Backyard Decor Continued: Vintage Door with Window Box

As previously mentioned, this spring I was on a mission to try to enhance the look of our backyard with some items that would help break up the “sea of green” that was produced by our vine. We used some old drawers and the back of a ladder back chair to add a bit of height and interest to the back left corner of our yard. The old spindles that we salvaged from our stair makeover were transformed into a DIY picket fence. We also made some faux birdhouses out of old spindle legs to add a bit of colour. In the opposite corner, Tim built and painted a simple planter box that he attached to an old door we had stored in the basement. I picked up the chair for $5 and used an old bench from the basement to add varying levels to the little vignette we were attempting to create. We already had the old birdhouse in the yard, but it looks great hanging from the door!

Outdoor design and gardening is a huge stretch for me. It just isn’t really my thing and therefore not high on my priority list. This backyard design certainly is not award winning and doesn’t leave me feeling overly impressed with the results. Having said that, I think we now have a few things to get us started. I’m guessing that this, like so many other projects, will be a work in progress and change and evolve as we go, but for now I am pleased to spruce up the yard a bit and declutter my basement at the same time! I do love the lush green vine, but when it was solid green without any colour or interest to break it up, it was a bit much.

Here is a collage of the backyard upcycle projects we did this spring.

(Some of these photos are from June when the flowers were just beginning to grow, they have filled out quite nicely now.) I had painted this old mailbox for my classroom many years ago, but now with most of my communications with parents being through email, I no longer need it. I love this added touch on the fence! I hope this leaves you feeling inspired to reconsider some of those items that seem like they are headed for the landfill. Perhaps you can think of a way to get them out of the house, but find new life and purpose in your yard!

Front Porch Makeover #2: Antique Vanity Upcycle

I bought this antique vanity several years ago with good intentions, but it was just one of those projects that I never got to. It was super cheap (maybe $15 or something) and I jumped on it. To be honest, I have even reposted in on Kijiji, just wanting to get rid of it, but not many people were chomping at the bit to pick up this puppy…not sure why??? Okay, I get it…it is (was) super ugly!

This spring when Tim and I decided that our backyard needed to be “dressed” up a bit, I decided to see what we could come up with from our own personal stash of goodies/junk (matter of perspective I guess). With Covid restrictions in place, there weren’t many other options available any way. I figured that if I could find some gems in our own collection, I would kill mulitiple birds with one stone, so to speak….purge, save money, save the landfill and pretty up our back yard.

We really didn’t see any value in this unit in the condition it was in, so the first thing we did was remove the drawers from one side and take them outside to add interest to our garden. Tim simply anchored them together in a staggered stack and we used them as planters. We were pleased with how they turned out and it was super easy because I liked the worn look and didn’t even both giving them fresh paint.

Although the remaining vanity pieces could have easily made their way to the dump, I was desperately trying to make our front porch look more inviting and I was in need of a table for just outside our front door. The space wasn’t large and I thought this might be the perfect upcycle project.

Tim kindly cut the vanity apart and I set to work building a new top out of…you guessed it…reclaimed wood from an old table (from staircase make over last summer).

The first thing I had to do was build a little frame around the top because the original piece had curved edges.I then attached the boards to the top of the half vanity.

I’m not sure why I didn’t take a photo of it, but the right side of the cabinet was a little rough with a gap from where we cut it apart. I knew this would be against the house wall and not visible, so we just cut a very thin piece of scrap wood and covered it, bandage style! When everything was repainted, it was really not noticeable at all. I used exterior paint because this would need to withstand the elements out on our front porch.

I placed it in its spot, but it took me some time to decide what to do with the knobs and to pull together a finished look, but here it is all painted!

I finally decided to use a Pinterest idea I had pinned several years ago. I absolutely love the knobs in the tutorial, but unfortunately, the colour wouldn’t work for my project. I purchased old ceramic knobs for a dollar each at an antique store and then coloured them with Sharpie marker and baked them at 350 degrees for half an hour. (I actually like the original cream colour, but my project was quite a bright white and they didn’t look great together.) Here is the tutorial from School of Decorating. I’m still a little disappointed that I couldn’t use the teal colour from the tutorial, but it just wouldn’t work for this project. I did, however, want them to look somewhat like a natural stone (think emerald), so I opted to go for green to tie in with our deck chairs. I love the way they turned out!

Too bad I could not find an angle where I didn’t get reflections in the gold, but you get the idea. The uneven strokes with the Sharpie are what helps to give the finished drawer pulls some depth and interest.

To finish off this little niche I FINALLY used this old shutter that I had antiqued about a zillion years ago. I made it and loved it, but had never found a home for it until now! I simply sat it on the top of the vanity and leaned it against the house. The piece on top is a plastic medallion that I bought at the dollar store. I spray painted it white and then sanded it back a bit to antique it. I picked up the glass vase/jar at a thrift store for $2 and those pretty flowers are from the dollar store too! I do love how this little “vignette” is coming together, but I must say it also brings this old Sesame Song to mind….

I don’t know, but to me it looks like something in that picture just doesn’t belong….can you guess what it is?

If you guessed the mailbox…you’re right! It is on my hit list for this summer as well! Stay tuned!

Now before I sign off, I am mustering up the courage to get real and show you the before and afters. The vanity transformation is pretty cool, but hold on to your hat if you want to see how bad my porch looked before this tiny make over. Here goes….

Stay tuned for many more DIY, upcycling and make over projects….this summer has been so busy! We have worked on so many different things…so fun to transform a space!

Front Porch Makeover: DIY Welcome Sign

I’ve wanted to make my own sign(s) for a long time and in March, I finally went with a friend to a little workshop. They put carbon paper under a photocopied design and then traced the design to transfer it onto the wood.

I did the workshop and had fun making the sign, but felt a bit limited by the choices available. However, the workshop did exactly what it should….it inspired me to design my own!

One of the things that I’ve been working on this summer is trying to decorate my front porch. We’ve always had furniture on the porch, but it totally lacked anything even remotely “pretty”. Although I love our porch, I’ve avoided putting much thought or effort into it because I’m always faced with the same issue….the colour of my house! I really don’t like it, but I know that we will not be investing in a paint job until it actually needs to be painted. Despite the limitations of the house colour, our patio cushions desperately needed to be upgraded and I had to somehow make a decision on what colour to get to go with our house. As I scoured websites in search of something that would work, my creative juices got flowing and I found myself completely determined to get my porch looking better. So, today as I write this post, I still have no cushions. We did end up ordering some and are awaiting delivery, but in the mean time I’ve been busy transforming our space.


  • Computer/iPad – design your sign
  • Printer – print off your design
  • painters tape
  • prepared board for sign – primed and painted or stained
  • ball point pen for etching in your design
  • acrylic paint (make sure to use outdoor paint if your sign is going outside)
  • very fine tipped brush for outlining and possibly a fatter tip for larger areas (I have my favourite brushes that I use depending on the project I’m doing. This can really be more about personal preference. I don’t like a brush that has too “floppy” of bristles when I am doing intricate work.)

Simple Steps to Making Your Own Sign:

  1. Design your sign. I did this on the computer…choosing fonts and images that I wanted to include. I then scaled the design size to meet my needs and printed the it off. (FYI Image quality is not super important as you can smooth out any pixels when you trace.)
  2. Find a board. This step might come first depending on your space. I made my design first and then altered it to the board size. If you have a plan for your sign, you want to make sure you consider your board size for the wall/place you want to put it.
  3. Prep your board. Depending if it has been previously painted or not, you may need to prime first. Also, if your sign is going outside, you will want to use exterior paint. Give ample time for your paint to dry.
  4. Layout your images/text on your board and use painters tape to hold in place.
  5. No need for carbon paper! Instead, I use a ball point pen and trace the outline of all of my letters and images on the paper. You need to press firmly because the goal is to etch or groove the wood to mark the outlines. You will not see ink, but rather a groove.
  6. Working in a well lighted area, carefully follow your outlines (grooves) and fill in each image/letter with paint. One thing to be mindful of as you paint…I find that I have a preferred direction when I am painting. I am more comfortable when I can position my hand a certain way and when I don’t have a blind spot blocking the direction I am headed. This may sound confusing, but it’s all about steadiness, lighting and comfort level. If/when you figure out what works best for you, strategically paint in a way that allows you to do your best work. You will also want to consider moving from left to right if you are right handed so that you are not going to smudge what you’ve already painted. This isn’t hard, just take a moment to “fake” paint first. See what feels good and take notice of which direction you want to paint in. I noticed some people in the class saying “I wasn’t thinking, I should have started over here.” or “I should have worked in this direction.” My point is just to take a moment to think about it before you dive right in. (Again, if it is going outdoors, use outdoor paint. For my sign, I just used regular exterior house paint for the board and then picked up a few small bottles of exterior craft paint from Michael’s for the lettering and images.)
  7. Allow to dry and hang or prop up as desired.

Do not be overwhelmed by this project. Seriously, from start to finish, this might have taken me a few hours. The tracing takes the longest and that was probably about 45 minutes. I love the way this sign turned out as it makes our entrance look so much more inviting!

BEFORE: Plain entrance
AFTER: DIY Welcome Sign and DIY Upcycled Candle Holders with added Greenery
*I slipped a 500ml empty plastic coke bottle into the galvanized pitcher so that I could add water and use it like a vase. Works perfectly!

Garage Sale Rusty Metal Tray Upcycle

This photo was actually taken two summers ago after an amazing garage sale score! I had stumbled upon this sale along a main road on my way home from getting groceries. It was already late afternoon, so they were beginning to clean-up, but I spotted the wrought iron plant holders and thought it was worth pulling over. You know what they say, timing is everything! By this point, they really just wanted the stuff gone…I got the entire table full of stuff, plus the two plant stands for $20. Unbelievable! Anyway, it took me some time to get to it, but I finally have this ugly old rusty metal tray in usable condition. When you calculate the cost for this, I’m guessing it was almost free as it was probably one of the least valuable items in this spree.

Can you say “UGLY?!”

I gave the tray a bit of a sanding to remove the rusty spots and then simply spray painted it white. I did plan to distress it slightly, but didn’t actually realize that the floral decoration had a bit more dimension to it than I originally accounted for. When I finished painting it, you could kind of see the floral design showing through. I really had no choice but to sand over the design and see what I could do with it. So, although I had planned to hide the flowers with paint….I ended up highlighting them by sanding, and surprising love this finished look! I can’t actually believe the ugly flowers are what make this tray so amazing….this is now my favourite serving tray!!

Upcycled Ugly Garage Sale Metal Serving Tray

The moral of this story….when garage selling and thrifting, always look for well made items made of wood, metal and glass. It is amazing what you can do with paint and sand paper! This upcycle even surprised me!

Simple Upcycle: Sofa Feet Turned to Tiered Pillar Candle Holders

A few years ago, I salvaged some old couch feet. I immediately saw the potential to stack the short stubby feet and make a set of tiered candle holders. Despite the fact that I knew this would be a super easy project, I had them stored with my other “to do” materials for close to two years. I finally took them out during Covid.

This project was so simple to do and cost next to nothing to pull off.

couch feet upcycle
1. I gathered the feet and gave them a very light sanding just to scuff the surface so the paint would stick.
2. I used “NO More Nails” adhesive to glue the feet together. I wanted 3 different heights, so I left one as is and then made a stack of 2 and a stack of 3.
3. I spray painted the stack once the glue had set. I didn’t like how visible the joins were, so I ended up filling the gaps with plaster and then lightly painting again.
4. I picked up some metal coasters at the thrift store and glued them to the tops. I felt that I wanted something extra for the candle to sit on. Once these set, I added spray paint to them as well.
5. Here are the finished candle holders. I am pleased with how they turned out, but am still wondering if I might go back and distress them slightly. The one thing about spray painting is that you are somewhat limited by the colour selection. I find the white spray paint very stark and sometimes feel that antiquing projects slightly, often creates more of the result I am looking for.
Part of my outdoor space makeover this summer has been to pretty up our front porch. I ended up putting these out on the porch. Instead of antiquing them as I originally thought, I just ended up adding a small band of twine around each. Simple, but the natural rawness of the twine seems to soften the stark white just enough!

Stay tuned….as part of my front porch project, I recently made a welcome sign for our entrance. You can see a hint of it behind the candles!

Upcycled Garden Decor #2: DIY Picket Fence

As mentioned in a previous post, the lush green vine that completely encompasses our fence is quite lovely, but also over powering. This spring, I decided that we needed to break-up the vine/green with some yard decor. There were hardly any stores open at that point (due to Covid), so I decided to look through what we already had on hand. Some of the items were set to be listed on Kijiji while others were awaiting projects or their final resting place in the landfill. Amongst our stash, I found the old spindles from our stair case make over last summer. As I walked past them, I was immediately struck with an idea! (My husband has grown to hate when that happens because my ideas often involve him!)

spindles turned picket fence
What I saw was the angle on the top of the posts…why not flip one post so that the tip of the angles met to create a peak…like on the top of a picket fence?
spindles turned picket fence
You can see that just by flipping the post, the fence top was automatically created!
spindles turned picket fence
I had my husband screw the posts together.
spindles turned picket fence
He then added two braces across to finish the fence off. You can see this didn’t cost us a penny as it was all scrap wood!
DIY Picket Fence
Here is a before shot. It was still quite early in the spring, so the vine wasn’t as lush and full as it is later in the season.
DIY Picket Fence
Tim actually liked the idea so much, he even painted it for me. I added this old mailbox that I had previously painted daisies on, for added interest. This photo was taken the day we set it up. Now we have to work hard to keep the vine from completely hiding it as well!
DIY Picket Fence
This shot was taken just after I had pruned back some of the vine! I like how the picket fence is mostly hidden and just peaks through to break up the green wall!

I love this upcycle project! It was relatively simple to do and I am quite pleased with the result! In the end, this didn’t end up being my project at all as my hubby did the whole thing…I guess you could just say I was the brains behind it!

Upcycled Garden Decor #1: Spindle Birdhouses

During the first few months of Covid 19 most of the city was shut down, so not only was I working from home, but like everyone else, there were no dinners out, trips to the mall, gatherings with friends, etc. Like so many others, I found myself trying to get projects done around the house and yard. I would never consider myself a gardener. In fact, my husband would declare that I am not even able to keep our few house plants watered. It’s just not my thing. However, being home more this spring, we decided to try a small container vegetable garden knowing that there were no travel plans and thus no excuses for not being able to care for them. So, on May long weekend, we set to work and planted several containers as well as our basic bedding plants. So far, I would say that for us it has been successful. We’ve enjoyed many fresh salads and some of the vegetables that take longer to grow seem to be coming along well. I’m still in the doghouse for not helping with the watering when Tim is at work, but I am trying! 🤪

Being outside in the yard more, got me noticing how blah it really was. We have gorgeous vine that encompasses our whole fence. Although it is very lush, it is like a green wall. So, I decided that we needed to add a bit of interest by trying to break up sea of green. I began scouring Pinterest for garden upcycling projects, knowing that we have a large supply of “project materials” in storage.

I found some faux birdhouses on Pinterest and loved them. They were a simple project and the only cost was a few bottles of “outdoor” acrylic for the roofs. We had 4 spindles left over from our “oak” hunt last year when we rebuilt our main staircase with antique tables. This old table was actually salvaged from a scrap pile at an antique store, so they cost me nothing. In all honesty, they were in a “take to the dump” pile we were building at my house as well…so they got saved not once, but twice!!!

How to Build the Birdhouses:

  1. From the center of the spindle top, cut down each side of center in a 45 degree angle on the mitre saw. This forms the roof.
  2. Cut two scrap pieces of wood for the roof. We did not mitre these, but rather used 2 straight cut pieces of wood. The size will depend on how big your spindle is and how much of an overhand you want. Tim used the nail gun and glue to secure. One will be slightly larger than the other to compensate for the overlap at the tip of the roof (basically the thickness of the board coming up the other side of the roof.)
  3. Drill one or more holes down the front (depends on style of spindle and how much room you have)
  4. Paint with exterior paint. (I gave them a very quick sand just to get the varnish off. I also put on a coat of primer before my exterior paint.)

I love how these birdhouses came out and it was nice to save the landfill one more time!! Stay tuned for more backyard decor projects that we managed to create from the crap we have hanging around….kind of embarrassing really!

Gift Wrapping Ideas: DIY Pillow Box

Have you ever been faced with the problem of wrapping an awkwardly shaped gift? We’ve all been there…it won’t fit inside any boxes you have on hand, you end up with this weird shape and if you’re like me, the gift always ends up getting bumped and torn because of how the paper is sitting. I hate that! Well, I may have a great solution to your problem….a DIY custom made pillow box.

What is a Pillow Box?

A pillow box is generally oblong with curved ends and a shape that resembles a pillow. They are relatively easy to make and you can even find templates online. However, if you really want to make a pillow box work for you, the key is to learn how to customize the size to accommodate the size of your gift.

Kinderarten Challenge:

In this tutorial you get a bonus tip: find out one of the most important skills I teach my kinders and see if you pass the test and employ this strategy!

DIY Custom Pillow Box Tutorial

Today’s video tutorial is a bit longer in length, but it takes you through the steps involved in creating your own customized pillow box. I offer a specific demonstration for creating a small pillow box using a standard 8 1/2″ X 11″ card stock so that the size is a bit more camera friendly to work with. This is followed by instructions on how to enlarge the scale of the design to create a full bristol board sized box.

Not only is a pillow box a great option for those difficult to wrap gifts, but it is also a simple way to change up the same old. Perhaps a long, narrow pillow box might be a great alternative to the standard gift bags used for wine and other bottled gifts.

Of course, you’ll be limited by the colours of bristol board available, but don’t let that stop you …..they rarely run out of black and white and to me those are the two best options anyway.

I hope you find this video helpful! Please remember to LIKE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE to my channel: BOWhemian WRAPsody for more great gift wrapping ideas.

Ultimate Upcyle: Staircase Makeover Using Antique Furniture

We moved into our 1921 home in 2008 and although it is a beautiful character home with many wonderful features including coffered ceilings, original built-in cabinets, a fireplace, French doors and a double staircase to the basement, there were definitely a few less than attractive features. Slowly, but surely, we have chipped away at the projects a little bit at a time. The great thing about having a handy husband is that he can pretty much do it all – electrical, plumbing, carpentry, sod, small engine repairs, etc. The downside is that “Mr. Fix-it” also has a full-time job and understandably does not want to spend every moment of his free time doing projects for me (I mean us).

When we first moved into this house, the staircase and entire second floor were covered in a disgusting brown carpet from the 70’s. We knew from the previous owners that there was not hardwood beneath, despite the age of the house. Evidently, there was a fire that gutted most of the second floor, thus none of the finishes upstairs are original. One of our first projects upon taking possession of the house was to remove the carpet. We had previously lived in a house (long story for anther time) that had OSB floors on the second story. We both loved the look and they were a perfect choice for the pocketbook as well. We bought, laid, sanded and urethaned for under $700. We loved the finished OSB look upstairs, but the staircase itself was a mess. The wooden stairs beneath the carpet were in very poor shape. The wood that was used was extremely rough and our attempts to paint and urethane did little to hide the imperfections.

I’ve hated the staircase from the moment we moved in and always had this vision in my head. It has taken us a very long time to attack this beast because we both knew it was not only a huge undertaking, but quite possibly beyond our capabilities. In December, we remodelled the upstairs landing, so that the kids would have a place to hangout with their friends. We don’t have a finished basement (yet) and with only the one family/living room, there really wasn’t a place for the kids and their friends (without us breathing down their necks). We both desired to have our home be an inviting spot for all the teenagers. Sure enough with the upstairs space finished, our kids began to invite their friends over on a regular basis and before long, they didn’t even need an invitation, but knew they were always welcome and were expected to come in and make themselves at home. Back to the reno…the staircase itself is actually very narrow and when we went to move the sofa upstairs (after finishing the landing) we could not make it work. With very little forethought, we smashed down the rail and jumped into this project. I distinctly remember my conflicting feelings…Oh no! What have we done! …verses Hooray! I’m finally getting new stairs!

Before: Painted Staircase

I searched for before pictures, but having hated the stairs, there really aren’t any that truly depict how bad they were. I have a few shots from 2013 after fresh paint and a coat of urethane, but most were taken post demo in December 2018. Demo involved using the “sawzall” to remove the rail and cut off the overhang/nose of the stairs. Otherwise, the black painted/chipped treads and yellow risers demonstrate quite accurately what they were like.

My Vision:

Part of my vision for the stairs involved upcycling old oak. Our home is old and I really didn’t want to purchase a stair kit or even have brand new stairs installed. I wanted hardwood, but also desired to have something authentically aged and with a story of its own. And so it began…I spent several months scouring Kijiji in search of wood that would meet the size requirements for the treads. The trickiest part was finding wood suitable for the bottom three steps which were oversized and oddly shaped because of a turn in the staircase. I ended up with a mishmash of antique oak from a combination of dining room tables, desks, a church pew and junk piles. In addition to the hardwood stair treads, I wanted painted risers that would match the custom stair skirting, batten moldings and chair rail. I knew the look I wanted, but it would take lots of fine finishing work to pull it all together. Keep in mind….my husband is not a carpenter by trade!

The Process:

Once we had the wood collected, we had to muster up the courage to start. It was scary to embark on such a daunting project, but the reality was that our stairs had been barely usable for over 6 months and the job just had to get done. I stripped and sanded the antique pieces. Tim cut the collected wood into treads and then proceeded to stain and urethane. We purchased 1/4″ hardboard to cover the rough risers that previously existed on the old stairs. Tim measured and cut the skirts, batten boards, moldings and chair rails and within 2 weeks, the project was completed. I was in charge of painting and of course, that took many hours of work as well, but none of it would have been possible without Tim’s skills and commitment to getting the job done.

The Results:

I honestly can’t brag enough about my husband right now! First and foremost, he gave up his entire 2 weeks of vacation to get this project done. He dove in despite his reservations, and his workmanship was the best he’s ever done! I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. We decided to put the handrail on the inner wall as opposed to adding one on the open side (for now at least). The staircase is so narrow that leaving it open just looks so lovely. We have already tossed around some ideas for the outer rail, but for now we are just going to enjoy the beautiful open feel of the narrow space. So proud of my man!!


Check-out the video to see the full before and after reveal!

Mud Room Mayhem #6: Vintage Sewing Machine Turned Entry Table

I had picked up an old antique Singer Sewing machine several years ago through Kijiji. I was attracted to this one in particular because it was only $25. Of course the low price was fair because it was in super bad shape.  The wood had been painted white and then left outdoors for an extended period of time. Needless to say it was warped and the paint was in horrendous shape. For me it was a steal because I really didn’t care about the cabinet or sewing machine. I was interested in the drawers and wrought iron base.

I had previously used two of the drawers as little storage containers in my laundry room makeover.

I was saving the wrought iron base for something…it just took me a few years to figure out exactly what I would do with it. When we finally decided to attack the mud room, I knew this is where its final resting place would be. This was a super simple project and it was so easy to make it a custom size to fit the space. The sewing machine base consists of two side panels. The size of the table is simply determined by the length of the boards you use. We purchased 3 planks and cut the two shelves, so that they would fit snuggly between the sides and rest on the old drawer supports. The third plank was slightly larger, so that it could sit on top of the supports and overhang slightly. We sanded, stained and urethaned them all and then secured them to the supports (which I had sanded and spray painted white). The finished result was a perfect sized shelve/entry table for our mud room! I couldn’t believe that I scored all of the baskets/trays at Dollarama for well under $30!

I feel like this mud room has been at a standstill for way too long, but with summer vacation around the corner I’m optimistic that we’ll make some headway. This summer my mantra is “finish old projects”. I feel like we have quite a list of jobs that are 90% done.  My plan is to take care of all of those finishing touches and try not to start anything new before these old projects are 100% complete. That would feel sooooo good!