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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Hot Glue Gun

I freakin’ love my hot glue gun! I know this may sound somewhat shocking coming from a woman under 30 who isn’t wearing a sweatshirt with an iron-on kitten applique, but it’s just so useful. My personal hot glue gun is on the smaller side and uses mini glue sticks. I have had the same package of glue sticks for about 2 years! I run through rubber cement in about 9 days, but a hot glue gun is super economical.

It's like an artsy pistol.

I know not every projects calls for a hot glue gun, but I usually try to stretch the limitations of mine. From fabric to ceramic, my hot glue gun handles it all. Even the negative aspects of it can be turned into a positive. I glued together a lawn ornament that my daughter dropped. In the 90-degree weather the glue melted and fell apart. But now, if I want to do something that may be only a temporary hold (like gluing rhinestones to a wooden closet door) I know I can hot glue it and hit it with a blow dryer for 5 minutes to melt it off later.

It’s a pretty self-explanatory tool, so I won’t bore you with a makeshift how-to manual. I just want you to know that if you don’t have one, you should get one. And if you do have one, you should use it more– no ugly holiday sweaters or orthopedic footwear required.

Repetitive Vignettes

Vignette seems to be the watchword of the hour, for me anyway. Creating a nice little cluster of things that are appealing in one area just sounds like it would be a good idea. The scary thing about vignette is that you want to make it look natural. If you have a really cool nightstand with a pretty vase of flowers, intricate painting and mosaic jewelery box all grouped together and just have a five feet of emptiness on each side of it, it doesn’t look natural. I’ve decided that I feel like the best design is when your eye can scan a room and be equally pleased by everything. That doesn’t mean that there is no focal point, but it means that the focal point is blended well with the rest of the room.

So I have searched for easy vignettes. The ones that you don’t have to work very hard for; that are intricate but still casual enough that your eye doesn’t sit on it and then wonder why the rest of the room is so boring. I think I have found my answer, and it’s a collectors dream. It’s a grouping of the same object in all shapes, styles, sizes or colors. It still has to be calculated (sorry, there is some planning involved) but is much easier than trying to arrange completely different objects.

A picture vignette. Perhaps slightly unimaginative, but at least there is some

Someone sure likes butterflies.

variation on size and subject. But the color palette is quite lame. I think we can do better.










This plate display really does spice up the wall. I don’t know what is going on with the lamp that is growing out of the ground next to it, but the plates give a little more color variety. Even though this is still a bit dull, at least there are some color options the homeowner can pull from the plates to switch up the accessory or furniture color.

Really though, what's up with that lamp?











A great thing about pillows is that they can go anywhere, get recovered, and


always make a space more cozy. To call a group of pillows a vignette isn’t exactly accurate, but I love the different shapes, colors and sizes going on. Besides, the mix of patterns and textures in the room are pretty killer and very unexpected. If this were facebook, I’d totally “like” this.








Is anyone else thirsty?

If we were searching for the most monochromatic house in America, I think we could stop looking. I know this was suppose to be about vignettes, but seriously I am almost angry at this room for being so dull. The goblet selection at the top would be way cooler if there was a teal backdrop and the white really popped, but there isn’t and they don’t. The shapes are pretty interesting though and it probably took a long time (searching through every Salvation Army in the state) to find that many white goblets, boring as they are in this setting.


Geometry at work.

To bounce back from the white-on-beige-on-white cluster room, I thought it would be appropriate to show you my most favorite group; the weird shit vignette. Now obviously this is slightly more advanced than plates on a wall, but it’s not just the craziness on the mantle that makes this neat. The color and pattern continue throughout the room, so even though this is a crazy shit vignette, it doesn’t look all that odd because the whole room is mimicking the set-up.




So now it’s time to choose; dishware, pillows or weird shit. No matter what you pick, it’s next to impossible to mess-up.

Girls in Tool Belts

Sometimes, it’s the most logical things that escape our attention. Here are some reminders of organization strategies that (once you need them) you will be so happy you did. You’ll see what I mean…

BAM! It's right where you need it!

How many times does a simple project go too far and you end up running to the garage 8 times for a screwdriver, hammer, miter saw? By keeping these obvious necessities hidden inside you will forgo the trip to the cold garage and the dirty white socks (Really? Are you going to put shoes on to go to the garage for 4 seconds? Yeah, I didn’t think so.)

When you do have to store tools in the garage, there is always the risk of them

Even a child could do it!

not being returned to the correct spot. If you’re family is anything like mine, there is more than one person using the tools but perhaps only one person putting them back in their proper space. This nifty (even slightly passive-aggressive) tactic will ensure that they return to their home without a lot of nagging.

Hello cheap alternative

As I have previously mentioned, I don’t like to spend money unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. I have researched the price of hose reels and they can get up to $100! For a hose! Who would spend that if they can avoid it!? Well you CAN avoid it and save about $95. Saving boat loads of money can look a little sloppy, but this just looks smart.

These next few suggestions just make sense. These are the ones that right now you may think “why go through the trouble?” But later you’ll be thinking “I’m so glad I listened to that crazy lady online.”

A random house catastrophe may occur (O.K. maybe a fuse blowing isn’t a catastrophe) but you are prepared nonetheless with these obvious yet rarely practiced organization strategies.

It's obvious, but you just don't think about it until it happens..




Flashlights like this are actually sold with a metal strip right on them. See? Even Maglite wants you to be prepared.









It’s funny how labels like this are kind of a big deal when it comes down to it. The

I wouldn't want to guess in the moment of truth.

last thing you want to do when you’re installing new fixtures is experiment to see which valve goes where.










For the random touch ups.

It may seem like a waste of perfectly good Tupperware, but this guarantees you “lock in the freshness,” or at least keep the paint from drying up inside of a can you thought you closed tight enough. Also, marking which room the colors belong really makes the job a snap when you are trying to differentiate between your dining room’s “Sunshine yellow” and the bathroom’s “Golden Morning Yellow.”





Again with the random crap. Maybe I am being a little bit nit-picky with this last

This is just clever.

suggestion, but I don’t want to hoard any information that may possibly change someone’s life. That’s right, I am arrogant enough to think that I am making a difference in the world.

Horsin’ Around

What wouldn’t we do for our kids? In theory you think “I’d go to the ends of the earth for them,” but when it comes time to exercise that from day-to-day it’s…. well, hard.
Case-in-point; my daughter’s hobby horse. 


My mom bought this from Goodwill for about $15. I had one when I was little and rode that thing until the springs fell off. When my mom brought it over to my house my daughter was less than impressed. Why? It was straight-up ugly.

Lookin’ a little rough.


 The springs aren’t squeaky and the metal isn’t rusted, it’s just the amateur spray-paint job with the 70’s colors kills the fun. So me, with my big ideas, thought I could just do a quick coat of spray-paint and a little freehanded detail to turn this cowboy stallion into a princess mare.

Off to Michael’s I went. They have a killer coupon available online, so I of course HAD to go there. I bought 6 acrylic paints, some self-adhesive plastic gems and about 7 cheap paint brushes for $23. I later had to go to Menards to get some plastic glaze, but there is a reason for that…

You see, I researched online the type of paint that I would need. Plastic is not porous like wood, so I knew I couldn’t buy just any ol’ paint. When I got to Michaels, I couldn’t find it. So I begrudgingly asked a sales associate-

Me: I’m looking for paint that I can use on plastic.

Her: Practically any acrylic will work.

Me: Any acrylic is fine?

Her: Yes.

As much as you want to believe what they are saying, DON’T DO IT! I mean, in some cases she may be correct. I’m sure small plastic figurines hide blotchy paint much better than a four foot horse. My only saving grace was that I spray-painted the whole body first, which acted like a primer so the acrylic paint had something to bond to, and I later put on the glossy glaze to ensure endless hours of joy (hopefully) without any flaking.

He isn’t looking his best here. And yes, that is duct tape on the handles.
Once he was spray painted, the REAL work began. I tried to freehand on the raised surfaces, but I am shakier than anticipated so then another light bulb appeared over my head…
He looks like he’s in some sort of horse bondage.
In theory, painter’s tape works. I had some laying around and it works on walls, so why not try? Again, plastic is not plaster, so tape does not stick well. My lines did turn out straighter than they did when I was just winging-it, but there were also random areas where the tape was loose and leaked through.
The touch ups weren’t nearly as arduous as ripping up tiny pieces of tape and framing the details, but once I saw that my lines were much straighter (where it didn’t bleed) I just sucked it up and trudged on.
 It took me about 11 days to complete. Obviously I skipped some days (I work 40 hours a week. I can’t spend all day painting a damn horse). It only took about 12 hours of actual work from start to finish.

Happily running through the "meadow."

Here is the updated and sleek Moose (yes, that’s his name. My daughter came up with it so I am just rolling with it.)

And by "meadow" I mean "driveway."

 I didn’t just pose him outside for effect. I guarantee that glaze could’ve caused me to lose some serious brain cells if I were to use it in a confined area.

Close-up on the bling

I added flowers (from The Dollar Store) along the springs. The flowers have metal wires for stems so they were very easy to twist into place. I used a bit of hot glue to stick them to the stir-ups because (let’s face it) nothing is durable when it comes to a two-year-old.
This horse (unfortunately) was not built like a parade float; both sides were not identical. I’m sure you didn’t notice the lasso on one side and not the other, or the paisley design having more or less swirls. That didn’t cause me too many issues, I just had flip back and forth to see which color I used in what similar area.

Close-up on even more bling

Without a doubt, this project was way more than I bargained for. But parenting in general has turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for (yes, I’ll admit it.) Honestly though, it did me no good staring at an ugly horse that no one wants to ride, so this was selfishly as much for me as it was for her.

And after his (her?) makeover, Moose is starting a whole new life!

The project cost me about $35 and 12 hours. I would love to tell you that this was torture and I had to exhibit a lot of determination and this proves I love my daughter and blah blah blah, but it was actually really fun. There was no stress because I knew the final product wouldn’t be judged by a harsh critic, and I got to skip out on cleaning the kitchen for a few nights because “Babe, I have to finish this project before we move.” Yeah, I played that card.

Cheap Headboards? Yes please!

My mentality is that I must maintain the illusion of comfort. If you ever went to college, you have probably mastered this art form. You had $12.00 in your checking account but you looked like a million bucks. How did you do it? You borrowed from your roommate and bought toiletries at the dollar store. You see? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make something look stylish, you just have to know what makes something look cheap and try to avoid that like the plague.

I came up with a couple headboard ideas for the bedrooms in my house. I have a headboard and a footboard that no longer fit into the jagged, bent frame. My plan is to seperate these, keep the headboard for my room and use the footboard for my daughter’s headboard. But juuuuust in case that doesn’t work out, I have been researching some alternative ideas. I am extremely impressed with some of the homemade setups, but others make me wonder who the hell told these people that their arrangements were good.

I would like to share some of my findings with you now.


I like where they were going here.


When it comes to homemade headboards, this one is really as good as it gets. Whoever made it seems pretty handy with a staple gun and jigsaw, and the material is bold but simple. The only issue I have is the mustard color that is ever present on 80% of the fabric in this room. To be fair, the headboard execution is awesome and looks high-end, the color scheme, however, may need a little tweaking. A-


They obviously have a lot to say...

Again, this is a decent idea that just turned out…messy. When making a “cheap version” of something, you still want to use more expensive materials. The curtain rod is pretty run-of-the-mill, but it could pass as something more expensive if the “curtain” hanging from it didn’t look like it was stolen off the neighbors clothes line and written on by a depressed, but soulful freshman. When I think of my perfect bedroom, I think of relaxation and turning my brain OFF. This wordy jumble is a little too overwhelming for my typical 11:30 p.m. mindset.  You could definitely pull this off with better material and a curtain with texture. C+


Down on the farm

This style of headboard is what I have in mind for my bedroom. Granted I may not be using robin’s egg blue and pea green, but the concept works because it is authentic. This headboard is a painted piece of wood that was probably bought at a flea market, and it LOOKS like a painted piece of wood bought at a flea market. The fact that it’s not trying to trick you into thinking it’s something more makes it seem as though it were intentionally shabby-chic and not just a low cost alternative. B


This is pretty medieval

 On the surface, this headboard option seems like a good idea. It’s simple. It’s chic. It could stab you in the eye or slice open your hand in the middle of the night. This headboard may be aesthetically appealing, but the functionality definitely falls short. Would you went to rest your back against this while reading or watching T.V.? The other problem is that an iron screen may not be all that cost effective. Because this idea isn’t practical, the fact that you would choose to put metal next to your sleeping head makes it obvious that you didn’t choose this for comfort, you chose it for price, which is never a message you want to send. Although it’s an intersting idea, you could just buy a wooden headboard from a home improvement salvage that is just as inexpensive and is still comfortable. C-



Chic and Safe

This last idea is a variation of the “jab me to death with the iron screen” idea. There are several things that make this work for me. The first being that it is part of a very muted color palette- which is tops for me when it comes to a bedroom. Also, the material is rounded and looks almost floral, which offsets the severity of a “metal headboard.” The only thing I don’t really like (again) is the actual day-to-day function of it. You could not comfortably rest against this while watching T.V. because it is still a harsh piece of metal protruding into your skin. BUT the beauty of this piece is that it is not a screen, and you have the option to hang it high enough to allow your back or head to rest on the wall without getting rounded, curly branches imprinted in your shoulder blades. Again, this concept works for me because it all works together. The colors, the comfy bedding, the juxtaposition of metal art and soft materials, but mostly the fact that a piece of art like this would cost 75% less than a new headboard AND it is styled so well that no one would ever guess you chose to use art because it was easier on the wallet. Solid A.

As long as you create the right mix, anything can seem high-end. But at the end of the day, it’s not just about “maintaining the illusion of comfort,” it’s also about being comfortable in the space you keep.

Color Wheel

A painter’s helper

“When you can’t do, plan.” This is typically my motto, because wasting time KILLS me on the inside. I am unable to move into my new house for another month (per our stupid buying agreement), so I am planning exactly what to do once those keys are in my tight-fisted hand. Granted, light and shadow in a room can change the way colors appear, but a wheel is a neat tool to get a handle on what colors to use. Hue and shade can all be adjusted once your in the room and can take variables into consideration.

Now, how does this thing work?

  • Warm Colors: Red, Pinks, Oranges, Yellows and any variation of these colors.
  • Cool Colors: Greens, Blues, Purples and any variation of these colors too.
  • Neutral Colors: Browns, Beiges, Grays, Blacks and Whites. These work with any color and provide structure to an area.

Here’s where it gets a little more interesting…

  • Triadic Colors: Are located equal distance from each other on the wheel.
  • Analogous Colors: Are located next to each other on the wheel (red and violet). When paired up they don’t clash because they have a color in common.
  • Complimentary Colors: Are located opposite each other on the wheel (yellow and violet). These colors tend to accent each other because they bring out the richness of each other.
  • Split Complimentary Colors (are you kidding me?): Are made up of three colors. 1) your main color choice (blue). Then you look at it’s complimentary color (orange) and choose the colors on each side of it (red-orange and orange yellow).
  • Monochromatic Colors: Are colors of the same family in varying tints and shades like blues, greens or browns. The only issue with decorating a room with only monochromatic colors is that it’s hard to find a focal point and the room can seem dull.

Now that I know how to see if they look good together, I am going to get a little more hippie-dippy and see what they mean. I really think colors can affect your mood. Seriously who could sleep in a “screaming orange” bedroom? I’d toss and turn for the first two hours of the night, never be able to fall back to sleep after a bathroom trip and then be pissed off the whole next day. I would snap at everyone and bite my co-workers heads off. The next thing you know I’m not invited to any more office outings and everyone stops copying me on e-mails- all because I painted my bedroom orange.

  • Red- associated with love and passion as well as war and danger.
  • Orange- associated with joy, healing and energy
  • Yellow- associated with authority, energy and intellect. I’ve also read that fights tend to occur more often in yellow rooms.
  • Green- associated with calm and nature. It’s the most versatile on the wheel.
  • Blue- associated tranquility and cleanliness. This color is shown to decrease muscle activity and reduce blood pressure.
  • Purple- associated with wealth and royalty. It symbolizes luxury and nobility because only the rich could get their hands on centuries ago.

This is by no means all inclusive, but at least I didn’t have to stand in the middle of Menards for an hour hassling the poor workers. They are only college kids, they hate this stuff, I don’t have the heart to make them research color theory.

About Me

My name is Kristen Van Loon and I just bought a house. It’s an overwhelming, clean slate with white walls and carpet as neutral as Switzerland. That’s not to say there’s no charm (I wouldn’t have signed my life away on a 30(!!!)-year-mortgage if it was a windowless block of wood paneling,) but there’s just no oomf. You know, *Oomf!* That sparkling lightness you feel when you walk into a space, but you just can’t put your finger on the thing that makes it so great? The flow, the colors, the light, the functionality- that is *Oomf!* This is the chronicle of my search for *Oomf!*

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “another bored housewife decorating her home with her husbands money while the kids are at school.” No no no, my friend. You see, I work full time at a job that pays me… well, as much as a 26-year-old is worth to a company. I have a toddler and a boyfriend who does what he can, but at the end of the day he is still a football watching, poker playing, throw-your-clothes-on-the-floor-right-next-to-the-hamper kind of guy. I have some experience, no time, no formal training and no money, but I’m great at improvising and I’m always inspired.

You can follow my journey for a multitude of reasons. You may

  • be looking for cheap alternatives to expensive ideas.
  • wonder how the hell I plan to pull this off.
  • need suggestions on fun (and durable) rooms that work every day.
  • have the desire to look inside a stranger’s house (it’s O.K., we all have it.)
  • have a sick sense of humor (because I will post my failures.)

I won’t ever suggest things that aren’t safe. Even though I am a newbie, I am only marginally incompetent. If resources (boyfriend, father, Google) tell me not to do it, I sure won’t try. But if I try and it blows up in my face (figuratively or literally) you will hear about that as well. A house is always a work-in-progress. There isn’t a lot of money to go around these days (have you noticed that too?) so it’s a “project-by-project as I can afford it” type of plan. Old stuff will be refurbished, others may be Red Tag clearance.

There is no plan and it is going to be a bumpy ride.

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