Monday
Oct132014

Tuft Love

The fact that we are halfway through October is majorly blowing my mind. Between juggling long workdays, joining a new church community (hooray!), training to become a certified yoga instructor, working freelance projects, and planning a baby shower (for TWINS!!)... I've hardly slept this past month. Thank goodness for coffee, vitamins, and juicing. And wine.

One thing I've learned is that no matter how insanely packed your life becomes, you must always make time for the people and things you love. That's what gets me out of bed and keeps me going every day.

Chris and I frequently host gatherings around this time of year, which is one of my favorite ways to enjoy our place. While we have plenty of room to accommodate guests in our living space, I recently found myself searching for additional seating solutions in our dining area. Rather than expanding the existing set of chairs, I thought it would be fun to shake things up by adding a dining bench into the mix. And while we're at it, why not try making it myself? After all, there is always time for a little DIY in my life :) 

I kicked this project off by hitting up a few fantastic resources for all the necessary materials. The clerk at Mood asked what I had in mind for the 2.5 yards of delicious navy velvet he was cutting for me. When I showed him my dining bench plans, he pointed me to a wonderful upholstery supply store located nearby. I quickly made my way down to the West Village. 

Economy Foam & Futons turned out to be a one-stop destination for all my upholstery needs! Everyone was super helpful - I waltzed out with a custom-cut foam pad and a roll of dracon batting tucked under my arm in less than 10 minutes.

Next stop, Home Depot! The HD right down the street from us is like my second home. I'm down there all the time, hanging out and causing trouble. The friendly staff is always happy to cut lumber down to the specific measurements I need for various projects. How handy is that? 

Once I had all my materials wrangled together, it was time to dive right in and build out a bench frame. *TIP* No need for exact precision here, but it is important to make sure all the beams are securely fastened together. Don't forget to wear goggles while drilling. Safety first, people!

I then attached a 60"x15" board on top to complete the frame.

Once the top was secured, I measured out placements for the tufting buttons. Since I stink horrendously at math, this took a few extra tries to get everything just right :P

After marking out 14 buttonhole placements, I drilled through the board at each designated cross hair.

Next, I sprayed the board with an even layer of adhesive, and laid the foam cushion down, pressing gently to create a smooth bond with the base.

Time to begin upholstering! I started by covering the foam and frame with a layer of bonded dracon. *TIP* It's important to keep pulling the batting nice and tight as you staple it down. This establishes a smooth foundation for your top fabric. In order to achieve clean, tailored corners, pull the dracon up to form a 45-degree angle with the edge of the frame.

Staple down to the frame...

Pull the end straight up, and staple down over the side fold. Trim off all excess material.

Once the dracon was in place, I repeated the same steps with my velvet fabric, leaving a little more give in this layer for tufting. Here's a nice little trick I learned years ago while making beds in nursing school: Run a straight edge along the crease to create a crisp, clean hospital corner!

Now the fun tufting part begins! I used a button pressing kit to create matching velvet-covered buttons. These were a cinch to make, and I had a pile of beautiful buttons in under half an hour! #productivelunchbreak

To create a tuft: Thread your needle with about three arms' length of extra-durable nylon upholstery thread, folded into thirds. Starting from the underside of the bench, push the needle straight up and through until it comes out on top of the cushion. Loop the needle/thread through a button, then push the needle back into the foam to the underside of the bench.

Once your needle makes it back to the underside (sometimes it takes a little poking around), grab both ends of the thread and pull until you get a nice tuft in your cushion. When you achieve the desired tuft depth, tie a secure knot around a wad of fabric. This bolts the thread into place while providing a little buffer for the thread tension. Professional upholsterers utilize muslin, I used some extra cotton scraps I had laying around.
*TIP* Grab a helper to push the button down and hold the tuft in place while you pull and tie the strings on the underside. This ensures smooth, efficient, and even tufting. Shout out to my favorite assistant, Chris, for lending a hand with this step. He's a seasoned pro at pushing my buttons. <3

And there's the first tuft!

Wonka was convinced that this was a new play box for him, and refused to climb out all afternoon.

Turned rubberwood legs were stained to match our dark walnut dining table and chairs. This provides a touch of consistency and helps pull the mismatched pieces together for a cohesive look. 

I would be so upset mortified if anyone were to ever bust their ass on a piece of furniture I made. Multiple galvanized steel joints were employed to attach and reinforce every single leg. Those suckers aren't going anywhere.

For a little extra oomph, I applied a border of nailhead trim along the base of the bench. I am a huuuggee sucker for nailhead detailing. It's simple and timeless, yet adds a ton of glam and personality to a piece of furniture.

Trim application is easy - simply tap a nail in along every 5th stud. Much easier than hammering in 23475 individual nails, right? *TIP* Be sure to keep your line straight and parallel to the edge of the base, tapping gently with a nylon-tipped hammer so that you do not damage the metal finish on the tacks.

And voilà. All done! :) I am loving the way this happy mix jives with the kilim rug and prevents our dining space from feeling too formal.

The tufted velvet exudes an elegant vibe while its dashing navy hue injects a handsome dose of color.

Looking forward to sharing good times with some of you very soon! More later :)

Monday
Aug112014

Window of Opportunity

I’ve joked in the past about having a black thumb - or no thumbs at all - when it comes to plants and gardening. I had just about given up on all of it, but then Chris and I moved into our new neighborhood in Kew Gardens. We were suddenly surrounded by charming gardens and a park full of towering trees, and it sparked an intense desire to bring some of nature's beauty into our own home.

I decided to give myself another chance. After all, I grew up watching my dad work magic in his garden. Surely there’s got to be a hint of green thumb-ness swirling through my double helix somewhere, right?

Starting with a tiny collection on our sunny kitchen windowsill, I began researching and learning about every single plant under my care. With a steady dose of patience and diligence, my collection started to thrive and expand! The windowsill soon became overrun and crowded, and I ran out of space for new projects.


While searching for space-saving solutions, I came across these amazing window gardens on Pinterest. This was exactly what I needed for my growing family of projects! I was so inspired and immediately began to brainstorm aesthetically pleasing ways to securely mount glass onto a window frame.

Surprisingly, these antique drawer pulls turned out to be my final answer. Aren't they gorg? The egg-and-dart detailing echoes the Old World vibe going on in our kitchen, and that brassy patina looks absolutely delicious against the cherry wood window frame. What can I say, good hardware gets me hot and bothered.

Wait. Drawer pulls... for shelving? The saleslady at the store looked at me like I was all sorts of crazy, so let me explain: These bin pulls have a one-inch overhang and finish at 90 degree angles, making them perfect little brackets for glass shelving. It's a odd concept, but stay with me on this one.

I had a local glass supplier custom cut two panes to fit the dimensions of the window frame. Glass can get pretty heavy, so I went with 3/4" panes in order to keep the shelving as light as possible. This thickness is sturdy enough to support the weight of a few plants without placing excessive weight on the brackets.

I decided to install the shelves along the upper window sash. This placement allows us to continue using the window as needed. Good ventilation is very important, especially in the kitchen.

My level became my best friend during this project! The last thing I want is lopsided shelving. The screws that came with the pulls were kind of flimsy, so I opted for durable construction screws. They can easily be painted to match the brass finish later on.

I added a few squares of cork inside the "cup" prior to screwing on the upper pull. This creates a snug bumper and will discourage the glass from sliding around.

I finished off the bracket by installing the top pull, leaving a 3/4" slot to accommodate the shelf.

Once the brackets were installed, I simply slid the glass into place. Having a top bracket secures the shelf and prevents it from ever flipping over. The shelves are easily removable for cleaning or storage.

Wahoo! 1st level complete!

Double, triple, quadruple-checking my work as I go. The antique, handmade pulls each had slight variations, forcing me to adjust my measurements throughout the process.
I may have spent more time measuring and re-measuring than on actual physical labor.

The extra work was worth it in the end. I had two new, perfectly level shelves, ready to be filled with happy plants!

Look how delightful this space has become! Nothing breathes life into a room quite the way a plant does.


This window has become a laboratory of sorts. Each level is packed with ongoing experiments. I love the way the glass shelves allow sunlight to shine through, keeping our kitchen bright and cheerful.

The top shelf is dedicated to long-term projects. I am currently soaking three avocado seeds in the hopes of starting some avocado trees. They are beginning to split, and tiny roots should start emerging any day now.

I accidentally snapped off a section of my fiddle leaf fig tree a few weeks back. Rather than toss it out, I stuck it on the top shelf to propagate. It is already growing roots!
Chris has also taken an interest in the window garden and is working on raising his own philodendron. I'm not allowed to touch it :)



The middle shelf is dedicated to plants that are already established and simply require regular maintenance and care. They are within easy reach, and especially pleasing to have in my direct line of sight. It is super convenient to have the kitchen sink just a few feet away - these plants will never go unwatered!

This is Oxalis Triangularis, a pretty cousin of the shamrock. Its leaves fold in each evening, then open up again in the morning sunlight. They look like a bunch of butterflies :)

The bottom level is for new and high-maintenance projects. Here, we have what I call the ICU. It's where my precarious plants go to recover or fail. The ICU currently houses a few Mimosa Pudica cuttings that I brought home from the office to propagate. It was touch-and-go for a while, but they are doing much better now!

Growing a few additional Mimosas. As you can see, many of my plants are still in the beginning stages of development. I love coming home each day and eagerly checking on their progress.

I am so glad I decided to give gardening another chance. It has been such a fun educational experience, and I am also learning a lot about patience, persistence, and resilience.
I may be giving you guys a shout for help in the near future, and will definitely keep you updated on exciting developments.

More later! <3

Thursday
Jul312014

You, Me, and the Sea

It's a bit crazy how quickly life sucks you right back into its nonstop whirlwind after a nice, relaxing vacation. I finally found some time this past weekend to sort through all our photos (selfies galore), and they totally reminded me how vital it is to come up for air once in a while.

I had a wonderful time with Chris on this trip. It was great to unplug, spend quality time with each other, and focus on making memories. We ate sooooo much, I was such a happy camper. To balance it all out, we did a whole bunch of sightseeing, and, of course, a ton of yoga! As promised, here are some of my favorite moments from our trip :)


First stop, Venice! Our first visit to Italy was rather chilly, so it was awesome to get a second peek at this special city. Although Venice can get pretty touristy in the warmer months, it was still as gorgeous as ever.


I’d heard about a bookstore named Libreria Acqua Alta that keeps its books stacked in boats and bathtubs in order to protect them from the periodic flooding that is common to the city. As book lovers, it was a no-brainer- we had to go check it out. We spent the day walking around the maze that is Venice looking for this store, and got insanely lost for hours. I was ready to give up, but Chris was hell-bent on finding this place.

When we finally got there, I was so glad we followed through. We climbed staircases made out of old encyclopedias, and wandered through room after room, filled with dizzying towers of books. Boats and tubs were piled to the ceiling with books from all over the world, spilling over onto the floor. It was magical. Something about the musty smell of old books just makes me so very happy.


We visited the opera house to watch La Bohème, which was a fun experience. We had a great view from our private balcony room, and were happy to find that there were digital subtitles displayed above the stage throughout the show. This really helped us understand and appreciate the opera on a whole new level!




The next day, we took a water taxi to catch our ship! I was sad to say goodbye to beautiful Venice, but so excited to get on board and sail off into the sunset.



We had a private balcony in our room, which was such a treat because it allowed us to see all the ridiculous ocean views when we pulled in and out of port through the islands. It was also a great private space to get some morning yoga in. There I am in Boat pose.. on a boat :)

First port, Kotor, Montenegro! I didn't know much about this country prior to our trip, and we only stayed on land for a few hours. All I can tell you is that it is extremely mountainous and densely packed with a mesmerizing variety of flora and vegetation.



Steps into the sea in Kotor- there were tiny fish swimming around everywhere!


Most of our time aboard the ship was spent poolside on the top deck. We also got a few games of mini golf in! (That was me imitating a putter.. don't ask.)

The best thing we did on the cruise was make new friends! We met people from all over the world, and all walks of life. These new friendships added an additional element of fun to our trip, and I am so glad we are all still keeping in touch :)

One lovely couple, Joe and Megan, had been traveling the world for six months! They are sharing their journey through their fascinating and gorgeous travel blog - Check it out here!


Chris is a pretty big history buff, so he was excited to make the climb up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. It was a steep, sweltering trek up the mountain, and not so fun in sandals. But my goodness, the view from the mountaintop was definitely worth it. Thankfully, it rained a bit while we were up there, which cooled things down - and lured some adorable turtles to come out and play!




We also strolled through the National Garden in Athens, and found ourselves walking through a purple sea of flower petals. Absolutely amazing.


This guy is my favorite travel buddy. I am really thankful to be with someone who is responsible, but willing to be adventurous, try new things, and photograph all my yogabombs. We make a good team <3

The countryside in Greece is rich in depth and colors. There are trees everywhere you look!


There were citrus trees everywhere! They were so pretty and smelled delicious.

Now i really want a little lemon tree for our home. How fun would that be?


Once we reached Mykonos, we drove up to a ranch for a day of horseback riding. This ranch was filled with the cutest animals! A tiny litter of kittens roamed the grounds, and there were geese, chickens, and turkeys everywhere.This was my first time on a horse, so I was pretty nervous in the beginning. Luckily, our horses, Hector and Spring, were so sweet and well-mannered! I quickly became comfortable and then deeply enamored with them.



We rode down the mountainside to a deserted beach.


Here we are at Fokos Beach!


Hector <3


There is nothing like seeing the world from between the ears of a horse. What a memory. I'll remember that for a long time.



I don’t think there is much need to mention how gorgeous the sea was from every single angle.


Of course, this had to happen - Mermaid pose by the sparkling sea.

To finish our trip, we visited Melissani cave in Kefalonia. It was pretty far from Arogostoli, where our ship ported, but I am so glad we decided to do this.

The top of this spectacular cave dissolved through chemical and physical water erosion decades back, allowing the sun to shine through and light up the shimmering blue underground lake below.

I'd heard about Melissani years ago, and had immediately put it on my bucket list. I never thought that one day I would actually be sitting there with my husband in that very cave, with the sun shining down on us. It was a dream come true, and the perfect way to end this amazing trip.

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed my plethora of photos! Now that we are back, I have tons of exciting projects that I have been working on and cannot wait to share with you. More later!