Category Archives: DIY

Pinterest Mood Board: Asian sun room

It’s time for another free mood board on Pinterest! I pull these mood boards together from design finds I see when I am out working for clients. When I see something beautiful, it can inspire a whole feel, look or mood of a room. While every room in your home should reflect your life experiences and passions, everyone can use a little help every now and then finding that perfect item to make their room unique and personal. My free Pinterest mood boards are designed to inspire and make shopping a little less stressful.

This month’s mood board is designed to use in an inside/outside room, a sun room. Sun rooms are popular in every season because of their great connections to the outside world, without leaving the climate controlled peacefulness of an interior room. While the attraction of a sun room may be obvious, navigating a realistic design plan for such a room can be a little tricky. You don’t want it to feel like an outside space, like a porch or deck, filled with patio furnishings or picnic tables. But, you also don’t want a sun room to ignore the beauty of its star attraction: large, sunny windows.

On this mood board, I’ve used a design technique I use in sun rooms for clients all the time. Although this particular sun room is hypothetical, I am always careful in every sun room not to compete with Mother Nature’s work just outside the window. While I have chosen different textures and patterns for soft goods and hard surfaces, as every room requires, most of them are small in scale. The real focal point of any sun room should be the view.

I chose a transitional Asian style for this room to show that any room, regardless of its physical placement in a home, can be adapted to reflect the personal tastes of its owner. In this case, Asian motifs in a soft color palette of jade greens, cool blues and soft browns combine to compliment a similar natural palette beyond the room’s windows. This will also allow the room to feel connected to the outside view regardless of the season. The fact that the patterns and textures are pulled from many countries and periods of history combine to give the sun room a relaxed, yet artfully collected style.

As with any room, the decor may be fun, but the room has to work for the daily life of the home. I’ve included a great seating area for lounging, tv watching, and reading. I’ve also included a generous games table, perfect for card games and board games, as well as any seated or buffet dining that may be needed when entertaining guests. After all, what could is a gorgeous sun room if you can’t use it to host your friends and family?

Want to see more of this mood board? You can just click on the picture above, or right here to jump right to the board. You can also always check out all of the other mood boards and design finds I’ve collected on Pinterest by using the custom Pinterest button on the side bar of this blog, or you can click here right now.

Do you need some help with design or decor? Send your design dilemma to me in a comment and I might use it as inspiration for my next Pinterest mood board. I love a good challenge and I love to help people make their homes more happy. Share your story and let me help you find what you are looking for in your home. Free professional interior design advice. What have you got to lose?

5 Things: Nursery edition

It’s time for another post in the “5 Things” series. These posts list 5 things that I love to use in clients homes. They can be handy things, decorative things and/or organizational things. I list them here because I know that they are tried and true with my clients and that they may work for you, too. Consider this a industry-secret whisper from a designer out in the trenches. (You can see more posts from this series, along with other organizational tips, right here.)

Linked image courtesy of Amazon.com

Today’s list is full of things I like to put in client nurseries. You may be thinking that nurseries generally have such specific themes that I couldn’t possibly choose 5 things for every nursery, but I have. The secret is all of these items can be customized or are already neutral enough to use in any room. Let’s get started…

Crib Skirt

This may seem like a pretty decorative item, but the genius of a crib skirt is that it can provide all sorts of extra storage. When the baby is an infant, you can stockpile diapers in bulk under the crib at its high mattress setting. When the child is a little older, you can place storage tubs under the crib to organize larger, grow-into-them  clothes.

Image courtesy of Little Giraffe

When the child is a toddler, if your crib turns into a toddler bed (and so many do these days), that under the crib space can become the perfect corral for all of those activity sets that take up so much floor space. Farm sets with menageries, large wheeled toys and any musical foobahs you don’t want to tread on with your bare feet at night. You know the kind of thing I mean. Just slide them right under the crib skirt and the nursery is tidied in the blink of an eye. You might even get your little one to help you clean up, since the storage space is right at their level.

Crib skirts are available in all sorts of styles these days. They are not all traditional and ruffle-y like the one pictured above. You can find crib skirts in all sorts of patterns and designs, which makes them easy to customize to any nursery’s theme or color plan. You can even find crib skirts designed to fit the clean, simple lines of a more modern crib, like this one…

Image courtesy of DwellStudio

I’m delighted that there has been such an upswing in crib skirt popularity in recent years. I have yet to meet a parent who looks around their child’s room and says, “You know what I have too much of in here? Storage space.”

Area Rug

Okay, this may seem like a no-brainer. Every parent-to-be anticipates spending some quality time sitting on the nursery floor with their child. Who wouldn’t think of some sort of rug as a practical solution? However, I’m not talking about any old kind of area rug. I’m talking about a kind of rug that can take a beating and still good look over the next 5 years, without costing you a fortune. After all, you still have college to plan for, right?

Image courtesy of Couristan

Whether a nursery needs a neutral, traditional pattern (like the rug shown above), or a colorful, younger palette (like the rug shown below), I always choose Indoor/Outdoor rugs for nurseries.

Every single time.

I embrace the “Indoor” part of the rug’s type that makes it soft on tiny bare feet and knees (and parent’s bums) as they play and explore. If a nursery is already carpeted when I arrive on the job, I still throw one of these war horses into service for the parents. It’s the “Outdoor” part of this rug’s name that makes it a weapon against chaos.

Two words: Diaper blowout.

Need two more words? Projectile vomiting. And let us not forget the food, craft supplies and other childhood detritus that can get ground into your flooring and carpet. Your nice, expensive, pre-baby, wall-to-wall carpet or flooring. On its very worst day, you can haul this rug outside and hose that puppy down. Let it dry and it is as good as new.

Image courtesy of Loloi Rugs

Book Racks

You may have noticed by now that I think about the parent’s needs first in any nursery. It’s true, but don’t get me wrong. I want the room to be as beautiful as the new baby about to move in there. I take great joy in finding just the right mix of personal and adorable items for the new room. However, if the nursery leaves Momma or Daddy worn out from all the upkeep, I am not doing my job properly. At the end of the day, my clients are the parents, the caretakers of the room.

Most nurseries need some form of bookcase early on, to hold all sorts of thing collected before the baby arrives. Toys, baby gear, mementoes, you name it, tend to get organized and stacked very neatly at the beginning. After the baby arrives, the jumble of items in play often mean that books are harder to put away or keep handy when parents need them. I am a big fan of books, myself, so like to include book racks in addition to shelves. Here is one of my favorites:

Image courtesy of Land of Nod

The beauty of a book rack is that a parent can put books into it with one hand. Whether they are reading a story while holding their baby or doing a big room sweep of toy clean up, books can get safely (respectfully) dropped into place without being jammed in with other toys. One of my clients used a dedicated book rack to help keep track of all of her children’s library books, without having to search everywhere. Smart Momma!

I also have discovered another source for a great book rack via some innovative DIYers on the internet. (I wish I could say I thought of this one myself, but credit should be given where it is due. I certainly use this idea for my clients now!) Ikea offers a lovely little birch spice rack, called the BEKVÄM, for a mere $4. Some clever parents out there saw the similarities between that spice rack and the more traditional book rack pictured above. You can add a Ikea book rack system, like this one, anywhere that you have a little extra wall space for only $12:

Image courtesy of ikeahackers.net

Vertical Storage

This is a concept I use in every nursery. It is a simple concept  that can be reused in many different ways as a child grows up. Not all new parents have dedicated furniture suites for their new children, so this concept can be particularly helpful in smaller nurseries or even in master bedrooms that host the baby when it is very young. I like to use vertical storage in a closet as a place to catch clothing, diapers, blankets, special soft toys and whatever else a parent needs to find quickly, without having to dig through a drawer or bin. Here is one of my favorite products:

Image courtesy of Ikea

This is a hanging shelf is from the Ikea SKUBB line of organizers. They currently come in white, black or this vivid purple. I love them because they are affordable. The example pictured above is only $8. Because they are made of a sturdy nylon material, they can also be cleaned easily. As your child grows older, this 5 shelf hanger can become a place where they lay out their school clothes in advance, to avoid the morning rush.

Another great place for vertical storage is the back of a bedroom or closet door. By capitalizing on a place that is often forgotten to store small items (creams, sunglasses, hats, shoes, etc.) and regularly used large items (favorite toys, blankets, extra diapers), tidying a child’s room and leaving the house can become much easier and faster. I like the clean design of this back-of-the-door storage (by Real Simple for Bed Bath and Beyond) because a child can get access to their own things at the bottom of the door when they are old enough to help.

Image courtesy of Bed Bath and Beyond

Clock

Sleepy parents should not have to struggle to see what time it is when they are up with a late night feeding. While cute nursery wall clocks can be found almost everywhere, I always suggest something smaller and easier on the parent’s eyes when they are waiting for their babies to drift back into Neverland. Despite all the varieties available, my two favorite, go-to clocks for nurseries come from LL Bean. The first one is the classic Moon Beam clock…

Image courtesy of LL Bean

…which has an easy-to-read dial face and on/off switch for the backlit setting. It also comes in several colors (easy top match to any nursery color plan) and has an alarm setting that include waking to a gentle light, a bell or both. Charming!

My other favorite LL Bean clock is the 1931 Big Ben model, which also comes in several colors and features and easy-to-read face.

Image courtesy of LL Bean

Like the Moon Beam clock above, this clock has easy alarm settings and has an on/off setting for the backlighting of the face. I should mention that these clocks are a little more expensive than say a plastic digital clock from Wal-mart. However, the quality of these clocks is excellent and they can eventually become a child’s first alarm clock when they reach school age.

So there is my list of 5 Things that work in every nursery! I didn’t set out to have a favorites list like this, but when I find something that really works well I want to give that extra practical assistance to every set of parents who ask for my design help.

Now I’d like to hear from all of the parents out there who are reading this post. What do you think of my list? Do you have a favorite nursery item you can’t live without? What is the best tip you ever got about organizing your child’s room. Jump on in, parents, and share your experience in a comment!

Downton Abbey DIY Decor

Ah, Downton Abbey. Are you already hearing the theme song your head? I find it can get stuck in my mind like an endless loop after I see PBS commercials go by.

Image courtesy of itv.com

Have you been watching? Do you have a favorite character or story line? I find the show so beautifully designed that I hardly know where to look when I should be watching the characters. Although, nothing gets my attention more that Maggie Smith’s entrance in a scene. I believe she has the best one-liners I have heard in a long time. And I love that her character seems to know it.

Image courtesy of itv.com

Downton Abbey is in reruns on PBS here in Maryland. Mr. CARO and I have been catching the last season’s episodes again on Friday nights. We tend to have our TVs on as we go from room to room doing our end-of-the-week Friday evening household chores. Because so much of the drama involves the servants, you can almost trick yourself into believe you are part of them if you find yourself dusting or vacuuming while they are also doing housework.

Image courtesy of itv.com

Almost.

We are big fans of this show, as is practically every other person I know. There has been so much written (and photographed) about the costumes and casting (and setting) for this show that I almost dismissed the concept of this post because I thought it might be overdone.

However, as we were talking on Sunday night, I made a joke with my husband about  the imminent arrival a new line of (fictional, yet) extremely large furniture at Macy’s called “The Grantham Collection”. Since PBS was able to successfully sell reproductions of Lady Mary’s jewelry for a while, it seems like the obvious next step.

So, I decided to build a DIY Downton Abbey room on Pinterest, just for a lark.

Image courtesy of someecards.com

I built the room from my own instinct and memory of the show’s design, without looking at production stills or watching the reruns while I worked. When I was done, I asked Mr. CARO to review my selection and give me his opinion of how I did. From the other room, I could hear him laughing and saying, “Yes!” as he scrolled through my choices.

The room I decided to recreate (à la Downton Abbey) was the library. I think a library is one of the truly defining things about an English country house. It reflects the personal style of the current resident, but also tends to much some of the family history in the home. It is a primarily masculine room, historically. (Girls do get up to all sorts of thing when they are taught to read!) However, I wanted to make sure I included that warm feeling that sometimes brought the ladies of the household into the room.

Image courtesy of itv.com

I scoured the internet for all of my sources for this mood board. Some of them may seem to come from very random places, but that was the exact place I found the image of the item I was needing for the library. I like putting the mood board on Pinterest because it automatically gives credit and a link back to its original source. In most cases, you can also use the links to find out who makes and how to buy the chosen item. (If you happen to buy yourself one of those gorgeous decanters, I’d be happy to help you christen it!)

I’ve included notes on all of my room choices, to explain why you would want or need each item in our little dream room. Now all you have to do is supply yourself with a very old large room, with large windows and a serious fireplace. Simple, right? Here’s a little sneak peek of my Downton Abbey library:

Want to jump directly to the mood board? Just click on the picture above or use the Pinterest link on the page’s sidebar to see all of my boards.

Now I want to hear from you about Downton Abbey. How did I do on this mood board? Was I close? Can you think of anything I missed? Do you have a favorite room that we’ve seen on the show? What about the “smaller” homes we see, like cousin Isobel’s house or the Dowager House Maggie Smith’s Violet lives in? Share with me like you’re reporting on a social scandal from London!

Image courtesy of itv.com

If you like this Downton Abbey post, you might also enjoy related posts from the blog’s archives, including these:

See you tomorrow!

Cookie cutter decor

I’ve been decorating our home for Christmas and, as usual, I was looking for something a little bit different to add to this year’s decor, without spending a lot of money. We live small in our home, so I was also looking for something that would not take up a lot of room during the other 11 months of the year.

Does this happen to you? You want something a little different and/or new, but you don’t want to buy anything that could eat into your budget for other seasonal planning. Well, this year I found something already in my home that I could play with in several ways. You probably have some of these in your home, too.

We all know that cookies cutters are great for making cookies for the holidays. However, when you’re done baking with them, they normally go right back into storage. Right?

Yet, Christmas cookies are almost as synonymous with Christmas as ice cream is with Summer. So, I decided to see how I could use my cookie cutters as a Christmas motif for free decor around the house. I already own the cookie cutters, so why not find an extra purpose for them?

Vase Filler

Do you have a spare vase you aren’t using? Fill it with something shiny! You can add a little ribbon wrapped around the outside of the vase and you can put this vase anywhere that needs a little extra holiday spirit in your home.

Fill several vases and run them down the middle of your dining table. Place a mixed of votive candles around them and you have a simple, chic centerpiece.

Ornaments

These may be the easiest way to reuse your cookie cutters. There is no end to the places you can hang cutters as ornaments in your home. All you need is  ribbon and some imagination.

This is a cookie cutter as a garland ornament on part of our banister. You could also:

  • Mix them in on your Christmas tree
  • Hang them with your coffee mugs/utensils/pot & pans
  • Suspend them from the center of a pendant lamp or chandelier
  • Tie them with assorted lengths of ribbon from curtain rods
  • Loop them, using the ribbon, over a doorknob
  • Hang them over the light switch on your lamps
  • Tie them onto a wreath

Napkin Rings

Having a lot of guests for dinner? This is a very affordable way to add all of the place settings you need without having to spend money on extra napkin rings. Just like the ideas above, all you need is a little ribbon in the color of your choice.

Simply loop the ribbon around two sides of a cookie cutter…

…wrap the long ends of the ribbon around a folded napkin and tie it in the back with a bow…

This is a great idea for kids because they can help set the table on for the family meal on Christmas. It’s also a great way to use those older cookie cutters that may be a little more difficult to use these days. Like these:

I have kept this antique type of cookie cutter because they came from my family years ago, yet the blunt, crimped edges make it really hard to get the dough out nowadays. I just tied the ribbon in the front this time and this napkin is ready to dress up the table.

If you prefer a slightly more modern table setting, consider using a cookie cutter to anchor your napkin as it stands up on a plate. Fold each napkin into a large triangle and then wrap the ends in to fit inside the cookie cutter’s form.

Those are three fun ways I’ve added cookie cutter decor to our home this holiday season. Can you think of a fourth or fifth way of using them around the house? Do you have a tip for using other everyday household items for holiday decor? Share your ideas and solutions in a comment! Everybody loves free decor upgrades!

(Psssssssst! Want more free holiday decor? You can enter to win some in the free giveaway I’m running right now. Just click right here to enter!)

More on the floor

When I tell you that I’m going to share one of my favorite customized floor sources with you today, does that immediately make you think of a very expensive price tag? Well then, you’re in for a nice surprise because this floor product is customized at very reasonable price. We’re talking about carpet tiles.

Now, let’s clarify something before we go any further. If “carpet tiles” makes you think of industrial grey or blue thin squares of carpet in an office lit with fluorescent lights, that is not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking a about an area rug or wall-to-wall carpet that you customize to fit your size needs and style desires. Take a look at a few examples:

These are not the dingy, generic office carpets that used to define carpet tiles. These are all the products of a fabulous company called FLOR. And right now, they are having a great sale going on to make designing your own carpet or rug even more affordable.

Creative Designs

You may have heard of FLOR before on design tv shows or in magazine ads. They are the new darlings of affordable, customized rugs for your home. And you can certainly see why with this kind of style.

For the price of a regular area rug or carpet padding and carpet, you can afford a very functional and elegant floor covering.

With FLOR tiles, you can customize the rug to the exact size you need in your room, without paying a traditional custom rug size cost.

They also have a great selection of original shapes, colors, and textures. FLOR also offers berber and wool carpet tile models…

…as well as original forms you can assemble and/or cut to your own tastes and interests.

I’m not getting paid or perked to talk about this great company. I only talk about companies that I really like and you can read more about that right here. I love FLOR because it helps my clients put more personality into their homes without breaking their budgets.

How It Works

You choose the size of rug you need in the style of tiles of your choice.

FLOR gives you lots of details about each rug tile model, including the depth of the face fibers so you can plan your rug to meet your traffic needs.

When your tiles arrive, you use their dots to secure the tiles to the floor.

Align each tile onto the dots…

…and little by little, your rug takes shape, right where you want it. Easy vacuuming, no extra rug padding needed and your rug stays in place.

You can also design your own rug layout, using multiple styles, textures, and colors of tiles…

…and by using their user-friendly online customizing tools.

Practical Solutions

I like FLOR tiles because their designs offer some realistic solutions to common household carpet problems. Have you ever been seated at a dining table and struggled to move your chair because the rug was so thick or just got bunched up? That is not a problem with FLOR:

Have you ever had a nasty stain on a carpet that you could never get rid of, no matter how hard you cleaned it? You have probably tried to move a piece of furniture over the stain or replaced the rug outright. Wine, pasta sauce, grape juice, etc. can be every rug’s nemesis. With FLOR, you just replace one or two stained tiles and move on with your life.

A bathroom rug you don’t have to throw into the washing machine or line dry? Vacuuming has never sounded so good:

Did I mention that FLOR is striving for full sustainability? They have a Return & Recycle program that encourages customers to send in their old FLOR tiles so that none of their carpet tiles end up in landfills. You can read more about their ongoing eco-friendly progress right here.

You can see the full line of FLOR products on their great website, which supplied all of the pictures for this post. While you’re on their website, you also can sign up for a catalog to make sure you see all of their newest designs.

Do you like the idea of using beautiful carpet tiles in your home? In what part of your home would you put a new rug or carpet? See a pattern or color you love in this post. Share your carpet cravings in a comment!

5 Things: Coat closet edition

Whenever I design a room for a client, I include any closets in that room in the design. After all, is a room really functional if the closet doesn’t work properly? No one likes a closet that is heaped with belongings, even if it is in a beautiful room. Organizing a closet can even be the finishing touch on a room that really makes the client feel like they have a fresh start in their new room.

How is your coat closet looking these days? Do your hangers come in and out easily? Can you find your gloves when you need them? Do you have to stand on your head to get something out of the dark corners in the back? These are the same questions I ask my clients, because so many people wrestle with this part of their home.

Image courtesy or realsimple.com/noah webb

With that in mind, I’m going to give you the top 5 things I like to put in clients’ coat closets. They are simple, very affordable things that can make your life and your closet space easier to manage. Home owners and renters alike should make full use of closet spaces in their home and these 5 things can upgrade your coat closet in just a day.

Paint

Most people don’t think of painting the insides of their closets, but it can make a huge different in how the closet space is used. When you look in your closet, the paint reminds you that this space is important, too, and that can inspire you, and your family, to keep it more organized on a daily basis. This really does work! Plus the closet then feels part of a finished room, not just the place you don’t want your guests to look when they are visiting.

I love this line of paints. Image courtesy of Benjamin Moore

The key to using paint is to choose a semi-gloss paint finish of a light color that you like. You can use leftover paint from another home project or choose a new color that picks up on a color in the larger room outside the closet. The semi-gloss paint is easy to wipe down when the walls get shoe/boot marks on them. The light color helps fight the darkness of far corners and the back of the floor.

Light

I have lived in a lot of homes with oddly shaped closets. I seem to have a knack for living in older homes with closets featuring dark corners and dark floors. In my own quest for a practical light addition, I stumbled upon a great product. (You can click on the picture below to go directly to the Amazon retail page for this product.) Remember, I don’t get paid or perked for any product I mention or recommend on this blog.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

I have this LED light in my own home and install it in almost every client’s home that I work in. It is that good. It has four directional lights that you can focus to hit on areas where you need the most light. The light has a two levels of brightness. It mounts easily to the wall and runs on 2 batteries. Because it is an LED light, the batteries last for a long time. All of this for only $13.

Wooden hangers

Coats are heavier than most of the rest of our clothes, yet many people try to use rather lightweight hangers to store them. This can actually cause some bad wear on your coats in the shoulders. Using thinner hangers can also be less space compatible for moving coats in and out from other hanging coats. I always buy these hangers for my clients. (The picture below is linked.)

Image courtesy of ikea.com

I love these hangers because they are made out of sturdy wood and have a natural curve to mimic your shoulders, which helps keep any coat on the hanger. They are strong enough to hold long heavy coats, light enough to lift easily from the closet rod and are very difficult to tangle together. The 8-pack you see pictured above is only $4.

Over-the-door organizer

We all have little things we need to keep in our coat closets and it is often these little items that can drive us crazy when we are searching for them. Whether it is your child’s lost gloves, your car keys or any imaginable sports gear, when you need those items, you need them NOW. Ever been stared down by your dog while you do the digging for their leash? You know what I mean.

Image courtesy of containerstore.com

Enter the $13 solution (now on sale and linked to the above picture). This mesh fabric overdoor storage rack is designed to hold 24 pairs of shoes. But you and I can already see that it can also hold scarves, action figures, bike gloves, sunglasses, spare house keys, pet toys, flashlights, umbrellas… Well, I’m sure you can make your own list.

The fact that you can see into these pockets means less time digging into them individually. The mesh is easily washed and line-dried. You can also assign lower pockets to smaller children so they can…wait for it…practice putting away their own things. If that isn’t worth $13, I don’t know what is.

Storage cubes

This last item is something I use in conjunction with the overdoor hangers. Sometimes you need a good container to hold things together on a closet shelf or stack neatly on the closet floor. The plastic cubes (linked to the picture below) are great for off-season outdoor clothing and you can see through them easily to find what you are looking for when you need it.

Image courtesy of containerstore.com

I love that these cubes can be zipped closed to keep out dust and keep them from overflowing, spilling items onto the floor. They have great handles and a soft, flexible form, making them easy to pack. They come in 5 different sizes, and they start at just $8 each. Are they durable? I have had all of mine since the ’90’s and they are still going strong.

Could your closet use some of my favorite 5 things for a quick weekend make-over? What do you find you are tripping over when you open your coat closet door? What are other areas of the home you would like to see featured in this “5 Things” post series? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list of areas to cover in future posts.

Would you like to see more of my tips for organizing your home? You can see all of them so far by clicking right here.

Re-booking your travel

We talked last week about great uses for old maps as an art idea for  your home. (You can read that original post right here.) Today, I’m going to show you a step-by-step guide for using your old maps to dress up the book shelves in your home.

I have used and taught this D-I-Y technique with several clients. I love it because it helps cut down on household clutter and the supplies are probably already in your home…making this project (potentially) FREE.

Intrigued?

Let’s start with this problem:

Guide books. Very useful, but what do you do with them when you are back home? Do you put them up on your bookshelf as a great memory? Do you put them on your book shelves with plans to re-use them on your next trip to that destination? Or do you save them to recommend favorite places to friends? Most people do one, if not all of these things. Those are some of my guide books in the picture, so I’m in the “most people” demographic, too.

Most people also have a lot of paper maps left over from their travels. Some of them have matching area guide books, some of them don’t. We’re going to use the old maps to carefully cover our guide books and make them look more interesting and sophisticated on our books shelves. Here are the supplies you’ll need and which you probably already have:

  • Guide books (any size)
  • Paper maps (which don’t have to match the guide book locales)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler and/or yard stick
  • Paper folder (totally optional, but handy)

For the purposes of this little tutorial, I’m going to use a guide book and a map that cover the same area of the world:

You can use any paper map on any book, though, including maps that don’t match the guide book or even non-guide books. But I use this technique mostly for guide books, since you can use the maps to identify the book’s subject matter easily after it’s flashy, colorful spine is covered. Let’s get started…

First, open up your map and decide what area of the map you want to be the front cover of your book. I always avoid the map legend and start with a corner edge because that means two sides of our book cover are already cut evenly.

I want the map of England to cover the front of my Great Britain guide book, which takes up most of the bottom right corner of the map. But I will have to measure and mark the map before cutting it out to the right size of paper. So, I’ll flip the bottom right corner over…

…and will now do my measuring and marking on the “back” side of my desired cover image.

Next, I need to measure my book and adjust those measurements onto the map for cutting.

The height of my book is 8 3/4 inches long. However, I will need extra length on the map cover so I can fold over the paper at the top and the bottom, making a sturdy edge. So, I add 2 1/2 inches to both sides of my 8 3/4 inch book height and…

…mark the edge of the map at 13 3/4 inches.

Now I need the total width of the book, so I open the book up and measure the two sides and spine as a total measurement. Can’t forget the width of the spine!

This measurement comes out to be 11 1/4 inches, but again, we want a sturdy edge on this part of the book cover so I add 6 inches to the total measurement, knowing that 3 inches of map will fold over the book cover on each side.

I also add an extra 1/2 inch to the total measurement, because a book spine is designed to flex and my map cover need to move with it. The extra 1/2 inch will give it the flexibility it needs. If my “guess-stimate” of 1/2 inch of give is incorrect, I still have plenty of extra map on the edge of the width to adjust it later.

This brings the total width measurement to 17 3/4 inches, which I use my yard stick to measure and mark onto the bottom of the map.

The next step is very easy. Just don’t push to hard on your pencil or you can tear old, well-worn maps! I draw a straight line up from the bottom map marking….

…and a straight line out from my marking at the side of the map…

…until they connect and make a box.

These are the only measurements and markings you have to make when you start your book cover using two sides of an already-perfectly-square map. It makes it easier and it can make it faster if you are making a lot of book covers.

I double check my measurement box by making sure make sure my book centers nicely in the markings…

…which it does, so I cut out the box I’ve marked out of the larger map.

Always “measure twice cut and once” in any D-I-Y project to save yourself a headache. Here is what I’m left with…

…a perfectly sized paper cover to fit my guidebook.

Now we can channel out inner middle-school self and fold the paper to cover the book. I’m going to show you how to do this, in case you have forgotten or are reading this from a place where children don’t have to cover their school books to protect them -lucky you!-.

First, we place our guide book face up and centered on the paper, since we want the reverse side of the left side of the map to be our cover. Then we fold up the bottom of the map 2 1/2 inches and make a crease where it meets the book.

Extend the crease to make a full fold, from edge to edge along the bottm edge of the map.

Then press the crease to make it very sharp and defined. Geek alert: I’m using the edge of a Martha Stewart paper folder tool in the picture below, but the edge of your ruler works just as well, just don’t tell Martha…

Now repeat the exact same steps that you completed for the bottom fold at the top of the map: 

  • Line up the book flush with the newly-folded bottom edge of the map
  • Fold the paper down from the map top to meet the book
  • Make a crease
  • Extend the crease to a fold along the total width of the paper
  • Sharpen the fold using your ruler

When you are done the total height of the folded map should exactly match the total height of the book’s spine.

Next, we fold in the two covers. Starting with the back cover of the book, for a good reason, we fold the right side of the paper over about  3 inches and slide the back cover of the book  into the “sleeve” created but the map folding we’ve already done:

DO NOT use the ruler to sharpen the crease of this fold yet! We may need to adjust the paper after we fold the front cover.

Now we fold on the front cover, just like the back cover:

Here is where we test the 1/2 inch of extra paper we allowed for the spine flexing. Does the book close easily with the new cover on it?

No. The map paper cover is too taut.

So we go back to the back cover of the book and fold the back paper cover to be shorter, meaning a little less than our original 3 inch measurement.

We take the extra “give” from the back cover measurement because the back cover of the book is opened less and gets less wear. The front cover of any book is always opened, so we want a secure paper cover on that side of the book.

Now we try folding the front cover of the book closed again to see if it closes easily…

Success! Now look at the very  front cover of the book. Do you like how the map lines up as a paper cover? If yes, now you can go back a sharply crease the front and back cover paper fold with your ruler.

You’re done!

This is a great project to include kids on, especially if they are already pros at wrapping their own school books! Plus, getting them into the mindset of cleaning out and repurposing items as you de-clutter helps get them into healthy habits for cleaning their own rooms. (Hmmmm…this post has turned out to be a Greener Living post, too.)

Another tip: Many people have laminated or plastic covered maps, like mine below:

However, if you have one of these cards in your wallet…

…your membership dues mean you get paper maps like these for FREE:

See? This is such an affordable project!

Here’s all of the guide books as we first saw them at the top of the post:

And here they are stylishly covered in your old maps:

Don’t they look so much more interesting, yet pulled together? Here they are looking much more chic in their covers on a book shelf:

Think you can do it? Time to clean out all those old maps that have been lounging in your car’s glove compartment! You can find another great idea for them in this post.

How many maps do you have lying around in your home? Can you offer to take unused maps from your family and friends to help them clean out and keep your project free? How many books will you cover using this project? Leave a comment!

Mapping some memories

Art is a beautiful way to make your home “more you”, but sometimes it just feels easier to buy an “okay” print and slap it up on the wall. It seems that everyone struggles with this issue, so I continue to share ideas for this dilemma in the hope that it might help out a reader just when they need some inspiration. (You can browse more of my art ideas right here.)

I am always on the lookout for affordable and personal art ideas for clients’ homes. Today, I’m offering a subject for art that may also help you up-cycle some items in your home. Do I get bonus points if my ideas help you downsize potential clutter and inspire something meaningful and pretty? Let me know!

Image courtesy of worldmapspictures.com

We’re talking about maps. Remember maps? No, not the ones you get driving directions from on a website. I mean those big pieces of paper that took forever to fold back up the way you found them. If you still have some old maps lying around the house (or hibernating indefinitely in your car), you may have some art just waiting to be framed.

Personalized Maps

Maps are great for commemorating special memories. Consider framing a map of:

  • The town you were born in
  • Your hometown
  • A favorite vacation spot
  • The place you spent your honeymoon
  • The country your ancestors came from
  • A historic view of where you live

I also like to use maps as mounting material. They can be a graphic and fun way to document your vacation trips on your wall. For example, here is a worn old map used as a background for a great picture I took of the British Houses of Parliament in London, England:

Image courtesy of me...I love it when the weather cooperates in my photos!

See how the map kind of personalizes the photo and makes both images stand out? You could do a whole wall of your favorite place for very little money using my budget-friendly art mounting technique. You’d be finding a use of for your old maps and personalizing your home.  Less clutter and more personality is always a happy combo in my book!

Other Types of Maps

While we’re talking about maps, let’s take a look at some of the other varieties out there for some inspiration. We all know what driving maps look like, but there are other options to fit lots of different decor tastes. We’re gonna stay with London as our example, so we can compare the different styles easily.

Tourist Maps

Image courtesy of art.com

I love this map because it is modern and graphic. It covers all the popular sites that most people visit. You could also back this map with cork and put colored pins in all the places you’ve been to or want to go on your next trip. Here’s how it could look framed out and in a modern room:

Image courtesy of art.com

Isn’t that great?  It’s not too masculine or feminine and I love the color palette.

Here’s another tourist-type map that many people may recognize:

Image courtesy of art.com

See how bold and clean the graphic feels? This map of the famous London Underground subway system or “tube” actually dates its origins back to the early 20th century, but it feels very modern in this room.

Panoramic Maps

These maps change the viewer’s perspective of looking down on a location (a “bird’s eye view”) to looking toward the horizon across the area of interest. These maps also allow the viewer to see more architectural detail and often have “keys” or “legends” that number and identify specific buildings. This map of London features a regular “bird’s eye map at the top and a panoramic map with a legend at the bottom:

Image courtesy of art.com

I like these maps because you get more of a feel of being there when the map was made, even if the location doesn’t look like that anymore. Here’s a close-up panoramic map of the famous London Bridge with all of its many shops several centuries ago:

Image courtesy of art.com

The architectural profiles really pop in this kind of map, almost calling you to take a closer look. Frame this map out and it could really add some beautiful color and texture to a wall:

Image courtesy of art.com

Satellite Maps

Satellite maps are a great way to see our world as it is today. Seasons, water ways, urban centers show up clearly, all in glorious color. This is modern London from thousands of feet above us:

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.com

Did you notice where this map comes from? That’s right. You could copy print it on photo paper for FREE. Finally, a reason to justify all that time you’ve spent playing on Google Earth! Just pick your favorite place, print and frame. It would look great mixed in on a gallery wall with of photos from the same location.

Using Maps in Your Room

And while we’re talking about hanging maps up in your home, let me give you two more tips for really personalizing your maps.

  • Mix old maps with new furnishings. As you can see in this example from above…

    Image courtesy of art.com

    …maps are a great way to give a room a collected-over-time feel to it. The modern glass table and sleek crystal are balanced by the assorted antique boxes and the old map engraving. Mixing modern and old always gives any room a relaxed, welcoming vibe.

  • Consider framing an older map to fit in with more modern decor.By choosing a modern frame, you pull any map image into a slightly newer time and can blend it more casually with your room, even if it is a very old map image. Here are two example of what I mean:

    Image courtesy of art.com

    This “Guide for Strangers” map (love that title!) is from the middle of the 19th century. However, because it is printed on canvas with a modern black edge, it feels much more contemporary.

    Image courtesy of art.com

    Similarly, this map dates back to 1720. However, because it is mounted on wood, it can be displayed as a modern triptych in any home.

Like these ideas and want to see more uses for maps? I have a handy little DIY technique coming very soon that shows another great way to decorate with your old maps. Be sure to check back!

And while you’re here today, leave a comment and tell me what place you could celebrate in your home with some map art?  When did you go there? What was the occasion? If you gathered all of your old driving maps together, would they stack much taller than you expected (like ours did)?

By the way, if you missed the giveaway announcement last week you can see it right here. The Crate and Barrel produce bags included in the giveaway could help you bring home some great veggies for Mexican night in your home. (Go ahead and fill one with avocados, I don’t mind!) Today is the last day you can enter to win! Someone has to win. Why not you?

Bonus post: new USPS stamps for design fans

Remember when I talked about using US Postage stamps as collectible art for your home? (You can read about it in the original post right here.) Well, I had to share this new collection of home design item stamps with you:

These stamps celebrate the classics industrial American designs that we now take for granted in our homes. (How much do I love those art deco pitchers? More than I can tell you.) The back of the sheet has a small history of every item pictured and a little info about the designers.

The full sheet of these “Forever” stamps is only $5.28. How’s that for affordable art?! You can order your own sheet by clicking right here.

And while you’re at the USPS website…might I also recommend this little beauty?

The “Garden of Love” Forever stamps depict “a colorful mosaic of flora and fauna in a garden setting” with each stamp using a heart motif in a different way. Each block of ten of these stamps is only $4.40. You can order them by clicking right here. Consider framing them for a unique Anniversary gift, a wedding gift, a Valentine gift or just a lovely graphic collection of American art. (You can learn how to frame things inexpensively right here.)

Just so you know, I never get compensated for recommending USPS stamps as art (or for mentioning any other product on the blog). I just believe that every home should include beautiful, affordable art. Home is where the heart is, right?

See you tomorrow!

No watering required

I was backing up my computer the other day when I got the idea for today’s post. I just had a friend lose her hard drive and a lot (I mean: A LOT) of family photos. It’s sad to say this reminded me to back up my own computer, but it really did. I gratefully share my wake-up call with you all:

Please back-up your pictures!

I take a lot of pictures and even take the camera with me on errands, since you never know when inspiration may strike. As I was backing up my pictures, I came across one of my favorite little smile files. It consists of lots of images like this:

You know if you’ve ever looked at my client mood boards that I like to include nature items in every design. Natural materials and images in a space are very calming and comfortable. They really help turn a space into a home.

When I am out on my errands, I take close-up pictures of flowers wherever I find them in bloom. I just lean in or zoom in and snap away. This can be anything, from my neighbor’s roses…

…to a more exotic bloom from a historic garden greenhouse…

…to a perfect blossom on sale outside my grocery store.

Beautiful, right? Mother Nature sure does great work.

I save all of these floral pictures and use them on my computer as my screen background. This may seem like a really obvious idea. Many people already choose family or vacation photos for their desktop screens. However, flowers can be changed around more easily to fit your mood.

We have so much technology and wiring in our offices today that simple touches of real nature can do a lot for our spirit and lift our moods. Have you ever counted how many cords you have under your desk?  How many things have an “On” button in your work area?

If you don’t have a great view from your work desk or are too far away from a window, consider using your own floral pictures as a fresh touchstone to nature. Take a quiet moment during your workday to really study your picture. It can give you a greater sense of calm because you will be able to remember where and when it was taken.

This is the time of year when we take these flowers for granted. There are so many colors and varieties out now that we do not bother to stop (should I say it?) and smell the roses, or even really see them. When you find yourself in the months of the year that look more like this on the outside…

Image courtesy of tetoncountysheriff.org

…think of how nice it would be to find these waiting at your desk every morning.

It’s almost like sending free flowers to your future self, with no watering or vase wrangling needed. I find great flowers in Spring, too. Here’s one of my favorites from my own street during Cherry Blossom season. I just got under the tree on a sunny day and looked up.

You can mix up your images for the seasons, too. This is a favorite picture I use in December.

This species of poinsettia is called “Peppermint Twist”. I love them!

Now, some of you might be thinking, “What does all this have to do with Interior Design?” I’m glad you asked!

Great interior design strives to create beauty and comfort in your home. I think if you’ve read this post this far you’ll agree that flowers can be captivating. However, sometimes real living gets in our way of remembering things on the grocery list like fresh flowers. Sometime our budgets simply have other priorities. This does not mean we should live without nature’s beauty in our homes and work places. We can simply adapt to reflect our lifestyles. Pictures can be a great option. (Here’s a client mood board with a few examples.)

Here are a few other ways to adapt flower photos for use in your home:

  • Print and frame your pictures to create a lovely grouping on a wall or table (Learn how to hang them as a gallery wall right here.)
  • Place prints of your pictures under a glass-topped table or tray (like this one)
  • Print your pictures to use in photo frame note cards (like these)
  • Publish your photos as your own custom coffee table book (at sites like this one)
  • Send the pictures in emails with friends, co-workers and loved ones to help them brighten up their spaces

There really are endless ways to share and enjoy these pictures. Just get out there and take them while the weather is on our side! Look around your neighborhood. What have you been missing?

Do you have an interesting way to enjoy natural in your home? How do you bring a little nature into your space? Do you have a favorite flower you just can’t get enough of? Share your ideas with others in a comment below…

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