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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Living Things

I recently came across these little plants at a local grocery store, of all places! The best part? They were a dollar a piece. Hard to beat that.

My mom snatched a whole box of white Ikea pots at a yard sale (I can thank her for my addiction) and gave them to me.  Now there's a nice bit of greenery throughout my house.

If you're worried about keeping things alive, try hardy succulent plants. They require little care and almost prefer to be left alone. Also, small plants like these work well in containers you likely have around the house. An over sized mug, dollar store bowls or an old teapot are all candidates.
Friday, August 27, 2010

Home Office

The paint is drying on the walls, my dining room has turned into a wood shop and I'm swinging back and forth between fabrics for window treatments. 

Until now this second floor room was an office-storage-guest-room, but the piles of stuff were getting out of hand. It featured a seldom used bed, a bulky hand-me-down desk and just enough clutter to drive us crazy.

Our goal is to create an efficient, organized space for Cam and me to use our computers, take care of household finances, paperwork and correspondence. In addition, I crave an environment that will encourage creativity on a daily basis for Swoon! Interiors. Everything must have its place, yet my greatest need is a large area to play with samples, paint swatches, fabric and other design paraphernalia.

The drying paint is a soft neutral, Amazing Grey by Sherwin Williams, and offers a blank slate to which I will add brighter colors with curtains, a rug and fun accessories.  Here’s an inspiration board to let you know where we’re headed.

Office Inspiration Board
I clipped this photo of a vignette by Designer Lindsey Harper because it’s a great combination of the blue (I'll likely learn towards turquoise), yellow and pink accents I like. It’s a fun yet classy style, wouldn't you say?

I shouldn't really complain about the wood shop in the dining room or the continual sweeping of sawdust.  In exchange for the mess, I’ll have two great tables similar to the ones in the picture. Being both budget-conscious and resourceful, Cam put a few leftover 2x4's through the planer and built the bases, then topped them with plywood. With a few coats of glossy white lacquer, they'll be ready to go.

I have a thing for chairs, a bit of an obsession you could say, especially the classic designs. You'll hear more about that another day, but I will tell you about the original fiberglass Eames chair that I purchased from a yard sale for around $20.00! And the fiberglass knock off that Cam's Grandpa handed down to me.  They both need some cleaning, and I dream of switching the bases to the Eiffel legs. Either way, I'm excited to have a home for them.

Because I love fabric almost as much as I love chairs, I’m “going for” a bright and bold chevron print. I concede it’s trendy, but I love it and believe the trend will stay long-term – at least at my house. These are my current go-to sites for designer fabric at discount prices:,

One way to create cohesiveness in a room is to use a repeating element. Here, the X pattern found on the desk legs, bookcase sides and even the rug make them relate to each other. Applying this when choosing furniture creates interest, avoids the predictability of matching sets, and causes the eye to move around the room.

Finally, I've been scouring yard sales, second hand stores and clearance racks for items to pull the colors in the room together. These are the personal touches that make every room livable and unique.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Just in case there are some who still think wallpaper is dated, you should visit Graham and Brown. 

They're having a giveaway and I thought I would pass it along to you. 
 I personally love Amy Butler, I have her sewing book and am in love with her fabric.  I think her new line of wallpaper would work in almost any home!

Click here for their giveaway details.

Wallpaper used to make me leery. Maybe because the house I grew up in was covered in dusty rose and hunter green flowered wallpaper-with a few sponge painted walls! Well they have definitely put a spin on wallpaper and I love the results. So much so I'm planning to use it somewhere in our house!

What do you think,would you use it in your home?

Upholstered Chair Tutorial

Here is the promised step by step for the upholstered chair!
I hope it is easy to follow and inspires you to try it.

My first piece of advice is to start out with something small.  A chair or a bench that is inexpensive and simple would work well for this.  Also, visit your library or book store and pick up an upholstery book which will typically cover various styles of furniture and may provide specific help for your project.

Getting started....
1. Take apart upholstery.
Remove the cushions, then the trim (cording, nailhead or fringe), and then the chair backing. There will be a few layers of fabric, backing and batting. Hold on to them as the fabric will be needed to make a pattern template and you may reuse the batting or foam to save money. If you are using a new piece of foam, lay the old one on it, trace it with a marker and cut it out with a serrated knife.

Creating a new foam seat cushion
-Try to remove fabric without ripping it so you can use it for a pattern.
-Take pictures as you disassemble the chair to help you put it back together.
-Label EVERYTHING.  This is a very important step.  I wrote directly on the old fabric so that I would remember where it went and how it was attached to the chair.

2. Remove staples and tacks.
 I found needle nose pliers, a flat head screw driver and a small hammer useful for this.  Of course, trade upholsterers use specially designed tools with great success and efficiency. I chose to be resourceful and used what I could find around the house.

Webbing after tightening it.
-If there is webbing and it's in good shape, leave it on. If it's loose remove it and replace it after you have repaired everything else.
-There is a tool for tightening the webbing if you choose to replace it. You may want to read up on it before you do it.  The upper portion of mine was fine so I left it and taped it off while painting the chair. The bottom portion I removed and replaced after I painted the chair. I replaced it without the tool by tacking it with a hammer and upholstery nails.

3. Choosing Fabric. 
Here is the fun part! I am like a kid in a candy shop when I'm in a good fabric store.  I settled on two prints in Joel Dewberry's Ginseng Collection by factoring in the following criteria:

Joel Dewberry Ginseng Fabrics

a) Scale:  You can break the rules and have fun with large scale patterns for a bold look, but for smaller pieces of furniture (like mine) you'll want to make sure the print fits across the area that's being upholstered.
-I found using a scattered print made my work easier since I didn't have to line up the pattern on the cushions.

b) Weight: For pieces that may need to be wiped down often (dining chairs), consider outdoor fabrics since they are easy to clean and will last longer. Frequently used furniture will need an upholstery weight fabric to stand up to the use it will get. Small, occasional chairs, or furniture used in formal rooms can handle a lighter, finer fabric. Often (ask at your fabric store) you can pre-treat your fabric to increase its resistance to stains and wear.

c) Style:  Consider the look you're going for, where the furniture will be used and what you are upholstering.  Fabric is the perfect way to add color, texture and pattern to a room.
 -Try contrasting your fabric with your furniture; a simple chair can handle a busier print; a modern, graphic fabric on a traditional couch is unexpected and fresh; a solid fabric with a nice texture may be perfect against detailed woodwork.

d)Budget:  The size of your furniture and the amount you're willing to spend will help with choosing a fabric.  I'm always going through remnant sections at fabric stores as they are often the right amount for smaller pieces of furniture (and 60-70% off makes me smile).
-If you're only doing something small this is a good way to "splurge" without spending a lot.  My chair took about 2 -1/2 yards of fabric and I still have a good amount left over.
-Often "decorator or upholstery" fabric is wider than normal and so you will have more to work with. 
-Look for coupons: I used 40% and 50% off  coupons at Hancocks and Joann Fabrics for many of my supplies.  Check online and in flyers for discounts and sales, or sign up for store mailing lists and they'll send coupons to you.

e)Taste:  Make sure you LOVE it-Choose something that reflects your personality, style and decor!

4. Fabric Prep:
Wash (depending on your fabric), dry and iron your fabric before starting

5. Create a pattern. 
I used newspaper for this.  Lay your cushions on the paper, adding 1/2 inch on all sides for seam allowance, trace and cut out.  Lay your patterns on the fabric, pin in place, then cut out (use pinking shears to reduce fraying).

Creating a cushion pattern.

Fabric cut from cushion pattern
-Make sure the pattern is laid so that the fabric print will be facing the right direction when you are finished sewing everything together. For example, I wanted the flowers on my fabric to move up on the chair, so I had to cut accordingly.
-Use the salvage edge as a guide for positioning your pattern on the fabric.
Cut the number of pieces needed.  For the cushions I cut 2 (top and bottom).

6.Cut and make cording. 
For a great tutorial on how to do this without using as much fabric, visit this site.  I followed it (easy!) and it saved a lot of time and fabric.

Sewing yards and yards of cording!
*Notice pins heads are towards me while sewing so I can pull them out.

7. Sewing cushions with cording. 
Once everything is cut, label and organize your pieces of fabric to make the rest easier.  Lay one piece (top)of the cushion fabric right (or "pretty) side up.  Place the cording on top, around the edges with the raw (cut) edge facing the raw edge of the cushion fabric. 

Cording pinned and ready for sewing. Raw edge facing raw edge. Corners clipped to lay flat.

Pin in place with the pins parallel to the cording (so you can sew close to the cording). 
-As noted in the photo, make sure the pin heads are going to be facing you while you sew. It makes it easier to pull them out as you go (believe me!!).
-Pin cording so the ends meet at the back of the cushion where it's less visible.
-Where the cording ends meet, tuck one inside the other while sewing it to your cushion fabric.
-Around the corners you can clip the fabric to make it easier to work with and so your corners will lay flat.
Attach your cording or zipper foot and sew the cording to the fabric making your stitches as close to the cording as possible.
Repeat this step for the other piece (bottom) of cushion fabric. 
Pin the side panel of cushion fabric to the first piece (top) of cushion fabric, wrong sides together. Sew to attach it(again, as close to the cording as you can).

Sewing cushion pieces together, wrong sides together.

Pin your bottom piece to to other edge of your side piece (already sewn to the top piece), wrong sides together and pin in place.  Sew together leaving the back edge open so you can insert your cushion.  Turn right side out and insert pillow. 
-I used a thicker cushion then the original one and covered it with batting. Spray adhesive works well to make the batting stick to the cushion. This gave the seat a nicer form and helped fill out the seat.
Use an invisible seam to close the back edge.
Repeat this for the other cushion if there is one.
For covered buttons I purchased them from the fabric store.  They come as a kit with instructions for covering them.  Sew them on to your pillow by measuring and marking where to place them.  Use a large needle and strong thread (usually nylon or fishing wire).  You can watch a YouTube video for a demonstration on this.  I did and found it helpful.

8. Chair Backing. 
For the fabric that is directly attached to your chair you will need to use the pieces you removed when taking the upholstery apart as a pattern for cutting new pieces. Pin them to your fabric and cut them out.
Use a piece of tacking strip (it's a narrow piece of cardboard material, sold in a roll at fabric stores) along any edges that won't have trim glued on.  It gives a nice, clean and straight finished edge.  I only had to use it along the bottom edges of my chair.

Tacking strip cut to length of fabric backing.

For the tacking strip, cut a piece the length of the fabric and then lay it on top of the wrong side of the fabric near the edge. Fold the fabric over and press.

Tacking strip with fabric folded over and pressed.
Attach it to the chair with staples, set the batting in place and pull the fabric over it.  Staple the along the sides and top. 
Stapling tacking strip and fabric to the chair.

Tacking strip and fabric stapled(along the bottom edge), batting positioned and fabric ready to be folded up and stapled into place.

Folding fabric up over batting. 

Stapled sides and top edge.

Cording in contrasting fabric being glued around edges.
Finished Product!

I hope you found this helpful.  If you need me to clarify any steps or would like more details, email me and I'd be happy to help! Happy sewing!
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sitting Pretty

Remember this sad, worn out chair

I gave it a makeover.

And that cute pillow....$3.00 and some change from Target's Clearance isle. 

Excuse the painted plywood floor and lack of trim.  We haven't quite got there yet.
I'm not sure if it's staying in our bedroom or coming with me to my office (which I'm painting this weekend!).

The tutorial on upholstering it is in the works.  I'll post it soon!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Affordable Art

Here's a little sample of a room I worked on a little while back.  I will post more pictures of the entire room later, there are still a few things they will be doing to complete the space (carpet, lighting, etc.)

We were trying to keep with this home's traditional style but update the space on a budget. I put together a little series of prints to replace what was above the piano but didn't fit the decor after we changed it.

  To keep within the budget I purchased a couple of vintage bird books at a half price book store for a few dollars.  I selected a few prints that fit our color scheme, added two-toned mats and framed them-quick and easy art for less then $20.00

You could do a similar thing with prints that suit your space. 
Here's some ideas to get you started.

Look for vintage picture books-often the illustrations are amazing and will suit a nursery/kids room.

Make a gallery with your kid's art work-it will add color and a bit of fun to your walls.

Keep an eye out at yard sales and consignment antique shops for old posters, maps or signs.

Yard Sale Find-Classic car advertisment that I framed.

Use last year's calendar and frame the images: Visit Kirsten's blog, 6th street design school where she turned a calendar into a wall of art.

Paper Source has tons of calenders, decorative paper, note cards and more that would look great framed.
Of course there's also a lot of talented artists that sell their work on Etsy.
 Geninne is one of my favorites! She has an Etsy shop and a very inspiring blog. If only I had half her talent!

 She does amazing watercolor and mixed media prints.  Her site is worth a visit!

I have a few more art ideas up my sleeve that I'm working on and will share them when I'm finished.
Thursday, August 12, 2010


I'm pretty sure this was the most frustrating part of our whole house.  We decided to tear off the back half of the house since there wasn't a foundation under it, so it was sinking into the ground.  Along with that it was a section of the house that had been added on and they ran the roof into the siding of the original house.  That caused ice build up in the winter and caused a lot of water damage not only to the exterior but the inside walls were mouldy and in bad shape. 

On it's Last Legs....

A Couple Tugs......


After pulling it down with the loader and cleaning it up, we started digging.

Starting Out...

It wasn't long before we ran into water.  A LOT of water.

Rising Waters...

A few things didn't go so well after that:
We got stuck, like really, really stuck. 
We had a lot of flat tires.
We ran out of room to pile the dirt/mud/clay.
Walls kept caving in..... and caving in.

Messy Work!

After doing as much work as we could with the loader, we rented a mini excavator and buried a couple sump pumps to get rid of the water.   Eventually we got to where we needed to be and built the walls as quick as we could because the dirt continued to cave in as we worked.

Trying to keep the dirt back...

We used Form A Drain and Fox Blocks for our walls.  We were impressed with how easy they are to work with and how much time they saved us.

Form A Drain and Footings
Pouring Walls
Now we have a good size finished basement that adds space and value to our home.  It was a ton of work but needed to be done.  We're definitely glad this part of our reno. is over with. 
Later on my brother came from Canada and helped us frame since he does that for a living.  In a couple of days (it rained the whole time) he and a few friends who pitched in had it built and saved us so much time and money!  

Building the walls.
Working in the mess of a yard.

So now we are finishing the interior of the addition. We'll be pouring the basement floor soon and doing all the electrical and HVAC next.  There is still lots of work to do but it's nothing compared to what it took to get to this point.
Monday, August 09, 2010

Fabric Finds

Well, I finally made up my mind on fabric for my upholstery project I started.  I had a hard time choosing because there are so many awesome prints available!

I found my fabric at a local shop here in Cedar Rapids, IA. It's called Pine Needles Sewing Center . If you live in the area, make sure you stop in-it is worth it.  I loved everything about the shop.  The staff was so helpful and friendly-They're interested in what you are working on and get excited about your projects too.  Their layout and selection of fabric is great and their prices are really reasonable.
(They have a sale on now-go check it out!)

Primary Fabric

Anyways, here's the plan for the chair. I'm going to upholster the cushions in the darker fabric. It's from the Joel Dewberry Ginseng Collection.

I chose it because I love the fun and fresh pattern and it will make for a great occasional chair in our room since it coordinates with the purple, grey and white color scheme. 

I was looking for a fabric that also had another accent color (yellow butterflies) to pull out and use in our room.
A fabric like this will help tie everything together.

The pattern also just hints at the asian motif which is a HUGE trend right now!

Contrasting Fabric

I'm going to face the back of the chair with this lighter fabric and use it for the piping around the cushions as well.

This is one way to add contrast and interest and also allows you to play with more fabrics!

When I'm finished I'm going to try to give you a step by step tutorial of how I upholstered the chair in case you want to try this yourself.

Designer Tips:
When looking for fabric to upholster with, keep these things in mind:

Fabric Weight: Use a heavier, thicker fabric on furniture that gets more use. A lighter, finer fabric can work well on an occasional chair and will give it a formal look.

Scale: Consider the size of print for the fabric you use when upholstering. I found it helpful to lay the fabric over the cushion to see whether a whole "repeat" of the fabric would fit across it. Sometimes the print is too big to fit on the cushion.

Another Tip...

Current Trends: If you want to incorporate a trend with out commiting or spending a lot of money, try using accents that are easy to trade out.
Add a few pillows, cover a lampshade with fabric, wallpaper or paint just one wall instead of a whole room.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Good Fortune!

So, this past week we spent our evenings building stairs in the addition from the main floor to the basement. 

Being that it was the first time the Hubby has built a set of stairs, I think he did a great job of them. Later they will be finished with hardwood treads and painted risers.

We finished up last night and decided to grab some Chinese food for a healthy late-night supper.  Ending our meal with the traditional fortune cookies, here's what we came across:

We had a pretty good laugh, since we were eating our meal while sitting on fold-up chairs, around my old beat up table from college, surrounded by tools, extension cords, scraps of wood and a lot of sawdust.  Anyone who has been in our house lately would be amused by our "luxurious surroundings"

Just had to share an example of our view while dining.  Quite pretty isn't it? 
I know TV shows and some design magazines can make it seem like renovations happen over night.  In reality, they can feel like a never ending project that takes more time, money and energy then planned. 
One thing we have learned is you have to have a sense of humor while working on something like this.  It will get you through a lot of frustrating moments. 
What about you? Have you taken on a big project? Any funny incidents? I'd love to hear them!