Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Get The Look for Less: Fancy Schmancy Napkin Rings


Napkin rings you make yourself for pennies that look like the $8 kind you see in department and decor stores? Yep!

In fact, they are so easy to make, you can have your children do it.

I made a set of these napkin rings that are big and chunky -- perfect for staging a tabletop when your home is for sale. When home staging, the idea is to go big with what goes into a place setting. Big plates. Big glasses. Big bowls. Big ole napkins.

What You Need

To make six napkin rings, gather these things.

Six 5-ounce cans, the squat kind
Aluminum foil, 3 feet off a 12-inch wide roll
Black craft paint
Small paint brush
Clean cotton rag
Clear glossy spray paint

How to Do

I use the cans from evaporated milk, or canned mushrooms, or green chilis. Make sure all the ones you choose are the same  -- same food, same brand -- so they all match exactly.

It's important that you go around both top and bottom edges a few times with a can opener. Make sure there are no sharp burrs. After this point, the project is kid-friendly.

Remove the label and both ends of the can, and wash it well.

Using scissors, cut the 3-foot piece of foil into three 1-foot lengths. Then cut each in half.

Place a prepared can at the center of one edge of a piece of foil, and roll it so it's covered.  

Where the foil overlaps, run a small line of white glue, and press to hold the edge flat. 

Tuck the edges inside the can and flatten them with fingers. Finger press the top and bottom edges. 

Paint the outside of the can with black craft paint. Be sure to get into all the wrinkles. 

Before the paint dries completely, rub off most of it with your rag. Let it dry for an hour. 

Once you spray on a few light coats of clear gloss, it will look like old metal. 


You can decorate your napkin rings with beads. This one wasn't antiqued with black paint. 

I painted this version with red and brown craft paints to look like old leather. 

An even easier version: just cover the can with a strip of scrapbook paper.  

Another easy treatment is to wrap the can with a some decorative duct tape. 

Although I designed these napkin tings for place settings in a staged home, they're sturdy enough to hold up to ordinary use. I hope you have fun inventing your own style napkin rings from upcycled tin cans.

Is your home ready for market? Is it staged to sell? My eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, simplifies your work. Whether it's cleaning, decluttering, arranging furniture, or accessorizing rooms, I give you the insider tips and techniques that professional stagers reply on to sell homes.



Monday, September 24, 2012

The ABC's of Staging a Seasonal Mantel

A mantel that's decorated for the season gives a message to buyers that your home is getting the attention it deserves.

And a little attention on your part goes a long  way. A few new props that indicate the season, or a different floral arrangement might be all you need to make your  mantel look current.    

One of the easiest ways to stage a mantel is to start with a painting.

A landscape painting is an especially good choice, because landscapes have a way of opening up a space. If the landscape showcases the local scenery, so much the better.

To stage this fireplace mantel for the autumn season, I choose a painting I bought at a garage sale. Since it's an autumn scene, I'm already half way to the look I want.

My next step was to hunt for objects that would pick up the colors in the painting. I also wanted to include a variety of textures, of materials, and of shapes.

   
There are plenty of soft and pleasing colors in this autumnal scene. I decided to bring out the greens and oranges with the props I chose, because those seemed the most autumnal. The walls in this room were a soft yellow, an ideal background for the painting.

Still life paintings and abstract art are also excellent choices for home staging, providing they are not too distracting or controversial.


I love the shape of this planter, and I love the reflective glaze. The color is perfect so I knew I'd use it on the mantel. Chances are that you already own the objects you need to stage a mantel in your own home. They should not be too small, too valuable, or too personal.


Every home stager keeps an assortment of things like silks, and floral foam, and sheet moss or spaghnam moss to cover up the foam. I pulled out my faux Chinese lantern silks because I knew I didn't want to limit the color palette to greens.

The wire stems on these silks were longer than I wanted them to be, but instead of cutting them off, I bent them back a few times. Now, if I need them long again, I just need to bend the stems straight.

Even though the flowers are fake, I like to concentrate on flowers that are actually in season, the way I chose alliums and grass for staging this springtime mantel. You can read my suggestions for staging a summertime fireplace here.  


What fall arrangement is complete without seasonal gourds or pumpkins?

My green gourds are from the dollar store. I used them on a mantel last fall and even after being stored in my garden shed all year, they're in like-new condition.

I knew if I needed more things than what I had on hand, I could scavenge in my own neighborhood or backyard for pine cones, twigs, dried flowers, and even rocks.

And there's always the recycling bin for interesting cheap staging props that can be painted or otherwise disguised.  


I used a Michael's coupon to purchase the garland of berries, even though I wasn't sure how I would be using a string of berries.

I wanted something metallic and something with a patina, so this candle holder came out of the prop closet.

I also wanted some clear glass, so I brought out some vases and chimneys, not sure which ones I would use. I ended up setting this glass vase on top of the candle pedestal to give it height. Often, wide glass vases can look like hurricane chimneys but cost less and are not so fragile.


I wasn't pleased with this, my first attempt. The lineup of "marching gourds" looked too sterile, so I clustered them for the more interesting look you see in the top photo.

Every tablescape or mantel arrangement calls for some fooling around before it all falls into place. So, gather your props of the season and see what you can create to bring your own mantel to life.

My $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar gives formulas for decorating mantels, as well as guidelines for arranging furniture, choosing paint colors, and all the other decisions you'll make to stage your own home.


Monday, September 17, 2012

DIY Tutorial: How to Make a Pine Cone Wreath

If you're sprucing up your curb appeal to help sell your home, a wreath on the front door is essential.

Whether your home on the market is an apartment in a condo building, or a farmhouse on 100 acres, your front door is one sight that buyers will surely notice. Usually, they are standing there, waiting while the realtor fumbles with the key or lock box.

They are standing there studying your front door. Is there something visual to delight their eye, and impress them even before they step inside? If not, you've missed an chance to capture their interest.

Wreaths Rule

A  wreath on the door is the simplest exterior decor item going. Anyone can DIY one. Everything you need you probably already own. Simple or intricate, artsy or traditional, subdued or colorful -- it's your call and it all depends on the style of your home and the message you want buyers to get.  

I love the look of a square wreath. It's just different enough to be interesting. I made this pine cone wreath as an autumn decoration, but it will stay up through the holidays if this home hasn't sold by then! I'll change the bow to red satin, and wire in a few shiny ornaments.

You can consider a pine cone wreath your default wreath. It can be stored away, then brought out and refurbished for almost any season. Leave it plan, or paint it. Cover it with seasonal picks or hot glue on the silk flowers. Tuck in the sea shells, nuts, buttons, or dried seed pods. Wrap it with garlands or tie on your bows and ribbons!

Here's how to make a basic pine cone wreath for pennies, using a plain picture frame as a base. You'll also need some tin snips or pruning shears, a pair of garden gloves to protect your hands, a hot glue gun and some glue sticks, and a ribbon or other embellishment for a finishing touch.




Gather your materials. I live in where pine trees grow, so scooping them up is just part of routine yard maintenance. You can buy pine cones if Mother Nature doesn't hand them to you. You will need something to cut the tops off the cones. I use tin snips because they are strong and sharp. I've also used landscaping loppers and hand pruners.


This is what the loppers look like. They open wider and provide more leverage than hand pruners. Use them to cut the bottom few inches off all your pine cones. The cuts don't need to be precise or especially neat. Your wreath will have a natural rather than refined look, so irregularities are fine.


This is what the tin snips look like cutting the bottom off a pine cone. This bottom section will be the "flowers" that form your wreath. Making the complete cut may require that you rotate the pine cone and snip into the center from three or four sides of the pine cone. Work on a serious work surface, so you can brace the tin snips against the surface for good leverage when cutting. Usually, you can cut a second "flower" from the top portion by snipping the tip off the top of the cone.


Whether it's the bottom or the top of the pine cone, it will look like this when you've made your cut. It doesn't look all that attractive yet, because the cones I collected were fairly fresh and damp. Once the cones are dry, they open to look more like flowers.


I wanted to make my pine cones a lighter color, so I soaked them in a solution of one part water and four parts bleach. Since the cones tend to float, I weighted them down with a piece of stiff plastic and a flower pot. They soaked overnight. In the morning, I rinsed them well in fresh water, and let them drain.


I covered two baking sheets with aluminum foil, arranged the pine cones on the foil, and set them in a 300-degree oven for two hours. The foil protects the baking sheets from getting drips of pine sap. It took that long to get them totally dry, so that they opened up. Bleaching and drying your pine cones is optional, especially if you plan to spray paint your wreath after it's assembled.


Now, we're getting somewhere. You can paint the pine cones or leave them natural. Or, do a little of both, like leave them natural, but add some glitter to the edges, or some beads to their centers. I spray painted the pine cones purple in this wreath I blogged about at the blog Completely Coastal.


Start making your wreath by hot gluing a line of pine cones across the front of a picture frame. Place a good amount of glue on the bottom tip of the pinecone, press it to the frame, and hold it in place until set. I chose a nice wide frame and painted it a burnt orange color. Most of the frame won't show, so it could be any background color, like black or brown. Don't worry if pieces of pine cones fall off as you glue. It will look fine when you finish.


Fill in most of the front of the frame. There will be spaces between the large pine cones. Work in different areas of the frame, so the glue can be setting up while you glue pine cones to the other sides.


Set the frame on edge to glue pinecones to the edges. I lean it against a cardboard box so the pine cones stay in place by gravity until the glue sets up. If your frame is not as thick as this one, covering the sides of it may not be necessary. You may choose to glue one side, then walk away while the glue cools and sets. If you do this, remember to keep children and pets away from the hot glue work area.


While gluing the pine cones to the sides of the frame, start at the corners, and glue them so the square shape of the frame is maintained. If you want a square wreath, you don't want rounded corners!



To fill in the gaps on the front and the sides, use smaller pine cones or pine cones that have been broken in half. Sometimes you just need to break some of the petals off the pine cone to get it to fit into spaces on the frame. As an alternative you fill these spaces with natural objects, found objects or crafted objects. I have used small hemlock cones, shells, acorns, nuts, beads or marbles.


This is how my wreath looked when I had used up all my pine cones. There were still some small spaces between the pine cones here and there. I wanted to keep the look simple and natural, so I chose to fill the gaps with spaghnum moss.


I tucked tufts of spaghnum moss between the pine cones to conceal the painted frame that was still visible. Filling in all the spaces gave my wreath a full, lush look. I knew this kind of look would provide a versatile base for other seasons besides autumn.

The neutral colors of a wreath made from natural materials  are
always pleasing and will compliment almost any outdoor decor.

I added a length of orange grosgrain ribbon, hot glued onto the back of the frame. I can cut this ribbon completely off to dress this wreath for other seasons of the year. Hanging any wreath is easy with a handy-dandy $1 clear plastic wreath hanger, but you may prefer a dressy metal one. I like the wreath hanger to disappear, but that's just me.


Once you learn how easy it is to make pine cone flowers, you'll want to add them to any 

Christmas wreaths and swags you make. I sprayed these pine cones with a coat of clear gloss.   


I used a brush and gold paint to add some glimmer to the edges and the center
of this pine cone flower. Then I glued some gold beads to the center.


You can get as fancy as you want with pine cone flowers. These got a coat of white
spray paint and some pink "jewels" before being glued to a white felt wreath. 

I hope you'll have fun decorating your front door with an autumn wreath. If pine cones aren't your thing, a rag wreath like the one I made last spring is another economical and easy door decor. Just choose autumnal colors like oranges and browns for your fabrics.

A wreath may be all that you have to do to get your home on the market ready for fall.

If you are getting ready to sell your home, or if your home is already for sale, my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar will help you. Don't go it alone when I can take your hand, and lead you through the maze of trends, tricks and tips professional home stagers use.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Make No-Sew Placemats for Your Staged Dining Table

Here's a DIY tabletop project anyone could
have fun with. You just weave strips of felt in your
choice of colors through a rectangle of felt that's been sliced.
No-Sew. Who doesn't love that? Especially when the results are as impressive as these handsome placemats.

Orange is my favorite color and I'm guessing that many people are attracted to it, since Tangerine is Color of the Year 2012.

Having some hints of orange -- or Tangerine if you want to get all fancy with names -- will give your home some warmth.

And a touch of trendiness too, because let's face it: you didn't see Tangerine in the color palettes of the 80's, 90's, or 00's.

I chose shades of tawny brown, gold, and pumpkin to make these placemats look autumnal.

That's another thing to love about oranges. They're "in season" now that summer's over.

These mats are made of felt. Felt doesn't require hemming. And felt comes in oodles of pretty colors. Also, felt is relatively cheap, as fabrics go.

What You Need

These materials will make four mats.

  • Felt by the yard, about half a yard  
  • Felt by the piece, 12 pieces, as many different colors as you like. I used three colors.  
  • Scissors, good sharp ones
  • Rotary cutter and self healing cutting mat (optional) 
  • Marking pen for fabric
  • Metal yardstick
  • Fabric glue


How to Do

Cut the 9- by 12-inch squares into 1 1/4-inch wide strips, 12 inches long. You can use 
scissors or a rotary cutter like this. It's important to make straight, even cuts or the mats 
will look like a summer camp craft project! If using scissors, keep the bottom blade flat 
against the work surface, and make small cutting motions rather than trying to 
keep a straight line by cutting with one long motion.  

Next, cut a piece of felt the size of a placemat. My piece measured 16 by 13 inches.
Work in good lighting, take your time, and keep the edges clean and sharp. I used
a rotary cutter with my self-healing cutting mat, but scissors will work almost
as well. This background piece will act like a loom for your woven placemat.


Fold the placemat in half lengthwise, and pin it along the cut edges to hold them in place. 
Using the fabric marker, mark lines crosswise at 1 1/4 -inch intervals. Leave an 
uncut border at both ends and along the lengthwise edges, as shown. 

Cut on the lines you marked, ending the cuts evenly on the lengthwise line. 


This is what your felt placemat will look like when it is unpinned and opened. 
This piece now provides the "weft" or the crosswise strips for weaving, held in place 
by the perimeter, which serves like the loom. The colored strips of felt 
will provide the "warp" or the lengthwise strips.

Begin weaving your first strip of felt up and down through the crosswise strips of felt. 
It won't go all the way to the end, but we'll piece it and glue it and it won't show from the front.    

Cut a piece of felt long enough to finish the row with an inch to spare for overlapping and adjusting. 
If you like, you can change the color of any strip for a different look, even midway across the mat.  

Overlap the pieces and press with your fingers to hold in place temporarily. 

Start the next row with a different color. Don't bother to square up the ends. 
You can do that when all the felt strips are in place.  Keep the mat flat and resist the temptation
to flip it over to examine it. Working on a board that can be rotated makes it easier.

Once all the placemat is covered with strips of felt, use a fabric glue like Liquid Stitch 
to join the strips that were pieced together. Keep all these glued connections 
on one side of the placemat, which will be the back of the mat. 
You can slide the strips to the left and right to adjust the placement of the 
glued overlap, and then trim off any felt strips on the two outside edges to make them all even. 

  Let the glue dry for 24 hours. Flip the placemat over and admire your finished product. 
You will find felt very forgiving and pleasant to work with. 

Although I generally advise against setting a table in the staged home with real cutlery
because it is too tempting for people to steal it, I discovered these 
disposable silverware sets that don't look like disposables, at the dollar store. 
They are so lightweight that if anyone picks one up, he'll immediately realize it is plastic 
and leave it there. If he takes it, well, one dollar buys you four three-piece settings!  


I staged this tabletop for an autumn Open House, but by changing the colors, you can make holiday or springtime or birthday or picnic or wedding or any occasion placemats. The Liquid Stitch didn't stand up to washing, so unfortunately these mats aren't for ongoing usage. A stain and water repellant like Scotchgard can extend their life, but basically, the placemats are suitable for staging or limited use only.

A bare table in a staged home usually begs for some decoration. Why not stage your tabletops to make people touring your home see that you're tuned in to the changing seasons, and that you enjoy living in your home?

Do you want more ideas for staging your home for sale? Download my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.

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