Adventures in decoupage

You know those cute gift boxes that look like Chinese takeout? Like these?


Well, I decided to make one. Out of an actual Chinese takeout box. It had a single potsticker inside, so was perfectly clean… and I couldn’t bear to throw it out.

Besides, I’ve been interested in learning to decoupage so I can make my own cute gift boxes rather than buying them. Perfect time to learn!


I even made my very own wheatpaste, and used some wrapping paper I had lying around.




Sad day

Sad, sad day. Had to say goodbye to the little car that's taken me everywhere I needed to go for the last 14 years. She needs $3k worth of work and that's too much. :(

A big thanks to my Uncle John -- she did great.



So we’ve been needing new couches. Badly.




Let’s just say that our cat decided whenever things weren’t going her way, relieving herself on our couches was a good way to settle the score. The first couple of times this happened, we whipped out the Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover and saturated everything. Sometimes we used a diluted solution of oxiclean and/or white vinegar since that was cheaper. It worked better than you might imagine, but you can see what it did to the leather cushions over time.

One reason we held onto them for so long is we didn’t want to invest in nice new couches for fear of the same thing happening again. But Lih astutely pointed out that these couches were the only pieces of furniture in the house which we’d denied our cat access to, and also the only ones subjected to this sort of abuse. We’re fervently hoping that encouraging our cat to use the new couches will mean she won’t want to mess them up. We’ll see. We also plan to get a tarp for when we go on vacation (the only time our cat acts out).

Anyway. Long, long ago, at the first sign that there might be permanent wear and tear to our couches, I started a researching frenzy on my ideal replacements. Because when Lih sets his mind to something, he tends to want to move quickly. That’s how we got these black leather couches in the first place. Pretty much the day after we moved in to this apartment 8 years ago, “we need somewhere to sit” popped into Lih’s mind. And he typed “furniture” into google, grabbed his keys, and was ready to get in the car to solve the seating problem. As in, purchase couches and bring them back home the same day. Needless to say, I was hoping for a bit more time to research and plan possible color schemes and layouts, but he wanted to SIT. NOW. Too much planning and thinking about decorating actually gets Lih angry (and few things do). That’s probably common among guys, but what to do when that’s EXACTLY what I want to spend time doing?

I can’t remember the details at this point… I think on my insistence, he agreed to postpone the trip to the furniture store to the following day. Which in his mind was more than adequate time to do whatever “research” I was talking about. But being new to decorating and new to the space, I wasn’t able to come up with much of a plan that we both liked in that amount of time. So we settled on something “basic” and “safe” (read: boring) that would probably go with anything down the road. And they’re fine. But not awesome. I was looking for awesome.

So fast-forward 8 years. It was starting to look like I might get a second chance at this. I wasn’t sure if/when our couches would get bad enough that Lih would agree on a whole-sale replacement, but I was going to be damn sure I was ready with suggestions if the opportunity arose. I wanted something a little more “chic” and “modern” that felt like me. I hit up various furniture sites and Pinterest for inspiration and eventually landed on this.


The Tillary from West Elm. I was in love. Just the right amount of modern with flexibility to spare… I love, love the fact that you can rearrange a couple of modular pieces into endless configurations. I have a bit of commitment phobia when it comes to major house purchases. I always worry that I might change my mind later, or if we end up getting a house, something like a big L-shaped sectional might not work in the new space. Not a problem with the Tillary. That big sectional can magically transform into two small couches. Or any number of other configurations. It was perfect on all counts… except the price.

But that’s ok. With my ideal in mind, I set about figuring out how to get what I wanted for less. I now knew that I wanted something modular, with clean lines, and white.

First, I thought of just using 2 twin mattresses to make up a sectional couch, maybe incorporating this storage base.


I even found someone else who did something similar.


I also considered starting from scratch and building something simple and modular myself, using these excellent plans from Ana White.


I also entertained the idea of approximating the Tillary as closely as possible with Ikea Kivik stand-ins.


As our couches continued to look worse, I presented these ideas to Lih slowly over time and casually in the context of “if we ever need to replace the couches, we could do something like this…” To my surprise, he hated the idea of building our own couch. It was too much work, even if I was biting off the lion’s share. (I think he was afraid I’d get started and then ask for a lot of help.) He didn’t much like the bed idea, either. It was too strange.

I was starting to feel like my hands were tied and stopped thinking about couches for a while. Until Lih brought up the subject himself. He said our couches were looking awful and that he was tired of cheap Ikea crap in general and wanted something of better quality that would last a long time… and did I know of a good store? Well, I held my breath… and pointed him toward West Elm. Specifically, I pulled up a picture of the Holy Grail and for the first time, showed him the look I was going for via the numerous imitations: the Tillary. I added a very short-and-to-the-point list of its virtues. He said he liked it. He saw its virtues, too. And I stopped. talking.

Of course, there was the obligatory trip to Ikea to see if we could find anything reasonably priced and sturdy that we both liked. Nope. Lih said the seating area on the Kivik was too deep. And the couch he thought was comfortable looked too “country cottage” to me… not the look I was going for. Neither of them seemed very sturdy.

And then we went to the brand new West Elm across the bridge… just to see. I think I had my fingers crossed the whole time. And I’m ecstatic to report… WE GOT IT!! Not only that, we got it 20% off because we almost changed our minds when they couldn’t accommodate the exact combination of pieces we asked for. Un. believable. I’m still pinching myself.

Here she is just after the delivery guys dropped her off.


And here she is in vacation-configuration, tarped and ready for anything.


And… drumroll, please, here she is in her new home.


She’s pretty much a blank slate, and I’m dying to add some color, probably in the form of a rug, but maybe new curtains or just colorful throw pillows. Also, that picture frame collage is now way too tiny for the space (and hung too high) — the Tillary is a lot lower than the previous couches. I’ll have to come up with some new artwork. But for now, I’m thrilled with the new couch. I’ll let her settle in a bit and let the budget recover before making too many more decisions!

Loathing labels

Nothing feels less homey and cute than a barcode. Forgive me for snapping these pics with my phone (the real camera is charging). But I thought this tiny project was worth sharing.

I’ve been using my folding camp chair to sit outside a fair amount lately and it often finds itself chillin’ on my entryway hooks (someday I’ll post more pics of that project).


Every time I walk by it, though, I feel a mild surge of annoyance… something like “I should really put that away.” Away being, of course, back in the depths of the closet. Where it’s a pain to get it back out.

It finally dawned on me that my annoyance was stemming from the fact that the case was ugly and I didn’t like looking at it. And it was only ugly because there was a giant label sewn onto the front, protected with a panel of industrial-strength plastic such that it would never come off. Ever.


Unless, of course, you set your mind to it.


About 2 minutes later, the offensive label was gone and now I don’t mind looking at my camp chair hanging from the entryway hooks. It actually looks kind of chic. It’s in my color palette, afterall. So now it can stay where it’s easily accessible AND not annoy me as I walk past. It’s worth keeping an eye out for simple (but perhaps not obvious) changes that make a big impact on the way you view your space!


Cellphone not required

Notice anything missing?


Yep, we've been living with no doorbell for the past 7+ years. If I had a dollar for every time I've explained to someone that they'll have to call me when they arrive since we live downstairs and have no doorbell....... well, I'd have at least enough to cover the purchase of our new doorbell.


If I'd only known about wireless doorbells earlier! I'd been living with the problem because I assumed fixing it would require crazy wiring headaches that I wasn't prepared to tackle. Not so. The button itself has a lithium battery and the receiver goes into an outlet inside. Couldn't be easier.


...though I'll admit getting it on the siding was a bit tricky. First off, the mounting plate is not as wide as the doorbell since it nests inside the outer box. So the usual hold it up and mark the corners approach doesn't work so well.


Fortunately, I noticed that just after marking the outer corners -- I partially opened the back hinge so I could mark the bottom inner corner as well.


I was provided an adhesive tape mounting option or a screw mounting option and went for the latter -- it seemed sturdier and I didn't want the doorbell box sticking out any more than it already did, which is a bit more than a wired doorbell would. That's also why I chose to put it next to the door trim as opposed to on the door trim -- it hides the fact that the box has a good amount of depth to it.

I drilled 1/16" pilot holes in the mounting plate and the siding and started to insert the screws.


The siding or something just beyond it was a lot harder than I anticipated and I ended up stripping the screws pretty badly trying to get them in. I almost wasn't able to get them out again. I probably should have drilled those pilot holes deeper and/or with a larger bit. I didn't take pictures of that part since I was annoyed, but I scrapped the screw idea (since I didn't have any more of the slim screws provided) and went with tiny wire nails instead. That way I still got a flush mount and nails, while not as sturdy as screws, have to be better than tape.


It feels nice and sturdy when pushed and looks great. Best of all, I never again have to sheepishly instruct people on what to do upon arriving at my door!


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