lifestyle

Cozy Christmas Decor | Bedroom Tour

garland of juniper with red and tan berries and fairy lights hanging over a window with a lace curtain over it

Is it too early to start wishing everyone a Merry Christmas? I don’t know why, but I’m just feeling the Christmas spirit early this year! And by early, I mean the last week of November instead of the first week of December. Growing up, we never put up our Christmas decor before December, and because we always get a real tree, you truly can’t put it up too early or it will be dry and dead by Christmas Day. However, I do now like to put up my other Christmas decor before then. And for some reason, this year I was just itching to pull out my boxes and get my room in holiday mode, so I decorated this week.

top of the bookshelf styled with christmas decor including mini christmas trees and a candle on top of a vintage book

As always, I used pretty much all the same decor, but styled the pieces in different ways to keep things interesting. The only new acquisitions were the adorable mini Christmas trees, which I picked up a few weeks ago from the thrift store for $3.00. (There were also some larger bottle brush trees in the bag, but I gave those to my sister) Honestly, no one ever need buy new Christmas ornaments, trees, tablecloths and tins ever again; I’m sure there are more than enough available at the thrift stores!

I also only used about a 1/3 of the Christmas decor I have, because it would look like a decorating store exploded in my room if I used it all. I only have two storage boxes with decor, but it’s not that big of a room either.

mini christmas trees sitting on the tops of picture frames in a gallery wall

As for those new mini Christmas trees, I arranged a couple on the top of my shoe shelf, but wasn’t sure what to do with the others since they are a different colour and style. Then I realized they fit perfectly on the picture frames in my gallery wall! It’s a subtle detail that makes this wall look so festive.

gallery wall with mini christmas trees interspersed

top of my dresser with a vintage wooden bowl heaped with pinecones and orange slices

Another recent acquisition, though not holiday specific, is this wooden bowl from the thrift store. It was a salad set of 5 pieces and I only wanted one small bowl for another project, but decided to keep them all rather than split off an incomplete set. The bowls were in pretty bad shape; cracked, and in desperate need of an oiling, but for $3.00 for the set, I took a chance. I sanded them smooth, glued and clamped the cracks back together and then oiled them with linseed oil and they look gorgeous now! (I didn’t remember to take a before picture, so you’ll have to trust me!) The large bowl was the perfect place to display some dried orange slices and pinecones on top of my dresser.

antique dresser with a mirror over it. A few books are stacked and on top is a jewelry box and a hat and necklace stand. A wooden bowl with pinecones and dried orange slices is sitting beside it.

I also redecorated the top of my dresser with some of my fashion books instead of a tray. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, but I’m not sure whether this was a smart idea because I’ll have to move everything off if I want to look at my book! But it does look nice in the meantime. And again, this year my woodburned garland found it’s way to the top of my dresser mirror.

woodburned garland hanging on top of an antique dresser mirror

juniper garland with red berries and tan berries and fairy lights over top of a window

Now for the statement piece of the room: the garland over my window! I decided to try a garland across my window this year, rather than doing a bouquet with berries and branches like I’ve done in the past. We have a massive juniper thicket growing at the edge of our treed area; you can gather branches from it every year and never even notice they are gone, so it’s perfect for winter decorating! (I don’t know how I’ll decorate if we move!)

juniper garland with berries hanging over top of a window

Juniper has a fairly long cut life. I’ve had bouquets last 2 months before in a vase, and even when it starts to dry, it just gets lighter in colour and crispy, but doesn’t drop needles. So, I don’t know how well this is going to last, and if it’s going to make it to Christmas Day, but I thought I’d make a garland out of live branches. They are up high so even if they do get dry and crunchy, they’re not going to get mussed around. I think if I just leave them there, and don’t touch them, they should be fine.

juniper and berry garland over top of a window

They did smell very strong and earthy when I first brought them in, and I wasn’t sure about the smell since it’s in my bedroom, but after an hour it dissipated as the branches warmed up.

And I love how the window turned out! The red berries are festive, but not too bright, and the tan berries really give it a nice natural feel. And of course the fairy lights add the perfect sparkly touch (and they make a great night light too!)

evergreen and berry garland with fairy lights over a window, lit up in the evening

garland with fairy lights lit up over top of a window in the evening

For the rest of the room, I added my paper crafted house and tree made out of book pages that I made last year, and some pinecones to my bookshelf.

paper crafted miniature house sitting on top of a stack of antique books

miniature paper crafted house and christmas tree sitting on a shelf with antique books

I also hung up my favourite little winter scene by encaustic artist Donna Hanson on the wall by my closet. I always get so excited to hang this one up in Winter- I love it!

encaustic artwork of a winter snow scene by Donna Hanson

And as a final touch, I hung my mini silver wreath over my gold oval mirror, placed an evergreen bouquet on top of my shelf, and scattered a couple of beeswax candles around. I have been enjoying burning them in the evenings when I read, which just adds such a nice hygge atmosphere.

top of bookshelf styled with christmas decor including a vintage book, miniature trees, beeswax candle and juniper bouquet

silver wreaths hanging over a vintage gold oval mirror

I think we’re going to decorate the rest of the house this week, which I’m looking forward to. We’ve got some renovations going on, so the areas to decorate are fewer than previous years, but it’s still nice to put out a few festive touches despite, or perhaps as an antidote to, the chaos.

Did you get your Christmas decor up early this year, or are you still planning to wait a while? Do you like to try new things each year or stick to a tried and true formula? What is your favourite Christmas decoration?

view of the window side of the bedroom with christmas decor including mini trees in the gallery wall and a garland hanging over the window with a lace curtain under it

An Antique Empire Style Dresser Restoration

The finished antique Coye Furniture Company dresser, painted black with a wooden top. There is a large fashion poster leaning on top of it, with bouquets of baby's breath and a stack of vintage books.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve been working on a furniture refinishing project…and here it is! I thought it was going to be a weekend project, but this antique Empire style dresser ended up needing a lot more work than that. However, after a few twists and turns, I’ve finally finished it, and I absolutely love how it turned out.

So for some background, my uncle gave me this Empire style dresser several years ago. It had been stored in his workshop for a while and, as he was clearing some things out, he decided he wasn’t going to refinish it. He knew that I liked antiques, so he passed it on to me. I didn’t have time to refinish it then, so I put it in the garage and left it for a couple of years…but I finally decided to tackle it this summer!

antique red empire style dresser before restoration

It was in rough shape and desparately in need of some help. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to strip and stain it or paint it, but when I unearthed it from the garage and brought it into the workshop, I discovered that there was more damage than I had remembered.

antique empire dresser, before restoration, drawer and sides

antique empire style dresser, alligatored finish on the drawers and chipped wood

As you can see in these photos, the finish had crazed and “alligatored” over time. This can, apparently, be caused by heat and sunlight (being stored in a shop/garage for several years probably didn’t help that much). The top of the dresser was also extremely warped and cracked. I wasn’t sure if it was salvageable, or if a new top was required. The wood was also chipped along the bottom of the side panels, so the decision whether to paint or stain was decided in favour of painting.

At this point I was contemplating painting only the sides and drawer divider frames black and then leaving the fronts of the drawers stained wood. I’ve seen a few pieces of furniture done this way and it can look really beautiful. However, I wasn’t sure if it was something that I was going to love for a long time, or whether it was going to be one of those trends that would date the piece in about 10 years and I’d get tired of it. I was a bit hesitant to put the time and effort required into a piece that I wasn’t sure would stand the test of time….so I debated this for a long time. (Ask my family- I drove them nuts trying to make this decision!)

But before any of those kinds of decisions were made, the first step was to dismantle and sand the entire piece to get rid of the alligatoring. I unscrewed the top from the dresser, and immediately cracked the wood around one of the screws. This wasn’t off to a good start! When I removed the top, I also found these artifacts tucked up inside, but I can not find much info online about Laco Lamps. This advertisement is apparently an ink blotter, and there is one for sale here from a different store.

vintage laco lamps ink blotter advertisement from rocky mountain house furniture store

I had originally assumed that the dresser was veneer, but as I dismantled it, I was surprised to discover that the drawers were dovetailed and the rounded drawer fronts were solid cherry wood! That was my first clue that this dresser was old. The finish on the dresser was very interesting, as well. I had originally thought that the pattern of the wood was the grain of the wood, but realized that it was actually a design printed onto the dresser, and then stained over the top with red stain in order to make it look like an exotic wood.

After the dresser was apart, I started sanding. And sanding. And sanding. After half an hour with the orbital sander, the finish on the drawers wasn’t even coming off. It was getting dusty and scuffed, but that alligatored texture was not smoothing out.

Thus I switched to Plan B, which was doing a test to see what kind of finish it was: shellac, varnish, lacquer, acrylic… I did a test with alcohol and the finish did start coming off, so I determined that it was shellac. This was interesting, because shellac has not been a commonly used finish for many years; it fell out of favour after the 1920’s as a commercially used product. That was my second clue that this dresser was fairly old.

I spritzed alcohol onto the drawer fronts and wiped them with a rag. Again, after half an hour, some of the red colour was coming off onto the rag, but the finish wasn’t dissolving enough to completely come off. I was beginning to wonder if this was why my uncle had decided he didn’t want to refinish the dresser…

using paint and varnish stripper on the antique empire style dresser outside

So, of course, it was a long weekend and the hardware stores were closed, but we had some paint and varnish stripper from a previous project and my brother had mineral spirits on hand for me to use to clean up. I put on a ventilator and got to work with the stripper. While I was hoping to avoid the use of solvents, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Oh and, I forgot to mention, we had a heat wave as I was trying to do all of this! I got up at 6:30 each morning and went out and worked on the dresser for about 2 hours until the sun got too warm to work in. It took a looooooooot of application and scraping, but I eventually was able to dissolve all of the finish off. (I lost count but I think it was over 10 hours.) However, the red stain colour was soaked into the wood and would require a ton of sanding to bring back down to bare wood. The red stain was a less than lovely colour; I don’t mind cherry wood stains, but this one was a bit too maraschino for my taste.

sanding the antique dresser drawers and top

Thus, at this point, the decision whether to stain or paint the drawer fronts was decided for me by the dresser… and that was to paint the entire dresser, staining only the top. (This piece of furniture had a lot of opinions about how I was going refinish it!) At one point in the stripping/sanding process, I had tossed around the idea of painting the dresser a creamy white, but somehow this dresser just wanted to be black. One of the most important things about refinishing furniture is in going with what will enhance the beauty of the piece. I do sometimes shed a tear when I see people painting beautiful antique pieces without a thought of whether they are improving or degrading the beauty and integrity of the piece. Even though I do love white furniture, the heavy rounded shape of this dresser demanded a dark colour! Fortunately I had some black Country Chic paint on hand from previous projects.

screenshot of my pinterest board featuring black and wooden dressers

I decided to try an antiquing method, watering down the paint slightly, painting sections and then wiping some of the paint off in strategic areas around the edges of the trim, knobs and drawers to mimic the look of a timeworn historical piece. The most important part was in making sure that the wear pattern wasn’t too uniform, so it would appear as though the paint had rubbed off in high use areas. It turned out just as I was hoping for! The maraschino red colour actually looks very pretty when it’s just peeking out under paint, rather than covering the entire piece. (Ps. you can see my inspiration Pinterest board here).

painting the antique dresser black with Country Chic paint and then distressing it, as the paint is wet, with a rag

As for the top, I was able to salvage it. First I sanded it down to bare wood, as much as I could. There were some red patches left behind, but I figured they would blend into the new stain, which had a red undertone anyway.  After sanding, I wet the bottom of the wood with a towel to encourage it to swell and go back into shape, but I didn’t think to clamp it, so it warped again as it dried, even worse than when I had started. Oops! It also caused a lot more of the red dye to bleed out (which I had to eventually sand again…I was really getting tired of sanding that red dye!) So, then I googled how to fix the top, and found a few woodworking tutorials about straightening boards. I then wet the wood and clamped it between boards to encourage it to dry straight. However the clamps weren’t strong enough, so I ended up wetting it for a third and final time, laying it out on the garage floor, covering it with towels so it wouldn’t get scratched and then piling three layers of bricks on top to weight it as it dried. That worked! While there is still a slight bend in the wood, it was enough to be able to attach to the top of the dresser, and I don’t think anything could have gotten that warp out of such old wood. I also didn’t worry about the cracks; I had originally planned to use wood filler, but decided to just leave them as “character”.

staining the wooden top of the antique dresser with the Varathane Mission Oak oil stain

After the top was reattached, I stained it in three coats of “Mission Oak” by Varathane. I wasn’t sure about the resulting colour and wanted to stain it a bit redder and darker, but after buying a stain which ended up being the completely wrong colour, I decided to just leave it as is. And, after a few weeks of living with it, I’ve decided that the colour is just fine.

antique dresser wooden top before staining and after

I oiled the top with Tried and True linseed oil, which is a product I’ve used before and really like. It smells like fish and chips when it’s first applied, but it at least it doesn’t have any chemical dryers, so you can apply it indoors!

waxing the black painted sections of the antique empire dresser

As for the black painted section of the dresser, I waxed it with the Country Chic natural wax, because I’ve never done a piece of furniture that way before, and well … I’m not in love with it. The wax didn’t cure well or dry very hard- it almost has a bit of a tacky feel to it in spots and the dust has stuck into the wax some areas. I don’t know if I didn’t buff it enough or whether something else went wrong? I’m going to leave it for now, but I am planning on getting a buffing pad to attach to a sander and will try going over it with that to see if it will polish it smooth. At worst it might remove some of the wax, but that’s OK. It will just make the piece look even more aged, right? I wish, in hindsight, that I had oiled the painted sections, because the linseed oil cures to a dry finish, which is also quite a historical look. The wax is historical too, I just am not sure if it was the right choice for a black piece of furniture. Black shows everything!

fixing the broken wooden knob by molding a new piece to fill in the section and then painting it to match the other knobs

One of the other fixes that needed to be done was the knobs; one of the small knobs was cracked in half. The bottom had been glued back together, but a piece was missing. I was hoping to be able to buy a new small knob to replace it, but I couldn’t find this shape of knob anywhere. Then, I thought I’d replace all four small knobs with reproduction brass ones from Lee Valley, which would have been nice, however, their store is several hours away and I didn’t want to order online because I needed to match the brass colour of the keyhole hardware. Finally I thought of sculpting a piece of clay to fill in the broken section of the knob. However, when I talked to my brother, who does mini figure models, (and the one who came to my rescue with the mineral spirits!) he said he could mold me a knob to match! Even better! I am a novice at using the material he made the knob out of so my sanding/smoothing abilities on the knob were less than excellent. However, I painted it brown and red to match the colour of the other ones, and then painted it black, and you can’t even tell which knob it is…except for the fact that I just showed you!

closeup detail of the repaired knob made with resin on the antique dresser

Finally, the last step was to line the drawers. The drawers were strong and sturdy, just needing a bit of glue and tightening up, but the some of the insides were damaged and splintered so I decided to line them with wallpaper. I was browsing on Rona and Home Depot to see what was out there, and was envisioning a soft vintage inspired floral, like this, or even something fun and quirky, but softly coloured like this, but as soon as I saw this Art Nouveau paper, I knew it was the one!

top dresser drawer lined with the Crown wallpaper in Flora Art Nouveau pattern

This wallpaper is by Crown and it is the Flora Art Nouveau pattern in Peacock Green. (They also have a Russet colour way available). I love William Morris and Arts and Crafts wallpaper patterns, but they aren’t something that I would ever do on my walls. However, a peek of pattern and colour in a dresser drawer is just perfect. After I got the wallpaper, I learned that it is actually an archive print from 1910, which would explain why it’s got such an authentic Art Nouveau feel! I love seeing at it every time I open a drawer and the colours in the pattern perfectly match the red and black tones of the dresser. I attached it using Mod Podge because I wasn’t sure whether starch or wallpaper paste would stick to the rough wood. The Mod Podge stuck very well, and if the wallpaper ever gets ruined I will just replace it with new wallpaper, so I’m not concerned about potentially ruining the wood with the glue.

coye furniture company imprinted stamp on the back of the dresser

So remember how I said that as I worked on the dresser, I was starting to get the idea that this was a pretty old piece of furniture? Well, there is a stamp on the back that reads “The Coye Furniture Company”. Upon looking into it, learned that the company was founded in 1899 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin by Mr. William Henry Coye who had moved to that town from Grand Rapids. There is very little information about the company, but I did find a couple of print records. One is this “cordial invitation extended to visiting buyers” from the Coye Furniture Co. in this Grand Rapids Furniture Record, Volume 31, Page 114 from 1915. It says that the Coye Furniture Co. will be exhibiting in the Karpen Building in Chicago, although they, sadly, didn’t run any other ads in the catalogue. I would have loved to see what furniture pieces they were showing! Maybe they were showcasing this model?

That’s pretty much all I could discover about the company until 1916. In that year, another furniture factory owned by the Joerns Furniture Company located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin was destroyed in a fire. The Joerns company had been founded by the three Joerns brothers in 1889. After the fire, they purchased the Coye Furniture Company factory in Stevens Point and began operating it as part of their furniture manufacturing company. Any mention of Coye disappears after that sale, while the Joerns company is still in operation today (Although they’ve renamed, and instead of residential pieces, they now make hospital and healthcare furniture.)

Antique black and wooden dresser with a fashion poster and vases and books on top of it. The sunlight is shining onto it casting shadows

So, while I don’t have hard proof, this information, coupled with the fact that the drawers were solid dovetailed wood, and the piece was finished with shellac makes me think that this piece dates from before that 1916 transfer of ownership! I don’t think any pieces made after the company sold would be marked with the old Coye company name, although I could be wrong. There also was that Laco Lamps advertisement, which I thought dated later, but that eBay listing has it placed between 1910-1915 although I couldn’t find any other information as to whether that’s an accurate date or not. When I first got this dresser, I had assumed it dated from the 1940’s or later, but finding out that it is over a hundred years old makes me happy to think that I “rescued” it and restored it back to it’s former beauty, albeit with a different look. And, it’s also so perfect that the wallpaper pattern I chose is from the same time period. How serendipitous!

Details of the antique dresser: a brass keyhole and the curved wooden knobs and front detail

I don’t have a permanent spot for it yet. Because it’s an Empire style dresser, it is very big, and very heavy measuring 46″ wide and 22″ deep. It doesn’t fit in my bedroom, so I’ll have to squeeze a spot somewhere else in the house. I’m using it to store linens, silverware and decor in it; the deep drawers hold so much! I also forgot to mention that there is a matching mirror, but the structure that held it is missing. I didn’t refinish the mirror since I’m planning on using the dresser as a buffet, but maybe I will fix it one day.

I can’t say that I really enjoyed every step of this furniture refinishing process, it was a bit of an unexpected journey, but I do love saving and repairing things, and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

Have you ever started a project only to discover it was going to be way more work than you first thought? Or that you had to change your original plans as you went along? Do you know any other information about the Coye Furniture Co.? 

Restored antique dresser painted black and with a stained wooden top. Made by the Coye Furniture Company

The wooden painted knobs of the antique empire style dresser.

Antique black dresser sitting against a white wall. There is a black and white fashion poster leaning on top of the dresser and there is an arrangement of vases with baby's breath flowers and vintage books on one end.

A Pretty And Practical Craft Room Tour

mugs with knitting needles, crochet hooks and paintbrushes sitting on a wooden shelf

Our new sewing room/ studio has been “in progress” for about 9 months, but when the last piece of shelf trim was attached last week, it was finally done. I am so excited to share a tour of this creative space! After many years of sewing at a desk in the living room or creating art in the corner of my bedroom, it is so nice to have a dedicated “studio” room. Crafting is a messy business, and while I do love a creative mess, I don’t love it so much in the living room. It is nice to now have a room that houses not only the desks and supplies but the mess as well…and a door to close on that mess. This room is my former bedroom and though I miss having that wallpaper, it wasn’t the best bedroom because it is over the boiler room. When my sister got married last year, I moved into her bedroom, and we decided to turn this one into a studio and sewing room. (And, yay, I still get to enjoy the wallpaper!) We also tried to make it both a pretty and practical craft room; we needed storage, but also wanted to have a space to decorate.

This room is also a bit of a catch all for other things… donations waiting to brought to the thrift store, chairs without a home, the ironing board… I moved most of that transient stuff out for the pictures, and tidied up, but other than that, this is a fairly realistic representation of what the room looks like most days. 

tiny watercolour painting by Rosemary Piper in a white frame

As you enter the room, the first thing you see is this lovely painting I bought in the Yukon many years ago, by artist Rosemary Piper. I love her tiny watercolours, and that is where I got the idea to do some of my own tiny pieces.

full craft room with sewing desk, wall mounted shelves above and a shelf unit beside the desk housing sewing supplies and notions

This room is 9′ x 11′ with a closet. On one side of the room are my two desks and across from them is the shared sewing desk. As you enter the room, the closet is to the right of the door. Originally it had a basic shelf and rod, with bifold doors. The shelf was in bad condition, so my dad built new shelves with a small section of rod to hold “in progress” sewing projects. We also removed the doors to open up the useable space.

closet with built in shelves to hold fabric and craft supplies

The shelves are 12″ tall and 42″ wide, and they perfectly hold all of our fabric, foam, leather, extra sewing machine, projects in progress and craft books. I’ve got the fabric sorted into sections based either by fibre content and purpose, or by who owns it. The baskets hold slippery fabrics and smaller scraps that don’t fold well into stacks. My mom and sister each have their own sections of fabric and my personal stash is housed in the basket on the bottom shelf and a stack on the second shelf. The white boxes on the floor hold my seasonal decorating supplies, the rubbermaid bin houses wool sweaters for felting projects (such as these and these) and the basket of fabric on top holds old sheets for use as fitting muslins.

shelf unit painted black with milk paint holding patterns and sewing books. A dress form stands beside it

To the left of the closet there is this little area which perfectly houses a hook to hang painting aprons on, a giant roll of Kraft paper we use for patterns and wrapping paper, my dress form and a shelving unit. My parents bought this shelf to use as linen cupboard in a bathroom in a past house, but never ended up using it because we moved. Now 15 years later we finally have a spot for it, so my mom and I painted it with milk paint and finished it with linseed oil. The reason we chose milk paint is because it soaks into the wood for a very durable finish that won’t scrape off.

On the shelves we have two boxes of patterns, sewing and crafting books, stationery and my printer. In the bottom cupboard are miscellaneous crafting supplies such as hot glue, raffia, spray paint and batting. On the top of the shelf is my sister’s basket of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects).

framed 1950's dress pattern and dress form with vintage ribbon and lace pinned onto it

The dress form isn’t my size, but it has come in handy in the past, nevertheless. I got it years ago from a lady in my church and I now use it as a little display area. I’ve got some pretty vintage trims and a collar pinned onto it and I also hung my new bodice block on the side so it doesn’t get crumpled. The pattern hanging above is one that my Gramma sewed in the 1950’s to wear to her sister’s wedding. I love the tiered skirt paired with the shirtwaist top!

wooden wall mounted shelves with pegs. Baskets, vintage sewing supplies and framed patterns fill the shelves

Now to get to the wall shelves; my favourite element in this room! We put some thought into this area because we wanted it to be functional for storage, but also to have space to display our vintage sewing notions, because if they weren’t going to be displayed in this room, there was nowhere else for them to go. I liked the idea of having shelves with wooden brackets, rather than metal ones, and incorporating some pegs to hold things; this is a workspace after all.

wooden pegs holding vintage scissors and spools

My mom and I found a few pictures of shelves we liked and then my dad built these for us. (I stained them with the colour “Provincial” by Varathane, by the way). The shelves are 5′ long, 9 3/4″ deep and hung with 16″ between them. The baskets hold lace and ribbons wound onto cards, the green box holds serger thread and then the rest of the space holds our collection of vintage sewing notions and books.

mini vintage hand held sewing machine and a framed 1960's dress pattern

This little portable sewing machine is hilarious, isn’t it? I’ve never used it…I wonder how well it would work? The two framed 1940’s and 1960’s patterns are from an antique market.

vintage sewing pincushion that looks like a lamp, and a glass apothecary jar filled with vintage wooden spools of thread

I’ve also got my collection of wooden spools in an apothecary jar- I’ve been wanting to do this for years! And, this was my Great Grandmother’s pin cushion, shaped like a little lamp, isn’t it sweet?

thread spool organizer made out of nails and a whitewashed wooden board with thread organized by colour

I skipped over the new thread holder in my excitement to share the shelves, but my dad also built us a new thread organizer! I took all of the nails out of my old one and whitewashed a wooden board, and then he spaced the nails wider apart and used a jig to hammer them in at an even angle. It holds 84 spools, and fits perfectly in this spot beside the shelves.

For the sewing desk we have my parents’ old IKEA desk and… it is very orange. It’s got a strange textured veneer, but it is height adjustable and it was free. I would like to eventually invest in a different top; I was thinking of a wooden countertop or something like that since I like to share projects here on the blog and the orange colour is not quite my style! However, it is perfectly functional for now, and I do really like the length of it: 6′ 7″.

serger and sewing machine on top of sewing desk

The most important thing was to be able to have the serger and sewing machine both out on the top of the desk to easily switch between them as we are working on projects. There is enough leg room to slide your chair in whichever direction you need, and there is plenty of room on the left side of the desk for spreading out your project for working on details, pinning, or even cutting small patterns out. (For most projects, we still cut out fabric on the dining room table.)

ikea alex drawer unit underneath the desk for holding sewing supplies

Finally, the thing that made the biggest impact for the sewing space was biting the bullet and buying the Alex cabinet from IKEA. I looked for ages for a second hand one, but no one was selling this short and wide version…I guess everybody was happy with their purchase? My sister bought one of these years ago for her craft supplies and I’ve been jealous ever since because the shallow drawers are perfect for crafting and sewing supplies.

Is it cheaply made out of MDF and quite expensive considering the materials? (Wow, I just realized it’s gone up in price since I got it too!)

Yes.

Would I prefer a beautiful vintage wooden apothecary or drafting drawer unit?

Yes.

Am I still happy I bought this one?

Absolutely!

top drawer of the ikea alex drawer full of sewing supplies

It holds almost all of our sewing notions including pins, tailors chalk, bobbins, sewing tools, sewing machine accessories, zippers, buttons and snaps, buckles, my mom’s leather beading supplies, boning, elastic, sleeve board, pressing supplies, tracing paper, hem marker… and I’m sure we could even fit in more than this. The only downside to the unit is that the drawer stops prevent the drawers from opening fully, so you have to move the items in the front to access ones in the back, but we just put infrequently used items in the back, and it works fine. I do really love this cabinet (although, if you are a woodworker, I would say to build a beautiful wooden one yourself instead!)

wooden schoolteacher style art desk sits beside a window and wall shelves are hung above holding boxes and baskets of supplies

Now on to the other side of the room; my art space. My parents gave me this schoolteacher desk several years ago and, though it is definitely a refinishing project, I am using it as-is in the meantime. (I’d like to stain it a rich, dark brown one day.) Beside the desk I have a bin of wrapping papers and a vintage basket that houses fabric scraps and my sewing UFO’s and fabric scraps.

schoolteacher desk drawer open showing pens, pencils and office supplies

I love the large, deep work top and the huge amount of concealed storage this desk has. I keep all of my supplies such as scissors, hole punches, beads, fabric for flowers, rubber stamps, ribbon and lace, paper cutter, pencils and pens, watercolour paints, tissue paper and wrapping supplies, 8×10 mats, stationery and computer accessories in the drawers.

magnet board with papers and pictures hung on it

I hung a metal strip above the desk to use as a bulletin board for pretty “inspiration” things, as well as notes and patterns I’m working on etc. I like my desk placed here in the room because of the natural light from the window. The window also means I get to have my Marble Queen Pothos in here! On top of the desk I keep a tray of frequently used items on the corner of the desk, a basket for project’s I’m currently working on, and my computer. I usually have tons of other things piled on top, but I’m working on finding homes for everything.

a pothos plant on a shelf and a tray of art supplies sitting on top of the desk

I hung shelves above this desk as well, which is a great storage solution for all of my supplies; I’ve never had wall mounted shelves before, and I love them!  The shelves are 5′ long and 11 3/4″ deep. I used pine shelf boards, sealed them with linseed oil and used simple L brackets I already had (painted white to minimize their appearance). After I saw how nicely my dad built the other shelves in the room, I wish I had stained mine and made them a bit nicer too…oh well these can be the “practical” and the others the “pretty”!

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in boxes and baskets

On the top shelf is all of my stock from my shop along with my camera bag and accessories. I hung one half shelf so I could fit taller items on the left side and shorter boxes on the right.

wall mounted shelves holding art supplies in a vintage train case and paper boxes and a plant trailing off the end of one shelf

The orange train case on the half shelf holds my tools and the boxes house ephemera, vintage postage stamps, paper scraps and stickers. Miscellaneous paint and glues all fit beside the boxes and then paper, boards, canvases and art books fill in the middle section.

ikea orfjall desk chair in grey and wall shelves holding paper, books and a sewing basket

Though I originally I wanted to have a bit of a display area at the end of the left side of the shelf, which is why that painting is leaning in behind, I did end up putting my sewing basket on the end because I just have too many supplies for the length of shelf. Maybe if one day I use up all of my supplies and the stash decreases, then I will be able to have more decorative space! (But I doubt that will ever happen, haha)

I use my IKEA desk chair interchangeably between all of the spaces, and am still searching for the perfect fabric to either reupholster or slipcover it with. I’d love to find some vintage fabric, so I keep my eye out when thrifting, but haven’t found the right thing yet.

work from home desk with a vintage window above it with a cotton wreath hanging on top

Finally, right beside the door, is my comparatively unexciting work-from-home desk. I made this skinny desk with metal IKEA legs and it works well because it can sit close to the door in this room without impeding the traffic flow. I also hung my vintage turquoise window above the desk with a grapevine wreath over top. I like to change the stems on the wreath to reflect each season- I can’t believe that soon it will be time for acorns and fall berries!

And now that we’ve made it back to the door, that means the tour of our new craft room/ sewing room/ creative space is over. I am so happy with how this room turned out and I spend so much time in here now! It’s an enjoyable room to be in, and I love that I can come in here and work on things and leave them out without having to put everything away in time to use the dining table for supper. While having a separate crafting room is not a necessity for creativity, it was a treat to be able to organize this room specifically with our hobbies in mind. And I love that we were able to make some space to decorate and display our vintage collection, making this both a pretty and practical craft room!

Do you have a dedicated creative space? What are your best storage solutions for craft areas? 

11 Tips for A Clutter Free Space (But Not Getting Rid of Everything!)

bouquet of parsley in a blue and white ceramic pitcher sitting on an antique dresser with a beadboard wall in the background

That was an unexpected absence from the blog, but I have been keeping busy elsewhere. Well, sort of. We had a heat wave, so in the moments between melting and sitting in front of my fan, I went on a decluttering rampage. I started getting interested in minimalism in 2019, and have gotten rid of a LOT of stuff over the past few years. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist quite yet, but I am aiming for a clutter free space. As someone who enjoys collecting old things, whether it’s clothing, furniture, or dishes (I have a weakness for pretty vintage pieces!) I don’t think I’ve quite reached that “sweet spot” yet, but I am definitely getting closer to my goal.

This last decluttering whirlwind was sparked by (and “sparked joy” by!) reading and watching some books and blogs and videos. I’ve been decluttering a few items here and there, and going through my things a little bit at a time. I’ve read quite a bit of minimalism content over the past few years, so I wanted to share 11 of my favourite tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that have helped me to let go of my excess, and have a more clutter free space, in case these might help you too.

First, though, I wanted to quickly mention the difference between Minimalism as an Aesthetic and Minimalism as a Lifestyle. People often get these confused with each other, and because they don’t like blank white walls and sleek, low-slung furniture, they think that can’t be minimalists. However, Minimalism was originally an art movement that came out of the 1960’s featuring simple square and rectangular shapes. It came to be referred to as Minimalism because it was made of a minimal number of colours, textures and shapes, unlike the art that came before it.

As with most things, Art reflects culture and while the term Minimalism was coined to reflect this specific art movement, it had been present in the world of Design since the 1920’s. Much like how the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800’s was a reaction against the Victorian era’s excessive ornamentation, the Minimalism design movement was characterized by those same open spaces, quality pieces and thoughtfulness of design… just in a slightly more modern way. The Minimalist movement took the “paring back” even further than the Arts and Crafts movement did; the function of an item became the form, and the beauty of an item was found in its simplicity.

Minimalism as a lifestyle takes it’s name from these movements, and reflects the idea of removing the excess from your space, paring back to the minimum amount of items needed and finding the beauty in the simplicity of your lifestyle. (For more info, this is a great article)

gallery wall of vintage pictures and mirrors with an amber glass vase with a dried flower arrangement in it

While I do admire minimalist design, with white open spaces and graceful modern furniture, that is not my personal decorating style at all! When it comes to decorating my space, I love collecting beautiful antique and vintage pieces, filling my walls with galleries of artwork, and I can never pass up pretty blue and white ceramics. Although I do love the blank feature wall in my bedroom and like to keep many of my surfaces bare, I also really love ornamentation. What I am trying to achieve is a minimalist approach to the belongings that I own and bring into my home. This means being choosy with the pieces I have and not collecting more items than my space can hold in order to avoid those dreaded piles of clutter! I want my home to be full of the items I enjoy, without the extra things that just clutter it up.

gratitude journal open with a black pen resting on top

1. Practicing Gratitude

I’ve been reflecting on how blessed I am to be in a position where I am struggling with too much, rather than too little. I have been making sure to thank God for those blessings, both as I declutter and by keeping a gratitude journal. As I declutter, I want to make sure that I have a good perspective of my belongings, both in thankfulness for what God has given me… and also in remembering that everything I “own” is His anyways!

2. Blessing Others

And on that note, as I consider items to part with, I try to think of someone I know who could be blessed by that item. For example, we’ve been able to give toys, craft supplies and children’s books to young families in my church. I’ve also been able to pass on duplicate copies of my Agatha Christie books to friends who enjoy reading mysteries, and teacups and dishes to ladies in my church who enjoy hosting. When you can think of someone else who would be able to use and enjoy something you don’t need anymore, it makes it so much easier, and even fun, to part with it. It’s much better for someone else to be able to use something right now, than keeping it in storage indefinitely.

vintage blue and white dishes sitting on top of a vintage dresser

3. Picturing the End Goal

Perhaps I should have mentioned first the most helpful tip, from Marie Kondo: visualize what you want your ideal life to look like. This does not mean what your fantasy life would be like, but what you would realistically like to achieve….and what is holding you back? One way I put this into action was when I realized that, while I love to collect pretty vintage dishes, I actually want to be able to display them all in a china cabinet to enjoy them even when not in use. I don’t want to have to dig through boxes or climb precariously to the top shelf of the kitchen to pull down teacups and cake platters. I also don’t want to have a wide variety of colours in my china cabinet; I like a palette of white, blue, green and glass. This made it so much easier for me to decide which pieces to keep: if they won’t fit in the china cabinet, and they aren’t in the colour palette, then I am OK with parting with them because they don’t fit my vision.

4. Be Realistic

Be realistic about what your lifestyle is like. If you don’t enjoy dry cleaning or hand washing your clothes, then only keep machine washable pieces in your wardrobe. If you don’t like hosting people at your house, but would rather go out to socialize, then pare down your serving ware to only what you need for your family. For me, I love high heels, but my feet do not. I’ve never been able to wear high heels to work or long periods like that, but now I struggle to wear them even for a few hours. I’m not quite ready to get rid of them all, but I have started reducing my shoe collection to include only flats that can fit my orthotics, and lower heeled shoes that I can wear for a few hours to church without causing my feet to ache for days. While I love tall heeled shoes, they don’t fit my lifestyle anymore, so there’s no point in keeping them and feeling sad that I can’t wear them.

clothing hanging on vintage wooden hangers in the closet

5. Keeping Rather than Getting Rid Of

I like this quote by William Morris (one of the founders of the aforementioned Arts and Crafts movement): “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Or put another way, by Marie Kondo, keep what “Sparks Joy”. I like this tactic because it focuses on choosing what to keep rather than what to get rid of, and it places an emphasis on your personal feelings towards an item, rather than just what is practical. I used this question when curating my closet; choosing which items to keep by how they make me feel when I wear them. I wrote more in depth about that in this post series here. I have some fancy evening dresses that I will probably never wear again, but they are so pretty and they make me happy. Even though they aren’t useful, they definitely spark joy, so they were an obvious keeper.  On the other hand, my basic black t-shirts are nothing exciting to look at, but I wear them at home every day because I love how comfortable and neutral they are. I know them to be useful, so I kept them. And I suppose they “spark joy” too, because they clothe me! I have removed a lot of items from my closet over the past few years: things I never wore because they didn’t fit quite right, or I never felt confident in because of ___ reason or because they didn’t coordinate with anything else in my closet (but I didn’t want to buy items to go with them). My every day wardrobe still has some empty spots, but I wear almost all of the pieces on a regular basis.

6. Choosing Your Favourites

Once you’ve decluttered the easy stuff, but need to do more, then it’s time to start looking at items that made their way through the first round. I ask myself “If I could only keep 5 of my ____, which ones would they be?” This forces you to prioritize your favourites of a collection, and decide whether you actually want to keep all of them. At one point I had close to 30 houseplants, and while I did like them, I discovered that I don’t actually want to have a house full of plants; I just want to have a few for each room. When I started picking out my favourites, I chose my purple shamrock, Marble Queen pothos, snake plant, English ivy and air plants. Further down that list were my Wandering Jew and Umbrella tree…in fact they were so far down that list I decided to get rid of them altogether. (I even sold one, which was nice!)) I still have more than five houseplants, at last count 17, but that’s OK. The goal wasn’t to get down to a certain number, but to clear some space while making sure I enjoy each of the plants I do have.

a kraft paper shopping bag with clothes folded inside

7. Using an Outbox

I was never drowning under clutter, so if you’re needing to move out a lot of stuff quickly, then this tip might not be for you. Sometimes I immediately know when it’s time to declutter something, but not always. I don’t want to make snap decisions and then regret them later so I take my time with items I am on the fence about. Oftentimes I will see something and think, “I should get rid of that”, but then immediately think of a reason why I shouldn’t. If I either keep that thought in the back of my mind, or physically place that item in an outbox (or bag) for several days or weeks, then I think more objectively about it and most of the time will decide to part with it. The outbox works really well for breaking an emotional hold on an item: do you have a reason to take it out of the box, or are you OK with passing it on because you realize you don’t need it as much as you think? I do this with sentimental items and gifts, because I tend to keep gifts because they remind me of the giver. However, if I never use something, it’s not serving any purpose in my life except guilt. It was very helpful to realize that the purpose and value of a gift is in the giving. Once it’s been given and received, it has served it’s main purpose, so if it’s not serving any other purpose for you, then it’s OK to put it in the outbox and eventually pass it on to someone else who could use it.

white ikea expedit bookshelf arranged with books by colour

8. Guidelines for Books

As a bibliophile, I have my own set of rules when it comes to books. I find that many minimalists either don’t talk much about books or just say if you haven’t read it yet or aren’t going to re-read it you should get rid of it. I love books, so those guidelines don’t work for me. Here’s how I decide what to keep on my shelf:

  • First, I stop the influx of books by using the library. I read about 40 to 50 books each year, so that is a lot of books coming in! I automatically check to see if I can get any book I’m interested in from my library through an inter-library loan. So far this year I have saved $471.13!!! (They print the total on my receipt each visit). Not only does the library save me money, but shelf space as well. If I borrow a book from the library, and enjoy it so much that I’d like to own it, such as reference, fashion or decorating books then I’ll buy it (or ask for it as a gift) and add it to my personal library.
  • I only ever buy books that I haven’t read yet if I get them at a thrift store, or if I can’t get them from the library.
  • If I have a book I haven’t read yet, but am still interested in reading, I will keep it. Many minimalists recommend decluttering books you haven’t read yet, but I sometimes have books for several years before I finally get around to reading them (so many books, so little time!) Any books that I no longer find intriguing though, I will definitely remove… to make space for new ones, of course!
  • I keep almost all of my Classics, at least the ones that I enjoyed reading and which hold a bit of nostalgia, even if I’m not sure I will read them again. I like to keep them because they seem like good friends. I also like to listen to audio books of Dickens, but one time the disc was scratched so I was glad to have a hard copy of the book so I could finish the book. (It was 1:00 am and I was desperate to find out the ending of A Tale of Two Cities!)
  • I label my books with bookplates or with a “This Book Belongs To” stamp. I’ve discovered that if I don’t want to take the time to put my name in a book because I’m not sure if I will get rid of it someday then it probably means I can declutter it now. (Although I could always go the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society route and perhaps meet someone new because my name is written in the front of a book…)
  • I have an IKEA Expedit sixteen cube shelf to hold my books. It’s a nice large size to hold a lot of books, but that also means that if there are more books than can fit on the shelf, it’s time to see whether I need to weed some out. (And yes, I do organize by colour because I not only find that more “visually pleasing”, but it is actually easier for me to find my books that way!)

top of a messy desk with books, a laptop a basket and sewing supplies

9. Respecting the Amount of Space You Have

A big part of living clutter free is deciding where to store the items you keep. Many professional organizers and minimalists suggest that you should start to figure out organization and storage only after you’ve finished decluttering. This makes sense, because if you start organizing part way through, then you’ll either end up keeping way more than you need, or you’ll run out of space for your stuff and have to go back and declutter all over again. Instead of wishing for more space, I want to instead keep only as much as can comfortably fit. For my crafting area, if something does not easily fit in my desk or shelves, then I have to either get rid of it or remove something else to make space. Having a finite area to keep projects has helped me to be realistic about how many supplies I want to keep, and I go through them regularly. It’s hard as a creative person, because I can come up with all sorts of project ideas, but I’m realizing that just because I could start a new hobby, doesn’t mean I have to (or maybe even want to), and having a clean and organized desk is more important to me. I want to be able to walk into the craft room and be excited to start a project, not have to clear away piles of stuff before I can even start. I haven’t achieved this yet, as evidenced by the top of my desk this morning, but I’m getting closer!

stack of white storage boxes

10. Beware of Bins

Don’t store things, other than off-season items, in storage bins because it is way too easy to accumulate stuff: as long as there is room in the bin, you keep adding and because you have to unpack the boxes to see what is inside them, you can end up with duplicates. Also, because they aren’t usually easy to access, you won’t use the items inside regularly, so what’s the point of having them? Even though you can get nice, attractive looking storage boxes, that still doesn’t solve these problems. I am living with storage boxes at the moment, which I would like to find other solutions for, and a perfect example of this accidental accumulation is a set of luncheon/snack dishes I have. I’ve been collecting them for the past 10 years, but have never had a place to display them. I would find a few cups at one thrift store and a few plates at another and I just kept putting them into a storage bin. I knew that some of the cups were foggy and chipped, so when I picked up some more cups a few months ago I decided it was the time to go through the bin, pair up the cups and plates to make a complete set and get rid of the ones that weren’t in good condition. I thought I had about 15 or 20 pairs, but when I opened the bin I discovered that I had over 30 pairs (64 pieces)! I had no idea I had accumulated that many. I got rid of over half of the dishes in that box, keeping only 16 pairs for myself, because I can never imagine hosting more than that number of guests at once. (And that gives me a few extra in case of breakage).

11. Selling Makes it Easier

My final tip is that selling items can make it easier to part with them. While many people advocate for cutting your losses and getting items out of your space as quickly as possible, I think that if something is valuable or in good condition, then it’s worth it to try and sell it. Sometimes it can be hard to declutter items that you paid good money for- not only does it seem like a failure but, even though the money is already gone, it also seems like it’s setting you back financially.  For me, it was worth the time and effort in order to recoup some money, especially since I was replacing some of the items in my closet that didn’t “spark joy” with new ones that did. I was able to set that money aside for my wardrobe and didn’t have to spend any extra money on clothes that year. Selling through Poshmark also made it easier for me to part with a lot of my vintage clothing- especially my hats- because, even though I didn’t want to keep them all, I didn’t have anyone to give them to, and I didn’t want to send them to the thrift store where I knew they’d be mistreated and perhaps damaged. Selling these very niche items online was a win-win situation: people who like vintage hats got some fabulous new pieces, and I cleared out more space in my closet!

clothing and hats stacked and folded on a table ready to sell to create a more clutter free home

Well, there are my tips for how to adapt minimalism to suit yourself and to live a more clutter free lifestyle. At the end of the day, I want to have the “just right” number of possessions. I don’t think I’ve reached that yet, but I’m getting close. Some people may look at my space and think that I have way too much, and others may think I have way too little, but the best thing about minimalism is that each person gets to decide what it looks like for their lifestyle. As long as you’re not overwhelmed and surrounded by clutter and when you walk into your space your first thought isn’t “there are so many piles” but rather enjoyment of what you have, then that seems to be the “sweet spot” to me!

What are your favourite decluttering and minimalism tips and what ways do you create a clutter free space for yourself? Do you read or follow any other Minimalist accounts or books? 

Ps. Here are some of the other resources I’ve been reading and enjoying lately:

-Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

-Marissa of A to Zen Life blog and Youtube channel

-Miquillyn Smith’s book Welcome Home (I also got Cozy Minimalist Home from the library, but haven’t read it yet)

-The Minimal Mom Youtube Channel 

Reading the minimalism books Welcome Home and Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith in order to get inspiration to create my own clutter free space

A One Day Bouquet

lilac bouquet in a tiny bottle sitting on a windowsill with a lace curtain

Lilacs are one of those flowers that are best enjoyed outside on the hedge…but I just can’t resist cutting a bouquet to bring inside! Their large, bouncy blooms are perfect for creating wild, abundant bouquets.

light purple lilac blooms covering a hedge

If you cut lilacs and either smash the stems or cut them vertically, they are supposed to last longer, but I didn’t have much luck getting these to last more than a day. But, even if the blooms only last a day or two, it’s still worth it to enjoy their beautiful scent wafting through the house.

dark purple lilac blooms covering a hedge

And apparently the conditions were perfect this year for lilacs, because we got two full weeks of lovely, scented blooms to enjoy. And when the first bouquet wilted, I just went and cut another!

light purple lilac blooms framing an vine covered roof in the background

hedge row covered in light and dark purple lilac blooms

close up of a dark purple lilac bloom

Do you have lilac bushes, or access to some? Have you had any luck getting lilac bouquets to last longer?

lilac bouquet sitting on top of a bookshelf with a vintage mirror behind reflecting the blooms

bouquet of lilacs sitting on a bookshelf in front of a wall covered in vintage pictures

bouquet of lilacs sitting on top of an antique dresser with a mirror

lilac bouquet sitting on top of a dresser with beadboard in the background

lilac bouquet sitting on a dresser with a vintage hand mirror reflecting the blooms