Who Cares About the Laundry Room?!!

I do.

Deeply.

In Silicon Valley it’s actually quite a treat to even have a dedicated laundry room. Most homes have washer and dryer hook-ups in the garage. Our last rental house was this way and it was always a bit of annoyance to me that my clean laundry sometimes piled up in the dusty and dirty garage, sometimes overflowing out of the baskets onto the floor. When we bought this house I had all kinds of heart eyes over the fact that it came with a laundry room. It obviously was walled in from the garage sometime in this houses torrid past(permitted or not, who knows?) and the bisque walls and ugly linoleum didn’t exactly thrill me, but it came with build-ins and a door, so I was over the moon!

As much as it’s a a feat to have a laundry room in the crazy Bay Area market…it’s even more unlikely to find a home with a walk-in pantry. It’s just not done. This house was no exception. No pantry. Zero. Zip. The amount of kitchen cabinet space simply would not do it either. So for 2 years in this house we cultivated a highly disorganized system of food storage between some cabinets in the kitchen, some build-ins in the laundry room a few steps from the kitchen, and some cabinets in the garage. It was exceptionally frustrating as we would often over-buy or not realize we had certain foods until they went bad.

And this, my friend, is where our tale begins. Just over a year ago on a sunny summer day when my sister and her family(including her brilliant contractor husband) came to stay with us for a month…

Of course, I had always thought about a pantry and where we could fit one in our kitchen layout, but try as I may, I could not figure out how to make it work. Our kitchen layout is just not conducive to adding a pantry. Only a few days before my brother-in-law arrived, it hit me that the solution might be just outside the kitchen in the garage. More specifically, right off the laundry room. Our house layout is such that the kitchen/dining room is adjacent to the laundry room. You open a door in the dining room, step down into the long narrow laundry room on the right and go straight through another door to get into the garage. The owner of this house simply walled in a portion of the garage to make the laundry room but instead of walling in the whole bottom 1/4 of the garage, they just walled in what was needed for the laundry room leaving a small nitch to the side of the laundry room that remained a part of the garage with a built-in tool bench and cabinets. It hit me that walling this in as well and adding a door in the laundry room into it would provide the perfect space for a walk-in pantry separate from the garage. When Jared arrived I had planned only on asking him how much something like this would cost, but Mark and I were both so excited about this project(Ok, let’s be honest, really it was just me) that we decided to go for it and hire him to work on it during his stay with us. He jumped at the idea and I proceeded to convulse with joy for a solid month as he worked on it in his free time and I say the pantry of my dreams take shape.

{Fair warning- I never bother to get out my real camera for shots during so you are about to see a lot of crappy iPhone photos that don’t do this project justice. Sorry!}

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(the old tool bench nitch in the garage that is about to become walled in to create a pantry)

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(The pantry walled in, the doorway from the laundry room into the pantry)

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I chose a more “build in” approach rather than free shelving. I also sprung for the faux plank plywood to back the shelves. White, white, white. Nothing says clean and simple like white. It’s the perfect amount of space and and we can see all the food we have easily without losing things in the back. It has been life changing!

When that project was finished we were left with a finished pantry except for the floor. It was concrete and connected with the laundry room. I knew I wanted to replace the laundry room linoleum to make the two rooms seamlessly connect with one flooring but I waited for the rooms to speak to me and tell me what that flooring should be. I considered painting and stenciling the cement floor but that would require me to remove the existing linoleum and subfloor in the laundry room which seemed really difficult. I considered tile but it was a large enough space the tile would be expensive and I have never tiled before so I was hesitant to have my first time be in this situation. Plus, I knew whatever I chose would need to be a fast install since we would have to remove the water heater and washer and dryer for the duration of the install. Linoleum won.

I looked into several kinds of linoleum including what was available on the shelf at home depot and quickly learned that linoleum is almost always really UGLY! I decided I wanted to avoid the kind of linoleum squares that you have to grout between. In my experience grout becomes dirty over time and I hate the way it is so difficult to clean. That left me with custom cutting a large piece of seamless linoleum to fit my space which I liked more and more as I thought about it. It’s not a huge room and I was told that you don’t really need to adhere the linoleum to the floor as intensely when it’s a solid piece like this, it will lay flat on it’s own and you secure it with the baseboards.

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It turned out to be a linoleum I didn’t just not loathed, but really LOVED. I have a special attraction to marble hex tile and this linoleum looked so much like actual tile I was sold. It was more expensive than I hoped but worth it for the ease and quickness of installation vs. tile or pieces of linoleum. I ordered enough to do one seamless piece through the entire laundry/pantry(It failed, more on that later).

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(What the pantry has looked like for over a year since we ripped out the built in cabinetry next to the washer to create more room for a utility sink on the other side.)

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Once I had all my ducks in a row it just came down to timing- I needed a free weekend when I wasn’t weighted down with tons of work or other distractions. It finally worked out in August that I had an entire weekend to use. I started bright and early Saturday morning moving everything out of the laundry room, tearing out the existing trim, assembling my supplies, shopping for trim, paint, and other odds and ends at Home Depot, and finally luring Mark into helping me move out the washer and dryer. We left the water heater for later since we would have to turn off the water main for the entirety of it being disconnected. I spent the rest of the day painting the room, changing it from a dirty bisque to my favorite white- Benjamin Moore “Simply White”. It took just two coats and it already looked worlds better. It took all of day 1 to get the room just empty and painted. Why does painting always take longer than I plan?

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Day #2 started bring an early with me trying to figure out how to put a subfloor down in the pantry to match the level of the laundry room’s thin subfloor. I didn’t have an appropriate saw for the job but the plywood I used was so thin a box cutter did the trick. Then we moved out the water heater and I was on a tight schedule to remove the existing linoleum and paint behind where the water heater had been and cut out and install the new linoleum before leaving for the circus with my kids at 12pm. Eep! The most time-consuming part was creating a template using resin paper and duct tape of the space to use for cutting out the linoleum to shape. I knew that it had to be just right or the linoleum would not fit and cutting it wrong would be an expensive disaster. Once I got it done though, I went to lay it out on the linoleum to trace it and cut it only to find that the linoleum company had shorted me bu 4 inches making it impossible for me to cut out the linoleum for the whole space in one seamless piece. I had to decide quickly on another solution so I ended up cutting one piece for the laundry room and one piece for the pantry and planning a seam for the doorway between the two that would need a threshold to cover it. It was not perfect but I am learning more and more as I DIY our home that as long as I can figure out a solution to the problem, I can work through almost any project. Nothing ever goes completely according to plans.

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After the linoleum went in, Mark and I quickly moved the water heather back in before I left with the kids for the circus and mark worked on getting the water working again while I was gone. When I got home I jumped right back in cutting trim for the three doorways and and non-wood baseboards all around. The evening ended with the washer and dryer back in place and all the trim installed but not yet caulked or painted. I also added these fabulous set of wood and iron shelves I found at HomeGood weeks ago and bought not knowing where they would fit in my house. I thought about them as we put the washer and dryer back in place and knew instantly they belonged in here.

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Monday was a fun day because I shopped at Ikea hoping it would have a good solution for the space next to the washer. I was hoping for some kind of shelving unit for laundry baskets or a butcher block counter I could use to build a countertop area with laundry sorting underneath. I was lucky enough to find one item that met both those needs and fit the space perfectly- a kitchen island/cart with two shelves beneath and a butcher block counter. I raced home and put it together and it was the perfect addition. I also added a sheer blind from Ikea to the window.

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The room sat like that for a week before I could muster the desire to caulk and paint the trim- one of my least favorite tasks. Then, in the middle when I had to run to OSH for more paint I found the perfect light fixture! I hadn’t really planned on replacing the existing florescent light fixture in the laundry room as it did it’s job and I didn’t want to spend any more money on the room, but while browsing our local OSH, which is under construction and has a lot of items marked way down to get them out of the way during renovations, I saw this beauty on sale and asked an associate if there were any more in back since I couldn’t find any on the shelves. He said no but that they could sell me the floor model for 25% off. I happily agreed and waited over an hour for someone to get it down for me. When I took it to the register expecting to pay around $30 for it, I was happily surprised to find that it was marked down to $15 + 25% off. Score!!!!

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After the caulking, patching, painting and a myriad of other finishing touches you don’t realize need to happen until you are making your 4th trip to Home Depot in a day for one thing….

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…and after a fight to install the light fixture that I don’t even want to go into…

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It is done. I had plans to extend the built in cabinetry with some shelves to cover the horrible hole at the end and make it even with the doorway, but I am just done. So for now that end to the project will wait til I feel up to the challenge.

I love the way the room feels so clean and bright now. White paint has magical properties I think.

I know it may seem silly. We have a mountain of upgrading projects in our home that are more visible on a daily basis to us and guests alike. But this project seemed like a great opportunity to take something that simply was not functioning for me the way it should and turn it into one of my favorite rooms in the house. Plus, our house as a whole stays more organized now that we have a pantry and our laundry room is a room I enjoy keeping clean and tidy. It no longer feels like just just an extension of the garage. It feels like a dedicated space. It also has all of my favorite things: white walls, white furniture, touches of natural wood, black accents, statement light fixtures, and touches of green. It was a relatively easy and low-cost project for home much improvement it provided.

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…And thus ends the tale of the laundry room/pantry project. Don’t you just love happy endings?

Revitalizing the Blog

Whelp, I disappeared for awhile. No one plans it. Life happens. It seems as life goes on I only seem to pile more things on my plate and I don’t seem to subtract anything. I guess that’s reality. It’s chaos on a daily basis and I wouldn’t change it for a minute.

We are undergoing a huge exterior remodel currently and it got me thinking and reminiscing about what our house looked like when we moved in so I went looking for photos and realized that I never blogged a great many things that we have done on this house. So get ready for some blasts from the past and for a whole lot of starting at gratuitous photos of my ugly house.

You’re welcome.

A Girl’s Paradise

In the 6 years I have had little girls I have never really decorated their rooms. I always was hesitant to paint walls in a house or apartment that was not ours so I would get a cute bedspread and then call it good. I did hang a few photos on their wall in our last house when I was nesting like crazy in preparation for our baby Penny, but was about the extent of my concern over making sure my little ladies had a decorated pad. I think it’s so great to let them have a place in the house that they feel like is theirs. I wanted it to be fun and colorful but sophisticated enough to grow with them and last for more than a year or two.

I totally understand some people’s desire to let their kids call all the shots about how they want their room decorated. I started out asking my eldest daughter what she would like for her room decor. Her answer? “Gold walls…. And pink”……Yeah, after that I pretty much cut the girls out of the process and just hyped them up about whatever I wanted to do. No worries, they are easy-going chicks who pretty much love whatever I suggest.

One thing I did know. There had to be pink.

I know- Gag. But I was determined to bring their favorite color into the room in a way that was modern and fresh and not reminiscent of Pepto Bismal.

Here is the before of what this room looked like when we bought it.

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Then we moved in the bunk bed and a few pieces of furniture and called it good for the next 9 months.

The walls were bisque. The baseboards were bisque. The outlet covers and light switch covers were bisque. The doorjams were bisque. The closet doors were bisque. The vertical blinds were bisque. The bedroom door was bisque. It felt like my sweet little girls were living in a small dirty box.

And then there was the shelf that broke the camel’s back.

My eldest daughter needed a shelf. She sleeps on the top bunk and she needed a place to put things like a box of tissues to blow her nose with in the middle of the night, and a place to put a drink of water, and a place to put her special things so her sisters can’t play with them. The girl needed a shelf and I kept promising her I would put one up. But being the pragmatist, I reasoned that I didn’t want to put up her shelf until I painted the room first.

So one day I just grabbed some white paint we had leftover from another project in the garage, threw down some drop cloths and tapped off the hardwood floor and went to town. You may think that getting a bisque room back to white would be easy. Not so. This sucker required THREE coats of white paint on the walls, the door, and the trim to get back to solid white.

Disclaimer: many of the following photos are iPhone photos so I apologize for the poor quality!

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By then I had already decided that I was determined to use up our leftover grey paint from our man cave and dining room. We had ended up ordering enough to do two coats and only needed one coat in each of those rooms so we were left with quite a few leftover gallons. At first I considered gray walls and a pale lavender ceiling, then gray and white stripes and a pale pink ceiling, and then finally- gray and white stripes with one pink stripe at the top. Then I bought a fantastic settee on craigslist to use for photo shoots and figured that I had better find a place for it in our house or my husband might murder me. The hot pink in the fabric was perfect to pull out as a hot pink color for the stripe. I wasn’t sure how the rest of the colors and style of the couch would work with the gray and white stripes but I hoped it would all work out somehow.

Taping commenced….

…and continued…

…for weeks on end…

…with no end in sight.

The measuring and taping portion of this project was so time consuming! Seriously- overall the room took 2 months to complete, but the taping alone probably took 3 weeks of working on it whenever I had a few minutes.

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Then the gray paint went up and when I started slapping on the pink I knew it was perfect. Sidenote: I am SOOOOOO glad that I listened to the tutorials I looked up on painting striped walls and used Frogtape. The blue tape I used to tape off the hardwood floor totally let white paint seep through in some places. If I had used it for the stripes I would have been having a freak-out when I peeled off the tape and saw not-so-crisp lines. The Frogtape worked like a dream and only allowed a tiny bit of bleed in a few places.

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Peeling back the tape and instantly loving the stripes!

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After many many weeks of painting, the walls were done and I was fed up with decorating, so we moved back the bed(which had been residing in the middle of the room and barely allowed room to squeeze around it to paint or for the girls to play in their room at all) and I didn’t lift a finger to finish the room for a couple of weeks. But the beautiful new walls inspired me and I couldn’t leave the room alone for long. I grabbed these curtain rods at Home Depot on clearance for $10/each. They were the perfect size and I loved the shape but the cream color was all wrong so I spray-painted them with a little ORB spray paint and they were perfect.

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Then while Mark was out of town last week I got a burst of “get-er-done” energy and hung the curtain rods and made a trip to Ikea for the finishing touches. New white duvet covers for the beds, and white curtains, a couple of hot pink throw pillows(for $1.99/each!). The other throw pillows were ones I already had stashed away not knowing where they would find a place in the house. I also had the big letter ‘R’ from years ago.

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And then, I finally hung the shelf that started it all.

The room is by no means done. I would like to add some patterned curtains to bulk up the window dressings and add some more green or yellow color. I just have to find some that will add to the space without competing with all the other patterns going on in there. I also need to hang some frames and art. Zoe is insisting I find her a “Z’ since Reese has an “R”. The dresser needs to be sanded down and painted and I would love to have the whole closet built out by a closet organizer company to make the best use of the space.

But this is where it is now and where it will likely stay for awhile. I’m so glad I can sit back for awhile and the girls have a pretty and fun room to enjoy.

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I think they like it?

The Dark Corner

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Most homes have one of these. A dark odd-shaped space that you are not quite sure what to to with. This space in our home is what the previous owners used as a dining room area. Since we use the space next to the kitchen instead as our dining room/eat-in kitchen the old dining room as become my office space but it’s dark and not how I want it to be forever. I prefer build-ins whenever possible because it feels much more permanent and classic. My computer armoire has served me well as we have lived in rentals and I needed an office in my living room but now that our kids are getting older and this is our permanent home I would really like to establish a more permanent office space where there is also room for our kids to do homework and use the computer.

I also would really like to have a window or sliding glass door put in here. Even with the solar tub in the nearby living room it tends to be the darkest part of the house and it feels very closed off and claustrophobic here.

How great would this space be with a window surrounded by build-ins and a cushy window seat and with a connecting desk on the right wall where the little table currently is? Here are some inspiration photos I found on the net.

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Gorgeous right? I’m not sure this is the direction we will go with the space but this is where my head is at right now…

The Pearly Gates

Finally, FINALLY this project is 99% done and that is how it will stay for awhile. Why not 100%? Because if I have to lift a paintbrush to these doors any time in the near future I may scream. Or cry. Or curl up in the fetal position.

Here is the before from the realtor photos of our home:

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And a bad iPhone pic:

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After living with these doors for a few month in their natural maple color and trying to love them I was ready to divorce them. I am really not a light wood kind of girl so I struggle a lot with wanting to paint everything that I come in contact with that is light wood. However, we had grown fond of the way these doors can be closed to corral kids in or out, create somewhat of a noise barrier when we watch loud movies, and just the way they create a distinct separation between the rooms without closing things off. For these doors I thought it would be a quick and easy transformation with a little paint to bring them up to date and make them more our style. I put out feelers on color options to my facebook friends and the general consensus seemed to be in line with my feeling that they should be white. Mark finally agreed that painting them was the way to go and the day I got the green light I started taping them….

and taping them….

and taping them. 216 panes to be exact.

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I swear- this part of the process was so time-consuming and meticulous! I should have known then that the rest of this project would not be a walk in the park.

After finally finishing the taping job I was uber eager to pick up a paint brush. So I began priming the first panel. I noticed very quickly that as I painted the primer beaded up on the surface and did not remain even. It was then that I remembered reading about the complications of attempting to paint maple when I was thinking about painting my beautiful computer armoire. You see, Maple is a very hard wood that is not very porous. Because of this it doesn’t allow paint or primer to easily sink into it’s surface like other woods resulting in the paint “beading up”. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that these doors were maple. doh!

So I was left with few choices. I had already completed one side of one panel with one coat of primer. I decided to press forward and continue priming knowing that these doors would likely need two coats of primer.

On average, it would take me about an hour to do one side of one door with one coat of paint or primer. In the end, each side of each door took two coats of primer and two coats of paint. There are 8 sides. Over 32 hours of painting total not including taping/cleanup in between painting sessions. Just let that sink in for a second.

I was so fed up with my quest to update these doors and at some points just wished I had left them the way they were!

But I pressed onward and finally finished painting the last panel.

Then I started peeling off the tape…Ack!

Instead of crisp even lines as the paint peeled off I was left with uneven paint lines on the plexiglass and areas where the paint peeled off with the tape and the maple was showing. I was so frustrated! Back to painting this time with a tiny brush as I examined each and every pane and touched up where needed trying hard not to get paint on the glass. The other set-back? The paint does not scrape easily off the plexiglass with a razor like with regular glass without scratching the plexiglass. So I had to go back with a product called “Goo Gone” and a Q-tip and clean it off and it left the plexiglass a bit foggy in places. Here is where the 99.9% comes in because there are still a few places where I need to touch up and Goo Gone but I just can’t bear to lift a paint brush or Q-tip to these doors anymore for awhile. So here I am sharing the unfinished project afters but someday they will be completed.

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At the end of the day, I am glad that I did this and the doors are now white. Are they perfect? Far from it! But do I love the imperfectly painted white doors more than the perfect maple ones? Absolutely. They remind me of french doors which I have always had a soft spot for. I love how they lighten everything up and connect the rooms and their decor so much more. I’m a sucker for crisp white!

This project has killed any ambition I had to someday paint my maple computer armoire and I will likely someday sell it. It just isn’t quite right. I am leaning more towards a built-in option for a desk for me anyway. More on that soon!

The crisp white of these doors has led to a ripple effect now though causing me to loathe the way our fireplace with it’s off-white painted brick looks dirty now. Can’t wait to make it over in the future as well with some framing and tile.

Amazing how the seemingly little changes can turn out to be giant changes in the end.

Home for the Holidays

I am currently in the middle of a big painting project which I can’t wait to reveal but today I found a bunch of photos I took of our house all dolled up for the holidays and I thought I would share. I’m not into decorating for every holiday on the calendar. I kind of think some holidays are corny to decorate for like Valentines Day and the 4th of July. I may attempt to decorate for these holidays in the future and put my own modern and simple take on them but for now I really just get excited about decorating for the big 3- Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And get excited is an understatement. I have to try very hard to not jump the gun and put up my Christmas decor in October. I gravitate towards a more homey and traditional style of decorating for the holidays. I enjoy classic textures and colors like red and gold and a vibe that makes you want to kick off your shoes and curl up by the fire with a cable knit throw blanket and a good book. Mmm, yeah. Everyone is different and I totally love looking at more modern Christmas decor but in the end it’s just not me.

This year was the first year I have year had a wreath. For some reason I have never had one in the past and then somehow this year I had three! I have looked for some before and never quite found what I was looking for. I like wreaths that are simple, a bit modern in the greenery used, and ones that can be used year after year as opposed to fresh wreaths that tend to shed and are trash after New Years. I have always wanted to hang a wreath on that mirror and this year I finally did it and loved the way it looked throughout the month! It is a fresh bay leaf wreath that dries and can be used in subsequent years if stored properly.

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I added a few different throw pillows to the couch and we moved the arm chair over here to the main seating area to make room for the tree back by my computer armoire.  We liked this arrangement so much that we have kept the chair here since the holidays and decided to use the area where it used to be as a craft/homework table area for the kids.

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I added little touches of holiday decor throughout the house but kept it simple and followed the color scheme of each room.

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These snowflakes came with some ornaments from Ikea and I though I would just toss them but then realized the girls would love this “snow storm” in our dining room.

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Our tree is very classic with homemade ornaments and a mix of colors and textures. This year I added the three yarn ball garlands from Target and I love how they completed the traditional feel.

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Every year our stash of Christmas decorations grows and I get more jazzed about using them for months before. It’s mt favorite time of year and I love making my home celebrate it with me.

 

Another use for books

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I saw this wreath on one of my favorite decorating sites and fell in love. Something about the modern twist on a traditional wreath paired with the old book pages for an antique feel had me at hello. Then I recently went to a client’s house for a newborn photo session and to my surprise- she had made the exact same wreath! Seeing it in person made me even more determined to make one of my own. The texture, color, and size made it such a statement piece but yet, still neutral enough to fit in my dining room. And bonus- I already had everything I needed to pull it off except an old book I didn’t mind tearing up! If only I had thought to do this before I took that huge box of old books to Good Will during our move:(. No matter, I picked up two books at Good Will for under $5 and I was set. Why two books? Because I wanted two different sized pages, larger for the outer wreath and smaller for the inner-wreath.

Ta-Da!

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I won’t go into super detail about how I made it. There are a ton of great tutorials online and a variety of ways to make a book page wreath. Here are some of the tutorials I got tips from but in the end I just winged it. Tutorial and Tutorial.

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I can’t decide if this will be a piece I keep up all year long or if the wreath nature of it makes it a Christmastime decoration. Either way- I am smitten with the result and it makes me want to make more things out of book pages.