Dressers, Picture Frames, and Drywall Anxiety

February 26, 2018   //  Posted in: Art Attack, Bedrooms, Decor, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  6 responses

I crunched some numbers and realized that it took me 237 weeks since moving in to get art hung on the walls of our master bedroom. Mild case of “hole-in-the-wall-phobia.”

Now, I know that’s totally crazy. I know how to patch and paint and I’ve done it plenty, but in the interest of hanging the art in the right damn space on the first try, it took this long (yup, 4.5 years) to actually make things happen without rushing the process just to check it off the list.

It’s especially nice to finally live in a bedroom that doesn’t feel like my first apartment where I was forbidden from damaging the drywall. And you how daylight reflects off frame glass? It sure makes a room feel more homey (also, impossibly hard to photograph).

Picture frames positioned bottom-aligned in our master bedroom.

Backtrack for a sec before this becomes all about me being weird for not wanting to put nails into my drywall. Part of the reason this took so long was also due to the fact that we really needed new bedroom dressers. The set of IKEA MALM dressers I bought 10+ years ago has now been fully recalled–now to the point where IKEA is begging to come pick them up to spare you the inconvenience of having to rent a truck in order to transport them back to a store–but when you’re outfitting your “forever home” you want to buy “forever dressers” and it’s really hard to commit to “forever dressers” without making some sort of concession for budget/quality/size/finishing details when you’re simultaneously under the pressure of recalled dressers that may or may not tip on your children because you haven’t anchored them to the wall (back to being obsessed about perfect, hole-free drywall). In short, we’ve been waiting it out until the right dresser at the right price point came into line of sight. Fortunately, that opportunity knocked sometime last fall when a decent set of Benson 6-drawer dressers at West Elm caught my eye. They’re no longer available in the light oak color we bought, but the darker walnut option is available here. Originally priced around $1,200/each, they were marked down to $699 + some bonus discounts + 20% west elm card bonus cash back (+ an exorbitant amount for shipping and setup) and the set of 2 new dressers cost about $1,700 from store-to-door. Pricing-wise, they were a good bargain considering that the units I had really been coveting were about 4x more expensive–completely unjustifiable to my spending senses (but I still love you, DWR). The West Elm dressers were also the perfect size and scale for the wall I had been scheming for in our room, and the lighter veneer wood finish was ideal, too. It’s hard to find light wood pieces that are modern but not just white.

I took a few “before” photos for a good laugh, knowing that it would be crazy to look back on this wall someday and recalling that we lived with it looking like this for 4+ years.

Master Bedroom BEFORE, how we lived with it for 4.5 years with no storage or decor on this wall.

I openly admit that I have a love/hate relationship with West Elm furniture. I had some reluctance about buying dressers there because we’re less than thrilled with our Tillary Sectional, but it doesn’t end there. Our mod upholstered bed frame is literally about to collapse on the floor because a leg is 2-seconds from breaking off (they sent a backup part but angled legs on any furniture get a thumbs-down from me now), and I always thought the drawers in store felt like they had cheap sliders… but all that said, I took a risk and these ones aren’t too bad. They close nicely and slide smoothly, and the leather handles do feel nice and higher end than other products at the same price point.

Benson West Elm Dressers in a modern, mid-century bedroom.

The real perk of getting new dressers was finally being able to finish that end of the bedroom with some artwork. Our collection is a nice mix of prints that we’ve been gifted (or gifted each other), small originals that we’ve purchased, and a whole bunch of random treasures we’ve collected or inherited. It still took me months to decide which pieces would be hung above the dressers on the wall to make the space feel more finished, but I considered:

  • Scale and color: Wanted the collection to feel bonded by color palette, and it just so happened that most of our frames are black, so that helped too.
  • Importance: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. The final selects for our wall all have a little sentimental value, yet still flow well together.
  • Orientation: To gallery wall, or not to gallery wall? I wanted some organization more than a puzzled assortment on the wall, and bottom-aligning the frames seemed like a good direction. It’s still a gallery wall, but just a little bit more refined and minimalized.

I sat around and brewed about the options for months, planning that I would have them selected and hung on New Years Day if all my ducks aligned.

Didn’t quite make my deadline–I’ll almost always choose a lazy day with friends over a self-imposed deadline–but I got it done in the goal week and boy, did that ever deserve a high-five.

Hanging artwork to be bottom-aligned is so much like installing any type of gallery wall that it hardly feels like it needs much explanation, but what I did was:

  • Lined up the artwork left to right on top of the dresser so that I could determine which order I wanted the art to present. Originally I thought I wanted the tall pieces in the middle so that they tapered down to shorter pieces at the left and right, but the scale of my pieces didn’t seem right for that, so I scattered them a little bit and found that I liked the balance much more.
  • Found my center on the wall (not the center above the dressers – I knew I could inch the furniture left and right by a few inches if I needed to make it more centered).
  • Measured the width of the framed artwork itself, and included 1.5″ spaces between each frame to obtain the measurement for my total gallery wall length.
  • Determined where the center of my total gallery wall length hit relative to the center of the actual wall – note that I didn’t hang a frame smack in the center of the wall. Since the frames are all different widths (and there’s an even number) no single frame is actually hitting the center point. Aim to have the same amount of empty space on either side of the gallery wall, and line things up from there.
  • Selected a consistent spacer for the bottom, so that I could easily plan where the bottom edge of each frame would sit. I used a stack of hardcover books – works great.
  • I hung the middle two frames first. Much like with any gallery wall (helpful tips on this post) once you know the center point for the frame, measure the distance from the wire/hook to the top of the picture frame. Then on the wall, measure down from where the top of the frame hits (while sitting atop the stack-o-books spacer) and put your hook in the wall right there. When you hang the frame, it should rest on the hook but exactly at the same height that it was at while the spacer books rested beneath it.
  • Note: Not that my phobia is accepting of “oh shit, that’s not right” holes in the wall, but if your nailed hook is a few millimeters too high/too low/left/right, it’s easy enough to recalibrate the measurements and place the hook again… any first (incorrect) hole will be covered by the frame itself. Shh.
  • Continue to install the rest of the frames, always hanging as you go so you can be certain that the frames are consistently aligned along the bottom edge.


Picture frames positioned bottom-aligned in our master bedroom.

As for our 6 frames? Left to right:

  • That’s the Kaye Rachelle tea towel I posted about in 2012. Our dog, Cody, chewed the towel while it was still practically brand new, but I found new life by framing it because I really loved the screen print of the motorcycle. Now it’s a subtle memory of our buddy boy, as well a cool print.
  • Pete gifted me our first original Jaime Derringer print for my 30th birthday. Jaime’s someone you might know as the CEO of popular Design Milk and related companies, but she’s also an amazing artist and we’ve both gravitated to her techniques and style for years. This mixed-media piece lived in the dining room for awhile, but I swapped it to a portrait orientation and found that it worked really well here.
  • Another nod to JD–before the holidays, Jaime posted on Instagram that she was cleaning out some old original pieces, so I bought this white line drawing on black paper as a gift for Pete as we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Framed it in black, too. Design-wise, it’s similar to her much-covetable Crocodile 1 print for sale on sites like Minted.
  • My parents gifted us a Grosbeak limited edition lithograph from the Charley Harper collection for our 1st wedding anniversary, and while it was matted and framed right away, it’s never had a good home until now.
  • Pete and I took a memorable road trip to Kinston, NC a couple of years ago to eat at the famous Chef and the Farmer restaurant (as seen on PBS Create’s show ‘A Chef’s Life’). If you’re familiar, it was every bit as insanely wonderful as you might expect, and if you’re also a fan of Vivian Howard, we should be BFF. Randomly, we were at the restaurant the same day as Andrew Zimmern while he filmed Bizarre Foods for Travel Channel, and in a super weird right-place-right-time moment got photos of Pete/Andrew and me/Vivian and then left her with our menu from dinner, which arrived at our home signed with a personal message a few weeks later. Frame it? Hell yes.
  • It feels good that our kids know a Charley Harper piece when they see one (my hands-down favorite artist). Julia reinterpreted and illustrated one of his cardinals for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago. Perfect in many ways.


December 19, 2017   //  Posted in: Dog-Related   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

Last week we said goodbye to Cody. Our partner-in-DIY. Codeman. The one who was at his happiest when he was by our side. The buddy who you’ve gotten to see on this blog. He was simply awesome. He came to live with me at age 1, just 3 months after I bought my first home and a full year before I began this blog. He was a total companion dog who assumed his role perfectly and saw me transition through enormous life stages like marrying, moving, and babies.

Best remembered for his morning snuggles, nonstop talking, high-speed sprinting, and those silly face buttons that made his lips curl like Elvis. Honored for his loyalty. Loved his purple toy, walks on the beach, anyone walking down our street, naps in the Jeep, watching wildlife, and snow.

Thanks to those of you who have reached out with kind messages. We are happy to have been his people.

An Easy and Ever-Changing Loom Wreath

October 16, 2017   //  Posted in: Backyard, Decor, For the Kids   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

What began as an idea to foster our daughter’s fine motor skills, turned into something that quickly became one of my favorite ever-changing pieces of art. In many of the art classes and craft camps that our kids have participated in, there’s often a fun weaving element that makes use of simple homemade looms. The result is usually so pretty that it’s actually display-worthy (and it beats the hell out of finger painting). They use round weaving looms to weave small rugs; rectangular looms for hot pads, placemats, and wall decor; even long, narrow looms used to design camp bracelets way more ornate than any of the braided embroidery thread things I ever created.

What we ended up with here though, is something that parents, kids, and your everyday wreath-lover will enjoy – a forever customizable weaving loom wreath made from a slice of tree trunk, and a tautly pulled cord. I have total heart-eyes for how it embraces nature to become a beautiful showpiece when hung at the front door. My preschooler loves the concept of this loom wreath too – afternoons are for crafting, and her designs are most often made of things she sources from around own home and in our own backyard. Will it wreath? Yes, almost always.

A kid's weaving loom filled with branches, grasses, and flowers from the yard. A craft that fosters small-motor skills and great for outdoor art camps.

The materials and tools I used to make a weaving loom wreath:

  • 1” sliver of wood (mine is sourced from a log in my own yard, but you can find them at craft stores too; affiliate link to a 9″-11″ slice that’s most like mine)
  • 1/2” staples
  • heavy cord
  • items for weaving – flowers, branches, ribbons and fibers
  • wreath hanging hardware
  • jigsaw
  • staple gun

Begin by sanding down the front of your sliver of wood.

Mine had some roughness from the chainsaw that I smoothed out. If your wood is store-bought, it was probably already planed to perfection; what I used was actually the base from my old rustic wreath, because waste not! Use a jigsaw to cut a hole in the center of the wood, and there you have it – something perfectly wreath-shaped. Add a hook to the backside of the wreath at this point too, so you can hang it up easily once you’re done decorating.

Raw log sliced and cut for our loom wreath.

Staple around the edge.

I used 1/2” staples, and I’m glad that I did << the best part of this project. Weaving cord around nails may have been hard if the head of the nail wasn’t wide, and the cord certainly would have been more inclined to pop off while weaving. Furthermore, staples are pretty smooth, not as likely to poke, scratch or snag your children if you’re using this loom as an educational tool. Staples, once installed, proved to be incredibly kid-friendly, and made it super easy to secure the cord.

Adding the staples is easy with an electric staple gun, but possible with a manual staple gun as well. Place the staple so that it is only half-way jabbed into the surface of the wood. I encourage you to test this a few times on a piece of scrap wood so that you know how much pressure to apply to the tool to achieve the perfect depth (after all, pressing gently on a stapler is everything we’ve been trained not to do).

Add staples all around the center circle of your wreath, side-by-side. When you’re done, count how many staples are around the middle (I had 28) and place the same number of staples along the outer edge of the wreath, evenly spaced (another 28 staples for me).

Using staples to make a DIY loom – easy, fast, and safer than nails.

Weave the loom

Use a heavy cord like twisted nylon kite string–or jute, if you don’t find it too difficult to thread a thicker strand through the staples–for the next step. Weave the cord back and forth through the inner and outer staples to create a zig zag all around the wreath. (Another affiliate link there so you can see what I used.)

Be sure that the cord is taut before you knot it off.

Using staples to make a DIY loom – easy, fast, and safer than nails.

Assemble the masterpiece

Source your materials for weaving and decorating. Branches, flowering weeds, leaves, garden trimmings, fronds. Basically, if it’s at least a few inches long, it’ll work. Consider pieces of natural fibers as well, and ribbons and other craft materials too.

How to make an always-changing wreath by using a log cross section as a base for a loom.


Weave the materials in and out of the cord, overlapping and encompassing the frame of the wreath.

How to make a loom wreath that kids can use to hone motor skills and display their creativity.

My fall wreath uses items straight from our yard and garden, including branches, leaves, a sunflower, and even weeds growing in amongst brush that would ordinarily go unbothered.

How to make a weaving loom wreath that kids can use to hone motor skills and display their creativity.

Modify the wreath for other seasons too – faux-flowers are one easy way to add color to the outdoor wreath during the winter and early spring. Layer them over real branches to help make them look more realistic and natural.

Using fake flowers to make an all-season floral wreath using the loom.

This was a great kids’ project because it spurs creativity and fosters development of fine motor skills. My daughter selected colorful pipe cleaners and ribbons for one of our iterations.

Montessori weaving loom made by my 3-year old using ribbons and fabrics found around the house.

Hang the wreath in a prominent place, where you can continuously adapt the design and components as new flowers bloom, and seasons change.

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Make this loom wreath for your kids, and let them foster small motor skills while crafting in nature.