Ikea Bar Stool Hack

phdikeahack2If there is one thing my wedding prep taught me, it is that everything in life can be improved with gold spray paint.

We returned home post-wedding to find a wonderful array of new grown-up furniture, glassware, cutlery, and cake stands awaiting us. Amongst the Pottery Barn adulthood, our student Ikea bar stools suddenly looked especially nineties. Ten years ago, before I developed my own tastes and sense of style, Ikea’s plentiful birch effect and dull chrome hardware worked—now it ruined the aesthetic. Being in grad school our budgets have not improved in the last decade, but thankfully my creativity has. Rather than replacing the stools we hacked them. From nineties drab, our Franklin stools are now more mid-century fab.

Tools Needed:

  • Ikea Franklin stools
  • Screw Driver
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray Paint (Krylon Gold Metallic)
  • Wood Stain (Miniwax Wood Finish in Red Mahogany 225)

phdikeahack3First, take the chair apart so that all wooden parts are removed from the metal frame.

Remove the black plastic foot rest. This is a little tricky as there are little plastic prongs inside which you need to break off before you can remove the foot rest. Rotate the plastic bar until you hear a snap—that is the sound of the prongs breaking off. Now prize the plastic bar off of the metal frame, (we used scissors at first to get some purchase).

Cover the black plastic feet with painters tape and then spray paint the entire frame, front and back, and also the brackets. It took a couple of sprays before we got totally even coverage. Leave the frame to dry completely.

For the wooden chair parts, first, sand them down to remove the existing varnish. Make sure you sand front and back, top and bottom, as all areas will be seen. Once you have a rough surface, apply wood stain with a brush in the direction of the grain. We did a couple of coats to get the desired dark finish and left the stain on for near an hour rather than the suggested twenty minutes. Remove the excess stain and leave the chairs to dry. It was humid, so our chairs took a good twenty-four hours to dry.

Finally reassemble the chair and enjoy your handy work.

This was a very easy project, especially as we already had all the equipment in the house. While, in time, we will likely want to get new furniture for our kitchen, these chairs work well in our current space. Proof again, that spray paint really is a girl’s best friend.phdikeahack4


Our Wedding Invites

DSCN5978I love Black Friday. I love watching the sunrise over Boston as we return home at 6am after a night of shopping. I love turning on Christmas music for the first time, as our household maintains a strict no-Christmas music until after Thanksgiving rule. In its own way, I even enjoy the 2-hour journey to move the last 3 miles at the entrance to our local outlet malls. Black Friday is very much part of our holiday calendar.

This year, however, we did something we have never done before—a pre-Friday reconnaissance mission. Having received the Michaels’ Black Friday flyer in the mail, I found out the Heidi Swapp’s Minc machine was going to be a Doorbuster deal. The Minc is a foil applicator, akin to a laminator but instead it adds metallic foil to toner print. I have lusted after this machine for months—I watched it in action on YouTube, I read reviews of it on Amazon, and I daydreamed about how much better my wedding invites would look if they were foiled.

At half price, I could no longer resist the call of Minc. I was determined that it would be mine, and I knew other crafters would feel the same. Doorbusters are low priced, limited supply deals designed to entice customers into the store. To be victorious on Black Friday I realized I could not waste time the morning of—I needed to know the store layout in advance so I could make a beeline for the Mincs. And thus, a week before Thanksgiving we found ourselves in Michaels working out the best route. After four years together, my husband did not really even bat an eyelid.

The research paid off, Black Friday arrived and I joined the crowds outside Michaels. When the doors opened at 6am, in we ran. There was no messing about with Christmas décor, or getting distracted by the pull of adult coloring books—oh no, not me. As others fell by the wayside, I kept my focus, striding with purpose to the Minc machines at the back of the store. Victory was mine! As others ran around like headless chickens, I picked up my Minc and several packets of half priced colored foil. Eye of the Tiger playing in my head, I calmly strutted back across the store towards the checkout, fully appreciating how Rocky felt upon reaching the top of the steps.

The Minc is better than I could have ever imagined. I’ve invented wedding projects just so that I can foil things. Martha Stewart, patron saint of all things wedding, says that a logo gives cohesion to the day, so I’ve taken this as encouragement to add our initials to every item I can. And I have to agree, Martha, there is indeed an air of cohesion about our big day…

Rather than using a designer, I wanted to design all our wedding stationery myself. It certainly saved a lot of money, and I really enjoyed writing zero in the invite design column of my wedding cost spreadsheet. More importantly, apart from time the computer crashed and lost everything, and the other time that I missed a typo and had to begin all over again, it was a lot of fun.phdinvites8As we got engaged on the Cape, where hydrangeas line the beach paths, ice cream parlors, and whitewashed picket fences of wealthy Republican driveways, I knew I wanted to incorporate hydrangeas into our stationery. After image searching online, I could not find a hydrangea that met my approval, but I did find a rubber stamp on eBay that fit the bill. Once the stamp arrived I loaded it up with black ink, and scanned the stamped image at high resolution. After cropping and editing the image so that the background was transparent, I was ready for the designing.

For the invite design I used the online photo editor, picmonkey.com. It is easy to use, but I won’t lie, the invites took hours, and if I’m being honest, days. In part this was because I am a craft perfectionist with  strong opinions on fonts and paper types. For any Archers listeners in England, you will understand that I’ve really sympathized with Lynda Snell and her quandary over font choice for the “Resurgam”garden. Thankfully, I faced no such dilemma having decided long ago that Ecuyer Dax was the font for us, and I have used it for all our wedding stationery and signage. As our wedding colors are gold and blush pink, I wanted to use the same colors in our invites and website. After many hours spent rotating hydrangea images, moving things a millimeter to the left and right, and copious proofreading from my mum and husband, the invites were finally ready.

Having been ambushed with questions during the design process—“do you like option A or B, best?,” “what about C or D?,” “Do you like this pink or this pink?,” “ Does this pink match the bridesmaids dresses?”—I suspect my husband breathed a sigh of relief that it was finished. However, moving from designing to printing spawned a new frontier of questions regarding print quality and paper thickness. For several weeks we seemed to get new paper samples in the mail every day, and I spent considerable time waving them back and forward looking for the perfect paper thickness.phdinvites9Once it came time for printing, I ended up ordering from three companies, Vistaprint, Tinyprints, and Shutterfly. In the first batch my husband was missing eyes, and a yellow splodge ruined my perfectly positioned hydrangeas. On the second, the pink background looked too white. While we now affectionately refer to the incident as “Splodge-gate,” tensions were rather high at the time. Thankfully my mother is a master of the complaint letter, and passed this skill on to me. The third batch, just as Goldilocks found with baby bears’ porridge, were perfect.

Being a firm believer in the importance of first impressions, with invites done I turned my attention to envelopes. I wanted to gold foil the addresses using the Minc machine, but ran into problems when my printer did not have a 5 by 7 envelope setting. While some people might have abandoned ship at this point, I refused to be beaten by a laser printer. After a little bit of thought, I realized that I could stick the envelope to a standard piece of paper and fool the printer into printing on the envelope. And so I painstakingly stuck each individual envelope to a paper template using washi tape, and then gold foiled each one. In retrospect, given that there were 130 envelopes, this was mad—but well worth it.phdinvites7When it came to decorating the inside of the envelopes, all my years of couponing and post-valentines sales purchases really paid off as I raided my ever-growing scrapbook paper collection, and selected all the pink and gold hued paper. I cut out envelope inserts and stuck them inside the envelopes. With envelopes filled and stamped, I took my batch of pink and gold beauties to the post office, and felt a little apprehensive about letting them go. However, within days we started to receive RSVP cards with messages from our friends and family, and with each pink hydrangea card that arrives in the mail box we get more excited about the big day.

Inspired by the success of the invites, I have used Picmonkey for bridal shower and rehearsal dinner invites, wedding signage, menus, and order of services. The Minc rarely gets put away and is a regular fixture on our dining room table—I’ve yet to find anything that can’t be improved with foil. Our carpet, for example, is now permanently flecked with foil remnants. What I will do when our wedding is over and there are no craft projects left, I dread to think. Until then I am going to enjoy every minute of my little gold foiling factory and maybe begin to plan for next Black Friday… phdinvite3.JPG



The Grown Up Table: An Ikea Lack Hack

phdpfikea4I call this table the grown up table because it wasn’t until we put the wooden table top on, that I realized how cheap and Ikea-ry it looked before. Of course it was cheap and from Ikea so it isn’t really surprising. Not that I want to bad mouth Ikea because I love the store (especially as you get a free cup of tea if you are an Ikea Family member!), however, I think our additions have improved this table dramatically.

This was actually a fairly easy Pinterest inspired project. However, we did rather manage to complicate it by cutting the wrong size of wood the first go round so that the table top was an inch short. However, if you can measure correctly the first time it will be much easier.

Tools Needed

  • Ikea Lack Coffee Table
  • 4 x 90cm x 5.5 inch wooden board (We chose Cedar planks)
  • Sealant (We used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • screws
  • Drill
  • Sand Paper

To start this project, measure the table. Ours was 90cm long, however, I would recommend measuring your own in case there is any deviation.

With measurements in hand we took one of our frequent trips to Home Depot and chose some 5.5 inch board. Don’t rely on signage to tell you the width of the board, measure it yourself as we found that the width marked and the actual width of the board were often rather different. We chose two cedar boards as we liked the grain best, and then cut each into two planks. Having previously been very nice about cutting  wood, our Home Depot now says they won’t do custom cuts. Therefore my boyfriend had to take the planks over to a bench in the dowels aisle and cut our boards with a blunt hand saw. Hopefully other Home Depots will be more accommodating and cut the boards with an electrical saw for you.

Once home we experimented with which order we wanted the planks to be on the table, and sanded off the ends and edges until smooth. We tried dark wood stain initially but decided that we liked the natural cedar better, and so just sprayed them with Krylon topcoat. It took a couple of coats to get something resembling an even covering.

phdpfikea6To attach the panels to the table we used a  drill bit to drill holes in the wood. This was arguably the hardest part of the project, in large part because our drill is fairly terrible and so the drill bit got stuck in the wood a few times. However, with a more efficient tool this wouldn’t be a problem. I was fairly certain the table would split when we tried to drill into it, however, I guess Ikea tables are stronger than I predicted as we didn’t have any problems. After making the holes we then put two screws in each end of the panel. Each screw is half inch from the edge of the panel.

The grown up table is now one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our house. It looks so much better than its $19.99 price tag.  The teal candle holder came from Ikea, and the coasters are white bathroom tiles from Home Depot that I doctored up with scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, Krylon top coat, and felt bases.


Damien Hirst Inspired Skulls

phdpfskulls3I have never really like skulls, they remind me of the scene in Snow White, when the skull appears in the poison apple. However, I had a plastic one kicking around the house, (as you do!). I was about to give it away when I realized I could probably improve it. Most improvements I do involve spray paint or glitter–in this case it was the latter. Last year I had a Pinterest-inspired obsession with glittered pumpkins, which lasted for most of the Fall. It eventually extended to glittered pinecones, leaves, and cake stands as well. Glittered skulls seemed the obvious next step. As glitter is the total antithesis of skulls, it appeared the perfect pairing. It was a very easy project, and so successful that I went to the dollar store and got another skull to make a second one. They look even better than in the photos; glitter, I have found, is almost impossible to photograph.

phdpfskulls2Tools needed:

  • Plastic skull (Mine is from Dollar Tree)
  • Mod Podge
  • Glitter (The finer the better, the Recollections brand at Michaels works well)
  • Sponge Brush

How To:

  • Take the price tag off the bottom of the skull to ensure even glitter coating.
  • Cover the top of the skull in Mod Podge using a sponge brush. It is easier to work in sections as otherwise you get covered in glue. I did the top section first, then the mouth, sides, and finally the base.
  • Put the skull on a tray, newspaper, plate, etc. so that the glitter doesn’t spread everywhere, and pour glitter over the glue. Shake off the excess and leave it to dry. You can return any loose glitter to the container for later use.
  • Repeat the glue and glitter process until the entire skull is covered. Wait for it to dry. If, like me, you lift it up to soon you will get finger print marks, and have to redo that section.
  • Add more glue and glitter to any sections that need it.
  • Optional extra: bedazzle with gems and crystals for a real Hirst look. I was going to put large red crystals in the eye sockets but I thought I might have nightmares!

So now my glitter pumpkins have some company for Halloween. Eventually I would like to get a large glass cloche to display the skulls in, but as the dollar store doesn’t sell them it will be a while till I get one. All in all a very easy way to transform an ordinary $1 plastic skull in to a skull fit for a fashionista. Hirst and McQueen would be proud.

Kate Spade Inspired Frames


My very favorite type of craft project is one that doesn’t cost anything. This project is all made out of items I already had at home, and therefore could be completed without a dash to Michaels or Joanns.

My boyfriend recently moved into my apartment. Among the furniture he brought with him was a dresser, which we have sprayed white and put in the closet. This means that there was an empty dresser surface in the closet in need of attention. I love postcards, and probably single-handedly keep the postcard industry in business. In my large stash I knew I had some from an exhibition of Grace Kelly’s clothes, and some WW2 poster reproductions that would look fantastic in a clothes closet. The only problem was I didn’t have any suitable frames, but I did have some unsuitable ones in need of a project.

phdpfks2Tools needed:

  • Plain frames, (I had some 5 by 7 pink ones from Target’s dorm collection)
  • 1 inch Circle Punch (mine is by Recollections)
  • Martha Stewart bow punch
  • Primer
  • Assorted Spray Paint, (I used Rust-Oleum white, gold glitter, and pink)
  • Sealant (I used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • Assorted paper scraps
  • Glue (I used E6000)
  • Pretty postcards or pictures for framing

This project was really easy, and perfectly transformed boring frames into something special. Like many other crafters, I am a little obsessed with gold and polka dots at the moment. I love Kate Spade, but not the prices, and so took inspiration from the brand to do a little DIY job.

After taking the glass out of the frames I sprayed them with Primer. I don’t know if this step was really necessary, but my frames were a dark pink plastic, and I didn’t want the color to show through. Once dry I then sprayed them with two coats of spray paint and left them to dry completely.

Once dried the real fun could begin. Using my punches, I punched bows and dots for my frames. I also cut some long strips so that I could make stripes. The gold paper was from an envelope I had from my grandparents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary over 10 years ago! How I still have it with me after all this time and moving across the Atlantic, I really don’t know. However, it just goes to show the benefits of hoarding! The envelope was actually perfect because it was thin. I don’t think heavy cardstock would well on this project as you wont get a smooth finish.

I experimented with where I wanted to put the embellishments on my frames, and when happy with how they looked, I glued them down. After everything had totally dried I sprayed the frames with top coat to  seal them. (I didn’t spray the glitter one as I didn’t think it needed it). Finally I put the glass back in and framed my postcards. And voila, beautiful frames! This was such an easy craft, but it has made the closet look so much prettier.