Thursday, 4 February 2016

How to Create Areas Of Interest In Your Home

Wine Box Makeover
I am reluctant to call this a craft DIY as the crafting side of it involved re-purposing an item and using a couple of screws to hang it up, fairly simple. It is, however, still a 'how to' and I am glad it is as it is such a pretty little area of my home and I really wanted to share it with you.  So often when we think about decor in our home we think of big things like; new carpets, paint colours, sofas but it's the small details that make your home your home and keeps it unique. Let me share a story with you that I hope inspires you to look at tiny areas and unusual items in a new light.

I know I mention my home renovation every 5 - 10 seconds but it is pretty life consuming at the moment, you should try being married to me, poor Joe is presented with so many colour chips, radiator valves, lighting cords etc. Deep down I believe he thinks they all look the same and is regretting asking to be involved. The truth of the matter is that this renovation will take a while as even DIY is not free, I know mind blowing right! I am fighting every day to keep the place safe for a very active 2 year old, I am also trying to make our house a home so we do not feel that we live in a building site, (even though we do), as that is rather soul destroying. The trouble is you don't want to spend valuable time and cash on areas that you will have to rip out when you do final work.
urban jungle bloggers
urban jungle bloggers
One area that I love in this house is the large landing in between the first floor bedrooms, it is like an extra room, in fact it is about the size of box rooms in flats I have rented. The landing has a large south facing window so is bright and lovely. One of my favourite Sunday activities in Paris is to visit the flea market at Porte De Vanves not far from our apartment. At this market you often find 1€ and 2€ boxes of 'junk', often broken items, but on one occasion I found a wine box. I had no idea what I was going to do with it but a 2€ wine box if seen should be bought, I think it is a rule. I knew that this landing area would become a reading nook before I bought the house and the wine box is the perfect size for a small wall mounted bookcase topped with a pretty house plant.
picture fixings

All I did was attach the fixings, (pictured above), to the back using short screws. I drilled into the wall and put rawlplugs and very long screws to support the weight, hung the box, filled it with books and popped the plant on top. I still need to find a pretty plant pot to replace the bowl it is standing in but all in all it brightens up the corner and is an area of calm in the building site. I will have fun swapping the books around and it will be a cute area that guests can sit in and enjoy the views over the hills or read a book.
winebox bookcase
urban jungle bloggers
wine box bookcase diy
The hall will need painting and Lincrusta replacing as it is damaged but this craft can survive that it is just like re painting a room that has pictures up. I think the wine box bookcase/shelf is there to stay.
wine box bookcase diy
So next time you go hunting at a flea market or even before you throw items out stop and think can I re purpose this, you don't even have to be crafty to re purpose, just determined. Then your house will be filled with small areas of interest too.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Rocking Chair Upcycle

upcycled rocking chair
Sometimes you see a broken piece of furniture and think I just don't have the skill set to restore this. That is exactly what I thought when I saw the cane rocking chair in a local junk store. The seat had been completely smashed through and it looked sad and lonely, and I hate to see a sad piece of furniture. I have no idea how to re cane a chair and if I am honest I do not have the desire to give up my time to learn but I thought I could still fix the chair by giving it a solid seat. The chair was cheap because of the state of it so I bought it and decided to give it a new lease of life.

I was so enthusiastic to start my renovation project that I cut the broken cane out of the chair and sanded it down before taking a real before photo. So here is a before photo with a few jobs undertaken. I really need to remember to not be so enthusiastic and start taking better before pics.
upcycled rocking chair
I knew I was going to make the upholstered seat from a bright vintage curtain so I felt the whole chair needed to up its game, this, of course meant more work. The swirly twisted wood looked lovely and is what sold me on it as a project but oh my word just when you think you have finished sanding it there is yet another surface. During the very lengthy sanding process I started to think about how I could give the cane seat back a makeover. I like many crafters am cursed  blessed with left over wool from larger knitting projects. I thought that with a little thought I could use the back of the chair like cross stitch fabric and the wool as over sized thread. To create a crisp background for the wool I sprayed the cane, front and back with white paint.
upcycled rocking chair
upcycled rocking chair
 Now all I had to do was paint it with the bright yellow eggshell I had picked out. I say all I had to do but really this very nearly broke me. I thought sanding it was a pain but painting it was so, so much worse. Every time I turned my back there was another surface to paint, I swear it was multiplying, and that is not just the sleep deprivation talking. So much waiting and painting, waiting, turning it over, painting and yes then I discover rogue drips so the between coats sandpaper made more than one appearance. It was worth it, I love the colour and now the fun part making the seat and adding the embellishments.

After I had cut out what was left of the cane from the seat I used it as a template to cut a new seat from thick plywood. For this I used a jigsaw. I made my new seat slightly larger than the old one. I like to use what I have as much as I can so I used old cushions to pad the plywood and a piece of calico underneath. I then added the top cover, which was a vintage curtain I had picked up a long time ago on a whim.
upcycled rocking chair
I stapled the fabric on the underside of the seat. A few things to think about when you do this; the shape of the seat once you have finished so don't pull too tight, and make sure the fabric is even. You can ensure that it is even and not puckering by stapling the centre of one side, then staple the opposite side in the centre. Then the next centre side followed by the opposite. Work your staples out from centre until you reach the corners then I folded then until I was happy with the pleat that would show and secured them with a couple of staples. Feel free to trim the fabric as necessary but leave enough to tuck the edge under before you staple it as it looks neater and gives a more professional finish.

Once the seat is stapled you need to attach it to the chair frame with L brackets. 
upcycled rocking chair
I thought it would be a fun idea to add an 'embroidered' arrow pointing towards the seat as if it was directing your bottom. I think it looks really cute, Joe thinks it looks a little silly, you will have to decide for yourself. The cane work is not a true grid so you need to fudge your design in a little.
upcycled rocking chair
upcycled rocking chair
upcycled rocking chair


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

My Guide To Easy Care Houseplants

easy care houseplants
One of the best ways to soften a bland rented home is to add houseplants. They keep the air healthy, they combat the dry air of centrally heated homes and lift our mood. They are all kinds of awesome so it is no wonder that we are running out and buying houseplants in our droves. In most cases a houseplant leaving a shop is less like an adoption and more like a death sentence. I have killed so many houseplants in my time I can now safely say I know what the easy ones are. Nothing is indestructible but the following 7 plants have survived my 'care' so you can probably keep them alive.

Some general advice first, as tempting as prices can be to buy a houseplant from a dark windowless supermarket or Ikea those plants have had a bad start in life so unless you have green fingers leave them for the experts. My second piece of advice is barely water your plant in winter. 
easy care houseplants
1. Trailing Hearts

This plant was such a happy accident I bought it on a whim because I needed change for parking and it just lived, and grew and kept living! Win win! The stems that are resting on the soil will root in so the plant will bush out a little as well as grown in length, and boy does it grow in length. Buy cheap and buy small in a year it WILL be much bigger. Allow the soil to dry out in between waterings. I can stand you going on holiday for 2 weeks if you water it before you go.  Plus how cute are the little leaves.
easy care houseplants
2. Mind Your Own Business

So I may be pushing 40 but I still like a silly plant name. I first bought this because I thought it would be amusing to say mind your own business when people asked what it was called, and it was funny. In fact Selina Lake recently asked a question about favourite houseplants on Facebook and I said mind your own business and that was funny too, I really need to think about growing up. As it turns out it is not just a silly name it is a plant that can survive my home. I never water mine I just spray the leaves with water. It is great in a bathroom as it like humidity. It will tolerate a shady, (not dark) room also so there is another bonus. Plus think of the fun you can have with the name, have I pushed the name enough?
easy care houseplants
3. Rubber Tree

Okay sometimes size matters, yes, yes it does, and something big in the corner is impressive, I am in an infantile mood today clearly. The clue is in the name, tree, it can get big, over 6 foot big even in a pot. It has deep green shiny leaves which I think look very designery. It works well in a bright or brightish room. You can go to a festival without watering it and it will be fine. The cat you are watching for a friend can pee in it at least once and it will be fine. I know these things because of the super scientific testing I carried out. Joking aside you should let the soil dry out in between waterings.
easy care houseplants
4. Mother In Law's Tongue

Yes we are back to buying plants because they have mildly amusing names but my comedy stylings have been a winning formula, at least in a horticultural sense. I won't bore you with why it is funny I will just wow you with the stats. It will grown in a dark room, not utter darkness because it is not a mushroom, be realistic people, it will grow in most lights really. The real winner it likes to have soil on the dry side so a big thumbs up for lazy waterers, you know who you are.
easy care houseplants

5. Yucca

In terms of comedy this plant disappointed me I really thought I would get more legs out of it being similar to the word yuk, maybe I just didn't try hard enough. In terms of being a hardy plant it succeeded, hurrah! It likes indirect sunlight, it is slow growing so you don't have to let it get super big, this plant can also be something large and impressive in the corner. It does like a warm room so not a bathroom or kitchen as they can get cold, a bedroom or lounge works well. Apart from that nothing really, it is easy.
easy care houseplants
6. Cheese Plant

This may be the toughest plant ever because this did not survive me but my mother. My mother has a number of talents, not killing houseplants is not one of them. That being said she had two houseplants from when I was 4 until I was 20 when she got bored of moving them to new houses and chucked them. Having lived with my mum they can withstand anything you have to throw at it I am sure. Plus they have that classic houseplant leaf shape. Go on I challenge you to kill the cheese plant!
easy care houseplants
7. Birds Nest Fern

Life isn't always sunshine and roses here in blogger land and it was not always blogger land. Back in the day, before I even had an email address or mobile phone, (because only drug dealers and merchant bankers did), I lived in some grim places. Stdio flats and rented rooms with mould and very very little light. One, and I laughingly use the word flat, I lived in had this plant in. It was the nicest thing there. It lived, I took it with me to the next few awful places that I called home, then just before I went to my first grown up home, (nice place to live in), I left the plant in the corner. It was still alive and I thought it could brighten the day of the next renter just like it brightened my day.  It will tolerate low light, poor hygiene, noisy neighbours and being drunkenly knocked over once or twice.

I hope you have enjoyed my guide and are now ready to welcome green into your home. If you know of any other easy plants comment below. 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Waiting For Spring

Last year I had the honour of being shortlisted for an Amara blog award and with every good blog award ceremony comes a celebrity host, we were lucky to have Sophie Robinson, (she was funny, charming and I liked her shoes), and a goody bag. It has been so much fun working my way through the fantastic products that we were gifted such as these lilac bulbs. 
At the weekend I decided to plant the lilac bulbs with my little boy. It is a great lesson in patience and his first exploration into gardening. As they were supposed to be planted in Autumn it may be a lesson in not trusting Mummy. Due to the mistake in timing I planted the bulbs inside so it should be okay, either way Sebastian got to play with stones, eggshells and mud!
Eggshells are filled with nutrients and are great crushed up inside or outside to feed the soil, remember to rinse them out first with hot water.
Hopefully they will grown and I can share a picture of the flowers with you.....fingers crossed!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A Travel Chest Makeover

vintage travel trunk
Sometimes a makeover involves making a thing unrecognisable from what it originally was, such as; I can't believe that succulents display case used to be a Porsche! Other times a makeover involves little more than good old fashioned TLC to bring an item back to its former glory. I had been searching for a chest that could double up as a coffee table for over a year and had not managed to find one at the right price. I am a firm believer that a home can never have too many blankets, and in a drafty Victorian house it is vital that you have a stash of blankets in the living room so a trunk was essential. When I saw this metal one on Ebay I was watching it in an instant and marked the end of the auction in my diary. The thing that I loved about it was the G.W.R. (Great Western Railway), I was hoping that the marking would put most people off, and I was right there were no last minute battles on Ebay and it was mine. You can read my Ebay tips HERE. 
how to treat rust
The inside was heavily rusted so I had to clean it and dry it. Then treat it by painting the rust with red oxide paint, you can see from the photo that I almost forgot to take a before photo again as the red oxide paint is already going on. I decided to do the whole of the inside as opposed to just treating the spots of rust. After I had finished painting the trunk with the red oxide paint I kind of fell in love with the vibrant colour but decided to plough ahead and spray the interior grey. I am glad that I did the grey looks amazing. Here is a close up of the grey colour and some other shots of my rather wonderful Ebay steal that needed very little making over!
grey spray paint
vintage travel trunk
vintage travel trunk
vintage travel trunk
Handmade Quilt
When using spray paint be sure to do it outside, and leave it to dry longer than you would expect to. Spray paint often feels dry to the touch but the layers underneath take longer, rule of thumb, if in doubt - wait and wait some more.
vintage travel trunk
Have a look around and what might need a little TLC in your junk stores and Ebay.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

How To Photograph Snow

How To Photograph Snow
When snow falls every blogger & instragrammer is obliged to venture out and take snowy pictures. We have to it is a bloggersphere byelaw so we have no choice but to share these images with you year in year out. SO this year when the snow fell I took my pictures, as the law dictates, but I thought I would encapsulate them in a post that did more than just show you how pretty snow can be. I am going to tell you how to photograph snow, the right way.
How To Photograph Snow
First of all if you are still using your expensive camera on auto stop that, it is lame and a real waste. You may as well use a point and shoot! You are not impressing anyone with that big old camera if you are hiding in the green auto box all the time. Besides it is more fun to shoot in manual, like driving a car with gears, only boring people drive an automatic, (sorry if you drive an automatic but it is lame and my opinion on this is final). Okay now we have bullied you into switching your camera to manual let's have a little chat about exposure. 

I have a hand held spot meter so that I can take various readings from an area to judge the exposure I need, most of you won't have those and often I want to take speedy candid shots and getting a toddler to stand still while I mess about with a spot meter is not going to happen. Your camera has a built in light meter and most of the time it does a pretty good job but it can only do what it is programmed to do, it is not artificial intelligence, and it is programmed to find the middle ground. What this means when you are trying to shoot snow is the camera will compensate for the bright white glare and make the image grey. The light meter will do this in auto and manual, but we can fix it in manual.  
 How To Photograph Snow
Okay so this is an image of the display on the back of my Canon60D, (it may differ for other makes/models). The part of the image I have crudely drawn around in pink, (excuse my Photoshop drawing skills), shows the exposure. You will also see this at the bottom when you look through the view finder and start to, but don't fully press the shutter button. In normal circumstances you would adjust your settings so that the marker was in the centre of that line, 0. That would give you a perfect exposure, but not necessarily the exposure you want, and this is true of snow. To avoid the grey you need to over expose your image, you are not really but the light meter in the camera will think you are so just roll with it. Try making your setting at +1 or even +2. 
How To Photograph Snow
We found our very own Stick Man in the garden
There are a number of ways you can do that; open up your aperture, increase the ISO or reduce the shutter speed. It is up to you what combination you choose. For example I was shooting Sebastian and that kid is on the move all the time so I would need to keep the shutter speed pretty fast in order to get any shots that were not showing movement. I always like to keep my aperture wide open as I like shots with a shallow depth of field, (that is my personal preference), so in order to allow for the over exposure I set the ISO, (film speed), higher than I would normally do. When you are shooting snow I would advise not having the ISO on auto. 
How To Photograph Snow
How To Photograph Snow
How To Photograph Snow
Some general advice to keep in mind, if you are holding the camera by hand with a lightweight lens you can avoid camera shake no lower than 60/s and if your hand is not as steady as mine 125/s. If your snowy subject is not going to move, and never underestimate a slight breeze, by all means get the tripod out.
How To Photograph Snow
This next shot was a tricky one as there was bright white snow next to a black dog, namely Archie, the camera didn't know what had hit it. It was taken at 600ISO/ 4.5f / 250s and +2, I did however increase the exposure to +0.14 and the gamma correction to 0.93 in post processing. You can always fiddle a little in post processing but the pictures look better if you don't and you save time by getting right in the first place, just like shooting on transparency film.
How To Photograph Snow
I hope I have shed some light on the subject and set you on the way to whiter snow. Please email me or comment below if you have any further questions or anything was unclear to you. Also if you have any snowy pictures you have taken after this post or ones you want troubleshooting share them on the Archie & The Rug Facebook page.