stuff from my grandparents’ garage & wedding photos: finally making our gallery wall

So, most of my readers know me in real life and know that I have a tendency to “collect” things, a.k.a. hoard junk until it’s coming out of my ears. It just so happens that this has started working to my benefit. My grandparents are the original generation of DIY-ers. I’ve probably mentioned them before, maybe back when I was collecting items for my ladder or my floating shelves? I’m not sure. Either way, most of the things I have to display, like my insulators and jars, come from trips with Memaw and Pa or trips TO Memaw and Pa’s. Memaw and Pa comb Pennsylvania with us every spring looking through antique shops and shows. They have repainted all of the rooms in their house multiple times, including layers of wall paper, and they do all of their own (beautiful) landscaping. If my external hard drive hadn’t eaten all of my old pictures (I still can’t talk about it without getting emotional), I would show you how beautiful their house is. It is truly my favorite place in the whole wide world. Anyway, due to my subscription to Country Living and the magazine Flea Market Style, I’ve been getting a LOT of ideas. My grandfather listens intently when we look through magazines (although he sometimes acts like he doesn’t hear me when I make requests) and usually when I go back to their house, he’s found some old tool I “might want” for a project.

A while back, I don’t know how long, he sent me home with the head of a pitchfork, an old mirror, and some shears. I had no idea what I would use them for, but KNEW that I would use them. Months passed…as per usual. My “collecting” also coincided with us getting a roommate. Our friend moved into our downstairs bedroom, which only *really* housed junk and our piano. We made him live with the piano for too many months to mention (sorry, Michael) and FINALLY moved it out this spring! I wanted it to be a feature in the living room…and I also wanted to be able to play it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure Michael would LOVE to wake up to me sitting on a piano bench in his room. That’s not creepy. At. All. So, we moved the piano out and I had a randomly hanging picture on the wall from a previous furniture arrangement. Are you ready to see how ridiculous this looks?!

before-over piano

So sorry that this makes my living room look like the darkest pits of you-know-where. Also, you can see my not-so-secret stash of CRAP that we “hide” behind the couch, making it clearly visible to anyone who steps foot in our door. I go back to work in less than 2 weeks, I should maybe get on that.

But you get the idea, the picture placement was NOT going to work anymore. So, one night, while watching The Facts of Life on TheHub at about midnight, I decided to pull down all of the things I thought would add to a gallery wall and start laying them on the carpet. This post is super short on photos (you’re welcome, obviously my photog skills are inCREDible), but it was really dark, really late, and I was working by myself until the installation.

The pile of junk in my floor included: the pitchfork, the shears, mirror, our wedding-photo-“guest book” frame, the hand-holding engagement photo, a new hanging light for free from the youth room at church (nobody wanted it, we asked), and one of our post-wedding photos from upstairs that we took down when our ceiling had a leak. So, after getting a few copies of the photos (almost 3 years ago) and buying a few frames (also almost 3 years ago), we basically spent nothing on this project. My favorite kind. Cheap.

We took everything off the walls, leaving us with this (I promise our walls aren’t gray/yellow/green, we just truly have zero. light. and I couldn’t wait for daylight):


(Seriously, the more I look at the awful white balance and how crap-tacular this picture is, the more I want to throw up. The cat on the couch is its saving grace.)

I moved things around in the floor (over and over and over again) until I had an arrangement that I liked and then…I just started hanging things. I’m not good at rhyme or reason. I don’t do well mapping it all out with perfect 2″ intervals between frames. I do really well with throwing it on a wall and moving it (to hide the previous nail hole).

So, here’s where we are today (well, at night time)…


And this is daytime…not much better, but at least you can tell our walls are gray…ish. Also, why the heck is there a can of WD-40 on my piano bench? And why is it STILL THERE?! These photos were probably taken in like, April. I just can’t seem to clear out my giant junk pile long enough to take better photos. That’ll happen next-to-never when I do a house tour. I’m all for keeping it real, but sometimes I’m a little too “real” for you all to have to handle.


I love having tools from my grandfather’s garage displayed. I love that we FINALLY have some wedding photos up (but we have a canvas I can’t wait to hang!) and I love that it happened after midnight on a Saturday. That’s like the witching hour for me. I get all crazy and start doing projects. Chris LOVES it. Also, he figured out how to hang 99.9% of this stuff and just drove nails where I asked, so he is a rockstar, even at 1 a.m.

p.s, Ikea, why are are ALL of your mattes NOT AT ALL WHITE, even in WHITE FRAMES?! top photo doesn’t look as pee-yellow in person, but it sure does make me crazy in the head here. Crazy in the head isn’t a far cry from my “normal”, but still. 😉


Manic Monday

I promise I’m coming back this week! I know that if we’re friends on facebook, I promised a post today…but…

-a meeting started late
-it was still dark at 8 a.m.
-it was dark by 2 p.m.
-no recess today
-moved 4 kids’ cards to yellow (that hasn’t happened in awhile)
-found a HUGE scheduling snafu that I was responsible for
-frantic parent came in to the office…at SIX P.M.
-it wasn’t the 70 degrees they said it would be and…

did I mention it’s pouring? ugh.

Anyway, I have a serious case of the Mondays but some things that are getting me through…

Living room progress:

My above-the-buffet project. 🙂 Thanks to my husband for working on it while I babysat SO MUCH this weekend.

SO much better than this…I think it’s coming together!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I’m doing this. WHAT? Most people who read this *probably* don’t know what Haven is…but it’s a HUGE HUGE HUGE DIY blogging conference held in Atlanta, GA. I mean, almost all of my favorite bloggers were there last year [Young House Love, The Lettered Cottage, Bower Power, Ana White, and Sarah from The Ugg Duck…to name a few…]. So yeah, it’s a big deal. I know my blog is but a baby blog. I call it “my little baby blog”, but I feel like I could really grow and be supported and encouraged at Haven. So, I bit the bullet. I’m super excited to be rooming with a fellow Virginia-blogger, Caroline from the diy nurse! Hooray! I can’t wait for August! 🙂
I’ll be back with the “painting project” for the living room tomorrow- I’m hanging it RIGHT now!


Brace Your Shelves!

Sorry. That is an inside joke. I’m not sure why. My husband and I said it once? to our roommate? maybe? We’re losers. Sorry.


Another warning, this post has a bajillion photos. Apparently, that’s what happens when you buy a new camera, supplies for a project, and have months of time on your hands. (I take too long to complete projects.)


Alright, on with the show! This all started in October when my wonderfulfabulousamazingsplendidromantic husband bought me a buffet for my birthday. Now, this isn’t truly a “buffet”, but it is two pieces: one old TV cabinet and one serving piece/sideboard. However, when we saw them in the consignment shop, they were side-by-side like one cabinet and I fell. in. looooooooove. For real, I did. This was the week before our anniversary and, when we got anniversary cards with cash, I begged him to come back to Newport News (we were visiting family) and go find the cabinet again. And it was gone. I almost wept. I’m not typically *super* emotional, but I LOVED this piece and I was devastated. Nothing seemed right. 


Fast forward 2 or 3 weeks and I started craigslisting. I REALLY wanted to find a cool vintage buffet. I finally found one and the sellers were AMAZING. I’m talking, drive-an-hour-for-you-just-to-look-at-it, amazing. Well, hubby got all squirrelly and started fussing at me.  See, he had also asked about celebrating my birthday (THE BEST DAY OF THE YEAR- only 309 days, by the way) and I said…”ummm…is yesterday too early?” He was not amused, said we should just go get my gift now, I said “no” because he gave my anniv. gift early and kicked himself. It was weird. If you knew him, you would know he is the most even-tempered person EVER. Our roommate actually said, “I didn’t know he could get frustrated until I moved in and saw you frustrate him.” Our roommate has known him for over 10 years. I bring out the best in people. That being said, the next day he got REALLY weird and said, “We have to go to my parents’ house.” I said, “Does this have to do with my birthday?” (12 days early). He was not amused. So…we went in to his parents’ home and he asked me to help with something upstairs. What did I find?! MY BUFFET!!!!! (I, truly, have the craftiest, trickiest, most thoughtful, worst secret-keeping and worst-at-lying husband in the whole world- love you, babe.)

Here she is in her trial-run, partially-set up state. I love her. She’s slightly less orangey than this picture shows, but no less beautiful. 
 This got me thinking…my husband hates it when I do that. I reaaaaaaaaaaaalllyyyyy needed something in ALL of the space above the buffet. 

SOSOSOSOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH SPACE! Seriously, I could not handle it. 
(an aside: nothing about this looks remotely similar today…except the standing globe to the right)
I got on ye ol’ Pinterest and looked at some old DIY pins I had pinned. I found a tutorial from younghouselove (not surprising) and Ana White on building floating shelves*…I started brainstorming. Then, I looked at the things that did not fit into the new buffet from the old china hutch (to the left two photos above…from Ikea…Bjursta collection?). The #1 misplaced item was…wine glasses. We have 14. They had nowhere to live. So, I did what any normal pinterest-er would do…I looked for a tutorial for building wine racks! I remembered that Katie Bower had retrofitted some Pottery Barn shelves with wine racks, so I googled those. No dice. Then, I bit the bullet and found a tutorial for building your own wine rack. 
Disclaimer: Nothing about these shelves is perfect. These wine racks? Not perfect. But, they were a labor of love so, I love them like I love my 2nd graders with their weird grown-up front teeth and tiny baby teeth. Awkward, quirky, loveable. 
Onward: Let’s buy supplies! Truthfully, I didn’t keep receipts, but this ended up being WAY more expensive than the tutorial. I do NOT think this is the fault of either tutorial. We had fewer supplies on hand, so costs rose more than we anticipated. Here is our pile of supplies on our dirty (now gone) carpet, next to the old trunk of books (that were all free) that I still haven’t gone through. Open & honest here. 
Basically, we followed the tutorial and then…sat the braces and the shelf sleeves in the corner while we worked on our floors. For. Ever. (real time: less than 2 months) Finally, floors were done! Hooray! [The joy cannot be contained by this post and will be posted at a later date when I’m done with the grieving process and can release my bitterness and hatred at a “3 week turned 6 month” project.]

That darling husband of mine leveled the first brace (I held on, he screwed in- oh. man. so. funny. sorry.) and we had a brace! Hooray! We screwed into as many studs as we could [still inappropriately funny], but some of them were in strange places behind our little 11.5″ cross bars. That made it complicated, but we worked it out. Fortunately, after the first one or two screws, we were able to leave it hanging with the level and he could finish drilling while I took pictures. [Nothing about this makes me stop saying “That’s what she said.” Nothing.]
We decided to put the lowest shelf 24″ above the buffet…and then I realized that 9″ tall wine glasses would be hanging from it. So, we went 33″ to compensate. Does it look too high? Definitely now. Will it look better? I think so. Ideas are on the way.




Keeping it level because I’m neurotic. 


Then, it got dark, but we kept on going. Warning: the pictures will look horrendous from here on out. Our lamps are THE. WORST. EVER. I also don’t really understand 90% of my camera, so, bear with me. I’m working on it. 🙂 We had to make some adjustments from our original brace #2, but we were able to fix it so that it would hang correctly with a new 1″x 2″. 
Then, we prepared for the moment of truth: sleeve-fitting. 




IT WORKED! IT WORKED! IT WORKED!!!!!!!!! Yes, I was jumping up and down. Yes, my husband was sweating bullets. No, I did not cry. 
Meanwhile, back (in Gotham City?) in the floor, I was wood-puttying some stray holes in the second shelf-sleeve, re-sanding, gluing on wine-glass brackets, and any testing out the wine-glass-holding capabilities.
We let it dry overnight (while I was painting my mirror– woop!) and then it was ready to hang!!!!!!! We did consider putting some additional screws in the wine glass holders, but we kept testing them (and testing and re-testing) and decided that they’re very secure. God forbid anything happen, we’ll put out a plea to donate to the Keep-Jessica-from-drinking-Moscato-from-plastic-cups campaign.


We put the bottom sleeve on and…ALKJDFLKSJDLFKJLKJ!!!!!LKSJDFKJ!!!!!!!!!!!
IT WORKED! Seriously, at this point I considered weeping. Also, check out those sweet branches that are in a floor vase to the left…thanks for your end-of-year sale, Target!



Yup, my husband works best in a tie. I am too anxious to finish projects when he comes home to let him change clothes. 
Now, I’m with $herdog on this, styling is THE BEST part. I wanted to keep things *somewhat* wintry with blues and silvers since I hate taking down Christmas stuff and wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my mercury glass owls. 


With buffet: Try #1
With buffet: Try #2 (and mostly how it is still). Please, feel free to hate on the glass head. EVERYONE hates on the glass head. It remains one of my favorite things ever purchased in the whole world.
I instagrammed a photo of this and someone said, “Your shelves look like something off pinterest.” I seriously have never heard a bigger compliment. 
Let’s address the height issue of the lowest shelf. I don’t LOVE how much higher it is. Those globes look way small here, but they’re regular size and have looked too big on every other piece of furniture. However, I think about hosting Thanksgiving last year and how we had tall beverage dispensers that wouldn’t fit with the lower wine glasses. I also think of the possibility of sideboard lamps. SO, I think we have something here to help shortly. 🙂
All of this being said, it just encouraged me to try more projects…so, this week I came home to this guy (I hope he’ll help with the empty wall space under the shelf!)…I can’t wait to get him finished and show him to you! 🙂
Anybody else in blogland creating something for the first time and in love with it?! Tell me all about it in your comments! Thanks for reading! 🙂

*The only design difference between ours and Ana’s, besides that she is an incredible carpenter and we are not, is that our shelves come in at a total of 66″ instead of 72″. The buffet was not that long, so we tried to center it and have the shelves be a smidge smaller. Some quick math solved our dilemma. We like that they’re space-filling without being super overwhelming with the buffet.

This project is linked up at A Bowl Full of Lemons: One Project at a Time!

Back Where We Came From…50 Shades of Gray

So- last year we decided to paint our living room.

In 2009, I needed a fresh start. The futon-couch belonged to my ex, I had super old end tables from my parents’ house (before I was born), and my living room is super strange. It’s long & narrow (that’s what she said?) and it was difficult to have the TV on a separate piece of furniture, so I was hoping to hang the TV over the fireplace. 

I decided on some paint colors. I wanted a green accent wall and 3 khaki walls. Then, I picked out a khaki couch and some dark brown end tables. Thanks, Value City. 

Fast forward a little over a year and a half to summer 2011: green & khaki are VERY warm and VERY dark in my living room that gets little natural light. Also, my living room was a hot.mess.hoootttt.messsssss. In that year and a half I had lived alone, started dating again, gotten engaged, gotten married, had a husband move in, had one roommate move in (twice) and out (once), and completed another year of teaching. My living room showed it. Are you ready for this?! 

That TV in the corner? Took me MONTHS to convince my husband we should sell. 

I’m not sure what most of this crap is. This is the “middle” of our living room. What. The. What.

Ridiculously blurry. Ridiculously messy.

Where’s the couch?! I DON’T KNOW?!?!?!

Aaaaaand back toward the sliding doors. Whew. Aren’t you glad that part is over?!

 Then…I got an offer from Valspar for some paints. What?! Free paint samples?! Yes, please. We ordered a light gray (I believe it was Foggy Mist) and they sent me this whole kit. 

 Then came my favorite part. We painted on some Foggy Mist and also got about 2 bazillion samples from Lowe’s and Home Depot. We hung them all on the wall over the couch and left them for DAYS to see the 50 different shades of gray. We ended up choosing Nimbus Cloud by Olympic. Why, Olympic? I dislike the VOCs and I like the $5 coupon we got. Haha. I’m nothing if not cheap frugal. If you ever came to my house, you would have seen these colors…where the paint samples were hanging is where the ladder art currently resides. So, big changes have continued to happen this year!

This is with the lamp light. See how blue the big ol’ patch of Foggy Mist ended up? 😦 

Anyway, with our Nimbus Cloud all picked out, we went to Lowe’s and talked to our favorite paint girl. She has piercings and crazy tattoos and a dye job. And I. Love. Her. She knows her stuff and she’s chill and she makes fun of people who ask stupid questions. Luckily, I wasn’t one of those customers…this time.

Then…the priming began! No, we could not take the TV down until it was ABSOLUTELY time. We needed to be able to watch HGTV (obviously) while re-painting. Also, we had no AC during this process. That’s why there’s a fan sitting in front of the fireplace. It was hot in there. Really hot. 

Priming machine. See that rusty looking plant stand with the broom handle resting on it?! That’s a new color! Stay tuned to see that awesomeness! (Seriously- I love it.) Also, the back porch with the extra end tables and junk on it? Those are in the shed waiting for redos, the porch has since had a truckload of spare lumber, and now it’s clean again. Ahhh, full circle.
This corner was never quite as crisp as I’d hoped. Painting the room all one color made me really excited that I wouldn’t be staring at that corner any longer.
…aaaand all the way up the stairs! Our house is narrow…and it’s not open AT ALL so I thought one color might lighten things up and make them airy.

Speaking of “airy”, we interrupt this painting update to show you what happens when you don’t change your air filters regularly. Mind you, our AC was going and “sucking” (literally and figuratively) a bit more, but we didn’t change the filter until we realized it had died. This is what we found. 


 Back to our regularly scheduled painting update. Cats like drop cloths. Exhibit A:

Going up the stairs was fun and exciting…and exhausting. Also, we have this weird flat hand-rail-bannister-creepy-thing-to-look-over-as-you-go-up-the-stairs. It was gross. I wanted to make sure the paint didn’t come off from previous applications. I ended up chipping paint off of it for HOURS. It may or may not have stayed this pukey yellow-brown-off white combo for a few days weeks before we painted it.

Thumbs down for this part of the project. I’m not sure why I took this picture like this…but I did.

Three layers of paint colors later…

 But wait, we’re almost there! I painted and painted (and panted-it was hot!) Final product?! Pictures taken in tons of different lights to make sure it shows up as well as it possibly can with a terrible camera?!


This is purely to express my thanks for “Friends” reruns during home improvement projects.

so grateful for Chandler, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel, and Monica

This is coming in the front door.

Isn’t it so light and welcoming now?! Yes, we took care of the brassy knobs/locks. No, it didn’t end up being a permanent fix. Womp, womp. 

Clearly, cleaning the living room was the next step and it was MUCH cleaner for the past year. I was really proud of it. At one point, I sent our friend a picture of something in the floor and he replied, “You guys have a floor in that room?!” I was excited, too.

Unfortunately, there are no “current” pictures because WE’RE GETTING LAMINATE FLOORS. And by “we’re getting”, I mean, they’re sitting in our floor in a huge pile…because we’re installing them ourselves. Fingers crossed we don’t screw this up! 🙂 

Now that I’m finally blogging all of these older projects, maybe someday soon you’ll get a “final” look at our little hole in the wall…and it might even be with new floors! 🙂 There could be a House Tour page up on this blog soon! 🙂 

Anybody else made drastic changes with paint lately? Leave a comment and share your color choices!

Ladder, Ladder on the wall

In the last post about hanging a light fixture, I mentioned that I like late-night projects. I wish this were exclusive to summer time, but I also do this during the school year, even on *gasp* school nights! For some reason, whenever I do this, I’m more energized the next day. I may or may not have some weird freakish brain disorder where finished projects help me sleep better.

Anyway, one Thursday night this spring, I decided to get active about a bunch of stuff that was laying in a pile in my floor. I am a coach for Odyssey of the Mind at my school and I had collected a pile of scrap wood for my Odyssey team. Well, it ended up being really nice quality wood, way better than I wanted to give to 7 3rd-5th graders to practice using. In this giant pile there was a cute little ladder, like the kind for a kid’s bunkbed, but definitely homemade. I had plans for this ladder. 

Antique Wooden Ladder Bookshelf
From here.

I kinda tried to google how to do this, but then I just studied the picture really carefully. I’m all about buying stuff on etsy, but I already had everything I needed, I was pretty sure. We went out to Ace Hardware and bought 4 small L-brackets (2 top and 2 bottom) and some teeny tiny screws to screw the brackets into the ladder. I knew we had a-plenty of anchors/screws for the walls. So… about $6 later, we were all set! 
So, like I said, this was all laying in the floor for days until this magical Thursday evening inspiration! We recently rearranged our living room (I’m sure one day I’ll write a Living Room Metamorphosis post) and I had the perfect spot over our leather armchairs to hang this big ol’ focal ladder. 
Here she is in all of her glory. Our living room doesn’t even look that awful in the background. Yes, the carpet really is that dirty. Yes, we are getting laminate floors next month. 
This was pretty straightforward…getting the wall ready for the anchors. Also,our trip and ceiling are the same color of white, but our camera stinks. So, yeah.

Our method was as follows:

Step 1: Find the studs. One is in the picture above, HAHA, but seriously. Studfinder is my hero.
Step 2: Hold up the ladder to see if it works where the studs are located. 
Step 3: Mark the bracket holes on the wall to align with studs. Mark holes on the top and bottom of ladder for the baby screws to hold the brackets to the ladder.
Step 4: Use anchors where the holes are for the other part of the wall (I don’t think we ended up doing this. I think we used our screws all directly in the stud. That made me feel better.)
Step 5: Screw the bottom brackets into the ladder. Then, have someone hold up the ladder to match the holes on the wall and have the other person screw the brackets to the wall.
Step 6: Line up the top brackets, screw into ladder, screw into wall. 
Step 7: Deck it out with stuff. 

This is nighttime. 

This is daytime. Yes, our house is that dim. Yes, that’s my green sleeve because I had to sit the camera on the mantel and use a mirror to see if it was taking a picture of the right thing. One day, I’ll get a nicer camera. Until then, suffer through it with me. 🙂

 As far as outfitting the ladder goes, the insulators on top were free, I’m pretty sure. I know two were in my grandparents’ garage and the other two I might’ve bought for $3-$5 a piece. The framed picture is obviously from our post-wedding/dress-trashing photoshoot by our dear friends Sarah & Drew at KittCreative. We framed it in a $10 frame from Ikea. The C & J were from Tuesday Morning, but Mama bought them for us. The mirror on the left was from my Pa’s garage. The lantern and shovel/spade on the right were also from their house. The green bottle to the left of the picture was from our antique trip in PA and was $10 I think. The small insulator on the left was about $2 I think, also. So, the whole thing cost us maybe $30 bucks with everything on it and the hardware. Not bad for wall art that brings our little seating area together! 

I love it! And, I love that I can switch it up for holidays or any other time when I get bored. Thanks, freecycle for your nice supply of extra lumber! 🙂 

Any fun wall art in YOUR home?! Thanks for stopping by our hole in the web!