Make Your Website Your Own: My Top 3 Beginner Blogger Help Sites

So clearly you can tell that I love to DIY, but I only recently discovered how much I would like to DIY my own website! Unique web designs can be so expensive, so I’ve been on the hunt to learn as much as I can do it myself. It’s still a work in progress (this is QUITE the learning curve for me) but I’ve already discovered so much!

I thought I’d share the love and let you in on the three sites that have helped me the most.

1. Photo Editing: PicMonkey

Not only are web designs expensive, but so are the programs behind them. If you don’t want to shell out for a Photoshop program and would prefer something user-friendly, I would highly suggest Pic Monkey.

I often use their online platform to edit photos, add in text or banners, or even to create a logo. It’s very easy to use, and it’s surprisingly powerful. The only downside I find is that you need to keep the  browser open to edit a photo. That means, if I’m working on a logo, I can only make changes with the browser open. Once I close it, I need to start fresh. Overall though, great program for basic editing needs!

 

 

2. Young House Love’s Blogging Tips Section

(This is their awesome book! If you’ve never heard of it, I’d highly recommend it.)

I find reading through experienced bloggers’ blog help sections incredibly helpful. It doesn’t necessarily have to be YHL, but they’re one of my favourites (and I’m clearly not alone, with all the comments they get on a daily basis!). They post on a wide variety of blog topics, from coding to how long a post actually takes to be published. I never realized how time consuming blogging truly was until I started my own…. Check out some of your favourite established blogs and see what helpful insight they might have to offer.

And the site that inspired this post…

 

 

3.  Don’t Fear the Internet: Coding Basics

Unlike wordpress.com, wordpress.org offers the possibility to design to your heart’s content. I definitely wanted this option, as my current site leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. However, to get what you want, you need to learn to… CODE. Eek!

Armed with only a tiny bit of html knowledge I learned a few months ago, I was not prepared to take on designing a new website with my own coding. Thankfully, I have a friend helping me out, but I want to understand the behind the scenes elements of a website myself. This site offers a great foundation and is done all through video. Seeing a visual demonstration of what coding accomplishes helped me immeasurably. Now I know things like, the difference between html and css. (You may have an idea, but I honestly was clueless until this weekend.)

This site offers a very simple and easy to understand format. Unfortunately, they have a limited selection of videos… I guess the writers behind it got busy. If you don’t have any background in coding and want to learn, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

 

There you are! My top three blogging help sites. Be sure to check back Wednesday for my next home project!

Spray It Out, Spray It Out

When we were looking for apartments, the only reason we wanted outdoor space was for our dog. When we moved it, my first thought was, yes, DIY space! And yes, DIY space it was… and puppy space it was… and that’s it. It was getting a bit embarrassing really. I was planning on doing the bare minimum to clean it up, but then I saw this:

One of my all-time favourite bloggers set up her latest monthly organizing challenge and I just had to participate!

But clearly, I had my work cut out for me.

Patio furniture before

(And that’s not even the worst of it. When the patio’s completely finished, I’ll force myself to show you the full before picture…)

Those cheapo Ikea chairs were came with a basement apartment my friends and I had a few years ago (yes, those were literally our kitchen chairs for 6 months!) and the table… I literally picked up on the side of the road. You may think it looks somewhat reasonable based on the colour, but really, it was in rough shape.

Table before

I decided to try my hand at spray painting them all, plus a cheap little plastic side table we had out there too. Admittedly, I had only really sprayed various frames up until this point… I didn’t quite realize how long (and how many cans) four pieces of furniture would take!

First, I sprayed them all with a primer (Rust-oleum for metal). The guy at Home Depot recommended I choose the lightest grey colour they had since they were out of white, so I ended up using the one meant for metal, not for metal and plastic.

Spray Paint

First I cleaned the heck out of them with soap and water and left them to dry. Then I sprayed a light-ish coat of primer (let’s be honest, I clearly had drips on the chair backs).

Primed chair

And then… had to wait a week because it wouldn’t stop raining.

A week later I tackled the white:

First coat

Second coat

It took me two or three coats of white to get them all covered. I would recommend going with a white primer instead of grey if you have the option!

As much as it was a longer process than I had expected, I’m really happy with how they turned out. I didn’t have high expectations for the Ikea chairs, but actually, they’re so much prettier!

Apartment patio

A fresh and crisp coat of white and you would never know they are a bunch of mismatched hand-me-down plastic furniture!

Patio bird's eye view

I opted to go for little hits of nautical colours. The dark blue was easy since I just brought a few elements from my living room outside, like the pillows.

Apartment patio DIY

I would love to have separate pillows for outside too, but storage is at a PREMIUM in this place. If I did that, I’d have to forgo something else and have to worry about them in the winter. Because I used outdoor fabric, I can use them in both spaces, and keep them inside in the winter months.

Candles

I also branched out and went for little pops of red. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before! I think they work really nicely against the dark blue.

Flower trioFlowers in the sun

Plus, these are citronella candles, so Shaun and I can enjoy our little outdoor space without the bugs. Win-win.

Citronella candles

Pops of red

I added a spare piece of navy fabric I had lying around to add some colour to the table. The tray is a great space saver because I can simply take it off when we want to have dinner, or if we want to bbq on the table. (Yes, even the bbq. I need multi-functional furniture in a 4 ft wide space! We’ll just put a piece of wood over top of the table to protect it when we want to start up our little grill.)

Table top

Costs:

1 primer and 2 cans of spray paint at $7 each, so $21 total. (Though I went through another half a bottle of white I had hanging around too…)

Citronella candles: $10

New plants: $7 (which is ridiculous because I’m pretty sure I already managed to kill the one I bought last week.)

Table and chairs: free

Everything else I had on hand at home!

Total mini-makeover cost: $38.

Again, here’s what I started with:Patio furniture before

And here’s how it looks now:

Apartment patio

Not bad eh? The sunshine in the second photo helps. My patio’s only half-way done (I still need to tackle the other side) but I feel like I’ve made progress!

Any projects you have to tackle for the summer? Or would you rather spend your long warm days lounging or going away? I found it funny when I realized I’d rather spend my long weekend sweating in work boots and painting clothes than going on a little mini-trip!

Easy Breezy Outdoor Art

I’ve recently become a little obsessed over outdoor fabric. I seem to find much prettier and modern prints at my local fabric store in outdoor prints, but I never realized how much more versatile the material is. Not only is it pretty for pillows, but it also keeps clean as place mats (since it’s stain repellent) and can be used as art on a patio!

In my pre-blogging days, I still DIYed a project or two, like these:

Art to hang

I used them as cheap “art canvases” in our hallway.

To make them, I cut out four pieces of plywood, each 1’x1′. I chose a pretty piece of fabric (you’ll notice I’ve done this twice already!) and, used a staple gun to attach each piece securely into place.

Back of art canvases

Originally I had hung them with velcro command strips. I’ve had them cluttering up the our bedroom floor for a while, and I had yet to find a place for them in this apartment… Until I realized they would be perfect with the nautical colours I’m using for our patio!

The must-have before shot:

Patio before shot

The rental patio… Pretty bland, must like the rest of our place. I wanted to add some privacy to either side. The view from this angle isn’t too much of an eyesore (more on the other side later), so I just needed something small. My canvases fit the bill!

To put them up, I used some extra wire I had left over from a Christmas project and again, my trusty staple gun.

Total Material Needed: a staple gun, wire, pliers to cut the wire, a level, a tape measure, hammer and nail, outdoor fabric and precut plywood.

I started off by attaching two canvases together with two pieces of wire.

How to attach the wire

With the weight of the wire, the staples didn’t push down completely flush to the plywood. To keep them in place, I just bent the wire back. Holds easily :)

Floating art behind the scenes 2

I followed the same process on the bottom frame. To keep it level, I recommend stapling the same distance apart and of course, keeping the wire the same length. Keep the bottom staples entirely level to avoid falling crooked to one side. That being said, don’t worry about it being perfect. Because the wire is only bent in place, not fastened, it’s easy to adjust once you’re done.

On the top end, I attached one long piece of wire, and hung it on a nail above our balcony. Simple.

Nailed it

I had to tweak them a bit, but it was such an easy project. I’m surprised at how happy I am with the result!

Floating art 5  Floating art 3

Since I already had the canvases, it only took about an hour to put together. My patio is starting to take shape… Here it was this morning:   

Patio before shot

And this afternoon with my newly hung floating art:

Floating art

There’s a little sneak peak of the patio furniture I just finished too… Pretty excited to show you all! I would today, but the paint needs to fully dry before I can style it.

Total costs for this project:

Free!

I already had everything on hand. It’s still super budget-friendly though: less than two yards of fabric and a bit of wire and plywood. Cheap cheap cheap.

Floating art 1

Check back Wednesday to see my new patio furniture. Pretty exciting what a can a few cans of spray paint can do!

It’s Written on the Wall

New site update: I wrote last Thursday that I would only be posting once a week since I have a new site in the works. The main reason for that is, since my content has already been exported, I didn’t want to write a ton of posts that won’t be visible on the new site. Shaun then suggested I just post two copies: one on this site, one on my new one. Simple. All that to say, I’ll be posting as usual (2-3 times a week), starting with this one! #warningitslong.

As I’m sure many of you can relate to, sometimes, I can be a perfectionist. Clearly not all the time (this isn’t at all the case in my work life!) but when it comes to my home, I want everything just so. The way my place looks like in pictures? I strive to have it sparkling like that all the time.

Of course, I know it’s not possible because a) I have a huge dog. In a small CARPET FILLED apartment. (Why does a pet-friendly building insist on carpet? Do you know how many stains my puppy has caused in the last few months?) b) Cleaning standards are an issue my boyfriend and I differ immensely on. c) What’s more, sometimes I get too exhausted to clean, or too wrapped up in a project to bother.

This inherently irks me. It causes me daily frustration, and I don’t even have kids! It doesn’t stop there either. If I’m going to an event, I want my food to be perfect. My outfit to be perfect. My handmade card to be perfect. Why? Does anyone else really care if my brownies don’t turn out properly? (No. If anything, my friends of mine find my little homemaker ways amusing. :)

It struck me that this obsession with perfection butts in the way of enjoying the moment. If any of you have read the Happiness Project (love love love that book) you’ll understand what I mean that I want to cultivate happiness; make conscious choices to do things that make me happy.

I stumbled upon this quote recently. It sums it up perfectly. I knew I wanted to display it in my home.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

Voltaire

(Plus, it’s Voltaire. After years of studying French, I just had to.)

It popped up again for me this weekend. I had helped plan a surprise party for my dad’s 60th this Saturday. The day of, I made a cake, bought his present, made a card, baked cookies for school, went to yoga, and organized and picked up my younger brother who came in to town that day. So when my great aunt scoffed at me and said primly, “Lauren, store-bought icing? Really!”, I decided that it can’t be perfect, and nor does it need to be. I’ve done my best. Why should I let the extra stress of making icing get in the way of just enjoying the evening with my dad? Isn’t that what counts anyway?

So here it is.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. -Voltaire

Wonder how I did it? Here’s a quick overview.

I found this frame amongst the free stuff in our building foyer. Great shape, but I prefer black frames. I had all my spray painting gear out anyway (you may have seen a little snap shot on instagram yesterday…), so I gave it a quick coat of mat black.

Frame unpainted

While that dried, I worked on my quote. I could have made it on the computer using pretty fonts, but, I wanted the piece to reflect the its meaning, so I did it free hand. I tried out a few different fonts…

Doodles

And landed on these.

Trial quote

On this page, I drew it to scale so I could use it as a guide for my final version. Since I was using cardstock paper, I couldn’t just trace it. Instead, pressed over the letters and lines with a pencil. From there, I followed the indent on the good copy using faint pencil to mark off where each letter would go, and finished it off in pen.

Voltaire quote 1

I used an opaque marker from Michael’s called Recollection’s Opaque Marker in Ebony, if you’re curious. Now it’s displayed it on the little wall of the closet in our bedroom.

Quote in my bedroom

I used my ever growing font collection on Pinterest for inspiration. There are things I want to correct (that line should be thinner, that letter should be thicker…) but again, I’m trying to let it go and just enjoy. It’s the whole point of having it displayed on my wall in the first place!

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. -Voltaire

Any quotes you have read that struck a cord with you? Any times you have realized that striving for perfection is taking away from the experience itself?

 

The 36th Avenue

Finally.

I finally did it.

I’ve been meaning to for ages, and I at last recovered our pillows. Why did this take me so long to do? It bothered me since we first got our couch over a year ago! Just one of those things that gets pushed to the bottom of the list when more pressing issues come up.

But really, it needed to be done.

Full couch before

These ones just looked so incredibly tired, like they gave up years ago. Which they did honestly… My mum recovered them in a stripe years ago before she handed them over to me, and this silver one is actually burned in one corner from my university days.

(No, nothing crazy, in case you’re wondering. I just had a ridiculously strong heater!)

So this weekend, I recovered them.

Full couch after

I’d love to show you a how-to, but honestly, there are way better tutorials out there, like this one from Chris Loves Julia. Not gonna lie, I was far too impatient and just threw these together!

New pillows

Out of respect for my boyfriend, I’ve got to take it easy on the pillows… One of the few decorating qualms Shaun has is an intense dislike of “too many” pillows. Seems common between men and women… I guess not everyone spends hours pinning pictures of pillows and sofas on Pinterest!

I love each one individually, but I was sceptical over the navy and teal pairing… But these accents really helped to tie both colours together. Eventually, I might add a few shots of fushia or blush pink.

Pillows close up

I also added a mini new one (it was literally a BUCK at Ikea) with some extra fabric on our poang chair:

Poang chair before

Credenza and poang chair

I realized I never added full shot of our mid-century credenza when I posted about it (because my living room was far too messy that day of course!) so here it is. We still have yet to manage that bird’s nest of cords in the back though…

Living room credenza side

I loved them so much I thought it was high time I picked it up a bit and styled a few corners of our living room.

Orchid and pillowsOrchid vignette     

Chair and credenza Credenza vignette

How lucky am I with all those flowers popping up around my living room? My boyfriend bought me the peonies (my fav!), my family the orchid, and a coworker of mine the lilies. So sweet!

Took me ages, but I’m so happy to finally have them done. What have you put off doing lately? Any projects you’re proud to have finally finished?

Pretty No-Sew Placemats

We had Shaun’s parents over Saturday for dinner. It was a really nice, low key, casual dinner (I made fish tacos and brownies if you’re curious… yum!). Shaun’s mum appreciates pretty tablescapes as much as I do, so I thought it would be the perfect occasion to make the placemats I had in mind!

Table close up

I like to have placemats to break up some of the white we have in the space. Love white furniture, but white walls, white table, white chairs, white dishes… not so much. My kitchen needed some contrast. We had been using some of Shaun’s old ones and they were looking a little… tired.

Place mats before

Last weekend I was at the fabric store looking for something to cover my pillows and found this great outdoor fabric. Great for pillows, but even better for placemats! Because it’s made for the outdoors, it’s water and stain resistant.

image

Here’s how I made them:

1. Using my existing mats as a guide, I cut out my fabric, leaving a bit of excess for the hem.

Use your mat as a guide

2. Creating a perfect parallel rectangle was the trickiest part of the project. Again, I used the mat as a guide to create a straight line and 90 degree angle.

Fold sides in sides for a hem

3. After I knew where the hem would be, I ironed each one down.

Iron edges

Tip: It was much easier to use a geometric pattern than a solid colour: I knew my line was straight by following the pattern.

4. Once I finished the sides, I tackled my corners.

Make the corners   

Based on the point where the folded edges intersect, I folded over the corner to create a triangle at a 45 degree angle.

Fold corners

From there, I had a perfect corner hem:

Final corner

5. Following the ironed hemline, I used Aleene’s Fabric tape (the same stuff I used to recover the inside of my jewelry box) to finish off the hems. It’s basically strong double sided tape, no ironing required!

Fabric tape hem

I finished four in less than two hours. Little more than I had anticipated, but the straight lines are worth it!

Finished place mat

Don’t they add a nice pop of colour?New place mats

I especially love how the square lines in the geometric pattern, the dishes and in my yellow hurricane (pot? pottery? What would you call that?) compliment the rounded ones of the table, chairs and pottery in my photo. Plus, the turquoise mats echo the turquoise in the picture!

Set table 2

Total costs for this project:

Fabric tape: Free, since I had some leftover.

Fabric: It was 50% off, so 8 dollars a meter. I only used about half of that, so each mat worked out to about a dollar each.

Total: $4. Cheap cheap cheap!

Table close up

What have you added recently to welcome in summer?

I’m linking up with

Reasons to Skip the Housework

Dress Up Your Builder Basic Mirror… Renter Style

A while ago I read how John and Sherry from Young House Love built a frame around their builder basic mirror. How sweet is this?

{source}

You would never know that they didn’t just replace it with a brand new mirror. The project clearly stuck with me over the last few months, because as soon as I saw our bathroom mirror, I knew I wanted to tackle it!

Bathroom mirror before

Mirror Before full shot

(Yup, that’s me hanging out in my yoga gear on the weekend. Clearly a Vancouverite.)

Of course, I had to tweak it a bit because:

a) I clearly don’t have any of those fancy saws they used to make it happen. And more importantly…

b) We don’t own our bathroom, so I wanted something that was easy to remove!

Here’s what I did:

First off, Shaun came across some extra chair rail (I’ve since learned that this is similar to crown moulding, except it doesn’t have the angle like moulding does.) We measured out our mirror, and he cut four pieces down to size on a 45 degree angle.

Upainted chair rail

If ever you don’t have a saw to cut them on an angle like this at your place, you could borrow like we did (we certainly don’t have space to house a saw in our bitty apartment!) or you could probably have them cut it to size for you when you buy it.

I started off by spraying the chair rail in a high gloss black. I wanted matte, but painters tell me it’s much more durable to go with a gloss in a bathroom.

First coat

Not a fan. It looked like cheap plastic.

Plastic

I decided to spray over it in a matte anyway. I’m such a rebel. (I’ll keep you posted over how well the paint holds up.) To do so, I sanded it down with 120 grit sandpaper (since matte won’t stick to gloss very well) and sprayed it out again.

To get rid of the remaining grooves from my first sanding, I sanded it again with a much finer grit, 220, so that I could spray it all again. Long story short, it would have been much faster to go with the paint I originally wanted. Oh well… Live and learn.

From there, we needed to fasten the frame together.

Second coat

I bought corner brackets for a couple bucks from our local hardware store. I wasn’t sure if the screws would damage the chair rail, so we opted for some E6000 super glue (you can buy it at Michael’s) that I had from a previous project to fasten it together.

DSC_0822

Once the glue had some time to set, we flipped it over and caulked the corners. This would probably be the hardest section of this DIY simply because not everyone has the means to caulk something… If you don’t, there are other options! One I’ve heard of is called “caulk singles” which basically allows you to caulk something without the gun. For all you bakers out there, I’ve even heard of cutting the tip off a zip lock bag like you would when using icing… If you’ve tried either of these, I’d love to hear how well it worked out!

We squeezed out a line of caulking on the corners, (in this photo you can see some of my remaining sanding marks)Caulking step one

 and smoothed it out each one with a damp rag.

Caulking step two

I let the caulking dry for a couple hours and sprayed it out (remember, I needed to spray it again after sanding it again anyway) to cover the caulking in black. I also needed to spray the back side of the frame because the reflection in the mirror allows us peak at the back of the frame.

Curious to see how it works in a rental? All we did was attach the frame to the mirror with large black command strips!

Once the glue had fully set (I left it overnight) I attached the command strips, one on each board. As a tip, the box says to let paint sit 28 DAYS before using the strips. I’m way too impatient for that, so I just sanded down the areas where the command strips would go. Now, when we want to remove it, we just need to unstick it and pull off the velcro!

So, again, the Before:

Mirror Before full shot

And After!

Mirror After with me in it

How great is that? It makes the bathroom look so much more high end. Way better than the cheapest possible options the builder (or building manager?) chose for this place.

Mirror after horizontal

Mirror After Vertical

Final costs:

Chair rail: free! That being said, I doubt using so little would really be very expensive.

Spray paint and glue: $0, as they were leftovers from previous projects.

Velcro command strips: I got the biggest kind, so they were about $6.

Brackets to attach the boards together: $2.

Total: $8. Awesome.

Mirror After

Our bathroom is coming along… But there is still a lot to do. I want to replace the hardware, hang some shelves and artwork (hence the black wall you can see in some of those reflections)… Seeing this change has definitely inspired me to keep going though! Have any cheap ideas to dress up your bathroom? Any projects you have been proud of on such a small budget? I’d love to hear from you!

I’m linking up with:

TDC Before and After

Not Just A Housewife