Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

(QUICK NOTE: This furniture redo is based on the theme “Inspired By”. Make sure to read my exciting news at the end of the post for more info and more furniture ideas.)

I work as a “creative consultant” for my salon/spa. It sounds fancy – because I totally made up the title for myself – but really just means I get to make cool stuff for their customers and for the salon space. (These hand-painted mugs are a project I’ve done for them.)

Several months ago they asked me to reupholster this chair from their lobby.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

I don’t know anything about upholstery so of course I said, “yes, I can do that.”

I’m not gonna lie, that chair sat in my basement for a long, long time. I had no idea what to do with it. Every time I googled “how to upholster a parsons chair” I got confused. Every time I went to the fabric store I came home empty-handed.

Then the salon went through an amazing expansion. I could go on and on about it but all that really matters for this story is the slat wall in the new spa lobby. Guys, check this out.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Gorgeous, right?  Can you believe one of the owners created it using upcycled fence pieces from her back yard? I can’t get over how much color and texture it adds.

Needless to say, I was inspired. I stormed the fabric store like Kanye during a Taylor Swift acceptance speech and came home with the most perfect material in the exact same color palette. Success! Now on to the upholstery job.

NOTE: This is NOT a tutorial. It’s more of a story about how a first-timer tackled an upholstery project with no clue what she was doing. Also, I should let you know that I went into this with basic sewing skills. I’ve made pillows and curtains and can follow a simple pattern but that’s the extent of it. Enough chatter already. Let’s do this.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

TIP #1: Take tons and tons of photos BEFORE YOU START AND EVERY SINGLE STEP ALONG THE WAY. I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re getting ready to completely disassemble this piece of furniture and without photos you’ll have no idea how to put it back together. The pics don’t have to make sense to anyone else but you. Just take a lot. Then take more.

With my camera in hand I started “un-upholstering”. Staple by staple I removed the old pleather cover. Then, with it off the chair but still in one piece, I got out my Sharpie and marked things up.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

TIP #2: Use a Sharpie to mark the old fabric you remove from the chair. I made notes about direction. I scribbled reminders about which side of the seat it came from. I drew arrows that would help me remember where seams connected. I marked anything that I thought might be helpful down the road when I was trying to put the puzzle back together. Again, the notes don’t need to make sense to anyone but you.

Next I “unstitched” all the seams with my seam ripper and voila! — I had the perfect pattern pieces to create my new chair cover. Now it was just a matter of basic cutting, pinning, and sewing like I would with any store-bought pattern.

TIP #3: Consider using scrap fabric (or an inexpensive flat sheet from Wal-Mart in my case) to sew a “test cover” before you start cutting your expensive upholstery fabric. This idea has its advantages and disadvantages. It did help me avoid some costly mistakes but, on the downside, the sheet was so cheap and flimsy that it was frustrating to work with.

(If you follow me on Facebook you already know there was a mishap involving a certain cat and this project. #eightlivesleft)

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

TIP #4: When cutting, add several extra inches of fabric on the edges that will be stapled to the chair frame. This will ensure you have plenty of room for pulling and stapling at the end of the project.

Oddly enough while this stage is where the pieces started coming together and the magic started to happen, there’s really not much to say about it. It was a lot of pin, sew, swear, repeat. Oh, and a lot of referencing the photos I took. They were invaluable when it came to figuring out how the back and seat pieces fit together.

One other thing I want to point out. Those tight curves at the top of the chair back were a beast! Thankfully a little google research revealed that cutting small slits along the curve helps the fabric lay flat and run through your machine without gaps or puckers.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Here are a couple of links that explain it much better than I can. They offer several solutions but for me a few simple slits or notches was enough to get the job done.

http://sweetbriarsisters.com/blog/sew-opposing-curves/
http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2015/02/sewing-curved-seams/

So with the sewing done it was finally time to put the new cover on and staple it in place. This was by far the easiest part of the whole project. I didn’t follow any specific rules or instructions – just pulled things taunt, made sure everything was smooth and stapled my heart out.

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

Spa Inspired Upholstered Parsons Chair | laughing abi

I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It was a challenge but definitely worth it. If you’re thinking about trying something like this don’t be intimidated like I was and let it sit in your basement for months. It’s really just about taking something apart and then putting it back together in reverse order.

Remember the news I mentioned waaaay back at the beginning of this post? Here it is – I’ve been invited to join a new group called Furniture Refresh.

furniture refresh logo 2

Every month we’ll each be sharing a “refreshed” piece of furniture based on a changing theme. All of the projects will be shared across our blogs so it’s the perfect opportunity for you furniture lovers to find some great new ideas. This month’s theme is “Inspired By”. Enjoy!


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Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

(UPDATE: This coral beauty is FOR SALE in the Chicagoland area. Contact me if you’re interested.)

I’m not gonna lie friends. This one was a struggle.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen each painful step, starting with the wood stain.

The first attempt was streaky. I didn’t know why but thought it must be because I didn’t strip the old finish thoroughly.
So I started over.

The second attempt was spotty because after stripping the old finish I didn’t clean off the stripper residue completely. (Read more about that HERE.)
So I started over.

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

The third attempt was streaky because I didn’t know I was dealing with a soft wood and needed to use a pre-stain wood conditioner. (Looking back I realized this was really the problem with my first attempt.)
So I started over.

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

Finally, on the fourth attempt, the planets aligned, the clouds parted and the wood-staining gods smiled down upon me. Success at long last.

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

Next was paint. I used this DIY chalk paint recipe with Valspar’s Amber Rose color. I’m happy to report that the paint went on with no problems! The color was perfect and the chalk paint was as amazing as everyone claims. I finished it off with a couple coats of SC Johnson Paste wax – stinky but effective. (If you’re trying to compare expensive Annie Sloan Chalk Paint with the more economical DIY versions I highly recommend you read this post from Diane at In My Own Style. So much valuable information!)

All that was left was to pick out some shiny gold hardware and she would be done! Easy squeezy, right?

Wrong.

You guys I couldn’t find anything to fit the holes. I tried everywhere I could think of. Internet, retail, antique shops, referrals from friends – nothing. There were a couple that were the right size but completely wrong for the age and style of the piece. And a couple of others that might have worked but they were around $30 each. Not for this thrifty chick.

I considered drilling new holes but even if I used a stainable wood filler the old holes would be obvious. And ugly. The only way to completely cover them would be to . . .

paint

the

drawers.

The same drawers that I just cried and agonized over for weeks. That I stripped, stained, and sealed four times.

I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t. There had to be a better way.

So I wiped the slate clean and started my search over again, hoping something new and different would pop up this time. First stop: Lowe’s.

I walked to the same jumbled wall of handles and knobs I had looked through before and THERE IT WAS! Not a perfect fit but a contender that, with a little spray paint and strategic placement, might finish off my coral queen.

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

It was super, super close but they work! Here’s the trick: they don’t match the existing holes in the drawers but instead, cover them (with not a millimeter to spare). Yes, we did have to drill into my newly refinished wood to install them. And yes, it did totally stress me out. But the result is 100% worth it. You can’t see the original holes at all and I love the way the finished pulls look. Their simple style and rounded edges compliment the details of the piece perfectly.

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.com

Coral Dresser With DIY Chalk Paint | laughingabi.comI fought hard for this dresser and I could not be more pleased with how it turned out. It was my first adventure with chalk paint and my first time using the color coral. I will definitely use them both again.

I should mention that this beauty is for sale so if you’re in the Chicagoland area and are looking for a pop of feminine color in your space, we should chat.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I’m so excited to share my Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes with you! We built the boxes a couple summers ago but this is the first year I’ve decked them out for Christmas.

It all started when I saw this garden flag at Lowe’s. You can’t see in this pic but “Team Nice” is on the back. Cute, right? I didn’t have a place in my yard that would show off both sides so I decided to buy two and use them as features in my window boxes. Of course they would require some modifications first. Here’s what I did.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I started by shortening the stand so my flag would hang at the right height for the window box. I marked approximately where I wanted to cut.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Used a hacksaw to do the deed.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

And taped off the rough ends with electrical tape.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Then I was left with two pieces that looked like this.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

The last step was to put the two pieces back together with a few more strips of electrical tape. (I am a little worried about the tape holding up in the Chicago weather. I might go back to reinforce things with zip ties if I need to.)

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

With the stand finished it’s time to start filling the window boxes! Luckily I have neighbors on one side who let me cut branches from their evergreen tree and an abandoned house across the street where I can do some “volunteer pruning”.

Before I started putting in my live greens I lined the top of the boxes with this super cheap, super fake-looking artificial garland. This serves as a filler to hide any gaps or holes in my finished arrangement. Then I put in the flag – on it’s new, shortened stand.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

The next two layers are branches that hang over and spill down the front of the boxes. (Wish I knew enough to tell you what kind of tree these come from. Anyone?)

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

To hold everything in place I used these wood picks I bought at Michael’s.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

They come with floral wire already attached so all you have to do is wrap the other end around your branch and stake it in the dirt.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

After two layers of draping greens I added just a few straight, non-hanging branches for some height in the top of the box. These metal landscaping pins came in handy for this step.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

You might have noticed some tiny lights in the last photo. They’re actually part of a garland Josh bought at an after Christmas clearance sale last year. They aren’t super bright but they do add a sweet twinkle to all that green so I layered them on top, pushing them toward the front so they could be seen from the street.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Almost done! After walking out in the yard (in the rain) a dozen times to see how things were looking I decided to add a pop of color. I used ornaments because they’re cheap and easy to find. I attached them using the same wood picks as before.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

And with that last touch of color- they’re done!

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I should point out that I had a third window box to fill. I used the exact same greenery, lighted garland, and ornaments but added a Santa hat in place of the flag. It’s held in place with more wood picks/floral wire that I simply threaded through safety pins.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

naughty and nice collage

I’m so far behind with my holiday decorating that I almost didn’t do this project at all. I’m really glad I did though. It makes a big impact and looks so cozy when I pull up to the house every day.

Do you have all your decorating done? All your presents bought? I’ve started but I’m soooo far from done.

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

ALTERNATE TITLE: Holy Crap It’s December 1 and I Haven’t Made My Advent Calendar Yet!

A more organized, on-the-ball blogger would have shared this project a couple weeks ago. But the truth is, I just put it together this morning in a fit of last-minute panic. I was inspired by this idea I saw last year and decided better late than not at all.

The most appealing part of this calendar is it uses things I already had around the house – perfect for a procrastinator like me. First, an over-the-door shoe organizer, which was holding a bunch of random junk.

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

Next, some paper treat bags I had in my stash. If you don’t have these you can easily cut holiday wrapping paper or scrapbooking paper down to size. (These aren’t the exact ones I used but you get the idea.)

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

Grab some old-fashioned clothespins (or tape if you don’t have any), tissue paper, and your advent gifts, and you’re ready to put it together. (TIP: You don’t have to have all your gifts ready on December 1. I usually buy things throughout the month and add them as I go.)

Oh, I almost forgot my favorite part! These FREE advent countdown tags from SimpleAsThatBlog.com. They’re absolutely adorable and Rebecca has done all the work so all we have to do is download, print, and cut. Thank you Rebecca!

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

Assembly is pretty self-explanatory. The treat bags or wrapping paper serve as a decorative front in each pocket. Then the advent gifts are wrapped in the tissue and placed in next. Lastly, the clothespin holds your tag in place. (I added a piece of washi tape to mine – couldn’t resist a red chevron.) And you’re done!

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

Advent Calendar Made From Upcycled Shoe Organizer

I’m really happy with how it turned out. And the best news is both of my girls came home from school today and said, “I love it!”

DIY Painted Mugs That Won’t Wash Away

DIY Painted Mugs That Won't Wash Away | laughingabi.com

You’ve all heard or read how to draw your own designs on a coffee cup then bake it in the oven to make it permanent. And half of you have probably tried it only to see your beautiful masterpiece wash down the drain – literally – even though you followed all the directions, used an oil-based marker, and gently hand washed the darn thing.

Well I have the secret solution just in time for the Christmas gift-making season – these magical glass markers from DecoArt!

DIY Painted Mugs That Won't Wash Away | laughingabi.com

 

I know they don’t look like anything different but I promise they work miracles. I bought mine at Michael’s but you can find them at most craft supply stores or online.

I won’t bore you with a “draw-n-bake” tutorial since they’re all over the internet (this is one of my favorites although I don’t know anything about the markers they use) but I do want to share some tips I discovered when working on these mugs for a client. (My first custom project! Go me!)

DIY Painted Mugs That Won't Wash Away | laughingabi.com

TESTING

First things first. If you’ve been burned on a DIY marker mug before you might be a bit gun-shy to try another. I get it. I was too. I recommend doing a test draw then. Turn your mug upside-down and make a mark on the bottom. I wrote the year. Then bake it and wash it. Once you’re sure it’s really going to be permanent you can get down to serious creative business.

DIY Painted Mugs That Won't Wash Away | laughingabi.com

ERASING

Before you start drawing gather up a few items from around the house. These supplies, along with some warm soapy water for drastic cases, are your “erasers”.

  • rubbing alcohol
  • cotton balls
  • cotton swabs
  • paper towels (I cut mine into little squares so they’re easier to work with.)

Let’s say you’re writing “Merry Christmas Uncle Joe” on you mug and you accidentally end up with “Uncle Joo”. No worries. Simply dip a cotton swab in the rubbing alcohol and carefully wipe away the mistake. It may smear the ink and seem a mess at first but that’s ok. Just keep dipping and wiping until your mistake and any smears or haze are gone. Let it dry, then grab your marker and try again.

You can use the cotton balls and paper towels the same way. It all depends on the size and detail of your mistake.

What if you totally screw up and think it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen? Just go to the sink and scrub your mug with warm soapy water. Voila! You’re back at square one with a new blank slate.

WAITING

So you’ve finished your masterpiece and now you’re itching to pop it in the oven and make it permanent. WAIT! The ink needs to cure for at least eight hours first. Set it aside, go to work, run your errands, drink a few pots of coffee – whatever you need to do – then come back and get your bake on.

BAKING

There are a few baking rules which are all printed on the back of the marker for easy reference.
1. Don’t preheat your oven. Put your piece in first then turn on the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Set your timer for 40 minutes AFTER the oven has come to temperature, not when you put the mug in.
3. Don’t take your mug out when the timer goes off. Instead, turn off the oven and open the door. Let the mug cool as the oven cools.

Again, all this info is on the back of the pen in case you forget. So convenient.

DIY Painted Mugs That Won't Wash Away | laughingabi.com

I hope you decide to give these markers a try. I’m so happy to finally find something that works although I will admit I haven’t tested any pieces in the dishwasher yet. I’m content to wash mine by hand just to be safe. I’m planning to try some plates next then glass canisters. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

My Fall Mantle 2014

I didn’t think I would ever get in the groove but Fall decorating is finally happening at our house!

The name of the game this year is simple and cheap (a recurring theme around here) and the most obvious place to start was the new fireplace.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

I’m proud to report I only spent $6 on this year’s mantle. Everything you see except the cornstalks was in my prop closet (aka the basement bedroom I took over for storing all my pretties). And if I were a patient woman I could have gotten the corn for free from a local farmer but obviously I’m not. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So first let’s talk about my inspiration. Check out this perfectly simple Pallet Wall Art from Allison over at The Golden Sycamore.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

I fell in love with it the minute I pinned it and knew I wanted to recreate the same clean, modern-rustic feel for my mantle. I already had the DIY wood backdrop so it was time to start layering some Fall on top of it.

Hanging wall vases and corn stalks. (The vases were a gift from my cousin but the labels say Home Interiors if you’re looking for a set.)

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

A wreath that’s survived years and years of use and a yellow garland for one more pop of color against the dark wood.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

And letters printed and cut out of cream colored scrapbooking paper.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

That’s it. Super simple. Super cheap. My kind of project.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

Are you decorating for Fall? I feel like I’m the last one to start but the good news is I’m really on a roll now. I have a new Fall chalkboard and an updated bookshelf to share next week. And maybe some window boxes too. Until then I’m raising my Pumpkin Spice Latte to you  – cheers!

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Have you ever been on a garden walk that featured the grounds of only one garden? My friends and I went to one last weekend and it was so amazing I had to share it in this “garden crashers” post.

Before I hit you with the pics I have to mention the gracious home owner, Theresa Flamini, and the charitable work she and her family do. In 2004 the Flamini family decided that instead of purchasing gifts for each other they would pool their resources and purchase gifts for children that were spending the holidays in the hospital. This became a family tradition and over time grew into the creation of a non-profit organization, the Flamini Family Foundation. Through this holiday giving and other annual events, like the Summer Garden Walk, the foundation provides donations to over a dozen area hospitals and all of the Ronald McDonald houses of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Don’t you just love it when people with brains AND money put them together to help others? LOVE it!

So let’s take a walk, shall we? Here’s the end of the driveway where the garden starts.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And this is the beautiful gate you walk through to enter this slice of paradise. Everything after this is in random order because I kind of lost track of all space and time in the real world. It was partly because of the gardens and partly because of the wine. Did I mention there was a wine booth? More on that in a minute.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I could never capture all the details but here are some of my favorites.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I loved the shape of this tree. If anyone knows what it’s called please let me know.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Sometimes I would see something beautiful like this . . .

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

. . .  then look back after we had passed and see it in an entirely different way.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

This is the patio off the side of the house. So big. So beautiful.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And I had to share this whimsical sculpture sniffing the flowers.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

At the back of the garden you follow these stepping stones to an opening that looks like it leaves the property. (Does that path look familiar to anyone? Yep, it’s the same style I used here, but on a much larger scale.)

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

But when you pass through the opening you find this.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

It was here that we decided we should sit and share a bottle of wine. Can you think of a better place? So we backtracked to the wine booth I mentioned earlier and Lisa of Aged 2 Perfection hooked us up with a couple bottles of deliciousness. I won’t admit how long we sat in that gazebo but I expected security to round the corner at any minute.

That was how we ended our day but I can’t finish this post without mentioning an incredible glass artist we met. Her name is Kim Jongsma from First Glass Gardens and she creates garden art from upcycled glassware. Here are a few samples of her work.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Did you spot all the different pieces she puts together? My favorite is the salt shaker in the middle of the last photo. If you’re not into flowers she’s got a huge portfolio of other sculptures to choose from and can even create custom items from your old glassware. You can just see one of her birdbaths in the corner of this shot below. Sorry I didn’t get a better pic.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I was just amazed by her creativity. It’s the perfect mix of upcycling, DIY, and garden art. You can see more of her work here.

So that was my perfect Sunday afternoon. Good friends, creative surroundings, delicious wine, and all in support of a children’s charity. Just doesn’t get much better than that.

DIY Stepping Stone Path

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Have you ever had one of those spaces that says, “Nanner-nanner-boo-boo, you can’t finish me,” every time you pass it? Well this was mine and to make matters worse, it was the first thing I saw when I pulled up to my house each day.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

If it looks familiar you might remember me writing about it here. We’ve battled before – and I lost. So I decided over the long July 4 weekend to pull on my big girl work gloves, pump up the fight music, and kick some grass.

LET’S DO THIS! 

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My first plan was to cover it all with grass. More specifically sod since this is a high-traffic area and delicate grass seed probably wouldn’t survive. Then I thought: high-traffic + new grass + monsoon season in Chicago = deadgrassmudpit. Not the look I was going for.

The next idea was on the opposite end of the spectrum: an all stone path using the leftovers we’ve had sitting on our basketball court for three years.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Functionally it seemed like a good idea but I wasn’t excited about more hardscaping in an area that was already sporting a two-tiered stone patio. Again, not the look I was going for.

So if grass OR stone won’t work then the obvious solution has to be . . . grass AND stone. Stones spaced for walking so there’s no mud pit during the wet season. Grass to soften the edges and make it feel like part of the yard, not the patio.

Boom! I had a plan. Round 1 winner? ME.

Now it was time to get down and dirty. First, picking the stones and laying them out. The only rule I followed was to be sure they allowed for a natural, comfortable stride. After a lot of “practice walking” we were happy with this layout.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Since I was going to plant grass around the stones I needed them to be flush with the ground so my mower could easily roll over top without any extra trimming or edging. That meant digging out and setting each individual stone. This was my tool of choice.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Here’s a quick rundown of my method.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

1. I used my tool to outline the stone so I knew where to dig.
2. I flipped the stone over to get it out of the way but kept it close by so I could work with it for the next steps.
3. Using the same tool, I dug out approximately an inch of soil, depending on the depth of the stone I was setting, and added a couple scoops of paver base for leveling. (We had this leftover from another project but it’s inexpensive if you need to buy a bag or two.)
4. This is the step that got kind of tedious. I put the stone back in place and wiggled, and pushed, and adjusted until it was solid and level. Actually the word level is deceiving. This area of our yard needs to slope downward for proper drainage so I adjusted until it was the grade I needed.

It’s important to tell you that no two stones were the same. On some I needed to add more paver base to one side. On others I needed to dig out more dirt. More than once I dug out way too much soil and had to back-fill. It’s definitely not a precise science so don’t overthink it.

Once that was done I added soil around the edges of the stone. Here’s one almost done. You can see the three I’ve already finished at the top of the pic.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

I’m not gonna lie, it took some time. I had a helper for part of the afternoon. Did you see her toes in the photo above? Here she is making 100% sure there are no spiders in her gloves.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Together we got it done and while I was hot, sweaty, and mosquito-ravaged I really liked the way things were looking. Round 2 winner: ME

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Before we go any further I want to point out that I also took the time to level and set the smaller stones around my flower beds. See them at the top and bottom of the last photo? If you scroll up to the before shot you can see how they looked when I started.

Finally it was time to plant grass, my favorite part. My method is to sprinkle a handful of seed, top it with a handful of good topsoil, and keep it watered. This time I added some starter fertilizer because I had it on hand. Wow, what a difference that made! In just three days I had sprouts popping up.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

In seven days, which is when I usually notice the first sprouts, it looked like this.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

It’s kinda thin around the first few stones but that’s easily solved with a little more seed. I think I’ll be able to mow it next weekend. Is it weird that I’m so excited about that?

I’m calling Round 3 a win.

Unfortunately it’s too soon to call Round 4. I’ll let you know after I mow and get some more grass seed down. Hopefully I won’t be writing about this space again next summer – unless it’s to share the new arbor I’ve been planning.

Do you have a problem area that you can’t seem to conquer? Is it inside or out? What different ideas have you tried?

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations

Last week I shared my finished fireplace and mantel and gave you a sneak peek at my spring mantel decorations. Today I’m showing you how I put them all together.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Before we talk birds and flowers we should revisit the aged wood background that everything is hanging on. I made it HERE for about $20 and I love the texture it adds to the room. It seems to be the perfect backdrop, no matter what season it is.

Now for some flowers. Bright yellow Forsythia leaves scream spring so I hit Michael’s during a 50% off sale and grabbed a handful of “fakeys” and a grapevine wreath. All-together I spent $17.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

This is the part where I admit I totally faked it. I have no idea how you’re supposed to make a wreath. All I did was cut off the sprigs with a pair of pliers, jabbed them into the grapevine, and wrapped some floral wire around it in random spots. Does that count as a tutorial? Maybe? No? Either way, I’m happy with how it turned out.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Oh, and as for those empty mason jars, I have a plan for those. How perfect will THIS be in them? I can’t wait to try it. I’ll be sure to post an update.

The gold cage and birds were the most challenging part of this project but they’re also my favorite things on the mantel. I started with a plain artist’s canvas from the craft store. (I had one on hand but you can pick them up at Michael’s or JoAnn’s.) A coat of primer and two coats of Clark + Kensington Blue Jolt paint and it was ready for a cage.

I wish I could offer a stencil or pattern or something but I found THIS clip art online and just sketched it out one night while my daughter was at swim practice. (Sorry for the fuzzy iphone pic.)

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Once my sketch was done I used a gold paint pen to trace the lines and my favorite gold leaf paint from THIS project to fill in the bigger areas. Voila!

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Up next – birds. Here’s how I made them:
1. I started with THIS clip art and enlarged it on my monitor to the size I wanted.
2. I taped a piece of paper to my screen and oh-so-delicately traced the outline.
3. I cut out the bird and then used it as a template to trace the same shape onto a piece of heavy cardstock. This would ensure it was stable enough to stand up to paint.
4. I cut out the cardstock bird and painted it with the same gold leaf paint I used on the cage.

Obviously I did this twice, making the second bird smaller.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Did you notice how the bigger bird is layered in front of the canvas? I tried to give him some depth by gluing a piece of folded cardstock to his back so it created a tab that sticks out perpendicular to the body. I slid that tab between two of the wooden slats and it created the “flying” bird effect. This might have been Josh’s idea but he can never prove it.

The last element was the easiest. A simple frame, a coat of cheery coral paint, and a scrap of fabric leftover from THIS project.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Add a gnome candle and an an awkwardly empty vase which I promise to fill it as soon as something blooms around here, and you’ve got a mantel all ready for spring. (You’ll see some votive candles standing in for the mason jars in some of these pics.)

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.comI love the bright colors and the look of spring when I walk in the door even though my furnace has been running all day. Sigh.

What are you decorating for spring? Any birds or flowers made their way into your house? Any bright pops of spring color?

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

I’m so excited to share our (almost) finished fireplace with you. We built a super slim-lined mantel and I even got it decorated for spring. Last you saw the space we had installed the tile and it looked like this.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

We considered a lot of different mantel designs and had a lot of colorful discussions about it. Our biggest challenge was actually the surround. If you look at how our fireplace is situated between two windows you’ll notice there isn’t much space for a surround at all, let alone something big or grand. At the same time we both felt like it needed some kind of frame to add depth and dimension. In the end we decided on what we’re calling a wrap-around-mantel. This Pinterest pic was our inspiration. Simple, clean lines, and a little unexpected.

We started with cedar 2x4s, cut them to length, mitered the corners, and used a nail gun to put them together. (Using a Kreg Jig would probably make these joints stronger but we don’t have one yet.) These three pieces formed the wrap-around part.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Next we cut a 1×6 approximately 4″ longer than the top 2×4. We centered it on our new wrap-around so it formed the shelf part of the mantel. Here’s a shot of all the pieces propped in place before we added any trim or paint.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Once we were happy with the basic shape and size we painted everything and started the actual assembly. I chose a deep brown color because I liked the contrast between the stone tiles and the wall color. Here’s Josh (or at least his feet) putting it all together.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Then it was time to hang it on the wall. I want to point out that using super simple materials didn’t make our uneven, unlevel walls any less of a pain to work with. We struggled and struggled to get all these pieces flat against the wall but it just wasn’t happening. It was like a jigsaw puzzle with only three pieces that we still couldn’t put together right.

We used these hanging brackets and after a lot of cussing and adjusting, our new mantle frame was up.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

We added some decorative trim to spiff things up a bit. I would like to add more but Josh disagrees. We’ll see.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

If you noticed the unfinished seams and nail holes you know there’s a list of details I still need to tackle. Looks a little sumthin’ like this:
1. Caulk seams/holes
2. Touch up paint
3. Paint and reattach baseboards on each side
4. Seal tile
5. Decide what to do about gaps between tile and surround

Did you notice #5 on that list? Turns out we didn’t get our edges so straight when we were laying the tile and once the surround/mantel went up we found this.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Gaps! I’m not completely sure what I’m going to do about it but I’m thinking grout like I used here. Any other suggestions or ideas would be welcome. Until then I’ll share some more mantel pics.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.comIt’s so nice to walk in the door and not see this anymore.

fireplace before 1

What indoor updates are you finishing up before the outdoor season is officially here? Or are you already outside digging in the dirt? I’m so jealous.