore them and just find a sweet old dresser or sideboard.  Size matters.  It needs to be significantly wider than the TV that sits on it, so you can flank it with decorative tall lamps or vases or books or something to make it more a part of the room and not just a TV on a box.

7. Mid-Century Ceramic Lamp ($40), Target Lampshade ($20):  Despite my bad photoshop cutout, this mid-century lamp is to die for. I’d add a fun lampshade like this one from Target’s Threshold collection, or maybe I’d take a plain white shade from the thrift store and cover it in fun fabric.

8. Ikea Lappljung Ruta Rug ($70): It’s hard to find a good rug for cheap on CL, so I turned to Ikea for this big square rug.  I love the black and white, and the random teal/green border on the side.  With all the wood tones in the room, this bold geometric would bring a bit of modernism to the space.

9: Throw Pillows ($20 each): I snagged these Pier 1 pillows to play up the green/teal border on the rug. If you know how to sew, even better.  Make your own!

What’s Missing?

There’s a few things missing that could really kick it up a notch. 

1.  A funky, colorful chair:  Find a funky chair in a bright color or modern pattern to mix things up a bit, and break up all the wood tones in the space. I’m thinking bright yellow or teal or green velvet or vinyl.  Even an upholstered granny chair from the 60’s or 70’s could work.  The point is, add something bold and unexpected!

2.  Your photos & artwork.  This space needs personality.  Even if you have drab apartment white walls, you can add some brightly painted canvases and then some enlarged personal photos in thrift store frames.

3.  Curtains: If you’re really tight for cash, go for some simple curtains from Ikea and then add a colorful border with paint or by gluing on some pretty ribbon.  Alternately, order some fun fabric and just use iron-on hem tape to make some simple panels.

So, what do you think?  Would you like this living room? And most importantly, do you want to see more Craigslist Palace posts?  I had so much fun doing this one – I hope you’ll say yes. :)

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Why We Chose Full Grain Leather for Upholstery

After sharing that Ryan and I got our sofa back from the upholstery shop, I wanted to discuss the reasons why we chose to use real leather instead of any other material. Also, did you know there’s  several different “grades” of leather, with some of them being really crappy? Before this, I had no idea!

This has been an adventure in taking the time to save up the money to do a project right the first time. In  the past I’ve been tempted to choose a cheaper option thinking it will be good enough, and that has sometimes been a mistake.  In the case of our sofa, since we loved the lines and were spending the money to get it recovered, we wanted it to be just right.How To Choose Leather Upholstery

Why Leather?

When I first purchased the white couch, I thought I’d have it redone in white faux leather.  But we were both disappointed in the black faux leather slipcover (from ComfortWorks) that we put on the rec room sofa.  It feels plastic-y and scratches show white fabric underneath.

What about fabric?  Many fabrics require maintenance.  Washing slipcovers or vacuuming.  And heaven forbid the cats snag the fabric again.

This brought us back to the topic of leather, which we had been avoiding because of cost and animal rights reasons. But for what we wanted in a sofa, leather really fit the bill:

  • Clean up easily
  • Not attract pet hair
  • Not be slipcovered
  • Scratches and worn spots must contribute to its look, not detract from it
  • Be kid-proof
  • Last for about 10 years, if not more

We decided that we’d go with leather, and in the long run the durability and environmental friendliness of having it last for a long time would outweigh the animal rights & cost issue for us.

Choosing the Right Grade of Leather:

The upholstery shop explained about the different grades of leather, and we decided to save up for high quality, full-grain leather.

Cheapest Option – Bonded Leather:

Bonded leather, or recycled leather, is the cheap leather on lower-end furniture in stores. They use the word “recycled” to make it sound like such a responsible choice, but as the consumer you will likely be disappointed in how it wears over time.

Scraps are glued to a fabric backing, and the top is coated with a polyurethane layer to help it all hold together. It’s like the leather equivalent of particle board, and it falls apart quickly.  Scratches and worn spots do not look good on bonded leather.  When areas get worn, the polyurethane coating wears off and the color underneath is totally different.

I’ve read that even La-Z-Boy is using this stuff now.  Yuck.

Best Option – Full Grain Leather:

Full Grain Leather is the best, and its natural surface wears beautifully with use.  It comes from the top layer of the hide.  Scratches can be buffed out if they’re really bad, and they won’t reveal a different color underneath

We want this sofa to look fabulous and hold up well to kids, pets, and me for a long time – so we chose full grain leather. 

If you’re considering buying anything made with leather, you seriously should check out this article on the different types of leather so you don’t get screwed: Saddleback Leather’s awesomely great article.

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