Tutorial: Dress-Up Closet (IKEA Hack)

As I mentioned in my last post, Gemma has a well-stocked dress-up collection. On any given day she can transform from a precocious baby girl into a fireman, cowgirl, pirate, princess, doctor, chef, Red Riding Hood, ballerina, mailman, fairy or train conductor.

All of these character changes require some serious playroom organization. Initially, we let these costumes live in a basket when not in use, however the stash outgrew the basket, and I knew we needed a space to keep things clean. The key was creating an area where all or most of the storage was at Gemma’s level, so cleaning up her playroom could be a realistic chore. Hence, I made my thrice yearly trek to IKEA (Charlotte is our closest store, a little over 2 hours away). I had an idea in mind but wasn’t quite sure if it would work.

It took a few hours of wandering the store to soak up all my options but I finally settled on a few pieces of the TROFAST bin storage solution from the children’s department. This system is great because there are several frames from which to choose (finishes, sizes) and the bins are interchangeable and can be configured in a variety of ways.

Here are some pics of the end result.

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Now I’ll walk you through how we organized the space.

Dress Up “Closet”

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This was the first TROFAST frame I purchased ($50). Instead of filling it with bins, I opted to make it a pseudo-hanging closet for the less bulky dress up clothing. First, I painted it (using some leftover paint from a previous project; not Annie Sloan, btw), then I simply installed the smallest tension rod I could find ($3). On the left side of the closet you can see a three-pocket organizer, the PYSSLINGAR wall pocket ($5), which stores beads, necklaces and other dress-up accessories.

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IKEA also sells these cute, colorful hangers ($1.49/8 pack).

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Princess Corner: I painted a simple peg coat rack (like this one, $9) with a thin coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (Old White) and hung it to store the bulky princess dresses and fairy wings. The dress-up mirror is from IKEA (though it appears they no longer sell this version), and I made the tuffet at a “Tuffet in a Day” class a few years ago at a local fabric store (Thimble Pleasures, Chapel Hill).

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White Dress Up and Toy Bins: This is the second TROFAST storage solution I purchased ($90/frame plus cost of desired bins, $3-5/each). I gave the pine frame a whitewash using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Old White and then organized Gemma’s dress up accessories and other toys inside each bin. The bins easily store her small musical instruments, Legos, Play-doh, smaller dolls and cars, purses and other bags, etc. On the top of the unit, there is a set of three white/tassel PYSSLINGAR small fabric storage bins ($8/set of three) to catch CDs, feather boas and other small toys.

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Ideally, we’d have built-in storage (something I’ve put on my wish list should we ever build a house) but for the mean time, this solution works great for us.  It’s easily accessible for Gemma, we can rearrange the pieces as her play interests change, and it can grow with us (thankfully IKEA offers several pieces in this line). I hope you enjoyed this tour of the little dress-up nook in Gemma’s play space and are inspired to create an affordable space for your own kiddos!

Special Note:

  • IKEA Hackers is fabulous site to find creative ways to repurpose IKEA products. I can get lost for hours just looking at the hundreds of ways people have transformed simple products into amazing solutions. It’s a must see!!

Nautical Nightstands

In April 2012, Ben and I (and another couple), purchased Island Paradise, a beach house on beautiful Topsail Island (NC), as an investment property. While the property had great bones, it was in desperate need of a complete cosmetic makeover (imagine a cheaply decorated tiki-jungle-safari theme). Luckily, we had two handy and well-organized husbands managing the budget and contractors, while the two design-savvy and stylish wives led the interior overhaul and shopping requirements (we had years of practice between the two of us).

We did the best we could to repurpose a lot of the furniture but almost all of the accessories had to be donated, consigned or recycled out to make room for a new aesthetic. Shopping for bedding, lamps and other accessories was super fun! (What women don’t love shopping…especially when starting with a clean slate?!) Within a matter of weeks, the house was easily transformed from its previous state into a serene, coastal vacation retreat, ready for a fully booked season of summer renters.

During our appraisal of the furnishings over the last year, we knew there were some critical pieces missing from some of the rooms. To give a few of the king suites a more finished look, we needed solid night stands (as opposed to the random rattan and odd pieces the previous owner threw together). Over the winter off-season last year, I scoured Craigslist almost daily and finally found two pairs of solid wood (made in the USA) matching beside tables in a honey wood finish and knew they had potential.

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Having discovered Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) the year prior, I knew these night stands could easily transform with some light paint and new hardware, so I set to work. The first step was giving them a good washing.

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Next I removed the hardware and taped off where I wanted to paint. I selected ASCP Old White (a rich, creamy white) for the main color. However, for practical reasons, the house being a rental, I wanted the pieces to be durable and not show wear, so I opted to leave the top panel the original, sealed wood (to avoid chipping and marks from phones, books, shoes, cups, sunscreen or whatever else the renters decided to drop down).

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I thinned out the paint with a few drops of water and gave the tables 3 coats of Old White. In between each coat, I lightly sanded the (dry) painted surfaces with 220 grit sandpaper. This step is quick (a “2-second” sanding is plenty) and helps to smooth out any brush strokes (assuming your goal is a smooth surface and not a rustic finish).

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After the paint was dry, I gave them another 2-second sand with 220 grit sandpaper and then a finishing sand with 600 grit sandpaper to give them an ultra-smooth finish. Finally, I applied one coat of ASCP Clear Wax and buffed it out.

With the painting complete, I needed to figure out the hardware situation. I knew I couldn’t put the leaf/vine pulls back on the drawers. I looked locally at Lowe’s and Home Depot but everything was too generic or commercial. I checked out my favorite online hardware market (House of Antique Hardware) but couldn’t decide. Then, as I was working with Gemma on a craft project, I came across my big ball of twine and thought maybe I could create a DIY knotted drawer pull. A few snips of twine and knots later, I had the pulls installed.

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I love the light, two-tone finish and think they compliment the beach house decor quite well. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more small items we can add to the house to keep it feeling fresh, clean and visually appealing for our summer renters next season!

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(After the fact, I found a few rope drawer pulls at Anthropologie that sell for $12-14/each. I’m pleased to report our new pulls cost us $0!!!! And honestly, if I do another dresser or side table, I’ll likely try to DIY the bottom right drawer pull by wrapping rope around some of those commercial/generic drawer pulls I found at Lowe’s and Home Depot.)

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Reading on Overdrive

As a kid I hovered under the covers for hours with a flashlight to read my Baby-sitters Club and Ramona books well after my parents called, “Lights out!” This rogue behavior was the most redeeming fault a parent could probably hope for from a tween, right? As I aged, my pleasure reading was replaced with assigned readings for classes and work. Now as a stay-at-home mom, I have rediscovered my love of books and reading has become a happy place, a chance to live vicariously, learn ferociously and just plain lose myself for the sake of “me time”.

Last Christmas Ben gifted me an iPad mini; its become my favorite device for traveling about town and beyond (you know, to keep me busy during ballet class, swim class, preschool pick-up, etc.). After initially buying several books to read, I did some research and found Overdrive Media Console, a handy little free app which allows me to log into my local library (using my library account number and password) to borrow eReader or audio books. I downloaded the app on my iPad for eReader books and my iPhone for audiobooks (mostly to listen during workouts or long drives/air travel when Gemma is playing on her iPad with headphones).

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Overdrive Media Console is compatible with iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Kindle, Android, Blackberry, Nook and Mac or Windows computers. You can find your local participating library on the Overdrive website or via search within the app. Before you can log into your library to download books, you must make sure you have 1) a valid library account/card, and 2) create a profile within the Overdrive app. You can request the app to remember your library and password for easy access to your library’s collection of titles.

Once you’ve downloaded titles, you can customize your e-reading experience to your liking – alter the font size, screen brightness and page format. You can close and reopen the app and it will remember your place or you can bookmark your place for reference. For audio books, the app also remembers when you left off, and you can adjust settings to have the audio playback 15, 30 or more seconds to recap the last few sentences from your previous listening session. You can also adjust the audio speed.

The app links to Goodreads so you can search book titles and reviews, bookmark titles you want to read, rate and write reviews on books, and share your favorite picks with friends on Facebook or blogs.

I’m so happy to be back in the pages digital files, soaking up knowledge, exercising my brain, and losing myself in some great stories!

Special Notes:

  • Download Overdrive Media Console.
  • Join Goodreads.
  • Not all libraries participate in the Overdrive digital library service. Do a quick search online to see if your library is part of the Overdrive collection.
  • It’s helpful to watch the short tutorial video (found within the app) to learn how to use the system/app and adjust settings.
  • The app limits you to four (4) items checked out at a time (combined…i.e. 2 titles on your iPad plus 2 titles on your iPhone equals the 4 title max).
  • You can set your preferences for a 7 or 14 day checkout period.
  • It doesn’t seem there are not a lot of young reader books available; possibly more for the tween set (vs toddlers).

Chair Affair

A few years ago I claimed ownership of an antique captain’s chair from the basement of my grandparent’s home in North Dakota. The chair sat in their basement for well over 50 years. I remembered it from my visits as a child, and my mother recalls the chair being there for as long as she can remember. Needless to say, it has sentimental value, and aside from that, it’s got a comfy round back which hugs you in all the right ways.

I knew from the start this project would be a labor of love. It was clear from all the chippage, the chair had been painted at least a hundred times over (okay, maybe only 5-6 coats), and I had to assume at least one of those coats was lead paint. Although I planned to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP), I knew it needed to be stripped and sanded prior to painting. (One of the biggest perks of ASCP is the lack of prep work required for the paint to adhere and transform almost ANY material. I’ve seen folks use it on wood, veneer, plastic, concrete, ceramic, metal, leather and the list goes on…)

It took a few weeks to fully strip the paint and sand it down (by machine and hand), and then another week to paint and wax for the look I desired – a modern color with a well-worn finish.

Before…

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During…

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After…

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Technique: I chose Aubusson Blue for the base coat, followed by a top coat of Provence + Old White (approx. 5 to 1 ratio with a dash of water to thin it out). I gave it a quick coat of clear wax and buffed, then distressed in “natural” areas (where you might expect wear…as opposed to random distressing which looks too contrived). I finished it up with a dark wax layer, followed by a final layer of clear wax to seal it all in. I’m happy with the chair as-is…it works with the color scheme in our living room, and can easily move from our main living area to a bedroom, if need be. Should we move or change the decor in the house, I’d be inclined to repaint this chair (knowing I don’t need to relive the tiresome and tedious prep-work stage).

Special Notes:

  • ASCP is truly easy to use and requires little to no prep work. However, it is wise to do a little research to understand the various techniques you can get from very simple tweaks or “in-between-coats-of-paint” steps. You can thin the paint with water, mix colors easily, sand between steps, wipe down or rub while the paint is still wet, distress before OR after waxing (though it’s less messy if you distress post-waxing), use a coarse brush on damp paint to create strokes, and so on…the paint is so versatile. I’ve read so many folks say they hated the paint because it left brush strokes (which can be avoided by thinning the paint prior to application AND a light sanding between coats). Basic tip: just do a little homework before you use this fab product.
  • If you want the darker, antique look using dark wax, be sure to ALWAYS APPLY CLEAR WAX FIRST.  So many folks slather the dark wax directly onto the top coat of paint and find it is streaky and difficult to apply. Applying the clear wax first, seals the paint and provides a smooth base over which to blend in the dark wax.

Favorite chalk paint project blogs:

Tutorial: Custom Crayons

Do your kids peel the labels off crayons and break them like it’s their job? We’re left with tons of broken crayons and less than inspired artists. Here’s a fun tutorial to re-use those broken bits and re-inspire you and your kids!

What you’ll need:

  • broken wax crayons (all labels removed)
  • silicon mold/silicon ice tray (alphabet or fun shapes; must be oven-safe)
  • cookie sheet or jelly roll pan

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Step 2.

Place broken crayons in shape/letter slots in silicon mold. You can mix and match colors as the wax will settle to varying degrees – while some colors will melt and mix into a new color entirely, other colors will hold their own and become multi-colored crayons. I’m guessing this has something to do with either the chemical makeup of the color dye and/or using different brands of crayons with varying wax bases. Oh, and be careful not to overload each space (to avoid overflow once the wax melts).

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Step 3.

Place silicon molds on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes (or until all wax chunks have melted).

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Step 4.

Remove pan/molds from oven, and let the wax cool for at least one hour.

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Step 5.

Check to be sure pans and wax have cooled before popping out each shape/letter. (If you have any wax residue left on your mold, run it under cold water and you’ll be able to scrape off the wax bits with your fingernail or a dull knife.)

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Step 6.

Color to your heart’s content! You can see above how the colors mixed as they melted…and below how cool they color!

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Special notes:

  • I found my alphabet mold on Amazon.
  • The letter-shaped crayons are great for coloring at restaurants…they won’t roll off the table!
  • The letter-shaped crayons are a great tool to reinforce letters, words and the alphabet with toddlers/pre-schoolers.
  • This is a fun activity to do with your kids. My daughter, Gemma, helped load the crayons into the pans and got a kick out of watching through the oven window as the wax melted down into the letter slots.
  • These make great gifts! Gemma gave each of her neighborhood friends their own “name in crayons” as a Christmas gift one year.
  • You can use this project to open a dialogue with young kids about ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle” in your home and community.