The Alphabet Wall

I started this post way back in 2014 when we were decorating our first daughter’s bedroom. This project was to be the pièce de résistance of the nursery and I actually managed to get in finished in time for her arrival. Of course, she didn’t come home with us, so we covered the furniture, pulled down the blinds and shut the door on that room until our little B was on her way. I worked really hard on this, and now, as we’re transitioning her room from a baby to toddler space and are considering taking it down to do something else, I think it is worthy of a post, even if it is three years after it’s completion.

Have you ever taken on a craft project and realized you’re in over your head?

It happens to me more than I care to admit. Pinterest is obviously at fault. No matter how many times I remind myself that most of my pins have been designed and photographed by professionals, I still try to live up to those impossible standards.

In late 2013, I was in full nursery decorating mode. At this point, we knew we were having a girl and we’d decided on apricot for the walls and a bright green shag rug from Ikea. For the back wall I was obsessed with the idea of an alphabet wall with an eclectic arrangement of different fonts, sizes and colours. If you do a search for alphabet walls there are tons of them similar to ours – it’s been done many times and seemed simple enough in theory, but it turned out to be far more work than I’d bargained for. Once I got started though, there was no turning back.

I will preface my vague instructions by telling you that you can buy a kit for this. It comes with all 26 wooden letters, unfinished, and costs around $100 on Etsy. I would really recommend this route if you are looking to try this yourself.

I didn’t buy the kit. Instead, I thought I could save a buck and decided to hunt down the letters on my own. It took a lot of time and energy, and really didn’t save me enough to make it worth the hassle. By the end, the cost of the letters alone, actually came close to the kit price.

Collecting the letters was time consuming and a huge pain in the ass. They came from everywhere – thrift, dollar and department stores, plus every craft/art supply store within a 100km radius. I kept a list to keep track of the ones I’d already bought but I wasn’t overly concerned about the size, case or fonts of the individual letters, I just focused on finding one of each.

Next came the fun part – painting and decorating. I used acrylic craft paint for most of them. I just bought a handful of basic colours and mixed different shades. I also bought some patterned scrapbooking paper and used mod podge to glue and seal. Then on the O (which was actually a small Ikea mirror), I added buttons because it just felt right. I didn’t have a definitive strategy for colours, I just made it up as I went along.

At this point, they were almost ready to hang. I added hardware to the letters that didn’t come with hangers already. For the ones thick enough to hammer a nail into, I used small metal saw tooth hangers, and for the thinner letters, I used adhesive fabric eyelets (both can be found with the picture hanging thingies in any hardware store).

Then, to get the layout just right, I cut templates out of paper and arranged them on the wall. This step took FOREVER. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to make things appear random. After almost a week of arranging and rearranging the templates, it was finally time to hammer in the nails (I used thin, 1 inch nails).

The overall cost was about $130 in the end, including the letters, paint, and hardware. This was certainly one of my more successful Pinterest inspired projects and I was really proud of the end result. The execution was a bit of a fail though – if you’re trying this at home, buy the kit. You won’t regret it!

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The Sideboard

After we’d bought our house but still living in our condo, I’d gone out for a walk one summer evening. I’d ended up at a thrift store about 15 minutes before closing time and impulse bought a sideboard. Of course, I had to call Jeremy to pick up me and my purchase while I kept my fingers crossed that it would even fit into the back of our old Mazda Protege.

It did, and it sat in our garage until we moved it into our new dining room.

It’s a solid piece, and from a distance it looked like it was in really good shape. It actually had quite a bit of damage, but nothing that couldn’t be disguised with a strategically placed plant or knick-knack. I did intended to have it repaired and refinished someday, but it was never a high priority.

sideboard

In March, when I began my redecorating spree, I decided I would restore it myself, so when Jeremy and my Dad were moving furniture to paint, I had them take the sideboard out to the garage.

While I’ve slapped a coat of paint on the odd dresser over the years, my furniture finishing experience was limited and I’d never worked with stain. I felt I was in over my head as soon as I removed the hardware. After I sanded it, no matter how many coats of primer, then paint, the original finish kept seeping though.

The doors were a whole other issue. I removed the original finish with that super scary furniture stripper that has about a thousand warning labels on it. Daunting for someone who is accident prone. If anyone was going to dump a can of something toxic and corrosive all over the garage, it will me me. I am relieved to report, the stripping went forward without incident.

Then, I sanded and prepared them for staining. This part of the project had been going pretty well until I started with the stain. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get the right shade of dark cherry to match the other dining room furniture. My original attempt was too light and brown, so I ended up stripping them all over again and starting over. My second try was closer – not exactly what I wanted, but at that point I decided it was close enough. I figured it I kept trying for a perfect match, the doors would be paper thin from stripping and sanding by the time I was through. Finally, I attempted to give the doors a smooth shiny finish. Attempted, is the operative word in this sentence.

The whole experience was frustrating, although that frustration was actually a good thing for me at the time, as I really needed something tangible to focus the anger that came in waves between sadness during those early days after the baby. This project gave me that.

I was initially disappointed with the final outcome of this project, but now that it’s in the dimly lit side of the dining room I’m less annoyed but the flaws that were much more pronounced under the florescent lights of the garage.

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For the Birds

Last summer we had to cut down our beautiful birch tree. The foliage had been eaten by asian beetles and we just couldn’t save it. With birch branches still quite trendy in outdoor arrangements, I kept the larger pieces, hoping to somehow incorporate the branches back into our garden.

It took me a while to figure out what to do with them but it finally hit me when I was searching for bird baths on Pinterest. We’d been looking for one for years, but we hadn’t been able to find one with the right combination of tasteful (for Jeremy) and kitsch (for me). I was thinking of something that featured a ornate fountain with a statue of an animal or cherub relieving itself, but you know, classy like.

Birdbath

For the stand, I attached the branches with jute twine (leftover from the stool project) using this tutorial. The bath is a big bowl I found in a thrift shop.

tripodlash

This won’t be a permanent fixture – the branches and twine will surely rot over a couple of years. In the meantime though, I was happy to find a use for the branches.

I still have a few smaller pieces left over, so I’m thinking about a centerpiece like the one
I made for Christmas a few years ago. I’m open to suggestions though. Have you seen any cute or clever craft ideas using birch lately?

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