Friday, January 2, 2015

House of Ella

Some time last summer I had a wild idea to change the odd storage space under our stairs into a sweet playhouse for the little lady. It measures about 6 feet long, 4 feet wide and only 4 feet tall. The only thing stored in there was a scrap of carpet the builder left behind for repairs. The useless dead space in the back of the coat closet was about to have a new lease on life.


Of course there were a few logistical issues with the space. While it was full carpeted and painted, it had no power source and no lighting other than the single bulb near the front of the coat closet. Because the ceiling is so low, a normal light would be dangerously hot. After much research, battery powered LED motion detector lights solved the light and electricity issue. Now onto the fun stuff...outfitting this tiny space as a dream playhouse.

The heart of any home is the kitchen. I shopped around for something not too tall, not too wide, and made of wood, but came up with options $200 and over. Then the crazy level in my brain hit a new high! Build my own, I thought! It will be easy, I thought! Ha! I had a ton of scrap wood left over from other projects cluttering up the garage. I sketched out some plans on a piece of paper, using Ana White's plans as a starting point, but customizing it to fit the space and the wood I had on hand. I have to admit, building this was fun. I got to use my power tools, imagination, and clean out my garage at the same time! Here's a couple pics of the process.

And the after...

While I didn't spend any money on the wood, I did have to buy the accessories, which totaled about $60. Those included oven knobs, hinges, stove top burners (painted wooden disks), oven handle, oven racks (cookie cooling racks!), sink bowl, facet, plexiglass, paint and fabric. The "tile" back splash is just scrapbook paper mod-podged onto to a wooden panel. A lot goes into a tiny kitchen! I love the result and it fits so much better than any prefab one would have. 

Now the rest of the house. 

Disclaimer: The wide angle lens make objects appear larger than they really are. No wonder real estate agents use them to photograph houses! But it was the only way I could get the whole room in the frame. Please also excuse the lighting. Its challenging to photograph such a small space with no natural light and only 6 bright white LED's!

Storage is at a premium in a tiny house, so I decided that I could use the dead space under the first section of stairs to build a recessed shelf. It's 8 inches deep and gives her somewhere to put baskets full of felt food (yes, I made that too!). I wish I could have reclaimed that space as part of the room, but the distance between the studs was to small for comfortable access. The shelf was a perfect solution, although it kills me to know there's almost 10 square feet of space back there! 

The table and chairs are the ever popular LATT set from Ikea ($20!). Of course I painted them red and added a chevron cushion to the seats. A matching pillow was covered for the existing red chair (the color inspiration for the whole room) that used to reside in her bedroom.  The bookshelf was an internet score. I got two of these brand new 4 foot long Pottery Barn shelves for only $25. I think they retail for something like $60 each! I still have one for future use. 

You may be wondering about the wall that separates the closet from the playroom. I thought about this for quite some time, waffling between a fabric wall, or an actual framed wood wall with a sliding barn door. I'm so glad I settled on the fabric because it made access for adult-sized people a lot easier! It also took away the permanence of the playhouse for the future homeowners. 

It's made from durable duck cloth, clear vinyl shower curtain, and hung with a tension rod. There were a few nights of cutting, sewing and wrestling the tough duck cloth, but it was still easier than building a wall. The awning is also duck cloth painted with white stripes and hung with a couple 1x2's.

The view from the closet door reveals a secret hideaway.

The project was started in mid-August and finally finished Christmas Eve, mostly because I procrastinated on the little finishing details and made boat loads of felt food! The end result was a "Wow, so pretty", on Christmas morning from a very happy 2 year old.  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I scream, you scream

Over the weekend we threw Lil' Bug an ice cream themed party because there's no better way to turn two. It really was just an excuse for me to go over board with the details and cause myself more stress than a birthday party should. I even had the weird party dream. You know the dream. We ran out of beer, a guest cried because the couch was uncomfortable, and my hubby wore his full military dress blues. Yeah, that dream. Luckily the actual party went a little more to plan.

Here's a few of the details from the party. In my haste, I forgot to take a picture of the entire set up, but you probably get the gist. Lots of pink and sugar!

Of course, it all starts with the invitation, designed and made by your truly. The inspiration for the rest of the details come from this piece. Also pictured are the envelope and thank you note. 

A sweet little "Hello" bunting flag banner and chalkboard greet our guests.

The awning was the statement piece of the table. Simply made from PVC pipe and a variety of connectors. The fabric is white duck cloth with pink stripes painted on using frog tape (worlds better than the blue tape!) and a paint sample from Home Depot.


Sugar, sugar and more sugar. What's an ice cream party with out all the accouterments? Because just serving ice cream wouldn't be enough, there were 12 different toppings, rice krispy treats, marshmallow pops, meringue cones, brownies, floats, and of course, cake. The cake was a three layered neapolitan, which turned out pretty good for my first attempt at a birthday cake. Paper straws, hand stamped wooden spoons, and teeny tiny clothes pins complete the look.

As a party favor, I couldn't resist sending guests home with a pint container of more sugar. A small selection of ice cream toppings for later use, plus a few ice cream stickers and temporary tattoos.

And finally, the birthday girl herself. I ordered an adorable custom shirt from this Etsy vendor. It came as a cute ruffle-trimmed shirt, but I added a simple two layer square knit skirt to the bottom to make it more of a party dress. As you can see, it got its fair share of real ice cream stains! The last picture was taken only moments before the "Great Sugar Crash of 2014" imploded.

I had a blast putting it all together, but next year I'm taking it easy. Like order a few pizzas, easy. (Who am I kidding?)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Two Sweet

I know all parents say this, but where did the time go? With just a click of the camera my little baby is an energetic, loud, spunky two year old. So what does this totally insane photographer mom do? That's right, pump my kid full of ice cream and candy and try to do a birthday photo shoot.

She's a cute, but unpredictable. She eats the props. That's how models get bad reputations..... ;)

Happy Birthday Lil' Bug. You are loved.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

The pleasure and the problem with living in Souther California is the weather. It's so dang hot all the time (especially for this Seattle gal), that the need for a fire place is non existent.  So what's a girl to do come Christmas time? There's no mantel to decorate!

No problem, I say, I'll just make my own. This turned out to be a fairly easy and cost effective project because I followed Ana White's plan. I had the 1x2 wood and the stain on hand, but I did spend $7.50 for the 1x4's. Less then $8 for a functional and study shelf ain't too shabby, especially because Pottery Barn charges $85 for the same 4 foot length!

It's decorated with crap treasures I found around the house including a 14 yr old framed picture I took in the Bahamas! The clock and the ladder are from Pottery Barn at least a decade ago. The fan is from Home Goods last summer. So this will be my "summer" mantel for now, but I can't wait until we get to Christmas to really dress it up.

The real work came when I decided I needed to put a mirror behind the shelf. This took me a little more time than anticipated because of those tedious "x" frames. In fact the hubby made a comment that went something like this, "If you put as much effort into cleaning as you do with crafting, the house would be spotless". Anyone want a free husband? I'm giving him away.

Any-hoo, back to the project. I started with the cheapo door mirror from Target. It cost me a whopping $4.99. I chose the white because I knew the molding I was going to use was white and I might was well start with the same base color before I painted. It looks like this...

Isn't it sexy? Haha, no. I'm not going to write a step by step tutorial because someone already did that for me, here. I will add a few pointers though.
1. Cut your trim to fit and paint before you glue them to the mirror.
2. Don't worry too much about making them fit perfectly. Wood filler works wonders! You will have to touch up paint the joints with the filler, but that's easy to do after it dries. 
3. Bulk up the existing frame with an inner rectangle of trim. It makes it look more substantial and expensive. The tutorial has a plywood board behind the mirror, but I thought it was too heavy. 
4. Use what trim you like, but I picked the PVC white screen molding. It was the right thickness and very light weight.
5. Calculate how much trim you need before you shop. I underestimated and had to send hubby to HD to buy another piece. It was his punishment for the cleaning comment!

Total cost:
Mirror $4.99
Trim (3 pieces of 8' length) $6.60
Spray Paint (I used Oil Rubbed Bronze by Rustoleum) $6.50
Liquid Nails, on hand, $0
Small round mirrors for centers $0.75 for 10
TOTAL: $18.80

My family room got a new look for less than $27! I guess I could go do some cleaning now....nah! There's more crafting to do!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Boys + Blue + Beach

I can't believe these boys turned one already. They are the perfect fit for a "Thing One, Thing Two" themed smash cake shoot. Things got a little messy, but isn't that the point?

Once we had a chance to clean up and recover from the smash cake shoot, we headed out to Malibu for a family session. This family really should be the models in the frames you buy. Good looking' folk! 

Thanks for letting me watch these little guys grow.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just a girl and her power tools

I have a dream. A dream to park my car in the garage, out of the scorching southern California sun. Unfortunately for me, the heat starts in May down here, so this project had to be accomplished pronto! 

As you can see in the following "before" pictures (please excuse the quickie iPhone photos), I had a major challenge on my hands. The movers literally dumped the boxes in the back of the garage, with no organization or regard for floor space. How dare they? We can barely fit the motorcycle in here, never mind the "2 cars" we were promised.   

It took me the better part of a month just to go through the boxes and organize them in the large black tubs I bought from Big Lots, who, by the way, has the best prices on storage bins, in case you were wondering. The only reason for the black tubs over the clear variety was purely financial. I knew I would need at least 16 of these things, and at $5 a piece, I could get them under $100. The clear boxes were at least $8 each. No worries though, I had blue tape and a Sharpie to label the contents.

I also sorted a trash pile and a garage sale pile. Anything left over from the garage sale was taken directly to Goodwill, no looking back. It felt good to purge decades of stuff we will never use.  

I won't write a tutorial here because I used one that already exists and pretty much stuck to that plan with only a few adjustments in measurements. See link here to the original tutorial. I should add I did 95% of this project on my own. My hubby helped me put the long shelves into the frames after they were built, but this project can be done by yourself with a little creativity and muscle. Go girl power! The total cost for the wood and the nails/screws was $150 for both shelving units. Much more affordable than prefab metal units and custom made to fit. 

And now the "after".  If you decide to tackle something like this yourself, consider the specific needs you have. For example, I had lots of framed art I wanted to keep. It was being stored up against a wall, but this top shelf was made to accommodate large and small pieces. Measure your largest pieces to make sure your shelves will fit them. Not all your shelves need to be the same size, but try to plan what will go where.  

The large shelf unit is 13 feet long and 2 feet deep. Its amazing that we still managed to fill this thing! All the boxes on the bottom are books. Heavy, heavy books. We have very little flood threat, so I'm not too worried about them getting wet. We do however have earthquakes, and this thing is SOLID! I added a hook for the ladder on the end to keep that off the floor. Side note, hubby "decorated" the garage with Buddy, the antelope. This was not my choice, but he seems attached to it because it was his grand fathers. So I let it slide, for now.

I just need to take the broken down cardboard to the recycle center, and I'll be able to park in the garage! I still have a couple projects in mind to really complete the organization, but that won't affect my parking abilities for now. Can you say Pegboard? Eeeee!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Smile, it's picture time

The weather has been heating up around here, so that can only mean one thing. It's photo shoot season! To get the camera warmed up I packed up Lil'Bug and went scouting for new locations. We came upon this little outpost in the hills called Mentryville. It has an old school house, barn, rusty farm equipment, and even an out house. As much as she wanted to check out the potty, it seemed a little too hazardous for this mommy to permit.  There was still much to explore. 

Here are a few shots from this afternoon.

I'm booking weekend sessions starting May 17.  Need family portraits or engagement photos? Email me at for my affordable rates.