Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Has Come... with Felt Balls, Burlap Stockings & Pink Pine Cones!

There's just not enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  My friend Meredith and I were talking about  how we really need another month.  If Christmas were on January 25th I could get it all done.  Each year there's more to do, more fun to be had, and far less time which explains why I'm blogging about my Christmas decor after Christmas!

This year on the Christmas decorating front, I felted balls to hang over the dining room, made stockings from a coffee bean burlap sacks and some old pillow cases, spray painted some pine cones shimmering pink, and found dozens of pink, gold and teal Christmas bulbs at Scrap SF to coordinate our tree with our new Living Room rug.

I picked ornaments to match our new area rug which has pale peachy-pink and pale teal colors in it.

My friend Noelle taught me how to make felt balls.  I strung them over the dining table.
Shimmering pink spray painted pine cones bring the pink theme into the dining room.

My kids kept asking me to hang our stockings but I just couldn't.  Each one was a different color-- purple, green and two fire engine reds-- and none of them matched our decor.  They would have looked terrible.  Plus, we don't have a mantle in the living room.  I decided to make use of a coffee burlap sack I picked up from an antique store in Petaluma last summer and make my own stockings.  I had just enough burlap from one sack to make four, just what we needed. 

I decided to line them with old white pillow case fabric so they're nice and soft inside and the creamy white peaks through the lose knit sacks.  I used fabric glue to attach the faux fur that I picked up from Mendel's on Haight Street. I found the perfect size gray ribbon to attach to the stockings for hanging from some old Laurie b clothing tags I had lying around.  

All-in this project cost me $23 total-- $15 for the burlap sack and $8 for 1/4 yard of faux fur. Not bad for 4 stockings! And, it didn't take me very long to make them.  I stitched on the pillow case fabric first.  Then I folded the fabric and traced one of my existing stocking feet to get the shape of the foot right.  I stitched that up and then inside-outed it and glued on the fur.  Easy!

Steve calls these Eskimo boots

With no mantle, I created this "brantle." This perfectly sized branch is from Michaels Craft Store.  I nailed some funky, cut spike nails from Paxton Gate onto the branch and hung it with clear fishing wire looped onto picture molding hooks for easy set-up and removal.

This Santos Cage Doll was an early Christmas present for myself.

I found tons of the perfect pink Christmas ball ornaments at Scrap SF.

I also found a big piece of burlap at Scrap to throw around the trunk.
Did you catch this beauty in the background?  My dress form changes with the holidays. Noelle surprised me with this festive tree topper. $8 at Target!

Now for the felt balls!  Noelle talked about felting, felting, felting for weeks and I just couldn't picture what she had in mind.  I guess she picked up on my lackluster interest and felted away one Saturday afternoon without me.  When I saw what she created I just had to do it myself too! And this is what I ended up with...

It's like modern garland!

The felting process is easy but time consuming.  Like Noelle, I spent an entire Saturday afternoon felting away.  First, I went to Urban Fauna Studio in San Francisco to pick up the supplies I needed.   

Urban Fauna Studio.  I think the nice man shown here is the owner.

Full of cute items made from felt.  Who knew?

I picked my felt colors from these jars.

This is what I walked away with for my project.  I spent around $35.

DIY1-2-3: Making a Felted Wool Ball "Christmas Garland"
Step 1:  Take a white base color felt and create a ball about the size of a clementine.  Roll some additional colored felt over it and shape into a ball, poking with this special needle.  The more you poke, the rounder it gets.

This is one of the most creative felt balls my sister Michelle made
As you can see, the balls are far from perfectly round.  It's OK because they firm and shape up in the washing and drying process.

Step 2:  Place the felt balls into an old panty hose and tie knots in-between the balls.  Don't tie them too tight because you place them in the hot cycle in the washing machine and then in the clothes dryer.  If the knots are too tight, it's hard to get the felt balls out. (I didn't want to cut the panty hose because I didn't have enough of it.  I had to do two separate washes to make 75 balls).

Step 3:  Pull the balls out of the panty hose.  They will stick a little so you have to tug.  The tugging helps make them fuzzy.  I grouped them by color so I could vary them along the string.  You just take some thread and a big needle and poke them through to create the look you want. No need to tie the balls onto the string.  They stay put for the most part.

Per Noelle's suggestion, I spaced my balls about 8-10 inches apart

So pretty

Since we're on the top of crafting and sewing I thought I'd show you another reason why there's not enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I whipped up this little purse/tooth fairy pillow for my daughter one afternoon with leftover scrap fabric I had lying around.  I had everything I needed on hand to make this little purse pillow in an hour.

I simply sewed some scrap fabric together in a long rectangular shape, stitched on a zipper, and sewed it all together. Next I made a pillow insert.  Then I hand stitched a button on one side to loop the purse strap on and then stitched the purse strap onto the other side.  I did this so you can tuck the purse strap into the purse if you want to use it as a pillow only.  Lastly, I sewed a little pocket on the outside for the tooth..  Viola!  A tooth fairy pillow purse!

It was such a big hit, I made one for my daughter's best friend, my niece and then I made a tooth fairy snake pillow for my son.  By the time we were finished with all this crafting, my dining room was a wreck.  My son said, "Mom!  This is the biggest mess I've ever seen you make!"

But, not as big a mess as making a ginger bread house!  

No, this isn't our gingerbread block.  These gingerbread ladies are on display at the Academy of Science.  We didn't have enough time for gingerbread houses this year at our house. (But really, I just wasn't in the mood for the mess.)

The last big holiday decorating project was another suggestion from Noelle.  After I saw her amazing Christmas tree fully dressed just days after Thanksgiving (which I will photograph for you on New Year's Eve), I was in the mood for pink.  Noelle told me exactly where to find tons of pine cones in Golden Gate Park and she picked up the perfect pink spray paint for me at a local craft store. (FYI: They don't have metallic pink spray paint at the paint store.  It's at the craft stores).




I hope you enjoyed my crafty Christmas decorating projects.
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Having a Budget Nurtures Creativity

One of my friends is a high-end interior decorator.  She is used to having a half million dollar furniture budget to spend on her clients' 3,000 square foot homes.  She is in the process of building her own family home right now and isn't spending that kind of money and it's truly a struggle for her.  She has expensive taste and it's so hard for her not to bring that same taste into her own home. 

I am trying to reassure her that building on a budget is not all bad.  I personally found that it forced me to be more creative, to think outside the box and it often forced me into design elements that I never would of thought of had I not been strapped for cash.

Here's one example.  When our architect was working on the plans to add a dormer to the roof line to turn two small closets into a master bath, we learned that carrying that load down to the first floor was going to entail a lot more expense than we originally thought.  On top of that, I wasn't crazy about the actual layout of the bathroom with a dormer.  It was going to be a square shape with a shower shoved in a corner and a toilet in the other.  There was nothing masterful about it!

Instead, our architect suggested we eat into the space of the two side-by-side rooms that these closets faced by two feet in both directions.  At first I was concerned that this would shrink an already small master bedroom but then I came up with a great idea.  To compensate for losing two feet, I decided to not put any furniture in the master bedroom. Instead, we had dressers and closets built under the eaves of the roofline so they didn't occupy any space in the room. Not having much furniture eating into the room makes it feel spacious and now the loss of two feet is irrelevant.

I truly believe that designing  a home on a budget it is not all bad. So much of what people love about my home is what I HAD to do because I had a tight budget. If we could buy everything we wanted we'd just look like everyone else. When you can't have it all is when you end up having something unique, something special. And, it's not something you simply buy. It's something you imagine. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

She's Got a Brick House!

My friend Kelly has a fabulous row house in DC that she's been slowly restoring for a few years now.  She has picked some beautiful paint colors, has done a great job editing the kitchen, has some beautiful, classic furnishings, and now has a timeless new powder room.  I visited her this summer and loved the house and what she's done with it, but I got the sense Kelly was looking to push herself a little further with her decor.  She's yearning for just a touch of an eclectic spirit to layer on top of her classic taste.  This is exciting for me to hear, but I have to confess that I am hitting a brick wall-- so to speak-- trying to help Kelly release her inner artist.

Kelly fully admits to being a catalog girl. She's often tempted to rip out an entire page and smatter her living room with everything in it. But she says she's ready to stray-- to get a little crazy. I'm learning to be patient with Kelly because we can't go too far. When I bring up things like "distressed metal," "driftwood," or "flea market" Kelly usually says something like, "I know you want me to buy one of those crazy mirrors, but I found this one instead..." It cracks me up-- as if my decorating suggestions are so wild!

I have made progress though. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I read a recent e-mail from Kelly asking what I thought about exposing some of the brick in her house! I was ecstatic! I used to dream of opening up walls in my house and finding brick, as long as it wasn't the foundation. Apparently, in DC there's brick everywhere behind the walls and Kelly is ready to (gasp) unearth it.

I have been saving photos of cool exposed brick and e-mailed them to Kelly immediately, hoping these fabulous interiors would inspire her cause.  I just love everything about brick-- it's warm and cozy, has so much texture, is timeless, and character drenched. What more could you ask for?

From:, this 600sf East Village apartment (of course it's that small) explodes with that amazing wall of brick. I wanted the feeling of old brick somewhere in my house when we were remodeling, but only found the perfect solution after the work was complete.


gray bricks apartment therapy

in the details exposed+brick+ceiling
via remodelista
Source:  Apartment Therapy
Source:  House Beautiful

Even before I hunted these images down online, I knew I wanted brick in my home. A week after we finished the installation of our master bath I received an e-mail from Waterworks announcing the launch of their new Henry & Grove Brickworks lineI couldn't believe what I saw. 

While tile shopping during our remodel I kept asking around if anyone had tile that looked like real, aged brick. The answer was always no. Of course, right after I completed my project, what I was dreaming about came true!

 Brickworks Field Tile at Remodelista

Waterworks created beautiful, glazed brick tiles with bumpy, irregular surfaces complete with pin holes. Grove Brickworks tile have the look and feel of aged brick with the practicality of glazed tile. Perfection! They remind me of Georgetown, DC.

I was bummed to see these tiles come out a few months too late for my project. I would have LOVED to cover my master bath with these beauties.

I  do have a confession to make about that...

The same week our master shower was finished, I noticed water leaking into the hallway. I was actually excited!  I thought to myself, "There is no way this leak can be fixed without ripping out the tile and drywall and repairing the leaky pipe." I actually thought I was going to have to re-tile the shower. How sick is that? Obviously, they got into the wall from the hallway (duh) and made the simple repair there.  And thank goodness. What a waste that would have been!  Waterworks tile is just so gorgeous that I literally can lose my mind over it.  Really...

Someday I will have this lovely tile in my home but until then I will share it with clients and enjoy it from afar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We're hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year with a few friends and my sister who is flying in from NYC.  My friend Noelle was joking around with me, stating I'd better have the house decorated to the nines for dinner because my guests will expect a lot of me because of the magazine cover situation.  At first I thought, no way.  Who cares.  Then I thought hmmm...maybe she's right.  I'd better give it some thought.  After giving it some thought I quickly (and obviously)  reminded myself that I don't live in a magazine cover.  I live in a home.

Today I was watching my kids run around the house, screaming and giggling smearing their dirty hands on the walls, dragging their muddy pants along the floor, and experiencing sheer joy.  Instead of interrupting them to wash their hands, cuff their pants and pick up their trail of toys I just watched them having fun, living life...Living joyfully.  

As much as I love having a nice home with pretty things to look at, that's all buttoned up and organized that's not what really matters.  A home is a place for joy, laughter, snuggling by the fire, reading books on the comfy sofa, listening to music, lounging with friends, getting crazy with friends, smearing paint all over the dining table, digging holes in the yard, filling your shoes with sand at the playground, spilling flour everywhere while baking a cake, emptying toys all over the floor... 

This Thanksgiving we are thankful for so many things, but at the top of the list is the joyful spirit our children bring to our lives.  Our children remind us of what home truly is.  It's so much more than a physical place full of decorated things.  Home is where our spirit lies.  I hope your spirit is filled with joy this Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Build Your Own Damn House

After biking the kids to school this morning Steve asked me if I wanted to try something new.  I had a feeling he was taking me to our friend Sam's favorite coffee shop in the Sunset, near the beach. It's called Trouble and it's on the N Judah line on Judah Street in-between 45th and 46th. 

Source: Giulietta C, owner of Trouble
We're not big coffee drinkers but I remember Steve saying Trouble's scones rival Arizmendi's, our favorite local bakery.  He even muttered something about being on the same page as Tartine.  It turns out I got a lot more than a scone that morning.

Trouble Coffee
The first thing I noticed rolling up was the groovy parklet (two parking spots converted to outdoor cafe seating) with a giant tree trunk turned bench in the middle. Then I noticed all the hipsters and surfers piling into this quaint little shop with lots of funky, weathered treasures.

The scrubbed down glass front door is full of vintage photos.  
The front door to the cafe

The walls are paneled in reclaimed wood blemished and character drenched-- perfectly imperfect.  

The coffee beans sit in old glass jars.  There's even a dress form perched on a shelf, vintage photos plastered on the door, an old map of San Francisco on the wall, and a giant slab of 4 inch thick raw wood for the counter top.  My first instinct was to snap photos for my blog.  

But then I noticed something that pulled my eyes away from the decor and to the pulse of the shop.  I noticed the owner, Giulietta Carrelli, chatting with customers.

Giulietta Carrelli: Trouble Coffee
Source: Edible Communities

There was something different about this coffee shop.  The people behind the counters, the people sitting at the counters, and the people rolling in and out the door had a connection.  It was almost like Steve and I were outsiders, stepping into someone's kitchen- in their home.  Not only did they all know each other but the lines between the people running the shop and patronizing it were blurred.  They were all simpatico.  

We started asking people what they were ordering and soon discovered the toast with cinnamon sugar and butter is famous.  The coffee is Ecco cafe and the cappuccinos are the espresso drink of choice here, not lattes.  We also found out what "Build Your Own Damn House"— which jumps out at you from the menu— means.  It's a package meal-- a young coconut, cup of coffee, and cinnamon sugar toast for $8. It also has another meaning which I will get to soon.

Trouble Coffee Company

Source: Sunset Magazine


Steve and I shared a latte because there is no decaf and caffeine gives us the shakes. But, after talking with the owner about foam and texture she offered us a cappuccino on the house which was even better.  We polished off two scones in a matter of minutes with the orange chocolate one being our fave.

Source: BiciB via Yelp

I started talking to Guilietta and learned how her cafe came to be. She had fallen on tough times, was looking for a career opportunity and saw a need for a good coffee shop in the Sunset. She literally was surviving on coffee, coconut and toast for months so she could save up enough money to open Trouble. She ambitiously signed a 7-year lease with the landlord and built her business from the ground up, so to speak. She did the carpentry herself, was resourceful in acquiring the items she needed to run her business and knew the exact number of beans that went into each espresso.  Guilietta "built her own damn house"-- a thriving business.  Many of the people you see today behind the counter have been there since the early days and she considers them family.
But opening up a successful business with limited means and experience isn't the only trouble Gulietta has had to overcome. Two years into running her shop she became a single mother of twins.
How does she do it?  

She’s built a strong community of loyal employees and customers. The people who run the cafĂ© with her also babysit.

I saw something in her that day that I see in myself. She has a work ethic that is relentless. She doesn't take no for an answer, and she is steadfast in her opinions-- even about lattes.  "Why put more cow juice in your coffee?  I don't get that!"  

Guilietta even knows how to override the building department's bureaucracy.  She is the only business owner in the city who built a parklet without an architectural rendering of her plan.   She funded the permit fee with customer donations.  Their names are inscribed on the cool wooden panels that cover the ground of the parklet.

Back to my initial intrigue--the decor.  The old San Francisco map on the wall with pins sprinkled all around the city.  Those pins represent people who helped Giulietta when she needed them.  
The photos on the front door as you walk in. Those have personal meaning too. The picture of the nun is her mom who left the convent and later married Giulietta's dad.  

The picture of the woman with a saw in the upper left hand corner of the door.  That's Giulietta building her coffee shop herself. She says people ask to buy the memorabilia in her shop to take with them into their own spaces.  

What they don't realize, Giulietta says, is that everything in her shop has meaning for her— has a story behind it that has helped her get to the place she is today.  They're not just objects of art they are memories and reminders of how much her community-- her family-- has helped her build her dream. And they are not for sale.

She's been written up a bunch of times in cool publications like Sunset Magazine, NY Times, 7X7, San Francisco Magazine, among others but none of them have focused on how hard Giulietta has worked to build her business and the importance of forming a tight knit community to ensure it thrives.

There are many layers to Giulietta but the one that stuck to me is how the feeling of her shop, the amazing food and coffee she serves, and even the decor are so much more than just eye candy and sweetness for the taste buds. She serves food and drink for the soul.  I definitely felt my soul touched that morning.

Thank you Giulietta for sharing your story with me. I hope it inspires others as it has inspired me.  

P.S. We went back a few days later to try this fat slice-- AMAZING-- and such a throw back to my childhood!  Sorry, mom, but Trouble's cinnamon sugar toast just doesn't compare.  Source: Loila S via Yelp