Friday, June 17, 2011

Simple Decorating: Free Immortal Flowers

 This is the second post in a series about simple decorating.  I am not a decorator and this is not a decorating blog.  However, we have had to think creatively to decorate our rented townhome for very little money.  I am posting this in case it might inspire someone else who is in the same predicament.
This week's project is immortal flowers. 

Don't get me wrong, I love real flowers- but they are expensive and need natural light and eventually die.  I had TONS of ideas about what could go on or near our bathroom counter that would work well with our new window frame project, but after thinking awhile I realized that, even if they were free, they were not necessarily simple.  With our goal of simplifying our lives and our possessions, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just adding clutter to our home.

I originally found this post  for an adorable cardboard vase that I love.  However, I decided to make the flowers first (which come from this post ), and during that time I decided that I would just rather use a vase I already had than create something new.  [I have this tendency to think that making something free and recycled is always better, and I sometimes forget I already have something that will fulfill the purpose and save me some time.  I am trying to get over that.] 

As you’ll see in the link, Donatella from Inspiration &Realisation used magazine pages to make her flowers.  However, she talked about them being a little small and flimsy, and I definitely didn’t want that.  I looked through the few sheets of scrapbook paper I have left- I sold most of my supplies last year- and found several 8x8 sheets that were suitable and coordinated with the colors of my bathroom.  I cut those into 4 equal-ish squares, and then cut them in spirals.  The tutorial that she links to says to draw a spiral and then cut it, but I found that to be unnecessary.  I liked having flowers with more variation in the depth of their "petals", so I didn’t want a perfect spiral anyway.  I rolled half of the spirals with each paper design with the white side facing in, and half with the white side facing out.  I also used a few sheets of solid-color typing paper to fill in the “bouquet”- I cut those into six squares.

The next step was to go find some twigs.  [See?  Still FREE!]  The twigs we found behind our townhome had really bumpy, almost prickly bark, but we used the outside edge of a scissor to rub the outer bark off.  Then, I had Josh clear coat the twigs with spray paint, since I had an allergic reaction to the bark.  Oops.

We used 7 twigs that were a nice height for our vase.  You could use more if you want, but we're trying to keep this simple, remember?  I divided up the flowers so that I wouldn't end up with all one print on one of the twigs.  Then, I glued them on the twigs at random spacing by putting a generous drop of hot glue on the outside bottom of the spiral, and holding them to the twig until they dried.  This took a little while, but it wasn't too bad.  If you come up with a better way, please share it here!

Finally, you could clear coat the whole project with clear spray paint if you want to, but we chose not to.  The whole project cost $0!  Here are the results:

The bathroom is starting to come together.  More Simple Decorating to come next Friday!

Monday, June 13, 2011


I always miss Africa and the people there with whom we built relationships.  But some days- or most usually, nights- I miss Africa and her children more acutely.  I am deeply burdened, to the point that I experience it physically.  And I pray for them and think about them and love them, but it still hurts. 

And I want it to.

Not because I'm a masochist or experiencing self-hatred or something, but because I know it's part of God's way of communicating with me.  His children are hurting.  They may be a world away, but they are just as important to Him as any other human being.

He uses this pain to speak to me, to us.  Although we've been back for a while now, Josh and I talk- to God and to each other- about Africa all the time.  And He talks to us.  Not in long, drawn-out epics, but in tiny little snippets that remind us of His plan and His heart, and that remind us of where our plans and hearts need to be.

Following Him, at all cost.

And I beg Him to tell me more RIGHT NOW, because how can He expect me to live with this deep, aching pain in my heart if He won't tell me all the details of what to do about it?

But He has His plan, and His timing, and His way.
 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways,”
            declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.
                                             - Isaiah 55:8-9
I thank Him and praise Him for His Word, for sharing these truths with me.  I am so grateful that, even when I don't know, He does.  I don't need to know, because He is all-knowing and loving and trustworthy.  I cling to these verses, as I have since He turned my heart to see Him in the people of Africa. Not only does He care fore me, but He cares for them, too.

Sometimes it hurts more than I think I can bear.  LOVE hurts.  Not in some 80's ballad sort of way, but in a real, sacrificial, Savior-dying-for-my-sins kind of way.  Jesus uses this burden to chip away at the hollow, hardened shell that is my heart, exchanging it for infusions of His.  All I can do is wait and listen and be revived.

That, and find comfort in the fact that God loves these people more than I do.  Even when I love with my whole heart, it pales in comparison.  He is more than enough for them- and me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Simple Decorating: Bathroom Window Frames

First of all,  let me make it crystal clear that I am not a decorator and this is not a decorating blog.  However, we have had to think creatively to decorate our rented townhome for very little money.  I am just posting this in case it might inspire someone else who is in the same predicament.  There are a lot of ideas in the blogosphere and the rest of the internet that are said to be “budget-friendly,” but I have found that term to be used rather liberally.  Kitchen renovations for under $1000 is not the kind of budget I had in mind.  I’m looking for, say, a $0 or so budget.  Or at least as close to that as is possible.  It’s not that I don’t value my home, but rather that I’d like to spend the little money I have on something with more lasting value than fancy curtains or knick-knacks or rugs.  I just have this conviction that we should be able to have beautiful homes without spending a ton of money.

So, I’ve been scouring the internet- and my brain- to come up with some projects that are free or very close to it.  Of course, this all depends on what you have around the house, but the name of the game here is improvisation.  Overall, I want a simple home, but one that has character and creativity.  Thus, today begins a series of Friday posts all about simple decorating.  The projects must be inexpensive, simple, and renter-friendly.

I am obsessed with old window frames.  Hang around here for awhile, and you’re sure to see some.  As a photographer, I am constantly looking for new ways to display my photos- and for my clients to display their prints.  Last winter, Josh and I visited a local craft/artisan show that took place in this GORGEOUS theater that I’m  shooting a wedding in later this summer.  We met a woman there who makes gorgeous frames out of reclaimed barn wood, and I adored them.  After talking to her for a while, she mentioned that a woman that morning had told her about a bunch of old windows she was giving away. Josh called her, and a few weeks later we were the proud owners of 14 windows.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have the sashing I was hoping for, but I knew there was definite potential.  We now have a huge stack of windows in our garage that need to be put to good use.

We have a very long, narrow second bathroom near the back entry of the townhome.  It’s the least visible room in the house, which is probably why I started decorating there- I am not sure I trust myself! There is a lot of white wall space, but since we rent our townhome, painting is not an option.  We have never had a second bathroom before, so we had nothing to decorate it and we were starting from scratch. 

I knew I didn't want to go out and buy art if I didn't have to, so I decided that a row of three of our window frames would be the perfect way to decorate the longest wall.  At first, I thought about using them to display photos, but I always think pictures in a bathroom is a little creepy.  Instead, I decided some homemade art work was in order.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE all things vintage, so I knew I wanted a bright but slightly vintage color palette.  I went with red, yellow, sky blue, and a color similar to this.  I bought everything but the yellow in spray paint, because it was a lot less expensive and I didn’t need a lot of paint.  I bought the smallest can of paint I could in yellow, because I didn’t like any of the yellow shades they had in spray paint.  Altogether, the paint cost around $14.

Coming up with a design was a little more complicated.  I had just taught two of my best friends how to paint with paper doilies, and I came up with this idea of layering designs with different colors- it’s hard to explain, but it looked great in my mind.  The only problem is that using intricate stencils- like doilies- on glass is way more challenging than I thought.  I found it almost impossible to get a clean edge, and with this much detail going on, that was imperative.  Time for plan B:  I decided to use a pack of foam brushes (like the round ones in this pack.  I have seen entirely round packs at both Walmart and Joann Fabrics, but I couldn’t find a picture online) to make a little landscape. I think these cost about $4.  [Note: if you use these with spray paint, you will NOT be able to get them completely clean.  I ended up having to throw most of mine away.]

*** Super-Important:  This project involves painting the back side of the glass so the window covers the painting when it is hanging on the wall.  Therefore, painting depth will be the opposite of regular painting.  For example, instead of painting flower petals and then adding  stigma (or the center part of the flower), you must instead paint the stigma first and then the petals, so that you can see both through the glass.***

I used the round brushes as petals and stigmas, and just layered different sizes and colors.  There is no “right” way to do this, just whatever looks best to you.

Here are a few shots of how I designed the flowers (I apologize for the extremely warm lighting in my bathroom- I didn't have time to edit):

 When I had completed the flowers, I used a children's art brush that we had lying around to draw stems and create grass.  If you wanted to, you could add so many more details, but I was happy with the way they looked at this point, so I decided to stop.  

[Note: before I forget, if you don't have window frames, you could easily substitute some old picture frames.]

The finishing steps were super easy.  Josh painted the wooden edges of the frames red (with more of the red spray paint), and let them dry completely.  Then, he used medium-grit sand paper that we had on hand to distress the edges.  When you move as much as we do, you grow to love distressed furniture.  If it gets scratched while moving, it just adds to the look!  Then, he gave the wood and the painted side of the frame a clear coat of spray paint to protect it.  This step would not be necessary, but we want to make sure these last for a while.

Our finished product (well, almost- I couldn't get all three frames in one picture) :

Overall, I estimate that buying decorations for this wall would have conservatively cost around $15 per piece, or $45 for the set.  That would be bare minimum.  The project cost us around $18, so I estimate a savings of $27.  That's $27 going to Africa!

More simple decorating to come next Friday.