Friday, January 4, 2013

Frame of Reference

Tony and I often make our gifts for each other. We started dating as starving college students and had so much fun being creative rather than spendy with our gifts that we continue to DIY our gifts. Although, I am again a starving (grad) student. Well maybe not starving, just budget-conscious.

With a little inspiration from the queen (Martha Stewart), I made a collage of framed photos from some of the trips we took together over the years. Instead of regular mats in the frames, I covered the mats with maps of that photo/trip's location. It cost me less than $20:

Breakdown of the cost:
5 frames with mats from the thrift store - $10
White spray paint - $3
Maps - FREE (thanks to my AAA membership)
Photos printed from Costco - $2.50
Adhesive foam strips - $4
Total: $19.50

Some close-ups of the individual map frames:



How I did it:

Part 1:
  1. Went to the local thrift store and sorted through their huge selection of photo frames/framed artwork. I was particularly looking for frames that already had mats in them so I would not have to buy mats (which cost ~$5 each at Michaels). I was okay with the frames being mismatched because I knew I would spray paint all of them white so that they would end up being semi-uniform. I personally like that all the frames are slightly different but tied together by color.
  2. Removed the glass and mats from the frames and spray painted them all white.
  3. Went to local AAA office and discovered that they have a wonderful map vending machine. It looks like this. If you're a member, you just slide your card through and pick out the maps you want. Pretty cool huh? Did I mention FREE if you're already a member? I love AAA! You could probably find some neat vintage maps if you want to spend the money. I just could not turn away free and needed a variety of maps that looked similar enough.
  4. NOW THIS WAS THE TOUGH PART - Planning. This took me back to the logic games of an LSAT (if you've taken it, you'll know what I mean). Things I had to consider when planning which photo would go where and the map that would "mat" it:
        • geographic location of the photos I wanted to use
        • orientation of the photos (landscape or portrait? would that work with the map?)
        • specific areas of the maps I wanted to show (with enough of the map showing all around the mat area) - tricky because you lose some of the map to the space in the photo
        • size of the frame/mat/photo
      • Believe me, I had my legal pad out and drew it all out. I was determined to work with what I had and sometimes that meant the maps and/or frames determined which photos I could use.
Part 2:
    1. Traced the mats onto the maps, being sure to include the specific location where the photo was taken and/or locations that are important to you (i.e. places you visited/have fond memories of).
    2. Using my tracing as a guide, cut the perimeter of the map mat.
    3. Using an X-acto knife, cut out the inside of the mat (the part that lines up against the photo).
    4. Taped the cut out map to the mat with double-sided tape.
    5. Stuck the adhesive foam strips between the mat and the photo to add more "depth."
    6. Framed and hung em!
    As with most DIY/DIO projects, it always ends up being more challenging than you anticipate. But for me, the problem solving process and the results are always worth the initial frustration. The look on Tony's face was priceless. This was particularly special to him because he LOVES maps and calls them a lost art. Glad I was able to incorporate his love for maps in the gift. Cannot wait to add to the collection!

    Friday, November 30, 2012

    Chalk it up to an itch for change

    Since we have not settled on what big changes to make to the kitchen yet, we opted for a small, fun change for the time being. In the kitchen, there is a side of a cabinet that faces the hall/dining area that I have always wanted to do something with. It is in the perfect location for something like a bulletin board/calendar or important reminders- you never miss it on your way to the kitchen.

    I was very excited to find this chalkboard paint at our local Home Depot for $9!

    Here is what we started with (BEFORE):
    This chalkboard paint is a lot runnier than regular wall paint. What does that mean? A much bigger mess than anticipated. It did not help that I made the mistake of wetting the paint roller first.

    Oops... we ended up having to wipe this mess up and start over.
    With two coats of the paint, the project was complete. We are quite happy with the results- not bad for less than $9 (we only used half of the paint) and an evening's worth of work.
    The idea is to use it for grocery lists, reminders, notes to each other, etc. Something like this:

    chalkboard-grocery list

    When I got home from class later that day, the board had evolved into this:
    (FYI: I am 5'2 and Tony is 6'0. Penny is the pictured puppy.)

    I got some colored chalk for my more artistically inclined guests. Cannot wait to see what our crazy friends decide to do with this.

    With plenty of chalkboard paint leftover, I decided to take the chalkboard theme further into our kitchen. I have had this $5 set of stainless steel canisters since graduating college and use them for my baking ingredients. I bake often enough that they just sit on the kitchen counter. Why not give them the DIO touch?
    With some blue painter's tape, I made chalkboard labels.

    Hope you enjoy those as much as we do!

    Friday, November 2, 2012


    Thanks to everyone who participated in our mirror poll. It was a very close poll but the round mirror came ahead in the end. Here it is firmly mounted to the wall above our fireplace:


    Most of you were correct to guess that Tony preferred the round mirror and I desperately wanted the quatrefoil mirror to work. In the end, I knew that the round mirror was the right size fit for the spot but I could not part with the fun shape of the quatrefoil.  So I didn't. Here it is, currently resting on our dresser next to my jewelry box and Tony's "manbox" (cufflink holder). I think it is much happier there.


    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Finally, some art!


    The walls were pretty bare. For some odd reason, we had the hardest time committing to any wall decor. It probably has something to do with the fact that we both have very different taste in art and can never agree on what should be hung up. The gallery-style art wall was the best answer for us. Everybody has their say. There was plenty of wall space above our sectional chaise but to avoid having too much happenin' in the living room we limited ourselves to just 4 of the large Ribba frames from IKEA. We really love that these shadow box frames add depth to the wall. Since the frames were a relative splurge purchase for us ($20/piece), we knew that the artwork in them would need to be inexpensive.

    Thank goodness for Costco's new Art and Image Gallery!  They have a huge selection of art prints to chose from to create your own wall decor. You can browse the collection and make your choices online, specify the size you need, adjust the photo fit, and send it to your local Costco store. We literally placed our order and drove 15 minutes to Costco to find that our order was ready.  Impressive! We ordered the 4 pictured prints at the 12x12 size for $3 each! You really can't beat that. At this price, we plan on switching out the prints whenever we feel like having something different. I even plan on putting some of my own photography in the frames.

    Indecisions, indecisions

    Back in the fireplace remodel post, we mentioned that we were searching for a round mirror to hang above the fireplace. After eyeing and comparing prices for every round-ish mirror we came across at Target, Ikea, Home Depot, Amazon,, Z Gallerie (ok I was just window shopping there), TJ Maxx Home Goods, and of course Craigslist, we finally narrowed it down to two mirrors. Both were from Home Goods (love that store!) and they were also the cheapest! Problem is... we cannot seem to make a final decision. One of us loves one and the other of us loves the other mirror. I will let you all take a guess at who loved which mirror.

    The finalists are:
    Round Mirror ($30)
    (imagine this hung higher on the wall)
    Quatrefoil Mirror ($40)
    (Again imagine hung higher on the wall. This mirror is wider than the round mirror but "shorter")
    Both have the same finish, which we love. I think it's a weathered zinc finish similar to some mirrors I've seen at Restoration Hardware.
    The close-ups:
    Round Mirror
    (Yes, I am all ready for Easter. The apothecary jars are full of Easter candy.)
    Quatrefoil Mirror
    Weathered zinc/patine finish

    And now side by side:
    mirrors side by side

    Why not let everyone vote? Which do you prefer? Help us decide!

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Giving Back

    I came across this blog about using your own skills and gifts to help out those in need. Money may not always be how we are able to contribute. Great message. 

    Over the years, I have volunteered with Habitat Humanity in the Bay Area, through church or student groups. I always thought of it as my way of contributing and volunteering my time for a worthy cause. But it recently occurred to me that some of my "handy" skills actually came from volunteering for Habitat for Humanity! I learned a lot. For example, drywalling the fireplace? I learned that from a Saturday afternoon working with Habitat for Humanity. We drywalled an entire condo that day. If anything, volunteering there gave me the confidence to take a can-do attitude towards new home renovation projects and life in general. So thanks, Habitat. Perhaps some of my new experiences and skill sets will be helpful to you too. 

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    DIO - Fireplace Remodel

    Quick, dazzle them with the dramatic reveal!



    Apologies for the iPhone "before" photo but that fireplace was so hideous it never really deserved a proper photograph. When Tony purchased this condo in 2009, the biggest priority on the list of renovation projects was that outdated 1970's faux lava stone fireplace. Or as my friend called it, "a fireplace from a 1970's porn video" (not sure how she made that connection).

    It took us quite some time to work up the confidence (and save the money) to tackle the beast. One and a half years later and it's finally complete. Well, it was more like 1.25 years of procrastinating and then intermittently working on it between our busy schedules. Boy am I glad we did it! It completely changes the feel of the room for the better. I am now on the hunt for an affordable round mirror to hang on the wall above the fireplace.

    Here are some photos of the process:

    Fireplace-tearing it down
    Me tearing it down! That felt so good.

    I just wanted you to appreciate how outdated the fireplace was again.

    Replacing the rock wall with drywall.

    Imagine some photos here of us puttying the drywall seams, texturizing the wall, and painting. Then, painting the mantel parts we got from Lowe's and putting it all together.

    tile cutting
    It took me a couple visits to the tile store and ordering a few samples to finally decide on this wonderful carrara marble. This is us figuring out the tile situation and preparing to make the cuts.


    And if you noticed the recessed lighting, you just got a preview of a future posting. =)